Saturday, March 29, 2014

I Want Spring!

Technically spring was supposed to start a week ago, but today was the first day that really felt like it.

Of course spring around here means lots of rain (and thus lots of mud), but I'm so ready for things to be green and it to be warm!

The llama pasture last spring (technically almost summer).

I want to be able to work in my flower beds!

Flowers in bloom.

I want to put in my garden!

Baby broccoli.

I want the llamas to have fresh grass in their pasture!

Grazing llamas.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Llama Biography #16: Autumn Hill's Catlinite

Well I hate to do "biography" posts 2 weeks in a row, but I'm severely short on time today so I apologize...

On to llama #16, Autumn Hill's Catlinite.

Catlinite at 1 month of age.

If you happened to read last week's llama biography post, you may be having a deja-vu moment.  Catlinite is almost a perfect twin to Catalina!

Catlinite at 2 weeks of age.  Catalina is right behind him.

Catlinite was born to SHAG Cattera in October 2004.  His sire is SHAG Guido.

SHAG Cattera, Catlinite's dam.

SHAG Guido, Catlinite's sire.

Catlinite's birth was quite the show...both of my grandmothers were over at my parents' house for dinner on a Sunday afternoon, when Cattera decided to give birth.  So the whole family (minus me, but I don't remember where I was) got to see this little guy be born!

Newborn Catlinite!

Even though he shares a lot of physical similarities with his many half-siblings, Catlinite has one unique point...he was the first Cattera baby that I ever trained!  Cattera was originally my sister's llama, and thus my sister trained most of Cattera's babies for 4-H.  By the time Catlinite came along, my sister wasn't as involved in 4-H, so he became my project for 2005.  He was also the first male I had shown in 4-H.

He had a great set of hooked ears!

Quite the good-looking guy!

We had quite the interesting show season.  He never placed great in halter, but he was passable at performance.  And we had an awesome costume (he was a sled dog, and even pulled a sled!) for the 4-H fair.  Unfortunately I don't have a picture on my computer...

Catlinite and I at the 2005 Western Ohio Triple Crown.

Catlinite and I at the 2005 Hillsdale Hobo Show.

Catlinite sold in the fall of 2005 to an alpaca farm in Ohio.  He later found a new home with his half-sister Cataleya in New Mexico!

Catlinite with Cattera, winter 2004/2005.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

We Have Batts!

I've been wanting to add spinning (or felting) batts to my Etsy shop for awhile now, but it takes so much effort to get the drum carder out of its hiding place, find fiber to card, card the batt, clean up, and put everything away (sorry, was that a whine?)

But I've been doing TONS of fiber trades through Facebook, mostly trading roving or shoe insoles I'd had processed for dyed wool and alpaca fiber.  I was getting quite the stash of carding fibers, so I finally broke out the drum carder on Sunday and went to town!

The fiber to be carded...wool/mohair on the left, and alpaca/merino/bamboo on the right.

Unfortunately I don't have the best carder for production work, but it does the trick.  I have a Louet Roving carder, which is quite narrow.  Once off the carder and fluffed up, the batts are usually 5-6" wide.  Much better for spinning, in my opinion.

Carding up a batt.

I had a lot of fun carding Sunday...  I did about half alpaca and half wool (sometimes both in the same batt!), and added some fun stuff like bamboo, firestar, and dyed wool locks to keep things interesting.

The finished product!

Tonight I finally took pictures and weighed everything to get them all on Etsy!

Abby was "supervising" my photo shoot.

Then I made some more batts...

I'm going to be selfish though, these are for me!  Well, one set of 4 batts will be sent to some lucky Etsy shop customers to try as samples (plus I'm going to spin one to try it).  The other set of 4 batts is all mine though!  I'll post pictures when I get it spun up...

As I mentioned, the batts are all in my Etsy shop now!  I've also created a new "Batt of the Month Club"!  Just like the roving club, you will get 4 ounces of batts once a month for 3 months.  Of course you can always choose to get more fiber every month or more months of fiber!  The batts for the club will be 100% unique and one of a kind- no two will ever be the same!  I'm even going to let you customize them!

And now for what you really want...batt pictures!

100% wool batt.

Llama/merino/firestar batt.

Alpaca/merino/bamboo/firestar batt.

Wool/locks/firestar batt.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Garden Has Begun!


I did get my very first seeds planted last Saturday, though!

As I mentioned in my post last week, due to our cold spring temperatures (and the necessity that all the plants be organic), I'm having to start a lot of tiny seeds indoors so that the plants are ready to get in the ground outside when the weather finally warms up.

A lot of people seem to start all their seeds at once (no matter the type of vegetable), which has its pros and cons.  While it would be easier at the beginning, since you can plant all the seeds at once and give them the same conditions), different plants germinate and grow at different rates, so this may not give the best results.  Since this is my first garden, I'm doing things by the book.  For all of the different vegetables I want to plant, I have looked up how many weeks in advance they should be started indoors.  I have then planned out when every different type of vegetable needs to get started.  This leads to a lot more work, as one week I may plant only 6 peat pods, but the next week I plant 20!  It also means that I will have plants of various heights on the light shelf, but there's not much I can do about that.

So this is my time-table for starting seeds indoors: (based on a predicted last frost around mid-late May)

  • March 15
    • Broccoli
    • Lavender
  • April 1
    • Tomatoes
    • Parsley
  • April 14
    • Peppers
    • Sage
    • Calendula
    • Nasturtium
    • Basil
    • Yarrow
  • May 1
    • Squash
    • Pumpkin
    • Thyme
    • Marigold
    • Cosmos
  • May 7
    • Cucumbers
Obviously, the seeds I talked about starting last week were broccoli and lavender.  I'm trying 2 types of broccoli, De Cicco and Calabreese.  The lavender is for a flower border around the garden, to attract pollinators and deter herbivorous pests.

As I mentioned before, I'm using Jiffy Peat Pods to start my seeds.  (The one exception is onions, which I'll talk about next week.)  They just seemed like the simplest way to go.

The Jiffy Greenhouse kit.

Knowing I would have about 50 vegetable plants and also wanted to plant several varieties of flowers and herbs, I chose a Jiffy tray that held 72 plants.  They make smaller ones that would be more convenient, but the big ones are more economical.

To use the peat pods, you must first soak them in warm water to get them to puff up.  It takes about 30 minutes for the pods to inflate.

Peat pods inflating in some warm water.

Then you tear open the mesh at the top, and plant your seed(s) at the appropriate depth.  I'm planting 2 seeds per pod, and will thin to the healthiest 1 after they grow for a bit.

Next is preparing the seeds for germination.  Some people swear that you can just cover the pods in the tray with the clear plastic dome that comes with it, and stick it under the lights until it germinates.  From what I've read, the seeds need more heat than light to germinate, so I chose to stick the pods on top of my heater (turned on very low) to give them extra heat.  I put the pods in plastic bags to keep the moisture in, and then stuck them in a thick plastic box on top of the heater.  I had a thermometer inside to make sure that the seeds didn't get baked.

My two varieties of broccoli.  I'm going to be carefully labeling all my plants (from this stage all the way until they are planted in the garden) so that I can determine which variety of each type grows best in our climate.


Surprisingly it only took a few days for the broccoli seeds to germinate.  Once most of the seeds had sprouted, I took the pods out of the bags and placed them in the tray under the grow lights.  One week after planting, 10 of the 12 seeds I started are up!

My grow light set-up.  As the seeds get taller I can raise the lights up higher.

Baby broccoli!

The lavender seeds could take up to 3 weeks to germinate, so they are still on my heater.  They may get moved in a couple weeks when I start the tomatoes, as my box doesn't hold very many pods!

Lavender seeds still waiting to germinate.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Llama Biography #15: Autumn Hill's Catalina

The fall of 2003 brought 3 gorgeous babies from outside breedings.  The final one to be born was Autumn Hill's Catalina.

Catalina as a weanling.  Who couldn't love that face?

Catalina was the offspring of SHAG Cattera and PPF King's Ransom.  She definitely continued Cattera's streak of throwing predominately white babies.  I believe that my grandmother was the one to find Catalina after she was was common for her to come check on the "due" moms while the rest of us were at school or work.

Catalina at about a month old.

PPF King's Ransom, Catalina's sire.

SHAG Cattera, Catalina's dam.

Three Cattera babies...Catalina is in the middle.

Catalina was a little out-shined by her more colorful friends, but overall she was a very nice little girl.  I really wish I would've shown her in halter more, she was very correct.  I took her to 1 show in Ohio as a weanling, she was 1st in halter and showmanship.  Like her mom she had a sweet personality, and amazing fiber like her dad.

Catalina and her sister Faith both had great personalities.

Such a pretty girl!

Her one and only show debut.

Terrible haircut, but her fiber was so fine it was almost impossible to shear with the clippers!

After spending the first couple years of her life as a pasture ornament and fiber producer, she was eventually sold to a big alpaca farm in Ohio (where Charity, Blaze, and Faith all ended up as well).  She ended up being bred, and had a cute little male cria a few years ago.

Catalina as a yearling.

Catalina and her male cria.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Knitting Pattern #4: Abby Cowl

I finally managed to design another knitting pattern...this time using my very own handspun!

Originally I knit up this pattern using Knit Picks Galileo, but the cowl was too wide and I wanted to re-do it.  I wanted to spin some of the new merino/mohair roving I had just gotten processed at the mill where I work, so I decided to spin some of it into sport-weight yarn for this cowl.

A bad picture, but here is the cowl in progress.

As I was taking pictures of the cowl, I couldn't manage to get a good one using either a mannequin or myself, but my dog Abby made a great model, so I decided to name the pattern after her.

I just didn't like how the cowl looked on the mannequin.  I won't even post the terrible picture of myself wearing it!

Abby Cowl

Abby modeling the cowl.

Finished Size: 9.5" wide (19" around), 6.5" tall.  Should fit a child or woman.

Autumn Hill Llamas Sport Weight, 1 skein (or ~110 yards of any sport weight yarn)
#4 needles - circular or double point
22 sts & 36 rows = 4"

Cast on 102 sts.

Knit edge:

  • knit 1 row
  • purl 1 row
  • knit 1 row
  • purl 1 row
Start stitch pattern: (work 2 full repeats of pattern)
  1. purl (and all wrong-side rows)
  2. k3 *ssk, k5, yo* k1
  3. purl
  4. k3 *ssk, k4, yo, k1* k1
  5. purl
  6. k3 *ssk, k3, yo, k2* k1
  7. purl
  8. k3 *ssk, k2, yo, k3* k1
  9. purl
  10. k3 *ssk, k1, yo, k4* k1
  11. purl
  12. k3 *ssk, yo, k5* k1
  13. purl
  14. k1 *yo, k5, k2tog* k3
  15. purl
  16. k2 *yo, k4, k2tog, k1* k2
  17. purl
  18. k3 *yo, k3, k2tog, k2* k1
  19. purl
  20. k4 *yo, k2, k2tog, k3*
  21. purl
  22. k5 *yo, k1, k2tog, k4* - end the last repeat as k3 (rather than k4)
  23. purl
  24. k6 *yo, k2tog, k5* - end the last repeat as k3 (rather than k5)
Repeat the edge:

  • knit 1 row
  • purl 1 row
  • knit 1 row
  • purl 1 row
Bind off loosely in purl.

A close-up of the stitch pattern.

I hope you enjoy the pattern, I really like how it came out.  Handspun yarn for this project can be found in my Etsy store, and the pattern is listed on Ravelry.  Please let me know if you find any errors, I'm still a new designer!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

New Adventure: Vegetable Gardening!

I'm going on a big new adventure this year...I'm trying my hand at growing a vegetable garden!

I've always liked to grow flowers, but have never really been interested in vegetables.  My dad has grown a vegetable garden for as long as I can remember, and when I was younger I would help out with it a lot.

One of the flower gardens that I improved last year.  I think it turned out great!

Now that I'm in New York, I'm taking over my in-laws' vegetable garden.  I was originally planning on starting small, just growing a few tomatoes, potatoes, and cucumbers.  Then I made the "mistake" of asking my in-laws what vegetables they would like in the garden, and they added on about 10 new items!

So, I'm jumping in with both feet!  The vegetables I'm growing this year are:

  • tomatoes
  • cucumbers
  • radishes
  • beets
  • carrots
  • potatoes
  • lettuce
  • broccoli
  • summer squash
  • peppers
  • pumpkin
  • onion
They also requested a few herbs:
  • dill
  • cilantro
  • parsley
My in-laws have had a lot of problems with pests and various diseases plaguing their garden in the past, so I'm trying several varieties (4 for most of the vegetables) of each type of vegetable, so I can determine what works best here.

I've also done a lot of research on companion planting and using plants to keep insects and small animals out of the garden.  Thus, I added in several companion plants for the garden:
  • basil
  • chives
  • sage
  • thyme
  • cosmos
  • calendula
  • nasturtium
  • marigold
  • lavender
  • echinacea/cone flower
  • lamb's ear
  • yarrow
Some of these will be grown interspersed with the vegetables, and others will be placed around the edge of the garden as a barrier of sorts.

Luckily, a lot of the prep work for the garden has been done.  My in-laws fenced off the garden area several years ago, and added lots of good top-soil from a flood plain to amend the clay soil.

The space that I'm working with this year for the garden is about 24' x 33'.  There is probably another 10' x 24' that I can add in next year.  It has grown tomatoes for the past 2-3 years (and endured bad blight infections each year), so I'm going to cover it with compost this year and let it go fallow.

My proposed vegetable garden layout.

The main prep work that I will have to do this spring (or rather, my husband will do for me!) includes moving some compost into the garden, and tilling the garden several times.  I will then make wide-row raised beds within the garden and do all the planting.  I'm planning on having 5 rows, each about 3' wide (and 24' long).  There will be 1.5' walkways between the rows.

COMPOST!!  The secret to a good garden!  This pile is about 20x bigger now!

Since my in-laws are all about eating organic, I'm pretty much forced to grow my own plants from seed.  About a month ago, I ordered a bunch of seeds from High Mowing Seeds.  Over the next 2 months, I will start the seeds in Jiffy peat pellets and stick them under grow lights in the house.  I'll harden them off a few weeks before planting, and then plant them in the garden.

I really hope all my work isn't in vain!  There will definitely be a learning curve, but I'm going to document as much as I can and learn from my mistakes.  Check back every Saturday for more blog posts about the garden!

It is kinda hard to think about gardening when there is still snow on the ground!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Locked Up Lamas

I really felt like a broken record this seemed like every other Facebook post was something along the lines of "locking the lamas in again tonight".

Locking the lamas inside the barn at night was not something I had really ever considered doing on a regular basis.  The one exception was when we had a baby born...we would routinely shut the new mom and baby in our catch pen/creep feeder (basically just an extra 8'x12' pen in our barn) for a night or two to bond and stay out of the cold.

May and her cria Camissia, locked in the catch pen for the night.

And then we moved to NY and had the winter from he**!  It dropped below 0 degrees more times this winter than I could count, and we often had wind chills in the double negative digits!  My Midwest lamas were definitely not use to this, and they were suffering.

April laying in one of her favorite spots, out by the hay feeder.

My preferred first treatment for the cold is insulated coats.  The only lamas that I saw shivering this winter were April, Duque, and Ralph.  They all wore coats through at least half of the winter; Duque and Ralph wore theirs a bit less than April.

Duque and Ralph in their coats.  Duque has since inherited April's coat, since April got a new thicker one!

It got so cold at times though that I would see April and Duque shivering, even with their coats on!  That's when I knew I had to do more to keep them warm.

Luckily the lamas' pen is on the south side of the barn, so the wind is normally not bad.  But in the cold winter, even a heavy breeze can drop the wind chill severely.  Since April apparently doesn't like being in the barn, the only way to keep her out of the wind was to lock her (and everyone else) inside the barn.

As I've mentioned before, I put down a lot of waste hay in the barn this winter for added insulation agains the cold.  So in addition to being out of the wind, they have the benefit of laying in a nice warm bed and not the cold concrete or frozen ground outside!

Nice bed of waste hay in the barn.

My threshold for locking the entire herd inside was whenever the temperatures were below 0 (Fahrenheit), or if the windchill was in the double negative digits.  There were a couple exceptions, mostly when it was warm and rainy and then supposed to get really cold quickly.  A few times I just locked April inside (in the catch pen) with a friend (usually Kara or Ralph).

April in the catch pen (eating her dinner).

Of course April hates being locked in the barn, but it has definitely helped keep her warm this winter.

During one extreme cold spell, the lamas stayed in the barn for 2 days and 3 nights (in a row)!

I even locked them in last night, even though the temperature was just under freezing.  They had been standing out in the rain all day, and the temperature was supposed to drop to almost 0 degrees during the night.  I went back outside this morning to feed, and found 5 happy, warm, and dry lamas, even though it was still in the single digits outside!  I put coats on the 3 regulars, and gave them their freedom.  Now that they're dry they'll be fine outside tonight.

And now for a little cheering up...SPRING!