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Got me on my knees, Layla

We had our first 2019 cria (baby alpaca) born a Saturday or so ago.  We haven’t done much breeding the last couple of years, so it seems even more special to now have a cria on the farm.  Although we brought all our alpacas to our farm in 2011, and we have had plenty of cria since then, this is the first time I have ever actually seen a birth!  Typically when we have a cria due, either Jeff or I will pull down the driveway from work at the end of the day and there a new cria will be…..delivered, cleaned up, dry and often times already on its feet and nursing.

As with any time we have moms with a due date approaching, we had moved 3 of our (hopefully) pregnant girls into the “maternity pasture”.  This is the run that is closest to the house and driveway.  It is easy for us to watch them there and easier to feed them a little richer diet while they are further along in their pregnancies and preparing to nurse.   The run is also safer from predators and easier for Bella, our livestock guardian dog, to watch over new cria.  Keeping pregnant moms in this pasture is even more important since Jeff and I typically aren’t there for the birth.

But this birth was different.  Jeff and I had gone out to the maternity run around 8:00 am on Saturday morning to discuss some changes we might make in the layout of the barn.  We noticed that one of the pregnant girls, Abby, was very nervous…….pacing along the fence line and humming.  The only thing we thought that would have caused her that much distress was that she was in labor.  We watched her very closely that morning and around 10:30, we noticed that she had begun to deliver.  Abby, who is a first time mom did amazing!  She made progress all along and at 11:30 delivered a very tall, long legged, healthy, white female that we named Layla.

Layla 2

All the Alpaca Aunties stood by and watched as Layla was being delivered.

Alpaca Aunties

I don’t know if it was because I got to see the birth from start to finish or what, but I am absolutely in love with Layla.  I can’t tell you what a joy it was to not only see the birth from start to finish, but the reaction of Abby, all the other alpacas and Bella during and after the birth.  It was wonderful to see the other alpacas clean off Layla and to see how Bella did her job.

Layla 1

Bella showed up even before Layla was born and started watching and waiting.  Once Layla was born, Bella and Abby seemed to communicate and work together to decide how close Bella could get to watch over the cria.   Bella stayed in the maternity pasture most of the weekend watching over Abby and Layla.

Layla 3

It was also incredible to watch Abby coach Layla to nurse and scold her when she wandered away too far.  Abby is very attentive but still lets Layla leave her side to explore a little.

Layla 5

Layla 6

Layla 8

We have two more mom’s that should deliver any day, if in fact, they are pregnant.  We also have another 3 moms with a 10/1 due date.  The naming theme for the year is “Classic Rock and Roll from the 70s”, thus the name “Layla” by Eric Clapton.

Layla 7

layla 4

Hopefully I will have another post (or more) with more new cria news.  But until then, I’m guessing you are going to have a very difficult time getting the song “Layla” out of your head!  You can thank me for that one next time you see me.

Layla

Got me on my knees

Layla

Begging Darling please

Layla

Darling won’t you ease my worried mind?

At least I won’t be the only one with this song stuck in my head😊

Welcome to the farm, Layla!

Layla 9

 

 

 

 

 

Shearing Day 2019

Shearing Day

Tuesday, April 16th

7:30 am – 11:00 am

Tuesday, April 16, 2019 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.

DSC_0862

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 spend as much time with  visitors as we would like, 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 Tuesday, 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 6 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!

DSC_0860

We have 38 alpacas to shear this year.  Typically the alpacas are brought out for shearing from light to dark…….the whites first, the blacks and greys last.  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!

DSC_0864
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.

DSC_0868

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.

DSC_0873

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.

DSC_0892

There is nothing more satisfying than 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!

Shearing 2014_007

Please let us know if you have any questions about Shearing Day 2019 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 2019!

 

 

Weather Outside is Frightful!

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.

Snow Blogpost 2

Snow Blogpost 1

Snow Blogpost 3

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!

Snow Blogpost 5

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…..

Snow Blogpost 10

Snow Blogpost 8

Snow Blogpost 7

Spinning Colorway Samples

Snow Blogpost 9

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

Snow Blogpost 13

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

Snow Blogpost 11

Snow Blogpost 6

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

Snow Blogpost 4

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.

DSC_0862

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!

DSC_0860

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!

DSC_0864
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.

DSC_0868

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.

DSC_0873

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.

DSC_0892

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!

Shearing 2014_007

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!

Shearing 2014_029

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.

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???

 

 

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