Thursday, June 27, 2013

Llama Biography #10: Autumn Hill's Catanna

We have actually made some progress on the fence (got 3 more corners put in!), but I don't have any pictures to show for it, so I thought I'd do another llama biography.

In June 2002, exactly 2 weeks after Autumn Hill's Charity was born, SHAG Cattera had her second baby.  Going along with our farm name and "Cat" theme for Cattera's babies, my sister named her Autumn Hill's Catanna.  Catanna was born over 2 weeks late, and was the biggest baby on our farm to date, starting out at 34 pounds!  Catanna is sired by the gorgeous Bauernheim's Showdown, a champion show llama owned by Shagbark Ridge Llamas.

Newborn Catanna.

Catanna was an especially sweet baby, just like Charity.  They were best buds, and it was funny seeing them together, as Charity was 2 weeks older but much smaller than Catanna.

Catanna at 4 months old.

Charity and Catanna even attended their first show together, the North American International Livestock Expo. in Louisville, KY.  Catanna was just old enough to show...she turned 5 months the day of the show!  She did very well for her first time, winning several ribbons with my sister in performance.  Catanna went on to be shown by my sister in 4-H and ALSA shows for a couple of years, and I even showed her occasionally.  She never really liked being shown, but she did respectfully well.

Catanna and my sister at her first show.

Catanna at the 2003 Western Ohio Triple Crown.

2003 Indiana State Fair.

2003 NAILE.

Catanna and I at the 2004 Southwest Ohio Llama Show.  She was Grand in halter!

Catanna and I at the 2004 Great Lakes Regionals.

Catanna was the first llama that my sister taught to kush (lay down on command), so she became the focal point of several pictures that year!

This was a Christmas card one year.

This has won several photo contests.  And yes, she was actually watching the TV!

When Catanna turned 2.5 yrs old, we decided it was time for her to become a mom.  She was bred to the famous Tuna Catcher (then owned by Mark Smith Farms, now deceased), and had the most gorgeous little grey male, which we named Autumn Hill's Khatadyn.  Khatadyn was sold before he was weaned, and went on to become an ALSA Halter Champion!

Khatadyn at 4 months old.

Catanna had a uterine prolapse when Khatadyn was born, so we decided to give her a year off before rebreeding her.  During her "break", I decided she should get back in the show ring.  By this time Catanna had really put on the pounds, so she didn't place as well in halter as she did as a cria.

Catanna and I at the 2006 Ohio State Fair.  She was huge!

After a year, we decided to breed Catanna to our new male, MRLF Ridge Runner.  Shortly after she was bred, the man who bought Khatadyn also purchased Catanna, and she moved to Tennessee to be with her son.  A year later, she delivered an adorable little paint male.  Unfortunately, she had another uterine prolapse, and the owner decided to retire her from breeding.  She still lives on his farm, and has a great home!

Catanna as a yearling.

Friday, June 21, 2013

From Llama to Lovely Yarn...A Processing Tale

After hemming and hawing about starting to process and spin Kara's fleece, I finally got around to it!  And once I started I just couldn't stop!  Kara's fleece from 2013 was sold in our farm's new CSA (community-supported agriculture) program.  Buyers could choose to receive raw fleece, carded batts, or handspun yarn.  Ralph and T's fleeces were sold raw through this program too, but Kara's was sold as handspun yarn.

Beautiful little Kara.

The story starts back in May when I went home to groom and shear llamas.  Over several days, I carefully brushed Kara out, eventually washing her and then shearing her by hand.  Her fleece was absolutely gorgeous!  The full blog post about shearing Kara is here.

Kara all groomed out, before shearing.

A few weeks later, I got around to carding the raw fiber in preparation for spinning.  It took me a couple of hours to card it all on my small drum carder.  The buyer wanted the colors mixed, so I would just pull random hand-fulls of fiber from the bag and add it to the carder.

Carding Kara's fleece.

Next, the big task...spinning!  The yarn was to be spun as a worsted weight, which is a bit thicker than I have been spinning recently.  My carding preparation wasn't perfect (it is hard when working with 7-8" long fiber!), so the yarn has a bit of texture.  I spun all the singles, and then plied.  I ended up with 4 skeins, totaling about 450 yards (I think!).  I love how the yarn turned out, the color is very tweedy and gorgeous.

Single ply yarn.

Plied yarn.

Last came washing...  Kara was washed before shearing, but I had no idea how much dirt could be left in the fiber!  As I spun, tons of dirt came flying out, so I knew the final yarn would need a lot of washing.  I think I washed the yarn 4 times in hot soapy water, followed by 3 rinses.  It was worth it though, the finished yarn is extremely soft and the color is gorgeous!

Rinsing the yarn.

Drying the yarn.

Beautiful yarn after washing.

My spinning companion (Abby, my Golden Retriever puppy)!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Poisonous Plants!

Not a lot going on at the has been raining cats and dogs for the past week or so!  The bottom field here is pretty much under water, and the rivers are way over their banks.

To kill time and fill space, I thought I'd touch on poisonous plants.  Unfortunately the new pasture area has a few poisonous plants that we'll have to deal with.

The biggest issue are cherry trees.  Any type of cherry tree is poisonous to llamas (and alpacas, and most livestock).  The bark is poisonous at any time, and the leaves are poisonous when they are wilted (such as when a branch breaks off in a storm).  Surprisingly the leaves that fall naturally in the fall aren't poisonous!  In cherry trees, the poisonous agent is cyanide, which the leaves produce when they are "stressed".  Unfortunately for us, most of the cherry trees adjacent to the pasture are ones that can't be cut, due to various reasons (part are on a neighbor's property, and part are shelter for cultivated bees).  So we are fencing the trees out of the pasture area, and will have to be diligent about fallen branches.

Cherry tree leaves.

Mature cherry tree bark.

Another poisonous plant that I recently found is buttercup.  Luckily, it seems like buttercup is usually avoided by camelids, and it is also much less toxic than many other plants.  So for the time being I'm just going to mow the areas with buttercup, in attempt to kill it off naturally.

Buttercup flower and leaf (leaf is the big one bottom center).

There is also a lot of burdock in the pasture, but the poisonous part of that plant is the seed, which is likely to be avoided by any smart grazing animal!

I have seen a lot of milkweed in other parts of the property, but nothing seems to be growing in the pasture.

So that's a little bit about the poisonous plants that I'll have to deal with here on my New York farm.  If you want a more comprehensive list of poisonous plants for camelids, I suggest this site:

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Fence Progress and Farm Update!

Well I was originally planning to post about all the great fence progress we were making, but the llama transport plans fell through last week (long story...), so the fence building has slowed down.  Still lots of pictures to share though!

The first step in putting up the fence was to measure and stake where posts would go.  I decided to do 2/3 T-posts (steel), and 1/3 wood posts, with wood braced corners.  The corner brace posts are 8ft apart (the brace posts are 8ft long), and the line posts are 16ft apart.
One corner of the pasture, where the gate will be going.

Such beautiful grass!

We also worked on removing the stanchions in the barn.  It is hard to see here, but one section has been un-bolted, and is leaning on the barn supports.  It's going to take more than me to move it, so it is still in this state, waiting for two stronger men to help!
Dirty dirty barn...but slowly making progress!

Speaking of the two stronger men, they along with their handy tractor managed to move one of the lawn rollers that was in the field.  We hauled it off to the scrap yard and got $40 for it!  There's still one more to move...
Loading the lawn roller into the truck bed with the tractor's front loader.

$40 worth of rusted steel!

Then came moving the huge telephone/power line poles that were lying in the pasture!  No idea why they were there, but they were in the way!  The tractor also came in handy for this.
Using the front-loader to roll the poles off the pile for better access.

Dragging poles with the tractor and a chain.

"After" moving all the poles.

Now we can finally bush-hog all that grass!

The new pile of poles!  At least they are out of the way now...

And finally it came time to start digging posts!
Digging the first post hole!

Of course the first one that we dug...we hit electric cable and barely missed the water line!  So that day was shot, spent the rest of it fixing the cable, and the next day burying it.
Look close...there are 4 electric cables in there!

Close-up shot.  We had to dig a lot more to find the second half of the fourth was buried under the water line somehow!

After we widened the hole to search for the second half of the fourth wire.

Then we started again...  We quickly realized that the 36" auger wasn't going to dig the 42" hole that I originally had planned, but we tried to see how far we could get it in...and broke the shear bolt that connects the auger to the motor!  Luckily that was an easy fix...
Broken shear bolt.

And FINALLY we got the first post completely set!  We're using concrete to anchor the corner posts, so after digging the hole, we stuck the post in, and then poured about 20lbs of dry pre-mix concrete into the hole, added some water, and then repeated for another 20lbs of concrete.  We filled the remaining hole with dirt, and then used a post level to make sure that the post was straight.

Finally a good straight hole!

Our first post!
We now have 1 post completely set, and 3 more dug and in the holes (without concrete).  Now the setback is getting a new drill that is strong enough to drill a hole all the way through a 6-7" post for the brace pins.  Once we get that we'll be back in business!