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April 25, 2008
The Paschal Lamb?

Our Passover celebrations this year involved something new for the lambs... shearing. It turned out that the day the shearer came to town was moved to happily coincide with our visit to Ukiah, California. We helped load cousin Elizabeth's three ewes and two lambs into the back of the truck and bounced them over backroads to a friend's barn where there were sheep-a-plenty. Fascinating to see all their different faces and fleeces! The shearer made quick with his work, and we returned with the naked sheep in plenty of time to make the matzah balls.

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08:35 PM | Comments (1)
April 13, 2008
alpacas!*

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I organized a field trip to the Alpaca Valley Ranch last weekend. The more I learn about alpacas, the more I like them. Environmentally, they live lightly on the land compared to other domesticated animals. When you hear about the realities of Chinese cashmere farming , it makes you think harder about your choices in luxury fibers. Locally grown alpaca, processed nearby and available in a range of natural colors seems like a choice you can feel pretty good about.

And besides, the alpacas were pretty darned cute! We had a marvelous afternoon getting to know the critters. They're very calm and quiet, a bit skittish, but really pleasant animals. Less smelly and dirty than a dog, and, according to our hosts, Kari and Wythe Davis, easier to take care of.

And their fleece? Delightfully soft. Warm and light (alpaca hairs are hollow which makes them marvelous insulators). And much cleaner than sheep's wool because they don't produce lanolin. Even an unwashed fleece seemed at most "dusty" rather than dirty. The hairs are shorter, straighter and slipperier than a nice crimpy sheep's wool, but even as a neophyte, I didn't find it much trouble to spin. Alpacas come in a range of colors from a rich chocolatey black to creamy white. So even undyed, the color choices are interesting.

We got to wander around with the alpacas in their pen and learn about them and finished up our visit looking at the fibers, fleeces and yarns Kari had for sale. Meanwhile, the children were entertained with a box of kittens. Really. So if you're interested in alpaca yarn or fiber drop the Alpaca Valley Ranch a line. She's happy to ship fiber... but not kittens.

As far as what I'm knitting, I agreed to give myself a little vacation from my current must-knit, 3/4-done, all-the-mystery-is-gone project and cast on with my creamy fingering weight alpaca. What's on the needles? A pattern I've been rhapsodizing about for a long time, Hanami from Pink Lemon Twist. I have just finished the first repeat of the basketweave pattern. I have no expectation of getting it done quickly. I think it's one of those things your relish slowly.

*Or, one llama named Tina and some alpacas.

04:03 PM | Comments (4)
April 1, 2008
visualize whirled peas

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07:55 PM | Comments (1)