Sunday, March 30, 2008

Alpaca Farm Visit

When I mentioned two weeks ago that we were going to an Alpaca Farm, my friend Judy said "I've never seen an Alpaca!" Well, of course she hasn't, because Judy is blind. However, it sparked the idea that we needed to rectify that! I contacted Jane of Land of Green Ginger Alpacas, where I had spun Alpaca fleece during their National Alpaca Farms Open House in September, to see if we could arrange a farm visit. Jane mentioned that they'd be having another open house today, so we were welcome to come out, and I could even do some spinning! That was perfect, since I had begun spinning a bobbinful of Ginger colored Huacaya Alpaca on my antique Saxony yesterday while at the St Augustine Spin In (I'll post more on that when I get copies of the pictures). So, I hopped in the car (the wheel was already there), and headed off to pick up Judy. For most of the afternoon, I spun, she knitted, we chatted with V who showed up at the same time we did, and had a lovely time. Once the crowds (sometimes 20-30 people at a time!!) left, Jane and Steve went to get two of the boys, put harnesses on them, and brought them out into the yard so Judy could meet them. The first Alpaca she met was Opie - short for Optimus Prime... Here she is just getting to meet him:

Feeling the head and ears to see what his face looked like:

And now down the neck to the back. Opie was VERY patient and SUCH a good boy the entire time he was with Judy. Alpaca are naturally extremely skittish about having their heads and necks touched, because that is how they fight each other, by attacking the neck. So, you can imagine the astonishment while he sat perfectly still:

Judy bent down and touched his legs to see what they were like and he lifted his foot for her without any irritation or stress. Again, their legs are only touched when it's time to trim their hooves, so not a favorite place to be touched. Steve commented that he won't even do that willingly for THEM! Proceeding on, she checked out the tail end of Opie:

And back to the blanket. You notice that hand really digging in to the fleece on his back. A testament to how thick and soft his fleece was!

And back to the neck. See that look on Jane's face? That's utter shock at how amazingly good Opie was with Judy.

Ahhh...and time and again I see in my pictures, Judy kept coming back to that hand buried in Opie's blanket... and yet you can see on his face, he is completely calm and not remotely stressed.

We did visit with a second alpaca... He wasn't quite as keen on the experience as Opie was. While Judy was petting this guy, I gently reached out to touch Opie's blanket and pet him a bit. Even with that simple motion, he shied from me just a little, and seemed somewhat anxious.

After meeting her new friend, Judy came back to pet Opie again. And even though he'd shied from me in the meantime, he was as docile as can be when Judy approached him again!!!

Overall, I would say we both had a WONDERFUL time at the farm. Judy and Opie seem to be fast friends for life! We did try to go in to feed the girls, but they had a lot of attention and quite a few treats throughout the day from the various visitors, so by that time they weren't really having any part of it. So, we'll have to go back again on a day when we can see the girls too!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Final Ravenclaw Quiz

  1. Who loves containers of all sorts? Esmerelda Beanswallow
  2. Who dyed her fingers blue? Lavender Ackerly
  3. Who is related to William Shakespeare? Celestina Cadogan
  4. Who wants to own an alpaca farm? Victoria Black
  5. Who hates carrots? Selina Starfire
  6. Who is from the Muggle town of Bagshot in Surrey? Patonga Pinkstone
  7. Who was searching for radishes in the winter? Madam Ferula McGonagall
  8. Who got a gift certificate to a LYS from a Slytherin boy for Valentine's Day? Cecilia Kettleburn
  9. Who discovered ghosts and house elves drinking tea in the Great Hall at midnight? Ophelia Hopkirk
  10. Who took an extra credit class called Muggle Fantasy Literature? Selina Starflame
  11. Who attended a Muggle music convention? Patonga Pinkstone
  12. Who taught herself to purl backwards? Sera Starfire
  13. Who sports Ravenclaw Spirit socks? Minee Quickspell
  14. Who would like to work in Muggle Relations after graduation? Allitrya Spelling
  15. Whose Mum is named Henrietta? Avada Finch-Fletchley

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

New Spinning Tools

Look what I got in the mail yesterday!!! Spinning tools!! Both items are hand turned, courtesy of Fred. He has an Etsy store, and his wife has a blog.

The first is a spinning wheel hook. Just PERFECT for my antique Saxony wheel! The colors match VERY well. Now I just have to figure out how or where to hang it. The danger is that I can see it as a VERY popular cat toy if I'm not careful...

The second item is what's known as a wool finger. It was used to turn the wheel of the Great Wheel while spinning. Some versions suggest it was to give the spinner additional distance before they had to wind on. Another indicates that it was to prevent oils from the hands from getting on the wood of the wheel. Whatever the purpose, there is documentation dating back to at least the 14th Century of the use of a Wool Finger Luttrell Psalter. This one is a reproduction based on an actual antique.

I love how well the colors match the colors of my wheel! And look at the detailing! I'm not sure if that was the original detailing, or if Fred added the detail based on a photo of my wheel, but it looks GREAT!

Now I REALLY need to get spinning. The frantic cleaning is starting to abate somewhat, although there is still more to be done.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Ooohhh Baby (Alpacas...)

What a Saturday!!

Left the apt at 8:45 to drive up and meet a spinner, C, who was selling a Babe Spinning wheel. We chatted for 15 min and she showed me the basics of the Babe which is in excellent shape. I put it in the car and headed to the Alpaca farm. Got to Southern Oaks Alpacas by 10:03, parked in the end of their neighbor's driveway - it was a LONG drive and the place was for sale, so it appeared vacant. Sat there, window down, enjoying the breeze, the animal sounds, etc, and knitting, for about 45 minutes until everyone else arrived. The location was gorgeous, hidden under old Oak trees, covered in Spanish Moss, breeze sighing through the trees.

We had a lovely time with the alpacas. Their animals are almost ALL Suri alpaca. They had ONE Huacaya alpaca, one llama, a great pyrenees dog... They had several babies as well, most in the 2-3 month old range.

Oh, did I forget to mention the cats? There were at least two, but this one was definitely the hit. I think we took more pictures of this cat than we took of the alpaca!!

What, you can't see the cat? Ok, well, let's let that white alpaca (who happens to share my birthday!!) take a breather and maybe you'll be able to see the cat better... just laid there...the entire time we were there, letting the animals eat around him.

Another favorite of ours was Suelita... She was one lovable alpaca! Here she is giving J a kiss! Incidentally, her loving behavior made one thing clear...despite recent attempts otherwise, Miss Suelita was definitely NOT in the family way. Apparently when she gets preggers she turns into a moody hormonal grump! Not that way today, that's for sure!!

In fact, she laid right down on the ground in front of us so everyone could pet her, love on her, and get this great photo op of the whole group!!

I also wanted to introduce you to Twister. Poor baby. He's a little distraught right now, as he is being weened from Mama, and so he's separated from the herd. He does have another little boy in with him, to keep him company. He's not too interested in a friend right now, he just wants his mama. Mama has been relocated to another farm for some "adult time" in another year or so, perhaps Twister will be getting a baby brother or sister!

Oops...there goes the guy with the food wagon! Bye, bye alpacas!

The animals were beautiful. We spent an hour or more with the animals, then went to see the owner's workshop. She showed us some of the needle felting she does (most of it is on a fabric base). She also had a beautiful display set up with yarns, roving from their animals, and raw fleece. Her prices were very generous and everyone took full advantage of the opportunity to get some amazing yarn and fiber. I ended up with something over two pounds of raw fleece in a luscious dark chocolate brown.

After the farm we went to a "greek" restaurant right down the road. It had greek, italian, cuban, and creole options... Very tasty. While we were at the Alpaca farm, V said she'd been looking online at directions for making drop spindles and I said I had all of the ingredients plus the fiber available if she wanted a kit. She jumped at it, so I got the spindle together when we went to lunch, gave a demo, etc. Turns out she lives not far from me, so I expect I'll be seeing more of her.

After lunch I headed to Uncommon Threads in Palm Harbor. Was talking to one of the spinners there and had mentioned something about knitting at the pioneer event in Dade City. Then mentioned that we were knitting because there was already a spinner there, but then we went by to visit the spinner and I got to spin on a great wheel... She looked at my quizically and says "What was the spinner's name? I said "G"...and she said "What is YOUR name?" So I told her. She said "There was another person with you, with a drop spindle?" I said "yeah...." She went to a guild meeting FRIDAY and was chatting with G who was telling everyone all about the beautiful yarn I spun on the Great Wheel!!! I had it in the car, so brought it in so she could see it in person. Geez, it REALLY is a small world!!

After I left there, I called D who lives in Tampa. He was out and about. He gave me his $.02 on the directions I had, etc. We talked while I headed across town. He had to hang up to get gas. I then got lost, so called him back to figure out where the heck I was. He walked me through where I was and where I needed to go (I had fixed myself mostly). Got to Knit N Knibble, looked around for 5 min before D met me there. Picked out some needles, then asked the guy behind the counter if they had any CTH Garment patterns... He showed me what they had, which didn't include mine, then he went looking at the books...I said "oh, no, it's not in a book yet". He said "well, maybe we could order it for you" I said "well, no, I was actually looking to see if you carried's my pattern that I designed". Then he was intrigued and insisted on knowing more, so I went out to the car to get the pattern and yarn. He came back when he'd finished with his next customer and I showed him the pattern and the back of the sweater... which looks like this now:

He LOVED it! Said he wanted to knit it, (and had enough CTH at home to do it!!), loved that I had photographed the frog instead of doing a drawing... So, he wrote down all the info, and will talk to the owner to see if she'll carry it. They carry tons of CTH, and we both agreed, the ability to sell 10 skeins for a project is a big deal! He helped me with the needles I needed and got me checked out. The good news is that with the needle purchase (and the stitch markers and pattern that I picked up at Uncommon Threads), I have all of the required components for my Hogwarts Sock Kit Swap! Now I just have to pick up a couple of the "optional" add-ins then it'll be on it's way!

After the yarn store, D and I dropped by the mall for a bit, then ran by Panera so I could grab a bite for dinner before heading home.

Grand totals for the day?
Mileage: ~200
  • 2+ pounds lovely raw alpaca
  • 8 oz Ashland Bay Merino in contrasting colors that will be beautiful plyed together
  • Stitch markers for HSKS4
  • Sock pattern for HSKS4
  • DPN's for HSKS4
People enabled: One - V for spinning. She also bought two pounds of raw alpaca for spinning!

Celebrated St. Patty's Day today by making Corned Beef & Cabbage with carrots, turnips, and homemade Whole Wheat Beer Bread! YUM! D came up to share my holiday repast.

And now, it's sad to say, my weekend ends and the new week will begin.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

The Word of the Day for March 13 is:

distaff \DISS-taff\ adjective

1 a : related through a mother b : inherited or derived from the female parent
*2 : female

Example sentence:
The Solheim Cup pits America's best distaff golfers against the top European women.

Did you know?
A distaff was originally a short staff that held a bundle of fibers -- of flax or wool, for example -- ready to be spun into yarn or thread. Since spinning was a basic daily task customarily done by women, the distaff came to be the symbol for the work or domain of women. This symbolic use of the noun "distaff" dates back to the time of Chaucer and is found in several works by Shakespeare. Eventually "distaff" came to be used for the female branch of a family and then as an adjective, as in "the distaff side of the family."

To sign up for daily WOD emails, go to the Merriam-Webster website.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Quidditch ~ Round Three

Quidditch ~ Round Three
1. When Rita Skeeter prints a bad article about Hagrid in the Daily Prophet, which Professor teaches Hagrid's Care of Magical Creatures class while he is away?

c. Professor Grubbly-Plank

2. What was the article Rita Skeeter wrote about Hagrid called?
c. Dumbledore's Giant Mistake

3. When the school champions were being chosen from the Goblet of Fire, whose name came out first?
b. Viktor Krum

4. What is the spell Ludo Bagman says to magically magnify his voice when he commentates?
a. Sonorus

5. What kind of dragon did Cedric have to face in the first task?
b. A Swedish Short-Snout

6. Who raised the trophy after winning the world cup?
b. Troy and Quigley

7. How many bedrooms did Mundungus Fletcher claim to have?
d. 12

8. For what did Moody mistake his birthday gift of a carriage clock?
b. A basilisk egg

9. What did Mr. Ollivander produce for the end of Cedric's wand?
d. Silver smoke rings

10. The dark mark is on Snape's left arm.
a. Yes

Picture Scavenger Hunt
A Basilisk
Mundungus Fletcher
Amos Diggory

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Woke up this yak on the bathroom floor. Cleaned that up... In the living room...more cat yak...but this one was wet cotton string... Wondered what string I'd left laying around, because I really do try hard to pick them all up.... Hhmmm...that cord is braided white candlewicking. Quick glance to Phebe - uh drive band... A further look? Remainder of the drive band stretched across the floor... All I can do is hope that no significant pieces were permanently ingested... :( I didn't exactly measure the length of wet chewed band...


We'd been doing so well. But this is probably my fault, since the food dishes are rather empty right now... NEED to stop on my way home tonight. THEN I'll need to slice and prep a new drive band :(

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Ravenclaw Quiz #5

Okay, Ravenclaws, it's quiz time again! This time I want you to summon up all your creativity and develop a spell for the following situations. Just the name of your spell will do:

1. Do my homework for me. Escribenum
2. Tidy up my bedroom. Organizum (I could REALLY use this one right now!!)
3. Make a delicious chocolate cake. Cocoayum
4. Make my professor stay in bed today. Petrificus Totalis (What? That's already been used?? Nah...)
5. I would like breakfast in bed, please. Ovus Resticus
6. Stick all my Quidditch opponents' feet to the floor. Tarfuticus
7. Give everyone the giggles. Hilarium
8. Dye some yarn in my favorite color. Colorificus
9. Unravel the mess I've made with my yarn. De-spagheticus
10. Knit my Prefect the perfect bag! Sackoloricum

Good luck! A prize goes to one lucky Ravenclaw!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

It Has to Get Worse Before It Gets Better...

Someone made this comment yesterday, and it's OH so true...

The arrival of Phebe has prompted me to make some changes to my space. With all of the yarn, books, etc, it's been rather cluttered.

I made a trip to Ikea on Sunday to check it out, see what they had, etc. I've decided on this shelving unit (probably in Black-Brown) to help me get organized. I'm also going to pick up a couple of these baskets for several of the shelves, to help organize random things that tend to float around.

So, in the meantime, all boxes, books, etc have been removed from the "target area" of the apartment...which means they are stacked in a big pile in my hallway. There are stacks near the utility close that will go up in the top, replacing yarn and fiber which will come down into the "new yarn room". Yes, that's basically what the shelf will be.

L is meeting me at Ikea, we're loading this stuff into her truck, then coming home, assembling, moving, etc. I did take before maybe I'll share before and after once this odyssey is complete.

Nope, haven't been knitting or spinning in the last two days...too busy trying to get the apartment ready for tonight.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

And the verdict is....

Yes, that's right, this was spun this evening! The Violin Rosin was what put us over the edge. I did tighten the tension a bit, loosened, then tightened the leather straps on the spindle, oiled the leather. (Took your advice and sanded and oiled it, Can you see the shine on the spindle?) I actually had to apply the rosin 5 or 6 times...I think it needed to build up a bit on the drive band. We'll see what it does the next time I sit down to it. Oh, and I think the wool makes a pretty big difference too. The wool I started with is wool that we use for new spinner drop spindle kits... It's kinda sticky and dense. The wool I switched to is a sample that some vendor sent me a couple of years ago with my order. It was much lighter, less sticky, easier to draft, and helped with the spindle issue.

It's definitely a learning process, and it'll be interesting to see how she behaves the next time I stand up to her, since she will have had some time to sit.

I mentioned that K and I spent the day dyeing last Sunday. We had a variety of dyes - some Jacquard dyes that she had, some acid dyes that I had. Everything was hand-painted/space dyed. We laid all of our fiber and yarn out on saran wrap, painted it with foam brushes and/or condiment bottles, rolled up the saran wrap and fiber, nuked for about 4 minutes, rinsed in cold water several times, rinsed in a bit of vinegar, then clear water.

My first attempt was this fiber. It's a Merino/Tencel blend. I found once again that Merino/Tencel is VERY difficult to handle when wet. The fibers will completely pull apart when wet. As you see, it's a little messy...not a nice neat tidy roving, but gorgeous colors!!

A close up! Look how soft that fiber is!!

After the fiber, I moved on to some KnitPicks SW Merino/Nylon sock yarn. Here are my two skeins. The first was Ravenclaw colors, the second used all of the different colors we had mixed. I CAN'T WAIT to see how this knits up into socks!! Yum!

The Ravenclaw yarn is actually a preview...of what I'll be sending to my HSKS4 downstream! It'll be a little while before I send it out (still need to make some stitch markers!), so all of you who are drooling and wondering if it's yours will just have to keep wondering ;) Below, your yarn and bag.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

May I Introduce Empress Phebe!

She's here, she's here!!! I'd like to introduce you to Empress Phebe!

Isn't she Beautiful?!? Phebe arrived today and quickly took up her spot in her new home. I've been working on a functional drive band. I have three, but all are slipping a bit here and there. Have been advised to get some violin rosin to help with this, so will try to get some while I'm out tomorrow. Current, and probably final, drive band is a large candlewick band. I think in part because her former band was heavily waxed, that is part of the reason it's slipping.

Here's a closeup of the wheel itself.
And the spindle head. It's a simple spindle, and quite likely not the original, since the spindle wood doesn't really match the rest of the wheel. The leather ties are new, but I've oiled them thoroughly. Once my band is regularly connecting with the spindle whorl, I think all will be well. I've tried it at a variety of tensions, but nothing seems to work.

Another view of the spindle. We did notice that the spindle itself seems somewhat rusty. Suggestions on what I can treat it with? This cop (that's what they call the wrapped up yarn on the spindle!) was the one I spun when we tried it out at the previous owner's home before it was rescued from being furniture.

I'm sure you'll be hearing more stories as we get to know each other over the next few weeks. I can't wait to actually spin on her!