Category Archives: Our Alpaca Ranch

20140416_123101

The Ranch to Alpaca Roving Journey

Each year we shear our alpacas and harvest their fiber to make into roving for our customers.  Our animals have been carefully chosen for their fiber quality, color and great personalities. As the summer heats up, it is important to remove the fiber so each alpaca can stay cool and comfortable.

Alpacas waiting to be shorn
Alpacas waiting to be shorn

During shearing we separate the fiber into 3 bags for each animal.  The blanket is the “1st” fiber, the neck and belly are “2nd’s” and the legs are “3rds” On our ranch, we process 1st and 2nds while using 3rds for felting and other craft projects. This means the softest, cleanest fibers are used to produce our rovings.

1-IMG00059-20090425-1020

The first step on the way to roving is called sorting where we inspect the each fleece, clean out debris  and properly classify the fiber with each animal.  We then skirt the fiber on  a skirting rack by laying each fiber on the rack and allowing hay and vegetation to fall through the rack.  We again inspect the fibers and bag and tag each skirted fiber based on the quality grade and name of the animal it came from.

Off To The Mill

We are fortunate to have a fiber processing mill just 15 minutes from our ranch and store. The mill is run by Karen Goodson of Fibers First and she is a long-time fiber enthusiast who does a great job turning our fleece into roving. Fibers First is a local, family run business here in Northern Idaho. Some of the machinery they are utilizing was manufactured at the turn of the 20th century!

Before the fiber can be fed into the machine it needs to be washed and dried to remove as much dirt and debris as possible. All the fiber is thoroughly cleaned, sometimes requiring two or more washes. Fibers First contracts with another local fiber producer to wash the fiber processed at the mill.

Once the fiber is dry it is run through the picking machine to agitate the fiber and remove more debris caught in the fibers.  It is then blown into a room where if forms a fluffy pile of alpaca with the extra debris settling on the ground below the picker.   The picker used at the mill is a Davis Furber and was made in 1940.

20140416_124738
Feeding raw fiber into the picker

 

20140416_124942
Fluffy Alpaca Fiber after going through the Picker

 

The clean fiber is then fed through a carder. The carder is a Davis Furber and is two machines hooked together.  The front half was made in 1919 and the back half was made 1911.  This is heavy duty machinery and Karen depends on her husband and son to keep this amazing system running smoothly. When parts occasionally fail Karen and her team need to fashion their own parts and repairs to keep the  machines running. This mill is a piece of living history!

 

20140416_122718
Combing the fiber

The pin drafter is a Warner and Swassey machine and is monitored closely while the fiber is fed through the process. The process is closely monitored by hand and each batch is kept separate in these barrels and tagged with the fiber type and animal’s name.

 

20140416_123153
Feeding the pin drafter machine
20140416_123101
Guiding roving as it comes out of the pin drafter
20140416_123323
Pin Drafted Roving Ready To Be Spun

Once the yarn is pin drafted, the mill can spin it into yarn.

 

20140416_124007
Spinning machine making yarn
20140416_123955
Spinning yarn onto a spindle

With our fleece we chose to stop the process at the roving stage to allow handspinners the opportunity to spin the fiber into the yarn of their choice.  Through the entire process we keep each animal’s fleece separate so the roving carries the unique qualities of the specific alpaca for that year.   When our customers purchase the roving,  we can provide a photo of the animal so they can see where the roving originated.  Often times our customers will create a unique hand-made scarf or sweater and include a picture of the alpaca when presenting it has a gift.

 

Annabelle Roving
Annabelle Roving

 

Boomer Roving
Boomer Roving

This is an amazing opportunity to grow fiber, process it locally and the end product can proudly be labeled “Grown and processed in Northern Idaho, USA”.  We are so pleased to offer these beautiful, luxurious alpaca rovings on a limited availability basis. Each alpaca is sheared just once per year, so the supply is limited. If you see something you just can’t wait to spin…better get it quickly!

 

 

mom-daughter-knitting

Knitting Helps Mentor a Healthy Lifestyle

By: Kelley Hobart:  Owner – Alpaca Direct

Kelley HobartMentoring others to knit and crochet is a great way to share one aspect of a healthy lifestyle.   In this day and age we parents need to be positive mentors to our children to promote healthy crafts.  What does being a mentor mean?  It means someone who imparts wisdom to and who shares knowledge with the less experienced. Who better to mentor children than their parents?   Afterall, we are the ones who would lay down our lives for them at a moments notice.

We will do almost anything to ensure their safety and comfort in life. We spend a large part of our lives grooming them into responsible adults.    We live by sound moral ethics and promote healthy living so that they will do the same when they are adults. We encourage giving back to the community and helping our fellow neighbors whenever possible.

Mom and Daughters in the parade last summer
Moms and Daughters in the parade last summer

For my childhood, parental mentoring had it’s challenges. There were seven children in my family, four boys and three girls.  My twin sister and I were the youngest.  My dad left my mom and our family when my sister and I were 11 months old. He took the keys to the car, and I’ve never seen him to this day.  My brother, Todd, was two days less than a year older than us so mom had three babies in diapers,  no job, and no support system. Those were rough times for us, but mom kept us all together and I never remember mom sitting down when we were little.  She mentored a very strong work ethic!

My twin sister Shelley and I were inseparable
My twin sister Shelley and I were inseparable

I did not have my birth dad as a mentor, but I had many other positive role models during those formative years.  One mentor was Mrs. Hupp. She was an older woman who had lost her husband and visited the coast to stay at her cabin during the summer months. I would spend weeks with her during the summer. Her cabin had no running water, and we baked many pies on her wood fueled oven. I remember the deer in the back yard and the raccoons that we fed and watched with a spotlight that shone brightly over the tree trunk that we placed the scraps on. Those were some wonderful times! I still miss Mrs. Hupp and how she mentored me to appreciate the simple things in life.

Then when I was in high school my counselor, Steve Jurist, helped me find a way to realize my dream of going to college. I was the first to get a college degree in my family and was able to change my life and lift myself from the poverty that my biological father had left us in so many years ago.

My graduation as an RN
My graduation as an RN

Never miss an opportunity to help and mentor others. Show your children that you care by spending time with them. Whether you teach them to knit, bake a pie, or ride a horse, you will impact their lives. You may not realize it today, but the result will be the same. Their lives will be improved because you took the time to share a little of yourself with them while mentoring a healthy lifestyle.

 I love to see mother and daughters in our store learning to knit together. It is fun to see them mentoring patience, perseverance and just sharing stories about life while they craft a hand knit item together.

My daughter and I training the Alpacas
Our daughter Lauren and I training the Alpacas

At Alpaca Direct we are proud to be part of the mentoring process when it comes to learning the fiber arts of knitting, crochet and hand-spinning yarn. We carry a full line of fiber art accessories, including hundreds of needles and thousands of yarns. Our unique selection of products also includes Peruvian hand-loomed lace scarves, luxurious alpaca socks and cuddly alpaca teddy bears.

 Our building is handicap accessible, with ample parking and is easy to find.  We are located on Hayden Avenue, just two blocks west of Hwy 95 at 1016 W Hayden Ave. in Hayden.

Our store is open 10am – 6pm Monday through Friday and 10am – 3pm Saturday. Visit us at 1016 W. Hayden Avenue or online at www.AlpacaDirect.com – your local destination for luxury yarn, socks, apparel & gifts. “Like” us on Facebook and Yelp for exclusive coupons, product spotlights & news!

Kelley and our alpaca

Baby Alpacas Launched a Business and Built Family Ties

 American Express is sponsoring Small Business Saturday on the 30th so I thought it was only fitting to tell you the story about how our small business Alpaca Direct was started.  About 9 years ago my dear friend and neighbor on a nearby ranch stopped by to say hello and mentioned our neighbors down the road had Alpacas for sale. I asked her why she had not purchased one as she loved animals and rarely resisted the urge to bring home another animal to add to her “collection”.  She laughed and we scooped up my daughter Lauren and headed back down the road to see the alpacas.  The moment we saw the baby alpaca’s we were in love. Mercury

Our daughter Lauren immediately asked her dad if she could have one as she had been doing a great job raising rabbits for 4h and wanted to work with a larger animal.  We quickly learned that alpacas are herd animals so we had to buy 2 or more or they would become stressed and may even die if left alone.  We ended up buying two weanling males, Keeshon and Lightning.

 

 My friend Kelly bought Lightning’s dad Viking and placed him with a Llama she already owned. We found them easy to train and easy on our land as they do not mess with fencing or damage the ground.  They were also a great animal for our kids to work with weighing 115-130 pounds on average. Lauren was 11 years old at the time and could move them around without a problem.  Having the alpacas taught both our son and daughter how to be gentle in a kind of way that only animals can teach.  It taught them how to set boundaries but be fair and clear in their communication.  Looking back, I think that having the ranch with our 50 animals was well worth all of the work that was involved to make it run smoothly.

DSC_0362

2-DSCF0279

 Once we started raising alpacas we learned how amazing alpaca fiber was and wanted to share this discovery with others.  I remember wearing an alpaca sweater when we were in a snowstorm in Bend Oregon and I was warm despite being stranded on the side of the road.

Alpaca is such a beautiful fiber with unique qualities however it is largely unavailable to the general public.  I wanted to share alpaca with everyone so they could experience the joy of warm feet in the winter or a soft, luxurious alpaca scarf around their neck.  That meant we had to find products made from alpaca that were high quality and reasonably priced. We went from having 2 alpaca’s to a herd of 15 and creating a store and website (www.AlpacaDirect.com) that now sells thousands of  products to over 80,000 customer around the world.  My son and husband work on the website and my daughter has helped with care of the animals, modeling and choosing what products to carry.

 We work hard everyday to bring alpaca and other quality products to our customers.  We have some of the  warmest alpaca socks on the market  and if you have cold feet then you will love alpaca.  Socks make a great gift so stop by the store and buy some alpaca socks for your loved ones this Christmas.  Give them the gift of warm feet and I have a feeling they will ask you for more socks in years to come.  Have a safe and blessed holiday season.  Have great family times and cherish those loved ones every chance you get!

 We hope you can stop by our store this Saturday to support our local small business. In case you have not heard about us, Alpaca Direct is a direct merchant of high quality yarn, socks, apparel and gifts. We carry a full line of fiber arts accessories, including hundreds of needles and thousands of yarns. Our unique selection of products also includes Peruvian alpaca sweaters, hand-loomed lace scarves, performance alpaca socks and cuddly alpaca teddy bears.

 

alpaca direct store customers
Happy Shopping at Alpaca Direct
outside of building
Our store and warehouse in Hayden, Idaho
Alpaca Bear
Cuddly Alpaca Bear

Our building is handicap accessible, with ample parking and is easy to find. We are located on Hayden Avenue, just two blocks west of Hwy 95 at 1016 W Hayden Ave. in Hayden.

Our store is open 11am – 6pm Monday through Friday, and 10am – 3pm Saturday. Visit us at 1016 W. Hayden Avenue or online at www.AlpacaDirect.com – your local destination for luxury yarn, apparel & gifts. “Like” us on Facebook and Yelp for exclusive coupons, product spotlights & news!

We’ve Named Our Little Black Alpaca

Thanks so much to everyone who participated in the contest to name our alpaca. With over 200 names suggested we had quite a variety to make our final choice.  So… we have just finished a family gathering and unamimously decided… so now he has a name and it is Dante.  Thanks to Chase B. who posted the suggestion on June 22nd at 5:09 pm.  You’ve won a $25 Gift certificate to our online store Alpaca Direct   Thanks to everyone else for all the creativity and fun in helping our cute little alpaca have a nice name.  Next year you’ll see if first year fleece be available as a buttery black alpaca yarn direct from our ranch!

Help Name Our Alpaca – Contest Ends June 30th!

P1000518 We’d like help in naming our newest addition to our alpaca ranch. Here’s some characteristics about this little boy who was born a couple of weeks ago. He is coal black with soft, silky fiber that we’ll eventually shear and sell as yarn on our website. He’s really fast running around the pasture, likes to pronk, is very curious, is very proud in his stance like his father (Snowmass Conquistador). He is very independant but still likes to stay by his mom (Daphne) in the evenings. There’s more pictures on our ranch website photo gallery  So here’s the deal,  suggest a name in the comments section of this blog along with reason.  The winner will get a $25 gift card from Alpaca Direct.  Winner (and name) to be announced on July 1st, 2009.   

New Alpaca Yarn from our Ranch is available

We just got our Alpaca Yarn from our annual “Shearing Day” back from the mill. This year the alpaca yarn looks great and as always our limited supply will likely run out soon. This yarn makes a great shawl or scarf project to give to someone special. In addition we provide you with a picture of the Alpaca to include in your gift or as a momento. Better yet, come out and visit our ranch and see “Your” special alpaca in person!
Here’s Annabelle…

Annabelle400a

We lost a baby Alpaca yesterday…

Annabelle was a little over a month overdue with her Cria from Guns'N'Roses a famous herdsire on the west coast.  We were looking forward to welcoming him to the world.  Unfortunately he was breached in the womb and we were unable to save him.  My cousin from New York was out visiting our ranch with her cute little 7 year old daughter.  We were so much hoping to have a  cute little baby alpaca waiting for her when she arrived but things didn't turn out as planned.  Later that night she drew this imressive drawing (especially for 7 year old!) with Pocohantas asking her daughter Annabelle if she was alright and a tear coming from Annie's eye to show the sadness of her loss.  I think this drawing from little Lison says it all…2-21-2009 1-51-23 AM

An Update On Our Christmas Alpaca – Nicolas

P1000015We’ve heard from many of you wondering how our Christmas baby alpaca Nicolas was doing.  He made it through the first critical days and now is running in the pasture and playing with the other alpacas. He discovered mudholes this week following a series of storms passing through Northern California turning his soft white coat a few shades darker.  Anyhow, he’s doing well and growing quickly! 

A Christmas Baby Cria Added To Our Family!

P1000074 Christmas day at our ranch starts at about 4:30am with a trip out to the barn to check on our horses and alpacas, feed the dogs, cats, chickens, rabbits and ducks then settle in to see how all of our critters are doing.  All was well and we had some time to visit before the kids headed downstairs to see what was under the Christmas tree. We have 2 mom alpacas due in early January.  About noon today we were surprised to see a new little addition in the field. It seems Clarissa decided to have her baby Cria early on this very special day.  We named the little guy Nicolas given the day he entered the world.  He’s doing well at only 14 pounds and is a bit premature but we’re keeping him warm with a cria blanket to get through the night.  P1000106He’s not nursing too well so we mixed up some special formula to help him learn the knack of nursing and will be up every 2 hours tonight to check on him and give him a 60cc boost of formula.  Clarissa is a first time mom so she has some learning to do as well.  We try to help the effort along but mostly it’s instinct with a little support from the other mom alpacas.  So we’re excited to welcome little "Nicolas" to our ranch on this special day!