As April flows into May, we are still in that period of weather transition.
You know the window I'm talking about where it's cold in the morning, warm during the day, and cold again at night.
It's also the time of year on our farm that we're waiting for the grass in the pasture to grow tall enough so the alpacas can be released from their winter pen for grazing.
We can feel the anticipation building as the field slowly turns from brown to a lush shade of green. The alpacas wait at the fence... Is it ready yet? How about now? or Now? Can we go? Now? Now?
We did actually let the alpacas out early for a day last weekend -- shhh! Don't tell anyone.
We cycle our alpacas in and out of the pasture twice a year. They have free reign to graze from mid-late May through October before we close the pasture for rest and recovery until spring returns.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Spring and summer are ahead to be fully enjoyed before we start thinking of fall arrangements again.
Shearing Day is Coming!
June 6 is just a few weeks away and the alpacas will be so happy to be free of their winter coats.
People marvel over how skinny the alpacas look after shearing. It still surprises us every year! As the alpacas' fiber grows slowly throughout the year, it maintains the contours of their bodies and makes us think their skin is just below the surface when it's actually 2-4" deeper.
We have a couple of volunteers joining us on shearing day to help with fiber collection; they are interested in learning more about alpaca farming and are super-excited about participating in this annual event.
I'll give them an overview of what their jobs will be, the purpose of their work, and assist them with collecting fiber from the first alpaca being shorn. Thereafter, they should be able to operate on their own with minimal assistance from me.
Sorting alpaca fiber
Alpaca fiber is sorted into three categories: Prime (also known as 'blanket' or 'firsts'), Seconds and Thirds ( we combine seconds and thirds into one collection).
Prime- this is the area of the nicest and softest fiber that alpacas grow that is used for yarn and apparel.
Seconds & Thirds - these fibers are more coarse to the touch than Prime depending on where on the body they came from, and are used for rug yarn, roving for felting, dryer balls, and bird nest fluff.
Fiber from the neck and head areas are still quite soft, but fiber from the legs will be shorter and feel coarser.
Once all the fiber is collected, bagged, and tagged (by alpaca name and type), it will be set aside until I am ready to begin skirting (cleaning) in preparation for the fiber to go to the fiber mill where it is processed into yarn and roving.
Speaking of yarn and roving, I sent a large order of black and brown alpaca fiber that I bought last summer to the fiber mill for processing and it should be arriving soon as yarn and roving - yay!
When the shipment arrives, you can have "first dibs" on yarn and dryer balls, if you're interested.