More Farm Adventures – Making Hay, 2021 Edition

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Every summer, I try not to stress out about making hay. After going through hay seasons waiting… and waiting… for hay to dry and then baling it before it was perfectly dry and making bricks instead of bales, I’m nervous. Remember last year? Our bales were heating up because they were, essentially, fermenting/burning inside. We had to open them all up, spread them out in a barn and fluff them up twice a day until they were dry! We have about two acres of good hay field and should be able to make enough hay to feed all the alpacas, if all goes well. If.

People say that farmers complain about the weather a lot. I try not to complain, but it’s hard when the weather just won’t cooperate and my animals need food for the winter. This year, I decided to start a bit earlier, with the hope that we can make two cuts of hay.

For those without any farming experience, let me briefly explain what “making hay” means. It means making bales of hay for the purpose of feeding to animals later, and the first step is cutting the hay. Once it is dry, it is baled and the bales are hauled off the field. Sometimes, an extra step needs to be added in order to help the hay to dry – raking or flipping the hay. So, making hay should be a simple, 4-step process:

1. Cut hay.
2. Wait for hay to dry.
3. Bale hay.
4. Haul bales in.

Sometimes the hay doesn’t dry well, if it has been rained on or if the weather isn’t hot and dry enough. so, in that case:
1. Cut hay.
2. Wait for hay to dry.
3. Rake hay (which flips it over).
4. Wait for hay to dry some more.
5. Bale hay.
6. Haul bales in.

Baling on the original hay field, with the horse pasture in the background

So far, we had more than our share of speed bumps in making hay! Back in May, our tractor had gone to the mechanic to get a new clutch put in, so we were anxiously waiting for it to be ready. Once it came back, we had to put the loader mount back on. It consists of two large metal pieces that get bolted on either side of the tractor to hold the front end loader, which we haven’t been using. We worked together to get the heavy pieces lined up with the holes on the tractor. One side was giving us trouble and we got my dad to help. He is the resident expert on this tractor, since he owned it for decades! In the end, we just couldn’t get one hole to line up so we made the hole on the loader mount slightly bigger. That’s why as a farmer, you need metal files!

We decided to cut the hay using a ditch mower, which just pulls behind the tractor. It isn’t elegant or fancy, but it gets the job done. The only down side is that it isn’t very wide, so it takes more trips across/around the field. We also have a 16-foot wide swather (windrower, technically) that takes less trips across the field, but if you remember from this post from last year, it can be a bit of a beast to run. Hay cut with the mower lies randomly all over the field, so we have to rake it into swaths for the baler to pick up.

After the tractor came back from the mechanic, we found that the battery was weak and it was not starting very well at all. The battery would hold a charge okay after being connected to the charger, but the need to charge for 20-30 minutes every time we started the tractor was getting annoying. We managed to cut the hay alright, but when I was raking it into swaths, I stalled the tractor twice — remember I said we got a new clutch!?! — and in order to start it up again in the field, we had to drive our pick up truck to the tractor, hook up the booster cables, and let the battery charge for awhile. Then it would generally start. Did I mention that this was all happening during the heat wave where the temperatures got up to 37 degrees C?! My dad, the tractor expert, said “that tractor never really liked to work in the heat. It might be overheated and that’s why it won’t restart.” Argh.

Not long after starting raking, I noticed that the rake wasn’t turning any more. I stopped and unclogged the teeth in case that was why. Nope. It still wouldn’t turn. I did it again, more thoroughly. Nope. It was ridiculously hot that day and breezy and I was really trying to figure out why it stopped turning before I melted in the heat. I traced the connections and found it — a crucial pin was broken. It’s the pin that holds the rod that connects the wheel axle to the rake mechanism and ultimately drives the motion of the rake. No pin, no raking. I found a bolt in the tractor’s tool box that fit and put it in. Considering how important that one bolt was, I decided to go back to the yard and look for a better bolt. We got it installed, boosted the tractor and finished raking.

As I was driving back to the yard, I felt like the tractor was sort of klunking as it rolled along. After I parked, I saw the problem: one of the front tires was completely trashed — so flat I had been driving on the rim! Our new hay field is pretty bumpy, so I hadn’t noticed. That field was a horse pasture for a couple of years and a cow pasture before that. I had cleared the fallen trees from it, but there were plenty of ant hills and mole hills and maybe even some tree stumps. I probably wrecked the tire by driving over one of those, or maybe in one of my sharp left turns, trying not to hit the fence!

So we needed a new tire for the tractor before we could move it another inch. We needed a new battery and perhaps there was something wrong with the alternator as well. I was pretty discouraged and then I remembered that we had a pile of spare tires for that tractor. Sure enough, we had three spares and one of them was even ON A RIM!! Thank goodness. We took the tires to a tire shop that does tractor tires and they said it would be done on Monday, in 6 days’ time. Sigh. And they couldn’t use the tire that was on the rim because it had a crack in the sidewall, but at least they could get us a new tire and use the rim we had. So it was a good-news-bad-news story. To our surprise, they called late on the day before Canada Day to say the tire was ready for pickup, but they close in half an hour and would be closed for an extra-long weekend. Let’s just say some speed limits were broken on the way there but we made it in half an hour!

So we had a new tire and we picked up a new battery. The incredibly hot weather had dried our hay to a crisp and it was ready for baling. We pulled the baler out and in the course of checking it over, I noticed that we were low on baler twine on one side. No worries, we have a spare roll in my dad’s shed. Hmmm… couldn’t find it. I called my dad and he said that it was round baler twine and he had given it to the guy who bought his round baler. Crap. So, baling would be delayed until we could run to the farm store and buy twine. The only good part was the forecast was still all-hot with no rain in the foreseeable future.

The only twine the farm store seemed to have left was round baler twine. The guy who worked there managed to find a half a pack of twine for a small square baler like ours which he sold to us for 50 percent off! Whew! That would get us through. Note to self: find a store with twine NOW and buy it so we have extra on hand for next year. We put the new twine in and I sent Darren instructions for how to tie a tight, small knot so that it would go through the baler’s tying mechanism okay. He got it all set up and finally went baling while I went to sleep — I was on midnight shifts that week. A little while later, he sheepishly came and woke me up. “The baler’s not tying the bales!” I dragged my tired self out of bed and went out into the heat and the sun to see if I could help. The new twine wasn’t even involved yet — it was still using the original roll and it had gotten all wrapped around the knotter mechanism.

The knot to start the new roll of twine

I helped Darren clear out the twine that had gotten tangled. We fed loose hay into the baler again and watched… and it was tying. Thank goodness! The first couple of bales were a little loose, but better loose than not tied at all.

We finally had a wee bit of rain in the forecast so we took the bales off the field the next day. They were SO dry and so light. They should be some good eatin’ in January for alpacas! Because of the heat and lack of rain, we only got 45 bales. We should have gotten closer to 80 or 90, especially since we added in that horse pasture as a new hay field. So when farmers complain about the weather, keep in mind that they might be thinking of their animals going hungry or needing to buy hay at whatever the asking price is, perhaps from a farmer far away or in another province where they had a good hay crop.

So to recap, making hay is an easy 9-step process:
1. Cut hay.
2. Wait for hay to dry.
3. Rake hay into swaths.
4. Fix rake when it breaks.
5. Boost tractor every time it needs starting.
6. Buy new battery for tractor and get new front tire.
7. Buy more twine for baler and fix knotters if they are jammed.
8. Bale hay.
9. Haul bales in.

The new hay field, drying nicely

So far, the process has been a little smoother for our new hay field. We had left it to grow a bit longer but decided to cut it one day last week. My dad helped us hook up the disc bine — a piece of equipment that boasts turtles with blades that spin at a terrifying speed to cut the hay. It cuts really well (but is terrifying)! So, our new hay field has been drying well, with the hot days we’ve had, but now today, the day we had planned to bale it, it’s positively dreary. I mean, it’s muggy, foggy and not very warm. And the air is a little cruddy from forest fire smoke.

We wait again for better weather and hope it doesn’t rain on our dry hay too much.

Wish us luck, smooth baling, and good weather for the rest of the summer so our alpacas will have enough to eat this winter! Take care everybody!

The Alpaca That Started it All

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When we moved back to the farm I grew up on, we started looking at the grass. We had a lot of it, and we started to dread mowing it. I thought it might be fun to get some sheep to help us mow it. My parents raised sheep when I was growing up and I had good memories from those years. Somehow, researching sheep breeds led to alpacas, and before long, I found two alpacas for sale on kijiji. They weren’t far from our place, so we went to look at them.

They were adorable, of course, and we fell in love with their big eyes, long eyelashes and fluffy bodies. The male was named Fozzie after the muppet whose colour he was (sort of) and the female was names Uki after a Japanese anime character whose bangs she had.

Uki on her way to be sheared

Before a month had passed, Uki gave birth — with no help from us AT ALL. In fact, we were at work when it happened and a friend who was staying with us at the time found the newborn being chased around the corral by Bunner, our dog!! We named this sweet little Uki-look-alike Daisy. She was deer-like, with her long legs and thin neck, and absolutely adorable. Little ones have no fear, so we melted from cuteness overload whenever she would walk right up to us, curious about who we are.

Uki and Daisy

Miss Uki was a very protective mama. She was always watching and prepared to intervene if she detected any danger. The first evening Daisy was in the world, she was settled in the grass of the main corral, looking about ready for a nap, when we had to pick her up to move her into the barn for the night. Miss Uki spit at me at close range ALL the way into the barn! Luckily for me, they were air-spits — a definite threat, but I was uninjured on the whole.

Miss Uki gave birth to three other cria over the years — Allie (who died young), Alex, and Pigpen. We thought she was pregnant again and due in the middle of June, however, I did not notice a very big belly on her and I was starting to wonder.

Uki just after birthing Pigpen!

And the other day, Darren went out to do chores in the evening and he found her leaning up against a fence, shaking. She looked like she had parkinson’s — she was shaking continuously and leaning heavily on the fence to keep herself up. Darren called a vet and he came out to take a look.

We discovered that she wasn’t actually pregnant after all. That was sort of a relief, in that we didn’t have to worry about a premature cria — we only had to worry about Uki. The vet suggested that some thiamine might help, but it was hard to get because of shortages. He managed to take blood so that we could try to figure out what was wrong with her. The only problem was the timing — it was the Friday evening of a long weekend, so lab results would not come in for probably three days.

We managed to get her into the barn but she just would not stop shaking. She spent most of the night leaning against the walls of the barn. I slept on the couch and checked the alpaca cam frequently throughout the night (we have a security camera in the barn, thanks to wifi). Much later in the night, she laid down and got some rest, we think. I tried not to fear the worst.

The next morning, she was uninterested in kibble and did not quite seem to be herself. She wandered around the corral, as if looking for something. It almost seemed as if she was absent minded. Occasionally, she would walk up to me and stop quite close to me, which was utterly out of character for her. She disliked people and always stayed exactly one arm’s length away… far enough away that she couldn’t be petted… at least not easily. So it was very strange for her to stop up close to us.

After walking with her and watching her in the corral, I wondered if she could see okay. I noticed that if I walked up to her from her right side, she did not seem to see me coming and I could pet her. She seemed to be able to see better on the left. I watched her walk around, not eating or drinking and I started to worry. How long can an alpaca go without food?

We were able to get some thiamine from alpaca-farmer friends later that day, which helped some. She was able to lie down and rest that night, and she was shaking less. However, she was completely uninterested in eating and seemed to be completely blind. Sunday morning, we had to help her stand up in the barn so she could go outside. I sat with her a long time in the barn, and took a close up photo of her that morning.

After helping her up, she walked outside, and right into a fence. And then a building. She couldn’t see at all, but was intent on walking around the corral. So, Darren and I followed her around, gently directing her path so she wouldn’t hit anything. From time to time, she would have a shaking spell, so we would hold her head and help her stay up. When the spell had passed, she’d start walking around again. The other alpacas definitely knew something was wrong and they watched at times to see how she was.

The whole gang (except Uki): Daisy and Marley in the foreground, and all the boys lined up along the fence. They were a little worried about Uki.

That afternoon, she started shaking even more and the good periods between her shaky spells got shorter and shorter. We called the vet again and asked him to bring the medicine to euthanize her.

We didn’t know what was wrong with her — specifically, what was causing the thiamine deficiency and preventing her from gaining weight — and she wasn’t eating and the seizures were getting worse. Poor girl. The vet agreed that the best thing to do was end her suffering.

We watched the chemical stop her twitching, and then her breathing. Sigh. Our girl was gone.

We dug the biggest deepest grave we’d ever dug and buried her on the edge of the hay field. We let Daisy and Marley in the field while we were digging, and they ran around in the tall grass. They knew what we were doing.

Thank you Uki for gracing us with your presence. You were such a good mama. We loved you greatly and will really miss you.

Give your pets and loved ones an extra hug today. You never know how long they will be with you.

Uki and Pigpen
Pigpen following his mama around!
One of the last pictures we took of her
Uki leaning on Darren during one of her seizures.

Want to Write and Self-Publish a Book?

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I’ve been working on some aspects of my writing and getting my books out to the world more. This equals marketing, which is not something I’m naturally attracted to doing. I could say I have found myself procrastinating on this, but I don’t like labels! ๐Ÿ™‚

I thought it might be helpful to those of you who are interested in self-publishing to share some resources I have found lately. For those new to this blog, I should say I’ve self-published 8 non-fiction books to date! But I am always looking to learn more about the process. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Creative Penn

Joanna Penn is a MONSTER in self-publishing! She has written countless books, both fiction and non-fiction, and is really interested in helping others. She has a website full of resources and a podcast I’ve also been enjoying. Everything else I’m going to mention in this blog post came from her suggestions! I really enjoyed the episode about “Going Wide for the Win” which talks about publishing in as many places and ways as possible. After listening to this episode, I no longer feel paralyzed and overwhelmed; I am so much more inspired and empowered to get my books out on more platforms. After all, I wrote them for others to read!

E-books – Draft 2 Digital

I’ve made it a personal goal to get ALL my books into ebook format before the end of March. I have been working on it since January and it’s coming along. There are several services that take care of ebook creation and distribution, and I have settled on Draft 2 Digital. They even have a print option, although they do not have as many different book sizes available as other print-on-demand printers, such as, which is the printer I have been using. I find has some pretty hefty fees, however, so I am looking at my options. For ebooks, I think Draft 2 Digital is great, but by all means, do your own research.

By the way, getting your own ISBN is VERY easy in Canada! Go to this page in Library and Archives Canada, start an account and then start requesting ISBNs. It isn’t hard and it’s totally free. If you have created a publishing company, great. If not, you can publish under your own name too. You need to request a unique ISBN for every format of every book. For example, my latest book Forging Sisterhood in the Frozen North will eventually have 4 ISBNs – one for the paperback (which is already out), one for the large print version, one for the ebook, and one for the audiobook.

Audio Books – Find a Way Voices

Audio books are crazy popular. There used to be only one way to distribute them (, but thanks to Find a Way Voices, there are now other options. I am not a fan of monopolies, so I was glad to learn about Find a Way Voices! If you think you might ever create an audio book, be sure to check them out. Can you believe I recorded myself reading Love Your Skeletons years ago, and I still haven’t done anything with it!?! It’s embarrassing. Like I said, I was procrastinating and feeling unsure of how to start.

Need some motivation?

If you are serious about writing a book and want someone to check in with you on your progress, I would love to do this for you. Having an accountability partner who checks in with you is a great way to actually finish something you have started. Please contact me and we’ll make it happen. ๐Ÿ™‚

Quick 5-Ingredient Scones

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I just have to share this recipe that comes from the giant cookbook/textbook The Joy of Cooking. Iโ€™ll include my tweaks that make these scones extra-delicious! And soooo fast to make. They also happen to be dairy-free and vegan and only require 5 ingredients! The scones I made today (photo below) have fruit added, but these scones are delicious with just the 5 ingredients.


  • 1 + 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 + 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (NOT soda!)
  • 1 or less teaspoon sugar (organic, if you have)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1+1/4 cups thick coconut cream

The coconut cream should be almost as thick as butter. It replaces the butter and eggs in the original recipe. I scoop it out of canned coconut milk and that works great. The only problem is that the amount of thick cream varies between cans. Itโ€™s best if you have two 14-oz (400 ml) cans to scoop the thickest coconut cream from. Pro-tip: donโ€™t shake the cans! The thickest cream rises to the top, so just open them and start scooping!

I increased the amount of baking powder in the original recipe because, letโ€™s face it, most of the baking powder on our shelves is probably a little old and has lost some of its potency.


Preheat oven to 450 F. Get a baking stone or cookie sheet ready. Baking stones work great for these! Combine all dry ingredients and make a well in the middle. Measure out and add the coconut cream. If you like, you can add 1/2 cup dried fruit such as blueberries, cranberries, chopped apricots or candied ginger. Whatever you add should TOTAL 1/2 cup, and donโ€™t use wet fruit like frozen blueberries. You would have to plan ahead to thaw them and dry them out a bit. These scones are still delicious without any add-ins!
Mix the minimum amount to combine everything.

Sprinkle about 1/4 cup of flour on a clean counter or large cutting board. Dump dough onto that and shape into a circle 3/4 inch (about 2 cm) thick. You donโ€™t even really need to use a rolling pin. Cut with a knife into 6 or 8 wedge shapes. Transfer the wedges onto the baking stone. Take a little more coconut oil/milk (the thinner stuff) and brush it on each wedge. Sprinkle a tiny pinch of sugar on each. Without the glaze, the scones will be a bit dry and wonโ€™t brown up as nicely as they bake.

Bake in the oven about 15 minutes, until golden. Let them cool slightly before moving them. Eat WARM with a little butter or coconut oil. Yum!

Refurbishing an Old Board Game

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Does anyone else here like to play the board game Aggravation? It’s a game where you have to move your marbles around the board to get from “home” to “safe.” Along the way, you can take shortcuts, or take out your friends and send them back to the beginning. It looks like this:

I love this game! It’s so fun. So, when I saw a crappy old one for $1 at a garage sale, I bought it. But it didn’t have enough holes drilled in it. It only had holes around the outside (see photo below). That isn’t very fun! You need a center hole to be a short cut, and some way to get into the middle. So, I decided to add more holes!

I tried to make the curves smooth, and by putting masking tape on, I could erase them and adjust them before drilling them.

Initially, I used a drill stand which holds the hand drill at whatever angle you set. I set it for 90 degrees, or perpendicular. It worked alright, but on a couple of the holes, the device moved a little and the hole did not end up where I had wanted it. Then, we found a drill press on kijiji! So, I set the depth and that was better… for the holes it could reach. It couldn’t reach the holes closes to the centre, or the curved parts. So in the end, I used a combination of the hand-held drill and stand and the drill press. I think I may have drilled the center hole a bit too deep! Once I had all the holes drilled, I took the masking tape off.

Now, I had to do something about that rather awful finish. There were some pretty big gouges too, where the wood had broken away when the original maker drilled their holes. I filled those with wood filler and then went at it with the sander! The wood filler shows up as light grey in the photo below. Isn’t that a nice piece of wood, though!?! Without that orange stain?!?

I had to redrill one hole because the stand had slipped and the hole was too close to its neighbour. I put down lots of wood filler, then very carefully drilled into all that wood filler to move the hole over. It worked! in the photo above, the new hole is pretty close to 12 o’clock.

Next, I slowly and carefully painted all the holes with dark brown enamel that I’ve had around here for ages. Looks nice, doesn’t it!?! Sure beats that orange-brown wood! You can see old holes, new holes and painted holes below.

The new holes needed 2 coats because some enamel absorbed into the wood. Then, I had to decide what to do for the colours. Did you notice this game is a hexagon? There are home bases for 6 people to play. I thought about getting marbles in 6 colours and painting the home bases and safe bases in those colours, but then I remembered I had some large wooden beads… I used the beads and went through my craft supplies at home to find 6 different colours of enamel/paint that I already had! (Yes, some of it was nail polish! I also borrowed some yellow from my mom… Thanks, Mom!)

I am so pleased with the result!

I did kind of a minimalist painting scheme on the home bases, just connecting the holes with lines. Overall, this was a really fun project, and it would be equally fun to make from scratch! I’ve seen aggravation games with 4 home bases or 8, but 6 was good too.

How To Play

Your marbles (or in this case, beads) start at your home, which is on the outside edge of the board. My family plays by rolling a dice, but some people play with cards — that lets you plan your moves. You need to roll a 1 or a 6 to get out of the home base and start playing — that just gets your marble onto that first hole outside your home base. Then, you move around clockwise according to how you roll until you get back to your safe — the part inside the curved areas on my board. In the photo above, you can see there are 2 orange marbles still at home and 2 out and about on the playing board. The copper-coloured player has one in his safe already and one in the shortcut… he or she is probably waiting for a 1 to get out! ๐Ÿ™‚ As you go around, if you land on someone else’s marble you get to send them home. You can have all your marbles in play at one time, or just focus on one.

If you want to try your luck on the shortcut, you have to jump into the middle from a special dot. On my game, it is painted sparkly! On other games, it might be painted red or with a yellow circle around it. Can you see the sparkly holes at the top of each arc? You need to roll a 1 to get out, and you can come out onto any sparkly dot you choose… but you’ll probably want the one just before your safe base!

The first person to get all their marbles into their safe wins! At the end, sometimes I get stuck waiting for a small number like a 2 so I can get in the door! ๐Ÿ™‚

I hope this inspires you to get a piece of plywood (at least a half inch thick) and start drilling some holes! ๐Ÿ™‚ Take care, everybody.

More refurbishing: An Old Drum Carder

Making a Parka for an Alpaca

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I should probably apologize right now, as this is going to be another of those oddly-specific posts that you are going to either get VERY excited about, because it’s exactly what you need, or it’s not relevant to your life at all. This post is about making coats for alpacas! ๐Ÿ™‚

These coats lay across the animal’s back and attach under the belly with a strap and fasten across the front of their chest with overlapping panels and either straps or velcro. Let’s start with the basic shape. I found this pattern image online and used it as a guideline. I would love to give credit to the originator, but all I have is this google drive link.

The U-shaped part at the top is where the alpaca’s neck will go, and the chest straps will connect across the alpaca’s chest and the belly straps will connect under the belly. You will need 2 measurements for the alpaca you are making the coat for: around-the-belly circumference and length of back (from neck to tail).

My first venture into making coats was last fall, when we knew we had a baby on the way and it would be due in October. What a heck of a time of year to be born! So I made two coats — a lightweight one and a warmer one. I used measurements off the internet for the sizes of coats that were for sale. I was so glad I did. That little guy really needed his coat! He was basically born shivering and after I dried him off, I put it on him and he perked up a lot!

Look how pink his ears and nose are!

The next day, I made him a neckwarmer and put that on him too.

As he got bigger and winter got colder, we put his thicker coat on him. This one was insulated with alpaca fibre from his mama!

Isn’t he adorable!?! He grew up really well and is still very gentle and likes to come nose-to-nose with me. I think he knows we will take care of him no matter what!

Okay, we are in danger of getting sentimental, so let’s get down to business and look at how I made these coats! ๐Ÿ™‚

I guess I didn’t take many pictures of the construction of the first coat, but here it is all finished, waiting for the little one to be born! My mom supplied the light blue fabric and wide velcro — thanks Mom!
Making the second coat: The pattern piece overlaid on fuzzy cloth.
To add an insulating layer, I hand-carded alpaca fibre and made it into mini-batts which I laid out inside the coat, overlapping a little.
I machine quilted the coat and added a windproof layer — the dark blue fabric (thanks again, Mom). It puckered quite a bit, but at least the alpaca fleece layer would be anchored well.
I underestimated how big Pigpen was getting, so it didn’t even fit him! I had to make the coat bigger… or the straps longer!

I felt pretty good about how that went! We used the light blue coat for Rupert for a few days when he was born this summer too!

I think he likes it!

If you just can’t get enough of these little ones, check out my posts here.

One cold evening last year, I noticed our elderly female, Uki, shivering. I felt so bad for her! She was still nursing little Pigpen and earlier in the year, she had been putting a lot of energy into growing him and not her coat.

The proud mama, not long after Pigpen was born! (He had just stood up!) Yes, that’s a washcloth on his back. I had to run back in the house for his coat!

So, I quickly made up a three-layer coat to help her keep warm. This year, with more time to work on it, I made some alpaca fibre into batts and added a quilted layer! I used the existing coat as a pattern and cut out the cloth from an old but very soft sheet.

Here is the coat laid out on the floor. The batts are different colours because it is fibre from different alpacas!

Using full-size batts was far better than hand-carded fibre, and I only anchored it every 3-4 inches.

I quilted the coat by hand with thread, tying small knots. I seem to love projects that take a lot of time!

I machine quilted the section at the chest, so that it isn’t quite as puffy. I figured out how to do it without the cloth puckering (thank you, internet). I then stitched it to the windproof layer in ten or so places. We put it on her tonight, even though it isn’t forecast to be too cold. She is pregnant again, with her cria due in June, so I think she might just wear this coat all winter!

An alpaca in a parka!

Last year, the coat was a bit too loose and would sometimes creep forward and end up bunched up around her neck. Hopefully now that it’s a puffy coat, it will stay put better. I did it up as tightly as I could.

I should make another one in case Daisy needs it! She is still nursing little Rupert, but at least she is not pregnant too. What a toll that must take on a body!

Now I have friends asking if I can make coats for dogs! I’m not sure I want to get into that racket… but then I hate to see an animal cold! ๐Ÿ™‚

Take care, everybody! Stay warm!

Some Remembrance Day Knitting and a Free Pattern

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Some years, I post a thoughtful article on Remembrance Day. This year, I wanted to share some knitting!

First off, I found this pattern for knitted poppies, so of course, I made two! Pretty nifty and quick little pattern! If you would normally get a plastic poppy and leave a donation for the Legion, it would be nice to leave a donation while you wear your knitted poppy!

Second, I have a veteran friend who asked me to knit a scarf using the stripes of one of his service medals! I love this idea! I finished the scarf yesterday and he got it today — just in time for him to wear it… nowhere. Or to a virtual Remembrance Day service he attends in his pajamas. Anyways. If you know a soldier or veteran and have seen them wearing their service medals, why not ask them if they’d like a scarf custom-knit just for them in the colours of one of their medals?

Service Award Scarf

This isn’t a pattern as much as just some helpful tips on how I made my scarf. I used a circular needle that measures 32 inches from tip to tip and that made a fairly long scarf. The stitches were quite jammed up on the needle, so if you also want a nice long scarf, 32 inches is the minimum length for the needle, I’d say.

Yarn: I ordered Drops Nepal from a yarn store online because I didn’t have all the colours I needed. It’s 65% wool 35% alpaca and made a nice, basic scarf. You might have all the yarn you need in your stash — great! If you can match yarns, great. I had to use a different yarn for the center stripe, but the colour was so perfect, I decided to go with it. If you can use all the same fibre content, great. But honestly, it’s a scarf so you don’t need to get too fussy. Just make sure it won’t be itchy!

Needles: I used 5.5 mm needles with this yarn (on a 32″ long circular needle as I said). Obviously, you can scale this up/down depending on your yarn and if you’re a tight/loose knitter.

If you are a beginner knitter, you might think this scarf is knit across the short dimension like all beginner scarves. This is not the case. It’s waaaay easier to knit this using long rows, so that your colour changes are far less frequent. If you are an advanced knitter looking for a challenge (and not in a hurry), you know what to do. You may be thinking, this won’t slow me down much, but you have forgotten about the untangling! I will proceed to give directions to the beginners/sane people out there.

Let me say as a short sidebar that I considered doing some sort of complex, multi-coloured double knit scarf. It would have been so beautiful! But the colour changes and likelihood of getting severely tangled up scared me off. I tried a sample of it and gave up! It just seemed unnecessarily complicated. But, if you are up for it, you could double knit, or knit in the round and then tack it down (sew it) to keep it flat. Or, like me, you could just *K* until finished! Garter stitch for the win!

Instructions: Cast on enough stitches to fill the needle and/or make you think it is way too many. Then cast on another 20 or so stitches. That should be about the right amount. If you like, you can do a gauge swatch and then some math, but I just filled the circular needle. I didn’t even COUNT the stitches! (What a rebel.) I know it was over a hundred. I decided to use the Chinese Waitress Cast on which proves I’m not lazy, just easy going! (Here’s a good tutorial, by Stacey at Very Pink Knits.) This cast on makes a very nice, structured edge which I could have taken a picture of, except that navy blue is a very difficult colour to photograph!

For the scarf I made, which is the British military medal for service in the South Atlantic (post WWII), I decided to do 5 garter ridges of navy, 3 ridges of bright blue, 4 ridges of white, 6 ridges of green and so on in reverse. This made my scarf 30 ridges wide (60 rows of knitting). As long as you always change colours when the tail of yarn that you began with is at the top, your stripes will be consistent; there will be a right side and wrong side of the scarf, but even the wrong side with it’s dashed lines of colour looks okay (peeking out from under the right side in the photo below).

It is worth a mock up if you aren’t sure how wide to make the stripes. Some medals have several stripes, so you’ll want to see how to knit them up and keep the scarf a “good scarf width.” Just cast on 10 or so stitches and start knitting stripes. The absolute width of each stripe is not important; it just needs to look proportional. Your scarf might be narrower or wider and that’s okay! (Don’t ask me how wide mine turned out; I forgot to measure it before gifting it! It’s a “good scarf width!”)

My veteran friend told me that the black and white service medal on the right (on photo above) is for long service and good conduct. Most other medals are for service on certain campaigns/wars. Ask your soldier/veteran friend to explain this to you! And as I said before, I think it’s best to ask your friend which one they would like in a scarf, or if they would even like a scarf at all! Some vets might not want to be reminded… others might have an award for conspicuous bravery and that is probably the one that should be knitted into a scarf!

When you have reached the end of your scarf, which is the width, to be clear, you are done! I did an Icelandic cast off (Very Pink Knits video here), which is a bit slower than a basic CO, but it makes a nice, ornamental edge perfect for a scarf. It took FOREVER! (I think my scarf was actually closer to 200 sts long, but it felt like a thousand.)

But heck, when you’re knitting for someone who put their life on the line for your freedom… I think you can spend a little more time on the cast-off, eh!? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Take care, everyone! Have a great day and happy knitting!

Electing a Leader

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I don’t usually write about politics. It’s a topic that I generally avoid because some people can get really angry really quickly and then they become irrational and unable to listen to an opinion that varies even slightly from their own. I don’t follow politics, because I find it too frustrating. I do have a few observations I wanted to share, however, from a more philosophical point of view.
In the past few decades, we have made money our god. We will do anything to have more of it, to save it or get it (directly or indirectly) from each other. I have found people don’t even think twice about screwing someone else out of money, because, well, it’s money. In popular culture, it is perfectly moral to do what you have to do to get more money. Millionaires are idolized and people wish they could take their place.
As a result, the citizens of the US elected a rich man to be their leader. He has no other leadership abilities or selling points, but he is rich. Maybe they thought that electing a rich man would make them all rich, and he may have made promises to that effect, but we all know not to believe a politician’s promises, right? He was also somewhat famous before he was elected, and many people seek fame as well as fortune. So it makes sense that we collectively elect someone that comes from a group that we admire — in this case, a millionaire.
I wonder if there is a certain amount of momentum behind the choosing of a leader. I mean, if around the world, millions of people all shifted their focus toward being more responsible people, making good, logical decisions, and taking responsibility for their actions, it might still take some time to see a change in the actual leaders who get elected. If millions focused on being kinder, gentler, more accepting and compassionate, — if we idolized equality, fairness, or empathy — those sorts of people would rise through our ranks to be our leaders. There would still be people who value money over all else, and who are selfish, greedy, capitalist consumers, but they would not be chosen to be our leaders. Could it be that our most treasured values are mirrored in the leaders we elect?


I fear our election processes choose the most popular candidate, but not the best people to actually LEAD. Do you ever feel like politics is like high school, where popularity is everything and the smartest kids aren’t necessarily the most popular, nor are the ones who would ultimately be the best leaders. Thank goodness politicians alone do not make all policies. Every political office has staff who are experts in their field — people like the public health leaders who have, especially in my country, Canada, really stepped up to the plate and become true leaders, advising the politicians on the best course of action to take.
So, if we take this line of thinking and continue on a philosophical journey into the future… who will our leaders be in the decades to come? Those who had wild success of Tik Tok? Maybe a pop music idol, if one chose to pursue politics? A famous actor? There are many who have the popularity but few choose politics. I think it will be some Instagrammer, YouTuber or TikTokker, and it makes me wonder about where we are headed next.
Instagrammers often (not always, I know) focus on appearances. Everything looks perfectly composed, tidy, or cosy, or whatever vibe they are going for. Nothing is real. Okay, my Instagram is real, complete with rusting tractors and grass that needs to be cut in the background (@teresas_alpaca_cam, if you are interested)!
TikTok is about entertainment, is it not? Who can get the most views, whose video goes viral the fastest. This is pure fluff and there is zero guarantee that someone whose TikTok is wildly popular would even be able to lead a squirrel out of a paper bag (which is easy, if that wasn’t clear).
Have you seen on YouTube the obstacle course that a guy made for squirrels? They have to run a complicated gauntlet to be rewarded with the nuts they love so much. This guy put in a lot of engineering savvy to create the course that was sufficiently difficult and would not harm them. He built a squirrel catapult which safely flings any squirrel which lingers on its platform too long! This guy could, possibly, lead a country. He has at least shown that he has some smarts, problem solving ability, clear thinking, persistence and compassion towards animals.
I wonder if our current political system actually repels the truly good leaders? I wonder if they are “discouraged from applying for the job” so to speak? And I don’t just mean successful people, because believe it or not, they aren’t always good leaders… or wouldn’t be cut out for public office, in any case. Just because you are a good CEO doesn’t mean you can run a country. A good political leader should always be interested in the greatest good — not the bottom line, or the balanced budget or other things that might occupy a good CEO’s attention. A government’s job is to provide common-use services, safely and fairly to all its citizens. It collects taxes to do this — to provide and maintain common-use roads, schools, hospitals, libraries, and cultural centres. Its job is not to make as much money as possible, or save as much money as possible (common corporate goals). Its job is to provide services. It should try to do so with a balanced, reasonable budget, but at times, this may not be possible. One could add that its job is to stabilize the economy, whenever able.
So if we can’t draw from a pool of successful CEOs for our high-ranking politicians, who can we look to? Should we look to University professors? They are some of the smartest people out there, and many would make good leaders. They are thinkers, and many are logical and analytical. Some might not be overly compassionate, but neither are CEOs, necessarily. Again, I think our current system doesn’t not encourage such a person to even consider it. The pettiness we see in debates and house discussions would be unsavoury if not appalling to most civilized university types (I think).

What do you think of my ponderings? Am I crazy? Or do you worry about who our next leaders may be? I am little worried for my neighbours to the south, and friends who live there, but I will not share and describe my worries here. They are contagious. Hopefully, the next election goes smoothly and the leader who wins is well-suited to lead.

Refurbishing my old Drum Carder

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Hi everyone! As you know, I raise alpacas and I have been wanting to make my own yarn from their glorious fibre! To help with that, my grandma gave me her good spinning wheel and her drum carder. I learned to spin this summer with the help of an instructor from the weaver’s guild — God bless you, Brenda!! — but this post isn’t about spinning. It’s about the drum carder.

I have made quite a few batts with it, but I was starting to notice a lot of the teeth coming out — 3 or 4 for every batt I made with it! I was starting to really worry!

Don’t you love how the cloth is actually thick leather and the teeth look like blunt thumbtacks pushed through from the back? I wonder what year this drum carder was made? If you have any idea, leave a comment because I would love to know!

When I looked into ordering a new carding cloth — that’s what they call that spiky material that goes on the outside of the drum — I couldn’t seem to find a Canadian source for it. Since the US postal system is quite broken, I was not keen on ordering from south of the border and I prefer to buy local or at least Canadian when I can. I asked my aunt-in-law who owns Legacy Studio if she had carding cloth, or if she could get it for me. She said the best stuff comes from Europe, so I found a supplier from the Netherlands, Golden Fleece Carders. Want to hear the best part? I got my carding cloth — which is the perfect width for my machine! — in 17 days! From overseas!! I am so thrilled! I ordered something from the US in July and it took over 6 weeks!

So, anyways, I am really excited to be refurbishing the old drum carder. It’s like Reduce, Reuse, Recycle got another R: Refurbish! So, let the not-quite-tutorial begin!

I took the old cloth off using a flathead screwdriver to pry the staples and nails off.

There are so many teeth missing! Especially along that one edge. The batts always looked like they’d been to hell and back. So many holes.

So, I continued prying staples and nails until I had them all off! Avert your eyes — that’s a naked drum there! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Check out the new cloth! There are quite a few more pins per square inch…

I was so thrilled that this company carried the carding cloth in the exact width I needed. The American ones were never the right width (I don’t mean to sound anti-American, it’s just true). This cloth is only 72 DPI, because I wanted it to be multi-purpose. For alpaca, some people go A LOT finer!

I measured how long it needed to be and started taking out pins so I could cut it. I took out 3 rows in total and they came out easily. Then I cut it with regular scissors!

Now here is where things start getting interesting! See how close together those two drums are? The top one, with the old pins, is called the licker and its pins are NOT supposed to touch the main drum, or maybe just barely touch. Because the pins on the new cloth are quite a bit longer, the pins on the two drums are grinding together at this point! (The old pins touched more than they should have, but I didn’t know better.) So, I had to figure out if I could move either of the drums. It turns out, my little old drum carder is pretty adjustable! I was able to loosen the bolts on the sides (you can see one on the left) and back the main drum up so that it would have more room! It was a bit of work, but I’m happy — the teeth barely touch now.

I then got to work stapling and nailing the new cloth in place. I forgot to get a picture of the stapling, but I just used an ordinary staple gun. Then, I had to nail the little nails back in where the cloth meets up. See the problem below?

You can’t nail them in because you’ll end up pounding on the pins of the carding cloth! Luckily, we had a punch, which worked great! I just carefully positioned it on the head of each nail and pounded them in.

Sorry, you can’t see the top, but it’s just flat for the hammer to hit it. This let me hammer those little nails right down snuggly!

And now my drum carder is like new, sort of!

For now, I’ve decided to leave the licker drum as is. I might change the cloth in the future, but it’s working okay, so I left it!

I have to tell you: I LOVE giving new life to old things! It is one of my favourite things to do, and probably why this project was so much fun! (If you feel the same, I recommend Laura Kampf videos on YouTube because she is the best at this, and her videography is a pleasure to watch!)

Of course I had to put the new/old carder to work! Since the new teeth are longer, it makes thicker batts. They still look a bit ratty; they don’t come off the drum as easily because there are so many more teeth! I also might need to work on my technique…

I made 2 batts and then took the next one off as a rolag, which seemed to work better. Dang, it’s a dense rolag though!

I should probably apologize to my regular readers, as this is one of those oddly-specific posts and if you don’t know what a rolag is, I don’t blame you! A rolag is a small roll of fibre that spinners can spin from. Anyways, thanks for hanging in there with me all this while and I hope it might help someone else who needs to change carding cloth on their old drum carder!

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refurbish, Repair, Repurpose! So many great Re’s! If you have any examples of Refubish, Repair or Repurpose, share them in the comments! ๐Ÿ™‚

Ack! The alpacas got out!

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We had some extra excitement today! Just a little backstory… last time I cut hay with the swather, I got stuck. Actually, I only got one tire (out of three) stuck, but it was really making a nice round pothole and I couldn’t drive out of it, so I had to get the tractor to pull myself out, which worked fine. I left behind a round crater-shaped rut/pothole that I have been wanting to fill in so that we can go and finish cutting hay. Yes, it’s the latter part of September and I’m not done making hay. But at least the forecast is good — really good!

So, I used our riding lawn mower and a small utility trailer to haul some dirt/manure/wood shavings to fill in the pothole in the hay field. There were some nice molehills out there too, so I harvested them — I scraped the loose dirt off with a shovel and filled the utility trailer. I have been needing some nice loose dirt on the yard, and in particular, near the house.

A little more backstory: There are 3 areas of our yard. The hay field is out beyond the main yard. The alpacas (right now, it’s 5 of the boys) have access to the main yard during the day, which is all fenced to keep them in. Near the house and driveway, there is an area that is not fenced so when we drive on the yard, we aren’t going to be dodging alpacas right away. I’ll call this the “house yard.” To get onto the main yard from the house yard, we have to drive through the main gate.

Resuming my story: coming back from the field, I drove through one gate onto the main yard, past the boys who were lounging in the back, and then drove through the main gate that would let me into the house yard. Since I thought it wouldn’t take me long to unload the trailer, AND the alpacas were way off in the back part of the yard, I left the main gate open. Big mistake.

Once I finished unloading the dirt around the house, perhaps 5-7 minutes later, I hopped on the riding lawn mower and headed for the gate. I immediately saw the boys coming through the gate into the house yard! I sped up and shouted at them but all 5 boys came through the gate anyway! Don’t they know what a woman shouting from a riding lawn mower means!?!?

So here I was, the only one at home, with FIVE alpacas to chase back into the main yard BY MYSELF! Oh man. I ran around with my arms spread wide (that’s how we “round up” alpacas) trying to get them back through the gate. They split into 5 different directions, ran around where the raspberry bushes are, over by the car, and down the driveway! I sprinted down to the end of the driveway to chase them away from the road. I was so afraid they might wander onto the road and get hit by some truck driving by!

Imagine trying to get behind these guys and move them all together in one direction! By yourself! Not going to happen!

Somehow, I got Fozzie and Pigpen back through the main gate onto the main yard, so I closed the gate. They stood right there, of course, to watch me run around, trying to round up the others. But how could I get the rest of the boys back onto the main yard with the gate closed? If I opened it, Fozzie and Pigpen would just run back onto the house yard! Such buggers! So I opened a man-gate (just a bit wider than a person) that is closer to the house and continued trying to push the 3 remaining boys in that direction. They would scatter sometimes, as I chased them, and go into the secret garden past the strawberries. There’s a maple tree in the way, that they ran around too. At one point, two of them were near the metal gate and I thought if only it was open, they would go through. So ran over there, chased Fozzie and Pigpen away and opened that gate. Pigpen made his way over to the open man-gate and went back into the house yard! But, Ziggy and Frankie went through the metal gate, and I managed to manoever — half-chasing, pointing to the open gate, urging them on! — Alex and Pigpen through the main gate too.

Whew. That’s when I realized I was sweating like crazy. But I got it done.

I did not think I could do it. One person can’t chase 5 independent-thinking alpacas! I was madly formulating strategies: I thought I might have to halter them individually and drag them through, but it is NOT easy to catch and halter them; I have never done it solo, and doing it out in the open? Forget about it. I thought about flagging down the next person to drive by to be a human fence, just to keep them from running into the secret garden and raspberry area. I thought about calling a neighbour to help. My husband was at the garage with our truck, so he could not get back to help. I thought I might be late for work, with all this chasing! Thank goodness, they seemed to sense my urgency at the end and they finally went where they needed to go. After I was done, I put the riding lawn mower and told them boys that if that area was fenced, I would let them stay there and someday I would do that.

I am so grateful that none of the boys actually went on the road and got hit by traffic. I am so grateful that Fozzie and Pigpen went back easily. I am so grateful that the other boys eventually cooperated too. I got my sprinting workout for today — a bonus on my regular FarmFit program! It was an alpaca rodeo with a good outcome.

Take care everyone! I hope that you can go through today with some lightness and joy and perhaps imagining me running around, chasing ‘pacas as they scattered everywhere helped!