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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Softer soap

If you follow my other blog, you'll know that I make our body soap.

Well, looking at all the fleece from the alpacas I decided to have a bit of fun.

I took roughly 5gms of alpaca fleece and carefully wrapped it round a piece of my soap.  Gently wetting it, whilst moving it ever so slightly. I end up with this:

Kris' white fleece was wrapped first, and then
Miranda's brown fleece got marbeled on top.  I
love the end result.
Felted soap :)  A veritable permanent facecloth that also prevents wet soap leaving it's normal sticky residue on the basin / bath or shower soap dish.

When Rae & Dino came to visit, I gave her a bar of the felted soap.  In her subsequent e-mail to me she wrote :

"Somehow you just can't imagine washing yourself with wool wrapped soap but after a second or two it develops a lovely lather and I think because the fibres are so fine, my skin felt positively buffed and smooth, soft as anything afterwards. Great soap too Dani!"  (Thanks Rae - the soap is good because you were so incredibly generous to send me a soap recipe all those years ago :) )

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Vegetarian alpacas

We have discovered that alpacas don't only eat the 12% protein pellets (lucerne, corn, oat seed, +) and the dry lucerne we feed them.
Minky scoffing carrot tops
They also have a penchant for carrots - in their entirety - both fronds, and root section. Judging from the speed with which this vegetable is consumed I reckon they fancy them even more than bunny rabbits do  lol

Searching Google for info on other vegetables that alpacas eat, ours now have a veritable smorgasbord of treats to add to their daily lucerne and pellet intake.
Miranda stretching out her neck to eat grated carrot
Apple - grated.  (Alpacas don't have back teeth so giving them 1/4 - 1/2 apples as shown in some YouTube videos is, in my opinion, downright nasty.  Those owners could also probably be risking choking their alpacas.).
Cabbage - finely sliced as though you are making coleslaw
Beetroot - leaves and grated root section - and what a messy mouth they get when they eat this!!
Pumpkin skin - sliced.  Apparently they also eat the flesh of the pumpkin and the seeds - hmmm - think I'll keep that for us... ;)

They will be fed the pea pods as soon as my peas are harvested too.

We have fed our land, added plenty of mulch, turned it in and have planted oats again this year.  Hopefully this year it will be successful.

Between the oats, the homegrown vegetables, the lucerne and the pellets - as well as whatever grazing grows in their paddocks - they won't be going hungry ;)

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

1+1+1-1+2

What could those numbers mean?

1 + 1  Well, in October 2013 we purchased 2 alpacas.

1 + 1 + 1  Miranda, the female, was pregnant when we got her, and gave birth to her male cria, Minky, in March last year.

1 + 1 + 1 - 1  We discovered that the male we originally purchased was related to Miranda so trying to breed the two of them was out of the question.  The breeder was most apologetic and without hesitation told us she would replace the male.

1 + 1 + 1 - 1 + 2  So, on the 27th February we "swopped" out the sibling male for Rupert - a two year old alpaca.
Carlotta a.k.a. Carly on the left,
and inquisitive Rupert on the right
As Minky was trying to misbehave with his mother, he was moved to the male paddock, and Miranda was all alone in her paddock.  Alpacas are very social animals and she was showing sign of distress (constant humming).  We therefore decided that she needed a friend.

So we purchased Carlotta.  Carlotta is such a mouthful, so she is now known as Carly.
Miranda "investigating" her new paddock
companion
The meeting between the old and new alpacas was just too sweet to witness.

Miranda came to the fence to greet Rupert, who was first out of the horsebox.
It's just a kiss to the right...
Minky and Rupert - they decided to meet and greet over a fence - but, what they did was identical to Miranda and Rupert / Miranda /and Carly - and this time my camera was ready...
... and then a kiss to the left.
... they "kissed" on either side of the face :)

Co-incidentally, we now have a brown and white alpaca in either paddock.

Apart from a bit of a testosterone reaction on Rupert's part towards Minky, everyone seems to be getting on happily.

It's really lovely to see two alpacas in either paddock grazing literally right next to each other.

As for Rupert - his testosterone levels will hopefully drop in the next couple of weeks - once he has "done the deed" with Miranda.  Carly - we're hoping to keep her to breed with Minky next year.  No cross breeding will thus take place :)

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Alternative uses for alpaca fibre

I was at the outdoor sink the other day when I thought I spotted a large spiders nest in the Fiddlewood tree.
Can you see the minute "nest" in the centre
of the 
fiddlewood?
Upon closer inspection I discovered...
The most adorable little nest positioned
perfectly in the centre of the tree - away
from predators and harsh weather
  ... it was a teeny, weeny birds nest.  Literally the size of a duck egg.

And, to my delight, upon closer inspection, I found this...
The bird had lined it's nest with alpaca fibre
... the nest is lined with scraps of alpaca fibre - and judging from the colour it's all from Kris.  A bird must have collected the scraps when we were shearing the alpacas last October.  It almost looks as though it managed to felt the fibre lol

Wow - those baby birds sure had it good whilst they were growing up.  Alpaca fibre is said to be 7 times warmer than other wool.

I love that - it takes surplus, waste and repurposing to a whole new level :)

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Preparing the alpaca fibre

All the alpaca fibre has to be prepared before I can weave with it on my loom.

First you shear the alpacas of their fibre, then the fibre has to be cleaned of all the vegetable matter (VM) it has accumulated when the alpacas have had a good roll on the ground - a daily occurrence.  (Cleaning the VM from the fibre is a tedious job, and one that would be far easier if the alpaca's are properly brushed prior to shearing.)

Then the fleece has to be carded.  This is done in order to align all the fibres in the same direction in order to produce batts - great clumps of fibres all running in the same direction.

After carding, one can then proceed with the spinning of the fibre, and then, finally, use the resulting yarn to weave :)  There are a couple of washing procedures in between, but you get the gist of the process.

As the drum carding machines are quite pricey, I searched the Net for weeks for a second hand unit - even contacting local spinning / weaving associations, but with no success.  So, in mid-December we finally succumbed and purchased a new carding machine from our local Ashford dealer.  (What we didn't know when we ordered it online was that she was away in France - assisting her mother through her grandmother's passing.  So, delivery of our machine was delayed.)

But, the drum carder finally arrived, and after setting it up, we proceed with the carding of all the alpaca fibre from 2013, as well as the alpaca fibre we had harvested (with the assistance of Helderstroom Alpacas) this past October.
RMan is feeding the fibre into the carder with
his left hand, whilst turning the drum lever
with his right hand
It is quite a simple process - as the handle is turned, the fibre is gently fed into the machine from one end.  This "aligned" fibre then collects on the large drum, which is emptied when it is full.


The seam - visible just off-centre on the drum - is
where the aligned "batt" of fibre is carefully removed
from  the carding machine
RMan used to be involved in the textile industry many years ago.  But, he only utilized the finished yarn, and never actually got to "prepare" it.  Thus he is loving this opportunity of discovering what exactly goes into producing yarn.
Batts of carded fibre - still a couple of
stubborn bits of vegetable matter remain
He's nominated himself as the alpaca fibre carder.

Who will perform the task when it comes to spinning the batts - well, we'll have to wait until we get our spinning machine.  As the supplier didn't have stock, and it had to be ordered from Ashford in New Zealand, it is still on the water...
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