Saturday, October 27, 2007

Alpacas are coming!!

The alpacas are scheduled to arrive the first full week in November! This is getting very real. Linda from South Haven alpacas will be bringing the alpacas here sometime during that week. We are very excited.

J has been busy down at the barn. He has been stocking it with hay, building a chute and making sure we have all the medical supplies on hand that we will need. I have been less busy there, I have done some knitting (finished a hat/scarf/mitten set for my daughters) and I have been trying to find time to read "The Camelid Companion". I have been looking for some barn cats. We were hoping to find 2, one for each of our kids (to keep them busy so that they follow the rule of no chasing the alpacas, they can chase the cats). Also Alpacas reportedly like cats. And we expect there will be mice around the barn given the food source there and the fact we live in the woods.

An alpaca chute is a restraining device to put the alpaca in when trimming nails and doing veterinary care. Here is a link to the plans J used: . I do not have a picture of ours because our camera decided now was a time to stop working.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Finishing up the barn

It will never completely be done as I'm sure we will continue to need more things and will want to change around things. But we are trying to get things prepared as much as possible before the alpacas get here.

The fence is all up, and J has designed a catch pen along with a holding pen with the fence. From what I understand (at this point) the catch pen is a small 10x10 area where the alpaca is confined for training purposes. The holding pen is a bigger area between the barn and the pasture. From reading "The Camelid Companion", it is recomended to use a catch pen rather than corner the alpacas in a larger area (which is often the recommended way to do it). The reason being that cornering the alpacas seem to make them more scared of humans and interact less. I need a read up a lot more on all of this a lot more. At any rate, the fence and gates are all up.

J has spent a lot of time organizing the barn, getting feed, hay and medical supplies. I have been doing more knitting, working on a mitten/hat/scarf set for my daughter.

J updated our logo. He used the outline of an actual oak leaf, then traced the outline of a picture of Victoria and Kateri for this:

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


We started putting up the fence. This has proven to be more difficult that we realized. The fence comes rolled up and doesn't want to unroll. Also, it does not want to pull tight. We did about half of the fence this past weekend.

We used welded no climb fence that is 5 feet tall. Alpacas generally do not challenge a fence, so this type of fence should be enough. The main reason for the fence is to keep other animals out. The main wild animals we have around here are deer. There have been reports of a bear but it has been years since any were spotted nearby. The main threat would be dogs (either stray dogs or dogs who get loose). This includes our own dogs, since we are not sure how they will react to the alpacas. I have heard from other farmers that dogs are the biggest threat to alpacas. Many farms have a guard Llama or a guard dog. At least initially we do not plan to have either. For some reason I do not really like Llamas. And I have heard some farmers say their Llama is not much a guardian. If we were to use a dog to guard them we need to get a guardian dog and train it. Most often alpacas are guarded by Great Pyrenees dogs. Possibly in the future we will look into getting such a dog. For now we will stick with our 2 house dogs and let the Alpacas guard themselves. At one farm we visited a puppy got into the alpaca fence and the alpacas went after it (they will stomp other animals). Seeing how they reacted to that puppy, I think the alpacas do a fine job of protecting themselves.


The sun shines into the barn in the mornings. I hope the alpacas enjoy the morning sun.

Here is our Irish Setter, Bailey, enjoying the grass. We will need to keep her away from the alpacas. Bailey is scared of everything, and I expect the alpacas will be no exception.

Knit blanket

I finished my first knit blanket. This was great practice at doing different stitches and I did some of it as panels to practice sewing them together. The stitch I used is the Horseshoe Print which my daughter picked out. The blanket is for her American Girl doll.

Now I'm really eager to get my hands on yarn from alpacas. It will be awhile before we had some though. In the mean time I will keep practicing knitting with other yarn.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Updates: the grass and mushrooms

The grass has come in really nice. We have had a perfect fall for planting grass, it's been warm and we've had enough rain that we only had to water a few times.
the grass up close, it is getting thick and long.
compared to what the grass was just a couple weeks ago, it has grown a lot!

I stuck with plan to leave the mushroom be and see if they take care of themselves. This does appear to be working, they are turning brown and appear to be disappearing.
There appears to be a lot less mushrooms. This shows how big some of them were.

updates: the barn

The barn has had some changes. The ground in the barn was dirt, but it was very low in some spots, due to it's previous occupant, a horse. We wanted to level it out, plus we did not like having a dirt floor. Alpacas do lay down (more so than horses). And since we do want the fiber to turn into yarn, I'd like the aim to make things as clean as we can get it. So we had sand delivered to level the ground out.
This picture shows the outside of the barn. You can see the sand on the bottom, that's how much we had to raise the ground there.

After the sand, we put a layer of ground lime stone. It's more expensive than crushed concrete but not by that much, and the lime stone has the added benefit of neutralizing odors. We considered having concrete poured but the cost was a lot more. Plus we've heard some farmers who prefer the limestone because the animal pee can pass through it and drain into the ground. We put a 4 inch layer of limestone down, then sprayed it with water, filled in the help level it. J rented a tapper to push the limestone down even more. This has made it very hard and almost like concrete.This is the back of the barn where we made a ramp with the sand then limestone.

In the inside of the barn, J put up feeders. This is about 1/4 of the barn, where the alpacas will be housed and can eat.

J put pallets here where we will stack the hay and other animal food.

And this is the water spout.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Our Alpacas

It's time to talk about the alpacas we will be getting! We've made plans with Ken and Linda from South Haven Alpacas to purchase 2 of their bred female alpacs and will also get a gelded male in the package. They have been wonderful people to work with. We have had to make a lot of decisions and they were kind to be patient with us. It's been journey to work out starting our business, setting up the farm and figuring out how we will make this all work.

The two females we are purchasing are Victoria and Kateri.

Victoria is a 3 year old dark brown female. The cria she produced this past year was awesome! Her name is Contessa (we did not purchase Contessa, but it does show what kind of quality Victoria is capable of producing). Victoria has been bred to Goldsmith from Hibben Hollow Farms. He is Medium Fawn color.

Kateri is a three year old light brown female. She is also bred to Goldsmith. Her cria from this year is Princess. I believe Princess may be staying with us for awhile since she is not yet weaned from Kateri (same situation with Contessa and Victoria). Weaning usually takes place at about six months of age. Contessa and Princess were born in June so are only four months old.

The girls have both been at Hibben Hollow Farm where they were bred to Goldsmith. Both are currently pregnant. Pregnancy last about 11.5 months, at which point they give birth to a 15 to 20 pound cria (baby)! Given that alpacas are around 150+ pounds themselves, that's a huge baby! Goldsmith is a medium fawn male. Using a color calculator it is most likely the crias produced will be light brown, dark fawn or medium fawn. I'm hoping for light to medium fawn to give us the most variety of color, but browns are nice too. I believe both crias will be due in August of 2008 - it will be baby fever at our farm then! Beware of cria pictures.

And with the 2 girls we will get a gelded male, Snowstorm. He is a 2 year old, white, gelded male. Snowstorm has won several impressive awards. However, there is lots of competition among white alpacas (more so than other color groups). He was at a disadantage due to his color. This led to the decision to geld him instead of becoming a herdshire (stud). I am very excited to be getting him, as I want some white yarn. White can be used as is, or can easily be dye (not sure if I will attempt dying the yarn, but the option is there). He will also be a great companion animal. Being that he is gelded, he can be in with females or males. Initially he will be in with the females, but if we have a male cria next summer we will need a companion for him. Male crias can be with the females until they are weaned (at about six months old). Then they need to be separated, but alpacas cannot be alone, due to being a herd animal. They freak out if they are not with other alpacas (think of a neurotic, separation anxiety dog, but at 150+ pounds!).

Last I heard the alpacas could be coming to our farm as early as the end of this month! We are almost ready, just need to get up fence, gates and have food on hand.

Monday, October 1, 2007


We have been thinking about a logo for our ranch (ok, I've been thinking, J has been working on designing it). We want to tie in the oak theme, plus add in alpacas. This is the start (rough draft) of the logo:

We want the lettering curved. And we want a picture of alpacas on there too. I was thinking an outline of a dam and a cria (mother and baby) would be neat, over the leaf.
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