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Shearing Day!

Shearing Day is once again upon us! And, this year at least, it can’t come a minute too soon. It has been unseasonably warm and a few days it was downright humid. The alpacas and I will be relieved when they have all that fiber off! Right now we plan for the shearers to arrive around 7:00 a.m. Wednesday, April 15th. As always we welcome visitors. If you would like to participate we can certainly find a job for you. If you would prefer to just pull up a chair and watch, we would love to have you do so.

Watch the blog for any changes to our shearing date and time. We try to be as flexible as possible to accommodate the shearers schedule.

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The boys before shearing

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The same boys after shearing! Always makes me laugh!

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2014 Harvest

Shearing Day

Shearing Day 2014 was a huge success.  First of all, we couldn’t have asked for better weather….both on Saturday and the few days leading up to shearing.  We didn’t have to put all the alpacas in the big barn until Friday night which made for a much less stressful time for them.  Brian and his team arrived shortly before 7:00 a.m. and got right to work.  We were so fortunate this year to have our niece Briana, as well as Stephanie & Sarah all vet students at the University of Illinois here to help out.  Our daughter Kellie also joined in on the fun.   Not only did the girls do a great job, but they brought a lot of fun and laughter to the morning as well.  Now, it’s time to start working with the 2014 clip.

Below are just a few of the many pictures I took Saturday.  Enjoy!

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Shearing Day 2014

Shearing Day 2014 is right around the corner! Right now we are expecting the Shearing Team to arrive around 8:30 – 9:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, April 12th. We invite you to our harvest day!

Please check this blog or our website before you come out. We are only 1 of 3 farms that our shearing team with work with on Saturday and we always have to be flexible with their time. I will post any changes to the timing (if there are any) on both this blog and our website at http://www.naturalfiberfarm.com.

Enjoy a haircut 2

Shearing day is the most important day of the year for our fiber farm. It is our day of harvest…the day we have worked so hard for all year. We will be able to hold in our hands all that wonderful fiber…..and see for ourselves how our breeding decisions, feeding and mineral supplements, attempts to keep the barns and pastures clean and our overall herd health has impacted our fiber harvest. And for our alpacas, they get to enjoy the sweet coolness that comes with a freshly shorn body.

We would love to have you come, but please keep a couple of things in mind:

Please don’t expect the alpacas to be on their best behavior. This is a very stressful day for them. They have often been kept in the barn for a day or so to make sure they are dry. We keep both male and females (in separate sides of the barn, of course) but they are close enough to add even more stress to the situation. When the shearers arrive, the alpacas get scared, stressed and just plain mad. Some will be absolutely quiet, some will hum worriedly, some will screech at the top of their lungs. And yes, some will spit at anything in their path. This is not the best time to observe the typically quiet, gentle nature of the alpaca.

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What you can expect to see is an impressive process. Our shearing team is a group of 4 young men who have tons of alpaca handling and shearing experience. They will set up 2 shearing stations in the barn and get right to work.   We can expect them to shear our 38 alpacas in 3 plus hours. As the shearers are working with the alpacas, we are collecting fiber and sweeping up after each animal is shorn. It is definitely something to see.

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Come prepared to be out in the weather. We will shear in the main barn where the animals and shearers will be dry, shaded and have easy access to the animals and electricity. The barn will be crowded with 38 alpacas, 4 shearers, and several fiber collectors all trying to stay out of each other’s way. All spectators will need to watch from outside the barn, so come prepared with what you might need to protect yourselves from the weather and don’t forget to wear shoes that are suitable for a barnyard!

We will have lunch for the shearing team and our guests after shearing is done. The shearing team has a 3 hour drive ahead of them and will shear at another farm before the day is done. We hope they can stay and eat with us, but if not, we will send them on their way with lunch to eat on the road.  We would love to have you stay with us for lunch. Please send us a quick email (or comment below) if you will join us. That will help get a good number as to how many we might have.

While shearing is taking place, Jeff and I will probably not have a minute free to visit with you. Hopefully you can stay around a little while after shearing, enjoy lunch with us and visit.

Please do not bring any pets to the farm. Our dogs are trained to live with our animals and to protect them. There is a lot going on and we sure don’t want any animals to get hurt.

And finally a word about our miniature donkeys Jelly & Jalapeno. They love attention and it will be very hard for them to understand why the alpacas are getting so much of it…..and they so little, on shearing day. We will have them farther out in the pasture, out of the way of the business in the barn. If you don’t mind, take a minute to give them some love while you are here. They are sweethearts and I guarantee, visiting with them will make your day!

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Mo

The first cria born on our farm, PARSONSPF Momentum (his around the barn nickname is Mo) is almost 9 months old and I thought deserved an update post.  I went out this morning to take some pictures of our first real snowstorm of the year and found Mo more than willing to be in front of the camera.

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I realized today what a beautiful alpaca Mo is turning out to be.  Mo’s sire is PARSONSPF Frisco and dam is PARSONSPF PowderKeg.  He has received the dense, fine fiber of his sire and the long staple length and bright fleece characteristics of his dam.

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Mo has been put in a pasture with Imagine and Revolution for weaning and other than spending his first night away from mom by sleeping next to Balto, he has handled the change like a pro!

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Welcome to the herd, Mo!

Shearing Day 2013

Shearing Day 2013 was on April 10th.  And what a cold and rainy day it was!  It actually started raining on Monday, the 8th so by Sunday evening we had all the alpacas (all 34 of them) tucked away in the big barn to stay dry.  By the time shearing day came around, they were none too happy!

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Even Balto wondered what all the fuss was about.

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The day started off only in the upper 30s and with a cold rain.  It continued to rain all day long and only made it into the 40s by the end of the day.  But Brian and his crew from Shearing Alpacas got there promptly at 9:00 a.m. and got to work.

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I will tell you, because of Brian and his crew, this was the easiest, least stressful shearing I have ever been through!  I would highly recommend them!

CSA fiber has already left the farm and has arrived at the fiber processor, Shepherd’s Mill, Phillipsburg, KS for processing.

Just Need a Little Momentum (Mo)

I won’t lie and say that the last 5 months or so has been the best.  There has been a lot of worry, a little sickness and then a lot more worry.  We have had weeks around here where it didn’t seem like one thing was going our way.  And to add to the stress and worry, the winter has seemed to have lasted forever!  But we have had many, many good things happen the last few months as well.  Along with that bad winter, we received much snow and a changed weather pattern that has brought enough moisture to end our drought.  Our ponds have filled back up and our pastures are green once again.  We were able to re-stock the ponds a few weeks ago and just this weekend have gotten our garden planted for the year.   The hens began laying eggs this winter and we now have fresh, delicious eggs every day.  So now that it looks like Spring has finally arrived, we just needed that push, that little momentum shift to begin seeing life on the warm, bright, sunny side again.  And that little momentum that we needed arrived on Thursday as the first cria born on our farm.

We had done a little breeding last spring, but to tell you the truth, the summer was so horribly hot that we didn’t want to put the alpacas through the stress of a test.  We had determined that several of the alpacas that we had bred were not sound.  We did not know for sure about PowderKeg but felt certain that she was not pregnant.  Nevertheless, we kept watch just in case.  On Thursday afternoon she delivered our first cria on the farm, a male.   His name is Momentum, PARSONSPF Momentum to be exact, but his around the barn nickname will be Mo.  Our sweet Great Pry, Balto was there watching over him the minute he was born.

Mo & Balto

Then the alpaca aunties took over, cleaning him up and making him presentable.

Aunties at Work

It looks like Mo hates it when adults spit and try to smooth down his fiber just like human kids hate is when their moms do the same thing.  Uggh!  Why do us moms always do that???

Spit Wash

Now, at 3 days old, Mo is a clean, happy, beautiful and energetic new cria.

Mo & Mom

You just never know when your momentum is going to change for the better!

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Easter Ham & Nesting Balls

I’m sure you’re wondering what Easter Ham and Nesting Balls have in common.  Well here goes…….I baked my Easter ham today.  I know I am a week early but since baked ham is one of Matthew’s favorites, I wanted to prepare it for him before he headed off back to school.  He has been home on spring break from K-State and since he has to be back tomorrow, will not be coming home for Easter Sunday.  The rest of the family will get to enjoy my mother-in-law’s Easter Ham next Sunday as well!  Can’t beat that!  Baked ham two weeks in a row!

So while I was preparing the ham, I pulled this netting off and immediately thought…….Nesting Balls! 

Ham Netting

Birds love to use fibers to weave into their nests.  Often times I just leave some fiber out in the yard for the birds to pick up and use.  But if I can, I make a nesting ball.  This way, the fiber is contained, the birds can pull out what they want to use, and since the nesting ball is hanging up high, the birds are much safer from predetors.  So, here is how I make a nesting ball.

Sew up Side

I had to take a minute to sew up the side of my bag.  If I had been more careful and planned ahead a little bit, I would have just slid the ham out of the bag.  But this time I cut the netting down the side.  So I took a nice long length of cotton cord and wove in and out securing the side.  Keep in mind that the bag your ham came in may be quite large.  I sewed only about half way up the bag and still had quite a large nesting ball.  When you get as far up as you want to go, secure the cord to the netting with a knot.  Leave the cord on so you can use it later on.  Now, if you have a netted bag that has not been cut, you can skip this step and go on to gathering your fiber.

Fiber

Next I selected the fiber for my nesting ball.  The fiber I use is far less from perfect fiber.  It is the fiber I can’t use for much else.  Trust me, it will be perfect for your nesting ball and the birds will love it.

Fiber in Netting

Fill up your net bag with the fiber.

Wove Opening

Now take the cotton cord that was left over and weave around the top of your netting.

Pull it tightly

Pull it tight and secure.  Clip off any of the extra netting at the top.  Clip off any extra length of cord.

Top to Bottom

The top is now the bottom and the bottom is now the top!  I flipped my nesting ball over because I loved the already made handle and wanted it at the top.

Help the Birds

Next, I decided to help get the birds started by pulling out a little bit of the fiber.  Trust me, by the time the birds really start working on their nests, it will have fiber sticking out of every single hole!

Hang in Tree

Treat for Birds

As you can see, today doesn’t look like the best day for building a nest!  But the new nesting ball is up and ready for Spring when it finally arrives!