Our sign in peace

Our sign in peace
Our sign in peace

Friday, March 15, 2019

Compliments of "Cyrus"

In my continuing effort to get 3 years of Alpaca Fiber processed, dyed, spun and packaged I am enjoying fun with color. Blending color is out of my comfort zone. While I prefer natural colors as a personal preference but this has been an adventure. Lots of time home these days, so lots of time to keep my mind occupied around dyeing.

When will I learn to wear gloves? I look like I have fell into a vat of rainbows!

Always careful to keep the bottles with the dyes so I don't use the wrong one. I often would double check the dyes as well. With a color scheme in my head but sometimes it's not always what you thought, leaving a sweet surprise of color.

I found using the back of a spoon helped to get the color to absorb through all the fibers. Pressing helped to push the color down. At times if I wanted a pastel, filling the squirt bottle with water and then flushing the color worked too.

It all couldn't have happened without this big sweet guy, "Cyrus"! He donated his fiber for the cause! It's soft and light and spins amazingly!

Here are some of the 3 ounce batts we will have available at the Connecticut Sheep and Wool Festival on April 27th! Come and visit our booth!

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Even more dyeing...

I decided to try some further dyeing. I decided to work with a combination of different colors. Starting from the center and working the color in a circle.

Still leaving a bleeding line between each color. I did fill it in a little bit more and did get some nice results. I did bake it again at 225 degrees for and hour and a half which seems to be a good amount of time. This time I elevated it higher as well.

And the results were quite pleasing! 

This was fun and the results were even better! I tried to work colors together that would bleed different colors when mixed. I am loving the challenge and results that this technique brings! 

Friday, March 1, 2019

Testing new dye techniques

Happy March everyone! Just a few weeks until Spring and getting outside, and getting things done. While the Winter lingers, I am taking time to clean the wool cave, and I mean clean! I simply have too much stuff! I am working on new kits, spinning, dyeing fiber and wool. I decided to try some new dyeing techniques. I took a cookie drying rack, placed it in a baking pan...

I then added 2 ounces of alpaca fiber that I wet and saturated with water, preparing it to take on the dye.

I am using some acid dyes, Jacquard Salmon and Turquoise (I am switching over to Pro Chem so I am trying to use up the old dyes), vinegar as my mordant and 2 squeeze bottles. I mixed a teaspoon of dye with a some vinegar and gently inverted the bottles to mix. I would use less dye to get a lighter color.
I began saturating the fiber with the dye, trying to cover in strips of color. 

I left a strip of white and began to add the next color. I used the tip to get down into the fiber to get the layers below. Also leaving a strip of white, you are allowing for the colors to bleed and saturate.

I continued the alternating process until all the fiber was covered. As you can see by the time I was done, it was bleeding over which was my goal. Once covered, it was placed in the oven at 250 degrees to heat. I left it in for about an hour and a half, checking periodically. 

I removed it and allowed it to cool, then rinsed it with tepid water. Having it on the racks was great. Your just pull it out, place it in the sink and rinse. Loved this idea! 

And behold the finished product! Not bad I must say. I have to tweak a few things, but overall I loved the results and plan on trying some other colors today. It's a great way to warm the house on this never ending Winter we are having here in Connecticut!

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Raising Mealworms for Chickens!

Have you ever thought about raising your own mealworms? Are you tired of paying the ridiculous cost at the pet store? Have you thought it has to be hard? Well it's easy, a real cost cutter and is a great source of protein for your birds! We have had to fence our birds for different reasons, predators, they get into everything, the sake of our gardens and the last straw was an egg laid on the stairs leading up to the bedrooms! They now have a fenced space and limited foraging so we have to make sure they are getting that protein. First, get a drawer system to raise the larvae in different stages. You can always add on to this system by adding another drawer system. I number them and keep a record of what I do with them.

Get a small bin like this one where you will raise your breeding beetles. This has fine screening on top as well as some cloth vented screening, taped so you can get good air circulation for them.

The substrate that goes in both the drawers and bin are very important. These are just a few I use. Each morning after feeding the rabbits I add the stalk of the lettuce. This provides not only some hydration but also another food source. The mealworms and beetles not only eat this but the beetles will lay their eggs in it.

Here are the beetles in the substrate just before they were being removed and the substrate along with the eggs they laid were being put into a clean drawer. You should do this at least monthly. If you don't the beetles begin to eat the eggs and larvae, it's just who they are!

After removing the beetles (I miss some of the dead ones), If you look very closely you will see the tiny larvae that have hatched and are beginning the cycle of the mealworms. Constantly rotating this process will keep you in mealworms forever!

It does take a couple of months to get them to this stage but it is an unbelievable cost cutter! A paper towel over them keeps them happy and contained. In warmer months you can spritz the paper towel with water to give them hydration. The warmer they are the faster their lifecycle will be. Our chickens are happy and healthy!

Friday, February 15, 2019

It's all in the poop!

Did I get your attention? Did you wonder what the heck this is about? Did you think maybe I have lost my mind?!!! No, I haven't. As a farm, we have an unlimited amount of manure! Thinking about your garden as you wallow away the winter? Planning and flipping through seed catalogs? The one thing you should be planning is your soil. Is it rich in nutrients? Could it use a boost? Well we have just what you need! Did you know alpaca manure is high in nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorus! 

Rabbit manure is also a great manure for the garden! We use pelleted newspaper litter and combined with the manure it is amazing! When put into the garden, compost pile or spread on the lawn, the worms go nuts! Red wigglers and earth worms seem to love this! They break down the newspaper and manure with vigor. Our gardens are amazing because of this!

And then we have chicken manure. While chicken manure possess the same nutrients of alpaca manure, it does need to be composted for at least 3-4 months. If you are interested in any of these wonderful nutrient resources for your garden, contact us! We have all your needs and then some! It's time to plan your Spring garden and we can help!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Syruping Season is under way!

Well you wouldn't believe it by the weather we are having here in Connecticut with a snow and ice storm, but the sap has begun to flow. This past weekend, Tim got a good amount of first sap and had enough to boil.

The evaporator was steaming away. Warm days and cold nights get the sap flowing and that's what we can hope for. We currently have 20 taps set, here's to a plentiful year!

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Well looky there! Finally, an egg!

Well looky there! Finally an egg! Our chickens have not laid since November and today we finally have an egg! We have 30 chickens and they have been on an egg laying strike. A friend asked me today if we had eggs and low and behold we got our first today!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Is it real or is it?

This time of year, when it's cold, honey will crystalize. This is the sign of true honey. Honey will crystalize at 50 degrees or under. This time of year, our house is cold. We live in Connecticut and keep our house cold. We heat primarily with wood and are not fans of a hot house. This morning I went into the cabinet and to get some honey with breakfast and was surprised with what I saw or was I? This is a bottle of our bees honey which has crystalized because it is cold behind that cabinet. 

And right next to it was this bottle of honey that I bought at a shop which claimed to be pure Lavender honey. This honey has not crystalized at all. This is a sure sign that this is not pure honey at all. The label claims that bees made tis in Lavender fields but I am not convinced. This was infused with a flavor. I am surprised because it is from what I thought was a reputable honey company, but I guess not. This is why you should always know your beekeeper and where your honey is coming from. Honey is not heavily regulated and often it is imported from other countries which mix and cut it with other things. 

So in a nutshell, pure on the left and not so much on the right. The Lavender honey doesn't even taste like Lavender, and lets not even mention what I paid for it! When buying honey, remember buyer beware! Know your beekeeper! 

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Guess what time of the year it is?

It's Maple Syrup time! The equipment has been cleaned, prepared and the trees have been tapped! Tim got busy getting it done! After taking a year off last year because of his surgery, he is anxious to get back to it. Plans to build a sugar shak are on hold for now, but lets see what he does. 

Our Sugar Bush is tapped and looking forward to the warm afternoons and cold nights that start the sap flow. You can smell the sap in the air, it's that time of year again!

Friday, February 1, 2019

Keeping warm!

Keeping warm for these guys is no problem! Their fiber is so thick that they really don't even notice. However, in these subzero temps they bed down for the night in our lower barn with a few bales of straw and get locked in for the night. They are all getting on in age so it's important that they are warm and able to cuddle up and keep warm.
People often ask me how our animals get through the sub zero temperatures. Connecticut is experiencing, as well as many other states, sub zero temperatures falling in the negative numbers. These animals are adapted and acclimated for the winter but when they dip down like this we give them some help. Our chicken coop has a heating lamp that Tim has caged in wire so no chance of fire! They are locked in at night and huddle under it to keep warm. This picture is of them going in for the evening without any issues because they know its warm in there!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

A New Year and hitting the ground running!

With a New Year upon us and the Holidays behind us, it's time to get to work! I went into my fiber stash and found the most amazing 1 lb bag of dyed Lincoln Long Locks. Lincoln wool is a sheep breed that originated from England. They produce a long staple wool that is great in not only spinning, weaving and doll making too! 
It also dyes so beautiful. I dyed this with warm colors and splashes of light greens too.

It reminds me of Victoria times which I seem to be obsessed with lately!

When you pull the locks apart, it becomes frizzy and almost seems none workable. I spin it using an almost wrap technique forward. It spins amazing! This type of wool is best used for making hats, but nothing that would be on the skin because it is soft but lightly coarse.

The wool also caught different colors on the tips which made a beautiful yarn of varying colors.

I spun this between a worsted and bulky gauge on a Ashford Country spinner. It was a pound of wool and still didn't fill the spool! It will be part of our wool we will feature at the Connecticut Sheep and Wool Festival in April! 

Monday, December 31, 2018

Reflecting on 2018...

We started 2018 with the coldest winter I could ever remember! As I reflect on 2018, it was a year that was a bit more gentler and kinder than previous years lately, so when I look at it, yes it was a good year!

Tim had his much needed right hip replaced and he feels better than ever! I have to often remind him to get off the roof, get down from the ladder or whatever crazy thing he is doing around here!

This picture symbolizes someone special who came into my life, a long mystery solved and a truth revealed. Someday I hope to tell you about this person and what he means to me but until then, know it is my greatest blessing of this year!
After 10 years we had the best beekeeping year ever! Maybe because it was the perfect Spring, Summer and Fall that helped the bees. Whatever it was we are blessed at the success of our hives!

We said goodbye to our sweet Zoe. At over 15 years old (she was a rescue so we never knew how old she was), she gave up her throne as the Princess that we always worshipped her as.

Our business was amazing! Setting records during some of our shows and thanking all who supported us!

But the biggest blessings of all are these two! The next generation of our family and our greatest treasure.
So as we close out 2018, thank you all who support us, our cherished customers, our family and friends who we take time out to enjoy and know how blessed we are to have them!