I was generously invited to the annual alpaca shearing event at Vashon Island Alpaca, which took place yesterday. I helped with fleece gathering and bagging, as well as animal handling.
The shearing itself is done by a three-man team of shearers: one man using the clippers, while the other two held the animal. Kind of like different cuts of beef, there are different parts of the fleece: "one" is the back, "two" is the neck and the upper parts of the legs, and "three" is the belly, the topknot and lower parts of the legs, if it's not very dirty. We who collected the fleece and bag it (one large plastic bag for each type) would scamper around the feet of the shearing team, pulling shorn fleece off and picking locks of it up off the floor, working as quickly as possible to keep it tidy, out from underfoot, and organized into the three types.
Jake, a farm regular, and I made a good fleece collecting team
most of the animals stood throughout the shearing, but not all of them.
Knitters: you know that baby alpaca yarn we all oooh and aaahh over? This is it.... baby.
After several rounds of that job, I helped fix some jagged wires in a fence of the holding pen, and then I helped prepare the animals for shearing. Each animal was identified by serial number and name, then rounded up by one person (basically by grabbing their head and neck--I let the pros do this bit), and then holding them--this is where I came in--for a blowdown with a high-powered hairdryer, and some fleece-picking, if necessary. And yes, I jumped right in when asked to pick twigs, lichen bits and.... other bits... out of the critters' fleece.
a little alpaca ass-grabin'
a good mix of befores and afters, for reference
I tell you though, there is just no end to how funny these guys look after they've been shorn....
this guy insisted that they leave his sideburns
...and they sure can bend!
I had an incredibly good time, and I sincerely hope I can come back and do it again next year.
Thanks to Bill and Lee for having me, to Nathan and Harlan for allowing me to help, and to Cohni and Josh, for inviting me, and for taking pictures!
Things are growing in the garden -- some losses already, but some successes. I had to pull the broccoli raab when it bolted (I never even saw the part I was supposed to eat), and the chard is touch-and-go. But the tomatoes are going well, as is the basil -- now I just need to learn how to make fresh mozarella. The cilantro is still alive, and the potatoes need no encouragement at all. The winter squashes look about ready to burst with flowers (pleasepleaseplease), and the blueberry bushes are heavy with green fruit. I've had a few strawberries (yum!) and the onions are doing well (how did I end up with three types of onions?). The asparagus is wild and still putting up shoots, but the star of the beauty pagent is probably the hops. These plants are just lovely, leafy and green, and I'm sure I could hear them grow if I just listened closely.
With increasing frequency, color combinations are catching my eye, and when my camera is around, I try to capture them. This morning, it was the strawberries on my oatmeal in a turquoise colored bowl that did the trick. I'll try to capture more of these colors/combinations and show them to you.
I haven't done much jewelry making lately, so when a colleague was telling me how she wanted some gaudy orange earrings to go with a teal dress she planned to wear at an upcoming wedding, I jumped at the opportunity to pull out the needlenosed jewelery pliers. Ellen helped me select the beads, and I came up with these lovelies:
specs: about two inches long overall, mostly Swarovski Crystal (multiple colors), cloisonne and metal beads, golden wire, golden earwires (unsure of specific precious metal content).
Eric was here all last week, and we had a great time together. We celebrated our eighth anniversary a little late by taking a three day trip to San Juan Island, where neither of us had been before. We stayed at a bed & breakfast on the western side of the island -- a working ranch, tended to by very friendly innkeepers. After the orcas, alpacas seem to be the island's mascot, and while we didn't see any of the former (they were out in open ocean), we saw plenty of the latter, and got to feed the ones at our B&B. As you might guess, I left the island with some lovely alpaca yarn. We brought with us lunch fixins and picniced every day, we brought dinner foodstuffs and had a bbq at San Juan County Park before settling down with some brie and wine for the sunset. We saw harbor porpoises, seals and sea lions, bald eagles, deer and foxes. We criss-crossed the island a few times, saw American and British Camps, lingered on beaches and generally had a lovely, relaxing time.
We also managed to squeeze in a trip to Portland to see Heather & Stephen and their lovely new home, paint the sun room, bunches of gardening, dinner with Cohni & Josh, and I think I even went to work for a little bit.