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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wishing you a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2010

We here at Split Rock Ranch want to wish everyone a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2010. Remember, approach every day with an attitude of gratitude - always be searching for the silver lining. You can always find something to be thankful for!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Looking back...and Forward

This is a great time of year to look back on the past year and reflect on things. Let's face it, there are things that go right and things that go...well, not so right, for all of us. I choose to believe that there is a silver lining in everything and try to remember to look hard for that silver lining when things "head south". Sometimes it isn't until much later that we look at something that happened and say to ourselves "wow, good thing that happened because if it didn't I would have...or wouldn't have..." and something good eventually came out of that event.

This past year we didn't have any crias (llama babies) born here at Split Rock Ranch. The last cria born here at the ranch was Hot Shot in September 2008. We exposed several of our females to males in the Fall of 2008 but none of them took, which is probably a good thing since our winter weather started on the last day of summer this year and those babies weren't due until several weeks later. (See, there's one of those silver linings!)

This past year we sold more llamas than we ever have before. We sold two females and four males. (We sold all of the crias shown in the photo above.) One of the males was our daughter's so he doesn't even really count because he isn't even on the books here at the ranch, but that makes almost 17% of the herd sold! Our goal is to get back down to 25 llamas so we have a better chance of getting all the llamas halter trained and most of our males pack trained. It also helps cut down on the feed bill, which is a good thing in this economy.

My fiber sales were down this year compared to 2008 but with the economy the way it has been, that was really no surprise and I've heard that sales were down for most fiber artists this year. That's okay though because it has allowed me to have some down time and more time to knit, crochet and spin.

My custom orders this past year were the best I've ever had though, so that thrilled me. Again, slower sales otherwise allowed me the time to really throw all of myself into the custom orders when they came in.

We showed several llamas this year. We didn't show at all in 2008 because we needed a break after earning our Halter Champion award for Tempis Fugit in 2007 and our daughter's senior year in high school was 2007-2008 and there was so much going on.  We did extremely well at the one and only show we attended in 2009. Kemui Yama took first place Adult Medium Wool Male, Grand Champion Medium Wool Male and Reserve Grand Champion Best in Show. He had never been sheared, groomed or trailered prior to the show so we were very proud of how well he handled everything. Decorus Domina (Baby Dee) took first place Adult Medium Wool Female and Reserve Grand Champion Medium Wool Female (second only to the Grand Champion Best in Show Female). Again, Dee had never been groomed or trailered prior to the show (I sheared her as a yearling but didn't groom her out).

And, this is the perfect time of year to look forward to the new year and set goals for ourselves and our business. Personally, I don't ever make any new year's resolutions for myself but I do try to reflect and learn from the past so I can set a better course for the next year.

In 2010 I would like to spend more time working with fiber and less time at the computer. I can eat up hours sitting here blogging, surfing the web, checking my Twitter and Facebook accounts, playing on-line games, etc.

I would like to sell at least 6 llamas again this year (we already have 3 llamas on reserve for somebody so we're already half way there!)

I want to spend more time working with the llamas and training the young ones to lead well and the adults to pack. I want to choose one male llama and start training him for performance so I can enter the performance classes at the LOCC Fall Show on Labor Day weekend this year.

I want to spend more time working with my horse, Maggie Mae, and start riding her this year. Maggie is a fabulous horse and she isn't the one with issues; I am. I took a bad fall from Tango in October of 2004 and have huge confidence and fear issues I need to overcome. I may enlist the help of a trainer this year, we'll see.

So, those are my goals for 2010. I will add to them as needed and alter as I see fit, depending on how things are going.

What are your goals for 2010?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Have yourself a very Merry Christmas

I've been procrastinating...again. We finished our Christmas shopping Tuesday afternoon/evening and I spent part of yesterday making chocolate covered pretzel rods and wrapping gifts. Today I need to see if I can get the rest of the gifts wrapped and some additional baking completed. Our daughter wants us to spend Christmas Eve with them in Colorado Springs but I don't know if we'll make it down the mountain tonight or not. We'll be spending all of Christmas day with them tomorrow so it isn't a really big deal but if I can get motivated and get everything done today, we might be able to make it tonight and tomorrow. We'll see. My motivation is taking a long winter's nap so I never get as much accomplished as I'd like to. Most of the time, I don't even care! At least the sun is out today and as long as the wind doesn't kick up, maybe it will even melt some of the snow.

I'm always relieved when the holiday is over though - no more pressure to think of and find (or make) the perfect gift, wonder if I've gotten everything done, etc. I can just kick back, relax and enjoy the time off. Now that the Winter Solstice has passed and the days are getting longer again, I'm hoping my Motivation finds its way back home where it belongs. I have a very long list of things to get done!

Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas. However you celebrate the holiday, I hope you have a fabulous day.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Working Ranch Dog is Priceless

I've always wanted a dog that I could take everywhere with me and not have to worry about them taking off or being a nuisance. Three years ago I started looking for a miniature Australian Shepherd and found a breeder in Oklahoma who had some beautiful dogs that were very reasonably priced. We decided on Annie, a red tri female. I really wanted a blue merle Aussie but they are generally hard to find and are more expensive because of their popularity. Annie's father is a blue merle and her mother is a red tri that looks just like her. So Annie has one brown eye and one ice blue eye.

I had forgotten how destructive Aussies can be when left alone. One day while we were gone Annie chewed the sill off one of the windows in the living room/great room. She even ate some of the drywall. She wasn't even alone - she had our YorkiePoo and our toy poodle for company along with several cats. But these dogs need a job to really be happy.

I recently started taking Annie with me when I go out to do ranch chores. At first it was a real hassle because she wanted to run all over to explore everything. I was constantly having to go to the neighbor's house to the south of us to retrieve Annie. Every time she took off I would either put her in the house or put her on her leash at the front of the house after telling her she was a bad dog and she was grounded. She quickly learned that she needed to stick with me, come when called and pay attention to what I was doing.

I hate it when the adult male llamas get into fights. There is generally a lot of screaming, spitting, running around and wrestling. Usually nobody gets hurt but it still aggravates me to no end. Annie is so tuned into me that she quickly learned to start barking at the llamas, which would make them stop their fighting and focus their attention on her. As they got used to her barking, that no longer worked so I would send Annie into their pasture and tell her to make them stop. She runs after the fighting llamas and barks then nips on their back legs to stop the fighting. As soon as they stop, she trots back to me with a satisfied grin on her face - "hey, Mom, see what I did?!"

She went after my horse, Maggie Mae, one day when I went into the horse pasture with grain in scoops and Maggie rushed me and crowded me, getting pushy. Annie immediately went after Maggie and Maggie spun around with Annie between her legs, knocking her down, which frightened Annie so she immediately left the pasture and stood at the gate barking at the horses until I came back out. So, Annie does have respect for the animals and knows when she is out-gunned, so to speak. Now she follows me to the horse pasture and sits at the gate with her chin on one of the gate rails waiting for me to come back out. She watches every move I make, along with every move the horses make, while I'm in there.

I really do feel a lot safer now with Annie helping with chores. I don't worry so much about wild animals sneaking up on me while I'm out working on the ranch. I believe if something happened to me Annie would find help for me or at least stay with me until somebody came to help.

Annie has even learned to work around the tractor. At first it made me really nervous but now she makes a wide berth around the tractor, waits for it to pass her and then falls in behind it, keeping one eye on me and one eye on the tractor.

Next summer we plan to start looking for an old Jeep to use for four-wheeling on some of the mountain trails we used to explore years ago. We plan to take Annie with us because we think she will be the perfect companion on these day trips.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Rio Scarf is in a Treasury!

My handknit Rio scarf made from a gorgeous wool novelty art yarn is in a Treasury! Thank you so much to MOMGEN for putting together this beautiful Treasury.



Friday, December 11, 2009

The Accidental Neckwarmer

If you remember my post last week about the skinny scarf I made for a friend's daughter, I mentioned in that post that I was also making fingerless mitts using the same yarns that I had used in the skinny scarf. While making the first mitt, I made a mistake in reading the pattern and kept adding a set of pattern stitches to each row so each successive row was a bit longer than the row before it. I wasn't paying any attention to it because I was crocheting while I was working on emails and IMing my daughter so I wasn't really focused on my project. When I realized what I had done, I didn't want to frog (rip out) the entire thing because I had used four different yarns in 6 sets of pattern rows and had already crocheted 5 inches of the mitt. When I laid it out on the desk though, I realized that if I added a border around the entire thing and made the bottom of it even longer with a couple of extra rows, I could then crochet a little loop and sew on a button to make a gorgeous little cowl/neckwarmer.

I was so excited when I realized that I had finally found a pattern for making a delicate looking cowl/neckwarmer that is easy to make. I'm going to make another one using a variegated yarn to see how that looks - it will be easier because I won't have all the different yarns to deal with, I can just keep on crocheting so it will work up really fast. Like I always say, there are no mistakes, just art you didn't plan on!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Virtual Craft Show on Cafe Handmade

I joined the Virtual Craft Show on Cafe Handmade again, starting this past Sunday. I love how the ad came out this time. Again, nice bright colors and a showcase of some of my favorite fiber art. Basically, it is a virtual craft show of all handmade items and there are some amazing artists advertising in this craft show. You can vote for your favorite artist - just click on the little heart under where it says Vote For Me! You can vote once per week per artisan per IP address (i.e., per computer). So, if you haven't already voted this week and you'd like to help me out, please click here to go to the Split Rock Ranch ad in the craft show. Winner of Best in Show gets a free ad on the Cafe Handmade site for the next week and a widget to display on their site. Thank you to everyone for voting for Split Rock Ranch!

By the way, you do NOT have to be a member of Cafe Handmade, nor do you have to register or do anything else to vote - just click one of the links provided above, then click on the heart under the words "Vote For Me!" Thanks!!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Merry SITSmas!

Okay, I didn't get to the SITS site yesterday so I'm a day late posting this Merry SITSmas greeting!

I seem to be running behind or slow on everything lately. I can't seem to get motivated to do anything. Is it the short days? Is it the fact that we've had snow and below zero temps for days on end now? Whatever it is, if I had the energy to care about it, I'd try to do something to change it. For now, I'm just being a slug, getting there but not in any hurry to get whatever it is done. I haven't finished my Christmas shopping yet but hey, it isn't the night before Christmas so I still have time!

If you've never heard of SITS before, be sure to check it out. It is a great site for blogger SITStas to network.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Another Custom Order Finished!

This is another custom order that I recently finished. This project is very near and dear to my heart because the "customer" is a friend who is recovering from bone cancer. She also raises llamas and asked me months ago if I would be willing to take the fleece from one of her daughter's llamas, process it, spin it into yarn and then knit or crochet a scarf for her daughter for Christmas. I agreed and at the time it seemed like Christmas was very far away and I would have plenty of time to get this done.

The fleece had lots of tiny little sticks in it and it was a very fine, fly away fleece so every time I tried to pick something out of it, the fleece got more and more and more static built up in it and pretty soon it was stuck all over me and I could no longer pull anything out of it because the fleece wouldn't let go of anything. So, I decided to wash the fleece in lukewarm water with some organic Basic H and I managed to pull all of the little sticks out while the fleece was soaking in the sink. I then put the fleece into a lingerie bag, spun out the water on the spin cycle in my washing machine and laid it out to dry on the sweater rack I have set up on the tub in our main bathroom. The fleece was so fine it formed dreadlocks when I washed it, so I had to hand tease each lock in order to card it on the drum carder, and the fineness of the fleece also resulted in some breakage of the fiber, forming little noils in the carded batt. I was so upset and frustrated - I was hoping I would be able to spin this fleece smooth and thin and have enough yardage to do a huge scarf. Apparently The Creative Muse had other ideas (which happens all the time around here.)

I finally had enough fiber carded that I could start spinning it. I started spinning it smooth and thin and realized fairly quickly that it wasn't going to cooperate on the spinning wheel either. Sigh...on to Plan B (or was it Plan C...or D?!) I decided to allow the fiber to do whatever it wanted to and ended up with a couple hundred yards of thick and thin somewhat lumpy and bumpy yarn but it was incredibly soft and the color was gorgeous. I knew I really wasn't going to have sufficient yardage for a scarf of any great size so I searched and searched and searched both on-line and through my pattern books, looking for a long skinny scarf that had long lines of color runs and I needed it to be crocheted because I am a slow knitter and Christmas was getting closer and closer.  I finally discovered the perfect pattern on Lion Brand's on-line web site. I had several small skeins of a variety of different colored llama yarns on hand so I decided to use all the yarns along with a novelty eyelash yarn from Bernat called "Boa" in coordinating colors. The darker yarn on the outside edges of the scarf are from my friend's llama fleece.

I ended up with enough yarn to also do a pair of crocheted fingerless mitts, which are not yet finished - I still have to find a tapestry needle and sew up the sides and weave in the ends - so I'll have to get pics of those later.

And, the first of the fingerless mitts I messed up the pattern and ended up with a "fan" shaped object that is 5 inches wide and about 15 inches long at the longest part - rather than frog the entire thing, I decided to set it aside and try the fingerless mitts again. I figured out very quickly what I had done wrong and soon had one mitt done but didn't finish it because I wanted to be able to compare the second mitt side by side to be sure they matched in size before seaming both of them.

The "fan" is now going to become a neck warmer! I am going to add a few rows of crochet around the entire fan and then create button loops on one end and sew a large button or two on the other end so it can be fastened securely.

I always say "there are no mistakes in art, only art you didn't plan on." That proved to be true for this entire project. It all turned out completely different than I had envisioned but even better than what I had in mind initially. I love how The Creative Muse just sneaks in, takes control, and creates such incredible art! And how blessed I feel to be the "vehicle" that The Creative Muse uses.

I will get pics of the finished mitts and neckwarmer when I have those completely done.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Thank you to everyone who took advantage of the sale in my Etsy store over the long holiday weekend. Sales were very slow the first couple of days - well, non-existent actually...but I made enough sales to be pleased overall with how the sale went.

I, on the other hand, took full advantage of the great sales in a variety of on-line stores carrying handmade goods! I can't wait to see all the goodies I ordered. I'm trying very hard this year to make it a mostly handmade Christmas so I hope my friends and family enjoy the handmade gifts I selected for them or made for them myself. I think unique handmade gifts are so special and tell the recipient that you really gave some thought into choosing a nice gift for them.

And, I got an email this morning telling me that I am the Featured Crafter of the Week at My Craft Corner! I prefer to think of myself as an artist, not a crafter, but I'll take it, especially since this is now my full time business! Please pop on over to My Craft Corner to have a look.