The CAP Report
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|Posted on 22 June, 2013 at 10:16||comments (645)|
95% of alpaca births happen without any issues and require no human intervention. It's an important thing to remember as you sit in the barn worrying about an alpaca in labour. There are specific guidelines established to help you decide when assistance might be required - and just what kind of assistance that might be - but that's not what this post is about. You can go HERE to read about that.
This is a story about Baby L.
Last summer was a tough one for alpaca births in this area. The early and extreme heat caught both humans and animals unaware, and we had a few births complicated by bad positioning and heat stress that required some help. When Miss L's labour went overtime and she seemed no closer to delivering, a quick check revealed that Baby L was trying to come into this world shoulders first. With the Vet on the way, I used my human midwife skills to try and rotate the cria and managed to get him partially turned. The Vet and I worked for an additional 45 minutes rotating and finally pulling out a very shaky but otherwise okay baby boy. Poor Miss L had a very rough delivery, and since baby was sitting up and okay we worked on making mom more comfortable.
Baby L was adorable and as mom recovered from the initial shock of the traumatic birth she nuzzled her wee boy and encouraged him to stand. When crias first stand up it's kind of like that scene from Bambi - they are all wobbly and it takes some practice for them to get used to their legs. As Baby L stood up and tried his first few steps I knew immediately this was different - something was very wrong.
His legs appeared to pull to one side - front and back. The more he tried to walk the worse it got. I was beside myself. I don't get like that often. Was it nerve damage? A stroke? I had no idea. I picked him up and held him as tears rolled down my face. His mom had laboured so hard and I was still covered in her blood. After working so hard to be born it was heartbreaking that Baby L's struggles weren't over yet. We called the Vet back.
In horses they call it "windswept legs" and it's usually the result of a bad position in utero. Mild cases can resolve with a few simple measures and time. Baby L had both front and back legs affected - in opposite directions. One of his rear legs could not touch the ground because it stuck out at the hip.
The vet had never seen this in alpacas, but a horse so badly affected would have limited options. The possibility that Baby L would never use his legs and the difficult choices that would bring was never far from our minds. Calls were made to the Vet school and slowly a treatment plan came together. Using a combination of activity restriction, soft splinting and passive gentle stretching we would try to support the delicate growth plates in the knee and stretch the tendons and ligaments to allow more normal positioning. He had worked so hard to be born, we figured we owed it to him to give him the best chance at a normal alpaca life. Plus, he was cute as all get out.
We kept him with mom and his grandmother in a small area in the barn where they could see other alpacas but couldn't run with them. I felt bad having to separate him from the other new crias, but I knew he would try to keep up with them and potentially crush the bones in his leg. Every morning and every night I massaged his legs and gently bent them into shape. After 3 days I would use soft gauze and foam to softly splint his legs into position each night, and remove the splints in the morning to let him strengthen his tendons. By the end of the first week all four feet could touch the ground at the same time.
Our Vet team made many follow up visits, and while some were dubious about our therapy regime, it was clear that Baby L was growing stronger and getting better. It took many weeks of careful monitoring and care before we knew for sure his legs would be able to support his growing weight. I started him on an enhanced nutrition program to make sure he had the minerals he would need to heal as well as make sure his weight gain was slow and steady. His mom seemed to know we were trying to help and she was very good about letting us work with Baby L.
Nearly a year has gone by and the days of watching and worrying seem like a distant memory. Baby L is a big strapping (almost) yearling who runs and jumps with his buddies and shows no sign of any angular limb deformity. He has a sweet disposition, luscious fibre, and he's very tolerant of the humans that occasionally give him the once over. A year ago I was hopeful that someday Baby L would be able to support his own weight and walk well enough to live a normal life. After such a rough start, I wasn't sure we could expect much more than that.
Today I know better. Baby L has taught me that will to live and determination to overcome obstacles are not just human qualities. This little guy fought hard to stand, move, walk, run and play like the other crias. The least we could do was join the fight.
Just after shearing here is Baby L today:
**I've included only the mildest, least graphic, photos here. Photos do not show the extent of the original deformity, but hopefully convey the general idea in case others are looking for info on the condition in alpacas. Please contact me for more details.
Adding some Colour to Your Life
|Posted on 17 March, 2013 at 14:17||comments (559)|
Is it still winter where you are? Here at the farm and fibre mill, we still have not shaken old man winter, so my imagination has been working overtime thinking about all of the gorgeous colours of spring. But first, meet Cosmo:
Isn't he beautiful? He's a sweet boy (and also the "Best in Show Suri" at the 2012 Rockton World's Fair) and I decided to dye some of his raw fibre. Given the endless supply of snow February brought us, I was dreaming about Caribbean waters and tropical temperatures - and perhaps the occasional rum punch. When you look at the end result - keep that in mind. : )
So first I selected some of the fibre, and picked out the unwanted stuff - that would be anything you do NOT want in your end product.
Cosmo, like many of my boys, manages to cover himself in whatever happens to be in his paddock at the moment - so this part kept me busy. In the mill entire fleeces are spread out on skirting screens and we can shake out dirt and little short bits etc., but since I was only dyeing about a pound of fibre, my kitchen worked fine.
The next step is washing the fibre, and one of those mesh bags for fine washables or mesh laundry bags with drawstrings works well to soak your fibre. Use hot water and fill a wash tub, using about a teaspoon or so (depending on how much fibre you are washing) of either a basic baby shampoo, or a fine washables commercial detergent. (I have also used Dawn dish soap but don't tell anyone.)
Be sure to tie the bag securely - fibre likes to escape. When the sink or tub is filled with hot water and whatever soap/detergent you are using, only then add your bag of fibre. Gently push it under the water and hold it there until the bag and fibre are soaked, then let it soak for 15 minutes. RESIST THE URGE TO SWISH OR SQUEEZE! Agitation of wet fibre causes felting. Really. Unless you want a solid clump of felted fibre that would make an ideal Halloween decoration, be careful!
After 15 minutes, remove the fibre bag, drain the sink/tub and fill wit fresh hot water - no soap - for rinse. Repeat the above until the water you drain away is pretty clear. You can use the spin cycle of your washing machine for about 15 seconds to drain the excess water. Open the bag and spread on a towel to dry slightly before dyeing.
Right about now is when I usually let my "Inner Space Geek" loose and declare (in my best Klingon voice) "TODAY IS A GOOD DAY TO DYE..."
That part is strictly optional.
For the rest of you, fill a large pot with water and turn the burner on.
At this point you should follow the instructions that come with your dye. Unless you are me.
I'm going for a two toned effect with this fibre, so that means I'm going to start by adding about 3/4 cup of vinegar to the pot of water, then add my still damp fibre. I'll mix up my two colours, for this batch that would be Kelly Green and Turquoise, and put them into squirt bottles.
When the fibre starts to boil (for those using a thermometer that would be about 95C or 200F - just before the true boiling point) I use the Kelly Green and squirt it directly onto the fibre in the pot while stirring with a spoon. I'll pick up globs of fibre and squirt them then put them back into the steaming pot. I do this until I am happy with the result, put a lid on it for 2 minutes, then turn the burner off and let it sit to cool off for about 20 mins.
Then it's time to add the second colour, so I turn the heat on and just when the fibre starts to boil I apply the second colour the same way I did the first - only I carefully watch to be sure I get just enough colour to create highlights. I let it cool down quite a bit (an hour or so) before I dump it into a sink and rinse. This is what I get:
It's far prettier in real life. You can't really see the intense colour or the lustre here, but trust me, it is lovely.
I was so inspired, I tried another batch. I started off with Sunflower yellow.
When that was cooled a bit, I mixed up a mixture of orange and red called Tangelo, and when the fibre was starting to boil again I applied it carefully - I didn't want to drown out the lighter yellow. This is the result:
When everything was dry, I bagged the fibre and voila:
Instant Spring! I can almost hear the steel drums and taste the fruity rum punch!
Sometimes when life gets a little dreary and gray, you have to take matters into your own hands, and jump start things with a burst of colour. Drop me a line ([email protected]) and let me know your favourite way to add some colour to life.
A Shearing Story...
|Posted on 2 March, 2013 at 21:15||comments (471)|
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|Posted on 7 February, 2013 at 13:26||comments (137)|
Even though things have been quiet on the CAP report during January, we've been very busy keeping the alpacas warm and healthy during the snowstorms and dry during the thaws of the month. I also had a nasty ear infection which kept me flat on my back for awhile. But there's lots to catch up on! We've been doing ultrasounds on our gals to monitor their pregnancy status and I am happy to say that we are expecting at least 6 new crias this year. Savannah's cria can be seen kicking her poor momma and she should be the first to deliver in June. We are also booking our shows for the year, and Canadian Alpaca Products is planning to be at the KW Knitter's fair, The Woodstock Fibre and Fleece show, and Port Elgin's Pumpkinfest later this year.
Our first event will be our own open house on March 16th at Shears To You Fibre Pros. (See Upcoming Events for more info) I'll be busy dyeing yarns and making our exclusive Inca roving-yarn for the big day. Pantone has declared emerald green to be the colour for 2013, so I'm thinking I'll be using several different shades of green in our spring collection.
Speaking of dyeing, I had 1 very special double skein of 70% alpaca 30% Tussah silk yarn, with no idea of what to do with it. One of the other vendors at the St. Jacobs Market is just learning to knit and we've been searching for an easy but interesting pattern for her first ever "real project". She was a little nervous about starting something, but felt inspired by the colours in one of my sock yarn skeins - but wanted a worsted weight. I remembered my alpaca/silk skein and brought the sock yarn skein home to use as a reference. I set about dyeing it and I think it turned out beautifully. The greens and blue make me think of a tropical sea - just the cure for the mid-winter blahs. She was thrilled with the skein and has already started the project, and even I am amazed at the lustre and softness of the yarn. Before I presented it to her I snapped a few photos, not the best due to lighting, but you can see the colours. I hope she'll let me take a picture of the finished project, and I'm so glad my yarn inspired her to pick up the needles!
What kind of yarn inspires you? Sometimes even before the alpaca has been shorn, I can picture the kind of yarn the fibre will make - and what to do with it! Now that the holiday season is behind us, what kind of serious knitting/crochet projects are you working on?
The next installment will be about our very special Inca yarn - with photos of how we turn average roving into amazing yarn using a kettle and some dye. Check back soon!
That's My Boy
|Posted on 22 December, 2012 at 7:21||comments (428)|
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A Roving Eye
|Posted on 17 December, 2012 at 9:13||comments (294)|
In the process of turning alpaca fibre into lovely alpaca yarn and socks, we put the fbre through a picker, a carder and a pin drafter to get Rovings. This is alpaca fibre that has been essentials combed with fine combs to set all the fibres in the same direction and remove impurities or uneven fibre etc. This is what spinners use to make yarn, crafter use to make projects, and I use to make our unique Inca bulky yarn. (More on that later this week!) It's not very common that you find rovings that are 100% Suri alpaca. Suri fibre is long, silky, slippery and full of lustre - quite a challenge to work with. Adding a bit of huacaya alpaca fibre or even high quality merino makes it easier to work with. But as a Suri breeder (Suri alpacas are the rarest type of alpacas) I long for a pure Suri product. Sheryl, the Mill Manager at Shears To You Fibre Pro's (The home base for CAP) took on the challenge and developed her technique to bring out the best in the Suri fibre. She's been working with fibre many years and brought all of her experience together to bring us the most luscious, soft, slinky 100% Suri rovings! I am thrilled! The roving feel like silken clouds! I haven't packaged any yet, for now I am content to just look at the bag and occasionally reach in for a touch. : ) Because we all need some silky softness on a Monday... Gertie The Great, Conchita and Ozzie bring you a touch of Suri.
|Posted on 14 December, 2012 at 8:24||comments (1808)|
When we talk to people about alpacas we often get asked "What do they eat?"
The simple answer is hay and a blended pellet with minerals.
But it goes a lot deeper than that. Much like other animals and even humans, they will eat a great many things - and left to their own devices they can exist on all kinds of forages and grains. But, just like with humans, the issue becomes "What SHOULD they eat?"
Like all creatures, alpacas have nutritional needs, and if we expect them to produce the best quality in fibre and offspring, then we need to pay attention to these needs. You can't feed your animals forage that has minimal nutrition and expect them to produce quality. That's like feeding your child nothing but junk food and wondering why they are not Olympic athletes.
We work with a local feed mill, and a representative I can call on the phone and talk to about what goes into the next batch of feed. A little more of this, a little less of that - all depending on the weather, the nutritional needs of the herd at the time, and the quality of the hay that makes up the bulk of their diet. Every alpaca will eat approximately 2-4 pounds of hay a day. The 1 cup of pelleted feed they eat daily is meant to add the minerals and other elements that the hay doesn't provide.
The widespread drought in North America has meant that the cost of good hay has tripled. We are lucky because we have local farmers who can supply us with just the kind of hay we need for our growing herd. Many people have had to ship in hay from far away. It may be pricey this year, but we are still very picky about the hay we feed our alpacas. A lack of rain this summer left the pastures pretty lean and nutritionally lacking, so we are not seeing the summer build up of weight on our animals - making good hay over the cold winter even more crucial.
So when someone squeezes a skein of our yarn at the market, or holds a shawl up to their face, exclaiming at how luscious and soft it feels, I'm sure they are not thinking about bales of leafy hay with just the right blend of alfalfa, well dryed and crumbling all over your neck as you lift it in to the feeder - but I am.
What did I do yesterday? Nuno your business : )
|Posted on 10 December, 2012 at 8:55||comments (480)|
Nuno that is. Nuno felting is a method of creating felted scarves etc using wool or alpaca fibre and felting it onto silk. I've been learning the process in various forms, trying to get good enough to create some of the amazing kinds of art you can see here.
I'm not quite there yet, but this weekend I worked on a large silk that I heavily felted with an actual intentional pattern. I'm not sure I like the heavier weight, but I certainly learned a lot in the process. There's a lot of rolling involved, and if nothing else my upper arms got quite a work out. Here are some photos of the work in progress. I'll be taking what I've learned on this project and applying it to the next - as soon as the ache in my upper arms goes away. Have you ever tried Nuno felting? Have you seen Nuno felted items in your travels? Comment and let me know.
Site Updates and Holiday Preparations On The Farm
|Posted on 7 December, 2012 at 8:21||comments (415)|
Our brief interlude of Spring like weather came to an end, and the alpacas once again were wondering where their grass went. I've been struggling to update the site and add items to the shopping cart - there was a glitch in the uploading process. although to be honest, I'm not certain if it was mostly "user error", I am new to this after all. : ) Thanks for your patience, I've added our socks to the store, and more yarns should follow today. I have to take some photos of them first.
I had some dental surgery done last week, so holiday preparations are the furthest thing from my mind as I recover. Keeping up with the alpacas, and orders for our hand dyed yarn have kept me quite busy. Our shop at the farmer's market has not been decorated, although right now it's so crammed with hand made hats and scarves and other items maybe nobody will notice? : )
This is our best selling Alpaca Infinity Scarf Knitting Pattern Kit. It's something I'll be adding to our online shop. Designed to take advantage of the 23 natural colours of alpaca, it is a lovely hatch stitch pattern, and customers adore the way it drapes and the subtle change from light to dark.
It comes with the pattern, instructions, and all 8 colours of 100% alpaca yarn required to get the light to dark Ombre effect. Priced at 72.00, it's great value as you don't have to purchase 8 different skeins of yarn. Thanks to our fibre artist Sandy, we now also have it in shades of grey to black - but it's so new I have yet to take photos. I will though, and I was wondering, what other colours would you like to see in this infinity scarf kit? Drop me a line and let me know - [email protected]
How are your holiday preparations going?
Welcome to The CAP Report
|Posted on 4 December, 2012 at 13:11||comments (500)|
Life with alpacas can be wonderful and interesting, and The CAP Report is a little glimpse into life behind the scenes.
The weather turned warmer and the snow that covered our pastures has melted. (Not for long as the temps are about to drop but we'll take what we can get.) The alpacas reacted to the unexpected gift of green grass like kids at Christmas. I don't have the heart to tell them that the winter has only started and that this isn't really spring. : )
At the shop, we are getting in some lovely hand knitted hats and shawls as well as our best selling hand knit thrum mittens. Our Thrum mitten kits have always been popular, but customers were asking for ready made thrum mittens, so we've had some made up. We've also made up some thrum slippers for those who want the ultimate in cozy toes.
I'm working on making some alpaca and silk Nuno felted scarves for the holiday season and the big news is the arrival of the Alpaca-opoly games. Based on Monopoly, players get to purchase and work to build their own alpaca business. The cards have all kind of cool information about the industry, and the little pewter playing pieces are adorable!
You can find this in our market store or our online shop.
At the mill Sheryl has just finished the big batch of alpaca batts for customers and is working on a really soft batch of sock yarn. I'm already thinking about spring colours for hand painted sock yarn.
Our resident Houdini this year is Archer. Every year we have at least on alpaca baby (cria) that constantly escapes by slipping under the fence. Archer waits by the fence - munching on the lawn - until someone notices he's out, and then he follows us to the gate and waits for us to open it before bouncing back in. On a day with nice weather he will do this several times until we get tired of putting him back and put the moms and babies in the back pasture - where it's harder for him to escape. This game will continue until he's too big to easily fit under the fence...and I'm counting the days. I'll post a photo in the slideshow of the little escape artist.
Until tomorrow, I'll be making alpaca dryer balls.