Saturday, May 31, 2014

Planting the Garden!

Once we finally got the garden tilled, all I wanted to do was get it planted!

So that's what I did...

On Monday I planted the broccoli, as well as some onions, carrots, radishes and beets.

Broccoli in the distance.

Broccoli on the left.

Bed of onions, carrots, radishes, and beets.

Onions coming in.

Radishes (I think).

On Tuesday I planted the squash and pumpkin.

My poor covered squash.  They were being eaten by cucumber beetles...more on that next week.

Baby squash.

On Wednesday I planted the potatoes.  We also set up the trellises for the cucumbers and squash.

Two rows of potatoes.

Cucumber trellis.

Cucumber trellis.

Squash trellis.  This was a previous tomato cage, so we figured it might as well get used.

On Thursday I planted some of the flowers around two borders of the garden.

Parsley.  Something ate it yesterday...

Marigold (bottom) and nasturtium (top).

Calendula (top) and sage (bottom).

I planted some tomatoes today, but didn't get around to taking pictures!  I'll report on those next week.

My beautiful garden!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Planning For A New Pasture

I'm sure I've mentioned it at some point, we're planning to build a new pasture this summer!  Now that the garden is started, it is time to do less planning and more building.

The first pasture we built ended up too small...the available space was pretty confined next to the barn, but we made it as big as we could.

The second time around we're going big...about 2.5 times bigger!  We're planning a 150' x 350' pasture, which makes it about 1.2 acres.

This pasture will be for spring/summer/fall use only, as there isn't any water or electricity nearby.  We were originally planning on building a 3-sided shed to use for shelter, but in an effort to save time and money we're going to use part of the equipment shed.

Luckily the shed doesn't need much work to make it livable for the lamas.  We removed the junk (mostly wood boards and barbed wire rolls, but there was also an old lawn mower!) last week, so now we just have to fix the boards on one wall and close up the other half (with cattle panels to make a wall and a gate).  The front will be left open for the lamas to come and go.  The floor is dirt and gravel with some tiny wood shavings mixed in, so I'm thinking about getting some ag lime to cover it...need to price that out.

Due to space issues, the pasture is going to be separated from the shed by a long aisle.  The aisle will come out of the barn, past the apple tree, and out into the pasture.

And this is where the pasture is going.  I bush-hogged it last week (though it needs it done again already!), and measured to lay flags for the corners.  We're hoping to start setting the corner posts this weekend, followed by the wood line posts and then the metal t-posts.  Then we'll hang the fence and be done!

I hope we get the new fence in quick...the llamas are really sick of being stuck in their dry lot, and I'm sick of them looking like scare-crows!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Washing Fleece

It is hard to imagine, but even though I've been raising llamas and using their fiber for almost 15 years, I rarely wash their fiber myself!  I've always been scared of felting it, and I usually have a mill process it into roving, so I just let them wash the fiber as well.

Well, I finally took the plunge!  I had some odds and ends fiber lying around that needed washing (raw mohair, "washed" dirty wool locks), plus several baby llama fleeces that I purchased from a friend, so I decided to start washing it myself.

**This method is for alpaca/llama fiber, not for greasy wool!**

I used 5-gallon buckets (from Lowes) to wash and rinse the fiber.  To wash I filled the bucket with hot water and added some Dawn dish soap, and then added the fiber.  I stirred it around, agitating it as little as possible, and then let it sit for 20-30 minutes.  If the water looked really dirty I would fill a second bucket the same way and transferred the fiber to it for another wash.  If the water wasn't too dirty I filled the second bucket with hot water but NO soap, and transferred the fiber to rinse it.  For the llama fleeces, I did 2 washes and 2 rinses.  

Once the fiber was clean I set it outside on my skirting frame (chicken wire stretched over a wood frame) to dry.  It actually took about 3 days to dry, as I had to move it to the barn the second day due to rain!

I'm getting ready to lockspin one of the baby llama fleeces...can't wait to see how it turns out!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Finally...A Real Garden!

After much waiting and patience (okay, maybe just waiting), I can finally say that I have a real garden!

Some may say that the patch of bare earth that I uncovered a few months ago was technically a garden (especially since it had been used as a garden for several years previously), but it didn't *feel* like a real garden until it was tilled...which happened Thursday (and again today)!!!!

This is what I started with back in March.

I live in rainy upstate New York, with a highly-clay soil.  I decided early on that I was going to plant my veggies in raised rows, in an effort to keep them from drowning (especially the tomatoes).  My plan was to set up 3' wide raised rows, with 18" walkways in between.

We grow rocks really well in the clay soil, too!

For some reason it didn't hit me until I was raking the soil to make the raised rows that even though the "footprint" of the row would be 3' wide, the plantable surface at the top of the raised row wouldn't actually be that wide.  I was a bit disappointed at first, but I've mostly gotten over it.

My fully prepped garden!

Luckily it doesn't really matter for most of the rows (potatoes, tomatoes, squash), since single plants will still be planted down the middle of the row.  The problem arises mainly for the cucumber row...  I had planned to put cucumbers down one side, and root veggies (onion, carrot, radish, beet) down the other, but I don't think I'm going to have room now!  I might just spread the root veggies around the rest of the plants too, and maybe even plant them on the slope going down the edge of the rows.

While Thursday and today involved most of the work to make the garden, tomorrow it will really feel real...I'll be planting the first of my veggies!  I'm going to put in my broccoli plants, onion starts, and lettuce, beet, carrot, and radish seeds.  I cut up my seed potatoes tonight, so they will be ready to plant in 2-3 days (maybe more considering the current weather forecast).  I can't wait!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Shearing is DONE!!

Finally, after 2 long weeks, shearing is done for the year!  I have a love-hate relationship with shearing...I hate doing all the grooming and I'm terrible at shearing, but I love having fresh fiber and I love how the animals look shorn!

First up was Ralph.  I'm not brave enough to shear him on my own (and my shears are definitely not up to the challenge), so I got a recommendation for a local shearer and called them up.  I didn't want to pay a set-up fee for just Ralph, so I took him down to their farm while they were shearing their own animals.  It has been several years since Ralph was shorn while stretched on the ground (he's been shorn standing at a llama show we used to go to), and he was NOT happy!  Luckily he didn't pee himself this time though!

And now I have 1 handsome burr-less alpaca, and 2 gorgeous bags of fiber!  The best fiber is at the mill, ready to be processed into roving.  The leg and neck fiber will go to another mill in a few weeks, to get made into more insoles.

Ralph's fiber will get processed the same as last will look like this!  70% alpaca, 20% merino, 10% firestar.

Next up, and first for me, was April.  April's always the easiest for me...she has pretty terrible fiber, so I don't bother grooming her like I do the others.  I just blow the dust out (to save my shears), and go for it.  She always ends up with the best haircut too, since her fiber is so coarse and easy to cut with the shears.

First for a "real" grooming was Duque.  Luckily he was pretty clean, so just a bit of brushing and a bath and then his haircut.  He even got to spend the afternoon grazing in the garden with T while he dried.  Duque's fiber is going to be hoarded this year for a special project...details to come.

Duque and T in their garden pen.

Duque getting shorn.

Handsome boy!

T was next to get shorn.  He took a TON of brushing, and I didn't realize how dense his fiber was!  A couple hours later he was ready to blow out and wash.  He had to stay out overnight with Duque and Kara to dry.  He was not real happy about being shorn, but finally with a bit of a bribe we got it done. He got a complete body shear, and unfortunately I had to toss most of his neck and leg fiber since it was so full of burrs.  He looks a bit rough right now, but hopefully by the time the NY State Fair comes around in August he'll be grown out and look decent.  T's fleece has already been sold.

Last but not least was Kara.  She wasn't quite as dirty as T, but I'm planning to show her fleece this summer and fall, so she had to be impeccably clean.  Luckily she doesn't mind being groomed as much as T!  She also had to sit out for a couple days to dry since her fiber was so dense.  I decided to hand-shear her first so I could get the fleece without any second cuts, and for some reason she freaked out!  Once I started cleaning her up with the electric shears she was fine.  Weird girl!  I really hope her fleece does well at the shows!

Kara didn't want to stand up straight!

My gorgeous little herd of shorn lamas!  Pardon T's stance.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

New Rugs!

When my parents (and grandmother) came to visit a few weeks ago, my mom brought me a rugs to sell!

The first two are my favorites...they're made from sock tops!  During manufacturing, they cut the tops off the socks to get them to the right length.  These rugs are really soft and durable, we've used them for years.

The other type is my mom's favorite.  They are made from textured fabric remnants, and weave into very soft, thick rugs.  They would be perfect for a bathroom.  At the moment we have 2 colors to offer, a light tan/grey and a darker brown/grey.

All of the rugs are available in my Etsy store, just follow the links.  I still have some of the brown and purple cotton rugs as well.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Growing Rocks

Around upstate New York people joke about how we "grow" rocks.  Spend 5 minutes digging in the dirt and you'll understand why people say it!  Putting in the fence last year (and digging lots of holes), I quickly realized that they were completely right.  Now that I've been working in the garden, I'm really sick of rocks!

The garden before I removed the top layer of rocks.

I wasn't crazy enough to think that I'd be able to get all of the rocks out of the garden, but I at least wanted to get the top layer of big ones out before I planted.  And once the garden is tilled I'm going to remove a few more from the bed where I'm going to plant the root vegetables.

The garden after I removed some rocks.

I spent a few hours removing rocks last week.  The second day I even had a friend...I brought T out to graze in the garden while I worked.  It was a great opportunity to do some "green" mowing and work on his stake training as well.

A work in progress.  I used the rocks to "pave" my muddy parking space up by the house!

One very happy grazing llama!

We also spread compost on the garden.  The front-loader on the tractor is a bit less maneuverable than I was hoping, but we still got the job done.  I may need to straighten the pallet fence around my compost pile though!

Lots of gorgeous compost underneath all that hay.

Spreading compost with a very large tractor.

Compost on the garden!

I'm hoping to get the garden tilled (or rather, have my husband till it!) this weekend too!  We got almost 3" of rain on Friday, so it will need a bit of time to dry out first.  It will be so nice to get plants in the garden!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Pasture Management Continues...

If it hasn't been clear from my posts last year, pasture management is an ongoing chore around most farms!  And since I didn't do a great job with preparation last spring, it is going to take me a bit longer to get the pasture just the way I want it.

I'm happy to say that the grass seed I planted is coming in great!  It still isn't long enough to graze, but it will get there.  There actually are spots that need to be mown!

View of the top of the pasture.

There's one big chore left to work on though...ridding the pasture of burdock!  Originally my plan was to pull them all up with a handy little dandelion picker tool, but after giving myself a nice blister on my hand, I decided that wasn't such a great idea.

Next I wanted to try another dandelion picker tool...this one you use while standing up, which is much easier on the knees and hands!  Unfortunately the burdocks have a longer root than dandelions so the tool just twists them, it doesn't actually pull them up.

Now I'm going to take a 2 prong approach...pulling up the biggest plants, and mowing the areas with lots of burdock.  Hopefully between the two methods, I'll be able to make a dent in the population.  It will get more serious when the burdock goes to seed, I just hope I'll be able to keep up with them!

My tool of choice.

I've picked buckets and buckets of burdock in only a few days!

I can't wait to see how the pasture looks at the end of the fall!

A burr-free area!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Knitting Pattern #6: Karakoram

I figure over the course of my life I will have knitting patterns named after most of my animals.  So far I have the Abby Cowl, and this one I'm naming after one of my beautiful llamas, Kara (Autumn Hill's Karakoram).  I'm terrible at coming up with names for patterns, so this will have to do!

This is a super easy pattern, and also super quick!  You can adjust the number of knit and purl rows for your preference.

Karakoram Cowl


Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick, 1 skein (or ~102 yards Super Bulky weight yarn)
#11 needles (circular)

10.5sts = 4" in stockinette

Cast on 68 stitches, join to work in the round.

  • Knit 3 rows
  • Purl 1 row
  • Knit 6 rows
  • Purl 1 row
  • Knit 4 rows
  • Purl 1 row
  • Knit 8 rows
  • Purl 1 row
  • Knit 2 rows
  • Purl 1 row
  • Knit 5 rows
Bind off.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Tomato Transplants

All the tomatoes are now transplanted to bigger pots!  This was the first batch that I transplanted, the Iron Lady and Cherry tomatoes.  They are now about 6-8" tall!

In other news, I think my cold frame is too hot!  I've been careful to ventilate it, but I think the onions got overheated.  About half of them are very wilted and looking dead.  I'm now on the lookout for some organic onion plants/sets to order.

We finally got the tractor fixed, so after I'm finished shearing I hope we can start making real progress on the garden!