Growth

The lambs are still growing like weeds! And that’s saying something; the weeds around here are growing at astronomical rates. The sheep clearly aren’t eating the weeds fast enough. They need to eat more grass and take fewer naps.

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The view from the back porch, showing the growing sheep, the growing jungle pasture, and the growing barn-to-be, which will hopefully be finished by the time next year’s lambs arrive. Next year’s lambs for which I have done almost no planning. I’m still recovering from this lambing season, I’m not ready to start planning next year yet.

Rotate 90 degrees to the left, and the view changes considerably.

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“I brought you my frisbee! Play with me! Play play play!”

Watcher is happy that Mira has moved out, because now he gets a lot more attention and play time. Frisbee is his favorite game, but he won’t go get the frisbee if it lands too close to the OuchyZappyFence. He had an unfortunate experience a few weeks ago when he tried to mark the electric fence, and now he won’t go anywhere near it. I’m sure he’ll lose his excess caution eventually, but for now he has to put up with me snickering at him every time he pointedly stays very far away from the fence.

Little John ate a crunchy treat from my hand the other day, making him the first (and so far only) one of this year’s boys to do so. He was very enthusiastic about the whole idea, but he’s a bit confused about what crunchies actually are and thinks I’m what he took a bite of. Now every time I crouch down to give Mira her bottle, Johnny comes running up and starts gnawing on my arms, my clothes, my fingers, anything he can reach. Hopefully he gets that misconception cleared up quickly; even though sheep don’t have upper incisors, being repeatedly bitten by one doesn’t feel good.

The Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival was last weekend, and it was a lot of fun as usual. I told myself very firmly to stay away from the fleeces, as I had plenty of fleeces at home. Then I saw a vendor selling beautiful naturally colored alpaca fleeces, and I suddenly realised that alpaca fleeces are not at all the same thing as sheep fleeces, and I had no alpaca fleeces at all, which of course meant I needed to buy one. The fiber collection is growing to keep pace with the lambs and the weeds and the barn and the number of sheep bites reported to farm management.

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My camera setting were incorrect when I took the picture; the fleece is actually very dark, about the color of fancy dark chocolate. The fleece has about a 4-5″ staple length, and weighs 1lb 9oz. It’s from a Huacaya alpaca, which means it’s the crimpy, soft fiber type as opposed to Suri alpaca, which is the long, silky type. I keep running into very strong opposing opinions about whether or not the spinnable stuff grown by alpacas should be called wool, so for now I’m just calling it alpaca fiber.

I’ve never processed or spun alpaca fiber before, so this should be an adventure. I’ve made things from alpaca yarn before and loved it, but commercial alpaca yarn is far outside my crafting budget most of the time. If I can process and spin it myself with a reasonable degree of success, I’ll be able to feed several fiber hobbies at once with less cash investment, which will make me very happy. I won’t be able to do anything with it until I’m finished combing Liam’s fleece, but I enjoy looking at it in the meantime, and since my arm has finally quit hurting Liam’s fleece shouldn’t take me too much longer.

Now I must sally forth and exhaustively research how one goes about processing alpaca fiber as opposed to sheep wool.

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13 thoughts on “Growth

  1. I love seeing all those sheep in the field!!
    The Alpaca is gorgeous. Such a rich color. Will you be blending it with Liam’s fleece?

    • I don’t think Liam’s white wool would blend well color-wise with the dark alpaca. I would consider at least sampling a blend if I had a really dark wool fleece on hand, but unfortunately I don’t. Barney’s lamb fleece would have been ideal; it was just a shade lighter/redder than this one, but I don’t have enough of that fleece left and now he’s gone cinnamon-and-sugar colored on me.

      I’m ok with spinning it as it is; I’ve used 100% alpaca yarn before and it’s gorgeous as long as you bear in mind that alpaca drapes differently than wool and choose a pattern appropriate for the yarn.

  2. They are growing ~ a good thing! Can’t wsit to hear how spinning alpaca goes. It seems like it would be slicky, but I have no idea. Pictures please!

  3. Dear Sarah,
    Ooh, super-nice alpaca! Processing it is straightforward. Packs don’t have much lanolin, and little cm. If you want to spin worsted you can take a lock and flick it to shake out dust and fan out the fibers, then spin it right off the lock. Or, flick the locks and then card a few locks together into rolags. After you spin the fiber you can wash it per normal to clean it and set the twist.

    I couldn’t resist the alpaca fleece, either, and came home with several ounces of a gorgeous golden suri to test in rya weaving. The farm was from Richmond and we want to visit! Despite the rain the festival was great fun.

    Very best,
    Natalie

  4. Alpaca is mostly dusty…they like dust baths 🙂 No lanolin. Lovely colour and it is soft stuff.
    Watcher is NO dummy………OUCH

  5. Hi – I spin a lot of alpaca fleece and help out a friend who has an alpaca farm. Alpaca fiber is hollow- it has air in the shaft. Wool is solid. So alpaca is not wool – it is more hair-like. I call the unprocessed alpaca fiber fleece and the yarn made from it alpaca, a practice I learned from alpaca farmers.

    You found a gorgeous fleece. It doesn’t have lanolin, so you won’t need to use extremely hot water to wash it. Also, don’t be worried the first time you wash it. The fiber gets very flat. I thought I had ruined my first batch, thinking it looked so awful wet. Fortunately, the fiber fluffs up as it dries and is pure pleasure to handle. Enjoy.

      • I usually card the fleece. It could be combed if it is long enough and not too fine. Testing it should give you an idea of how to work with it. You could also spin it in the cloud without carding or combing if it flows easily. It makes a more textured yarn that can keep any color variations that way. Let me know if you have any other questions.

  6. That is a gorgeous alpaca fleece! Huacaya is pretty easy to spin without any preprocessing whatsoever. The one thing that usually throws people used to wool is that it can be pretty slippery. But not any more so than an extra fine merino, I think. Just needs a slightly higher tension for quicker uptake and more twist. And not washing it first actually makes it easier to spin. So long as there isn’t copious amounts of VM or other yuckies (which there doesn’t appear to be), anyway.

    I spin mostly suri fiber since that’s what I own, so huacaya is a walk in the park now compared to that! 😛

    • The fleece really is remarkably clean. So far I’ve tried spinning from the lock and spinning from a carded rolag, and I’m not sure which I like. I tried combing, but the fiber was much too fine.

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