Friday, January 29, 2010

fiber jargon

Roving, puni, sliver, batt, rolag, commercial top, worsted, woolen and so on.. I am feeling as if I am learning a new language. As I weave my way through the world of fiber I sometimes feel as if I will never get it all shoved in my brain. I cannot imagine that this all started with a few alpacas! At first I thought I would just raise the alpacas, shear them and toss the fiber into a coop. But once I had the bags full of this beautiful stuff (not a word acceptable to the fiber industry) I did not want to let go. Hence the spinning wheel and now on to a carder. While I understand the process of spinning and carding, the jargon is taking longer to absorb.

And of course there is the learning curve. Last year's shearing was not very organized. My shearer was wonderful but I didn't have a clue what I was doing. The sorting of the blanket from the seconds, from the thirds..Whew. Preparation is the key to shearing. I have done some reading on the subject and think the best plan is to have the animals in the night before to pick out the debris by hand. Of course not all the vegetable matter will be eliminated, but this should help greatly. I read somewhere that one farmer uses a hair dyer on his animals the night before to clean the vm out. Um..I am not sure about that. I don't think even the minis would tolerate the noise and the blast of hot air let alone an alpaca. I am looking forward to a positive shearing experience. Never mind that it was highlighted as one of the "dirtiest jobs."

Meanwhile I need to get along with moving the fiber I already have. I have bags and bags of fiber some of which is in roving and a lot more raw. It is time to get a move on and process the fiber and sell it. I am preparing my very first skein of yarn from Tula. I am going to submit it to the spin off at the MOPACA show in April. This will be Via Verde Farm's first show and entrance into the world of competition. I am pretty excited. And I opened an etsy store. I don't have the photos up yet and hope by the end of the weekend to be up and running. You can visit us at

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Shoveling Snow

I really don't enjoy shoveling snow. I usually hand the job off to Noah, but wasn't able to do so today. I knew that I had a big job to finish before 12 pm as a piece of furniture was being delivered and the workers needed to get from the drive to the living room i.e. across the grass and up the stairs to the front door. They also needed to remove a piano from the basement. There needed to be a path to that door as well. But first I had to take Miriam to get her braces. We were so hungry after the appointment that we stopped at the grocery store and grabbed a bite to eat. And do not ask me why I bought a donut. I never, ever eat donuts and this one was covered in 10 lbs of sugar. I am savory kinda of gal. What was I thinking? By the time I got home and started shoveling away I was beginning to feel quite light headed. What was wrong? I wondered. That blasted sugar! I was really dizzy by now but there was no time to go inside and crash on the couch. The piano was going to be delivered in 15 minutes.

Living on a farm one should always expect help from the animals that reside there. And as if on cue the goat saw me struggling through the snow and came to investigate. I no longer could stand. I was not only sugar jolted, but realized my body was too old for this work! I dropped to my knees and began crawling around while shoveling. It was quite a scene!

The goat aided my efforts by standing in the way every 2 or 3 minutes so I could take a break. (ha ha) After about 10 minutes I collapsed in the snow. Goat ambled over to me and sniffed my face. I guess she was concerned I wasn't breathing. I lay spread out in the path with the shovel by my side and Noah's big Russian hat warming my head. Suddenly I felt something heavy on my forehead...Chester! He had come to my rescue as well. What helpful animals we have! Needless to say I did finish the path and clear the stairs. And yes, I did clean it while on my knees. And no, the animals only followed me around and did not help one bit.

In the end all my efforts were in vain because the men brought the piano through the garage! Curses to snow and apple fritter donuts!

Friday, January 8, 2010


I decided that Chester needed a post all to himself. He is quite the cat. Black, sleek and panther-like. He has a determined character and is intelligent Chesty comes when called for, purrs on demand, sits on car roofs and jumps through any open door. I would like to share a few stories about him.

I took him to the vet with Alice and Jake a few months ago. I gathered them up and put them into a large animal carrier. O.k. they were really heavy. Three cats each weighing about 8 pounds in a very bulky carrier. Of course I was carrying them and trying to get out of the gate before the goats could and push the minis back so I could squeeze out. Naturally I dropped the cats in their carrier. I know. I know. But they were fine. Completely freaked out but fine. I lugged them over to the truck and put them gently into the back seat. They were not pleased. Meowing and so forth. The whole way to the vet they whined. They got their vaccinations, etc. and as I was leaving the office when the nurse offered to put each cat individually into a cardboard box carrier. This way I would avoid dropping them and they would feel "safer." Fine. So we did that. Chester tried to escape but with four hands manipulating him ...
She helped me put the three carriers into the car. I went back into the office to pay. Then I climbed back into the truck and started to leave the parking lot when I heard meow and then I saw him! He was standing next to me in the car. I pulled over and investigated. He had chewed/clawed himself out of the box!! Unbelievable. So I let them all out and drove home with Jake on my lap, Alice between my legs and Chester on the steering wheel!
I thought for sure Chester was finished with cars after that day. But apparently not. A few weeks ago Sam opened his car door and then went to the back seat to fish something out of a bag. He then shut the door and climbed into the driver's seat and drove down the lane. That is when he heard "meow". He turned around to find Chester in the back seat as comfortable as can be.

But the most astonishing feat of Chester occurred yesterday when I let Alice and Chester into the basement room where I work on fiber preparation. It is an unfinished part of the house. However there is a small cabinet that holds the video equipment for the theater room. It is accessible both in the room I work and the theater room. I was playing with Alice when I heard clunk, clunk. I followed the noise and I could not find Chesty. Hum. Odd. I heard the phone ring and left the room, shutting the door behind me. I ran upstairs. When I finished the call I walked out of the office and guess who was standing there? Chester. I took him back down stairs with me. He wandered around a bit while I worked and then I heard the clunking again. This time I made it just in time to see him open the cabinet door with his paw and enter. He had done that before and passed into the theater room then upstairs. What a sneaker.