Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Mad Hatter

Just call me The Mad Hatter.

I have crazily decided to challenge myself to make a "hat-a-day" for 365 days. I'm on Day 31 of the challenge.

I am addicted to knitting on the Knifty Knitter Hat Looms. I can whip out a hat in a short period of time -- and the feeling of having "gotten something DONE" is extremely rewarding.

So -- you ask -- what am I going to DO with all these hats?

1. I tend toward having a generous soul. I want to gift people with hats that have been lovingly made from my own animals.

2. I have 8 grandchildren -- ALL of whom have one of Grammy's hats. Several of my daughters and daughters-in-law also have my hats. Two of my sons have hats. I have a big family.

3. I will sell some of the hats to support my herd. Buying winter hay this year is no joke. Grain, dewormers, halters, leads, blankets for the old girls -- all of these things cost money. Selling some of the hats will support my wonderful herd of llamas and alpacas that gift me with their fleeces each May for the purpose of making my hats.

4. And then there's the other reason: 11 years ago our granddaughter, Ashley, was born -- and she was a twin. Her sister, Jessica, didn’t survive -- and actually stopped growing 2 months before birth. I will never forget the beautiful hat/sweater that Jessie was dressed in when we held her for the first -- and last time. It was the kindness of strangers to gift the hospital with those beautiful little hats and sweaters. Time to pass it on, "pay it forward" -- if you will.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Challenge: A Hat a Day

Hmmm. Maybe I've bitten off more than I can chew. I decided to challenge myself to this deal: I will make a hat every day for the next year. Yep. That's the plan.

I started on Monday of this week. I made the bigger white and multi-colored ski hat first. Next came Tuesday - and the smaller ski hat. Then it was my daughter-in-law's birthday and I made the white hat with mustard-colored trim (I made the scarf last week). Then it was the blue swirly hat on Thursday. And I ended with the natural brown alpaca hat. Plus I made a white/black little girl's hat for today.

I like to stretch myself. I like to reach a goal. This may get really old -- but as long as I "switch it up" a bit with different sizes/types of hats I think I can hang in there.

And yes, some of the hats will be for sale on my Etsy site -

I'll try to give you all an update from month-to-month. It'll be easy in the winter -- it's the summer that might deter me.

Monday, October 31, 2011

NAMI Walk 2011

Saturday was the 8th Annual Walk for Recovery held in Russell Commons Park in Alton. NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) was the organization that sponsored the walk. This year they added a 5K run for Recovery to the event.

It was beautiful weather and the breeze off of the Mississippi River was just the right touch of fall.

I was proud to provide the llamas and alpacas for the event -- 4 llamas: Autumn, Punxsutawney, Pebbles and Valentina -- and 4 alpacas: Eileeen and Polka-Dot Patty, Punchau and Brook.

Random participants were able to walk the animals along the path in the park. There was a huge bridge that spanned some water, but the animals only hesitated for seconds before trekking over the bridge. The quiet, gentle souls of the animals brought a calming effect to all who participated in the walk.

I have been associated with NAMI for 8 years now. The young man who drew the "NAMI llama" shared the history of "how this came to be" with me and it was interesting listening to his own personal story -- and that of the "character" that would become his creation.

Llamas historically carry burdens -- and that is what families can do to help those struggling with mental illness. When you visit their website: you can read about the "connection" that has developed over the years.

The photos tell the tale of the walk -- groups of individuals forming teams to fight for recovery. My son, Ben, is shown with Valentina -- and one youngster even dressed as a llama -- the Dolly Llama -- to be exact. She was adorable.

Llamas posed for photos for a donation to NAMI of $5. It was a great way to raise more funds.

Suicide is a leading cause of death among young people -- especially when they are struggling with depression. NAMI can help -- and we are proud to be associated with such a "stand up" organization.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pit Firing

Another Native American Pit Firing under our belts, here at Wier World. My sister is a potter, and she coordinated the placing of the pots into the pit and helped members of the Artisan Guild of Southern IL to produce wonderful pottery in the ancient style of pit firing.

I was especially honored to have one of the elders of my family here for the event, my Aunt Eleanora. She came dressed in the Native American style, complete with a feather and headband.

We were once again honored to have Ramiro Pacheco, of Navajo heritage, here for the blessing of the pit and the pots prior to the event. He called upon the Navajo language to share his thoughts and it was beautiful, as usual.

On Saturday, my llama Annika had a baby -- a boy cria that I have named Na Shad' Doe -- Navajo for beautiful. He's a handsome guy with four white socks.

Then on Sunday my alpaca Eloquent Lady delivered an adorable little alpaca boy -- Ko' is his name -- the Navajo word for "fire."

It was a lovely weekend -- with hard work, good friends, good soup and laughter.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Spin a Bag -- return on investment

Since December 2010 I've sent out 71 boxes of fiber to spinners.

The plan goes like this: I mail out two fleeces. One is to be spun into double ply yarn for me, and the other is theirs to keep. I ask for the yarns to be returned within one year.

Not that complicated, is it?

One problem. I've only received about 10% of the yarns mailed back to me.

The fleeces have cost me an average of 10 bucks to mail. The weights have varied from 6 to 9 pounds of fiber.

The fleeces have gone to CA, NE, UT, MD, WA, FL, KY, TX, ME, MA, IL, MO, CO, TN, PA, VA, MN, OH, SC, KS, IA, MI, WI, NY, ND, GA, NC, ID, CT, OR, AL, AR, IN, and New Brunswick, Canada. That's 33 states and our northern neighbor.

I sent these fleeces, from the backs of my own animals, in good faith. I sent them to people who requested the opportunity to work with alpaca fiber. People that I trusted with the beautiful, luxurious "fiber of the gods" from the ancient Mayan and Incan empires.

I simply ask for these fleeces to be returned as double ply yarn. I ask that they, who theoretically stood and did this handshake deal with me, honor their promise. Nothing more. Nothing less.

I would hate to lose my faith in my fellow man -- or woman.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fall crias

It's been a new cria ever few days or so. What fun.

Just so Perfect (llama) birthed Pocahontas. She's a lovely little gal with suri-type fiber.

Elody (all white), birthed Rudolph, the white-nosed alpaca boy. He's all black -- with one white spot.

Eileen had Polka Dot Patty. Patty is amazing. She runs, leaps, twirls, and is already, at one month old, a moose.

Yzma (brown) had a handsome, light fawn boy that I named Kreitner. I went to Kreitner School in Collinsville on the day he was born. He is adorable.

And then there's my Pink Pinafore. Her leg is healing and she is still confined to the "baby pen" with her mama. She uses the leg sparingly -- but I know she will eventually use it. It's been a long, long haul for her.

I know y'all want to see some photos of the crias, right? It's like a grandma opening up her wallet with the pictures of grandkids spilling out. Forgive my bragging.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why "3 Sisters' Workshops?"

When I was 61 years old I learned how to spin fiber into yarn, thanks to Tammy D.

I learned how to make hats on the "knifty knitter" loom shortly after that, thanks to Amanda.

I took a class at Hillcreek Fiber Studio and learned how to weave on a tri-loom, thanks to Carol Leigh.

I can't believe it myself. If anyone would have told me about the road I would travel to learn these things -- I would have laughed. And laughed. And laughed.

"Me?" I would have said, "making hats? Weaving shawls? No way."

I make hats every week now. I love it. I made a lovely little blue hat for our newest grandbaby -- Lincoln Benjamin. My son and daughter-in-law used the picture of him in the hat for their birth announcements. You can't make a grammy much happier than that!

I get so much enjoyment from spinning, too. I have gone from an Ashford Traditional wheel, Ashford Travellor, Hitchhiker, and now my love affair with the Louet wheel brings me full circle.

Before I left for work this morning I did some Navajo plying on my wheel. What? Me? Yes, me.

I am so excited about these new abilities. It's all part of what I call "life long learning."

It's what we're trying to do, Tammy, Amanda and I -- with "3 Sisters' Workshops." We want to share the knowledge of how to spin, weave, process fleece, cart with llamas, pack with llamas, dye yarn, felt -- all of it. We are (as our logo boasts) "Doin' what we love and lovin' what we do!"

Check out the opportunities at

Come join us at my house. Bring a dish to share for lunch. Learn something new. And then take that skill into your life. Who knows where it will lead!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The trouble with Pink Pinafore

This little doll of an alpaca cria has been trouble from the beginning.

She was born on March 20, 2011, a bright Sunday afternoon. She was born out in the back pasture -- with her mama, Sanya as an attentive, doting mama. This was Sanya's first birth and by all accounts, things went well.

When Pink Pinafore (so named because of the "glow" that emanates from her fleece) was about 3 weeks old she began racing through the pasture -- at around 30 mph. She would leap and twirl, almost giggling as she left the other crias "in the dust" in her escapades. Gosh, could that gal run.

At around 4 weeks of age I noticed that she was limping. I took a deep breath and thought -- probably a sprain -- as she got busy running. A few days later -- not better. My heart sank. A broken leg alpaca? Could it be? Please God, no.

I took her to my vet -- only to discover that she had broken a bone in the "growth plate" of her leg. Bummer. No way to cast it. And by then it was infected. Dr. Liz put a drain in the joint -- and I put Pinafore and her mama in a separate pen so I could clean the gunk out each day and get it healed.

Then shearing happened. I knew that Pinafore couldn't be stretched out on the table with ropes -- so we chose to hold her down instead. Oh my, that didn't work. She jerked and pulled and it might have made things worse as she struggled not to be shorn. Lesson learned.

After shearing she was back to limping again. Bummer.

Two weeks ago I noticed that she was beginning to use the leg, but there was still pus coming from the joint -- so I took her back to the vet to "take a look."

This is where it gets ugly. I took her (and several others) on the hottest day imaginable (over 115 heat index). The vet was at the Monroe County Fairgrounds, so she called and suggested I bring the alpacas from the trailer inside the office into the AC.

When I handed Pinafore to the office staff to set down outside the trailer -- I wasn't fast enough grabbing Sanya's rope and Pinafore's mama leaped out of the trailer and LANDED on Pinafore's broken leg. Well, if it wasn't broken before -- it surely was broken then -- as it spun around like a pinwheel (ooooooouuuuuuuucccchhhh!).

I cried like a baby. Bawled. Sat in the grassy area by the trailer and just wailed. Sobbed. You get the picture. This was to be my pink showgirl. My alpaca that I would take to shows and WIN with. That was her future. Ahh -- but the best laid plans of mice and women . . .

Dr. Liz found the new break (from the long top bone by her hip to the first joint) and now we are sporting a cast people. The other break has healed. Of course. Bummer.

Pink Pinafore is doing amazingly well. We go back in three weeks. I asked Dr. Liz if I should go ahead and register this girl. "Let's see what she does next," was her reply. Spoken like a wise veterinarian.

In photos: Pinafore the day she was born; during her first broken bone; holding up the bad leg in the pasture; getting her cast; and with my grandson, Andrew, right after she was casted.

Friday, July 22, 2011

American Veterinary Medical Conference in STL

It was Monday -- it was Purina Farms in Gray Summit, MO -- it was 103 real temp -- with heat indices of over 110 degrees.

Denise and I took ten llamas and alpacas to be ultrasounded by a group of veterinarians.

There were some "heavy hitters" in the camelid reproductive world there. Dr. Ahmed Tibary of Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine. He graduated from vet school in Morrocco and has been researching Camelid reproduction since 1980.

Dr. Toni Cotton is one of this country's leading camelid veterinarians. Her practice is limited to camelids and her main interests are camelid reproduction and neonatal care. She recently published a book on Camelid Reproduction with Dr. David Anderson and Dr. Clair Whithead. She is also co-owner of "Suris of the Western Slope" in Ridgeway, CO.

I'm thinking the St. Louis heat was a shock to everyone. There were vets from North Dakota -- Wisconsin -- Kansas -- MO -- NY -- and many "northern states" that were taken aback by the tremendous heat. They were learning how to ultrasound camelids to look for "ripe follicles" on their ovaries -- look at the kidneys, liver, compartmented stomachs and check for pregnancies.

I have to say that our llamas and alpacas did well. I took Goodness and her cria, Zapato; Pebbles, Miss Ivory; Brook. Denise brought Avalanche and Cheyenne; Eagle Eye, Platinum and Valentina.

It was a long, hot day outside. Thanks to Betty from Purina Farms for her help during the seminar.

It's just too hot to work outside with animals in the St. Louis summer. At least THIS summer.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Amanda -- In memoriam

The list is long. The list of the the accomplishments of one "Pale Moon's Amanda" both on and off of our farm.

There isn't much this girl hasn't accomplished. She's been to schools and nursing homes. She's proudly marched in parades. She won awards and certificates from the International Lama Registry for her "public relations" work. She was the llama that the man who wrote, "I Don't Want to Kiss a Llama" -- actually kissed.

She has been a treasure on our farm for all of the 15 plus years that we owned her. She was our most expensive llama purchase. And worth every cent.

There will never be another like her. Never.

She crossed over the Rainbow Bridge yesterday at age 21 years old.

The unabashed wailing (from me) in the barn when I discovered her lying peacefully in front of a fan, shocked even the boy herd. It echoed from metal wall to ceiling and back around again -- as I stood in the middle of the barn and sobbed mournfully, cried, yelled at the heavens. I knew it was coming. I knew she was on her way to the Rainbow Bridge. I sensed it.

I can only hope for the joyful reunion between she and I when I enter the Pearly gates. My heaven must have llamas.