Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Between a flock and a soft place

I'm in love I'm in love and I don't care who knows it!!

 Know what I mean?  This guy does.

We went to visit a fleet of alpacas at Rancho Alamogordo out in Parker the other day.  I try not to say this too often, but OH EMM GEEEEE! 

Gosh!  I have never seen anything so darling!  Well besides maybe this:

or this:
Yes I'm comparing the sweetness of a farm animal to the sweetness of my newborn children.
Fluffy, clumsy... And the stink is endearing.

I found Sally, the owner of Rancho Alamogordo, on craigslist.  She had an ad up for fleece and I was curious.  I emailed her and explained my desire to teach my kids about how we source different materials, food etc, including down to the toys we play with.  After Christmastime, and the abundance of !!!THINGS!!! they received, I am even more motivated to simplify and educate.  To be creative and responsible for what we use, where we get it, and the value associated with that responsibility. Eventually I would like me bebes to understand the time it takes to source materials, prep it, and create with it.  Starting small with projects like felting or spinning/weaving etc. would be a really fun way to get the renaissance going!  Sally was so welcoming, so we made the trip out there to learn a little bit more!

My mom has been talking about alpacas almost as long as she's been drooling over donkeys.  Not sure I would know what they were if it weren't for her introduction probably 10 years ago!  Alpacas are in the llama family, only they're much less aggressive and their fleece is an even bigger treasure.  I respect any animal that can live a happy life in a relatively small space, who just needs another pal or two to be content, and who is eager to donate her locks to the love of the fiber/knitting community, as well as other lovers of all things warm and cozy.  When we bought our acre, I was dying for a sheep.  We would look at a house, and I would say, "Well is it zoned for a sheep??"  That was the big deal for me.  I was very hard to please, clearly!  As we spend our days here, learning the ropes of a giant (to us it's giant, come on, we're from the city!!) lot, I'm always excited for the prospect of a smallish farmish animal or two.  It will happen.  When we're ready, that is.  Out here in Golden, there are so many ranchers eager to show off their homesteads and to educate you in whatever knowledge it is you seek.  I didn't have to go all the way to Parker to learn more about alpacas, but Sally was so inviting so we were happy to make the trip!

Hey lady!

After our visit with the ladies, we went inside and there Sally had THREE GIANT BAGS OF FLEECE waiting for me!!  Whew!!  I got a great price on it, which is good because I will have enough to last me through the next 5 hard winters :)  It is gorgeous!  Mostly I got fleece for felting, which I cannot wait to try with the kiddos.  I'm eager to start dyeing and experimenting, I think it's gonna be tons of fun!  One bag had fleece from the blanket of the alpaca, which is the sides and back (I think I remember this right...), which is ideal for spinning.  It's longer and has more crimp in it.  Let's add spinning wool to my list of obsessions, shall we???
Check it:
two bags of felting fleece... the other is inside waiting for me to try my hand at washing :)
ps, that's Nick's bike which has 29" wheels... just for a sense of scale!!
the colors!!!  Oh my goose!!
I've been spending the better part of my very vast and plentiful moments of free time scouring youtube, ebay, craigslist, and my local yarn shop for all things FLEECE.  I might even be looking at alpacas for sale on cl, but don't tell Mister Boree or he will poop.  While we're not anywhere near ready to invite livestock over for an extended vacation, I am ready to dive into a cozy new hobby that I can share with my munchiekins.  

Today I'm washing the blanket for the first time.  I had to watch a few videos on youtube to get my plan, but the fiber people who post on there are super helpful and tell you a lot of what NOT to do.  That's good for me, I need a clear plan, as well as a pause and rewind button.  I decided to use the washing machine after much research: way easier and faster than using my kitchen sink!  Which would end up being my kitchen STINK because DANNNNG is that fleece smelly!  Duh.

the third big bag of fleece.  I'm gonna be a busy boree!

 Since I can smell your curiosity from here, above the stank of the wet wool: 
 Basically you fill your washer with enough water to saturate the fibers and get nice and soaked, but not a full basin.  You use extra hot water to help rid of the oils and uh, "waste" on the fleece, and about a half bottle of dish liquid.  I used ajax because that's what was here from the previous owners.  I soaked it for 30 minutes, the ran a spin cycle.  Filled and soaked again, and then what was left was just some fluffy, fleecy love:
I don't have any fancy drying hammocks yet, so I spread it out on an afghan and let it sit outside on some patio chairs.  It's gorgeous and way too warm out today, so maybe it will even get a little sun tan fade.
not a bad life for a bundle of wool, eh?
Last night I ordered a handspindle on ebay and it should be here Saturday!  Pretty excited.  Seven bucks and free shipping... sure beats the $20 minimum I found at the yarn shop!!  I went with a top whorl, and it's handmade of maple in PA.  If it seems like something we can do together, I'm going to make one for Tulah to practice with too.  

Now for the really big news.  
I can't really get to starting if I don't get to CARDING.  I have to pick through and brush the fleece out between wool cards (brushes to make it all fluffy and orderly) which are hard to find affordably!  I am not one to spend real money on ANYthing, but I am one to get me undies in a bunch to get the heck GOING on a new project!  On the count of three, let's all cross your fingers for MY SO-FAR WINNING BID ON EBAY... One, Two, THREE...

Are your fingers crossed??? 
Mine are!  
That's a lie, I'm typing. 
But as of this moment, as of the most recent of the 335 times I've refreshed my bid page, I am 41 minutes away from winning, as long as some fiber-carding, primitive hand-card bidding, sneaky little chef doesn't outbid me at the last minute.  Let's hope the forces of good, and not e-vil, are on my side.

So that's about it... as far as the alpaca ranch goes.  I am very excited about all that we have to be excited for... so that's good!  I hope that by early next week I'm dyeing, carding, roving, and spinning away through the cozy snowy days ahead!  Yes the forecast calls for snow to follow up this 60 degree day.  Thank you, Colorado :)  

Knox is still asleep in the bottom bunk, with me right next to him. 

Tonight we're going to our first Kindergarten open house, as it is Choice-in time in Jefferson County!  I will let you know how weird that is tomorrow.  Mwah!

**update as of 5:49 pm mountain time**  I WON!!  Let the carding begin :)

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