Last post I mentioned I was headed out to an alpaca shearing. Today, I have the sore body and the photographs to prove it.

Alpaca Shearing 2012

We sheared 24 alpacas. Well, I say we sheared, I mean Paul sheared, and I clipped a lot of toe nails.

And all I can say is thank goodness for Juniper Moon Farm and Shepherding camp. I was the only one (who wasn’t a vet student) who wasn’t reluctant to give the trimming a go. I was excited for it! (A couple of others pitched in when I had about had it, and I appreciate that more than I can say.)

Alpaca Shearing 2012
Here’s a photograph of me all hunched over circular looking trimming alpaca toes. I was pretty darn exhausted by this point, but I am now determined to strengthen the muscles in my hands (and other places) so that the next time it’s a piece of cake.

And just for fun, cute pictures of the pacas.

Alpaca Shearing 2012
Naked pacas

Alpaca Shearing 2012
A reluctant cria named Pixi

Alpaca Shearing 2012

All photograph copyright Scott Wickham 2012

Alpaca Shearing

Today, I am dragging out my boots, braiding my hair and heading out into the brushy, rolling hills of North Kansas to help out at an alpaca shearing. I am pretty certain it’s going to be pretty dirty. And while my magic beeswax/lanolin balm nearly cured my farmers market sunburn on my arm, my nose is still pretty red–which means I had better invest in a straw hat.

Calling All Test Knittes

I am in need of 2 to 3 test knitters. I am developing a shawl pattern specifically for my worsted weight merino yarn (pteranondon–it’s a 4-ply.) It’s a large, simple shawl knit on size us 11 needles and uses just under two skeins of my pteranodon worsted yarn.

I hope to have the pattern ready within the next week. The only compensation I can offer is the two skeins of yarn it takes to make the shawl. These two skeins will be in color of test knitter’s choice. And at the end, you get a big, warm shawl that suits you. (I’ll even dye to suit if you don’t see something you like in the shop!)

What I need from you:

a link to two projects that show you are experienced with simple lace patterns.
an ability to knit and photograph your pattern within two to three weeks of receiving your yarn. (I promise, it is a quick knit!)

If you are interested, email at marla at tinydinostudios dot com with appropriate links and I will be in touch. The first three qualified applicants that reply will get the job, so don’t hesitate.

Happy knitting!

Bad Day

Some days, it just seems like everything goes wrong. Yesterday was that day. I woke up grumpy. I stubbed my healing broken toe on the metal wheel of my desk chair, pretty much re-breaking it. I dyed a brand new lovely cream shirt pink (accidentally) when a red wash cloth hopped on in to the white laundry basket. Nothing I tried to knit was satisfying or going well, I couldn’t run around with Athrun outside in the gorgeous weather. And when I tried to escape to the coffee shop to finally finish those minutes from that one meeting that took place ages ago, I was almost there (on my bike) when I realized I had forgotten my wallet. I was too demoralized to try again, which means the minutes still aren’t done. (You know, the ones that I had almost finished but which mysteriously got replaced with last month’s minutes . . .)

Today, I am going to try to change that. I will go to spinning group (and take knitting because the toe needs to be UP, not down on a treadle swelling to alarming proportions). I will sneak over to the coffee shop and finish the minutes. I will enjoy a lovely Sunday evening off–possibly with a glass of wine. And Monday I will wake up and be productive and happy again and it will be like Saturday never even happened.

Seedlings at Four Weeks

Athrun and I planted this years seedlings four weeks ago. I know it was a bit early for pretty much everything but the peas, but we’ve been having fun tending them. Since we have very limited space for planting, we only seeded one flat worth of vegetables for the year. We had 100% germination for every variety of plant except peas. Now, I have up to five seedlings when I really only have room one or two plants out of each variety. Some of the seedlings were getting so large that I have already put them in larger pots (I’m looking at you squash and cucumber). They seem to be thriving, I just hope they survive the move from pot to earth box. There is also the secret hope that I can somehow find room all of the seedlings to grown out on the balcony. Of course, then I have to contend with whether I will be able to get out there and water everything.

The start of this year’s yellow squash.

A jolly cucumber seedling. Last year, we were giving cucumbers away with only one giant plant. This year I have plans for at least two giant plants. The cucumber plant also kept producing through the six weeks we had at 100+ degrees when the tomatoes took a break.

My tomato seedlings are still rather small, therefore not pictured. I waited too long to thin them out. They are doing well, but they look small compared to the rest of the giant seedlings in the tray. (Also not pictured are peas, which are already outside and doing pretty well. Maybe because I am covering them with a blanket at night.)

I have to say that if it hadn’t been for Athrun, I probably wouldn’t have tried to go sunflowers in containers. Sunflowers are so lovely in the summer, and they can really be good bug deterrents, but they are just so darn big. Plus, flowers aren’t food. But, like every year, the balcony garden is one great big experiment. Imagining a row of giant sunflowers on my balcony in late summer gives me enough joy to try it out, even if it doesn’t happen.

And now for the plants that will likely prove the biggest container garden challenge.

This my friends is a cheerful little watermelon seedling. One of five cheerful little seedling full of sweet, refreshing, mouthwatering mid-summer potential. This little watermelon seedling is mocking me. It’s daring me to plant it in an earth box and train its vines to grow up while training it’s fruits to grow down. This will test my limits as a new gardener. This plant is telling me that it wants to grow and thrive, but if I don’t take care if just right it will mock me unceasingly until I can afford a house with a yard.

I saved my favorite seedling for last.

The pumpkins. I know I shouldn’t play favorites, but look at this gigantic plant!

When Athrun and I planted the tray a month ago, we opened our little packet of organic pumpkin seeds and there were three–THREE!–seeds inside. We both felt as though the seed company had pulled one over on us. I mean, have you ever pulled seeds out of pumpkin? There are only about a million! And here we had paid $3 for three seeds. We made little soil mounds in the box and planted our three seeds. And then waited. All the other seedlings were bouncing up out of the soil. We had a veritable tomato sprout forest (which I used a magnifying glass to thin), and the peas were getting too tall for our plant shelf.

Then, one week ago something started to pop out of the row marked “pumpkin”. It has been ONE WEEK since the pumpkins germinated. All three seeds are up and growing strong. These seedlings are just defiant. Unlike the watermelon, these guys are saying to me, “I am going to go grow no matter what you do to me.” And I can get behind that kind of attitude in a plant.

So far, everything but the peas are growing in the balcony window on a wire shelf. I need to prune my basil plant and chuck the oregano and start over. Athrun’s mint plant is full of new leaves, but needs a little cleaning up after the winter. The hardware store down the street had started setting up its garden center in the parking lot. That means it’s just about time to grab giant bags of potting soil and some fertilizer and replant the earth boxes, even if I have to move them in and out for a couple weeks. (Then I can also direct seed some spinach!) The trellis needs to go back up, because it’s been rolled up in the corner of the balcony all winter and it’s really starting to look sloppy to me. I want my clean, green balcony back.

PFA Classes March 2012

PFA Classes for March 2012
Classes will be held at the Potwin Presbyterian Church. Enter through the South Door.
To register, contact the instructor!

Monday, March 5th, 6-8pm
FELT THIS! Needle Felted Coffee Sleeve class Fee: $15 Description: Continue to explore the ancient practice of creating the fabric known as felt from wispy fibers in amazing colors. No experience is needed for this class as you use a template to create a coffee sleeve for your to-go cup. By the end of this 2 hour class, you should have your sleeve completed and ready to use. (Limited to 12 students.) Materials: Bring your felting needle(s), foam base, two ounces or more of wool fibers in colors of your choosing. (A limited number of needle felting kits with needle, small foam base and 50 grams of fibers will be available on the day of the class for $15.)
Instructor: Anna Walker aka @FELTit on Twitter, annasplaceofholding@gmail.com

Friday, March 9th, 2-4pm
FELT THIS! Needle Felted Create-A-Creature class
Fee: $30 Description: Using an armature built from chenille stems and fiberfill, and your imagination, create a creature of your choosing, real or imaginary. Blend the wispy fibers and learn to use your felting needle to create details and texture in your sculpture. No experience is needed for this class as you learn how to blend and combine different colors and textures of the fibers to create your creature. By the end of this 2 hour class, your creature should be mostly created, and you’ll have ideas for finishing details to complete at home. (Limited to 12 students.) Materials: Bring your felting needle(s), foam base, two or more ounces of wool fibers in assorted colors of your choosing. Chenille stems and fiberfill will be provided by instructor. (A limited number of needle felting kits with needle, small foam base and 50 grams of fibers will be available on the day of the class for $15.)
Instructor: Anna Walker aka @FELTit on Twitter, annasplaceofholding@gmail.com

Tuesday, March 20th, 10am-4pm
FELT THIS! Wet Felted Mini-Painting class
Fee: $75 Description: During this class you will build a multi layered wool painting from the fibers you bring to create the background for a silhouetted tree. Learn the technique of ensuring even shrinkage during felting, and discover beauty of how the fibers migrate and blend during the felting process. You’ll leave class with ideas for further embellishment of your painting. (Minimum of 4 students and maximum of 12.) Materials: Bring an old towel to transport your painting home, two ounces of natural colored fibers for the base and four ounces of dyed wool roving-NOT SUPERWASH! I recommend merino or BFL blends of no more than 30% other fiber like silk or bamboo. (Instructor will bring soap, bubble wrap, and other tools for wet felting and will have black and fancy fibers to add details to your painting. Instructor will also bring drum carder in case you want to blend your fibers. Dress in comfortable clothing that could get wet and non-slip shoes) We will take a lunch break, so bring a lunch and drink with you as well.
Instructor: Anna Walker aka @FELTit on Twitter, annasplaceofholding@gmail.com

PotwinFiberArtisans@gmail.com Find Potwin Fiber Artisans on Facebook!

Sundays, March 11th & 25th, 2-4pm
Crochet for Beginners Fee: $30 Description: Learn the skills needed to begin a crochet project, including overhand knot, chain, slip stitch, single crochet, and double crochet. We will make a small purse or electronic device cover for a cell phone or MP3 player. (Limited to 8 students.) Materials: Bring 1 US Size H crochet hook, 100 yards worsted weight yarn (1 skein, any fiber), and a pair of small scissors.
Instructor: Susan Hudgens, Dementia@wildblue.net

Thursday, March 29th, 1-3pm
Demystifying Crochet Gauge Fee: $15 Description: Tame this dreaded dragon and advance your crochet skills in this lively workshop on gauge. If you need help with a project, please bring it. (Limited to 8 students.) Materials: Bring 2 or 3 crochet hooks in different sizes, 100 yards worsted weight yarn (1 skein, any fiber), a pair of small scissors, and a small ruler.
Instructor: Susan Hudgens, Dementia@wildblue.net

Unfortunately, no knitting classes this month. I will be back next month with another project class. Possibly another beginning knitting class. I am more than willing to take suggestions!

The Best Hat Model and an Invitation

Athrun did a little bit of hat modelling for me yesterday.

He looks adorable in just about any hat, but I think the effect is magnified when the hat being worn is obviously too large.

Like any five year-old boy, he preferred to run rather than pose.

But we got him in the end.

And now, the scarf update!

Can you see the difference from yesterday? Can you tell that it is one whole inch wider? If you look very closely you can see I have done the first row of the second contrast stripe. And if I keep averaging an inch a day, I should finish this scarf in the next 7-9 days! I do like having a plan.

An Invitation
Just a reminder, the Potwin Fiber Artisans are hosting their first fiber arts get together night at Potwin Presbyterian Church tongiht from 7-9. We do ask that you bring a $5 donation to help compensate the church for the use of the space. (You would do the same if you met in a coffee shop, you know.) If you’re in the general Topeka / NE Kansas area, we would love to have you, whatever your fibery craft! Not surprisingly, I will be bringing the scarf.

Hope to see you there!

Magic Potion

We believe in magic around my house. In fact, we start out every day with a little dose of it.

Magic beans ground course, brewed in a French press for five minutes and served with a dash of cream is my morning not-bite-your-head-off potion.

But I have a much better potion to share with you today.

Since December 22nd, I have been suffering from any number of sinus-related afflictions. Sinus infections, ear infections, sore throats, coughs, you name it, I have been suffering from it for near on a month now. I have tried many remedies. (And yes, I have been to the doctor–jolly all that did me.) Once my ears healed, my throat hurt, then my sinuses hurt again, and back and forth. I have never, ever been sick this long. And I know many of you out there are suffering similar (though I hope shorter) ailments. So I give you my recipe for what we call, the last real acceptable magic potion.

Chicken Soup.

There is just something so healing about chicken soup. I don’t know what it is. The gross infusion of vegetable? The garlic? The onions? The chicken itself? I suspect it is all of them added together in a hot, salty broth that does it.

Magic Potion Soup


1/4 cup salted butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium onions coarsely chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 large carrots, chopped
4-5 medium potatoes, chopped
8 cups water
2 chicken breasts, baked
1/2 cup rice
2 tsp. basil pesto
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper


Bake chicken at 350 degrees until cooked through (about 45 minutes to an hour)

Meanwhile, melt butter over medium heat in dutch oven.

Add garlic, onion, carrots and celery to melted butter, stirring well after each ingredient.

The massive amounts of onion and garlic are great for colds and sinusitis, plus they help set up a really good broth.

Cook in butter for about 5-7 minutes, or until onions begin to soften.

Add 8 cups water and stir well.
Add potatoes, basil pesto, rice, salt and pepper.
Stir well.

Bring to boil, stirring occasionally.

Once soup is at a good rolling boil, reduce to medium low heat and cover, stirring occasionally.

When chicken is cooked through, remove from oven. Very carefully tip any grease from bottom of baking dish into soup and allow chicken to cool for ten minutes.

Once chicken is cool, chop coarsely and add to soup. Stir well.

Allow soup to simmer for at least 30 minutes after chicken is added.

Serve, enjoy, and heal.

This isn’t a pretty soup. It’s not pureed or blended or smooth. It’s hot, garlicy and chunky. It looks like it could have come out of Widow Arden’s cauldron, you know, the one she also uses to boil her witches brew, in the log cabin she lives in along the edge of the Enchanted Forest. But it tastes good. (Brock ate half the pot in one night, and it’s enough to serve eight people easily.)

I am off to have my second dose. I feel SOOOOO close to being well, but I am just not quite there yet. I am hoping tonight’s dinner tips the odds in my favor.

And drink your carrot-ginger juice!