Saturday, August 28, 2010

Painting on the tipi

We have a Native American tipi in our pasture. This is the sixth tipi I've owned over the years -- each one painted differently -- each one unique.
Two others have had a llama painted on them.
And today the third became reality.
Becky is a college student at Carthage in Wisconsin.
She is remarkably talented in so many areas -- art, music, fiber arts, the list is long. Awhile back she agreed to paint a portrait of our favorite llama on the tipi -- Amanda.
She goes back to school on Wednesday. But she came over this morning -- and began by drawing Amanda's image on the canvas of the tipi. Then it was all about filling in with the paint.
She even captured two of Amanda's endearing qualities -- the tipped right ear -- and the neat little heart above her right eye. So cool.
Ben and I caught Amanda and brought her over to pose with her image -- and she cooperated, as usual.
Earlier this year Amanda won an award from the International Lama Registry for her "community involvement" and "public relations" work. She is one rare llama.
And thank you to Becky for "immortalizing" Amanda on canvas.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Illinois State Fair was this weekend. Nearly 100 llamas strutted their stuff at the State Fair.
My "peeps" were there showing off some of those fabulous llamas they bought from me -- and others as well.
It COULD have been a great weekend of showing off llamas, networking with other owners, meeting the general public -- but my weekend was spoiled by a thief. Someone stole my Mickey Mouse fanny pack while we were gloriously shampooing my llamas.
It had my cell phone, numerous credit cards -- and over $360 in cash that I had brought to pay another owner for some llama dolls she made for me. It made it necessary for me to leave the venue and drive back home to cancel cards, get a new phone, the whole deal.
I was pretty shaken on Friday night.
But my friends handed me some cash to get home -- and took over the showing of my animals, several of which got ribbons.
Why are there people who do evil acts? Thank God for those who step up to the plate to help a friend.
In the pix: Pat Girolamo, our show mentor, looks at Joao (Howie) and Don Tomas, two llama brothers that she sold to Denise Hollinshed; Becca hangs with London and Paris as Paris kushes on the cooler concrete floor; a family stops to get a photo with Don Tomas and Pat; Becca gets a kiss from Punxsutawney.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for the kindness of friends. I am expecting "explosive blessings" to come my way after several years of gloom and doom.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fall Herd health Day

Yesterday was our "second annual" herd health day.
I'm thankful for the "many hands" that made "light work" --and pitched in for the heavy work.
My grandson, Andrew, tried out the "going green" lawnmower. It was harder than he thought it would be!
I had ALL of the young women in my life who have spent time with me on the farm, learning about llamas and alpacas, listening to my stories, and helping with farm chores: Amanda, Natalie, Rebecca, Jayden.
It was Avary Julianne's FIRST trip to the barn. She did great! She was a happy little camper for the entire time she was here. And, of course, what a doll.
Bruce and Josh were their usual great selves, catching animals, helping with shots, trimming up a few of the show llamas, and hypnotizing a chicken. Yes, you read right. Josh showed me how to hypnotize one of my chickens -- which was pretty funny.
It made me wonder what other great games farm kids have invented?
Natalie kept the needles filled and coming -- with dewormer -- and marked off the animals on the list as they were dewormed.
Sally and Jim were new to farm work. They are future alpaca ranchers and want to learn on the job before they embark on their own farm -- up near Chicago.
Jayden and Rebecca helped to hose off Topcat -- a white alpaca boy who is struggling with the residual effects of weeks of terrible temperatures here.
Tammy came bringing tomatoes, tales and thoughts of developing an underground "bat cave" to keep animals cool in the summer. Hmmmm -- it COULD happen.
Thank you to all who came to help, break bread and THEN -- Natalie and Michael even came back (along with Katey, Ron and kids) to pick up the hay in the field and stack it in the barn.
Again, I'm blessed.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Dominic's "music in the park" - 28 years later

Dominic is my baby boy. I was 33 when he was born. On his first birthday I went to the emergency room with a lingering cough, some weight loss -- symptoms of big trouble.

Oh yeah. It WAS big trouble. I was diagnosed with cancer -- and was told in the ER that I had six months to live.

Our kids were 10, 8, 7, 5, 3 and one-year-old Dominic. I remember the overwhelming sadness realizing that I wouldn't get to see him grow up.

After three full days of wallowing in self pity -- I decided that the doctors didn't really know me at all -- and that "nahhhhhhh" I wasn't going to die.

Lots of chemotherapy and radiation treatments -- and eons of throwing up my socks and losing my wonderful, waist-length hair -- later -- I went into remission.

I treasured all of Dominic's milestones -- first day of kindergarten; when he played Khoury League baseball; when he asked for a guitar for 8th grade graduation (and had expressed zero interest in playing music prior to that); when he won the Jazz Music Award at his high school graduation; when he wrote the song "Six-O-eight" -- the anthem to the time he was born: 6:08. He grew up here, on the farm. His famous "farm quote?" "You can't come to the farm without getting dirty." Personally, I think that dirt is good for a kid.

And then he decided to move to Nashville, TN to pursue his dream of a music career. Gosh.

Last night he came back to the area to play a summer "music in the park" event at Tri-Township Park in Troy. It was boiling hot -- boiling. In fact, Dominic announced that it was the "hottest gig he has played" up 'til now.

Check out my baby boy's music:
Especially check out the song he wrote for Jack and I: "Built to Last." And if you have connections with agents/folks in the music industry/radio play -- contact Dominic!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Lounging in the pool

We've had a week now of 100-degree temps -- with heat indices to the moon. Yikes.
I let my big boy herd into the front yard several times this week. There's lots of shade and it is wide open -- with a small kiddie pool under the tree.
Apparently the size of the pool didn't deter Breeze from plopping down over the running hose. He got up several times, but didn't give up his spot to anyone else for most of the afternoon. How funny.
Guardian preferred to lounge under the weeping willow tree, with easy access to grass AND tree leaves. That was the spot he scoped out on a hot day.
And the hat? My first creation -- 100% alpaca yarn -- and I spun the white fiber into yarn myself. Wow. Who knew? Isn't that the coolest looking hat?
Hard to think about wearing something that's "five times warmer than wool" when it's over 100 degrees. But winter will come. Yes it will. The time for toasty hats will arrive. I'm ready.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Old dogs CAN learn new tricks

Okay -- so I've owned llamas and alpacas for over 25 years. Okay -- so each year I get about 100 bags of fleece. Okay -- I've never made a single thing out of the fiber until January -- when Amanda introduced me to the "Knifty Knitter" hat loom

Okay -- so I've taken Tammy Duensing's spinning class 5 times. And still couldn't spin -- until today.

A small voice told me that I should "go for it." I bought some luscious white roving from Deanna Dobbs last week.

Today -- I sat down at my Ashford Traveller wheel and guess what people? I SPUN THE ROVING INTO YARN!

I had to call Amanda to remind me how to ply the yarn. I can't stand it. I can SPIN!

Here are the pix of the process: The "white cloud" is a pile of roving -- combed alpaca fiber.

That's my spinning wheel -- with the bobbin hanging crazy.

So after plying the yarn I wound it on the wooden dealie I bought at the MOPACA Show.

Then we have the finished yarn -- and the proud, red-faced spinner.

Would you just LOOK at the shimmer on that skein of yarn?

Oh -- and none of this could have been accomplished without the power drink pictured.
If I can learn to spin -- anyone can learn to spin. Next blog will surely have something that I made from my first skein of yarn. Wow. Just wow.
This old dog just learned a new trick.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Making hay -- making hats

Gloves and boots are a necessity on the farm. It's hard to pick up the hay bales, knock them off of the stack, and load them without gloves, farm boots and a hay hook.

The grandkids were over during hay baling this week. It was 114 degrees heat index the day the hay was baled. That seems to be the law of God and man -- that hay will be baled on the hottest day of the year. Despite the temps, they seemed to have fun -- baking in the sun in the pasture, riding in the back of Grammy's open truck, dragging bales across the barn, teetering at the top of the wagon loaded with hay -- it was all good for kids. Not so much for Grammy.

Thank goodness for Katey and Ron and Ben -- my muscle helpers.

So that's how 96 bales of hay got to the barn.

Then I taught the girls how to use the Knifty Knitter and they began their adventure with hat making. Ashley made a hat for her teddy bear. Amy made a hat for herself -- and liked the process so much that she made one for her bear, too. How cute does Amy look in that little hat? You can see the sweat forming on her head (it WAS over 100 plus heat index) and yet she proudly wore the hat home when her mom came to get them.

Life on the farm in the summer.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Camelid Community 2010

Just got back from Kansas City, MO.

I attended the Camelid Community 2010 conference this weekend.

Llama and alpaca owners from Florida, Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, Nebraska, Kansas, Wisconsin and Massachusetts came together to help direct the future of the camelid industry in the U.S.

There were also representatives from the Alpaca Registry Inc.

Barb Baker and Sheila Fugina are the co-chairs of this annual event and they manage to bring out the best in all of the attendees.

The group is working on some brochures that can be distributed to people in this industry with questions about "what do I do with all this fiber?" and how to engage youth with llamas and alpacas.

It's always a great weekend of brainstorming, sharing ideas and stories, and re-connecting with old friends.

And, of course, the laughing is legendary. We chuckle, guffaw and downright belly laugh at some of the responses.

For example: one of the attendees talked about how she had sent her fleece to a mill to be processed. After waiting month after month, she got a phone call from the mill that they had "found the box with her fleece laying in a corner somewhere." They then asked for a check for processing.

She didn't rush to get payment in the mail. When they sent her a "reminder" e-mail -- she shot back this e-mail message: 'So sorry. Your e-mail was lying in the corner somewhere.'

What a sense of humor!

And there was, of course, the arrival of Helen to the second power -- the two IL Helens -- in their Waffle House hats.

THESE are the reasons I wouldn't miss this conference.