Tuesday, December 21, 2010

4 days to go....

Well, gifts are just about done, the wrapping has begun, the house is filled with the smell of Christmas cookies, the menu is planned and the kids are busting with excitement....

And now that the wind chill has died down enough for the boys to come out and have some fun, everyone is getting into the spirit of the season.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

And the Holiday Countdown Begins....

So the temperatures have dropped around here and we actually got our first dusting of snow about a week ago.  Although the chickens don't really appreciate this change in seasons, it has left me in the Christmas spirit.  That being said, the countdown has begun here on JADA Farms.

The hustle and bustle has started as everyone rushes around getting ready for the upcoming holiday.  Workers here are running around taking down all the fall decor on the main streets, Santa Claus parades are scheduled for just about every weekend in the little communities around us and people are rushing around trying to get shopping done and be ready for the holidays.

This year we have decided that we are going to have an old fashioned Christmas, right down to the giving of homemade gifts.  Let the creating begin!!  The kids have jumped on the bandwagon and are actually just about done their gifts.  As for me, a few creations are done and sitting around the house already, while others are tucked out of sight until Old Saint Nick arrives....and then there are those that are still in the creative stages. (Obviously, I can not actually post any pictures of these creations until after the holidays). 

Hand Carved Chair

Actually...this one picture I can show you.  I made this hand carved pine chair for Andy.  However, due to space constraints and the fact that I was so pleased with my new creative outlet, he did receive this as an early Christmas present and it is sitting proudly just inside our front door for all visitors to see.

The house smells like peppermint thanks to the new cookie recipe I found, Peppermint Snowballs....so yummy!!


Christmas decorations have started to be dug out of storage and arranged in the yard and throughout our little home, which now looks even homier thanks to all the candles burning every evening.  Every spare moment you can hear the clicking of knitting needles and the whir of spindles spinning fine alpaca threads.  There is still wood to be carved, a tree to be brought home and decorated, more baking to be done and gifts to be wrapped.  And most important of all....family to be loved!

I am slowly realizing that, old fashioned Christmas or not, I am still wishing I had more time.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

One Down...One to Go

Started my second pair of thrummed slippers...one down and one to go.  Thanks to requests from my youngest daughter, I got a little creative with the pattern on these ones.

Hope you like them Honey!!!
Dropped to -4 here last night so better get back to knitting....

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Farm is Spinning

So I have spent the last few weeks hand carding fleece and dusting off my knitting skills to work on thrummed slippers for our little family.  It is very exciting finally finding a creative use for all this gorgeous, soft fleece.  Of course, I haven't made a very big dent in our supply and all this has done is peak my creative curiosity and left me wondering what other projects I can come up with.  Luckily, while searching for ideas online, I came across a little fibre supplier about an hour from our farm, Gemini Fibres.  This supplier is a family owned and operated business.  They run this wonderfully helpful and friendly shop from a separate building situated right on the same property as their home.  The shop is small but their selection is huge and the best part is they offer workshops in spinning, carding, dying fibres and felting!  

Now here on Jada Farms, we have turned this tiny little farmhouse into a cozy and loving home...but the operative word is still T-I-N-Y.  So, as much as I would love to have a loom, that particular creative endeavour is out of the question....for now.  I don't own a spinning wheel, so now what??  Easy!!  I am now the proud owner of my very first spindle and very happy to say it was handmade right here in Ontario.  I purchased this wonderful little tool during my very first workshop at Gemini Fibres, Beginning Spindle Spinning.  One week ago, I spent the day at Gemini Fibres with the most wonderful bunch of ladies, chatting, getting to know each other, sharing experiences and knowledge and of course, spinning.  By the time we broke for lunch I was browsing the shop and making  a huge wish list!  I also found my beautiful handmade spindle.

The design was actually burnt into the whorl of my spindle using a technique called pyography and is made up of a minimum of 300 free-hand strokes.  The yarn pictured with my spindle is my very first spinning creation.  The twist is not even, some is too loose, some is too tight....but I could not be more thrilled!

Probably not enough to make anything but it is mine!!

I was fortunate to spend the day with a group of ladies who were from all over Ontario and had a wide range of experience.  Some were knitters looking for a new challenge, a couple of them were spinners who were looking for a way to make their craft portable and our instructor, Wendy, was a wonderful teacher who can only be described as extraordinary!!  Her teaching style is comfortable, flexible and encouraging.  She shared her story with us and by the time she finished telling us the names of the different parts of our spindles, I felt I had made a friend.

Now only I, the lady with six big bags of raw alpaca fleece at home, would go to a spindle class and come home with two bags of hand-dyed sheep roving....you know, so I could practice before I started working with my boys' gorgeous fleece.  And practice I have!

I haven't spent nearly the amount of time I would like to practicing, but my latest single is looking a lot more uniform.  I am sure that by the time I get through spinning all of this royal looking purple roving I will feel a lot more confident.  Of course, I have registered for my next spindle class and I am now faced with the dilemma  of what to do if my spindle is full.  OOPS now what??

I am very glad I decided to take the workshop, I have found a new creative outlet.  One that I love and that makes time stand still.  You definitely can lose yourself while you watch that wonderful little thread appear right before your eyes.  Of course, that is, until I look out my window at our little farm and all the colours it is showing off now that Autumn is here.

Our Backyard
How could you not think, "I wonder how hard hand-dying fleece would be" when you look out your window at this everyday?  Well off to make a call to Gemini to see when the hand-dying workshop is...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Gorgeous Fleece Makes It Cozy

Remember the good ol' days, when you were under the age of 10, and you never felt the cold?  I remember those days, especially every winter when my feet are freezing! 

So after months of trying to figure out the best thing to do with all of this glorious fleece that our boys gave us I finally ordered a set of hand carders and started to play.  "Play" being the operative word as I have never had any formal training on how to use them...well other than an elementary school trip to Black Creek Pioneer Village.  So thanks to the encouragement from Andy and a new friend from Kentucky and the internet's endless supply of "How To" sites, I finally stopped turning Vincent's fleece into knots and started making some of my first rolags.

Of course, looking at all those soft rolags led me to sign up for a spindle class and I can not wait to see what I can create after that!  For now though, a dear friend, who saw the photos of our fleece, reminded me of thrummed mittens.  Thrummed mittens are very well known in Newfoundland...cause let's face it, they know cold!  So back to the internet I went.  After checking many, many knitting sites and refreshing very old and unused knitting skills, I was experimenting once again.  Thrumms are small portions of fleece, pulled from the rolags or rovings and knit into the mitten, sock, slipper or hat so that the ends of the fleece are loose on the inside of the garment and left to act like insulation.  The garment itself is made with regular worsted yarn.

Warmth is this fleece wrapped around you!

I have been bringing those old knitting skills back to life again for two weeks now.  Of course, to add a little glich to my creativity, there had to be a couple of steps missing from my pattern.  That's right, back to the internet and those "How To" videos again!  But now, two weeks later I am on a roll...I think.  My first slippers may not be perfect and I have found a few areas where I would actually adjust the pattern but hey, who says a girl can only have one pair of slippers?  All I can tell you is they are the coziest, softest pair of slippers I have ever had! 

The kids have all put in their orders for what colour yarn they want and who's fleece they want...so by the time all of our slippers are completed I should be an old pro.  Who knew that spending endless hours curled up in that old comfy chair carding fleece and knitting would be so relaxing!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Our Gorgeous Fleece

So we have spent this summer looking at the beautiful soft fleece that our boys gave us this year.  Trying to decide what to do...sell it as raw fibre, have it processed and turned into yarn or get those creative juices flowing and have some fun.  

We are very lucky that all six of our boys have fabulous fleece and in fact a few of them have exceptional fleece.

The black and white fleece Vincent gave us

Alpaca fleece is luxuriously soft and extremely warm.  Unlike sheep's wool, alpaca fleece is not prickly and has no lanolin so it is hypoallergenic.  This beautiful fleece has to be sheared every spring in order to keep the alpacas from overheating in our warm climate.  It can be carded and spun into beautiful yarns and it didn't take long for me to purchase my first set of hand carders.  After many online tutorials and asking a lot of questions, I gave it a shot and this is what I got.

My first rolags

I started with Vincent's beautiful black and after a few knots, a few frustrating attempts and a couple of more online tutorials, I was getting the hang of it.  I was at it again first thing the next morning and was quickly hooked and it was time to start experimenting.  I took some of Vincent's white fleece from his neck and combined it with his black and started carding it.  After just a few strokes this beautiful gray started to appear.  I have decided that this gray is going to be used for a special project, I just don't know what that is yet.

Now all I have to do is improve my limited knitting skills and learn how to spin!  I can't wait!

Friday, August 20, 2010

New Additions....

Farm life suits us just fine!  There is something about knowing that at the end of the day, no matter what has occured, you are lucky enough to drive out of town and end up in your own little chunk of Heaven.

Of course there is always something that needs doing, especially now that we have started planning for those chickens we had always intended to have.  A farm is a constant source of planning, chores, changes and occasionally the unexpected.  We had noticed, while putting our boys in for the night, that a very small grey cat had taken up residence in the barn.  Although he didn't ever come near us, he was not afraid of us either.  His tiny little body, covered in the most beautiful gray fur earned him the name Smokey and he seemed perfectly content to sit on the other side of the railing and watch us go through our nightly routine.  That is until Friday the 13th.  I had gone ahead and started the evening chores before Andy got home.  Everything was going according to the usual routine until I went to get our boys their hay for their dinner.  It wasn't until I went through the gate into the other half of the barn and reached down to grab the hay, that I noticed a dark patch laying there.....and it moved.  I quickly backed away, turned on the light and discovered that the dark patch was actually four of the cutest little kittens nestled into the hay.   Hmmm....turns out Smokey is a girl!

Our Unexpected Additions

Where Smokey had been hiding these four little cuties in that tiny little frame of hers is beyond either of us.  But there they were and she is a wonderful momma.  She has since moved them into our hay storage after some nosey racoons got a little too close to the barn for her liking.  The new little family is doing well.

We are lucky enough to have a farm sales / auction barn about 10 minutes from our little chunk of Heaven.  So Saturday morning, bright and early, off we went to 'just look' to see what chickens they had available.  Now we are not usually impulsive shoppers, especially Andy, but we know a good deal when we see one.  So by 10am Saturday morning, 'just looking' had turned into four laying hens sitting in the back of my SUV and the rush was on to get the last bit of construction done on the coop.  In a matter of 24 hours, two house cats and six alpacas had turned into two house cats, six alpacas, one barn cat, four new kittens and four chickens.

Wilma & Betty

Now, being new to this whole alpaca farming life, we knew that there would be an adjustment period while everyone met, figured out their pecking orders (haha) and got to know each other.  Our chicken coop may not be the prettiest one around but we are very proud to say it is made almost entirely from recycled or reused materials and the four girls seem to like it just fine.  It has been a week since they arrived and we still haven't seen an egg except for the trip to the grocery store but, we have been told that it is quite normal for laying hens to take up to two weeks to settle in and start laying so we are still confident!

As for our boys adjusting to their new neighbours....well.....they are curious if nothing else....

I'm Wellington, what's your name??

 And although they have spent a lot of time around the chicken coop checking things out, they have not done anything to upset the chickens and have managed to keep their wrestling confined to the other side of the paddock. 

Make you a deal..you don't eat our grass and we will try not to spit on you.

Fingers crossed, we should have farm fresh eggs for breakfast very soon.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tyrone Comes Around...Too Cool!!

So today, after a long day at work, we got to return to our tranquil life at JADA Farms.  Only tonight instead of our normal routine of dinner, yard work and chores, something special happened.  Our Tyrone, usually the strong silent type who is content to stand back and watch the coming and goings of the farm...did something that brought smiles to our faces and made our day!

Alpacas must be sheared in the spring due to the heat.  They can become overheated in the summer months leading to illness or worse.  An alpaca's "thermal window" is their belly.  For this reason, we had purchased a kid's wading pool this summer for our boys to play in, cooling their feet and bellies.  We had never noticed them going in the pool, although all of our research told us that alpacas love water.  A breeder in Kentucky that I have been corresponding with had offered the suggestion of trying a sprinkler, her alpacas love it.  To date I had only tried it once with no results.  Tonight, when I went to clean and change the water in their pool, I noticed the bottom was filled with sand....a good sign.  Andy suggested I put the hose on a low, fine spray and see what happens.  I crouched down in the paddock, slowly turned on the water and watched as most of the boys just stood there and looked at me....most, but not all.  The next thing we knew Mr. Strong and Silent was heading right for me.

Tyrone cooling off

We couldn't help but laugh watching Tyrone turning around over top of the hose.  In fact, he even tried to lay down on the end of the hose.  Our boy suddenly opened up, hanging out right beside me, sniffing my hair and moving around to make sure every inch of his legs and belly got a good soaking.

A little to the left please...

Who knew...our little loner is actually a hose hog!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Weekend on the Farm

The thing about a farm is that there is always something that needs doing.  The original plan of the farm was a nice quiet life, a garden and maybe a couple of chickens.  Now that our boys are nicely settled, we have decided to get back to that plan and so the construction begins....on our new chicken coop.

Our Saturday morning started with a trip to the local farmer's market checking out the chickens that were available.  Saturday afternoon was filled with baking, chores and construction...things that are fun when you do them together!

Logan trying her hand at Monkey Bread

I got to spend the afternoon in the kitchen with Logan making her first ever, and now famous, Monkey Bread.  The hardest part was getting her to be patient and wait for the bread to rise but we both had a great time!  Meanwhile, out in the yard, the construction was well under way. 

Sydney and Andy working on the chicken coop

I never did figure out who was supervising, but the band-aids and injuries were kept to a minimum, the amount of laughter was high and there was a lot of progress made before the rain started.  A very productive day on JADA Farms. 

We also were lucky enough to finally get a break in the humidity we have been experiencing and our boys were loving the cooler temps.  In fact, they were loving it so much that they even put up with a little drizzle to enjoy getting out of the barn and fill their bellies with all the yummy grass and roll in the sand.  The only problem was, all the drizzle had turned their sand into mud.  Our self proclaimed "King" enjoyed himself to the fullest....now how to get our beautiful boy looking white again???


So even with all the farm projects and chores...we love spending the time together!  And we are lucky enough to have the bonus of being able to hang out in the yard with six very peaceful critters.  Absolute relaxation!!

Hanging out with the boys

Saturday, August 7, 2010

And Three Becomes Six...

We were lucky enough to find a breeder who insisted we get to know, work with and halter train our new boys before we brought them home.  This way the boys would be more attached to us and their transition to their new home would be much easier.

On June 2 of this year, while making one of our routine visits to the boys, we were introduced to three older boys.  Varnell, Wellington and Tyrone were six years old and had spent their lives as beloved family pets.  Unfortunately, forced to downsize their farm, these three wonderful boys were returned to the breeder in the hopes she would be able to find them a home. 

Our Adoptees
The concern was, that due to the fact that these three pets had been gelded, no breeder would have room for them on their farms.  However, as a new farm just starting out, they offered us companions for future additions to our farm.  Before we knew it, these three adoptees were being introduced to our three boys to make sure that everyone would get along and it was a done deal...Varnell's name was now Parnell and three were now six!!   There was nothing left to do but shear our adoptees and plan a homecoming!!

Our ambition has always been that JADA Farms would be a "family farm".  We have three wonderful kids who were chomping at the bit to get their three new buddies home...they had no idea that their buddies had multiplied.  Now to keep this a secret and still make sure that they were comfortable around the older boys.

The Girls with Tyrone and Wellington

With our breeder as a partner in crime, we had the kids convinced that although these three older boys were amazing, cute and loveable, they were only being boarded for another farm.  The kids were happy to help lend a hand and help out with these new friends.  Good thing homecoming was only a week away!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Our First Meeting...

So what started as a normal day in March, took a bit of a twist when Andy sent me a message at work telling me he had just met the most loveable critters...

Our Three Handsome Boys

I can't believe that it has already been 5 months since we first went to a local breeder and got introduced to our three handsome boys.  I remember crouching down in their stall while the three of them just looked at us.  It wasn't long before Vincent, a.k.a The Nosey One, came to start checking us out.  I was hooked the minute that velvet soft nose wiggled across my cheek.


There has been a lot of learning and work in those 5 months, and still more to do but neither one of us is looking back.