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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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Project: Roving to Single Ply Thick n Thin Yarn

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

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

 

 

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.

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Surprise Kittens (Day 3)

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!

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Shearing Day 2016

Yesterday I completed a wonderful, amazing weekend at Plyaway and today I must turn my attention to Shearing Day.  This year our shearers will arrive on Thursday, April 28th.  Right now I assume they will be at the farm around 10:00 but will keep the blog updated on times as they sometimes change due to the shearing team’s schedules.  We love to have visitors on our big day of fiber harvest.  If you would like to come and participate, we can always find jobs for everyone.  If you would like to just come and watch, that is more than fine as well.  Right now we will be shearing 40 adult alpacas and one new cria.  The entire process will only take about 3 hours.  Please contact us if you have any questions or if you would need directions to the farm.

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Shearing Day 2014 Update

We have had a change in the time for Shearing Day 2014.  It will still be held tomorrow morning but the shearing team will be here and ready to start around 7:30 a.m.!  It will be an early start for all of us, but the alpacas will get it done quicker and be able to enjoy more of the beautiful day we are expecting.