Monday, May 31, 2010

Oh how sweet it is!

Ooo wee! We've been busy around the ranch lately! The chicken stalls have been stripped down and loaded up with fresh shavings.

The chickens have been hard at work, laying approximately three dozen eggs per day.

They are spending most of the afternoon under the eaves of the barn, near the water. It's hot!

Our garden is doing really well. The lettuce is all but gone. I picked a gallon sized bag worth of lettuce this morning.

The tomato plants are beginning to get fruit on them. Yipee! I can't wait to taste the juicy yellow and red tomatoes off of the vine.

As you can see from the picture, the cucumber plants and butternut squash plants are growing quite well, too.

We've got green and purple bell peppers, sugar babies (watermelon), artichokes, carrots, strawberries, and lots and lots of peppers (jalapeno, habanero, etc.). Mmmm... mmmm...

While most of us are spending time outside in the sunshine, most of the alpacas are spending their time inside the barn. It's pretty darn hot for animals wearing coats. Even though the alpacas have been shorn, it still gets hot. Most of our alpacas are spending their time in front of the fans. The babies are even sharing their stall with some chickens, which seem to think that the alpaca stall is cooler than the chicken coop!

The horses don't seem to mind the heat at all and continue to spend the day outside grazing on the pasture grass and hay in the feeders.

Yesterday, we spent the day at my sister-in-laws farm. We had tons of fun hanging out, playing kickball, fishing, playing washers, and just catching up.

Two of my hubbies sisters were in from out of town, so there was lots of catching up to do! And look what we brought home with us! We got lots of pecans from my sister-in-laws trees. Oooh are those gonna taste good!

Tonight, we've got friends coming over for a barbeque and swim party. Isn't it just so sweet that we live in a free country?

I want to take the time to thank each of my family members and everyone else who has ever served in the armed forces, fighting to protect our country. May God bless each and every one of you immensely! For those of you still serving, I will continue to pray for your protection and safety. God bless you!

Friday, May 21, 2010

How exactly do you make that yarn?

Today was one of the most wonderful days of gathering we have had in quite some time for our Thursday, knit days. Anna joined us with an incredible spinning wheel that her father-in-law made! How about that? Edee was a peach and helped figure out some things that needed to be done to get Anna's wheel ready for spinning. Thank you, Edee! Anna was an absolute delight and we are thrilled she will be visiting us again. Welcome Anna!

Kazuko brought four of her friends out to visit us also. Each wanted to learn how to spin yarn on a drop spindle. Let me tell you, these women are talented! They each picked up spinning so quickly! Yoriko, Shitomi, Tatsko, and Kazuko all left with much yarn on their drop spindles. I don't know if they had more fun spinning the yarn, or if the rest of us had more fun just watching the excitement in their eyes!

Iris brought many of her wonderful scarves that she has knit to show everyone. We were all amazed at the gorgeous colors and patterns she has created. Donna continues to do her amazing work with her 000 size needles. Yep, you read that right. They are smaller than toothpicks. Eek! My eyes hurt just thinking about it! Beautiful work as always, Donna! Kazuko and all of her friends will be ready to start knitting when they finish spinning up their rovings into yarn. Ooh! Which one of the scarf patterns to choose from? They were all so pretty!

Iris and I were talking this morning about our day yesterday. We believe this weeks gathering is one of the best we've had in a long time. So, thank you Anna, Kazuko, Yoriko, Shitomi, and Tatsko for bringing your sweet smiles and excitement to our day! We hope you continue to join us and share your excitement.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mountains, in Parker???

Yep. We've brought a mountain into Parker, Texas. His name is Fuzzy Acres Mount Everest, a son of MFI Brock. This guy is built! His offspring have had some of the softest, densest fleece I've seen. Ohhh, to put your hands in the fleece! Ooo la la! Everest is a light fawn but has thrown many whites. So, he's taking a little business trip over here. We're breeding him to a few of our alpacas. So far, he seems to be enjoying himself! LOL!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The ABCs of "What do you do?"

I was contacted back in March by a wonderful lady who had just moved here from Ohio named Sherry. This lady is amazing! She has only been here a few months and has already started up a group for pre-school children and their parents to visit various events in the Dallas / Fort Worth area. They have been busy doing all kinds of things. One of the things she did in Ohio was visit an alpaca ranch. So, we set the date.

The group was small, but very energetic about finding out what exactly we do here at our little ranch. So, we gave them the ABCs of how it works around here. We began by taking them out to the alpaca area and told them a little about the animals. We showed them their feet, teeth, and let them put their hands on their backs to feel how very soft their fleece is. There wasn't much fleece there since the alpacas were shorn only a week or two ago. However, they were able to quickly tell this was no ordinary fleeced animal! Everyone oohed and ahhhd over them.

Next we moved on to the chicken area. Sometimes, small children are really afraid of chickens, however, this was an adventuresome group of kids! They marveled at how soft the chickens were. They picked them up and held them. We talked about the different breeds of chickens and how they lay different colored eggs. We talked about how, even though the color of eggs was different, that they each tasted just the same. Many of the children were familiar with the "Green Eggs and Ham" book by Dr. Seuss. They really thought the green chicken eggs were cool. The children helped me collect the eggs out of the nesting boxes. I think this was a highlight of the trip!

Finally, we moved into the back yard to see what it is we actually DO with the fleece. We started by dumping a fleece onto a skirting table. We talked about how all of the belly hair, second cuts, hay, and junk needed to be removed from the fleece before we could move any further. After all, we want our yarn to be the most representative of that wonderful animal, don't we?

Next, we pulled out our cards (dog combs) and carded the fleece. Most of the time, we would wash our fleece before moving to this step. However, for time sake, we were ready to skip this step! We talked about how carding makes all of the individual fibers lay down in the same direction, almost like when we brush our hair. When we are done, we have a nice roll of fleece ready to begin spinning.

After carding the fleece, we were ready to spin. Spinning is so easy! We talked about how we could twist our hair right on our heads. This is a lot like spinning the fleece. We talked about how we would then take two or more of those twisted yarns and would make the spinning wheel go in the opposite direction to ply the yarn together. More oohs and ahhhs. :o)

We completed our perfect afternoon by feeding the chickens and the alpacas. The chickens all ran up to the children and began eating their goods. Mmm mmm.... apples, pears, oranges, OH MY! Next, the alpacas got their chance. The alpacas preferred the lettuce over all of the fruit (what's wrong with them???). The children got a kick out of the alpacas lips tickling their hands as they removed the food from them.

Ah! The ABCs of the farm life. Children, friendly animals, and a whole lot of fun. What could be better?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Girl's day out at the farm?

Shitomi, Nao, Kazuko, and Taztko all came out for a visit on Monday to collect some farm fresh eggs. They told me that many Japanese dishes are prepared with raw eggs. They were excited about the prospect of getting farm fresh eggs. I gave them a tour of the chicken coop and then took them over to see the alpacas. We talked about how their fleece is processed and all of the wonderful things we can make from their fleece...scarves, shawls, hats, etc. The ladies were amazed an are interested in joining our Thursday knitting group to learn more! It's so wonderful to see others get excited about these amazing creatures. I just gained three new friends and hopefully, some new knitting partners! See how much fun you can have on a girl's day out?