Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Working on it

A few weeks ago, the alpaca boys, along with Strawberry and Pippi, took a little trailer ride over to Seldom Scene Farm for their annual shearing day. When you have as many animals as they have, it's a big day.  I'm grateful that my friend, Lindy, allows me to bring my small herd over for the event. The young men who do the shearing do a tag team effort that is inspiring (and tiring) to watch. They have it down to a science. There are plenty of ways to make yourself useful, while you wait your turn. The sweeping, sorting, labeling and bagging go on non-stop, just to keep up with the shearers. My gang was well behaved this year, with the exception of Pippi, who screamed the whole time she was on the mat! Last year it was Strawberry who did that, most likely because Finn was still a baby and she was upset about being separated. This year, with no baby at her side,  Strawberry was very well mannered and quiet.
The system the shearers use may look a little scary, but it's actually very humane and makes the whole exercise safer for all involved. They lay the animals down on the mats and slip their feet into loops and then stretch them out on their sides. The ropes immobilize the animal and prevent any kicking or rolling around. The whole process is over in a matter of minutes.

 I came home with my precious alpaca fleeces and began washing them as soon as I could. Recently the mill changed it's policy and began asking for washed alpaca fleeces and these were the first I'd ever done. Of course, the sheep fleeces are always washed, but because alpacas have no lanolin, it hadn't been required. Alpacas and llamas are habitual rollers, so there can sometimes be a fair amount dust involved. It turned out to be much easier than I imagined. Getting them dried was the most time consuming part of the whole process. There was not one dry day the whole time!

So, I used a bunch of window screens, set them up all over the studio and spread the fiber out on them to dry. It wasn't pretty or high-tech, but it worked.

Wednesday was my appointment day at Ohio Valley Natural Fibers. I left the farm around 5:30 am, in order to get there when they began their day. The driving conditions were not great because of all the stormy weather and there were plenty of wrecks on the interstate, which slowed me down a lot. It was worth every white-knuckle moment though because my sheep and alpaca fleeces blended beautifully and the roving is a dream to spin. (I was so tired when I got home, around 8 pm, I could hardly carry on a coherent conversation, but I did manage to spin a tiny sample. I just couldn't help myself!

All this frantic activity has been to prepare for the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival. I'll have roving and yarn, a few knitted items and maybe even some lambs to sell at the festival. Of course, Luna and Birdie will be with me (but not for sale-I couldn't bear to sell my own children!) The festival is going to be even bigger and better this year. We've added lots of new fiber vendors, some great classes and more food vendors (yay!). Now all we have to do is hope for good weather! Be sure to come out to Masterson Station Park and join us for a great weekend of fibery fun.

1 comment:

  1. I watched alpaca shearing just this past saturday and was impressed with how fast it really goes. Seems to me you should be able to use the same method with sheep. If I can get some helpers I may try that sometime.