Sunday, October 25, 2009

Llama Pregnancy?

Sorry blogosphere, for being conspicuously absent of late. I've just been through a rather nasty bout of some type of flu thing, which I'm not entirely sure was the flu, but it involved a terrible cough, a general feeling of malaise, and a dreadful feeling of weakness and fatigue. I slept for nearly 3 days. Very unlike me. I have just begun to get my energy back and feel more like myself. Many things to blog about, but here is today's topic.

I went outside to see the animals, having done my studying this afternoon and feeling like a break. Kelly had been out feeding and told me that two of our llamas were having a big fight a little earlier. A fight? Our llamas? Really??? Indeed, our lovely Cabernet and Dolly were fighting. These two ladies are not normally antagonistic with each other, so it was an unusual event. He said they got up on their hind legs and had their necks wrapped around each other and there was a great deal of screeching going on (as much as a llama screeches - they sort of moan in a high pitched way). Oh, there was a lot of spitting too.

I went over to the llama pasture and indeed, they both looked liberally spit-drenched and also quite perturbed. They were not fighting any more, but they had their eye on each other. In addition, they both were walking around with their mouths hanging open, and drooling. How odd. This too, was unusual. Cabernet let me touch her and seemed OK, although she still kept her mouth open. Dolly doesn't usually let me touch her, and this was no exception, and I wanted to avoid a drenching.

Dolly, however, would not shut up! She is carrying on out there, whining and humming and generally sounding like a a very cross llama! She doesn't seem to want to eat. I thought I saw her standing in a funny way. Then I began to really look at her. Llamas do not show much in the way of pregnancy signs. It would be our first llama pregnancy here, so we are not accustomed to it. But I began to think that perhaps she had a certain roundness to her sides.

So, I come to you, my readers, because some of you are experienced with llamas and pregnancies, and also their behaviours. Based on her behaviour today, and her appearance, do you think she might be pregnant?
These pictures aren't great in terms of composition, but I am trying to show what I saw as a roundness. Incidentally, it has been raining here for many days this week and the pasture area is a quagmire near the barn, which is where she was. It's muddy and nasty. We have to wait for it to dry out. So, yes, she does look muddy. Everybody looks muddy.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Droopy Monday

I decided to write a post about a little incident that occurred today. I figure a few of you might enjoy a giggle over it. Sorry to say it doesn't come with pictures, but I think you won't need them if you have a bit of an imagination.

As many of you readers know, I'm in part time law school, while maintaining a full time job. Sometimes this makes me a bit rushed, and this morning was no exception. The dog found it the perfect time to throw up grass this morning during my breakfast, delightful beast that he is, causing a mad dash for the steam vac and a few choice words. I was a bit late leaving, and knowing I had a meeting of some importance at work today, I had donned the dreaded nylons. It's unseasonably cool in Iowa right now, so I decided they were needed, even though my skirt was fairly long. I avoided the nylons until I was just about ready to leave, and quickly pulled them on at the last minute, noting a small run, but not caring because it didn't show.

I ran out the door dragging bookbag and purse and lunch, and drove in to class. Of course, since I was late, there was a major accident on the Interstate, causing me to divert onto smaller roads with more traffic lights, but at least they had moving traffic. I was late arriving at school, and dashed off across the parking lot in my 2 inch heels, nearly tripping on some wet leaves, and hurrying along to class. Once in the deserted stairwell headed to my classroom, I did a very un-ladylike tug on the nylons, which had begun to slowly inch their way downward. Nobody could see. (note to self: check for closed circuit camera in stairwell tomorrow)

I entered the classroom through the back door, not wanting to disturb the professor who had begun lecturing, and took my seat. I sat through an interminably long evidence class, and sort of forgot about the wonky nylons. After class, I gathered my things up with the rest of the students and headed down the same stairwell. Of course, it was very busy now, not allowing me the opportunity to do the "hike-'em-up" method, even though they had begun a slow droop once more. "Never mind," I said to myself "I'll take them off when I get to work." I promptly set out across campus to the car park.

As I walked briskly (it was cold) towards my vehicle, I felt the waistband of the beastly nylons commencing a rapid descent across my bottom. I tried to slow the inevitable drooping with a deftly placed hand on the thigh. No such luck. The slippery fabric of my skirt was no match for that. Walking ever faster, I felt the waistband at knee level. I thought it was a very good thing that I was wearing such a long skirt. I began walking with tremendously large strides, thinking that this would prevent complete disaster. I was wrong. On one such stride, I looked down with horror to see the waistband of my nylons was now something of a shackle around my ankles. Oh, this was very bad indeed.

I was close to a brick pillar. I stood against it with my back to it, and pretended to be busily looking in my purse for a very important object. At the same time, I bent my knees a little, making my skirt floor length. Remember, I'm still wearing heels. I slipped my foot out of one shoe, and while continuing to make a big deal out of looking through my purse, I did a very deft little leg wiggle movement, sufficient to make the nylons fall off that foot. I tell you, it was a feat of great ingenuity. The one-legged wiggle in high heels while digging for a non existent document. Brilliant. Of course, I then had to put that shoe back on and repeat the whole process with the other shoe. Good. Nylons now made a small heap at my feet. Ensuring that nobody was looking (at least as far as I could tell) I quickly scooped them into my purse and returned to my vehicle at top speed.

I went to Walgreens on the way back to work and bought a very nice pair of chocolate brown coloured herringbone tights. $5.99 no less! I took them to work and put them on in the bathroom. And what did I do? Stuck my finger right through them, causing a run. Fortunately, due to my skirt, it wasn't visible. Next time I have to wear nylons, I'm going to jump up and down ten times and run around the living room before leaving home, just to be sure.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Yarn School!

Last weekend I spent my time in Harveyville, Kansas. "What's in Harveyville?", you might ask. Not much! It's a very small town, but there is a very enterprising couple who bought the old elementary and high school buildings when they were no longer being used. They live there, along with some sheep and chickens, and they run various workshops in the schools. Twice a year (spring and fall) they run "Yarn School," which is a wonderful workshop for people who spin their own yarn, or would like to learn how to spin. I had read good things about it, so this fall I decided to check it out for myself.

When I arrived, I checked in to my private room! I had chosen a private room because I knew I'd have to do a little studying while I was there. So I was assigned to the Principal's Office! I was never one to be sent to the Principal's Office when I was in school, but I didn't mind being there for yarn school! Participants can have either a single, double, or quad room, with varying rates of course. All the old classrooms in the elementary school are converted into dorms, so you may be sleeping in "Grade 2" or "Kindergarten!" In the high school, the gymnasium is used for the spinning sessions, and the chemistry lab is used for the dye sessions.
We began with check-in on Thursday evening, followed by spinning time in the gym and getting to know our fellow spinners. Some of the beginners were trying different kinds of wheels - there is a wide range of "school wheels" for people to try who don't have a wheel, or who traveled by air and couldn't bring their wheel. One of the first people I met was Lynda from Florida! Wow! What a long way to come for yarn school. She brought her Canadian husband, Marc, who was a bird watcher. He did his bird watching while she did yarn school. What a great idea!

Friday was an exciting day - DYE LAB! The old school chemistry lab is the ideal place for dyeing fibre and yarn. The benches are impervious and nobody minds if you spill some dye. There are sinks at each station on the lab benches, and there's a washing machine set up for rinse and spin-dry of dyed fibre. We were all able to try several techniques, including crock-pot dyeing, mason jar dyeing, and plastic-wrapped microwave dyeing. All the dyes used were the Jaquard acid dyes so citric acid was the mordant. Simple and non hazardous.

The dyed fibre was set out on "laundry lines" in the gymnasium loft area. They made a wonderful colourful background to our spinning activities.
After the majority of the water was dry, I took mine back to my room and let them dry by hanging them on the wall on coat hangers!
Here are my completed, dry dye lab creations! The pink/orange one at about 3 o'clock is my "outside my comfort zone" coloured fibre, where I tried to do something really different. The bottom one at 6 o'clock is dyed corriedale. The ones at 7 and 8 o'clock are fibre from the vineyard sheep of a friend of ours in Milo, Iowa. She has a mixed breed flock and their roving dyed really well. The big poofy one in the middle is my favourite, and is superwash merino. The one up at 11 o'clock is sort of deep cranberry and spruce - kind of a holiday colour theme. The one over at 1 o'clock in green and brown is also from the vineyard sheep and will be featured in a minute!
Also on Friday we had fun carding up batts and spinning them. Here's the drum carder table with some of my fellow participants making their batts.
Here's what I spun up from my mixed batt.
On Saturday, we had some morning spinning sessions, during which the group broke up into various skill levels. For lunch, we visited a wonderful alpaca farm! What a great time to get up-close-and-personal with some wonderfully gentle alpacas. The farm was "Alpacas in Wildcat Hollow" in Eskridge, KS.

On Saturday afternoon we focused on plying. I wanted to improve my Navajo plying techniques, so that's what I focused on. We could all work individually with the instructors, who were tremendously helpful. I spun up the green and brown roving that I showed you earlier in the picture with all my dyed fibre. Here's the finished product! My Navajo plying improved tremendously and I am less intimidated by it now.
Also on Saturday, we had visits at the school from two fibre producers - an angora rabbit breeder and some pygora goat owners! Look at this pygora goat! I had no idea that their coats were flat like that at their head end, and then became so fluffy at the back. Fascinating!
Finally, on Sunday morning, we did specialty spinning and plying techniques. My favourite was the coil or "beehive" spinning technique. It's really effective at making a very unique art yarn. Here's my first try!

I was really pleased with how that turned out and I can't wait to try some more. I think I might make a cozy neck warmer with this batch.

Since I returned home, I spun up the roving pictured at 9 o'clock in the picture of all my dyed fibre, and then I plied it with the very same roving but left in the natural oatmeal grey colour. Here's how that turned out. I love it!
One of the best things about Yarn School was that there were sheep in the playing field out behind the school. Adorable little Shetlands and some baby doll sheep too. That way, I didn't miss Marshmallow quite so much!
Maybe I'll go back next year!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I've Been Squashed

So much to blog about, so little time....I have been extraordinarily busy lately and can't seem to catch up with myself. Leaves me with very little blogging time, but here's a quick one.

We recently harvested all the squash and pumpkins from the garden, before allowing the sheep to go grazing in there. I adore squash - it's such a wonderful comfort food for me. I can eat just squash for supper, and I slather it with butter and cinnamon, feeling that the butter is OK because it's just squash. Sometimes I put a touch of maple syrup on it.

The garden was a bit of a disaster this year - not enough time to tend it, coupled with a fairly cool Iowa summer, led to a lack of growth and thriving! However, I didn't realize the squash had done quite as well as they did. Many were covered up underneath weeds and other plants and I didn't realize they were there.
The small yellow balls are actually vegetable spaghetti, which is a squash that can be separated into long, spaghetti-like strands when cooked. It's a great pasta substitute. There are acorn squash (the green ribbed ones), butternut squash (the long beige ones) and delicata (the cream and green striped ones). There are also a few pumpkins, some still green, and a few other squash whose labels faded and whose names I forget.

In any event, one thing I can tell you for sure - I'll be eating squash a lot in the coming months! Kelly doesn't like squash, so these are alllll mine! Yay!!