Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tour of a Fibre Mill

Last week I went with my friend Deb from Ziraldo Farms (http://www.zalpacas.com/) to Oil Springs.

She was going to this little village because they have a great mill operation.

I blogged about the alpaca shearing that I went to in April 2009.

After the shearing, Deb drove out to Oil springs to drop off the alpaca fibre for washing, combing, carding and creating yarn and rovings for spinning.

I remember seeing many mills when in England and Scotland as a child.

They were always housed in large warehouses with machines that went very fast.

And always at the end was a lovely gift shop full of the cloth that they had produced.

I especially enjoyed seeing the Scottish tartan cloth they produced.

This mill is much smaller in scale but the machinery is still the same today. In fact, the way that fibre is processined is still pretty much the same today as years and years ago.

The Edy's have a large alpaca farm with about 75 alpacas.

They have every colour in the alpaca rainbow and it was a real thrill to see them.

They run the mill alongside their own large alpaca operation.

They offer lovely yarns, roving and knitted garments that are inventive and absolutely lovely. You can check them out at http://www.alpacascanada.com/.

They had baby alpacas everywhere. Of course, it's spring and the babies have been popping out of mommy's since early spring. In fact, one little dark baby was born just a couple hours before we arrived.

All the alpacas have been sheared so they were ready for the heat of summer. Some enjoyed the shade indoors while others wanted to romp outside or nibble on some grasses.

Oil Springs is not far from Sarnia, Ontario and is actually a pleasant back roads drive. It's a nice time to relax and visit while driving.

I even saw beehives at an intersection of two country roads so we stopped for photos.

I think these hives may belong to Munro Honey in Alvinson, not very far away from Oil Springs.

There were more than two machines but the first photo is the machine that takes the roving and makes it into yarn.

The second photo is the machine that cards and combs the fibre.

Their mill processes all types of fibre, even dog hair!

(Pictured is the carding machine).

Growing up Kitten

Every day there's a little change. First his tail started to get longer and then his body needed a few days to catch up to the tail. Then his whiskers grew in really long and he looked like a baby with adult whiskers. Now his legs are growing longer which is making him taller.
We've settled on calling him Jay, although he's had other names: Cutie Pie, Sweetie Pie and Mischiefer.

Both Jay and his mother Beauty, a lovely calico, are up for adoption.

I'm fostering them until we can find permanent loving homes for them.

Whiz, my other foster cat is in his glory.

Finally he has someone with boundless energy that wants to play with him. I reminded him of just that last night when Jay, acting in his mischiefer role, decided to pounce on Whiz while he was napping.

I'm sure Whiz had a few moments there when he regretted wanting someone--anyone of any age--to play with him.

The mommy cat, we call her Beauty, got spayed last week so she's been taking it easy this week and sleeping and keeping a low profile.

She's eating well which is good and hopefully she'll now gain some weight back.

Both Beauty and Jay were very sick when they first came here and for a while it even looked like the kitten wouldn't live.
That was when Amber stopped going in the cat quarantine room. She couldn't bear the thought that they might not make it.

But I told her that regardless of the outcome, it's our job to never give up on them. So we didn't. And they survived.

The kitten has also taken to playing with the bunny. Now this isn't a little bunny, this is a very large Angora rabbit, named Lexi.

Lexi is a bit strange and thinks that the kitten attacks are actually attempts to pat and groom her so she runs towards the kitten and encourages him even farther.... I think I've been so busy with projects lately that Lexi is feeling a lack of attention.

I was glad a few weeks ago to cut off Lexi's long soft fur. I collect the fur to use later to spin into Angora yarn for knitting. I also cut off Margarite's hair, my other rabbit.

(Photo of Lexi before the haircut).

Her hair wasn't long enough yet, but I knew she was uncomfortable and hot and I already had lots of her fur saved. This shorter cut hair can be used for craft projects or put out for birds for nesting material in the spring. Margarite was unusually cooperative with being groomed and having her hair cut off, so that alone showed me how very happy she was to have it removed.

And Tom is doing very well for an older cat. Unfortunately he still thinks he's young enough to defend the property and last night I saw another stray run away when I opened the back door--probably another drop off cat to the subdivision.

Friday, June 12, 2009

My New Babies

It's now official: I am a Beekeeper!
So is my Dad and nephew Codie who have decided to join me in this hobby. Who wouldn't choose to get into beekeeping after seeing these lovely girls?

These are my new babies. And I have named each and every one. Well, not really but I'd like to except that it would mean I'd have the hive open for much too long instead of leaving my bees to get to work building honey comb and having babies.

(Click the picture above to enlarge so you can see how beautiful these girls are. There's a couple boys there too - look for the BIG eyes).

You haven't heard much from me lately on this side of my blog house because all my posts the last while have been on The Bee Journal blog.

Here's me--well my gloveless hands in fact--holding a frame full of thousands of bees. See how they are calm and stay on their frame - they don't want to leave the babies they are carrying for.

By all means, feel free to pop over to The Bee Journal blog for a look. You don't even have to read it. I give you permission to just look at the pictures.

But here's some info about bees which I think should make you sit up and go, WOW!:

  • Did you know that boy bees are called drones? Yes they are. And they don't do anything in the hive at all. They can't even feed themselves and must be fed by the worker (girl) bees. Drones don't have a stinger either so you can pick them up to say hello. Drones do have a valuable role as sperm donors to ensure the next generations of bees are healthy strong and disease and pest resistant so we can't discount them as useless.
  • All honey bees have 5 eyes. The two large compound eyes you can easily see are for day time vision. They have 3 little ocilliae eyes on the tops of their heads which they use to see inside the dark hive or at night.
  • Bees have 2 stomachs - one for eating and the other is a storage container where they put the nectar they collect from flowers. So when the worker returns to the hive she regurgitates the nectar into the honey comb cell. Then they fan their wings to blow off moisture and to thicken it.
  • Honey is an antibacterial and can be put safely on your wounds. That's why your sore throat likes it. This is ancient medicine which doctors are now returning to, especially to help people with ulcers, like diabetics, that can't be healed with anything else. But honey does it perfectly!
  • Bees also make a substance called Propolis which they make from a gummy sap they collect from trees and buds. Propolis is an even better antibacterial agent than honey and helps a lot with healing.
  • The pollen bees collect is the powder from flowers that the bees stick to the pollen pouches on their back legs. This pollen is the protein source that they need to feed their babies so they'll grow up strong and healthy. Sometimes we'll take a little pollen ourselves to feel better or to help fight allergies.
  • Bees are mostly responsible for the ensuring we have the massive amount of crops and fruits and vegetables that we consume. They pollinate these plants which ensures they put forth seed for next year. They also increase the produce of plants. Without bees we wouldn't have so much food, or even chocolate! (Don't forget cocoa plants need to be pollinated too).
  • Bees are the only insect in the world that create food for humans. It's a special God given gift and it's wonderfully sweet of them to do it. So next time you see a honey bee make sure you say hello (don't pick it up though) and say thanks.

I could go on and on and on about bees as you can see. In fact, I've written a children's fictional novel about honey bees which I'm hoping to get published. So I'll try not to blog your ear off about them all the time!