Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Battling the Compost Monster

The Pile

Prior to an open house there is a lot do around the barn such as cleaning corners, vacuuming cobwebs, and organizing tools. These chores I wait until I have a deadline to complete. Now that all those things are done, it is time to really work, i.e. pasture management, soil erosion and the compost pile.

The minis are really hard on the paddocks. We have mostly sandy soil in our area which is great when you want to dig a hole but not so great when you want to grow grass. I reseeded the mini pasture last week and put straw on top. We had quite a bit of rain and now I can see a bit of growth. Hurray! I moved the minis, of course, to another paddock for the winter. So one chore down!

I also have some serious soil erosion issues. The alpacas are much easier on the pastures. They don't have upper teeth to yank the grass out by the root, as minis do, and their necks apparently are not as strong as the horses. Their padded feet don't destroy the growth. Even tiny horse hooves are treacherous to established grasses.
That being said, the issue is a hill in the girl's paddock. For some reason grass will not grow on the side and it is slowly eroding. So I have decided to use some of the gianormous manure pile that is accumulating at the back of the barn. I am also competing with the chickens to keep the soil intact around their fence. They love, love to peck and scratch at the fence line which of course leaves gaps under the fencing.
Fence Line for Chickens

The compost pile, beneficial in that I can use it where ever I am losing dirt, is a monster of a thing. It has out grown the space where it is supposed to be and is now a huge, enormous pile. In spite of my hard work to turn it with a tractor every few days it won't go away. It grows and grows. I think part of the problem is the hay that I shove into it. All that carbon off sets the balance of the pile. So maybe it is a good thing that I have erosion issues. I can just toss it about and maybe it will get smaller. Ha!

The compost house

So as October approaches I will not be doing fun fibery activities for a while, but battling against rain, chickens and a compost monster.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Grand River Spinners

Melissa spinning recycled sari silk on her Lendrum. Paula working hard spinning some Jakob on her new Lady Bug wheel.

On Sunday Grand River Spinners met and spun for a couple of hours at Biggby's on East Beltline/28th Street in Grand Rapids. It was tons of fun. We have some new spinners and enjoyed sharing tips and techniques together. It was also Spin In Public Day/Weekend. (http://www.wwsipday.com/) So we celebrated by drinking coffee, chatting and spinning. We had several people stop by and ask questions or just sort of stare!!

Katie is spinning a "punk rock" roving on her spindle while Alita is taking a break from her drop spindle and knitting a fantastic pair of socks!

Tamara is spinning alpaca (of course) on a wire core. While Alita and Katie pose for the photo.

If you would like to join our group we meet the 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month fromf 1-3pm. You can check out our Ravelry page and join us at Grand River Spinners. I am working on our own website and will have that up soon.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Fiber Arts-Dyeing and Mixing Colors

So I know I talk about kool aid alot! It actually is a cheap and pretty versatile dye. I have done a lot with cherry and strawberry packets and had some pretty wonderful results. I have been really wanting to dye greens. I searched around for a plant outside, but as Fall is fast approaching, I couldn't find anything suitable. So kool aid my old friend came to the rescue. I started with 50 g alpaca fiber. I mordanted the fiber in alum and cream of tartar. I prepared the dye bath by heating the water and tossing in 2 blue packets and 2 yellow packets of KA. Then I rinsed the fiber under warm water so it does not get shocked in the dye bath. I gently placed them in the pot and brought it to a simmer. I usually simmer about 1 hour. Then turn of the stove and let it sit until the bath is clear. Kool Aid is great in this way because the fiber absorbs it all. I am working on trying to get my colors on the fiber not to streak. I wanted these particular skeins to have color variation. I have been successful in the past with walnuts to get a really even dark color. Key tip is to put the dye in first and stir it around before adding the fiber. Especially with kool aid because the powder can adhere to certain parts of the fiber and not others. Anyway I ended up thinking the green was too minty. So I added a packet of lemon lime. And here is the result with a cherry roving next to it.

Now if someone can help me figure out how to keep the skeins tidy when dyeing. I tie off in three places and am very careful and blag..it is the same..twisted and upside down. Drives me crazy. I have the same problem with the hose in the barn. It doesn't matter what I do the hose or skein or whatever stingy thing must be a convoluted mess!

Anyway..this second photos is alpaca dyed in blue kool aid. I carded it on my Ashford hand carders with dark blue locks from a small bag I bought at the Michigan Fiber Festival two years ago. The bag was unlabeled so I am not sure what kind sheep provided these locks. I am going to check that out. And I added silver angel hair. There is about 1/2 oz of fiber in the bundle. I am going to do some more. I was inspired by a friend of mine who combined similar colors and created a beautiful skein of yarn on her drop spindle. Check out her blog at Curly Bird Express http://curlybirdexpress.blogspot.com/.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Spun necklace

This necklace was a bit of mistake. It actually started as another project but ended as this. I added a lot of twist to create the jigs and jags in the yarn. I used alpaca dyed in purple kool aid and combed top pink merino. The clip at the back of the necklace is a vintage clip on earring. I would do a few things differently next time. I would take the ends of fiber and crochet them by wrapping them around the back of the necklace to ensure its durability. I would also try to twist the fiber a little more and I would use darker colors for the coming fall season. My kids voted for a necklace in black alpaca with gold bling.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A rainbow of felted alpaca balls

Felting alpaca balls for jewelry is not as monotonous as it may seem. This selection are balls I recently made. I typically needle felt the ball to shape it. Then wet felt it for a more dense ball. The deep purple ball in the left corner is needle felted only. It is not as compact and solid which doesn't make very sturdy jewelry.
The balls shown here are a mixture of alpaca and wool. The orange ones are combed top merino. I don't really like to work with combed top. It tends to be harder to wet felt without creases and cracks. I prefer raw fiber that I have dyed and carded in my Ashford hand carders. The yellow dyes are from yellow cone flower and Queen Anne's Lace from my pasture. I top dyed the cone flower in pink kool aid to get a tie dye effect. The purple balls are white alpaca dyed in purple kool aid. The light brown color balls are fawn alpaca top dyed in orange kool aid. The remaining colors are wool with commercial dyes.
With a beautiful selection to choose from...I can imagine several interesting pieces of jewelry.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Iquique, our newest cria

I just wanted to post another photo of this cute guy. He is so sweet. He has a great disposition and a very attentive mom.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Friday Fiber Arts-Spinning with seed beads

I wanted to add some beads to this skein which was spun on a spindle in Bolivia (100% alpaca of course!). I was shooting for something Indian as in Taj Mahal or the like. I didn't really like the original color so I dyed it my fav. Kool Aid. I love this stuff! It dyes wonderfully, is light fast and produces vibrant unique colors. The original shade of this yarn was a boring beige. Still I wasn't happy with final result even after the hip cherry Kool Aid dye. It really needed some bling! I love sparkles, vibrant colors, and overall shiny, glittering glitz. Hence the seed bead idea. I did not google this idea or check to see how it might be done. Why would I make this easy for myself? I just decided string a bunch of colored beads onto a metallic thread. All was going along well until I had to move the string and place it in a plastic bag. It got all bungled about and I spent 1 1 /2 hours untangling it so I could ply it with the yarn. Finally the plying took place and the result is below.
The thread I used is pretty strong and I am confident it will hold up nicely. I did hear a rumor about a bead stringer that I could buy. A few women were talking about it at the Michigan Fiber Festival and my ears perked up. I tried to find an example from one of the vendors but no luck! I just wanted to see what it looks like. The stringing and plying were a bit of a stress reliever. And I had fun apart from the untangling.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Welcome to the World-Iquique

This morning at 9:00 am Iquique was born. His mom White Lace, a first time mother, was a bit overwhelmed. All the female alpacas were investigating the new arrival. I found him sitting up and very alert. I moved mom and cria to stall to check vitals and make sure he was able to nurse. He is very active and ready for the world. I felt as if it was the first cria not the sixth born on our farm. I was fairly excited. His sire is Blazing Ben, a light fawn while his mom is true white. I think he is quite beautiful and I was very curious as to what color his fiber would be. Photo compliments of Noah's cell phone.