Monday, April 30, 2012


The words wool, yarn, felt, silk, spin, weave, and dye all have the same sense today as they did in Old English; this is evidence of the ancient heritage of the spinners' and weavers' textile craft. However, the word knit has a history of varied meanings as it evolved through the centuries. The word cnyttan, which is the mother of our textile word knit, meaning to tie or join by knotting, is Old English. In 1377, cleric William Langland in The vision of William concerning Piers Plowman, used the term in its sense of knotting as he wrote in Middle English, "To bugge a belle of brasse... And knitten on a colere...And hangen it vp-on e cattes hals" (To forge a brass bell and to knit [it] on a collar and hang it upon a cat's neck). In 1607. Reverend Samuel Hieron wrote an Early Modern English example of this connotation "to tie" in his A defence of the ministers reasons for refusall of subscription to the Booke of Common Prayer: Look to the first marriage that euer was: “The Lorde Himselfe knit the knot."
The term knit as we know it in the modern textile sense began its evolution in the Middle English of the thirteenth century; the meaning "to knot string in open meshes to form a net" began its evolution about 1290: "Ase man knut a net: i-knut swithe harde and stronge" (As a man may knot a net: knit very hard and strong). The modern meaning of forming fabric by inter-looping yarn or thread first appeared in the sixteenth century. For example, in 1591, Shakespeare wrote in his play The Two Gentlemen of Verona, "She can knit him a stocke." The specific sense of knitting in plain stitch, as opposed to purl stitch, appeared in the 1890 pattern directions of Therese de Dillmont's Encyclopedia of Needlework: "Piqué pattern...1st and 2nd row purl 7, knit 1, purl 1, knit 1. [etc.]."
The knitting term garter as in garter stitch, evolved from the Old French term garet, meaning the bend of the human knee, or the lower part of the leg in animals. This word first appeared in the written work of the fourteenth century. The earliest Old English meaning of garter is "a band worn round the leg, either above or below the knee, to keep the stocking from falling down." For instance, in 1382, English theologian John Wyclif scribed in Middle English, "Fro a threed of the weeft vnto a garter" (Sew a thread of the weft into a garter). Garter stitch is a combination word and is a basic stitch in knitting; it was originally used in making garters and it is also called plain knitting. The phrase garter stitch first appeared in 1909 in The Daily Chronicle: "Sixty stitches are loosely cast on, and sixty rows of garter-stitch knitted." Just as the term purl evolved from the meaning "decorative" to the name of a specific knitting stitch, the word garter transitioned over a 7000-year period from the original meaning "bend of the knee." 

Clothing Moth Facts

Reprinted from the

  • The favorite fabric of the Clothing moth is wool but it has also been known to feed on many types of fabric including Silk, Cashmere, and even Fur. So be sure to protect your woven fabrics, sweaters, socks, gloves, linings of boots, fabric pieces, drapes, curtains and throws.
  • Remove any stains from garments as soon as possible. Stains attract moths. Avoid spray perfume or cologne on your wool garments and knits. Perfume and cologne are best when applied directly to skin or cotton garments.
  • Vacuum your home and closets regularly and remove the contents of the bag. Vacuuming is one of the best ways to rid your home of all types of pests including moths, but the debris in the bag may contain Moth eggs and larvae, so be sure to remove it form your home after cleaning.
  • Dry clean your clothing regularly to kill any new egg deposits. Wool garments and accessories are best stored in airtight drawers or containers that include moth protection of some type, such as; Lavender, Cedar, Herbal Sachets or Prozap Strips ion closets.
  • Hanging Herbal Moth Sachets from hangers that have your Moth-Favorite garments, or store in cedar lined closets and chests. 

Moth News Update

Reprinted from The Flower Depot

What Are Moths?
At The Depot, we receive dozens of calls each month from individuals searching for information on how to get rid of flying insects, most notably flying moths, in their homes and businesses. The moths are seen in and around their pantries, wild bird food, pet food and clothes closets. Many report seeing moths around dried flower arrangements and in dried flowers in storage.
The moths the callers are describing are almost always Indian Meal Moths. But the moths they see are only the tip of the iceberg. It's the larvae (worms) of these moths that are responsible for the destruction of everything they infest. Damage is caused by the larvae spinning silken threads as they feed and craw, webbing food particles together. Besides infesting all cereal food products and whole grains, larvae also feed on a wide variety of foods such as dried fruits, powdered milk, cornmeal, flour, raisins, prunes, nuts, chocolate, candies, health food and seeds, birdseed, dog and cat food, fish food, and pasta. In addition, dried flowers used in wreaths and arrangements are a source of food the larvae find attractive.
Sometimes mistaken as clothes moths, homeowners first notice small moths flying in a zigzag pattern around kitchens, pantries and other rooms in the home. Occasionally, the larvae or "white worms with black heads" crawl up walls and suspend from the cling attached to a single silken thread. Other times, larvae are found in a food package along with unsightly webbing. It is repulsive to the homeowner and costly to the manufacturer. Packages of whole wheat, flour, and corn meal are often infested. Some moths do fly into buildings during summer months through open doors or windows, but most "hitchhike" inside packaged goods and groceries. Not only homes, but restaurants, grocery stores, warehouses, pet stores and stores that sell wild bird feed or dried flowers can become infested.

How to Avoid Moths

To be certain, you want to avoid having a moth infestation. Avoiding this problem is easy, inexpensive and effective, and boils down to one word: PREVENTION. That's right, taking steps now to prevent a problem in the first place will save you a lot of time, money and grief. It is MUCH more difficult to get rid of an infestation than preventing one in the first place. Prevention starts with education, and anticipation that a future problem could occur. By taking a few simple preventive measures, you are unlikely to experience an infestation of moths.
Kitchens and pantries: Keep stores foods such as cereal, grains, nuts, cornmeal and pasta in sealed containers. Even in sealed containers these products can become infested because Indian Meal Moth eggs may have been present in the product at the time it was purchased. Containers and packages of stored food should be inspected periodically, at least every month or so. Any food that appears to have signs of webbing should be discarded immediately. Purchase foods that are seldom used in small quantities to prevent long storage periods of a month or more. Susceptible material stored for six months or more, especially during hot summer months, has the possibility of developing into serious infestations. Highly susceptible foods, such as spices, can be kept in the refrigerator, and other foods in the freezer. Always use older packages first, and inspect frequently to avoid any spillage, which might attract insects.
Pet food and birdseed should also be stored in airtight containers and regularly inspected for signs of moth infestation. Discard any product that shows signs of infestation.

Moth Detective
Thoroughly inspect wild bird feed and pet food at the time of purchase. Some food becomes matted with silken webbing. The larval stage is the feeding or "pest stage." In stored grains, feeding is done at the surface. In bulky materials, stored in boxes, feeding may be done from the bottom of the box. When ready to pupate, mature larvae leave their spun, tunnel-like case of frass and silk, then spin a silken cocoon. You should also be looking for fecal matter, which may appear to be gritty particles of dust that is often the same color as the infested product. To inspect bulky materials such as dried flowers, gently life the flowers out of the storage or shipping box and carefully inspect the debris in the bottom of the box. Under the bright light, it is helpful to use a small magnifying glass to do a thorough inspection; you should also be looking for live adult moths and their larvae.

Pheromone Traps
Another very important preventive measure is the use of pheromone traps. Pheromone traps are used for inspection, monitoring, and pinpointing infestations of adult Indian Meal moths. Insects use pheromones to communicate with each other, and are natural compounds created in the insect body. Many have been isolated in the laboratory and are now used to lure insects into sticky traps. Adult moths live only five to seven days with their major function to reproduce. Male moths are attracted to a pheromone scent (sex-attractant). Traps can be located indoors next to the ceiling, behind shelves, etc. to capture moths on a sticky surface.

Clothing Moths
Non-toxic, odorless trap that attracts and captures Clothing Moths. Traps use a special Clothing Moth Pheromone that will draw male moths into the sticky inner trapping surface. Each package contains two Clothing Moth traps and lasts for two months.

Foggers automatically "release' all of their contents at once, creating a dense fog of insecticide that fills the air and settles on virtually everything that is exposed to. They are best used for instant knock down of moths as well as cockroaches, fleas and many other insects. A complete selection of foggers are available to provide instant knock-down of moths. Foggers are effective for many situations.

How to Identify Moths
The Indian Meal moths have four life stages: egg, larva, pupae and adult. Eggs are ovoid, .5 millimeters in diameter and whitish, or yellowish-white. Pupae are contained within silken cocoons. Newly formed pupae are yellowish-brown. Moths are 5 to 10 millimeters in length with a wingspread of 16 millimeters. Upon emergence, moths are very colorful (head and thorax are reddish-brown; abdomen grayish-brown; front one-third of fore wings is silvery-white or gray).

Life Cycle
Indian Meal moths are sexually mature and capable of mating immediately after they emerge from pupae. Female moths live up to 2 weeks and are capable of depositing up to 400 eggs each. Eggs are deposited singly or in clumps on or near potential food sources. Newly emerged larvae begin feeding immediately. There are 5 to 7 larval stages. Mature larvae either pupate where they are feeding or wander about before selecting a hidden or protected site (crack or crevice) in which to prepare silken cocoons within which they pupate.
Under indoor conditions, where temperatures are "comfortable,” Indian Meal moths are capable of continual development. With ideal temperatures and relative humidity (86 degrees F and 60 percent, respectively), development from egg to adult requires 3 to 4 weeks. In indoor situations, 7 and 8 generations per year have been reported by various authors.

How to Get Rid of Moths

Be sure to read and follow all instructions on the label of all pesticides.

If you see moths flying around inside your home or business and you think you may have an infestation, you should take immediate steps to get rid of the moths. First, find the source of the problem. Locate the food source where moth larevae is presently feeding. In home kitchens and pantries, carefully examine all packaged food items mentioned earlier, both opened and unopened. Often unopened food contains moth eggs at the time of purchase. Inspect all cracks and crevices in pantry cabinets and shelves, including the shelf bracket holes drilled inside of wood cabinets. Often the larvae will seek out those kinds of places to pupate.
Discard any and all foods where signs of moths or larvae are present. Remove all items from the cabinet or pantry. Vacuum the surfaces of shelves, walls and floors. Pay special attention to cracks and crevices, no matter how large or small. Thoroughly wash all containers that will be reused. Place pheromone traps in pantry, and throughout house. The traps will help you locate additional infestations. The same steps should be used for areas where pet food or wild birdseeds are stored.

Place "Insect Guard" pest strips where appropriate. Pest strips emit a vapor that will kill adult moths and their larvae.

What is a Pest Strip?
An Insect Guard pest strip is an insecticide impregnated plastic strip, housed in a white plastic cage. It is not a sticky type trap. An Insect Guard pest strip is an insecticide.

Do Pest Strips Have a Strong Odor?
There is no strong chemical odor associated with pest strips. They do have a slight sweet smell if you are very close to them.

Are Pest Strips Messy or Hard to Use?
Insect Guard strips are not messy and they are very easy to use. Just remove the strip from its foil wrapping and hang the strip where you want to kill and eliminate moths, flies, mosquitoes, cockroaches or silverfish.

Do Pest Strips Really Work?
Yes. Insect Guard pest strips kill adult moths and their larvae.

Where Can Insect Guard Strips be Used?
Closets, wardrobes, and storage spaces. Insect Guard pest strips also protect clothes from moths and leave no smell. Garbage cans and dumpsters to control flies. Animal buildings--controls flies, mosquitoes, and gnats in horse barns and dog kennels.

How Long Do Pest Strips Last?
Once an Insect Guard strip is removed from its foil wrapping it will continue to be effec-tive for at least 4 months, and if unopened, will retain effectiveness for several years.

Pest Problems and Fiber Storage

An excerpt from “The  Spinner's Companion" by Bobbie Irwin

  • Warmth and humidity promote mildew (fungus)
  • Mildew primarily affects cellulose fibers, especially cotton; some fibers are only susceptible when damp.
  • Mildew is rarely a problem with protein fibers unless they are stored damp.

  • Bacteria primarily affect cotton and can affect fiber subjected to prolonged dampness.
  • Silk is relatively bacteria resistant, but can rot if subjected to prolonged dampness.

Insects - Incidental Damage
  • Clothes moth larvae will eat through cellulose and synthetic fibers to get to the protein fiber they want to consume.
  • Insects may feed on the finishes of some fabrics or yarn, especially sizing (starch).

Insects - Direct Damage
  • Crickets, silverfish, roaches, and termites may chew fabrics or fibers, but not as a primary food source; some are attracted to starch.
  • Silverfish and firebrats look similar, but firebrats are speckled and have longer appendages. Both prefer dark places. Silverfish prefer warmth and dampness, and firebrats seek heat. Immature silverfish and firebrats resemble the adults, only smaller.
  • Clothes moths (family Tineidae) are small (1/2 inch) and tan. Adult moths do not eat fiber; only larvae eat fiber. Females are relatively sedentary; most of the moths you see flying around are males. Cloth moths are not attracted to light.
  • A female moth lays 100-200 eggs at a time; eggs laid directly on fiber, yarn or fabric are tiny, pearly ovals that hatch within one to three weeks.
  • Clothes moth larvae seek the protein keratin found in animal fibers (wool, hair) as well as leather, skin, horn and feathers. They may stay in the larvae state for six weeks to almost three years (warm, humid weather promotes their development).
  • The larvae are very small, off-white naked caterpillars with dark heads that eat holes in animal fibers, yarn, and fabric. They will eat the protein fiber in a blend.
  • Carpet beetles (genus Anthbrenus and others) are small (less than 1/2 inch), hard-shelled beetles, mottled or black. Females lay eggs in dark, dusty places, including carpets and crevices of upholstered furniture. Adults do not normally damage fiber or fabric.
  • Carpet beetle larvae are broad, small (1/4 inch) bristly, and stay in the larval state up to several years. They eat protein fiber, including silk.
  • Moths and carpet beetles prefer darkness, dirt, and cramped conditions.

Detecting Insect Infestations
  • Even if insects are not present, you can tell if they've been in your fiber or yarn.
  • If you see adult insects, inspect your fiber/yarn/fabric for damage.
  • Insects chew holes in fabric and cut through yarn or fiber.
  • Small, scattered holes are typical of moth damage.
  • Carpet beetles leave large holes.
  • Cloths moths leave behind a mass of cobweb-like threads or silky tubes, mixed with fecal debris. Carpet beetles do not leave debris.
  • Be alert for egg clusters.
  • Inspect fiber, yarn, and fabric frequently. Untwist yarns skeins periodically.
  • If you find damaged fiber or active infestation, destroy all pests and eggs, and sort the rest of the fiber. Unaffected areas may still be used, but it's a good idea to freeze or wash the good fiber even if it has been washed before.

Chemical Controls
  • Mothballs and crystals containing paradichlorobenzene (PDB) or naphthalene evaporate to form fumes that kill larval and adult insects and may also repel them. They are effective only in closed areas where the vapors can't dissipate, and they are toxic to humans. PDB is probably carcinogenic.
  • Chemicals such as Eulan*, Edolan*, and Mitin*, designed for industrial use, make fibers permanently unpalatable to insect larvae. They are not safe for home application.
  • Dry cleaning solvents kill insects but are too toxic for home use.
  • Most home and garden insecticides that kill insects are not recommended for use on fiber or fabric.
  • Boric acid (2-4%) combined with imidazole (1%) provides moth protection that persists through dry cleaning but not washing. 

Natural Controls
Physical Methods
  • Submersing fiber, yarn, or fabric completely under water for at least 12 hours will kill larvae and eggs.
  • Freezing fiber, yarn, or fabric for several days at OF/ -17.7C kills larvae, eggs and adults.
  • Heat above 106F/ 41C for four hours kills moth eggs, larvae, pupae, and adults. Excessive heat may damage fiber (e.g. prolonged exposure of fiber to sunlight while it's sealed in a plastic bag is not recommended.)
  • Fiber-damaging insects dislike light and may leave the fiber source if exposed to strong sunlight and air for a few hours. Prolonged exposure to sunlight damages fiber.
  • Flypaper and other sticky traps are effective. Soak cotton balls in fish oil and attach them to the flypaper to help attract insects.
  • Layer fiber between sheets of printed newspaper or brown (Kraft) paper. Newspaper ink may have some repellent effect (although the new soy-based inks are said to be less effective), and brown paper is a physical barrier that the larvae won't eat. Acids from the paper will eventually damage fiber, however.

Biological Controls
  • The bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) attacks moth larvae of all types and may be effective against clothes moths. 

Herbal Controls
  • 'Natural' does not always mean `safe'- some plants and plant extracts, such as concentrated nicotine, kill insects, but are also very toxic to humans and are unsafe for home use.
  • Effective herbal insecticides which are relatively safe include Rotenone and Pyrethrin.
  • Insecticidal soaps are safe, but their effectiveness on clothes moth or beetle larvae have not been reported.

  • Some strong-smelling herbs may mask the sulfur scent that attracts moths and beetles to fiber food sources. Essential oils are highly concentrated and should be handled with care; many will kill insects as well as repel them. Soaps scented with herbs make effective sachets. Dried plant material from the following sources, alone or combined, may deter pests, especially in confined areas where the vapors are concentrated: Balsam Fir, Bay, Camphor Basil, Cedar, Cinnamon, Cloves, Geranium (scented), Lavender, Wormwood, Painted Daisy (Prethrum), Pennyroyal, Rosemary, Southernwood, Sweet Marjoram, Sweet Woodruff, Tansy, Tarragon.
  • Raw plant material including wood (such as cedar) releases acids that can hasten the deterioration of fiber and fabric; avoid direct contact and prolonged exposure.
  • Not all strong-smelling plants repel insects; clothes moths are attracted to some of them. The following are not considered effective: Allspice, Angelica Root, Black Pepper, Cayenne Pepper, Ginger, Hellebore, Horseradish, Eucalyptus, Red Cedar Leaves.
  • Citronella and camphor are effective repellents derived from plant sources. Camphor is poisonous, but less so than chemical mothballs.

  • Carefully examine all new fiber for evidence of insect infestation; destroy affected fiber. Keds (sheep ticks) that are obviously dead will not harm your fiber, but since some ticks spread disease, don't handle them with your bare hands.
  • Skirt fleeces well and discard dirty, matted areas that won't wash clean.
  • Clean fleeces and textiles thoroughly before storing them.
  • Spin fresh fiber whenever possible and avoid keeping fiber over long time periods.
  • Avoid compressing fiber.
  • Inspect fiber periodically and allow it to air in the sunshine.
  • Vacuum crevices, carpets, and upholstery regularly.
  • Check the underside of rugs and the back side of wall textiles.

  • Clean fiber, yarn, and textiles thoroughly before storage.
  • Fiber, yarn, and textiles must be completely dry before storage. Wool may feel dry even though it holds some moisture, so don't store it for several days after you wash it. In a humid climate it will absorb some moisture from the atmosphere, but that is probably safe.
  • Ideal storage temperature is 65- 68F, relative humidity 45-50%.
  • Avoid direct contact with unfinished wood.
  • Place insect repellent in cloth bags, out of direct contact with fiber, yarn, or textiles.
  • Avoid contact with polyvinyl chloride plastic (PVC), use inert plastics labeled acid-free or "archival". Safe containers include those made of polyethylene, polyester, and polypropylene.
  • Paper or cardboard in long-term contact with fiber, yarn, or textiles must be acid free.
  • Avoid compressing fiber; allow it to breath.
  • Store protein fibers in indirect, low light to discourage insects.
  • Store cellulose fibers in dark places to protect from sunlight.
  • Use sealed bags and containers to create a barrier to insects and make repellents more effective. Plastic storage boxes are good, especially in regions with low humidity.
  • Clean fiber, yarn, and textiles that are hung in airy, open spaces rarely attract insects.
  • Air fiber, yarn, and fabrics and check for pests every few months.

This article is an excerpt from The Spinners Companion, by Bobbie Irwin, a quick reference guide designed for both beginners and experienced spinners. For more information on Bobbies work, you can contact her at

(Editor's note: I found this article in the Camelid Quarterly, September 2005)

Safe Fiber Storage

Bugs! Everywhere! If you have lots of fleece hanging around, eventually the moths will find it... and then invade. I found moth casings in Martin's closet, upstairs where I do not have any fleece. Others have found the evidence in their favorite wool sweaters and suits. How did they get there, and where do they come from? I don't have a clue! But if there is fleece, they will come.
Last issue, we discussed preventatives for moths. Remember: Clean, Bright, Air.  Store clean fleeces in a bright area and with air movement. If you don't have an area like that, periodically, pull out the fleece, check for bugs, and leave in the light. So now, you start working with that favorite fleece that you have been saving, and you either see a flitter of white out of the corner of your eye, or you discover that your fleece dissolves in your hand. If you look closely, there may be tiny tunnels through the fiber, and grit falling out. I rarely see moths, but often see the little white casings (pupa stage), about ¼ inch. If they are flat, the critter is gone. If they are round, you can squeeze the critter inside. It sounds "gross," but after your favorite fleece is ruined, it's not so bad! If the casings are empty, there are probably eggs still in the fleece.
So, what do you do? I always heard freezing works well. Leave the fleece outside in the cold, or throw it in the freezer. But... as reported by Susie Smithers in Wooly notes (reprinted from ORVLA Topline), "A controlled experiment was completed by Judith Mackenzie. Judith had access to chemists and entomologists as part of her research on textiles for the Canadian government. She had commented that the temperature needed (-30 degrees Celsius or -40 degrees Fahrenheit) is beyond the scope of home freezers. 'Freezing in a home freezer will kill the larvae -(but) the eggs are the problem. Freezing increases the percentage of eggs that will hatch.
If freezing doesn't work, then let’s use heat. Bringing the fiber to a boiling and simmer. This will kill all stages. Boiling isn't the best for the fiber, but it is a way to save it. Another heat method is to take the fleece, put it in a black sealed bag, and let the sun bake it. Once again, the fleece needs to be heated up in order to kill the bugs and eggs.
A chemical method is No Pest Strips. These are found in hardware stores and home centers. If these are added to a sealed bag for 10-14 days, they will kill all stages. For those of us that have moths, you will often find a pot boiling away on our wood stoves, full of yarn or fleece. We are also making an effort to go through the fleeces, and get them clean, then storing them with the no pest strips. Having moths invade is a disaster, but it also makes you take care of your fiber and products. So think about your fleece, and as stated in the last newsletter, USE IT OR LOSE IT!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Charge To All Northeast Llama Packers et al!

By Viv Fulton
Reprinted from The GALA Newsletter, February 2010

"Falling for Camelids" was the theme of the November 2009 GALA Conference. Held in Ithaca, New York, it was the annual conference fulfilling the Greater Appalachian Llama & Alpaca Association bylaw's directive to educate members of the public. Charlie Hackbarth of Mt. Sopris Llamas (now Sopris Unlimited) in La Vela, CO was the keynote speaker sharing his views on where the llama industry has been and where he felt it was heading. This being Charlie's first ever keynote address, we were all just as excited as he was to hear what he had to say. We were not disappointed. Sure, it wasn't the smoothest talk or the most organized we'd ever heard (in spite of his wife Sandy's best efforts), but you couldn't deny the intensity and sheer joy that Charlie has when talking about llamas, llama packing, and for that matter, the whole entire camelid industry. Charlie's focus was really a wake-up call to everyone, and not just llama packers in the Northeast. In essence, the Nike® commercials shout it too -- Just get out and do it!
The whole point of having llamas and alpacas is to enjoy them. It doesn't matter if you're going packing, or going to shows, or going for a picnic with the neighborhood brownie troop. We got them to be with them, to just sit in a chair with our coffee by the campfire listening to them peacefully chew their cud and watch the sun go down. So many people get their first two llamas and do all this, add multiple babies, and suddenly wake up to realize they better hurry up and turn this into a business, as it's costing them money, they haven't sold anything, and they have no time to enjoy them as they had when they got their first. Life takes its toll and the next thing you hear is that there's another bunch going through the local cattle auction, the rescue organizations are getting calls about the animals that owners didn't have time for, and those beautiful bedroom eyes are no longer soft and stress-free.
GALA is made up of not just llama owners, but alpaca owners as well. Charlie's even made scaled-to-size pack systems that are perfect for lunch hikes for these smaller llama cousins. His keynote address, and his and other’s workshop sessions, were purposely targeted to both critters. And so too is the message: we ALL must get out and DO something with our camelids. To not means we will lose wonderful opportunities to connect to something that can only benefit our mental and spiritual outlook on life. As we wind down the calendar year, take the winter months to rejuvenate, and prepare for the next packing season / spring renewal / decade, we should take Charlie's advice and include llamas and alpacas in our plans. Those plans (and subsequently "we") can only be better with their involvement. And this involvement, this connection and joy of ownership, is what Charlie was saying will keep the llama industry strong. It's not the big breeders catering to individuals that expands the industry. It's all of us talking to others in the grocery line, at a parade, at the barbershop or beauty salon, showing by example, our joy in living with those animals that will expand and grow the llama industry. We need to Just get out and do it!
The GALA conference this year was relatively small -- over 125 but less than the 200+ we've seen in other years. However, it WAS one of the smoothest run, more intimate, certainly friendlier, and generally more relaxing than many others I've attended and that's not just my opinion, but a whole lot of other folks' who were there. I was pleased to give a couple talks at this conference, as well, and had the opportunity to speak with many of the attendees. And I was pleasantly surprised to see not only long-time llama owners in the audience, but to see and speak with many who had never swerved from their stay-at-home "business plan" of breeding llamas to sell or from their show schedule, to now hear they were interested in trying llama packing or some other activity with their llamas. Could Charlie's message have really gotten to them? Only time will tell of course. Sadly here in the Northeast, the llama-packing season tends to go dormant as the snow, bitter cold, and adverse weather conditions tend to discourage participation. Will these folks remember their renewed sense of anticipation when the spring weather returns? I certainly hope so.
As the country continues to market real estate in the rural areas to those in the cities, there are fewer and fewer areas open to llama packing, or for that matter, open to hiking with any large animal. Unless the llama hiker has purchased enough property himself to set up interesting trails, or adjoins a like-minded neighbor, those who want to hike with their animals are forced to either travel long distances or to give up the idea entirely. Many llama owners who purchased the animals initially as hiking companions, changed their direction to the show circuit and substituted the performance classes for the natural world. Now, the economy, the subsequent drop in the number of llama shows and other events, and the realization that camelids are not really a get-rich-quick road to financial security, has made many people reassess their reason for having the critters in the first place. Will Charlie's message of Just get out and do it! find a resonance with these people? Will those that bought the animals as hiking companions want to resume that intent? Are they even capable? Some of us still have our first llamas, but they, like us, are getting older too. The last few GALA conferences have had questions about arthritis; the first conferences did not. Is hiking with llamas (and alpacas) still an adequate or viable reason to have them? Can the walk around a farmette's five acres (as the realtors call them) provide enough justifiable joy?
This short commentary is intended for both the GALA and PLTA (National Pack Llama Trial Association, Inc.) newsletters, so my audience automatically includes both the "choir members" and the 'congregation." To those of you who don't know about PLTA, let me tell you a little of how that organization can help you Just get out and do it! with your camelid friends. The PLTA started out as an organization whose primary intent was to set up and document participation in events called pack trials that were tests of a member's llama's packing abilities. Starting in the West, the organizers looked at the typical llama packers out there to see what attributes needed measuring. The trials utilized pre-determined elevation gain, distance, weight to be carried, and a series of obstacles that could be standardized, theoretically at least, across the country. This was all fine for a number of years; if you didn't have the elevation gain in your part of the country and still wanted to evaluate your llama, you traveled the extra distance to where there was a trial with the requirements.
But times have changed, and so, too, has the PLTA. The organization is no longer made up of just "serious" llama packers, but others who want to hike with their llamas. PLTA has recognized that its membership needs to be made up of everyone who hikes with a llama, whether or not they do it over a mountain range or on the flat area around a lake or along the seashore. The organization is national in scope; so too must their membership be, and subsequently, the services provided to that membership. We need to address the feasibility of running pack trials in areas with minimal or severe elevation gain, with no water obstacles available, or other conditions not typically found across the country, but that are "typical" of a given region. Some adjustments have been made in the regulations; others need individual study.
And what about those that just want to hike with their llamas without the testing regulations of the formal pack trials? Well, PLTA has addressed that with their new Mileage Club. This new service was spurred on by the Southern States Llama Association who, in turn, were interested in setting up a camelid hiking club similar to the American Volkssport Association® walking clubs. Basically the Mileage Club recognizes the mileage that a member hikes with their llama, irrespective of elevation gain, weight carried, or obstacles negotiated. Here's a justifiable excuse to Just get out and do it! It's a great opportunity for those handlers and llamas who may not be the most physically fit, whether due to age or health conditions, and for those on the other end of the spectrum -- the younger and beginners. PLTA provides pins, certificates, and recognizes the successful completion of Pack Trial accomplishments. They do so also for Mileage Club achievements. Go to the website for more information. And Charlie's message? Let it be your new mantra for the new year. It's not just a charge to the GALA community in the Northeast. But bring back the enjoyment and just plain fun reason for having your llamas, regardless of where you live. And if hiking with them is at least some part of that, then all the better. As Charlie would say -- Just gel out and do it!

Interview with Nancy Kish, Agape Hill Farm, Hardwick, VT

By Karen Nicholson

Nancy, tell me about your farm – what animals do you have?

While our primary animals are llamas (we currently have 20), we also have 7 Angora rabbits, 3 Icelandic and 1 Dorset sheep, 2 Angora and 2 Pygora goats, 3 horses, 2 cows, chickens, turkeys, pigs—and 3 dogs and 2 cats (and one fish!).

A successful business has a niche, what sets your farm and herd apart from others in the industry?

We run an interactive farm. Our primary focus is not on breeding or showing or even fiber. Our farm motto is "An Adventure for Everyone." We want to be a place where people can come and try something new. Visitors to the area can schedule a farm tour or llama walk on our trails. Several young adults with autism come regularly for llama walking. School children visit for field trips and also for behavioral interventions. We have an afterschool llama club where children work with their "own" llama, learn fiber art and other farm activities. We also do off-site visits such as to a local nursing home and libraries.

What is your greatest achievement or favorite memory since you started raising camelids?

It would have to be seeing individuals relax and grow while working with the llamas. One of our weekly walkers has an issue with keeping his hands tightly closed. He has learned over the past year to feed his llama which entails holding his hand open flat—and he loves it! We have also seen a young girl in the llama club who cried the first time she walked a llama. She has grown in confidence to the point where she has begun training one of the yearlings to go on trail walks.

What advice would you give to those just getting started with camelids?

Find what you love to do with your animals, get good at it, then find a way to make that a business.

Where do you see your farm and camelid business going over the next 5 to 10 years?

We would like to add a workshop room and farm store in the barn. Other than that, we would just be expanding the trail walks and workshops.

What has been your biggest lesson learned?

Take one step at a time and don't try to learn everything all at once. It can be very overwhelming when you feel like you need to learn to care for animals, train, shear, card, spin etc. all at once.

How do you see the industry developing in today's economy?

Local and natural products and services are in high demand—especially in our area. We need to capitalize on that! Look for new applications for fiber art (i.e. someone recently asked me if I could make a laptop cover for them!). Offer a local, reasonably priced activity like a farm tour or workshop.

What do you like best about your llamas?

I love their intuition and ability to connect. They just seem to know what a person needs. I'm amazed at how differently a llama can act in different settings and with different people. A llama who never seems to stand still will be like a statue when someone who is tentative is petting them. The most dramatic example I have of this comes from a recent nursing home visit. There was a lady who was unable to communicate or reach out at all. I went over to speak to her and hold her tightly fisted hand. As I approached, Whoopie Pie (my llama) walked up and gently "kissed" her forehead (llama style). He is not a "kissy" llama and hasn't responded that way to anyone else. I lifted her hand so she could touch him and she smiled. When I went back to the nursing home 2 weeks later, I looked for the woman again and was told she had passed away shortly after my last visit. I was so thankful that we had spent the time with her and that Whoopie somehow "knew" what was needed.

This interview was conducted by Karen Nicholson of Stepping Stone Farm Alpacas in Stowe, Vermont. Her family has a small, integrated farm raising broiler chickens and laying hens for food and pasture fertilization; Indian Runner ducks for Meningeal worm control; 2 French Alpine dairy goats for milk and brush clearing; and a herd of 8 colorful alpacas for fiber and their offspring for sale. Karen writes for VLAA, NEAOBA and other livestock publications. If you have comments about this interview contact:

Winter Fun With Llamas

By Bev Henry

The packing season is over and the high country is buried under several feet of snow. This is no reason for your llamas to get fat and lazy. The winter months provide a welcome rest for hard working commercial strings of llamas. Most of us, however, do not have the opportunity to work our llamas all that much, and the critters welcome a little exercise to break the monotony of winter.
Crisp blue and silver days, with bright sunshine and fresh powder snow, provide a perfect opportunity for a little fun. Llamas seem to enjoy frolicking in the snow as much as we humans do.
When we lived in northern BC, winter occupied about eight months of the year, so we learned to make the most of it. Our home, on the shores of a small lake, was across the water from about fifty miles of little-used wilderness trails. These trails had been constructed by the local ski and snowmobile clubs years before.
Any time after Christmas, the ice was safe to walk on; we always waited until the first snowmobiles had crossed. On sunny weekends we'd fix a lunch, take a few llamas and bike across the ice and up the mountain trails. Packed snowmobile trails were perfect for winter hiking. The llamas seemed to have good traction with their flexible footpads and sharp toenails for gripping.
We often turned the llamas loose for a little fun. The trails were a welcome change for them, as we had limited space at home for our first few geldings. Once we had crossed the ice, we would turn the llamas loose. It was a very safe area with no roads nearby, and we rarely met other trail users.
The boys loved to go blasting off at a gallop, exploring the route ahead and then racing back to see what was taking us so long. I often thought they were like a bunch of kids let out of school for Christmas holidays.
One bright and sunny New Year's day we were heading up the mountain and had turned the youngster, Rowdy, loose to burn off some energy. He was somewhere ahead of us. We heard a snowmobile approaching and hoped Rowdy had enough sense to get off to the side. The snow was deep and trails were narrow, wooded, and uneven, so snowmobiles never traveled very fast. We came around a bend to see a young man on his machine at a dead halt, face to face with Rowdy, who wasn't about to yield an inch. The look of stunned disbelief on the man's face was priceless.
He was expecting moose, he said. For a few brief seconds, he had feared he was still suffering the aftereffects of wild partying the night before. We all had a good chuckle, shoveled out a passing lane, and continued on our way.
Another favorite winter pastime for the llamas and us is sledding. My carting team took to this like ducks to water. A child's sturdy molded plastic sled, a few lengths of plastic conduit pipe, a few fittings, and Voila! A llama open sleigh. Often we'd have a lineup of neighborhood kids waiting for a turn when we hitched up a llama and sleigh. It was a great way to meet the neighbors.
So don't let winter slow you down. Put on your thinking cap, look in the garage at the kids' old winter toys -- maybe something could be put to use. Or get out the packsaddles and panniers, the camp stove, hot chocolate and cookies. Dig out your winter long johns and hit the trails for a day of adventure. Even overnight camping trips can be a delight with proper winter equipment.
The hushed silence of the woods after a fresh snow; the startling rifle crack of freezing pitch pockets in the tall sentinel pines; the sudden flurry of a grouse exploding out of the powder snow -- wonderful ways to refresh your spirit after a hard week at work. The sparkling rainbow prism of hoarfrost on wild rose hips, mysterious tracks through the bush and the llamas' quivering noses and ears thrust keenly forward at every bend in the trail all add a little spice to those long dreary winter months. There's a whole new season out there just waiting for you and your llamas.
Hmmm… just think what fun you could have with a two rope and skis...

Bev Henry has been involved with pack llamas since 1997 and is now breeding athletic pack stock along with husband Barry in Barrier, British Columbia, Canada. Bev and Barry are focusing on preserving the old style Ccara llamas. Bev comes from a background of a lifetime training and riding performance horses, is an amateur outdoor photographer, and an artist who interprets her images in pencil and watercolor.

Let Me Count the Ways

By Julie Sines

In a day and age where gas and groceries, not to mention hay and grain, are high priced, why would anyone want llamas? Have any of you experienced that question from people who know you lately? I have. It stops and makes you really think about why you do have them and why you put your extra hard-earned cash towards them. When asked the question of why llamas are so important in my life, I say, "Let me count the ways of why I love them...“ See if any of these ways ring true in your life too:

Their eyes - I'm not sure there is any species on the earth that has the eyes and eyelashes of a llama. When you gaze into them it is like looking into their inner souls. After a hard day at work, I love nothing better than to catch one of my minis and look her right in the eyes. The gentleness and calmness in them just soothes all the aches in my shoulder and makes my world right.

Their Hums - Standing among my girls during feeding time and listening to them communicating to each other is a real treat. I think because they are so silent most of the time, it makes me really stop and listen to them and take heart. It's just another way my minis speak to my soul.

Their Fiber - There is nothing like giving a hug to a walking sweater. I especially enjoy this in the dead of winter when it is so cold out. Nothing makes my heart warmer than a huge hug from one of my heavy-wooled minis.

Their Friendship - Can anything be more special than a majestic creature coming into our space to say hi? Or how about that llama that you bought who was standoffish and suddenly one day he decided to trust you? Even if nothing in your life is going right, that one gesture of trust can make your day seem a little bit brighter.

Their Presence - Llamas are not arrogant, but have a confidence in life. Whether they are walking in their pasture or into a show ring, they seem to know there is something special about them and they need to be noticed. It is one of my very favorite attributes about my minis. I call it their "star quality."

I hope my list rings true in your own experience with llamas. Each and every one of us that owns llamas will all have that "something special" we love about them the most. If the poor economy has you feeling down and you start to wonder why you are feeding the hungry mouths out in your pasture, just go out and stand among your llamas. They'll have you counting the ways you love them!

Camelid Stories

By Karen Nicholson, Stepping Stone Farm Alpacas, Stowe, VT

Eric Hoffman, in his book, The Complete Alpaca Book, writes: "Understanding how alpacas communicate is both entertaining and an extremely valuable management tool. After 6000 years of domestication, alpaca behavior has been modified by human management and breeding, but communication among alpacas is still rooted in their ancestral past. A look at behavioral research gives us insight into the amazingly broad repertoire of communication alpacas have inherited." (2nd edition, pg. 33)
Below are a few stories where llamas and alpacas exhibited interesting communication and behavior:

Beyond Survival Instinct

Brad Kessler in his book, Goat Song, tells an amazing survival story of a ram and his protector, a llama, living in the wilds of Vermont.
A neighboring farm had a dozen or so sheep and a guard llama. The owner's interest in the animals was to trim their fields. For fencing, they had a few strands of rusted barbed wire.
The llama did his job well until one summer a pack of coyotes began to take the sheep one by one. By September, all that was left was a ewe, a ram and the llama. The llama had a haggard look. The ram never left his side. The ewe was doomed with fear. Sure enough by frost, only the llama and ram were left. Then one day — gone.
Hunting season came and went, winter, and early spring passed. One day, late spring, the llama and ram were spotted nearby. The owners of the animals were contacted, the llama and ram caught, and put tight in a barn. Somehow they still managed to escape twice until finally, the barn was so secure that they no longer could.

Reproductive Instinct

One day I put one of our breeding male alpacas in the pasture with two females (with crias at their sides) that needed to be bred. This has and continues to be our preferred method of breeding. In that pasture there was also a maiden female gestating at 11 ½ months.
The sire went over, sniffed the manure pile to see who was receptive, and then went to check the females against his findings at the pile. Then, he began chasing one of the females. I left the pasture to go do other chores and would check back to see if any breeding was taking place.
Minutes later, my son came running to tell me that the sire was breeding the very pregnant female! My son explained that he saw this female approach the sire and cush. He then mounted her. Concerned for her well-being and the unborn cria's, I ran to get a halter to get him off of her! I put him back in his pasture and then examined the pregnant female. She remained cushed, like a receptive female would. I inspected her vulva and observed her for a while. All signs were that she was fine — ears forward and an overall relaxed body posture.
I took the opportunity to do fence clipping so I could keep an eye on her. About an hour later I saw a pair of feet dangling out. She had an easy delivery; a vigorous cria and she passed a healthy placenta.
In hindsight, I believe she cushed for him because she knew it would help to bring on labor. In humans and other species, intercourse is thought to help bring on labor. The sperm contains prostaglandin, which can help soften the cervix.

Exceptional Guarding

We have a small herd of four females plus crias. In the warmer months, they rotate on pasture with access to a 3-sided barn. There is no question that Opal is the herd guard, and we hear her warning calls from time to time when an unknown dog walks by or wildlife lurks in the forest beyond their pasture. She's discerning with her alarm and only alerts the herd when there is true danger.
One day, she was alarming. I went to investigate and for the first time ever, she was facing the house, not the forest nor the logging road where neighbors walk their dogs. She went on and on and I could not figure out what she could be alarming about in the direction of the house. The rest of the herd had banded behind her staring intently in the same direction.
After about 10 minutes of this, suddenly there was a great cracking sound and half of an old maple tree came crashing across the driveway, exactly the direction she had been facing and alarming. After the tree was down, she discontinued her alarm and went back to grazing. Two weeks later, she delivered a male cria. We named him "Timber".

Mothering Instinct

Stardust is our 'star' when it comes to reproduction - exceptional crias and ability to nurture her young. In her 5 years of production, she has had 5 flawless births; all vigorous crias and they grew strong and healthy. This spring, she surprised us with a cria one week before 11 months of gestation. Just after birth, we usually stay back and give the cria the opportunity to walk and nurse independently and bond with its dam. This little one did not get up and did not sit prone position, so we intervened. Upon investigation, we found her temperature to be 4-6 degrees below normal.
After a couple hours, we were able to get her temperature up and then hold her up to get her nursing. For the next 30 hours, we had to check her temperature, hold her up under the dam to attempt to nurse, and syringe small amounts of goat collostrum into her mouth. At one point in the middle of the night, she appeared dehydrated and assumed the death position, so with no 24 hour vet available, we injected IV fluids under her skin and tube fed her. All the while, Stardust allowed us to do all this to her cria. She stood perfectly still while we tried to get the cria nursing and hummed calmly to her baby.
Just about 30 hours after birth, the cria was finally able to get up and nurse on her own for the first time. I was relieved, but not secure that she was going to be fine. I checked on her two hours later and to my great surprise, this dam, who had just hours before let me do anything to her cria, screamed at me as I approached and covered me with spit from head to toe. Despite my efforts to get close to the cria, I could not. Finally, in complete frustration, I had to relent and trust that our star knew she could take it from there and that it was her time to bond with her cria. Of course, I checked on them a few times in the night, but from a distance. A week later Stardust resumed her old ways; she ceased screaming at me and let me near her cria as she has let me near her others.


We had a male alpaca that came to us difficult to handle and not very trusting of his human caretakers. After a few months of positive handling, he came to trust us and greet us when we entered the pasture.
One day while cleaning up manure in the pasture, he walked right up to me, stared right into my face, hummed loudly, and then walked over to the pile and urinated. He repeated this two more times. It wasn't until the second time he behaved this way that it occurred to me that he was trying to tell me something. On the third time I found what he wanted me to find, he was straining to urinate at the pile.
I called the vet and he indicated that it was most likely a UTI (urinary tract infection) and that I should treat it. He said it sounded like it was caught early since he had a fair stream of urine but with obvious straining. The vet said he should improve within 1-2 days. He was obviously feeling much better on day two when he stopped coming over, humming in my face and going to the pile. I later found the source of his UTI. My children had mistakenly given him a whole bale of alfalfa instead of hay when they were doing chores.

Cooperation with Other Species

On our farm we have: 2 alpacas, 10 sheep, 2 goat does, 3 Lowline Cattle (bull calf, cow, steer), 3 Red Wattle Pigs (sow, boar, meat), 1 Maremmma LGD, and 25 Guinea Fowl. Everyone eats together without any problem. Everyone sleeps in the same general area unless there is bad weather, and then they all have their distinct shelter areas that they go to. The sheep all stick together, the pigs and dog all stick together, and the cattle and alpacas stick together. The goats float between the three groups.
One of the alpacas, a bred female, spends most all of her day with the cattle grazing or sunning. One interesting thing I have come to notice is that General (our LGD) is on duty at night and sleeps most of the day. Our pregnant female, Beana seems to take over the day shift. She is on high alert, and whenever she hears something suspicious, she will take off running toward it. Her alarm alerts General (LGD) and he wakes up and takes over while she herds everyone together. It is very neat to watch.
We used to have three LGD's and each had a job. General was the baby of the group and was the herder. Now that it is just him, he seems to work in cooperation with Beana, the alpaca, and has given the herding role to her. They seem to work very well together. I'm not sure how often the perceived threat is an actual one, but there have been instances of coyotes in the area. We kind of have a three-pronged security system as the guineas or Beana, the alpaca, seem to sound their alarm first, and General (LGD) takes over the investigation while Beana herds the animals together. It is fun to watch and perhaps as a result, we are a predator-free farm for the most part!
Our camelids have an amazing array of interesting behaviors to observe: body postures such as the alert stance, submission, the standoff, or relaxed position; ear, tail and head signals; vocalizations such as humming, the alarm, orgling; scent such as flehmen when the male alpaca sniffs a dung pile to decode the scent and reproductive status of his females; locomotion displays such as pronking or fighting; herd response such as banding or offensive aggressive herd response. Every camelid farmer should take time out in the day to observe his/her herd, perhaps even keep a diary of interesting behaviors observed and, for sure, - share your stories!

Karen Nicholson, of Stepping Stone Farm Alpacas in Stowe, VT, has a herd of nine alpacas bred and managed for valued traits including: fiber excellence, conformation, reproductive vigor; hardiness and temperament. Also on the farm are: two French Alpine dairy goats, Indian Runner ducks, broiler chickens and several laying hens, all integrated into their farm management program. Karen writes for three farming journals and keeps a blog: Any comments, questions or stories can be directed to: