A Fiber Farm Blog

Early Spring on the Farm

daffodil

We are preparing for spring on the farm and it is a crazy, busy time!  It was an unusual winter here……..warm and dry, with only a couple of inches of snow all winter.  We finally got some rain this past week and are anticipating more this week.  Hopefully we are coming out of this dry spell.  With so much going on around here, I will try my best to keep you updated.

Garden

I got my spring garden planted last week.  Jeff had the garden all tilled and generously spread with alpaca poop.  I planted turnips, beets, spinach, lettuce, onions, carrots and tons of radishes.  There is nothing better than fresh radishes, right out of the garden!  As I was planting, I kept my eye on a slow-moving rain storm coming from the southwest.  Usually my timing isn’t that great, but this year I was able to get that garden in right before the rain kicked in.  We received some badly needed moisture.  My garden and I were thankful!

Strawberry Patch

We have had Strawberry Patch issues over the last few years.  We have tried several different ways to grow strawberries and it seems like we just end up with a big, unruly, out of control weed patch (and, if we were lucky, maybe a couple of ripe strawberries that weren’t rotten, mashed or had been stepped on).  I had strawberries at our first house and it didn’t seem that hard, but here, I don’t know, it has just been a mess.  True, we have had a couple of bad years, no rain at all one spring, then the next, so much rain that what berries we had rotted before we could get to them.  I have had a plan to build a “better” strawberry patch so we are going to give it a try this year.  Last week, Jeff tilled up an area for my patch and placed concrete blocks around for edging.  We ended up with an area of about 2 feet by 20 feet.  It’s not the prettiest thing, but I’m hoping it will be functional.   It is a little early here to purchase strawberries so I am watching for sales and will hopefully have them planted in a few weeks.  My hope is that with my new patch, 1) the strawberries will be controlled and kept within the blocks and, 2) I will be able to weed and pick strawberries without having to walk through the patch itself.  We will see how it works out.  If I can finally get a successful, easy to maintain patch going, we will probably build another one and get it started next year.  I will keep you posted!

Strawberry Patch

Orchard

I am very excited to announce that we will be starting a small orchard on our property.  We have purchased 10 fruit trees that are packaged so that they are good for our location and good for cross pollination.  They should be delivered by the end of this week and we are expecting 3 apple trees, 2 peach trees, 2 pear trees, 2 plum trees and 1 cherry tree.  Since we have a very busy weekend ahead of us, we decided to go ahead and start preparing the holes this past Sunday.  It took a lot of time preparing 10 holes on Sunday afternoon so we were glad that part of the job is out of the way.  We are expecting more rain this week, so also didn’t want to take the chance that it would be too wet to dig.  We want to get the trees in the ground as quickly as possible once they arrive.

MOPACA Show

I am preparing for the MOPACA show this weekend.  The show will be at Hale Arena in Kansas City this weekend and will have lots of alpacas, vendors, fiber and some great competition in the show ring.  We will be one of the vendors and since this is one of the bigger shows we do and with it pretty much being our first show of the year, there is lots of prep work to be done.  I will be setting up for the show on Friday and the show and vendor booths will be open both Saturday and Sunday.

This is just a bit of what we have accomplished the past week and what we have in the works for the farm this year.  Next week, I will update you on how the spring garden is doing, if I’ve found any strawberry plants, the progress of our little Orchard and the MOPACA Show in Kansas City.   Until then, enjoy some other pictures of Early Spring on the Farm!

 

Sweet 9

Are you Coming?

Imagine

We’re waiting for you!

Bella at Pond 1

And watching for you.

Donks 1

We’re discussing and making plans.

Sweet 1

And promise to be on our best behavior.

Because Parsons’ Prairie Farm’s 2016 Fall Farm Day is almost here!

Last year we were so busy and had so much going on that we decided to cancel Fall Farm Day………a decision we regretted almost from the minute it was made.  We so missed opening up the farm to visitors, meeting new friends and the enjoyment of sharing our farm with others.  I vowed we would not miss a Fall Farm Day again!   So come on out to the farm on Sunday afternoon, September 25th and see what we are all about.  Learn about the alpacas and the fiber they produce.  Shop the farm store for handspun yarns and hand dyed yarns, rovings and craft felts.  Start your Holiday shopping early by browsing our selection of alpaca socks, hats and gloves as well as hand made soaps, made right on the farm!  Try your luck at fishing in the farm pond, gather eggs in the hen house or just sit, relax and enjoy the farm day refreshments.

Things to keep in mind:

So far, every year that we have held Fall Farm Day we have been blessed with perfect weather!  But we will hold the 2016 Fall Farm Day rain or shine, so come prepared for the weather.  If the weather is nice, we will open the front female alpaca pasture so you can move among the alpacas.  If it rains, we will figure out a way that visitors can view the alpacas close up and stay dry at the same time.  In any kind of weather though, if you want to move among the alpacas, make sure to wear poop-proof footwear!

We would like to invite you to try your luck at fishing in our farm pond.  We will mow down to the north pond (you will be able to drive down there if you wish) and will mow around the pond.  Bring a pole, bait, a chair and bug spray to make your experience more enjoyable.  Of course, all children must be accompanied by an adult.

We want your visit to be enjoyable.  Feel free to wander the property and take all the pictures you want.  If you find a nice, out of the way place to relax and enjoy the farm, please feel free to do so.  Poke your head into the hay barn and look for the many (too many) barn cats that call the farm home.  Check out the fruit trees, berry bushes and grapevines in the back yard.  Whatever you choose to do, enjoy your farm visit!

Farm Day No Pets Policy – please do not bring your pets to Farm Day.  We currently only have one dog, our livestock guardian dog, Bella on the farm.  Bella has a job to do and although she might be visiting with Fall Farm Day guests, she is always alert and ready to defend the alpacas.  Bringing other pets to Farm Days could possibly cause either your animals or ours to be hurt.   We will all have a better experience if all pets are left at home.

Feel free to contact us should you have any questions.  Look forward to seeing you on Fall Farm Days!

Jeff & Kim Overbey

 

One of the things I love most about doing shows is the opportunity to meet and talk with fiber enthusiasts like myself.  At a show a few months back, I was talking with someone who was trying to figure out what to do with some roving that she loved.  A skilled knitter, she had at one point bought a spinning wheel and some lovely roving with the intention of learning to spin.  Even with the best intentions, she just never enjoyed the spinning like she had hoped.  She sold her wheel but just couldn’t part with the beautiful roving she had purchased and was determined to do something with it.  I sent her home with a plan to felt her roving and make a single ply, thick n thin yarn, a yarn that she could knit with and enjoy.  Here is how it is done.

For the project I chose 4 oz. of my hand dyed First Blush roving.   It is 100% alpaca and all it needs to felt is heat, friction and soap.  So here we go.

Felted Yarn 4

You want to make sure at some point before you are done with the felting process that your roving is in one piece.  You will want to do this so that when you are finished felting you have one nice, long length of yarn to use.  To do this you will need to felt your roving ends together.  I try my best to make sure all my roving does come in one piece but every once in a while I will have to add additional pieces to make a full 4 ounce bundle.   And sometimes when you are working with roving, before you know it, the fibers seemed to have pulled apart on their own.  You don’t have to felt your ends together this early in the process but I find it is much easier to do before too much of the felting has occurred.

Felted Yarn 6

My 4 oz. bundle of roving was in 2 pieces.  I have put both pieces in separate bags so that I make sure to felt the correct ends together.  If you don’t it is very easy to felt two ends that are on the same length of roving and you just end up with a giant roving circle.  (I’m too embarrassed to say why I know this can happen so just trust me on this one).

Felted Yarn 7

Get your two (separate) ends and lay them together.

Felted Yarn 8

Put a dab of soap (I used Dawn) on the place where they are joined and put it under some hot water.  Use as hot of water as you can stand.  It might even be best to wear some gloves to do this.  Rub the soap and hot water into the roving until you have felted the two ends together.  This is your heat, friction and soap together which will cause the ends to felt together.

Felted Yarn 9

Felted Yarn 10

At this point I really should send out a big thank you to my hand model.  These are not my hands as I am the photographer and can’t seem to do both things at once.  So thank you to my husband Jeff for helping me out on this one.

Felted Yarn 11

Once you have felted the two ends together enough that they will stay put, go ahead and bring all the roving out of the bags and into the water.  Add a little soap, use as warm of water as you can and just swish the roving around as much as possible.  Keep pulling and separating the roving as you go along.  Do this so you keep your strands separate.  You don’t want to felt it all into a big lump!  The idea is to be as rough with the roving as possible, to use as hot of water as possible and add a little soap.  Your roving will be felted in no time.

Felted Yarn 12

Felted Yarn 13

When you feel like the roving has felted down quite a bit go ahead and squeeze the excess water out and hang to dry.  Remember, typically you would never, ever treat your fibers like this……..the hot water, rough way we are handling them and wringing them out would felt them in a second.  But this time, it is what we want.

Felted Yarn 14

Hang your yarn out to dry.  You can see that there still might be some felting to be done.  This is up to you.  If you like the look of your yarn after felting it one time, then you are done.  For this project, I did do the felting process twice to get a nice, smooth (albeit thick and thin) yarn.

Felted Yarn 15

Felted Yarn 16

Here is the finished product, ready to be knit or crocheted.  Beautiful, huh?

Felted Yarn 3

Felted Yarn 2

 

 

Bella & Kitten Update

It is time I gave you an update on Bella and the kittens.  First…..Bella.  She went to both the vet for her annual checkup and to the groomer last week, so for her, it was a great week.  She weighed in at 93 pounds!  The vet said she was a healthy girl and at the perfect weight.  It was a very hot day and she enjoyed plopping down on the cool, tile floor at the office.  A few days later she spent the day at her grooming appointment.  She seemed to enjoy that day as well, another hot day spent inside.  When she got home she looked and smelled so nice that she got to spend an hour or so in the air conditioning with me.

Groomed Bella

And the 3 kittens……wow have they grown!  They are 4 weeks old now.  In a couple of weeks I will be looking for a good home for them.

Larry 1

Curly 1

Moe 1

Are they not the cutest things you have ever seen???

 

 

Bella 10

Bella was delivered to us on Valentine’s night, 2014 and our hearts have been hers ever since.  We had lost Balto in November the year before and it was just not the same without one of these big, white, beautiful, loyal Great Pyrenees dogs on our farm.   She was 10 weeks old when she arrived and nothing but a big, squirmy ball of fur.  She moved and wiggled around so fast that it was almost impossible to get a decent picture of her.  But as we have come to expect from these dogs, it didn’t take her long at all to become trusted among the alpacas, friends with the cats and to settle into her new home.

Bella 2

Bella 3

We get lots of questions about livestock guardian dogs so I thought I would introduce you to Bella by answering the most common questions.  Here we go…..in the order of how often the questions are asked.

#1 most asked questionWhat does a livestock guardian dog (LGD) actually do?  Bella’s most important job is to protect the alpacas.  We keep her in the pasture with our females and crias to make sure that they stay safe.  Our biggest predator problem is coyotes and while they have never bothered our alpacas, Bella makes sure that they don’t come close.   She has a booming bark and sends them on their way pretty quickly.  It is interesting to me that Balto and Bella had very different methods of sending the coyotes packing.  Balto, who had a knack of getting out of the pasture any number of ways, would actually leave the pasture and chase them till they were off the property.  Bella, alternates from running along the fence line and barking to trying to round up the alpacas for safety by herding them into the barn.  She will run back and forth, between the alpacas and the fence, until the threat is gone.  I think another very basic instinct that these guardian dogs have is the ability to show compassion and care for a sick, scared or newborn alpaca.  I am in awe and brought to tears every time I see this happen.  But I have seen it enough to know it is true.  I have seen both Balto and Bella welcome a new cria.  They sit back patiently to guard and watch at first but then, when Mom seems to be ok with it, they will sit or lie beside the young cria.  I have seen Balto sleep beside a weanling the first night that he was without his mama and I have witnessed both Balto & Bella not leave a sick alpaca’s side until there was nothing else to be done.  They are very protective and take their job extremely seriously.

Bella with Alpacas 1

Forever Royal & Bella

#2 most asked question – Does Bella really live in the barn?  Where does she sleep?  Doesn’t she get cold?  Doesn’t she get hot?  Bella lives in the barn with the alpacas.  She spends all day in the barn and sleeps in the barn at night.  This is the way it has always been for her.  Her mama and papa lived in the barn and she was born in a barn, so that is all she has known.  It is important for both her and us to know that she is with the alpacas to do her job.  Bella has her own area in the barn, a place that the alpacas and donkeys cannot get to.  Her bed is in this area and it is a place she can go to still be with and see the alpacas but have some space all her own.  Bella has a very dense coat, particularly in the winter so she doesn’t seem to be cold at all.  And you would be surprised how warm it is in the barn with all the animals and hay in there.  When the weather is very cold or we are expecting ice, we will shut the doors at night to keep the wind and weather out and all the animals stay very comfortable.  The hot humid days of summer are harder for her.  She does get hot.  We keep her groomed so that she stays as cool as possible.  She drinks out of the automatic waterers that we have for the alpacas so she always has access to clean, cool water.  She also has her own fan that she can lay in front of on hot days.  It is back in her little private area of the barn so she doesn’t have to try to share with the alpacas.  I will admit that we have let Bella in the house from time to time when it is really hot.  She gets to come just inside the mudroom and lie on the cool tile floor.  It doesn’t take her long at all to relax and rest in the cool house.

Bella12

Bella Keeping Cool

#3 most asked question – How hard is it to train a LGD?  It’s easy…..they train themselves.  It is instinct and in their nature to protect.  We have had 2 Great Pyrs since they were puppies and it has been fascinating to watch them go from the puppy stage to being an effective LGD.  The first thing I noticed was that, even very young, they seem to have a sense about when to approach the other animals and when not to.  They seem to figure out which alpacas don’t much care for them being around and which ones don’t seem to mind.  They fit into their surroundings and get along with other animals very, very quickly.   At first, the alpacas don’t seem crazy about having a puppy around, but they all very quickly learn to get along and trust each other.  As they get older it is fun to watch them pick up more and more of the behaviors that will make them excellent LGDs.  Of course, like any puppy, we have had to spend some time on basic puppy manners and obedience, but they are LGDs in their hearts and their guardian instincts seem to come naturally as they get older.

Bella with Alpacas 2

#4 most asked question – What does Bella like?  What does Bella dislike?

Bella likes:

Spending time with humans

Walks with Jeff

Splashing in the ponds

Playing with other dog friends

Her best friend…..Cooper the Cat

Cucumbers – straight out of the garden is best, pulled right off the vine…..yummmm!

Grooming – Believe it or not, Bella loves to go to the groomer and doesn’t seem to mind being brushed too much.  There is a little bit of diva in her I think.

Going to the vet – again, a little strange maybe.  Bella, because of her size, is a huge hit at the vet and she certainly loves the attention she gets.  She seems to love hearing the vet say what a pretty, big, healthy girl she is.  And there always seems to be a few kids there to fawn over her too.

Duck eggs – the fresher the better.  The days that she can get to the duck eggs before we do is a good day!  She seems to love it that the ducks lay their eggs on the ground where she can always get to them.  Much easier for her to get than chicken eggs and they are bigger eggs to boot!

Car rides

Watermelon on a hot day!

Bella dislikes:

Moles – the word “dislike” might be a little mild.  She hates moles.  She will dig them up and kill them without a thought.  She has literally saved our yard from being tunneled to death!

Fences around gardens – it’s because of the cucumber thing

Long, confusing days with lots of people around – like shearing day

Loud noises – she is terribly afraid of fireworks or cars backfiring.

Bella at Pond 1

#5 most asked question – Does Bella ever get a bath?  I think it is kind of funny that this is asked so much.  I hate to think that she looks or smells that bad and I really don’t think she does.  I tell people all the time that she doesn’t really ever get a bath.  It just doesn’t do any good.  She lives in the barn and honestly getting her wet just turns everything to mud anyway.  She does love to get dirty though and many of our pictures are of one dirty dog.  The only exception to this is when she is groomed.  She seems to love getting bathed there and comes home smelling like lilacs or something I wonder is embarrassing for a barn dog but she seems to love it while it lasts.  It’s the diva thing again.

Wet Bella 2

Bella Resting

#6 most asked question – Every time I come down your driveway I see your LGD sound asleep.  Are Great Pyrs lazy dogs?

I think this is funny every time I hear it.  I’m sure it seems that way but you have to remember that these working dogs are often up all night long.  They work the night shift so to speak.  That is when most of the action happens and they need to be on guard.  It seems like they are very busy right at dusk and then again at dawn.  Still, I will often get up in the middle of the night and hear Bella barking……doing her job.  She doesn’t bark unnecessarily but there is just a lot going on in the dark.  So wouldn’t you, if you had been up working all night, be more than ready to take a snooze in a nice patch of sunshine or shady spot when the notion hits?  But trust me, even though she may look dead to the world when she is asleep, not a lot gets by her.

Bella Sleeping

Bella 1

So these are the questions we get asked most often.  I hope you learned a little about livestock guardian dogs, Great Pyrenees, and of course Bella.  We purchased both Balto and Bella from the Colemans with Wing and a Prayer Alpacas, Amity, Oregon and we cannot recommend them highly enough.  Even though Bella is a working dog and spends most of her time with the alpacas, she is also a huge part of our family.  If we are home and working outside, Bella is out of the pasture and right with us.  She loves to take long walks, splash in the pond, go on car rides or just nap in the shade………as long as we are right there with her.  It is such a comfort to know that she is taking care of things out in the pasture and ready 24/7 to guard and protect both the alpacas and us.  We couldn’t love her more!

Bella in Tall Grass

 

 

A Pile of Kittens

The kittens are 1 week old today and they have already about doubled in size, but have not yet opened their eyes.   I let mamma cat out of the crate a few days ago.  She now has access to the screened in porch.  Once I let her out, she promptly move the kittens into a corner behind a stack of folding chairs.  She is very protective and the only way I can get her away from her kittens is to tempt her with food.  She is making it very hard for me to get any good pictures!  The kittens, when they are awake, are beginning to squirm around a little more.  I’m sure before I know it, they will be roaming around and I will have plenty of photo opportunities.

Kittens 1 week old 1

Kittens 1 week old 2

Just wanted to make a quick post to show the kittens at day 3.  I don’t know if the pictures shows it so much, but I can’t believe how much they have grown in 3 days!

Kittens Day 3