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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

After the Rains

This photo was taken this morning. It is our females enjoying a day grazing in their turn-out pasture. Notice the "sand pits" where they love to roll.

And here is a photo of Tina Fey, a you
ng female who turns a year old next Tuesday. I love her beautiful silky red fiber and she has so much attitude!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day! Guess what we did today...

Today we went hot air ballooning with friends in South Park, Colorado. We crewed for a friend and had a fabulous morning - beautiful weather, yummy breakfast and wonderful companionship.

Friday, June 19, 2009

International Box Day

Today is International Box Day so I'm going to share with you my favorite photos of my cats in boxes - one of their favorite things to play with and in!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Shearing a Llama

After yesterday's post about shearing the llamas, there were several questions regarding the shearing process, weight of fleeces, etc., which I will answer in today's post.

It usually takes us about two hours to shear a llama. We first tie the llama up (to our propane tank) and use a high powered blower to open the fleece up and to blow as much debris and vegetable matter (VM) such as hay, grass, sticks and dust/dirt out of the fiber as we can. We sometimes use mink oil diluted in water and spray that into the air flow as we blow; this helps to make the fiber slicker and helps the VM to release and blow out of the fiber better. We usually wear some sort of eye protection during this process because those sticks become little missiles as they're blown out of the fleece. Seriously folks, this blower has two motors on it and can blow a toy poodle across a linoleum floor (don't ask me how I know this).

If the fibers are heavily matted or there is a lot of debris in the outside of the fleece I will use a slicker brush or curry comb to break the tips open, helping to release more of the VM and debris out of the fiber. This also helps to remove any dried tips off the fleece. Sometimes we have to put the llamas into the grooming chute and tie them so they will stand still for shearing (and even then we have some that hate the process and will jump up over and over in an attempt to get out of the chute.) Other llamas will stand quietly outside the chute and allow me to shear them without the use of any restraints other than hubby holding their lead rope (these are my favorite llamas!)

There are various tools that can be used to cut and remove the fiber from the animal. Sheep shears, electric clippers or scissors can be used. I prefer to use scissors when I shear. They are inexpensive, I buy the ergonomically correct type so hand fatigue is kept at a minimum and they generally allow for a better fleece due to fewer second cuts. I can also leave the fiber on the animal a bit longer so their coat grows out enough to keep them warm in our cold and snowy Colorado winters. Electric clippers are expensive, the blades need frequent sharpening, they are heavy and get hot and you need to have an electrical plug-in available and they are noisy and tend to scare the llamas. Sheep shears are similar to using scissors but my hands aren't big enough to even hold a pair of sheep shears, so scissors is my cutting tool of choice!

Hubby holds the lead rope or stands at the head of the llama if they're in the grooming chute and he offers them handfuls of grain and alfalfa pellets if they stand quietly and are good. I start shearing by cutting straight down the topline (back) of the llama starting at their withers at the base of their neck and going to a point where their back legs connect to their body. I start on the right side of the llama and clip front to back, holding the scissors flat against the body so that I don't accidently cut the llama. After I finish the right side, I move to the left side and repeat the process. We have a mesh round pop-up "can" that we put a large plastic bag into and the fleece goes into this as I shear. After I have sheared the "barrel" section of the llama (the middle section) I shear the belly wool, which is usually coarser and dirtier than the prime barrel fiber. This either gets discarded (the birds love to use llama wool for lining their nests!) or if it is fairly clean I bag it and sell it to be used as doll hair. Some people shear their llama completely. I seldom do because I don't want the llama to get too cold during the winter and I don't like the way they look when they're sheared like that. They seem to be mortified, too, when you shear them "bare nekked"!

The llamas look so different after shearing that we frequently have to put them into a catch pen in the pasture until the other animals have had a chance to sniff them and realize that it isn't a new llama that you're putting in with them. This cuts down on fighting and wrestling in the pastures, especially with the boys!

This is a freshly shorn fleece from our Grand Champion llama Midnight Hour (top of post). This prime fleece (after skirting out dirty, coarse and unusable fibers) weighs one pound fourteen ounces (1 lb 14 oz) and has a staple length of 5 inches. Staple length is the length of the fiber from the base where it is cut to the tips.

This fiber can be spun as is straight out of the bag and washed after spinning or it can be washed in soap, dried and carded up into batts (flat sheets) or roving (long rope) and then spun or felted.

Here is a photo of Midnight Hour's fleece from a few years ago that we had carded up into rovings. His fiber is exceptionally soft and loaded with crimp, which gives it "memory" so that when knit with it will retain its shape better.

Llama fiber is hollow so it has excellent heat retention properties similar to down and feathers. It is generally hypoallergenic and does not contain lanolin like sheep's wool does.

Chocolate Chip's prime fleece weighs almost two pounds, which is quite a bit for a little llama but he is almost two years old and this is his first shearing. The first shearing is always the softest and most luxurious fleece the animal will ever produce in their lifetime, making it highly sought after by hand spinners.

Llamas are generally sheared every two years unless they have a fast fiber growth rate, then they can be sheared yearly. Generally as they age their fiber growth rate slows down and we shear every two to three years.

Hopefully this answered the majority of the questions about shearing!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Shearing Weekend - Finally!

This weekend we sheared five llamas - three on Saturday and two on Sunday. Here are some before and after photos of Chocolate Chip. Above is how he looked after blowing him out with the blower and below is how he looked after shearing.

Chip has the most incredible markings and a gorgeous fleece. His fiber is silver, gray, cream and reddish brown. You can see from the photo below how many little appy spots he has all over his body. He was a very good boy for his first shearing, too.

We also measured him and he came in at 37-1
/2 inches. Miniature llamas are 38 inches and under at 3 years old. Chip turns 2 on June 16th so he will probably grow too much in a year to be a true mini llama but foundation miniature llamas are 38-1/4" to 40" at 3 years old so Chip will probably finish out as a foundation mini llama. He's such a cutie, don't you think?!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Friday Feature - Lazy T Crochet

I'm doing my Friday Feature on Thursday night because I'm not sure I'll have time to do it in the morning. I have to run to town tomorrow to mail packages and do some shopping.

This week's Friday Feature is Lazy T Crochet. My favorite items in her etsy shop are the boucle scarf (above) and the crocheted wrist cuff (below). Both of these items are on sale now, too! So head on over to Lazy T Crochet and check out her beautiful crocheted items.

Silver Parrot - Destash bead giveaway!

Head on over to Silver Parrot to get in on this huge bead destash giveaway! The contest ends on June 12th (that's tomorrow) so make it fast before you miss out. Of course, the fewer people that enter, the better my chances are of winning... ;o)

If I win this beautiful stash of beads (and these photos are only a small portion of the enormous stash) I'm going to Pay it Forward and gift the stash to my daughter so she can start doing her own jewelry design to earn money for college.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Mom to Mom Quiz

I found this quiz on The Queen Speaks today and decided to take the quiz. I think this describes my parenting style perfectly! If you decide to take the quiz, be sure to come back here and comment on what your quiz results are.

T-Mobile Mom to Mom Quiz: "

Take the fun, Mom to Mom quiz and discover your parenting style.


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Update on Argentum

Just wanted to let everyone know that Argentum is feeling much better now. He has been up most of the day for the past two days and is moving around more and eating more. Apparently he was just badly bruised from his traumatic experience with the fence. Perhaps next time he won't jump the fence. Of course, if there IS a bear around, I don't care what he jumps or where as long as he gets away from the bear! A huge thank you to everyone for your well wishes for our Argent!

Friday, June 5, 2009

School's out for summer!

This is my first entry for the EtsyBloggers Street Team Blog Carnival. There were two topics to choose from and I chose:

Schools Out For Summer! What are your summer plans or share your favorite end of the school year story.

My favorite end of the school year story would have to be last year, 2008. I wasn't in school but our youngest daughter graduated from high school last year. She has suffered from some physical issues that prevented her from attending school quite a few times over the years (asthma, migraines and female issues) and even with a note from our family doctor and working with the teachers and her counselor she fell so far behind in her Junior year of high school it was questionable whether or not she would have enough credits to graduate. She attended summer school the summer of 2007 to get credit for her American History class which was required for graduation. She was furious with me at first for signing her up for summer school but it was only three weeks, it was only for 4 hours each morning and it would get her the missed credits she needed to be able to graduate with her class in 2008. After the first class that summer she walked from the high school to my office and informed me that there were some straight A students attending summer school! She loved the teacher and the style of the class. Basically you got a packet of stuff, you read the information, took the test and if you passed you got the next packet. She breezed through the information, got an A+ in the class, finished the class almost a week early and got to help her counselor in her office for the remainder of the summer school session. That summer showed her that when she was able to attend on a regular basis and when she was engaged and relaxed she could ace the class without any problems. Her senior year, she knew she couldn't have any issues with credits so she diligently checked her assignments and grades for each and every class. Numerous times she noticed that the teacher had forgotten to enter her grades in the computer so she would immediately contact the teacher, show them the paper with the grade on it and have them enter the grade into the computer right then and there. We began to wonder if this didn't happen numerous times throughout her Junior year because she insisted that she completed ALL of the work in the time allowed to her by the teachers but felt they weren't giving her credit for it. At any rate, she learned a very valuable lesson through all this - never trust someone else to watch out for you, you must follow up and ensure that your efforts are recognized! So, you can see why we were so thrilled when she graduated with her class last May.

I made the decision to work in the town our daughter was attending school because I wanted to be there in case she needed medical assistance, which she did numerous times over the years of her school attendance. With asthma you don't have time to wait for help, you need it immediately or you can die - that was a huge incentive for me to basically give up the career I had in commercial construction and opt for working for a small home builder in a small town instead. I don't regret my decision and I loved that we were able to eat lunch together almost every day during her high school years. I would pick her up from school at lunch time, we would either go get something "fast food" to eat or I always had things to eat in the refrigerator and freezer at work (the office was located in a little log home in town) so we would eat lunch together and I would get her back to school in time for her next class. This way she could relax, eat a decent lunch, stay hydrated, use the restroom, etc. and be back for the next class without any hassles.

Because it is 25 miles one way into town and because our daughter was no longer attending school in town I made the decision to "retire" from my "real job" and do our llama ranch and my fiber business full time. I am celebrating my one year anniversary of my "retirement" and loving every minute of it! I love being here to take care of the animals, I'm here for llama births, if I have a horse or llama exhibiting signs of distress or illness I can be here to monitor, treat or request vet assistance right away. And, I have more time to spin, card fibers, dye fibers, knit, crochet, market my products and relax.

Yep, 2008 end of school was definitely the best ever!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Celebrating the start of my 3rd year with this blog!

Today marks the 2nd Anniversary and the start of my third year with this blog! I started out not really knowing what to write about and intending to write mostly about llamas and things that happen here on the ranch. Sometimes things are pretty dull (believe it or not) and sometimes I just didn't have the time or the energy to post much but I have gotten better at posting more frequently and I hope I am writing things that interest a wide group of bloggers.

If you have any suggestions on things you'd like for me to blog about or things that you like, or dislike, please let me know!

UPDATE: Argentum is up more today and is eating and moving around better than he was yesterday. Yesterday I was very concerned about him but today he seems to be doing much better. I'll keep everyone posted on his progress. Thank you for all your kind words for Argent - I've passed the hugs, pats and lovin' on to him and he says two ears straight up for our fabulous readers!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Update - Lions and Tigers and Bears....Oh my!

Thank you everyone for your nice comments on my last post. We have had major bear problems for several years now. BUT then we got a BIG BEAR GUN and he has steered clear most of the time. The DOW offered to give us some bean bag things to put in the shotgun...and I told them his 3 strikes were up and if we shot at him we were shooting to kill, not to just piss him off! They agreed that after sending several of our llamas over the fences (sometimes causing injuries, sometimes just sending our poor llamas a long ways away to get away from him), after breaking and entering my truck (busted my topper all up), after tearing down portions of our fence, and after busting down the door to our next door neighbor's garage, we were done messing with the bear. Guess he got the message that we meant business because his nighttime visits got scarce for quite awhile. It gets really old standing out in pitch black darkness with flashlights and a shotgun, shivering from the cold and fear, trying to calm the llamas and the horses and trying to figure out where the bear is at in the middle of the night, trying to be sure we aren't standing in his path to freedom, etc..

Poor Argentum is still very sore and has spent a lot of time in the kush position (laying down with all four legs gathered underneath) and he has been laying in an awkward position which tells me he is very sore in the tummy area. This morning I managed to get a good look at his belly (poor guy will stand but doesn't want to move around much) and I don't see any cuts but I imagine he's pretty bruised up. We're going to keep a very close eye on him and perhaps put him into a small pen (I'll put him in with the weanlings who are in a larger pen with high sides and visable from the house and away from where the bear likes to hang out) so we can monitor his food and water intake and his output and keep the other boys from bugging him while he recovers. Hopefully he's just bruised and it is nothing more serious than that. This little guy is from our top two llamas - his momma is our top producer (she has produced incredible crias so far - one is a Regional Grand Champion) and his poppa is our ALSA Halter Champion so we have high hopes for this guy in the show ring and as a stud prospect.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Thank you!

A heartfelt thank you goes out to everyone for their happy birthday wishes and their words of encouragement yesterday. The Celebration Sale in my etsy store was great, too! I sold as much yesterday as I did in about two full weeks of May. Now, May was a really low sales month so that isn't huge, but it was very encouraging because it exceeded the goal I set for myself in daily sales when I "retired" a year ago. So thank you to those who popped into my store and bought some fibery goodness. I hope you enjoy your fibers as much as I enjoyed creating them.

We must have had a bear come through last night because this morning when I went out to feed, one of our llamas that we have in a smaller pen to keep him away from the other adult males (they fight and he just cannot behave himself) was GONE! Now, normally I wouldn't be quite so paniked but this llama is sold and we are supposed to deliver him to his new home this Saturday. I found him in the pasture with the little boys and since they weren't talking smack at the time I left him there. However, a little while later I let Annie, my mini Aussie, out and heard screaming in that pasture and that male had our oldest male on the ground so I threw some shoes on and ran out to separate them. I got Problem Child put back where he belongs and ten minutes later I went out to check on things and all the other llamas were kushed and quietly enjoying their day.

Also, this morning I discovered one of our two year old males, Argentum, (photo above) had jumped a section of fence and was caught up in the fencing. He had made it over but his back legs came down too soon and the top wire of the fence was underneath his belly and right in front of his back legs. Thank goodness we used smooth wire and not barbed wire for that top line! Barbed wire would have cut him up terribly - I don't even want to think about how awful that could have been! Because we've had rain daily for the past two weeks the ground is very soft and I was able to push over the fence posts and pull down the wire enough to be able to then pull one of his back legs up over that wire and then the other one. Poor guy immediately squatted to pee...I have no idea how long he stood there unable to lay down or move! Fortunately llamas are extremely intelligent and most of the time they won't panic and struggle, which usually ends up getting them more tangled and in deeper trouble. He was just standing there patiently waiting for someone to help him out of his predicament. But can you imagine his terror if he was trapped there and a bear was on the prowl?! I think the little guy deserves a Purple Heart for his bravery.

Monday, June 1, 2009


Today I'm celebrating my 50'ish birthday and the first anniversary of my "retirement" from my "real job" to work our ranch and my fiber business full time. I think I'll have a sale in my etsy store to celebrate. May sales in my etsy store were pathetic, the worst I've ever experienced. I don't know if it is the economy or if I am not offering what people want to buy or what. I find it difficult to get inspired and creative if I think it will just sit in a Rubbermaid storage bin waiting for someone to fall in love with it. I just pulled several batts from my store (listings that just expired) and I'm going to sit down today and spin them into yarn. Then if we can get some decent lighting I'll photograph the two batches of fleece I dyed last week and get those listed in my store.

It started out as a beautiful day yesterday morning. We sold two female llamas to a retired couple who live about an hour south of us who have several acres of land and wanted a couple of females to help guard their chickens, etc. Then we photographed one of our young male llamas that I had just sheared last Wednesday evening, and I posted his new photos to our ranch website. We then headed to Colorado Springs to spend the afternoon at my parents' house. My Dad's birthday is tomorrow and we always celebrate our birthdays together. They had a gorgeous cheesecake sampler that we dove into, along with fresh strawberries, and then played cards for a couple of hours before heading back home. The closer we got to home, the harder it was raining. The road was so muddy we almost slid sideways several times. We fed the horses and the llamas in the rain and were muddy, wet and cold when we got done with chores. This morning is more of the same. I'd love one full day of sunshine so things will dry out and I can cheer up!

Sorry for the kind of "downer" post but its just one of those days. I'm posting some photos of my fibers and the llamas, just because I like to see photos in the posts. Have a great day!