Well, more fallout from the Wall Street Journal article about alpaca breeding. The author makes some very silly comparisons about ostriches and tries to make out that most alpaca breeders are lawyers and doctors looking for tax breaks. Since I was too lazy to write a rebuttal myself, I am linking to a very smart, funny rebuttal article written by my good friend, Ingrid Wood
Ingrid's Answer to the Wall Street Journal Alpaca Article
Ingrid and I often call ourselves the "mean girls" of the alpaca biz because we don't take any "stuff" from anyone including YOU Wall Street Journal girl! Try doing just a little research honey! You could have easily found people who are selling and using their alpaca fiber if you'd wanted to write a more balanced article. Take some pride in your work for goodness sakes! We do.
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I find myself a little whiny lately due to the fact that I have no alpaca babies to watch in my field, jumping and running like crazy things, but my alpaca friends keep me well supplied - Bless them every one. Above is a photo sent by Amanda with the title, "Happy Easter Bunny." What a cute bunny.
Another very good alpaca pal, Sue Hammer, sent a photo of two of my old girls as big as houses, reclining dispiritedly on the ground, too pregnant and tired to bother getting on their feet to eat. Poor babies!
Don't they look bleak? Hang in there Pinka & Glad, you're almost there!
I do have to confess, though, that Tom and I spend a shocking amount of time childishly repeating to ourselves, "We don't have to shear this spring!" No sore backs and clogged sinuses! No giant, 800 milligram tablets of Motrin! No 80 degree day for sweaty, sticky shearing followed by a freezing 30 degree day with snow and accusing glares from the shivering alpacas.
Good / Bad
So life is mostly good, but not all good. I got another positive comment about the cranky fleece article - this one from a lady living in Germany who said, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" and some other nice stuff. That's good! If you read this article, one of the things that I complained about was large alpaca farms who tell everyone that they can't be bothered using their own alpaca fleece. This week, one of those very people was quoted in the Wall St. Journal as saying that very thing. BAD - Very BAD! Here's a link to the article.
Wall Street Journal Alpaca Article
Another bad thing? people who have nothing better to do than put dumb comments about Job Hunting in Australia and Viagra and other, worse things on other people's blogs. The reason that I do not allow comments on this blog any longer is to avoid these "link spammers" and other web rats. That's also the reason that my counter total is only 683, it was reset when I updated to the new and "more secure" blogging software. If you have your own blog, be careful of these hacker / criminals! They are Bad! Check your comments and files for break-ins often, BEFORE they junk up all your web hosting space.
While I was doing my Nancy Drew, super-sleuth thing, hunting down the links of these hackers, I was checking many of the statistics for this blog and website to see who is linking to them. I did not find any hacker type links but I did find, inexplicably, a lady in the Netherlands whose knitting blog, Life n' Knitting links to my web site. This is in Dutch but some of it can be translated.
I was all set to like this Dutch person who seems to knit a lot of beautiful things with alpaca, but then I looked more closely at her super, amazingly, astonishingly perfect knitting, so now I hate her! Just kidding but, look at this knit, lace shawl! Yikes! Is she a Borg or what? No human did that knitting!
Also found a link to me from a Saudi Arabian site but, since I cannot read Arabic, I have no idea what it says. I do speak Spanish and I am not totally ignorant so I know that Azucar (sugar), Almohada (pillow), Ojala (I hope/pray that) and Alfombra (carpet) are supposedly Arabic words that made it into Spanish with the Moors. Thanks Moors! because I like my pillow, carpets and sugar PRETTY WELL, especially the sugar. If you DO speak Arabic (and English), I'd love to know what this web site or blog is about. Can you tell me? Be careful though, in case it IS a bad web site owned by hackers.
As I mentioned before, you'll have to e-mail me since there are no comments allowed on this blog. You can find me e-mail address on My Website
Two other good things? finished the set of hand spun alpaca hat & flip top mittens that I will sell at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival (Barn 6, Booth 6). See how willingly my daughter models them?
And, Mr. & Mrs. Mallard have moved into the pond in my backyard for the spring. I love ducks! They are not alpaca related but, if you have a farm, you have to have a pond (fire insurance) and, if you have a pond, why not have ducks? These are the little things that make the farm life so nice.
This coming Sunday is the ABC Show in New Jersey. If you live around there and want to go, get the info. from their website, Alpaca Heritage Events
If you get to the show, say Hi to Ingrid, Yvette and the "other Kate" aka "Kate 2" from me, "Kate 1."
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Second cuts that had to be grabbed out of drum carder
I was feeling a bit mean for having put a cranky article up on my website and asking people to read this instead of all of them contacting me for ideas about what to do with their alpaca fleeces. (See previous post on this blog.) So I was super happy to get two positive e-mail responses to the cranky article. One of them, from a nice couple named Tim and Tammy started out with the paragraph below:
I have just finished reading Alpaca Fleece Sales Reality Check. THANK YOU!!!! This is one of the most straightforward pieces of information we have heard or read since looking into the alpaca business 4 years ago.
Wow! I am thrilled that someone felt that this article was useful to them and didn't get mad at me for being (gulp,) "too straightforward." Thank you Tim and Tammy for taking the time to give this feedback because, whenever I get too blunt in my articles, I always imagine 100 people all thought bubbling at once, "I wish she'd shut up!" You guys made my day!
Speaking of blunt articles, this is the time of year that I always think about shearing. This is the first spring in years that Tom and I have no exhausting alpaca shearing schedule to fit in between cria births and spring alpaca show preparations. Boo hoo! Which is not to say that we are not getting calls asking for shearing anyway. So, here is a link to a shearing advice article of mine that lives on the website of the Alpaca Heritage Events Inc.
Luckily, I can always count on my lovely alpaca friends to send me photos of their cute alpaca babies and/ or their shearing day. Here is a wonderful one of my old girl, "Pinka" and her son Champ sent by friend and Mac Computer goddess, Sue of Wildwood Alpacas in Virginia. Shearing is a little scary so, of course, you are going to need to nurse from Mom afterwards to cheer yourself up. This guy is trying to duck under there for a little milk therapy.
See why we all call this girl Pinka? She's totally pink under that luscious fleece. Sue says that Pinka gave her a "withering stare." Laugh out loud, I know exactly the Pinka look she means!
The one thing I still have here is my remaining un-spun fleeces lurking forlornly behind my spinning chair in my little spinning room.
I am in full production mode now, processing a leftover part of a Cherfleece on the drum carder,
spinning a recently processed Snowman fleece and knitting up the yarn from the previously mentioned Jezebel fleece. The photo at the top of this entry illustrates WHY we should try to avoid second cuts during shearing. These were picked out of the roving I was making with the Snowman fleece. No big right? Wrong, because the drumcarder is ouchy and pointy and I always get little annoying cuts on my fingers and knuckles if I have to pull these off of the drum carder! It's better to keep them from happening in the first place. If you look closely at the photo below, you'll see some second cuts embedded on the scary, spikey drum. (Purists! Yes, I DO know that the smaller drum is more properly referred to as the "licker in" but how many non-spinners know that?)
I loved doing the snowman fleece because he has great length! The shorter staple length fleeces are a pain to drum card but this little guy produced more than 5 inches. Yet another thing they don't measure in the show ring (staple length) but it really matters to spinners.
Here is the Snowman himself, having a fun day playing in the snow. Don't get me started on the "blue-eyed white" controversy please! These guys are not usually allowed to breed but, who cares? This guy had a gorgeous fleece and sweet as pie personality. There's no shortage of grunting, testosterone crazed breeding males anyway. Look at that cute, baby boy face!
More often than not, as I go through the fleece bag and continue drum carding, I will run into a piece or two that is NOT blanket. People sometimes ask me at fleece shows, "How do you KNOW that that isn't blanket?!?" You just get used to the way each one looks after a while and even though they can't see it, it is as obvious as can be if you've looked at a thousand fleeces. Here is the NOT BLANKET piece I found in Snowman's fleece, placed next to a piece that IS blanket. See the difference? It's not that hard.
Of course, you cannot do this work without the proper musical accompaniment to get you in that fiber goddess mood. Today's musical selection, the soundtrack from Rob Roy. Excellent spinster lady music. Check out the cutting edge stereo equipment! Twenty-somethings, if you've never seen that thing at the top, it's called a "turntable" and it plays, "records!"
Soon, the entire fleece has been reduced to little, spinnable rovings and the fleece bag is empty - YAY! This bucket represents less than half of the rovings from the entire fleece.
meanwhile, back in knitting world, I finished the gift for the friend I mentioned in this post , a hat spun and knit from her old girl Jezebel mixed with some purple yarn spun up from a wool/silk blend.
You may have figured out by now that I'm not a dressy-girl spinner or knitter. I like to be warm and I like my garments to have that rustic (some might say dorky) feel.
Also made another crazy hat from Jezebel's fleece and a remnant of pink handspun yarn left over from a spun up fleece of, who else, Pinka. (Okay, I did add a little dye to pinken it up a bit.)
This is one of the dilemmas of all handspinners, It takes so much effort to process a raw fleece, spin up the fleece into yarn and/ or ply it, that you hate to throw these small, leftover yarn balls away. I keep a little collection of them that I use for stripes or other decorative touches when knitting.
Next project, matching flip top mittens for the black and pink hat. I plan to sell this set at the MD Sheep & Wool Festivalalong with the drum carder pictured above and a used Ashford Elizabeth spinning wheel. If you're interested, come see me at Three Farms Alpaca Booth, Barn 6, Booth 6.
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In a previous post HERE I had started spinning the fleece of my old girl, Jezebel and this weekend I had the pleasure of finishing up that yarn. Above, is one of the Jezebel skeins on the skein winder. This is a "clock reel"-type skein winder that I bought at an auction in Frederick. We use this thing to reel the skein off of the bobbin that the yarn was plied on to. (Using a spinning wheel of course.) The tied off skein looks like this:
After that step, the alpaca yarn needs to be washed. We don't wash alpaca fleece BEFORE spinning and plying - that isn't necessary and, along with being a lot of extra work, it will increase your chances of accidental felting quite a bit. Don't do it.
Of course you have to hang your skeins to dry after they are washed and here are 2 of my Jezebel skeins hanging on a tree in the breeze. Don't want to brag BUT, look how nice and straight they hang! If they were twisting to one side or the other, we'd know they were overspun or overplied (depending on which way they curled)
After washing and air drying, it's on to the Umbrella Swift to wind the skeins into balls. This thing is the equivalent of your grandma making you hold out your hands so she can wind her yarn into a ball but the Swift twirls and doesn't get sick of holding its hand up. On the other hand (get it?), I'd far rather have my grandma back if I could.
Here are two of the finished balls of the Jezebel yarn. At least one of these will go to making something for Jezebel's former owner who is going through a tough time but being very brave and gracious about it. This person should be named Grace and I mean that both in the sense of graciousness but also in the spiritual sense. That's the beauty of using your own alpaca fleeces. You can keep that connection to the animals that you loved. OK, I promise not to nag - really!
Speaking of those we've known and cared about in the alpaca business, I had an e-mail from Autumn Star Alpacas and Deb Tabor, who bought our girl, Fur Elise. She has sold Fur Elise to a new farm in Vermont, Armida Alpacas and, the people running this farm look like MY TYPE of PEOPLE. Of course I snaeked around checking their web site and I was thrilled to find this statement:
INTEGRITY: We are honest when it is convenient and when it is not. We do not take advantage of new breeders' innocence, and we make every effort to assure customer satisfaction.
Alrighty then! I like your attitude and I am super-happy to know where to go when I want to see what's up with Fur Elise. Meanwhile, Deb from Autumn Start Alpacas has a really nice blog on her site so I trolled through it looking for info about Fur Elise. Deb's blog is HERE: Autumn Star Alpacas Blog I stole the following photo from her blog - Please don't sue me Deb!!!
Also the following one of Fur Elise having a bad hair day:
Here is one that Deb does NOT have (but you are welcome to steal from here!) Fur Elise in the first moments of her cute baby life:
Fur Elise won a 1st at Virginia Classic for Deb, which didn't surprise me one bit.
Well I DO have to get back to work (real work, not alpaca fiber work) but one more alpaca pal checked in this weekend. Yvette Kirilenko from Wool & Gray Alpacas in New Jersey and I have a tradition of trading alpaca/sheep T-shirts that we get a events the other person can't attend. Sometimes I get her a T-shirt from Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival and she has gotten me one from the MAPACA Jubilee. This year, however, I am holding out for the brand new Alpaca Heritage Events T-shirt. Logo by my dear friend , other Kate a.k.a. Kate2, a.k.a. Kate McKelvie of Alpacas of Sunset Fields Look how pretty this logo is:
Previously, the Alpaca Heritage Group was stuck with yours truly as the "graphic artist" wannabe in residence but Kate 2 is an actual graphic artist, not a wannabe. Here is one of my old logos from my Alpaca Heritage days:
If you were one of the people who was offended by the show's name, (Bare Naked Alpaca Show) back then, please don't weigh in again. It was a JOKE about shorn alpacas! And, frankly, it's sort of hard for me to imagine people THAT squeamish about s.e.x. wanting to breed animals for a living.
As, I've admitted, I'm not exactly Picasso. So, thanks for showing me up Kate 2! Just kidding, can't wait to get the T-shirt! Anyone else there who wants to trade alpaca/sheep T-shirts, E-mail ME. Meanwhile, if you are wishing you knew more about graphics, web sites, blogs etc. for your OWN alpaca business, I can't promise to make you an artist but I think I CAN make you understand how these little alpaca marketing tricks are done. Check this link if you are interested:
Secrets of alpaca marketing with your computer Seminar
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