Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Happy 12-12-12

I know I have neglected the blog. I am so sorry. Life just seems to get in the way and something has to give, which ends up being the poor blog.  I do try to post pics on both the ranch's Facebook page and on the Twitter feed. So if you follow us there, at least you get to see some cute pics. 

To get everyone caught up of what we have been doing... well we had a few more visitors this fall.

Melissa Fleis, finalist on this season's Project Runway.  For those of you who do not watch this show, it is about designers competing to win a lot of money, equipment, and publicity to start their own clothing lines. The 3 finalist of the show, get to show a collection at fashion week in N.Y.C. Meilissa Fleis is from Rogers City, MI. She resides in San Francisco.  She came "home" after the show and was honored by her hometown.  We invited her to meet us and the alpacas here at the ranch. Her and her family came out for the afternoon. It was a lot of fun and we really enjoyed their visit.
Melissa meeting Thing 2

We also had some fun with the Girl Scouts from Rogers City. The troop came out to the ranch to meet and learn all about Alpacas.
Girl Scouts feeding grain to Abby
Then a couple of weeks later I attended one of their troop meetings at the Rogers City High School. We did a fun project of felting soap with the alpaca fiber. After they were done with felting the soap, they even created Alpaca Soap commercials and performed them for me. What a "hoot".  Well done girls!  I really enjoyed it.
Girls Scouts hard at work felting their soap
I have been busy with all aspects of the fiber side of the business. I belong to spinning and weaving guilds. So I clean and card fleece for them to spin,  I also am filling orders for fleece, yarns, and finished projects. I am working on knitting an alpaca jacket, that I hope to get done soon as it is a Xmas present.  I have towels on on of my looms that I need to finish.  I did finish my alpaca felted slippers. I did a post about this project when my spinning guild visited the ranch. Here is a picture of my slippers.
Felted Slippers
Now we are finishing up anything that needs to be done outside, since our winter is starting here in Northern Michigan. It seems we are never fully prepared, but we do try.  I surely cannot end this post without a picture of some of our alpacas. Everyone take care and I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday season.
Good Bye

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fall is a busy time at the ranch.

I haven't posted much as I have been very busy.  I have been processing our Alpaca fiber (washing, carding and spinning).  I also have done 2 arts & craft shows this fall.  I am now busy trying to restock inventory.

Green tomatoes
We also have been putting the garden to rest. I had to bring in green tomatoes as we had an early frost that killed the plants.  I ripened them in a container in our house and of course this weekend they were ready to be processed. I canned them and also made tomato juice with my juicer. We still have some left that are ripening every day for us to eat. Even though we had a very dry summer and our garden relies on Mother Nature to provide the water, we were able to harvest lettuce, cucumbers, corn, potatoes, onions, zucchini, green peppers, tomatoes and our first attempt for growing mushrooms, we had wine caps. They were delicious.  Most of our beans, peas, and other squash were eaten by the deer.  Next year we will have to put back up the electric fence we once had around the garden. (We used it for the goats this season). We also have our meat chickens and turkeys in the freezer.
Wine Cap Mushrooms
 We have to now work on getting the animals ready for winter. We need to do a herd health check when it is not raining outside. It has rained now for the last 3 days. We have about 5 inches so far. Well, I guess that is better than the "white stuff".  I really am not ready for that.
Rain is coming
This year's crias are growing.  They are adorable.  What have you been doing this fall?

Smile for the camera.

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Fun Day of Handpainting Alpaca Yarn

Glenda & Susan hand painting with Joanne mixing dyes

This past Monday, my weaving guild, Loose Threads, met here at the ranch. We had planned to do hand painting of yarn for warp in our weaving. For anyone that does not know how we do this, we use fiber reactive dyes and literally sponge paint the yarns. Then we cover them with plastic and let them sit and process for 24 hours. We had a potluck lunch after we finished.  I will post a follow up on this project, as some of us will be weaving mobius scarves and others shawls. We all had such a good time, thanks girls.

Patty is busy painting
Sara & Pat hard at work
The yarn drying after rinsing them the next day

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A fun day of spinning at the ranch

Yesterday at the ranch was a day filled with sunshine, warm weather, alpaca fiber, good food, and best of all, spinning alpaca yarn with my good friends from the Sunrise Spinning Guild.

Mary Lou
Kathy & Delta
Gail & Donna
Our guild had planned this event last year. I prepared the batts of Alpaca on my carding machine and drum carder. Each person that attended was given 8 ozs. of the Alpaca batts to spin into yarn.We spread out blankets and rugs to set our spinning wheels on at the barnyard. We watched the Alpacas, goats and chickens while spinning. We plan on knitting slippers to felt with the alpaca yarn that we spun up.  I will have to do a follow up post of every ones slippers when they are completed. Our guild also does a pot luck for our monthly "spin-ins"  The hostess provides the main dish and everyone else brings something to pass, such as salads, breads, desserts. My husband made a beef stew for our main dish. The others brought all kinds of good food to eat. It was delicious. A good time was had by all. Thank you ladies for traveling to spin at the ranch. I know some of you traveled many miles to attend. I had a really fun time with everyone.
Eating lunch under the shade from the carport

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Cria #2 was born this morning

We went out to do our chores this morning and found another surprise. Bella had given birth to a female cria. The cria was already running around in the pen. Bella (mommy) usually gives birth around noon. I guess she decided to have the baby during the cool hours of the morning. Here are some pictures of the new cria. I also have a couple of videos posted to YouTube of the latest cria. Now we have to name them. Any suggestions?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A New Cria Was Born Today

We have been on cria watch this past couple of weeks.  We had a new "mommy" bred this year, so we are not always sure how things will go or how long she will go before giving birth.   Pocahontas was bred to one of our studs named Cyrano. The bred date was 8/20/11.  The average gestation for an Alpaca is 11.5  months. As you can see, she was just under 11 months.   Oh and it is a girl!  She weighs 17 lbs.  So here are the pics when we first went out after the thunderstorm this morning, to do chores and check on all of the critters.  I also posted a couple of videos to YouTube.   One of them is graphic, as it does show her expelling her afterbirth.

It's a girl!
New Mom & Cria

Friday, July 6, 2012

Shearing & haying are finally done

We live in Northern Michigan, so we shear later than the farms south of us, as we usually are cooler here in the north. This year though has been an exception. We have never had so many hot & humid days in the spring. I'm talking high 80s & low 90s!  Our Alpacas were very happy to have their winter coats sheared off.  We did shearing on June 22nd.  Our schedule was changed due to both the shearer having a family emergency and then the weather. The night before our second date for shearing it stormed and our Alpacas decided to cool off in the rain, which of course they were soaked. We cannot shear them when they are wet to their skin. We did finally shear on June 22nd.   We had a really good crew of helpers considering the last minute changes of the date and that it was during the work week.  Thanks everyone, we really appreciate it!
Dave our shearer
Our neighbors bagging the fiber.
Edie holding Cyrano's head & Gary cutting nails.

After shearing on Friday, Gary & I drove to Mackinaw City early Saturday morning to setup my booth for the Arts & Craft show for the weekend. Wow, were we tired after those 3 days.  Then the following week, our neighbors started cutting hay. So we worked on unloading the hay wagons and stacking them in the barn. They also helped us unload when they could. One day that we worked it was over 90 degrees again. Talk about a scorcher! We put up over 600 bales in the barn this year. I'm glad that job is over.  It sure is nice to live in a community, where we all help each other. That is what I most love about living here in rural Northern Michigan. Thanks again everyone.

This weekend (July 7 & 8), I will be at the Dancing Hippo Show in Bearinger Township. It is a show you don't want to miss! So, if you are "up-north" , plan on attending the show. You won't be disappointed. I hear a lot of people complain to me at this show, that it is to hot to think about wearing Alpaca, but this year I have a surprise for all of you. I have something that you can wear that will cool you during this heat wave. So stop my booth to see what it is!  

I promise to try and update my blog more often!  (I admit, I have been slacking). Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Shearing Day -Sunday June 17th

We will be shearing this Sunday starting at 8:00 am.  We always look forward to having volunteers.  It is a great way to learn more about Alpacas and their fiber.  If you are interested, please post a message.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Where did the month of May go?

I can't believe how fast May went by.  I have been busy here at the ranch, planting plants in our new raised beds that Gary has been building.  We have a couple of new kid goats. No crias yet as they are not due until July.  I also have been busy, spinning, weaving and knitting some new Alpaca items for my first show of the season.  If you can stop by the show, it is a wonderful setting, along the shores of Lake Huron.  You can also tour the lighthouse and see a shipwreck on shore.  It is Memorial Day Weekend - Sat. & Sunday from 10:00 - 4:00.  I hope to see you there.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Earth Day

As I was outside today enjoying Earth Day, I started to think about how far my husband and I have come being green.  When we decided to become Alpaca ranchers and move to the country, we said that we would live a "greener" lifestyle and be good stewards of the land.
Compost Piles
Household Compost

As I took out our household compost to the compost piles, I was noticing everything that we have accomplished in becoming green.  We compost all of the alpaca and goats poo, plus all of the old hay and straw. We then use it in our garden and in our raised beds.

Raised Bed

As you can see in the pictures that we have lettuce growing in an old claw footed bathtub inside of our greenhouse, along with some cilantro and other seeds that we are starting for our garden. Our greenhouse was made by my husband for ice fishing.  We no longer use it for ice fishing, so we put it to use being a small greenhouse this spring.

Seed starting

Door to greenhouse

Raising Alpacas is also green. They are good to the land.  They have padded feet, which does not destroy the pastures. They also do not pull the roots up while grazing. They nibble down to the ground and move on.
Alpacas Grazing
We have chickens that free range, eat the bad bugs and spread their natural fertilizer in the pastures. My husband built two chicken coops, one out of straw bales and one from used pallets.  He then covered the pallet building with the blue tarps that they use to store the boats under here in the Great Lakes during the winter. My husband has built a dog house, a tool shed and three goat boxes with old pallets. He used the untreated pallets which are chemical free and safe for the animals.

When we built our house, we installed a corn boiler for heat. We now use a renewable resource (no fossil fuels) for heat and purchase the corn from our farmer neighbors. We also have burned cherry pits and wood pellets.
In the house we purchased new appliances with the high energy efficiency.  I have a washer and dryer, but prefer to use the clothes line for drying the clothes.

We have all CFL light bulbs in the house. We turn off lights as we leave the room. We recycle all of our garbage and take the recyclables to our local transfer station.  We might have one bag of actual garbage per month. That is amazing for us as I remember we use to put out two garbage cans weekly, when we lived in town. Our next project is to run our own bio-diesel fuel in our farm truck.
We do use some solar for our electric fences for the pastures.  We only use head lamps at night when doing chores in the dark. We also have been investigating wind, besides solar power for generating our power.
I also thought about the process that I use to make my handmade Alpaca products.  I spin my yarn on a wheel that I peddle with my feet, knit with my hand knitting needles and weave by hand on floor looms, all of it powered by me!
I really am living a greener lifestyle and enjoy doing it. I want my grandchildren and great grandchildren to be able to enjoy this planet and all of it's natural resources and beauty just as I have.
I'm very proud of how far my husband and I have come in preserving our planet.
Are you helping to preserve our planet?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring is in the Air

It is hard to believe that it is spring already.  We have had some wild weather here in northeast Michigan. It is hard for us not to blog and talk about record breaking weather.  I'm a little late in blogging about the winter storm that we experienced on Sat. March 3rd. We had no power for 12 hours during the storm, but was lucky enough to get ours restored compared to others in the area that were without power for days.
Our Road

Digging out the next day
As you can see in the above pictures, it was a very wet heavy snow. We had at least 18 inches more on top of what we had gotten on Leap Day.  It took my husband hours to plow us out on his tractor. It was very beautiful outside the day after the storm as you can see in the above picture.

Now we have gone from the beautiful winter scene above to mud season here at the ranch. We have been experiencing some very summer like temps. We are running 30 to 40 degrees above our average temperature for this time of year, breaking all kinds of records.  All of that snow melted in two days.  We live on the Ocqueoc River and the alpacas pastures and our property are a part of that watershed.  This means that the open farm fields 3 miles west of our property melted snow runs through our property down to the river.
Water in pastures

Driveway to barnyard

Girls Pen
Other signs that spring is here are the return of all of the song birds, predator birds and of course the Turkey Vultures. I happened to get a picture of one sitting on this old homestead.
Turkey Vulture

Of course spring also means BABIES here on the ranch. Eva our dairy goat is the first one due any day. Look at the girth on this gal. I'm thinking she is going to have triplets again.


I also wanted to share one more picture for this post. I happened to get a good picture of the moon during the day. It was not quite full, but it sure was big and beautiful.
Moon in the daylight!

I will be posting more pictures on our facebook page. Make sure to like us if you haven't already.
Happy Spring everyone!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Leap Day Snow & Ice Storm

I know we have had a mild winter here in North East Michigan, but I think Mother Nature is now trying to play "catch up".  We had snow and freezing rain here yesterday. We now have to "dig out" the alpaca pens so they will be able to walk  and pronk. We have some hard pack snow drifts as you can see in this picture by one of the chicken coops.

Snow Drift

The alpacas do not mind snow, they just don't like deep snow as it is hard for them to walk in.
A few of the girls

As you can see they will cush in the snow and chew their cud. These guys are very content.

Our Maremma guard dogs fair very well in the snow. Meadow loves to sit on top of the snow piles to better watch the barnyard during the day. We have to tie her up in the daytime, as she will not let the mail person drive down our private road to deliver our mail. She will actually sit in the middle of the road and bark at the cars to stop them. We have tried and tried to get her to stop doing this, but she thinks it's part of her job to protect the alpacas, goats and our property.
Pan doesn't mind the snow either. Here is a picture of him being the "gate guardian".
I'm not complaining though as my heart goes out to all of those people who live in the south, where they had those terrible tornadoes yesterday.

Mother nature can paint a beautiful picture.

Well the good news about all of this, is that we should not have another leap year storm for at least 4 more years!  :)