Tom and I cruised down to Manakin Sabot, Virginia (why is this town named after the French words for doll and wooden shoe?) to do the Alpacas 101 and alpaca fiber / shearing lectures at Jane's place, Thistledown Alpacas. Jane had rented the firehouse and, though I don't really mind lecturing in cold, drizzle or even chill winds and wildly flying snow - Wearing my alpaca clothing! - like I have often done in the past, it was nice to be indoors during our talks.
Alpaca Seminar Lunch
The food was excellent too but, Jane, being British, did not seem to take the need for coffee seriously enough. Tom, the Cuban had to intervene so that we'd all be sufficiently caffeinated. However, Jane did have lots of informative and impressive displays including this one:
Thistledown Alpacas farm display
I'm not jealous!
There was a good crowd of alpaca owners and would-be alpaca owners at this event and they were all very polite and eager to learn everything. We had a blast! Here is Tom doing his shearing talk:
Tom Perez - alpaca shearing lecture
And me, showing my collection of good and bad alpaca fleece samples, and doing my patented Fiber Nazi, "Show It - Don't Throw It" rant:
Kate Perez - alpaca fiber lecture
I met so many people that I really liked but, being old, cannot remember most of their names with the exception of the Two Guys Named Tom. Tom, the father, was wearing the most beautiful, basket weave pattern, hand-knitted sweater that I could hardly pay attention to him when he asked questions. The sweater was mesmerizing me! He probably thought I was nice, but a little slow witted. Now I wish I'd bugged him to let me photograph the sweater!
One couple that I did remember were Al & Virginia Dillon because Al had the baseball hat with their Courthouse Alpacas farm logo on it. I thought it was about Appomattox Courthouse, which I've always wanted to visit, but it turned out to be Smithfield, VA courthouse in Isle of Wight County, Virginia. Doesn't that sound like the prettiest place to raise alpacas? Now I feel unsatisfied with my own, humble county. Don't get me wrong! I love Frederick County, but why can't we have a poetic county name like Isle of Wight?
Courthouse Alpacas logo
Mr. & Mrs Dillon, if you had your own website, I would have linked to it in the above paragraph. But, I already nagged everyone about websites during my lecture, so I'll shut up now.
One, unexpected thrill of the weekend came when one of the participants brought her spinning wheel for me to look at. Having owned 6 different spinning wheels and seen at least 50 others at the MD Sheep & Wool Festival, I thought I'd seen pretty much everything but this one, a "Hitchhiker", was really unique. Instead of having the drive band go over the drive wheel and the whorl, this one had a choice of three rubber whorls that rest against the drive wheel.
Hitchhiker spinning wheel
Though I recognized the rubber things as whorls, I (Little Miss Spinning Expert!) couldn't explain why this design worked, so one of the participants (a guy of course) had to do it for me. Guys don't normally spin but they are usually good at explaining mechanical stuff whereas the world wouldn't have any wheels at all if it was left up to me to figure out why round is better than square - that's how mechanically challenged I am.
I brought my Ashford Kiwi and Majacraft Millie wheels as well as a drop spindle to demonstrate on and I let a couple of interested parties try hand spinning, so I didn't look like a total dumbbell in the hand spinning dept.
If you are curious to know more about the Hitchhiker Spinning Wheel,
Jane tried pretty hard to scare me away from taking any photos of her but I did it anyway. Here she is - looking absolutely fine! - doing the "hands on" alpaca tour at her place after the lectures with me and my big butt helping out. At least my hand-spun alpaca sweater looks good.
I promised myself I wouldn't terrorize Jane with more photos but, when I looked over and saw her making the infamous " How the alpaca's teeth are supposed to meet the palate " hand gesture, I had to have a photo of it! I have made this same gesture at least a hundred times during farm visits at my place. It's much easier than trying to shove the alpaca's snout at onlookers while you hold their lips back (the alpaca's lips - NOT the onlookers!) so people can see the good bite. That often results in a really mad alpaca.
how the alpaca's teeth should meet the palate
Here is my son, Nick, showing the bite the way we do it in the show ring but, since there are no onlookers crowding all around the alpaca making it nervous, it's a little easier to do it without getting a CRANKYPACA.
showing the alpaca's bite - show ring style
So, was the whole thing just soooo wonderful? No! As much as I liked the participants and thought Jane did a great job of setting the event up, there was still that moment when I had to stand around all of her beautiful alpacas and realize that NONE OF THEM WERE MINE! Ouch.
These two, newish alpaca cria were especially tempting to me and, looking at them, I confess, I had an unkind thought along the lines of Why should Jane have 3 pretty little girls AND two brand new, gorgeous alpaca cria and I have no cria and a daughter who will not wear frilly dresses or hair ribbons anymore? Is that fair?
alpaca cria that should belong to me
Of course, I love my daughter but, at 15 and 1/2, our days of buying Hello Kitty hair bows together are over.
Since the participants got to fondle all the alpacas,
I figured, Why shouldn't I do a little fondling of my own? Note the woman to my right who is examining the fleece of the cria in a responsible way, without being too grabby, while ignoring my totally inappropriate huggy, lovey-dovey behavior. She's thinking, "That Kate Perez - What a phony!" because earlier in the day I had sternly warned the seminar participants not to be huggy and kissy with their new born alpaca cria.
Kate - being a bad example
Then I went a little further and thought, Hey, why not just lift this little thing right over the fence to my husband, Tom and we could jump into the truck with it and burn rubber out of there?
alpaca stealing - not really
No, come on! I wouldn't do that to Jane after she was nice enough to invite us to speak at her event.
_________The rest of you, may need to watch out though!________
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My always thoughtful and technologically advanced friends at Wildwood Alpacas in Virginia sent the photo above of the new cria of their girl, PacaBelle. They knew I'd want to see it because PacaBelle is the daughter of my old girl, Latte, making the new cria, Latte's and My granddaughter. Sue and Judy (owners of Wildwood) also own another of Latte's daughters, "Pretty Penny" pictured below:
I never stop wanting to know how my old girls and boys are doing in their current homes and what offspring they've produced when they are grown. They are like my grown children. So keep those photos and e-mails coming folks!
Even though I am no longer able to breed alpacas at my place, I still advertise the "for sale" alpacas of other farms on my website. This week I added a bunch of really cute for sale alpacas from Pax River Alpaca Farm in Upper Marlboro, MD. My favorite of theirs is named, Cameo. Pictured below:
You can see the rest of their alpacas here:
My Alpacas for sale Page
Meanwhile, I finished knitting the 100% alpaca socks mentioned in my last post. They ended up fitting really well and they are very comfy and warm but the pattern had a mistake in it - Grrr!!!! I am mentally challenged enough when I try to figure out knitting patterns people! I don't need you to do sloppy editing too!
Not kidding here. I am notoriously thick when it comes to figuring out knitting patterns so I really should not enjoy knitting as much as I do. And, to make matters worse, I have all these friends who are like, knitting geniuses! If you don't believe me, check out the link above, at right for my friend, Roseann's, knitting blog. Anyway, the alpaca socks are below:
They were knit on size 0 needles with 100% alpaca yarn in fingering weight.
The pattern came from the book, Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles
If you click the link on the book's name, above, you will go to author Cat Bordi's web site where she has posted corrections for some of the errors in the book but NOT the one that messed me up. I love you Cat, but pls. look more closely at pages 15 & 16! I realize that we can figure out what to do in round 7 by figuring out where you were going with rounds 5 and 9, but I didn't even notice the missing number until I'd knitted most of round 9. Then I was too lazy to rip it out. Size 0 needles!!! Do you know what I'm saying!??
Did this stop me from immediately planning to knit up another pair of alpaca socks and buying Cat Bordi's new book, "New Pathways for Sock Knitters" ? Of course not! This new book is even harder but sooooooo amazingly innovative. This is like the "Eureka! - I can't believe I didn't see that before!" sock book. It's the sock architecture moment of enlightenment, apple falling on Newton's head, E=MC squared book.
OK, maybe you find all this blathering about socks boring but
Why do we breed and shear alpacas again?????
Next time someone asks you "What are alpacas for?" You just point to your feet and these socks. If your feet are warm but not sweaty, inside of their non-itchy, non-bulky socks, in the chilly weather, life is good! Or, as the old Norwegian saying goes, "There's no bad weather, only bad clothing!" And then, there's that Old Kate Perez saying, "Don't try to sell alpacas wearing Polartec and Goretex!
Wondering about the alpaca punk part of my title for this post? Several of my ahem, younger, friends pointed out to me that they had seen the former lead singer of the band, Inamere, James Kelly, wearing a Mount Airy Alpaca T-shirt on his My Space page. In case you are old, like me, FYI: Inamere was top 35 in SmartPunk's list of hot bands. Whatever that means!
As much as I'd like to pretend that even cool, young musicians are all clamoring for the famous Mount Airy Alpaca T-shirt, the truth is that James Kelly is my nephew. And, though I kind of like his song, "Garden State of Mind" which you can order here:
mp3 version of Garden State of Mind
I have to warn anyone reading this to please not Google James or check out his MySpace page because it is nasty! I know you are young and "cool" James but, as your Aunt, I have to ask you to please remove the photo of yourself in your "illustrated" underwear from your My Space page and stop using the F word all over it and talking about procreative matters as well! You may still want to go back to college one day and no Dean of Students wants THAT person at his or her school!
Not saying this to be judgmental but because I love you and it's my job as your Aunt to disapprove of these behaviors. Someday, God willing, you will have rebellious little children of your own and you don't want them finding an archived copy of that web page!
James Kelly in his Alpaca T-shirt
The band Inamere
I'm heading out now to work at Thistledown Alpacas for the weekend, doing the alpaca lecture and DVD sales thing. Here is the photo Jane (owner of Thistledown) sent me of her daughters and their alpacas dressed up for Halloween this year. I'm pretty jealous of this one! I miss that alpaca costume class alot.
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So I am supposed to be working on my lecture notes for my Alpacas 101 lecture and my Alpaca Fleece lectures as part of a seminar at the farm of my friend, Jane, at Thistledown Alpacas on November 17th & 18th. Part of the deal there is that everyone who signs up for the seminar on Saturday will get a FREE copy of our Alpaca Care DVD - "Alpaca Care for Beginners - We Walk You Through It."
My husband, Tom - alpaca shearer extraordinaire - will also be lecturing at this event about how to set up, adjust and use shearing equipment. If you want to become an expert on alpacas and alpaca fleece and shearing, you can still sign up for this seminar here:
Thistledown Alpacas Seminar
Jane is mentioned in my post about the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival 2007 here:
Jane at Sheep & Wool
But, I was so excited about the birth of the first cria of my former girl, Reinette, that I couldn't concentrate on my lecture notes very well.
Don't Tell Jane!!!
I feel kind of justified in gushing instead of working though, because Reinette, is the granddaughter of the very first alpaca that I ever picked out and bought, Lanark's Latte.
and both of Reinette's parents were born on our farm. They were, Teddy's Peruvian Valentino and Mount Airy Cassandra.
There is something really special to any alpaca breeder (or animal breeder of any type) in seeing the continuation of a bloodline that they have helped to establish over several generations. Reinette felt like my own granddaughter to me and I am so excited that she is now a Mom in her own right! She was named after my own mom, Ruth Reinette Benson, and that name is French for "little queen." Reinette, the alpaca, did a good job of birthing and is, reportedly, a very protective mom.
She had a gorgeous medium fawn boy for her new owner, Ben Clark at Wishful Thinking Farm . Ben was good enough to call me from his cell phone while he stood in the field admiring Reinette's brand new baby. That meant SO much to me! Thanks Ben! But then I already knew that Ben is a good guy and, I hear, that he's turned into a good shearer too! Ben and one of his two lovely daughters are pictured in the previous post - showing alpacas at The Great Frederick Fair.
Don't be confused if you click the link for Wishful Thinking Farm above and get Dameron Alpacas, that is the website of Ben's sister, Rose's alpaca farm. Rose and Ben kind of share the website.
If you follow this blog, you may know that it was pretty hard for us to deliver our last few alpaca girls to Ben and Rose. Here is the post describing that delivery of Reinette and our other girls:
Post on delivering our last girls to their new homes
Here is Reinette cushed next to her dam, Cassandra, in the first hour of her life. She was so cute, but a strong baby - just the way we like our crias to be.
Not the best photo! but Reinette was born inside of our barn because the weather that day was cold and dreary.
She quickly fluffed up a little, and grew up, and, at about 3 months, ended up looking like this:
What a doll! I can't wait for the photos of Reinette and her son (HINT HINT) Ben.
Meanwhile, I have finished both a handspun skein and a couple of alpaca felting projects from my beloved alpaca girl, Galadriel, mentioned in this post:
left to right: hand-spun alpaca skein, silk skein, alpaca skein from Galadriel
felted alpaca (Galadriel's fleece) on alpaca felt background from Pinka
Felting is not really my thing but I may try to expand on this little felted scene later. Galadriel was Reinette's half sister out of Latte.
I am also hand-knitting a pair of alpaca socks:
and cleaning out our business office here at the farm. So I am managing to stay pretty busy!
We tried to give as many alpaca show ribbons to the people who bought alpacas from us as we could - whenever we could remember which ribbons were won by the alpacas they bought! That's why you SHOULD take the time to write the animal's name, the show class and the show date on the back of each ribbon! - alpaca people - even if you ARE exhausted from standing in the show ring all day.
I also kept some of our grand champion alpaca ribbons but I still have a big pile to throw out.
boo hoo! But I'll always have my photos and my memories of my beloved alpacas, so I still feel pretty lucky.
Reinette and her special pal, my son Nick.
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piglet piglet - who needs a piglet? Me, of course!
So Saturday I was at the Great Frederick Fair returning fleeces from our Alpaca Fleece and Skein Show and spinning away on the drop spindle. I don't pretend to be an expert on the drop spindle, but it does make a nice change from lugging the spinning wheels around and, since it is a different motion, it gives your back and hands a rest from wheel spinning. People are always amazed that you can spin yarn with such a simple "toy-looking" thing. This is sheep fleece roving bought from my friend, Cynthia Koonce.
The fleeces looked nice hanging on the wall with their pretty ribbons and I always make sure that those who enter get plenty of credit for winning so that they will want to enter the fleece show again. For that reason, I write their names and farm names really big on index cards and staple the card to the fleece. Unfortunately, I couldn't display a lot of the fleeces this year because the owners did not put them in clear bags as instructed. FYI fleece exhibitors- I do not know of any fleece show, alpaca or sheep, that does not require CLEAR plastic bags, untied.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Uh Oh, Another, Other Kate~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Speaking of Sheep Fleece Shows, once again this year I begged that mean Kate Bostek (of Roclans Farm in Fairfield, PA) to sell me one of her prize winning Rambouillet fleeces and, once again, she laughed in my face. OK, she didn't really laugh in my face. As a matter of fact, she very politely declined because she wants to show her fleeces again in October. She even opened the fleece bags for me to take a photo of them. Congratulations on your big wins at Frederick other, other Kate (as opposed to Kate McKelvie - a.k.a. other Kate and me, KateP), but I still feel a little bitter about not getting one of those fleeces from you!
The sheep fleece show is run by Barbara Mullen, a good friend of mine from the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival Committee. Barbara and her daughters, Karren and Sharron are some of the people that I'll miss the most now that I am moving and won't be able to work at the Great Frederick Fair again. Boo hoo!
Barbara sometimes lets me help judge the Maryland Lamb and Wool Queen Contest, like, this year, when we picked Ashley Stevens.
Blog entry about Ashley at the MD Sheep & Wool Festival 2007
I was happy to see Ashley win Supreme Champion Ewe, Supreme Champion Ram AND Champion in Fitting and Showing at Frederick's 4-H Sheep Show this year. But, as perfect as she is, she DOES have something to hide!!! I caught her red-handed, fondling a non-sheep. You are So Busted Ashley! Doesn't she have sort of a guilty look on her face?
Of course, I'm just kidding. Unlike SOME alpaca breeders, I never go around saying dumb stuff like, "Alpaca fleece is so much better than sheep fleece!" I can love both of them and throw in some silk, cashmere and Yak for good measure. In fact, Barbara and I yanked a little piece of fleece off of George's (see previous entry) Gorgeous Ram and our alpaca judge, Wini, figured it to be about 14 microns! Tell that to the next uneducated alpaca person you know who says sheep fleece is coarse.
Of course I ran over to watch the live alpaca show off and on all day.
There was a huge crowd of entrants in the "showmanship" class. Glad I didn't have to compete against all of them!
I was happy to see that some of my buyers (trained by me) placed well in the show including Ben Clark of Wishful Thinking Farm in Dameron, MD. Ben will not put up a website no matter how I bully him but he is represented on his sister Rose's website for Dameron Alpacas Doesn't he look like a pro out there?
Of course he is totally upstaged by his beautiful daughter. It's pretty hard to beat these cute little kids-n-alpacas for shear adorableness. What brats!
The big winners in the youth showmanship this year were no surprise. These are kids that have worked hard at training and showing alpacas for years except the boy in this group shot. He was in the show ring for the first time ever and did great. 1st and 2nd were the formidable sisters, Tiffany and Crystal German. I did not recognize the 3rd place winner (sorry kid!) and 4th was Courtenay Coles. Since the boy is not high school age, I won't use his name here; can't be too careful on the Internet with kid's names and photos!
Ben brought one of my old boys, Nickleby and his daughter out of Cassandra to the show. The daughter's name is Sadie Bug. I was struck by just how much these two look alike. Sorry the photo is fuzzy!
Now that's a guy with a predictable genotype as opposed to just phenotype!
As always, I spent a good bit of time checking in on all of my friends at the Birthing Tent. Em Pig (mentioned in previous post) had her piglets on Wednesday and she seemed to have a smile on her face as all of us people came by to admire her little ones.
All of them looked healthy and adorable:
But I was just a little bit concerned about the runt of the litter. Wouldn't it be a good idea to give that one to some nice, old, farm lady-person just to make sure it has extra care and TLC? Like, I don't know, Me - for example? I mean he does have to tough it out with his larger brothers and sisters for a turn at the milk bar. Just trying to be helpful here.
Speaking of coveting the animals of others..... I should know by now not to tease people on my blog because, invariably, they stumble upon the blog and find out what I'm up to. No sooner did I threaten to steal the cute BabyDoll Southdown sheep in the "County Roads - City Streets" exhibit in
This Post ,
than I got an e-mail from the owner threatening legal action. No, not really, she was kind enough to thank me for profiling her cute little sheep. Her name is Kim and she owns a place called Friendly Acre Farm (I would have linked to it if you had a website, Kim! ). She mentioned that she and her cute animals will be at Rose Hill Manor in Frederick for Rose Hill's "Fall Festival." Then she sent me an even cuter photo of the very sheep in question. Ever hear of "enabling" Kim?
I watched this poor cow pushing and pushing for a good while but, when it came time for the calf to actually be born, I couldn't even get near the Birthing Tent.
It was jammed with people.
And, I never did find out how it went for Ms. Sheep. She was gone when I turned up at the Fair Saturday morning. Hope things went well for her.
Like a lot of people, I sometimes feel sorry for the animals in the Birthing Tent because it must be hard to give birth with a crowd of people around (and No Epidural!) but I think the good does outweigh the bad.
Too many of our kids grow up with no idea of where their food and clothing comes from. We keep hearing about our kids not being interested in pursuing careers in science. I wonder how many more kids would do just that if they were on more intimate terms with that greatest laboratory of all, our natural world and the amazing living things in it. To see a new life on this planet come into being is a miraculous thing and it's bound to open up the minds and hearts of one or two of those little spectators.
Bye Great Frederick Fair. You can't imagine how much I'll miss being a part of you when I move this summer! Goodbye to all of my livestock friends (human and otherwise) and to the Great Frederick Fair staff and Great Frederick Fair Board - I Thank You so much for giving me the opportunity to be part of your event!
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