A Fiber Farm Blog

Be Mine

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Introducing new “Be Mine” Roving.  You can find it on Etsy @ https://www.etsy.com/shop/parsonsprairie.  It is 55% Alpaca/40% Wool/5% Nylon.  Perfect for sock yarn or any of your projects where you want the softness of alpaca, the memory of wool and the strength of nylon.  The alpaca comes from Sgt. Pepper.

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Be Mine Roving 3

 

The weather in our area since the first of the year has been crazy!  Rain, snow, ice, high winds and brutally cold temps seem to have taken over.  We have had a few nicer days in between so it hasn’t been all bad, but it has definitely been a wintery start to the year.

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We always get asked how the animals are doing when the weather is extreme like this.  The alpacas are in almost full fleece and don’t have an issue with the cold at all.  They typically don’t have a problem with snow, but seem to prefer not to have to walk through it and won’t even try to graze with snow on the ground.  They don’t seem to like the wind.  They spend much of a cold, blustery winter day tucked away in their barns.  But if the sun is out and some grass is peaking through the snow, they will venture out no matter the temperature.

Bella stays safe and warm in the barn with the female alpacas.  Jeff worked this fall moving extra hay in the barns to keep some of the cold out.  It is amazing how warm it stays in the barn with all the animals in it.  Bella has re-arranged a bale or two of hay and made her bed tucked away in the corner of the barn.

The chickens stay close to the barns and roost in the rafters at night.  I’m sure it is plenty warm up there for them.  The cats live in the hay barn.  They have tunnels in between the hay bales and they are probably the warmest of all!

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There are always things that need to be done on the farm, so we have concentrated more so far this year on projects we can do inside.  Since we both have full time jobs outside of the farm, we have to get as much done in our spare time as possible.  Here is a little of what we have been working on when the weather outside is awful.

Dyeing fiber…..

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Spinning Colorway Samples

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Loading up Etsy with our new yarns and rovings…..

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Doing a physical inventory of our products and preparing merchandise orders for the spring sales season…..

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Keeping the driveway and pathways to the barns safe and clear of snow…..

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Even with the weather, this is an exciting time of year.  It’s a great time to get caught up on indoor projects, planning for the new year and watching that fiber grow!

Shearing Day 2018

Shearing Day

Saturday, April 21st

7:30 am – 11:00 am

Saturday, April 21, 2018 is our annual Shearing Day.  This is our “Harvest Day”….the day that we have worked toward for the past year.  This is the day that we truly see the results of all our hard work……how we have cared for the animal, sheltered them and fed them; protected them from stress, from predators, and in some cases even from Mother Nature.  We can see it all in the quality and quantity of their fiber.  This is also the day we can see the results of breeding decisions sometimes made years before.

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We welcome you to come and watch shearing.  Below is what you can expect on Shearing Day?

Shearing Day is a crazy busy day!  Jeff and I may not be able to welcome visitors individually, there is sometimes just too much to do.  So make yourself at home, visit with our other guests and alpaca families and enjoy learning about Shearing Day on an alpaca farm.  If you have questions and can’t get them answered on Saturday, please feel free to send us an email or give us a call.  If you would like to talk further about alpacas or the farm, please call and schedule a time to visit when we can spend ample time with you.

We hire Brian Gnizak with Shear Relief LLC to shear our alpacas.  He will come with an additional 3 man team that will do all the handling of the animals and shearing.  We have used Brian and his team for the last 5 years and he is the BEST!  He requires that the animals be close and ready for shearing and that they be dry.  We do a lot of planning and working ahead of time to make sure that the animals are ready for him and that things are organized and ready to go as soon as his team arrives to set up.  Brian may shear several farms in one day so we do everything we can to make sure that his time at our farm runs smoothly and efficiently.  We never want to be the farm that puts him behind!

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We have 44 alpacas to shear this year……from 3 separate families.  Typically the alpacas are brought out for shearing from light to dark…….the whites first, the blacks and greys last.  Since we have 3 families involved, our shearing may differ just a bit.  We want to make sure that each of the families has the opportunity to work with their own animals so depending on everyone’s schedule, they may go in a little different order.  In addition, we typically pull out any troublemakers and have them shorn first.  And yes, we do have a few troublemakers.  It is a relief to get the “troublemakers” out of the way, out of the barn, and out of everyone’s hair (no pun intended).

We will shear rain or shine. Unfortunately for guests, the alpacas, shearers and volunteers need to be in the dry, shaded barn. If we can find a safe place for you in the barn, we will get you a spot inside. But often times guests will hang out on the outskirts of the big barn to watch the action, so please come dressed for the weather. Have footwear that you can easily clean. You never know what you might step into at an alpaca farm!

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There is a lot going on in a small area! The alpacas will be brought back and forth to the shearing mats, identified if necessary, given deworming injections, toenails trimmed and possibly have their teeth trimmed as well. Once the shearing starts, fiber collectors will begin their work. When the shearing team is done with an alpaca, the animal will need to be taken back to safety and volunteers will be cleaning up the shearing area. Needless to say, visitors have to stay back from the activity for their safety. Children must stay with adults at all times.

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We will shear in the big barn with doors facing east.  As you come down the drive, you won’t be able to miss it.  The shearers will have their van pulled up to the door.  We will have gates open for you to get as close as possible.  Feel free to park in the grassy area to the south east of the barn.

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This is usually not the best time to see our typically quiet & docile alpacas.  They will sense that something is going on and be nervous and scared.  Depending on the weather up to shearing day, they may have been kept under cover in very close quarters for far too long.  They can become very stressed.  Some may spit, some may scream, some will fight the shearers and try to get away, while some will plop down and refuse to move on their own. Just keep in mind that whatever you see and however they act, they will not be hurt.  Not only do we want the fiber for processing, but it is necessary to remove it from the animal for their own comfort, health and well-being.  Alpaca fiber is very warm and they may not survive the summer months unless it is taken off.  Once an alpaca is shorn, they are as happy and content as they can be.

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There is nothing more satisfying that looking out into a pasture of shorn alpacas and know that not only are the animals comfortable and ready for summer, but you had a successful and efficient shearing day!

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Please let us know if you have any questions about Shearing Day 2018 at kim@naturalfiberfarm.com.  We still have a lot to do in this upcoming week to prepare for shearing day so hopefully I can take some time out to update the blog a bit about our activities.

Hope to see you at Shearing Day 2018!

Next Up:  What to do with all the fiber!

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Early Spring on the Farm

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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!

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And watching for you.

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We’re discussing and making plans.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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Curly 1

Moe 1

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