Release the Fleece – Shearing Day 2014

Step away from the fleece. Please, release the fleece!

Once again, another year has come and gone; shearing day arrived and is done! Andersons and Deardens hired professional shearers, Lacey and Asa, to release the fleece! Between the Andersons and Deardons, we had about 24 animals shorn (give or take). The gals, with the help of a half dozen of our fellow alpaca farmers and friends, gave haircuts to our two dozen in about 3 hours. We use a rope and pulley system to bring an animal down, shear it, and take care of several other details such as weighing, body-scoring, toe-nail clipping, and teeth trimming.

While some of the alpacas seem to welcome the annual opportunity to shed their heavy coats, not all do. Some animals are frightened by the noise and the process, a few are spitty. Disposable socks tucked over the nose of spitters helps keep it to themselves.

First, using electric shears, the “blanket” is removed from the alpaca’s torso. The shearer moves on to the “seconds” which is the less-valuable fleece from their legs and neck. The fiber is bagged up and set aside for skirting. Skirting, a different job for another day, is the task of sorting and grading fiber by color, quality, and staple length.

Now that we have our bags full of fleece, we have to make decisions about what to do with it. Our options include having it made into yarn or roving or send it to the cooperative where they make it into socks, gloves, scarves, hats, blankets, trivets, baskets, and so on. Of course we can sell raw fleece to spinners and felters. If anyone would like to request that we make the fleece of any particular animal into roving or yarn or to purchase raw fleece, please to contact us by May 21. I expect that, by then, we will have finished skirting and sent the fleece to be processed.

Enjoy the pictures!

I Knit, Therefore I Am

I am a lifelong crocheter and recently tried knitting. Again. There were several starts and stops over the years.

My mother tried to teach me as a child. God love her, but, I didn’t catch on. Our lessons ended in tears.

A dear colleague handed me a ball of yarn and some needles with 20 stitches cast on. She patiently showed me how to knit. I made some progress. I knit a few rows over the course of weeks. Adding and dropping stitches along the way, and after a couple of months, my valiant effort yielded  a foot-long, wavy beginning of a scarf. I was profoundly better at crocheting and wanted to “produce”, so I leveled off on the knitting and didn’t finish my first starter scarf. Jeanne generously gave me a second ball of yarn with bigger needles. Same story. I was OK. progress was slow. I wasn’t sure how I would overcome the hump of having to be patient with myself and just practice enough so that I could get better.

At last spring’s Powhatan Festival of Fiber, a customer to our booth hear me tell that story to another customer. She piped up and offered two word: “Continental knitting.” What’s that? She explained that it is a technique they use in northern and eastern Europe and crocheters find it easier than English knitting. I filed that away, knowing I would look it up when I had a chance.

More months pass. Now it is fall and I am back at the farmers market chatting with our friendly customers, telling the same story about my challenge with knitting, this time ending with “I will have to find out about and try continental knitting.” Standing right there was another customer, Brenda. She joined our conversation and sang the praises of that technique. The next week, she returned to see us at the market and handed me a bag with ball of yarn, a pair of size 10 needles, and a few stitches cast on. Brenda proceeded to demonstrate how to knit a dishcloth. Instead of doing yarn over from the right, you hold the yarn in the left hand like crocheters do and pick it up with the right needle. It was what I needed to overcome my block!!!

I knit on over the course of a few weeks, accepting  all the goofy mistakes I made as I forget and recalled how to construct the dishcloth. When winter came, I had more time to focus and finish. After finishing the first, which was supposed to be square , I immediately started and finished the second.  Enjoy the pictures of the first two things I completed knitting.

I am very pleased with both.. At last. At long last. I knit.

   

 

What a Wonderful Season at the Market

We are so pleased to be associated with the good folks at the West End Farmers Market. We have been blessed to have the best customers in the world! We have grown quite attached to you! And we have enjoyed working with so many kind, friendly, and hard-working fellow-vendors.

On the eve of the last Saturday of the 2013 farmers market season, I just want to thank all of you for brightening our lives. We look forward to seeing you again next year.

Enjoy the pictures from this season.

Welcome to the World, Mr. Darcy!

Willow, our dark brown, award-winning huacaya dam, gave birth to a healthy male cria on Tuesday, October 15th at around 1 pm. He is a handsome bay-black weighing in at 14 pounds. He was up and nursing with the hour after birth. He is a friendly little boy.

We are unabashedly naming our extremely handsome young male after the protagonist in Jane Austen’s Pride & Predjudice, Mr. Darcy. Like the fictional character, our gentleman stands tall and proud. Our Darcy displays all of the desirable characteristics of a young alpaca. His fleece is exceedingly silky and such a pretty color! He is energetic, alert, and bonding to his mother.

Willow, the mom, is a ribbon-winner. She placed 2nd at the AOBA national show in 2007. Her fleece is dense, fine, and a deep red brown color. She is a wonderful Mom and great producing dam. We still have Darcy’s brother, Black Jack.

Darcy’s daddy, Fireweed’s Sharif, is a also champion with a fine pedigree on both dam and sire! He placed first at the Virginia classic as youngest of the group.

All the alpacas in the herd are warmly welcoming Mr. Darcy. Wilbur, the guard llama, is so protective; he couldn’t stop himself from photo-bombing the pictures of people handling Darcy.

We are so pleased! Enjoy the pictures.

 

 

In the Misty at the Market

We are enjoying Saturdays at the Farmers Market. This autumn season has been beautiful. Sunny all Saturdays until today. Today was misty.  And it was a beautiful Misty. Bob raised the tent and we created a “wall” using a tarp. We narrowed the display to shelter our alpaca products from the moisture.  And all was well.

Though there was less foot traffic, today, it was fun to have extra time to spend chatting with our regular customers-friends and to make new ones. Fun to meet another “Maureen”. Fun to share with a new customer, as she tried on a triangle cape, her discovery that the alpaca cape was soft and warm and not itchy at all. Fun to share the in the anticipation that the new daughter-in-law will LOVE her new baby alpaca headband. Fun that the first sale of the day was to the same loyal customer who kicked off our sales 4 of the 6 Saturdays we have been here, this season. Fun to meet the lady carrying the cutest MiKi dog in a baby sling. Fun to assist the lady and her boy as they examined a dozen possible gift items before deciding on a scarf, gauntlets, and head gear for their beloved Auntie. Fun to counsel the woman, whose son works in DC and walks a lot, as she chose the perfect scarf for him to wear this cold winter . I can just imagine him, now, handsome and warm in his new white alpaca scarf as he makes his way to work.

And how I enjoy the “market kids” who come to our booth and play store with me. These sweet kids, children of other vendors, visit us, play with the finger puppets, and help me sticker new inventory. Using their best handwriting, they formed perfect dollar signs to the left of the numerals 1 and 8. This is so our customers are sure that the socks are only $18 a pair and NOT $81.

Perhaps my favorite market memory is from last holiday market. A father and daughter were admiring several items. The daughter especially liked – no, she drooled over – the Dutch Chullo hat with pompoms. Dad shook his head no and told her “Naaa, we are not getting that. Let’s move along.” Then, about five minutes later, he scrambled back over and said, “Hurry. Gimme that hat. Put it in a bag. Quick!”  I can just imagine her joy when she opened her present.

Yes. Mornings at the market are beautiful no matter the weather.

Dutch chullo hat

 

End of Summer Farm News

Our newest cria, Amelia, is growing fast. She was born in May to Priscilla and is already almost ready to wean. Her fleece is silky and “drapey”. We are looking forward to showing her this fall.

     

Sissy, our cria from last fall, is growing fast too! Look at how big she is now.

   

We bought a handsome new herdsire named Simeon. We look forward to breeding him to some of our females, this fall.

 

Bob built a new feed trough that he placed down in the field in the shade. He wanted to encourage the alpacas to hang out there in the shade rather than congregate so much in the barn. Reminds me of parents sending their kids out to play.

   

It’s been a great summer. Soon, it will be time to make breeding decisions and arrange some matches. A little bit of E-Harmony – alpaca style!

 

Look at What You Made!

The shawl pictured below was created by Susan B., the spinner, and Atlas, the Alpaca! Susan obtained the fleece from us, last year, at the State Fair. She visited us at the Powhatan Festival of Fiber, last month, and shared her beautiful creation with us! Susan took Atlas’ fleece, hand spun it, hand dyed it, and knit it into this beautiful lacy shawl.Way to go, Susan!Atlas is the handsome alpaca pictured below. He belonged to our partners, the Deardens. Atlas crossed the “rainbow bridge”, last year. He was an “old man” having lived a long and happy alpaca life.
 
Hand spun & Hand dyed Atlas fleece
 
Knit by Susan B.
 
Atlas Himself

Welcome to the herd, Amelia!!!

Sometime, at approximately 9:00 a.m., a healthy light fawn female cria weighing 19 pounds was born to Priscilla. The cria is named Amelia, after our daughter, Emily, who turned 16 yesterday; and after Amelia County, the home of five generations of Andersons since the 1880′s.

Amelia weighed in at 19 pounds. She was born in the pasture, in a furrow. Our friend, Alpaca Tom, happened upon Amelia and her mom, Priscilla. He kindly cleaned Amelia and dried her off. Tom brought them both up to the barn where they are currently taking shelter for a few days.

Priscilla, a 5 year-old Gideon’s daughter,  is a second-time mom, having previously delivered and successfully nursed one of our juveniles, Magdalena. Prissy is a prize-winner; she took second in a class of 12 light fawn females at the Carolina Alpaca Celebration.

Amelia’s father is a bit of a mystery at the moment. Reminds me of the Mama Mia movie. The sire is either Gabriel or Bagheera. We had initially exposed Prissy to Bagheera in a couple of pen breeding scenarios. Later, Bagheera, had an unfortunate and fatal accident. Since it was too early to tell whether she was pregnant, and the prime mating season was closing, we exposed Prissy to Gabriel in pen breeding settings, as well.

Methinks it is most likely that Gabriel is her sire. Not that you can tell just because her coloring is light fawn. Gabe was a gorgeous dark fawn and Baggy was beautiful black. But, like Labs, you can get any color out of any pair of parents. I think Gabriel is the cria-daddy because Prissy didn’t spit off when we introduced him to her. Often, females who have been impregnated will spit at and reject an amorous male. In any case, we will learn who Amelia’s daddy is when we send her blood sample to ARI. They will do some genetic testing and we will know for sure the answer to the question: Who’s your Daddy?

God bless mother and child.

 

MINI FIBER FESTIVAL at My Manakin Market

THIS SATURDAY, May 11th, from 9am – 1pm at My Manakin Market, 68 Broad Street Road, Manakin-Sabot, VA

Bob will bring our pretty little Maggie to the MMM so that she can “Release her Fleece”. MMM is hosting a Mini Fiber Festival this Saturday. Be sure to join Bob along with these fine local fiber producers and artisans while they demonstrate various fiber processing techniques and fiber arts.  We will literally take the clothes off several alpacas and a few llamas, but don’t worry…it’s still a family activity!  Teri Phipps with Fireweed Farm Alpacas will be teaching us how all that fluffy fleece turns into such nice clothes when we shear, skirt, dye, card and spin the fibers right there at the My Manakin Market.  We’ll also have a felted soap activity and a couple of other fun activities for kids.  Regular MMM alpaca vendors, the Hyders of Eagle View Farm, will have their fine display of alpaca fiber products available for purchase, as well as hot coffee and cocoa, eggs, honey and other wax products.  Additional vendors include:

 Teri Phipps & David Schieferstein – Fireweed Alpacas
Carol & Dan Mericle – Rockville Alpacas
Mickie Cox – Fiber artist
Lisa & James Dearden – Cedar Glen Farm & Alpacas
Marion Holmes – Ashland Alpacas
Derrick Spangler & Mark King – DNA Shearing

The First Annual Powhatan Festival of Fiber

Join Andersons Alpacas of Virginia and dozens of other Fiber Farmers and Artists as we celebrate the fiber producers and fiber artisans of the county and the surrounding region.

 We are bringing two of our Suri alpacas. We expect to bring Wolfberry, our very friendly Peruvian dam (pictured above kissing her cria, Sissy, through the fence), as well as Maggie, our unshorn maiden. We purposely left Maggie in her full fleece so that folks who come to the PFoF can see her in her suri magnificence. (Maggie will be shorn on May 11th at the My Manakin Market Shearing demonstration.)

 We will also bring our luxurious alpaca goods (socks, hats, gloves, fingerless gloves, baskets, trivets, shawls, etc.). We have an array of beautiful yarns, from named animals, hand-dyed yarns, and roving. Everything is for sale. We accept cash, checks, and credit cards.

 See you then!

 Powhatan’s Festival of Fiber

Saturday, April 27, 2013 - (Rain or Shine)

10:00am – 5:00pm

3920 Marion Harland Lane

Powhatan, VA 23139

Admission – $5.00

Children 12 and under free.

To celebrate and to share appreciation of the many fiber animals, fiber farmers and fiber artisans of the county and surrounding region.

Vendors, Delicious Food, Fiber Animals, Demonstrations, Hands-On Fiber Crafts, Door Prizes and MORE! PLEASE… NO PETS PERMITTED!!!

 

 

 

 

A A V A   C a l e n d a r