Saturday, June 28, 2014

Garden Update

We've had quite a bit of rain this past week, followed by warm sunny days...just what the garden needs to grow!

I have baby broccoli!

Baby red lettuce.  I planted about 5 groups of lettuce seeds, but only 2 sprouted.  I ended up planting a bunch more seeds next to the broccoli, in case it was getting too shaded.

The tomatoes are going nuts!  I pruned them quite a bit this week.

I harvested my first radishes!  These were gone in about 5 minutes, so I planted 2 more sections (about 1'x3') with root veggies (carrots, beets, radishes).  I also have more onions to plant today.

The potatoes are going crazy too.  I'm wondering if I hilled them enough...

And last but not least, baby cherry tomatoes!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Llama Biography #18: Randallama's Cherokee

Well I made my first chronological mistake...I forgot Cherokee!


Randallama's Cherokee was purchased from Mark Smith Farms in the summer of 2004.  Our then young herdsire, Navarro, hadn't been able to settle a female, so we needed another male.  Cherokee had been purchased by Mark Smith Farms several years before and used as a breeding male until they acquired the famous Tuna Catcher.  We were happy to add him to our farm!

Cherokee was 3rd at the ALSA Nationals.

Cherokee was a great breeding male for our farm.  He was easy to handle but an aggressive breeder.

Cherokee had great presence and bone.

Cherokee and Navarro never did get along...they fought quite aggressively at first, and anytime one of them got "lucky" after that.  It was always a bit scary to watch them fight...

Cherokee got to work pretty quick after we bought him.  We bred him with 3 females in the fall of 2004, and the crias were born in 2005.  Trillium (May's daughter), Catastrophie (Cattera's daughter), and Inali (April's son) were all quite impressive.

Cherokee's crias, Trillium, Catastrophie, Inali (L to R).

We bred Cherokee to Cattera again in 2006, and Catallegre was born in 2007.  We also bred May to him in 2006, but she was sold before the cria was born.  Surprisingly the baby looked exactly like Catallegre!


May and her cria, Picasso.

We decided to keep Catastrophie as a breeding female, so Cherokee went to a new home in the spring of 2007.  He's still breeding on a farm down south.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Knitting Pattern #6: Art Yarn Cowl

Now that the fiber festival is over, I can finally get down to business and publish some knitting patterns!

This one is one of my favorites.  I've been spinning a lot of thick & thin spiral plied art yarns, but I really didn't know what to do with them.  

A very colorful thick & thin spiral plied yarn.

I decided to cast on a simple stockinette cowl, and I absolutely love how it turned out!  The thick & thin yarn gives even a stockinette stitch a great texture.  The cowl is long enough to wrap around your neck twice, but the length can be easily modified.

Anyway, here is the pattern.  It needs a name though...I'd love some suggestions!

Art Yarn Cowl

Bulky thick & thin yarn: 80-90 yards
#11 needles

Gauge isn’t important

Cast on 13 stitches

Knit 1 row, purl 1 row (work in stockinette) for 40” (or as long as desired)

Seam working end to cast on edge.

Enjoy!  I'll get the pattern on Etsy soon, and update the name.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Garden Pests

I've been having a heck of a time this year with garden pests!  I'm new to all this gardening stuff, so I wasn't really aware of all the pests that could plague my poor garden.  Luckily nothing has been totally decimated, and hopefully it will stay that way!

The first pest I had to deal with was cucumber beetles.  They started attacking the squash almost immediately after planting.  I squished the bugs the first day, and then applied a cover of cheesecloth the second day.  Luckily the beetles went away once there wasn't any food left, and I was able to remove the cheesecloth before the squash flowered.

Cucumber beetle next to a squash plant.

I had read about using cucumber slices in water as a trap for the beetles, but it didn't work.

The cucumber trap.

Covered squash.

Squash under the cheesecloth.

The next pest was a bit bigger...a groundhog!  I went out into the garden one day and found a broccoli plant, both of my parsley plants, and several of my flowers eaten almost to the ground.  We knew there had been groundhogs there last year, but I was hoping they were gone.  Guess not!  We set out a live trap, and caught one the next day.  This was about 2 weeks ago, and since then I haven't seen any evidence of the little bugger.  Until a few days ago...  Once again the same broccoli plant was munched, and a few more flowers.  My husband went out today and found a second hole!  He moved the live trap to that one, so we'll check it in the morning.

The broccoli after it recovered.

Abby checking out the live trap.

And now we're back to dealing with the cucumber beetles!  This time on the cucumbers.  I covered most of the plants with cheesecloth again, and will do the rest tomorrow.  These little things are getting annoying!

Poor munched cucumber.


Something is eating my pepper plants too...I think it is snails.  I put out some snail bait, we'll see if that works.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


I've been good this week, but I've wanted to be so bad!  This week has been full of temptation...

First I saw an ad for 3 free female alpacas in a nearby town (I actually know the farm).  A few days later I found another ad for free pet/fiber quality male alpacas (I know this farm too).  I would love to have more alpacas...  As much as I prefer llamas to alpacas, alpacas produce so much more fiber (at least on average).  I do eventually plan to get 2-3 more alpacas to raise for fiber, but I managed to talk myself out of considering adding more right now.

My first 3 fiber alpacas.  Unfortunately the two white ones were fairly brainless so they were sold after a couple of years.

The third temptation was the LFA sale this past weekend.  For the first time in years, I really wasn't super interested in any of the llamas in the regular sale, but there was a male in the claims futurity that I would have loved to bring home!  He is a gorgeous paint, half Argentine, with multiple halter and fleece winnings.  Just what I'm looking for!  Again, lucky for me I have ABSOLUTELY no business buying a breeding male right now.  I just don't have room.

These temptations, especially the LFA sale (and also seeing tons of pictures from the ILR Gathering show the same weekend), have really given me the bug to start a breeding herd again.  I want nothing more than to be able to get back into breeding and selling (and showing!) llamas!

My goal for my breeding herd in the past was always to breed the all-around llama...personality (and training), conformation, and fiber.  Not to toot my own horn, but I think I've done pretty well.  (I guess this is a good time to mention that Kara (Autumn Hill's Karakoram) was entered in her first 2 shorn fleece classes in the past 2 weeks, and she won a Grand Champion Double Coat (The Fiber Frenzy) and a Reserve Grand Champion Double Coat (ILR Gathering)!!  So proud of my girl, and my breeding program!)

Kara's fleece from last year, right before shearing.

When I start a breeding herd again, that is still going to be my focus.  I don't expect to have performance champions (though I have raised one!), but I want my babies to have a handleable personality, so with extensive training they could be!  I'd love to have halter champions (and have raised several who have gotten champions in halter, one even got enough to be an ALSA Halter Champion!).  And of course I want fine, single coat fleece, but this one I'm going to step up a notch.  I'm sick of having beautiful fleeces, but only getting 1 pound of prime fleece per animal!  As a fiber farm, animals need to produce more fleece to make it profitable.  I also happen to love thick bone structure in a llama, so my plan is to introduce some Argentine bloodlines into my herd in the future.  Argentines have extremely dense fiber, capable of producing 5+ pounds of prime fleece (and often are single coat).  Adding thick bones would just be a plus!

The pride and joy of my breeding program, Autumn Hill's Khatadyn.  He finished his ALSA Halter Champion!

Autumn Hill's Charity, multiple fleece and youth performance champion.

Autumn Hill's Rainier, winner of multiple fiber and halter champions and some great performance placings too!  He's also Kara's full brother.

I really can't afford to get several full Argentine llamas (even in the future), so my plan is to get an Argentine male and a couple heavy wool North American females (and maybe even a heavy wool NA male too).  I've heard that Argentines can increase fiber on their crias in just one generation (even 25% Argentine llamas can have thicker fiber), so I think that might be the way to start and make it more reasonable.

I fully intend on Kara being one of my cornerstone females in a future breeding program.  She has interesting bloodlines, and represents 2 of my favorite llamas from my past breeding program.  She hasn't been in the halter ring in almost 2 years (!), but she did very well at her first 2 shows as a juvenile.  I'm really hoping she will impress the judges when she gets back in the ring this fall.  And of course her recent fleece placings are very encouraging.

A terrible picture of Kara.

I also have high hopes for another representative of my former breeding program, and it hasn't even been conceived yet!  I'm not sure I've announced this here yet, but I'm getting a baby llama in 1.5-2 years!  I've regretted selling May (Little May Flowers) since the day she left our farm almost 8 years ago, and I finally decided to do something about it.  I'm going to "rent" May for the next year...any day now she will be bred to a gorgeous ALSA Halter Champion male, and hopefully have a fabulous baby in about a year.  Once the baby is weaned, I will bring him/her out to my farm in NY.  I'm really excited to have a relative of April (Alder Crest April Showers) in my breeding herd again, and I think the dad will add some great traits to the cria (one of his crias was an ALSA National Champion in halter).  Needless to say I hope the baby is a girl, but a male would actually be okay since it will be completely unrelated to Kara.

May definitely has a lot of great traits to pass on to a cria.

Who wouldn't want a cria related to this beautiful girl (April)??

Autumn Hill's Blazing Starr, May's first cria and one of my best production to date.

Unfortunately, even though I have all this completely planned out (I even know what farms I'm going to "shop" at!), I don't think it will be happening any time soon.  My barn is just not set up for a larger herd, so it all will have to wait until we either move or build a new barn.  I'm definitely itching to get started though!

Definitely my best group of crias ever!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Busy Weekend at the CNY Fiber Festival!

I need to apologize for not posting on Saturday, but I have a good excuse...  I was at the CNY Fiber Festival all weekend!

Batts, roving, and finished items.

It was my first time vending at a true fiber festival in a long time (I did the Fiber Event and the Hoosier Hills Fiber Fest in Indiana when I was in high school and college), and it was a great experience.  The campground where they held the festival was only about 40 minutes from our farm, so my husband and I went up Friday afternoon to set up.  Saturday was cold and cloudy, but there were tons of shoppers!  And probably due to the cold, they were buying finished items (knit hats, cowls, mitts, etc.)!  I've never sold so many finished items at a fiber festival before.  Sunday was much nicer in terms of weather, but there were a lot less people.  Luckily the sales I made on Saturday made up for Sunday!

My awesome new display covered in handspun yarn.

Rugs and felted wool bags.

Overall it was a great weekend.  It is always fun hanging out with other fiber nuts, and catching up with people you haven't seen in awhile.  Plus I was able to do a  lot of llama education, which is awesome!

The other side of my yarn display.

Can't wait for next year!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Pasture Rehabilitation Progress

It has been a few weeks since I let the llamas out on their old pasture.  So far I'm pretty happy with how the rehabilitation of the pasture has been going.  With a few small exceptions, most of the new grass that I seeded has begun to grow, and I'm slowly working on getting rid of the weeds (mostly burdock).

Pasture in mid-spring, before grazing.

A little bit later in the spring, after I mowed but still before being grazed.

And as you can see, the llamas are VERY happy about being out in their pasture!

T, Duque, and Kara out grazing.

The added bonus is that their dry lot area is starting to recover.  I still have a lot of straw to remove, but it has been raining cats and dogs this week!

Grass is growing back in the dry lot!

The pasture after a few weeks of grazing and some more mowing.

The llamas aren't great about eating weeds in general, but I've discovered that they love these berry bushes!  I'm not quite sure what kind of berries they are, probably rasp/black berries.  I chopped down all the old stalks last year, but of course they came back.  Within days the llamas had eaten every single leaf off the new plants.  I don't hold out much hope that the plants will survive, and that's just fine with me!  Unfortunately they won't eat burdock, so I'll have to continue to mow and pull those by hand.

Stripped berry plants!

Unfortunately it looks like the llamas are going to have to go back in their dry lot next week.  They're not grazing the pasture very evenly, and the areas closest to the barn are getting too short for comfort.  I can't afford to let any of those grass plants die!  I'll probably return to letting the llamas graze in their portable pen (either in or around the garden fence), and give them some freshly mown grass in addition to their hay.  They won't be happy, but they'll survive!  Hopefully it will start to dry out so we can get back to working on their new pasture!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Pattern Sneak Peek!

One of the things I've been busy working on before the CNY Fiber Fest is designing new patterns!  I've been so busy that I haven't gotten around to publishing them, but I wanted to give you a sneak peek!

For worsted weight yarn, a pair of very versatile ribbed hats.  The large (in purple) should fit an adult small to adult large, and the small (blue/yellow) should fit a large baby to large child.

My new favorite type of yarn to spin is an aran weight spiral ply.  I made up an aran weight version of the ribbed hats shown above, as well as a buttoned ear band, all of which can be knit with the spiral ply yarn.

I made another DK weight project... another ear band!  It is hard to see the texture in this picture, but there is a simple slip stitch pattern which makes a subtle design.  It is very cool!

And last but not least, an art yarn project, specifically for my thick-n-thin spiral ply yarn.  This is a stockinette cowl, knit flat and seamed together.  Super easy and cute!

All of these patterns will be debuted at the fiber festival this weekend.  I'll be selling yarn (and roving) in kits, so you can get your choice of pattern for free!