The LRB nearly vibrated today with happy fiber friends. In fact, I worried a little that we might find ourselves with too few chairs to accommodate the crowd. But as usual, everything worked out. Comings and goings aligned and space always opened up for the new face at the door. No one is ever turned away from the LRB.
The ladies brought beautiful projects to work on for WIP day – take a look!
I started to work on a WIP, but Ashley brought me some gorgeous merino roving, and I, well, I started spinning the awe-inspiring fiber of blues, greens, browns and yellows.
The baby lambs and ducks showed off for the phone cameras, like I’ve trained them over the past couple of weeks. I think they’re ready for prime time.
When creative people hang out together, amazing plans develop. Watch for some new classes on the calendar, and new products in the barn. Details to come. We’ll gather together again next Saturday at the LRB, and we’d love to include you in our crazy-happy circle…
Now that we know Balin and Rachel can work out the nursing situation (he gained another half pound overnight!), I knew it was high time for them to get out of the lambing jug and into the paddock. I’ve been so anxious to see the two lambs together that I could hardly stand it. The worst of the storms passed over last night, so today everyone can finally get some sunshine and fresh air.
Here’s Balin’s first foray into the big, wide world:
Mary Elizabeth and Toby notice newcomers…
Uh oh. I think I’ve got to…
Whew! That feels better…
Look. At. Me.
As you can see, Balin needs to fill out a little more to catch up to Toby, but there’s something else that’s different. Now that he’s out in the daylight, and mostly cleaned off, we can see he has MARKINGS! Brown ears, feet, knees, tail tip, and the back of his back legs! I’m comfortable saying that his dad is also his granddad, Itzhak. These markings will fade as he ages, but they sure are cute now! And even as their weights even out, there will be no mistaking Balin for Tobias.
Here at Jacob’s Reward Farm, we love alpacas. We love alpaca fiber, and we love to knit and crochet with alpaca yarn.
This fiber can ultimately be very beneficial for any knitter. After reading an article on 7 reasons to use alpaca yarn and 3 reasons knitters should use alpaca yarn we came up with the 5 best advantages of alpaca yarn.
- Natural Fiber/ Hypoallergenic: Alpaca yarn is a natural fiber that is very breathable. Natural fibers are easier to knit with because they stay on the needles better than synthetic. Your knitting project will be easier to finish and quicker using a natural fiber like alpaca. Another advantage to alpaca yarn is it is hypoallergenic. Alpaca fiber doesn’t contain lanolin, which is the main irritant in many other natural fibers. This product also lacks the intensive processing that goes into producing products such as wool, yielding a fiber that is softer and won’t irritate skin.
- Very warm: This fiber is much warmer than others (such as wool). If you make a blanket or sweater from alpaca it can be up to twice as warm as wool and even warmer than that if compared to cotton.
- Durable: Alpaca fiber is extremely strong yet still very soft. Garments made with alpaca fiber such as scarfs and sweaters have been known to last for years and don’t look like you have had worn the item several times.
- Easy to wash: Alpaca fiber can be hand washed in comparison to other knitting fibers that have to be dry cleaned. This can save you money and hand washing is better for the environment than dry cleaning.
- Support Local Farmers: Lastly, lots of alpaca yarn comes from local family-owned farms like Jacob’s Reward Farm in Parker, TX. You can go to these area farms to see exactly where your product is coming from and purchase directly from us. This is a great way to support your community and local economy.
Alpaca yarn is a great alternative to most of the yarn you will find in your neighborhood “big box store” and should be a top consideration for your next project if you’re a serious knitter.
Little problems must be nipped before they become big problems.
We noticed that little Balin was not gaining weight like his pal Tobias had done the previous week. Gail and I spent a little time in the jug with Rachel and Balin and we noticed that the left side of Rachel’s udder was not working as well as the right side. I feared that Balin was getting cheated at the dinner table. I’ve raised bottle babies before, and surprisingly, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Rachel needs to raise her own lamb.
Time for a quick call to Dr. Lane.
I love to watch Dr. Lane work. He and his assistant, Pito, handle animals without fuss or flurry. In no time, Dr. Lane had checked out Rachel’s udder and declared it basically sound. She has an odd extra teat that had been confusing Balin, encouraging him to nurse mostly on the other side, and allowing the odd side to get less use. An unused teat can be an unhappy teat, and mastitis –an infection — could result. That’s what we wanted to avoid.
A quick shot of steroid to calm down a bit of swelling and help the udder stay healthy, and Dr. Lane was on his way. (He really loved the baby ducks, and I thought he might slip a couple in his pocket on the way out…)
I’m happy to report that Balin has already started gaining some weight, and should soon catch up to his lamby playmate. Once this rainy spell blows over, Rachel and Balin can join Mary Elizabeth and Toby in the paddock for more fresh air and sunshine.
Rachel pulled a fast one yesterday. She’s been gradually looking a bit more pregnant every day, but every day we waited, and…. no lamb. A friend and her daughter came to visit yesterday after lunch, and I lured the ladies out to the trough with some grain so we could see Toby. Rachel wolfed down her share and sauntered back to the shed. I even texted Gail that nothing seemed imminent.
I went out to feed the girls their supper, but only Mary Elizabeth and Tobias showed up at the trough. My heart stopped. That could only mean one thing. I ran to the shed, hoping to see our girl in labor, but I was too late to see the birth! There stood the new lamb next to his proud mama. He was mostly dry, with straw stuck to the still-sticky parts, but he was up and completely mobile. Rachel had not completely passed the placenta, so I figured the birth had probably occurred about an hour before.
I dipped his cord in iodine and weighed him, shocked. He came in half a pound heavier than Tobias, at 9.5 pounds! That little Rachel was carrying quite a load! As usual, I watched to see that he was nursing, and that all the plumbing worked, so that I could leave them alone in the little lambing jug for the night. These lambs often just sneak milk in little sips when you look away, but he was alert and bouncy, so I felt confident that he was getting nourishment.
This morning, he was still happy and hearty. Rachel gulped down more grain, hay and had a long cool drink. Labor really takes it out of a ewe, and they waste no time making up that lost energy.
Tella has taken on the Nana role – she keeps a very close watch on the lamb and enjoys rubbing noses with him. I won’t have any qualms about letting the dogs and lambs live in the same pasture. Toby thinks Tella is his personal jungle jim, and she appears to have bought into the game.
Our friend Denise won naming rights for the baby, and has chosen “Balin,” after a dwarf from the book The Hobbit. Since I started introducing Lord of the Rings names into our flocks and herds, this seemed really sweet to us. Balin it is!
Soon the two lambs will have each other as playmates. When that happens, be on the alert for some amazing video.
Better than a secret handshake, our new Jacob’s Reward wrist bands identify you as one of the family – the Farm Family built around friendship, camaraderie, shared skills, fiber and the animals who grow it. It’s easy now, to strut your Farmy Stuff. And like most wristbands, it gives you the opportunity to tell others about the Farm and why you belong here.
2013 Shareholders will receive their complimentary wristband in the mail this week. All other Farm Friends may purchase one for $5, to unlock its magic. See, if you wear your wristband to the LRB (Little Red Barn) or to our booth at a fiber festival, you’ll receive 10% off of your entire purchase of stuff we sell. This includes classes, yarn, fiber, spinning wheels, supplies, notions, farm swag–everything. The only catch is that you must be wearing your wristband to receive the discount. Easy, right?
Even if you don’t live close enough to enjoy the benefits of a discount, your purchase of a wristband supports the important work we do here every day. They’re just plain fun!
Wristbands are available in the LRB now, or I can mail you one for 50 cents more. You’re part of an amazing family!
Order your JRF Magic Wristband here through Paypal:
The shade under our spreading hackberry trees in the back yard lowered the ambient temperature ten degrees to right about Exquisite today. Add the fun of experimental dyeing and the company of some incredible friends (new and old), and you’ve got yourself a magnificent sunny spring Saturday. Fiber and friends…. it just doesn’t get any better.
Of course, natural dyes — those using plant parts like petals, bark, leaves and roots — take a little bit of preparation. Last night, Michelle came over and we planned our strategy. I simmered some frozen Marigold flowers on the stove and she soaked some Brazil wood chips, and simmered rose mallow flowers. I pre-soaked some roving and yarn in water and then added alum as a mordant, to perk overnight. Mordants are substances that help the dye pigments attach to the fibers.
This morning, we put on the coffee (for drinking, not dyeing) and fired up the propane tanks under our dye pots.
First we played with some acid dyes, mordanted with vinegar, to get our juices flowing. These are quick, low prep dyes with vivid results.
Wild women Rachel and Greta experimented with some hand painting, as well as kettle dyeing with their acid dyed fibers. They made some incredible rovings. Rachel will be teaching a felting class for kids next year, and she’s stockpiling some lovely fiber for them to use in their work.
Michelle, who has much more experience with natural plant dyes, brought some of her yarns. She showed us the different effects attainable by using different plant materials, aided by different mordant modifiers, particularly iron and copper. What an amazing range of colors she has gotten!
Best of all, we enjoyed a great day spending time together, meeting some new friends (welcome, Olga, and welcome back, Margaret!) and soaking up the gloriously beautiful day. I don’t think I saw a single mosquito!
The new duckies and Tobias the Lamb strutted their stuff for our guests – some of their very first visitors.
If you missed our get together today, don’t fret. We have another dye day on the calendar for November 9th. Pencil it in!
We’ve been drinking life from a fire-hose lately, and I haven’t had time to document it all here yet.
You might have heard that earlier today, we had a baby animal birth fest, with Mary Elizabeth’s lamb born at 6:05 AM and a passel of ducklings hatching mid morning and throughout the day. When it rains, it pours.
It started last night. Farm pal Gail and I sat with the ewes in the shed, thinking M.E. was looking “labor-ish.” But after a couple of hours of trying to WILL labor to begin, we decided to call it a day. I set my alarm for 6 AM for the next lamb check. Sleep came fitfully as I wrestled with allergy symptoms and lambing concerns (is it pre-labor or toxemia???), so when I woke up at 5:18, I decided to get the barn check done early and then I could go back to bed. Ha.
I came into the paddock with my flashlight, and both ewes greeted me. But M.E. was bleating incessantly and I noticed her back end was wet. Hey now. I went into the shed and the ewes followed me. M.E. seemed glad for the company, and continued to pace around the shed. Finally, a water bag appeared under her tail, and I knew we were headed for Baby Time. As I had promised, I called Gail and Michelle to let them know it was show time. Both arrived in minutes, and we all sat down to wait and cheer our girl on.
Labor took a long time, and we were all on the verge of concern when her contractions finally started to produce a pair of shiny little hooves. Up and down she went, working to find an effective pushing position. At last, a huge head pushed through, followed quickly by a slippery body and long back legs.
Like any good momma sheep, M.E. began immediately to lick and clean her baby. When a respectable amount of time elapsed, I ventured over to help a little with drying, and I checked for gender. A boy. We dipped his navel in iodine and slipped him into a bag to weigh him with the hanging scale. Nine pounds. Holy cow. Shadrach, the Suffolk cross, had only weighed eight pounds at birth. This was a big guy. Would there be a second lamb?
We waited and waited and waited. Another small water bag emerged. And then more waiting. Calls to sheep friends in faraway states, and calls to the vet up the road went out for advice, but nothing really seemed wrong. We set M.E. and the baby up in the little lambing jug, fitted out with hay, fresh water and some grain for mom, and went into the house for some coffee.
Then another surprise – on our way past the duck pen, we noticed a broken egg shell in the yard. Where had that come from? It must be a duck egg because the chickens were still locked up. Gail feared that something might have gotten in and hurt our momma duck and her eggs. Upon inspection, we found that not only was there no damage, but that ducklings were hatching! WOW! More babies – these earlier than expected! We didn’t want to upset the momma duck, so we giggled and slipped away, leaving her to protect her brood as they birthed themselves.
The caffeine helped – Michelle and I returned to the sheep shed to find that Mary Elizabeth had passed the placenta, signalling the end of the process. What a relief. No twins after all, but a fine big ram lamb who showed vigor and maturity. You just have to stand and stare for awhile at the wonder and glory of new life – especially fuzzy new life with big eyes and goofy ears and long, long legs that give out when you least expect it. Too. Much. Fun.
Kate Culbertson won our Ravelry Contest #1, correctly predicting that Mary Elizabeth would deliver first. As her prize, she has chosen the name “Tobias” for this new member of the flock. Tobias means “the Lord is good,” and I believe he is wonderful evidence of this very fact. Thank you, Kate, for giving him a very good name.
Soon, I want to tell you all about the fun we had at the Shareholders’ Tea, Fiber Prep Workshop, and the other fun events we’ve enjoyed around here in the past couple of weeks, but I have to admit that I’m spent for today. I’ve just checked on the ducks and Mary Elizabeth and Tobias, and they are all bedded down comfortably for the night. Rachel is still perking along, pregnant and bulging.
The fun isn’t over yet, by any means.
Only one dog on our property is not neutered. I believe in neutering, especially animals who live outside, but somehow, Tella has escaped unaltered because there’s been just so much else pressing for our attention.
I’ve been watching episode after episode of The Dog Whisperer, just to brush up on my pack leader skills. During one particular episode, it zapped me right between the eyes, that Tella might be a danger to herself and others because of her come-hither pheromones out in the pasture. I mean, I knew it, but this was the kick in the pants I needed to make the appointment. I picked up the phone and called Tella’s favorite vet, Dr. Abraham.
This morning, we set out for the clinic for some pre-surgery shots and lab work. She’s pretty good on a leash, but when I approached the truck, I slammed up against another reality – Tella had never ever ridden in the cab. All her other trips to the vet had been with her brother in a crate in the bed of the truck, where she lost her breakfast every time. Today, I had to patiently teach her about “loading up” into the cab. Despite the cool morning temperatures, I worked up a nice glow, lifting her, paw by paw. Once inside, she rode like a champ. We also benefited from not having any breakfast to lose.
For a dog who can count her indoor experiences on one paw, she did very well. Naturally a bit nervous, she was polite and biddable. She tipped the scale at about 93 pounds, and passed all her lab work with flying colors. And then we noticed it. While waiting around for the doctor to see us, she went into heat. Oh, great. The doctor confirmed my suspicion that this meant we’d have to push her spay surgery out about six weeks, to let her body recover.
Well played, Tella. Well played. But you’re on the calendar for June for the Big Snip-Snip.
What a gratifying day when about a hundred kids walk away from the Meyers Youth Park, full of new information about how cotton and wool grow, and how they are made into clothes.
I’ve been working with my friend Keely Helton for about 4 years in her “Fun on the Farm” program, offering a fiber and spinning demonstration. Last year we moved from Keelys’ property to the amazing facility in McKinney, and this year Keely turned the reins over to Cathy Smith, of Cathy’s Critters. But the curriculum is the same, and so is the excitement on every kid’s face.
These kids have no idea how much fun they’re in for! It’s Farm Day! Many will see farm animals up close for the very first time ever.
The first stop of the day is a whole-group session where they learn about dog care, dog agility, dog safety, and the many roles dogs play in service to humans.
New manager, Cathy Smith, coordinates with the dog trainer.
Next, the kids split into three groups to hit different stations. I present a 30 minute hands-on demonstration about fiber – primarily cotton and wool. They learn to pull cotton off of the seeds, gently spin some cotton in their hands, and understand the value of cotton seeds for planting and for making cotton seed oil. They learn that the t-shirts and jeans they’re wearing are made from this plant that grows in a big field.
Next, we learn about fiber and fiber animals, like sheep and alpacas, and the process of getting their raw fiber transformed into useable items.
The other two stations fascinate the kids as well – the actual farm animal station, where they meet sheep, goats, llamas, alpacas, horses, donkeys, goats, and chickens, and then the “farm life 100 years ago” station where they learn how important farms have been from bygone days to the present. I wish I could get photos of these stations, but I always have my hands full with my own demos during those times. (I did get to snap this shot of a 3-month old Babydoll Southdown ewe lamb that I wanted to put in my pocket. She came from our new friend, Jill Christopher of Six Wags Over Texas.)
This never gets tiring – seeing the young faces light up with delight, and with new found understanding. There’s no way to underestimate the value of a generation that appreciates the critical role of farming in our lives – even high-tech, suburban lives.