Thursday, November 4, 2010

Felting alpaca fleece, organic eggs and a name to call home

Felted Alpaca slippers

So much going on in the past few days!


Tuesday I went to my felting class at the Aardwolf Alpacas ranch and made some adorable slippers out of felted alpaca fleece. Warm and cute. A few months back we traded several gallons of goats milk for the class. Phyllis and Mike were feeding two crias (baby alpacas) due to the death of one mom and another disowning her baby. They needed organic, raw milk and we had so much goats milk in our freezer, and bags of llama fleece in the closet, that it was the perfect trade. I needed to learn how to felt and process my llama wool and they needed milk. I have big plans for felting and the wonderful things I can make.

Aardwolf Alpacas...some of the girls

It is absolutely astonishing to me to watch this whispy fuzz of fluff turn into a pretty hearty material that can be made into slippers, hats, vests and more. I love it. My day was long, somewhat tedious and definitely labor intensive, but well worth the knowledge and the finished warm slippers that will keep my normally cold feet warm all winter long. I had a great time at the ranch and enjoyed a complimentary lunch of ham and cheese and apple cinnamon crepes, not to mention plenty of conversation about camelids and living more sustainably. I would recommend the class to anyone interested in learning to felt, which is invaluable to llama and alpaca owners. Thank you Phyllis and Mike. (They raise and sell alpacas, teach felting and have a B&B at their ranch near the Royal Gorge in Canon City.)

Wouldn't it be a wonderful thing if more people got involved in a bartering economy. Think of how much information and local goods could change hands. I really believe that systems of reciprocity that involve direct exchange of goods, including knowledge and labor, will be a big part of our future economy here in the good old USA. Bartering builds community and allows us to invent our own system of "money" while the US dollar continues to lose value. Besides, for those of us who have limited funds, and that is quite a few of us these days, trading gives us the opportunities that might otherwise be lost to us. I could never justify the expense, right now, of taking a felting class, but I can justify a good trade, and all parties involved ended up happy with the arrangement.

We have to raise the price of our eggs. We started buying organic chicken layer food, which is expensive, and the only way I can see how to make it work is to charge more for the eggs. But now, the eggs truly are organic, although the feed we bought before was supposed to be "natural." Until recently organic chicken food was very difficult to find, and it is still expensive, but I'm happy we can now find it locally. The eggs will be even better, and if getting an organic, cage free, hormone free egg is worth it to people they will pay the price. There is no profit here. A bag of feed is about $20. That lasts about one week for my twenty chickens. That's $80 per month to feed my hens, which means I have to sell 16 dozen eggs at $5 per dozen to break even. I hate that it becomes so costly. The alternative is to grow our own grains, but then with all of the old, little, local mills gone, where would we get our grains processed? The alternative for the consumer is to raise their own chickens (in Colorado Springs you can have ten hens) or buy the questionable eggs for cheap at the grocery store, which we have to stop doing if we want our food to change and become healthy. If we stop participating in agribusiness, they have to change their unhealthy practices to get consumers to come back, right? Take back our food!!!

I hope our customers will continue to support us and continue to buy our farm fresh eggs. I'm raising my price to $4 per dozen for a while to lesson the shock. Any donations above and beyond are welcome, since we are buffering the loss out of our own pocket, which is not doable for long. I don't want to go back to the Genetically Modified corn that is most likely a part of the feed, natural or not. Big farms can only grow GM corn, bullied into no choices by big companies like Monsanto, and perhaps the other grains are tainted as well. No, organic is the way to go, and if someone wants to open a local mill, I'd grow the grains, including my own flour grains and bring it to someone local to get processed. You bet I would. Local all the way.

And on a side note, I'm looking for local Bio diesel fuel if anyone is producing or knows someone who is. We bought our diesel farm truck in the hopes of converting it to bio, but all of the bio fuel stations have gone out of business. Let's try again people! There is a need and interest in Bio diesel fuel.

We finally landed on a name for our little farm here in the Southwest that Richard and I can both agree on and be happy with. It is what we hope to achieve--a green oasis in this high desert arid land, and a message about what we are trying to do--farm in ecologically responsible ways that will provide for us and heal the Earth. The new name of the farm is Green Desert Eco-Farm and a web site will be coming soon. I will continue to blog here and detail my story of trying to be sustainable and change the world, and Richard may start his own farm blog, which I'm sure will be interesting in its own right.

I'm also selling marigold seeds at $2 for 1/2 ounce. These are the seeds from the plants I have grown from seeds collected every year for oh, about twenty years now, I guess. I've been carrying my marigolds around with me from place to place, state to state, leaving a little bit behind, that will hopefully reseed. Every year I go out and collect the dried flower heads because that is where the seeds live, then I lay them out to make sure they are good and dry before I store them in Mason jars for next years garden.  I'd like to try this with more flowers. This year I've also collected Bachelor's Buttons and yucca seeds.

Besides being nice to look at, marigolds help deter insects, and the flowers can be used in herbal ointments and lotions to sooth sunburn, rashes, minor cuts and scrapes, or fresh flower petals can be crushed and rubbed directly onto insect bites to relieve the sting. Marigolds also have positive protective energy when planted around the house. The flower petals can be used in cooking, as garnishes, in teas as a detoxifier (anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-viral) and to make dyes. Marigolds...a flower of many uses. But isn't that true of so many of our flowers and "weeds," which if we took the time to educate ourselves, we would discover an amazing array of helpful plants that we may normally overlook.

Every garden should contain herbs, and here at our farm, it is one of my goals to plant an extensive herb garden for medicinal and culinary use. I hope to also have herb starts of some variety each Spring, but for now, you can start your garden  by ordering a few marigold seeds from Green Desert Eco-Farm. (Doesn't that sound nice?) You can save the seeds until Spring, or scatter them around now wherever you'd like to add a few colorful orange blossoms to your yard or garden. They are pretty when they take over a space, like a fire orange small hedge, that makes you suck in your breath when you turn a corner and happen upon the vibrant display by surprise.

Beautify the Earth and plant a few flowers. Plant something that will help take some of the poison out of our air. Every little bit helps. Every little step in the right direction paves the road for a better planet for us and our children and their children. Be the change--always.

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