April 30, 2010

Fiber Fun Friday -- Organizing and Sewing

I'm sure you're asking, what does organizing and sewing have to do with fiber? Well, let me tell you.

It's been ages since I was anywhere near my sewing machine. Actually, the last time I was using it was for Christmas projects. All the fiber, yarn and spinning has taken up my time.

I decided I needed a brief change. I pulled out the machine and dusted the layers and layers of dust off. I have tons of projects that have been sitting in the closet waiting for me to find the time, so what to start with...

Well, it's got to fiber related, right? I found the perfect project. A knitting needle case. What better way to organize than with a cool case. I have a serious problem keeping track of knitting needles. I swear they are in every room and never where they are supposed to be. I am constantly buying more because I can't find the right ones.

Problem solved! In just an afternoon I made up this cute little case and now my needles have a home. Now where to put the case so I can find it later??

April 29, 2010

Recipe of the week -- Chicken Broccoli Pizza

Earlier this week an interesting thing occurred. While eating lunch on Monday, the kids asked if their lunch was going to be featured as the "recipe of the week". I already had another recipe in mind so I told them no.

Of course, being their momma's kids, they were not going to take no for an answer.

As the day went on, they added several recipes to their list of possibilities and debated the merits of each. It was actually quite amusing to listen too.

Needless to say, they won. Their lunch is now the recipe of the week.

Obviously kid friendly and super easy, it uses items that normally hang out in the freezer. Nothing fancy, just really yummy.

Chicken and Broccoli Pizza

1 frozen cheese pizza (we typically use a 4-cheese type pizza, but any kind will do)
12 or so frozen, fully cooked chicken nuggets
1 cup frozen broccoli piecesRanch dressing
Mozzarella cheese

Microwave chicken nuggets just long enough to thaw them, about 1 minute. Cut into bite-size chunks. Place chicken chunks and broccoli pieces on top of frozen pizza.

Pour about 2 tbls. Ranch dressing over pizza. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top (use as much as you want, but remember that too much cheese and the pizza doesn't cook right)

Bake pizza according to package directions. Enjoy!

April 28, 2010

Santchez Takes a Field Trip

It was a bright, sunny afternoon and the boys were out enjoying their brand new spring green pasture. Santchez and Jack were hanging out by the gate debating over the quality of grass on the other side.

"It must be better," Jack insisted. "They're keeping it all to themselves!"

"It's the same grass, Jack." Santchez said. "Just eat whats in front of you." Jack rolled his eyes and stuck his head through the gate anyway.

Suddenly, the great red monster pulled up to the barn. "FOOD!" The pacas yelled. The only time the great red monster came to the barn was to deliver new bags of food. Immediately they all took off for the barn in hopes of having a afternoon snack.

But there wasn't a snack waiting for them, it was the tall one. The tall one had one of those thingies that traps your head. "Run!" They shouted, but it was too late. The door had been closed behind them.

"Who is it for?" They questioned.

"Oh, please, not me." said Beau. "I just spent an entire weekend wearing that thing in some weird smelling, cold place."

"Not me!" said Dragonrider as he hid in the corner.

"I will." said Long Shot as the others stared at him. "What? It normally comes with treats."

"Look, he's going after Santchez." Jack said. The tall one had Santchez and was putting the thing on his head.

"If you get a treat, save some for us."

The others watched as Santchez walked out of the stall and down the hallway.

Now Santchez wasn't at all bothered by being led by the tall one. He trusted him and figured whatever was about to happen had to be more exciting then debating with Jack about the grass.

He was a little unsure about the great red monster, but the tall one encouraged him to get in, so in he went. Being an old pro at going places, he immediately took a seat and settled in for the ride.

Eventually the great red monster stopped and the tall one got out. "I wonder where I am?" thought Santchez.

The tall one opened the door and Santchez hopped out. "What kind of place is this?" he wondered. "There are no other pacas. Where are the pacas?? Where have you taken me?"

The tall one led him to a great door. This door opened by itself! Together they walked in and everywhere he looked there were people, but still no pacas. What could this place be?

As they walked people began looking at him. "Hey, I'm the only paca here! That makes me important!" said Santchez.
So people could see better, Santchez stopped and stood proudly. They began petting him and scratching under his chin. "Oh man, that feels good." said Santchez. "I can never reach that spot."

As the people scratched him, he could hear them talk to the tall one. Most of it he tuned out, but suddenly one question caught his attention. "Do you eat them?" he heard. "Eat ME?!?! NO!!" The tall one calmly answered "No. We don't eat them. We raise them for their beautiful fiber."

Santchez sighed. "Thank goodness. I was really worried for a minute."

The tall one and Santchez continued their walk through the people building. As they neared the exit, they stopped again. This time by something called paint. "Paint? Is that the stuff that colors the walls? If it is, I want blue this time." Santchez said to the tall one.

A few more pets and scratches and they were back to the great red monster. "Time to go?" asked Santchez. The tall one opened the door and in Santchez went.

"Whatever kind of people house you are, I'll miss you!" shouted Santchez. "I'll be back when that spot itches again!"

The ride home was quick and in no time Santchez was back in his stall. The other boys came running up asking questions so fast Santchez couldn't make them out.

Walking slowly back out to the green pasture, Santchez said, "You will never guess where I just was...."

April 26, 2010

Movin' On Out

The alpacas are moving out...out of the barn that is and into their newly green pastures. Can you tell they were excited?

April 25, 2010

Baby Chick Poem

While reading through her reading text today, Micaela found this cute little poem. Now why she was doing school work on Sunday I don't know, but I AM NOT complaining. If only the other 2 did their school work with such enthusiasm.

This poem seems especially appropriate with Spring here and all the little chicks arriving around us.

Baby Chick
- by Aileen Fisher


on the warm brown egg.
OUT comes a neck.
OUT comes a leg.

a chick,

who's not been about,
discover the trick
of how to get out?

April 23, 2010

Fiber Fun Friday -- Sharing the Fun

There has been a lot of fibery fun here at the farm lately. Tons of sorting, carding, dyeing and spinning. We've decided it's high time we shared all the fun with you.

I have spent the week adding our hand made items to our Etsy shop. There are rovings, yarn and soaps. It's nowhere near all of what we have, but I only have so much time. I'll be listing our handspun yarns next.

We've have also published our summer class list. These are classes here at the farm on dyeing, spinning and such. The class list and sign up form can be found on our website under farm events.

So, as you can see, there are lots of ways we can share the fiber fun with you. I'm really looking forward to our first class, Dyeing Fiber 101 in May. Hope to see you there!

April 22, 2010

Curious Alpaca Girls

We were out doing barn chores and I thought I'd take some pics. The girls kept getting in the way though. They love the camera!

Recipe - Bacon Ranch Potato Salad

I had a request today for my potato salad. I have several recipes, but this is by far my fave. I love using red potatoes and leaving the skin on because...I HATE PEELING POTATOES!!!

Sorry, that was a little much, but honestly, the only thing I don't like about cooking is the peeling. I either find someone else to do it or use red potatoes and leave the skin on. Besides, aren't they more nutritious with the skin on?

This is always a hit wherever I take it and I can't decide if it's better warm or cold. It's really good warm, right after it's made, but the flavors have time to blend well if it goes in the fridge. I guess I'll just have to eat it both ways. :o)

Bacon Ranch Potato Salad

2 1/4 lbs. red potatoes (about 8 med)
1/2 lb. sliced bacon, diced
1/2 cup chopped green onion
2 tsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. celery seed
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 cup mayo


  1. Place potatoes in a dutch oven and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook for 20-25 minutes or until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon to paper towels. Drain, reserving 2 tbls. of the drippings.
  3. Drain potatoes. When cool enough to handle, cut into cubes. Place in a large bowl. Add the onion, vinegar, celery seed, salt, pepper, bacon and reserved drippings; toss gently. Cool to room temperature. Fold in mayo. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

April 20, 2010

Recipe of the week -- Waffles

Yum, yum, yum.

Is there anything better than waffles?? They are better than cake, better than ice cream and you can have them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They are also the perfect go-to meal when you don't feel much like cooking (yes, even I don't feel like cooking sometimes).

Tonight was one of those times. Faster than you can say "dinner!", I had whipped up a batch of these and was serving them to the kiddos.

It's a super easy recipe. The only catch is you have to have a waffle iron.


2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cup flour

In a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil and eggs until blended. Add remaining ingredients and whisk until smooth.

Cook waffle batter in a waffle iron according to the manufacturer's directions.

The Chicks are Here!!!

The chicks are here....Whoohoo!!

Oh how I have missed farm fresh eggs. Having the chicks here gets me that much closer. They are about 4 weeks old, so in about 3 or 4 months they'll start laying eggs.

Some of you heard of our chicken massacres, but for those of you that haven't....we had a flock of chickens that was getting picked off one at a time by raccoons. Even after getting rid of 12 raccoons in one night (another story all it's own) we were still having a problem.

The final straw was when the raccoon actually chewed it's way into the coop through the wall. I mean, seriously, was there no other food anywhere??

The last few chickens went into the freezer to spare them a horrible ending and we cleaned the coop out. It stayed empty over the winter and is now ready to fill again. We're keeping our fingers crossed that we're over our bad raccoon luck and hopefully these cute little chicks will become valued producers on our farm.

April 19, 2010

Spinning....the Zen way

Spinning yarn is an art form.

It is an art form that has mastered me instead of me mastering it.

I really enjoy sitting down and spinning. I can do this while watching a movie, TV or just hanging out with the kiddos. I have one problem though. I can't seem to make this darn fiber do what I want. It has a mind of it's own. I card a fiber with plans to spin it into something and always end up with something else.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, just somewhat annoying.

For example....I just spun a white fleece from our boy Jack. I've been stuck in a worsted weight rut. Everything comes out the same. I wanted to spin this white fleece into a chunky yarn. Didn't happen. Instead I got the most beautiful fingering weight yarn. It's the thinnest thing I have ever spun (that stayed together). I'm sure if I had tried to do this purposely it wouldn't have worked.


I'm about ready to give up since all these fleeces seem to know better than I what they should be.

So here is my new spinning philosophy. What will be, will be. I'll be happy with whatever yarn I get because it's probably better than anything I thought of and maybe someday I'll have a turn at being master of the wheel instead of the fiber winning over.

P.S. The fleece I spun after Jack demanded it be chunky. Go figure. :o)

April 18, 2010

Open House at Amazin' Grazin' Alpacas


What a weekend.

After working like maniacs for the last couple weeks, we were finally ready to attend the open house at Amazin' Grazin' Alpaca Ranch. Unfortunately I forgot the camera so there's no pics. Sorry!

Amazin' Grazin' is in Schoolcraft, MI. They are actually the farm where we bought our very first breeding female, Sally.

Yesterday was their shearing day and they had an open house to celebrate the day. The sun was shining, but that was all that was good about the weather. It was cold and WINDY!! Despite the weather, there were lots and lots of people that showed up.

We brought our dyes and fiber, plus all the yarns and rovings that we'd done up. We also were demonstrating drum carding and how the fiber got from animal to spinning wheel. Everyone was so fascinated by that drum carder. I had many requests to pose with it. (I hate having my pic taken so this was especially difficult, but I did it with a smile)

We sold a few skeins of yarn, some fiber and even a few felted soaps. The remaining items are slowly working their way onto our etsy site.

The highlight of the day was when a huge gust of wind came along and ripped the shade tents out of the ground, stakes and all. It sent them flying like they were kites, startling everyone. Only minor damage at least. They were a little bent, but still usable.

I was sooo tired from battling the wind and the lack of sleep over the last week that by dinner I was passed out on the couch. Still a good day though and I can't wait to do it again.

April 15, 2010

Spring Flowers

We are enjoying an absolutely wonderful 80* today. I have the entire house opened up to let the warm, yummy breeze in and to help remove that winter, closed up house smell.

Breathe in....Breathe out

Smells sooooo good and Springy.

We walked around with the camera looking for flowers that had made an appearance. We found quite a few.

April 14, 2010

An Alpaca Entrepreneur is Born

I love it when I can sneak a school lesson in without the kids really noticing.

Lizzie has been watching me all week, working my tail off to get product ready for an open house we are going to this weekend. I've been spinning, dyeing, washing, skirting....well, you get the picture.

Anyway, she's been watching all this and listening to us talk about selling these things and making money. Today she came to me and asked if she could make something out of alpaca and sell it to also make money (she's saving for an American Girl doll).

That little light bulb appeared over my head and I said sure, how much money do you want to make?

Her answer, of course, was $100 (the price of the doll).

This conversation went on for a bit as I asked what she was going to make, what she was going to sell it for, how much were supplies and how many would she have to sell to make her goal?

Now we have a sneaky math lesson. :o)

She decided on crocheting key chains out of alpaca yarn. I had her make a prototype and then take it apart to see how many yards were used in her project.

Then, after she knew how many yards were used, I had her do the math and see how many she could make out of a skein of yarn. Then divide to see how much each would cost to make based on the price of the skein.

I asked her how much she was going to sell each for now that she knew what they would cost to make. She quoted a price and then figured out her net profit based on the sales price.

The look on her face when she had figured out how many she would have to sell to get her 100 was priceless. She was dancing and screaming, I'd only have to sell 60!

Got to love her enthusiasm!

Now she's off getting started on her projects and I'm sitting here grinning at the math lesson I just gave her and there was no crying involved at all. :o)

April 13, 2010

Recipe of the week -- Dressed-Up Burger Sauce

Ever had a boring burger?

Are you unenthusiastic about plain ketchup or mustard?

I'm a firm believer in good condiments and this sauce makes a boring burger great! We normally have this on burgers with bacon and cheese. Whole wheat buns are also a good accompaniment.

I've made this sauce for many years and it has always gotten compliments. The original recipe is rather large (12 burgers), but I have reduced it to a more small family size (4 burgers).

Dressed-Up Burger Sauce - original

3/4 cup mayo
3 tbls. sweet pickle relish
3 tbls. ketchup
1 tbls. sugar
1 tbls. dried onion

Dressed-Up Burger Sauce - small family size

1/4 cup mayo
1 tbls. sweey pickle relish
1 tbls. ketchup
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. dried onion

In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients until well blended. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

April 09, 2010

Fiber Fun Friday -- Hand Painting Sock Yarn

Ok, we all know I love color and we know that I love dyeing, but every time I try a new dyeing technique I love it all even more!

This week's experiment was hand painting yarn.

I recently bought 4 skeins of merino/bamboo sock yarn. It's so shiny and soft and wow! Very nice yarn. It was so nice in fact that I was mildly terrified to even think about dyeing it.

I got over the jitters and grabbed my absolute fave book for directions.

After soaking the skeins for a few hours, I covered the counter with plastic wrap and laid one skein out. Using little sponge brushes I painted the dye onto the yarn being careful not to overlap the colors. It's actually a pretty easy process and not that messy. I did wear latex gloves though, just in case.

After making sure the entire skein was colored, I sprayed it with my acid water (water and citric acid mixed to a 3.7ph) I sealed it in the plastic wrap and rolled it up into a bundle.

I put a pie plate in the bottom of my dye pot and put about an inch and a half of water in the bottom (you don't want the water to touch the yarn packet).

I set the yarn on top of the pie plate and proceeded to steam the packet for 45 minutes, flipping it over about half way through.

After the yarn cooled, I opened it up, gave it a quick rinse and hung it to dry.

This was by far the least messy dyeing process I've tried and it used little water. Actually, it was so easy that I might even let the kiddos dye a skein this way. Who knows what fun color choices they may come up with.

This is the first skein I painted.
I had so much fun, I had to do it again so these are the other 3 still in the process of drying.

April 08, 2010

4-H Decoupage Project

We've recently joined a 4-H group!! How exciting is that? The kids are now constantly thinking of projects they can put in the county fair this summer.

Today's project was decoupaging. Does anyone else think that word looks weird?

The kids were pasting pictures onto flower pots. It may seem an odd item for a kid to decoupage, but I suggested they use the pots to hold school items, toys or craft supplies. They were cool with that.

I cut apart about 2 years worth of old Mother Earth News magazines for their pictures. Lizzie's pot had only pics of things you could eat (very inventive!), Micaela used "pretty" pictures and Nick (being ALL boy) used pics of tractors, 4 wheelers and bugs.

April 06, 2010

Recipe of the week -- Sloppy Joes

No offense to you convenience cooks, but sloppy joes out of a can are not that appetizing. Homemade sloppy joes can be made just as quickly, require few ingredients and just taste better.

Sloppy Joes are my go-to meal, especially in the summer. They go with anything and are so easy.

I was feeling rather summery with the 70* weather we've been enjoying so I cooked up some of these last night. We enjoyed them with baked beans and baby carrots.

Sloppy Joes

1 lb. ground beef
1 small onion, diced
1 cup ketchup or chili sauce
1 tbls. yellow mustard
1 tbls. brown sugar
1 tbls. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, brown beef and onion until beef is no longer pink.

Add remaining ingredients. Cover pan; simmer on low for 1/2 hour.

Can it get any easier than this?? These also work really well in the crockpot. Fix them up in the morning and by dinner you have sloppy joes with little work.

April 05, 2010

Alpaca Shows and the Economy

We all know the economy stinks, right? We all know that making the money we need for our businesses and families to survive is really tough, right? Than why would you screw up an opportunity to market yourself? Let me explain....

The alpaca market, just like everything else in America is experiencing a hard time. Selling our animals and selling ourselves has become somewhat cutthroat because there are fewer buyers. But it is a buyers market now and new buyers are realizing it. So many new farms have popped up just in the last year. They are getting their alpacas from somewhere.

Our farms are not the only thing hurting though. Our alpaca shows are having a rough time too.

We attended the Indiana Alpaca Invitational this past weekend. I haven't attended a lot of shows in my time as an alpaca owner, but this one is by far my favorite. Lots of farms, lots of vendors and lots of fun. It's normally a level V (the biggest class of show). In 2008 there were 1100 alpacas, in 2009 900 alpacas attended. This year there were 600...about half the size from just 2 years ago.

When you have to cut expenses, the extras are the first to go and shows are usually considered extra. There is nothing wrong with that, if that's what you need to do. In fact, this is the only show we are attending this year.

The thing is, if you are going to go, make it count.

As much as I love shows, I was really disappointed with this one. It had nothing to do with the organizers, the facility, or the number of alpacas there. It had everything to do with the farms that came.

Shows are as much an outlet to get feedback on your alpacas as they are a place to market yourself. It seems people have forgotten that. In times as tough as this you should take advantage of every opportunity you have, not blow it because you have better things to do.

For example, there was a farm stalled near us that left early in the afternoon on Friday (the first day of the show). They were done showing the animals they brought so off they went. They had paid for the stall space and could have used that extra day to talk to people, show what they had to offer and possible make a sale or the possibility of a future sale.

There wasn't a lot of public coming through on Friday, I'm sure because people were working, but when Saturday came around there were dozens of people coming through by 10am. By noon, we had talked to a lot of the general public, all of them interested in some aspect of alpacas. That was why they were here after all.

By noon though, many farms, including the large sponsors, had packed up and left or were in the process of packing up. What does that say to the public about our industry? These people took their Saturday to come see alpacas at a show that was supposed to run until 3pm. If I had come to an alpaca show for the first time and walked in to see everyone packing up, I would think that I had wasted my money and my time. I also might think that alpacas aren't something I want to get involved in.

In an industry that needs every sale and dollar it can get, why would you walk out on a chance to make yourself available to someone interested in alpaca? You have a captive audience at a show. They are there to learn about alpaca.

By the end of the show I was actually embarrassed to still be standing there because suddenly the show seemed completely unprofessional. Why should the public take us seriously if we don't take our shows seriously?

April 04, 2010

Indiana Alpaca Invitational 2010

Show's over.....thank goodness.

I was soooo tired by the time we got home last night that I was asleep at 9pm and slept 'til just after 8. That's 11 hours of sleep. I never sleep that long and normally the thought of going to bed at 9pm would just make me laugh. I needed it I guess. As much fun as the weekend was, it was exhausting.

We attended the Indiana Alpaca Invitational in Fort Wayne this weekend. In respect for the Easter holiday, the show was held on Friday and Saturday instead of the usual Sat & Sun. Kind of weird because we were constantly calling Friday "Saturday" and Saturday "Sunday". It was a little confusing.

By the way, the Memorial Coliseum is awesome! (Yes, this is the same place the Nationals conference will be in May)

We left our farm on Thursday afternoon and traveled about an hour and a half south to get to Fort Wayne, IN. Absolutely beautiful weather. So nice in fact, it seemed like an April Fool's joke. Who would think that the first day of April it would be 80*? Not complaining at all. Nice weather meant nice looking and smelling alpacas. (Smelling was very important since the pacas rode inside our Explorer for the trip).

We took our little baby Dragonrider and our up and coming herdsire Beau Jangles.

This show had, by far, the most organized check-in. We got thru everything super fast and in no time we were setting up our stall. We were so excited to find out we were stalled right next to some friends of ours, Eric and Julia Young of Perfectress Ranch. It always nice to go through the anticipation and nerves with friends.

The animals remaining at home needed our attention too so when we were done setting up our stall it was back home for us. We pulled in after dark, did all of our evening chores then it was off to bed because the evil alarm was going to get us up at 5:30am. Yuck! :( I am NOT a morning person.

We managed to get up, get morning chores done and be on the road by 6:15. I'm still wondering how we actually managed to do that. It's all a blur.

Friday morning we showed Dragonrider. He is a 8 month old true black suri. He took 5th. The judge loved his density, fineness and luster, but thought he was a little small. He did say he would really like to see him again. Smallness can be fixed with a little more time to grow. Fiber characteristics can't really be fixed so I'm really happy with the judge's comments and we will let Dragon grow some more over the summer before we show him again.

Dragonrider showed really early in the day so we were able to spend the rest of the day visiting vendors and other farm booths. We saw a lot of friends and farms we knew and we also met some new farms that we may work with at some point in the future.

Friday was a lot of fun and the weather once again was an awesome 80* and sunny.

On Saturday there was a lot more people visiting the show. We passed out tons of business cards, brochures and stuff and talked a LOT. I'm not sure I sat down at all on Saturday. Come to think of it, that might explain why my legs and feet hurt so much. :o)

We had to wait all day before it was time to show Beau. He was patient though and took a second in his class. The judge had only good things to say. The boy that took first was just a little more and fully deserved that first place. It was a little funny when the judge was checking his fleece, he stuck his hand in and immediately went crazy for how soft his fleece was. After judging alpacas for 2 days straight and sticking his hands in every fleece there, he gushed over Beau's softness. That says a lot to me. I will happily take that red ribbon.

Did I mention I entered the photo contest they had? Anybody that knows me won't be at all surprised by that. I've been accused of being glued to my camera many, many times.

I entered 4 photos and 3 won ribbons. YEAH!! I got 1 first place and 2 seconds. I was actually more excited about the photos winning the alpacas. Maybe it's because I already know my pacas are award worthy? :o)

All in all, a very good weekend. Awesome pacas, awesome weather and great friends. Thanks to everyone that made this weekend possible for us!


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