Monday, June 29, 2009

New baby pictures

To keep with our Native American theme for Kateri's offspring, we are going to name this baby: Pocahontas. A neat connection is that Pocahontas snuck off to be with John Smith, and our baby's father is The Buccaneer (a pirate), carrying on an against the law type theme.

Kateri is a very attentive mother. She was with Tehya and again we see it with this baby.

To get a size comparison, here is our dog, Spot:

We wondered how Kateri would be with Spot sniffing around her baby. So far she has been fine. Spot is actually very good with the cria. We worried because at the last farm he was at he was only in with the boys. Here, our boys don't like him :( they give him mean glares. The pregnant females are further back in the woods and need the most protecting, so Spot is on guard there.

Garden Pictures

The beginning:

Our garden is coming along well. These pictures are from a couple weeks ago, so we have even more growth now.

Summer Squash:


Peas and Beans:


We also have green peppers and hot peppers, lots of herbs and some corn. We have all we need for some awesome home made salsa :)

How to survive the heat

Last week we had some very hot days (it hit 100* at our house on one of the days!).

The alpacas do not handle heat very well. They actually handle the cold better, given their very warm and thick fiber. Even shorn, they still do not handle heat very well. We have fans on in the barns anyday it gets above 75*. On the really hot days, we hose them off:

The key to hosing them off is where you put the water. It doesn't do them a whole lot of good to wet down their back. In fact, it can ruin their fiber if they get wet too far down and it doesn't dry out well (not an issue when they are newly shorn, but could be later on in the season). Alpacas regulate their temperture by their belly. There they have the least amount of fiber too. In the winter, Alpacas cush (sit down) and keep their bellies covered to warm up. Cushed down in the hay is a great way for them to stay warm on a very cold day. In the heat, cooling down their belly helps their whole body cool down. I aim the hose right at their belly, between their two front legs (as seen above).

This is our first year with a great pyreneese. Poor guy has a lot of fur. You aren't suppose to shave their fur as that puts them at risk for sun burn. They do naturally thin out their fur during the summer, but it's still miserable for them on really hot days. We have a lot of shade for Spot, and places he can get out of the elments. But on the really hot days, I fill a pool for him, that he loves!

I do want to make a note about pools. Some alpacas like to cush in the pool to cool down. Sancha has been known to do this. She jumps in and jumps out as quick as a flash. There are concerns about this. For one, as our vet pointed out, bugs can grow in water, so make sure to put in new water each day, do not leave water in there for days at a time. Also, newborn cria have been known to drown in a pool, so I would not leave it unattended anywhere near a due date (even if the alpaca is not known to go in the pool, it's not worth the risk). I've also heard of it possibly linked to mastitis (breast infection in a mother). This could be avoided by making sure the water is rinsed frequently and clean, and that the alpaca does not sit in it for hours at a time. A quick cush by Sancha and Spot standing in it is about all our pool ever sees. I make sure to empty it when I'm not there and to rinse it out everday we use it.

The Product

What is the purpose of raising alpacas? Well, there is selling the babies, and we do want to do that. We will run out of room otherwise.

But another very important part of the industry is the fiber the alpacas produce. I taught myself to knit, and I just starting spinning the fiber. My first project is a sweater for myself. I may have taken on a big undertaking in that I've never knit a sweater before (only tried hats and mittens and scarfs). And this is my first time spinning the yarn. But I decided I might as well just dive in.

So far I have the back of the sweater done:

And I started on one of the sides (it's a cardigan so it will have two sides for the front):

In my basement I have a "fiber room":

This is where I have a sewing machine (thank you grandma ;) ), and bags of fiber from the animals. These bags are just the prime fiber from this year, I have a lot more bags of fiber from previous years:

I should move my skirting table in there, so all the fiber stuff is in one location. My spinning wheel is in the living room so that I can grab it when I sit down to watch tv.

I need to set aside some time to finish this sweater. Then onto things I can sell :)

We have a baby!

I just got a call from J, who is at home this morning. He said Kateri had a baby girl! He said that she had a bit of a hard presentation, like when Lightning was born, in that one of the front legs was bent back. J had to assist a bit to help deliver the baby. But mom and baby are doing well.

He said the baby is a girl, he's not sure if she is very dark brown (he said she's definitely darker than Kateri) or if she might be bay black (a mix of dark brown and black). It can be hard to tell their color right away because of them being wet from birth and because the amniotic fluid often lightens the color.

That makes baby #5 for our farm and our 4th girl!

Kateri delivered her cria on day 339.

Editted to Add:

Now I'm home and I've had a chance to see the cria. She's a beauty! She weighed in at 15.6 pounds, the exact same as her older sister, Tehya (must be mom runs out of room at that weight). She's getting up and down from a sternal position very well. She hums to her mom. Mom is, of course, very protective. Kateri is a very hands on mom. The baby seems to have good energy and is moving great. She may be a bit premature in that her ears, while erect, are a bit floppy, and her teeth are not erupted as much as our others one have been. But she is doing great so not concerns.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Garden Update

This is our first year of having our own garden. At first we saw little progress, but just as the temperatures outside began to climb, our garden started to burst to life.

We first noticed the summer squash and zucchini coming up. Then we saw the peas and beans. As the hot weather hit, the peas and beans sprung to life. We have a couple tomatoes starting to form and we can see some peppers. The corn is a bit sparse and the watermelon did not come up at all. We planted some more corn to help fill it in, and will get some more watermelon seeds.

I think we are going to have a great crop this year! Let's hope the weather continues to cooperate.

Hot and Pregnant

I thought I had it bad back in 2002 when I had a 9 pound baby in August. Talk about hot and uncomfortable. Now I look at Kateri and I feel such empathy for her. She's been pregnant for 333 days. For several days now it's been in the high 80's with horrible humidity. She's huge and I'm sure so uncomfortable. I don't know if she's just carrying this baby different than she did Tehya, or if this baby is going to be that much bigger, I just know she looks huge. I expect she'll show us in the next week or so when that baby is born.

Not everything works out

I haven't posted about this because, well, I still feel sort of bad about the whole thing. Back in February we got some angora bunnies (see blog entry on February 15th for pictures and details). I had never seen an angora bunny until I started attending spinning guild. Once I saw those babies, I was hooked. They were so cute! Emma had been asking for a rabbit for such a long time, I decided we might as well. I was excited to mix angora and alpaca for some very soft yarn.

Well, it did not work out for us. Within a few weeks after getting them home, Snickers bit Emma. I decided it was an oversight on our part, possibly they were not getting enough attention. I started to work with the bunnies. Some progress was made, but Emma no longer wanted to be involved. Soon the chores of feeding and caring for the rabbits fell on J and I. With 3 dogs, 11 alpacas and 2 human children, we did not need another thing to care for.

Thankfully the farm they came from was willing and able to take them back. I am so thankful for that.

As the spring has hit and now we are into summer, I see that giving the rabbits back was for the best. I don't know how we would have fit them in with the crazy softball and baseball schedule we've had the last couple of months.

While pondering this, I decided that it's o.k. to say something doesn't work for you. I've always been one to stick with something no matter what. You take something on, and you do it. But, I know in my heart that we could not give these animals the care they deserve. So on that note I will say that I know they are doing well, and I'm relived that they are no longer our responsibility.

Those of you who can care for alpacas and dogs and bunnies, you rock! I know my limits and I've decided to stick with dogs and alpacas (and our 1 barn cat that seems to have 100 lives). No more new varieties of animals for me. But we are waiting on 2 baby alpacas :)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Starting Cria Watch, again

We are basically starting cria watch on Kateri. The ticker down there gives her just over a month (1 month 5 days). I generally start watching a month in advance (since the window of delivery can be a month early to a month late). Last year Kateri delivered on day 341. Victoria on day 346. (based on some quick computations I think those are accurate). The tickers below are based on 350 days, so likely it will be close to a month yet, but we'll keep a closer eye on Kateri just in case it's earlier. I do know she's getting more ornery. When I brought food out to the girls last night she started spitting because she was so concerned she might not get a bowl. She always gets a bowl of grain, and spitting makes it hard for her to eat (that stomach acid in the mouth does not work well when they try to eat). But, I think it has more to do with pregnancy ornery hormones than anything else.

Kateri is bred to SHVN The Buccaneer, who is now owned by Full Tilt Alpacas. He's a true black and the 1/2 brother to our own Victoria. Their mom, Hana, has produced some incredible award winning cria. We hope the combination of Kateri's lineage and The Buccaneer will create one awesome cria.

Here's Buc:

Kateri is a light brown alpaca. Given what we've learned about color genetics, every alpaca has 2 main color genes (there are also dilution genes and spot genes but for simplicity, all alpacas have 2 main color genes). One color they exhibit as their color, the other color they can pass on to their babies, but they do not necessarily show it (some show a secondary color in ways like having black tipping on their extremities, but often times you do not see the secondary color at all). For the most part whatever is the lighter color is the one they exhibit, they carry the darker color that they can pass on. We believe Kateri carries the brown gene and a black gene (her mother is true black). A true black has 2 black genes, so her mom had to pass one on to Kateri. The Buccaneer is true black, so in any case he will pass on a black gene. We have a 50% chance of having a true black cria (if Kateri passes on her black gene) or a 50% chance of a brown cria (if Kateri passes on her brown gene, the brown will be exhibited and The Buccaneer's black gene will be it's secondary color). I have a feeling this cria is going to be a boy. I base this solely on the fact that Kateri is carrying this baby differently than she did last year. She had a girl last year. We found Sancha carried her girl different than a boy, but who knows, that may have been luck ;) I'm predicting a true black boy, but we'll see.
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