Thursday, September 20, 2018

How I wash my Alpaca's Fiber

I have been hand-processing my Alpaca's fiber since 2006. I thought I would share with you how I do it.  Alpaca fiber does not have any lanolin in it, but it does have a lot of dust and dirt from them rolling in their dust bowls as you can see in the picture below.



During the shearing process we collect the fiber in three different bags. The main blanket, is tagged  with the alpaca's name and number 1. The neck and some of the other fiber as number 2 in a separate bag. Then the leg fibers go in a bag numbered 3.



I take the number one bags and place on my skirting table. From this I pick out any hay, pickers or whatever might be in the fiber. I also pull out any shorter fibers. As you can see in these pictures my alpacas fiber is very dirty from rolling in their dust bowls.





After skirting we use a homemade "blowout box" and a leaf blower to blow out most of the dirt and dust. This helps with the next step of washing.


I place the fiber into laundry bags that you can close up with a drawstring.  Depending on how much fiber I usually have it separated into 3 laundry bags. Now it is ready for a soak. I like to use Orvus Paste. It is a non PH shampoo (typically sold in farm supply stores). Horse owners like to use this to wash their horse with.  You may also purchase smaller quantities in quilt shops as it is used by quilters for washing their quilts. It also can be used to wash your delicate clothes. A little Orvus Paste goes a long way. I scoop out a half a ladle for a full wash load for my fiber.



I have an older top loading washing machine that does not agitate (I was given this machine free because it won't agitate).   I use this for washing the fiber.  I fill the washer with HOT water and my Orvus paste.  I then place my laundry bags of fiber into the washer (after filling). I close the lid and let the fiber bags soak from 30 minutes to an hour or more.  (It depends how busy I get doing something else).  Then I spin out the dirty water. This washing machine does not spray water as it spins (that is important to prevent felting). After spinning out, I fill again with HOT water.  I let the fiber soak for 15 minutes or so, then spin the rinse water out.  I fill again with HOT water for a second time and soak for another 15 minutes or so, then spin the rinse water out. Usually my fiber's second rinse water is clear.

I then take it out of the bags and place in this herb/seed dryer trays.  This is hanging in my basement with my setup for washing and processing the alpaca fiber.



So this is how I do it. I have never felted any of my fiber by washing with hot water. If you were to agitate with the hot water and soap, then yes you could have a felted mess. If you try this, please remember no agitation allowed!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Hello anybody listening?

Hi Strangers! Guess who? It's me, Liz.
Yes, I know I have not posted here in a very long time. Life just got in the way. I now have a few extra minutes to start again.  For an update on the ranch-we currently own 32 alpacas, some chickens, and have added Muscovy ducks. We have 4 new Maremmas' LGDs. Two of our older dogs passed this last winter and Pan now lives in the house with us. He has hip issues and is slow because of his age. He is 13 years old. So we needed to add some young blood to guard our livestock.
I still hand make products from our Alpacas fiber.  I am a Spinolution spinning wheel dealer and a dealer of Brother drum carders. Our on-line store has changed. We now have our own website www.sundownalpacaranch.com with an easy to use on-line store.   We still schedule tours here at the ranch for you to come and learn about the alpacas and visit.  So contact me if you are interested by commenting here or by email. I still am doing art and craft shows.  I will make a separate post with my schedule for the rest of the 2018 year.  So stay tuned for more and if there is something you would like me to blog about,  just ask. lfagel@sundownalpacaranch.com

Here are some current pictures from the ranch.







Sunday, February 23, 2014

We give Mother Nature, We are crying Uncle.

Enough is enough already!  It has been blowing & snowing here for three days now. When the wind blows out of the west, the snow piles into the Alpaca pens. Here are some pics of the drifts of snow. We have to dig out the guys gate to get into them and the chickens.


The drifts are almost over the 5 ft fence between the girls & guys pens. Thank goodness the Alpacas do not like getting into deep snow, because they could easily walk over the fence.

Here is a picture of Gary and the Alpacas as he ventures into the pen to get to the chicken coop. Notice how high the drift is compared to him?

It is supposed to blow even more this afternoon. Once it stops blowing, we can get the tractor in and start the digging out.  We sure will be glad when this winter is over.  Lady Liberty is smiling for her picture. She doesn't seem to mind the weather.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Help us please to receive a small business grant.

Well it sure has been a very long, cold , snowy winter so far.  It has been tough both on us and some of our animals.  It seems everyday we are "digging out" of the snow and drifts, just to take care of them. We now have two alpacas that are getting special care daily. One is Sir Prize as he is having issues with arthritis in his legs. I now have him on a natural arthritis formula for alpacas daily. Our other Alpaca snowflake, has hurt her leg either by slipping on ice or getting into the deep snow in their pen. Usually they do not like to walk in deep snow.  We now have her and the girls in their shelter full time, until she gets better and the weather warms up. It was -12 below this morning again when we did chores. I have been spinning, knitting, weaving and washing lots of fiber to process into batts.  My dream has always been to have a full service fiber mill, not only to process our fiber, but to offer services to other artisans and farms Recently we have found a mill that is going out of business and is selling their equipment. We are now working on updating our business plan and hope to get a loan and some small grants. Today we were notified from Fed Ex that we were accepted into their small business grant contest. We are getting into this a little late, but are hoping that we can get enough votes before Feb. 24th to qualify for the 100 finalists. We sure can use all of your help. You can vote once a day for us and share this among your social networks. Thanks for voting and spreading the word!  Here is a link to the site.




Sir Prize & his buddy Sugar Ray

Snowflake is in the jacket with the girls in their shelter.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

It has been a "Bang" of a start for the New Year

Sometimes living and working in N. MI can be a challenge. We love it here, but there are days, I think living on a sailboat in the tropics, would be a lot easier.  We have had a lot of problems these last two days. Yes, we do expect to have very cold weather  and snow, but it seems it has just been so much of it this winter. 
Friday morning, our temperature was this when we went outside to do chores.

We decided to drive the Blazer down to the barnyard with two 6 gallon jugs of warm water for the animals. As I was driving up the driveway, I slipped into the ditch alongside of the drive. My 4 wheel drive would not engage, so I was stuck. 
Gary & I decided to leave it there for the moment and to continue with the chores & checking on the animals. He would bring the tractor down later and pull it out. After chores we walked back to the house. While we were in the house, we heard a big bang and then a pop! One of the large windows in our house had broken.

This bird had flown into it and broke it's neck!
So I had to make a few phone calls to get that replaced. In the mean time my husband left for town to deliver eggs and do some work at his customers. When he arrived home later that day, we went to get the Blazer out of the ditch. He turned the corner and his tire rolled off of it's rim on the tractor!
Now we have to get the tire fixed! So we decided to continue with the chores, go back to the house and call it a day.  After all tomorrow would be a better day.

Now it is Saturday morning. The plan was to get the chores done and for Gary to take the rim and tire off to get it fixed at a business in Rogers City that closed by noon.
So we get to the barnyard and find Sir Prize, one of my first male Alpacas down on his side. It looks like he slipped on the snow and ice. He just couldn't get back up. He has some arthritis in his back legs. So we managed to get him into a shelter and under a heat lamp, and throw an old sleeping bag over him to quickly warm him up.  We fed him his grain, hay and water right there. He literally was served breakfast in bed. He seems to have hurt one of his legs in the fall. We are keeping him there resting for now. So we continue with the chores. After the chores are done. Gary takes the tire off of the tractor and puts it into the back of the truck. He has an hour to get it there, which will take about 20 minutes to drive to Rogers City.  So he left. I went back to check on Sir and he was on his side again from trying to get up. I couldn't get him rolled back up and cushed. I called Gary on his cell to come back and help me. Gary had not gotten far as he was still on our private road. He started to back up and his truck hit a patch of ice and now he was stuck in the ditch! He came walking up the drive to the barnyard grumbling something I should not repeat here on the blog. Here is a pic of the end of the drive with broken down and stuck vehicles!
Gary & I get Sir situated again. He grabs a shovel and he tries to get the truck out. No luck. So I decide to call our good neighbors Mark & Sherry. Of course Mark comes with his tractor and pulls both of the vehicles out for us. They referred a man here in Ocqueoc who fixes tractor tires on your farm. So I called him and he came right over. He wanted to warm up the tire to fix it and he took the tire back to his place and delivered it when it was done. What good local service and wonderful neighbors. Another reason we love living  in the country. Everyone helps each other. I hope this is the end of things breaking down, Alpacas falling, and us getting stuck in the snow! Now I need to get the 4 wheel drive fixed on the Blazer.
Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Yet another winter snow storm

Santa and his reindeer should have no problem delivering presents Christmas Eve here in Northern Michigan. We have about 2 & 1/2 feet of snow on the ground, and it is still snowing. Doing chores in this weather can be trying. Gary & I go outside no matter what the weather, to take care of them.  We find things like this poor chicken that we rescued from being buried alive in the snow.
I think she was rather happy to see us.
Our Maremma Sheepdogs have two coats of fur and do really well in the snowstorms. They all have dog houses to cuddle up in and stay warm. This pic is Meadows condo.
The next pic is of Meadow trying to catch a mouse under the snow.
The snow has piled up against the girls fence. We will have to try and move the fence feeders. 
As you can see, the Alpacas fiber keeps them warm and dry underneath all of the snow.
I also wear my Alpaca's fiber to protect me from the winter elements. I spun and knitted this ski mask from Thumper's fiber. 
Well tomorrow will be another day of "digging out" of the snow. N. MI is truly a winter wonderland.



Sunday, December 15, 2013

Snow, snow & more snow

Here it is Dec 15th. Not officially winter yet! We have over a foot of snow on the ground. Below normal temps with wind chills below 0. This cold weather came so fast, there seemed to be no time to adjust to it. I know the rest of the nation has been dealing with the arctic cold and snowstorms too. We have lost a lot of our old chickens. They just don't do well in cold weather. We also have lost two of our older Alpaca gals. They were a part of our original Alpaca herd purchase.   R.I.P. Abbey & Plum. We now have added Probiotics to all of the Alpaca & goats daily diet. Along with their grain, minerals & hay. Next we will start growing fodder to supplement their diets. Hopefully this will keep the rest of the herd healthy through winter. I have some pics I took today of the Alpacas & snow. Enjoy! 


The gals
The two crias

The guys with Gary trying to clean the snow out of the fence feeders.
Meadow one of our Maremma Sheepdogs. She doesn't mind all of the snow.