Thursday, December 31, 2009

10 for 2009

In reflecting on this year, I am making a top 10 list of things that are special about 2009.

1. It was our second year as alpaca farmers.

2. I learned how to spin yarn. Hard to believe that happened this year! Feels like it was longer ago than that. I have many blog entries about spinning and knitting. I couldn't pick just one to link to.

3. We took ARF Our Peruvian Tucker to the Indiana Invitational in Ft. Wayne IN. He took 2nd place!! This was a level V show, so a very big show. Typically we would not take an older male to a show (they can be rambunctious and ideally they will prove themselves in a ring at a younger age). But, we got him when he was older, and he had never been shown. We wanted to know where he stood, and were very excited at how he placed. Sorry the picture is small. I tried to link from alpaca nation and it gave me a thumbnail picture.

4. We welcomed Spot, our great Pyrenees to our farm. We love Spot!!!

5. We had 3 cria born (pictures are their newborn pictures, more pictures are available on their web page, click on their name to see):

Snow Lily by Lord Stanley (Lily). Lily is a bright white alpaca, with incredible fiber. She has crimp, bundling and consistency. She is also very soft (fine). We are excited to see how she will do in the show ring this year.

OHVNA Pocahontas (Po) Po appeared to have been born a bit premature. We believe her dam ran out of room and delivered about a week earlier than would have been ideal. However, now you would never know she had an early start. She was plenty big, and has grown well all along. At first we could not tell what color she was. She had dark brown, but we wondered if she might be bay black. After her cria tips were shorn off, we discovered a dark rose grey!! Her fiber has the best bundling and consistent crimp I have ever seen. It is exactly like her sire, The Buccaneer, a several time color champion. She is incredible!

and OHVNA The Cavalier. Cavalier is a neat fading fawn color. He has nice consistent crimp, which I think will get even better as he gets older. His color is the type I love to spin because it makes a neat tweed mix of light and darker fawn. He is definitely soft.

Here are our 2009 cria when they were babies:

6. We started using our farm abbreviation: OHVNA for Oak Haven Alpacas, LLC.

7. Our 2008 Goldsmith girls both got BLUE RIBBONS!! This happened at the Michigan International Alpaca Fest (click on link for my blog entry about it) in September 2009. They have received other awards (click on their name for their web page that lists their ribbons). But the BLUE ribbons are truly the best!

Kateri's Tehya

Victoria's Shelby:

8. This year we were able to use two of our own males for breedings. (I don't know why these pictures are so small except for Smokey, you can click on their name to see their web page and see better pictures):

We bred GF Raphaella's Sancha to Apollo's Griffon

and Hana's Victoria to ARF Our Peruvian Tucker

9. Our other two breedings were outside breedings, Maddie (KSF Midnight Masquerade) to NL Smokey. Smokey is from Ashton Stone Alpacas:

and Kateri to Express's Accoyo Adonis. Adonis is from Autumn Alpacas, LLC.

10. Our farm now has 2 new breeding boys:
Our Peruvian Navigator a dark silver/rose grey male. I still haven't gotten my own pictures of him, but there are several on his web site from the farm we co-own him with. Navigator is a nice "fancy" grey male. We are excited to be able to use him this coming year for breeding.

and SA Peruvian Greyt Exxpectations. He is my dream male! I love his color, his head and top knot style, and his fiber is incredible. I'm excited to be able to spin his fiber after shearing, not to mention choosing who is the lucky girl who I will breed him too.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Wishing every one a blessed time this holiday season!

I deeply apologize that I never got around to sending out holiday cards. I intended too, but it just never happened. I am already planning to be more on top of things next year and get a nice card mailed out to everyone.

We had a great Christmas and are looking forward to the New Year.

2010 Cria Countdown

I added the cria due date ticker to the bottom of the page. Now that we are looking to the New Year, I am thinking about new babies who are waiting to arrive.

We use 350 days as the gestational time for our alpacas. Within the industry there are a number of ways to determine due date. Some farms use 335 days, some use 335 to 350 days, or variations in between. We have found that ours tend to be close to 350 days, and if we use an earlier number, we wait in anticipation worried something is wrong. So, we set the due date at 350 day, but, we start cria watch 1 month prior to that due date.

Sancha is due with I believe her 7th child, due to May 21, 2010 (that is day 350). Sancha delivered Lightning on day 355 and Lily on day 353 so we expect this next one just after 350 days. I predict that she is due for a boy. She has been very consistent in alternating between boys and girls. The big question is will she have a baby of color this year? We are hoping so.

Maddie is the next one due on our farm. Maddie is a maiden, so we have no idea if she will be around 350 days or not. We will keep extra close eye on her because this is her first cria. Maddie was kind of small to begin with, but at last weigh in she hit 130 pounds, so we feel she is big enough to birth and feed a cria. I think she might have a black girl, given color genetics, black is probable, but a girl, that's just a guess :)

Kateria is the next one due. This will be her fourth cria. Her others were born on day 360, 342 and 338 (but that was with Po, who we believe looked a bit premature). Kateria is not due until July, so we have quite a wait yet. Kateria has yet to have a boy, so I think she might be due for one this year.

Victoria is the last one due on our farm. I'm very eager to see what she and Tucker produce! This will be Victoria's 4th child. Her past cria were born on day 355, 347, and 358. We are thinking this one will be a black girl, but who knows. They have a way of surprising us.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Eating time and scary sled

As we have added animals to our herd, we have had to adjust how we feed them. We have some alpaca's who are quite skinny, and we have one that tends to be a pig. We know many large farms just put out grain in bowls and let them have at it. We could do that if we could have a "skinny barn" and a "chubby barn" but we can't do that (don't have the space or the number of animals to do a split). So, instead we separate them at feeding. We use to taylor the grain to each individual alpaca, but decided now that we have this many, we only separate out the really skinny ones, and the ones who are just too much of a pig to be able to handle eating politely with others.

Our piggy alpaca is Victoria. She is at a good weight right now (using body scoring), but she could easily put on weight if allowed access to food. We limit her grain to keep her at the right weight. If any other alpaca needs to go on a diet, we put them to feed with Victoria. Right now we are letting Lily eat with Victoria. Lily does not need to lose weight, but she was eating so much so fast she was getting "choke" (which is when the alpaca literally chokes on their grain).

Here is Victoria and Lily in their secluded pen:

Our skinny girls are Sancha and Kateri. They get extra gain and eat in their area:

If you are wondering about the swingset and slide in the alpaca's pasture, yes, it is what you think it is. We joke that they all play on it at night while we are sleeping.

The rest of the girls and cria eat out of bowls set out in the paddock. And Spot eats in our back yard. He LOVES alpaca grain, so we have to make sure he is separated from them. Here he is all done eating and waiting for me to let him back in with the girls:

When I hurt my hand a few weeks ago, I had to come up with new ways to complete the farm chores. Carrying hay was very difficult and I couldn't use both hands, so I couldn't open gates with hay in my arms. I had this great idea to use the kids' sled, and pull the hay out there.

This worked well for me, but the alpacas were scared of the sled. They would jump away, but then watch the sled with suspicion. As you can see in the picture, they are staring at the sled. This is so typical of alpaca behavior. They tend to be scared of things, but are so curious at the same time.

They do run away, especially when they think I am following them with the sled:

But they do love their hay:

Spot's spot and a ham bone

Our Great Pyrenees came to our farm last spring. He was three years old, and had already worked on an alpaca farm. His name was Spot. We were a bit puzzled at the name, as he appeared all white. They told us he had a spot when he was a puppy.

I actually tried to change his name, but he seemed to only respond to "Spot". I sometimes called him Spot-a-cus thinking I could then switch it to Spartacus (those with small children who watch "Lazy Town" will know this is the name of the athletic hero of the town, I thought fitting for a farm dog). Anyway, mostly we call him "Spot" despite his not having a spot. Visitors often snickered at his name.

Well, as winter hit, Spot's spot appeared again! You can also tell he has badger markers on his ears:

Spot is still just as needy for attention, who could say "no" to this face:

After today's adventures with Spot, I have decided he is much smarter than I previously gave him credit for. He has always been a very sweet, wonderful dog. But I sort of thought of him as a less intelligent big guy. Today he managed to get loose from his eating area. Now, Spot is one who will escape if given the opportunity. He even has crashed down fences when he can in order to roam free. I think he gets bored sometimes. Well, today he got loose because the kids walked out of the fenced in area and gave him the chance to get free. I chased him down the road and across the street to the neighbors. He would see me running and calling to him, and he'd take off in the other direction. GRRR! Well, one neighbor had put a ham bone out by their bird feeder (I guess for the animals to eat). Spot found this and was so excited he allowed me to not only catch up to him, but get the leash around him. I let him take the ham bone with him. I hope the neighbor understands, I was not grabbing it out of his mouth! He's a sweet dog, but this is a ham bone with lots of meat attached.

So I got Spot back home, with his ham bone. It seemed like not that much later (10 or 15 minutes) we find Spot roaming the woods! He got free again. Who could blame him, now he thinks ham bones with lots of ham grows on trees. I was able to lure him into my in-laws house, and then took him home. But, I couldn't put him back into the girls pasture/barn area. He had figured out that he could jump the fence from the pasture to our back yard. We never put barbed wire on this fence as we did the one around the pasture. Then, from the back yard he could jump into the garden, which is not fully fenced in. He was then free to find more ham bones (or so he thought!).

I had to put Spot in with our boys. Now it's not unusual for dogs to be in with boys. We choose to put him in with our girls because they are further back in the woods are there is more likely to be predators back there (loose dogs being the worst offenders). Our boys are less vulnerable. Plus, we have a gelding in with the boys who acts like a watch llama. Our boys don't seem to like Spot. We have new boys too, Navigator and Greyt, who were most suspicious of Spot. I have very little sympathy for Spot not being so welcome by the boys, after all, he's there because he messed up the fence back at his usual home. I only hope he doesn't figure out an escape route. I'm sure the lure of thinking he can find ham bones could make him break down just about anything.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Alpaca Hat Giveaway

Check out Alpaca Farm Girl's blog entry for a hat giveaway. She tells about Red Maple Sportswear Co. that specializes in alpaca products. They have some nice stuff! Being a sock person, those struck me first, but I love that blue sweater with the white snowflake too. It's all nice!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Farm Days and Farm Growth

Days like today remind us that we really are running a farm business. Today J got up at 5 a.m. to drive to Ohio to complete a 3 farm alpaca deal. Thankfully it's not snowing today and it should be decent whether. He does have 4 wheel drive, but ice concerns me, especially with the trailer. He has something like 16 hours of driving ahead of him. We decided that I would not go with him. If I were to go, then we need to decide what to do with the kids. They do not travel well, and 16 hours in the truck isn't fun for anyone, worse with fighting, ornery kids. We could have someone watch the kids, but we like to save those requests for times we absolutely need to. So, I'm home doing the usual weekend stuff, and he'll be gone all day completing this alpaca transport. I do also want to see my grandma today. She is having a gathering for her 90th birthday! May we all live a long and healthy life!!

J's trip all came about after we started thinking about the future of our farm. While our farm is growing nicely, and we are very excited about all the cria that we have had. They are living up to what we want our breeding program to produce. But, we noticed one hole - lack of enough good quality males. This year we bred 4 girls, and will have 4 babies come summer. We used 2 of our males, neither of whom have been used before. It is unknown what cria they will produce. Do we use them again this coming year, before we have a chance to really see how their cria turn out? And by using them, we create a genetic deadlock in that the next generation is all related to each other and we can't breed them with each other. Our other two breedings for this past year were deals we worked out with other farm. Now for this coming year, Tehya and Shelby will be ready to breed. That means we need to figure out 6 breedings, and the next year 8! That's a lot of breedings to work out. We have some breedings worked out with other farms, so this year is actually all set. But, then comes concern on which girl to breed to which boy.

Like, right now we do not really have a male to breed to Sancha. We don't want to risk a BEW, so I would have concerns breeding her to Tucker (BEW = Blue Eyed White, a genetic condition where the animal is white with blue eyes, and often deaf. It is caused by two white spot genes. We know Maddie has a white spot gene. We do not know if Sancha does. I actually do not think she does, but it is impossible to tell because she is white, you would never see the white spot). Plus, I don't see that as a good match (he doesn't have what she needs - when breeding you look at the animals weakness and make sure their mate is strong in that area). She is now bred to Apollo, and I'd want to give that cria a chance to mature before we decide if we will do that breeding again. Lightning is her son. So that knocks out all our males for her. We could send her off to another farm to breed, but one issue with Sancha is that she struggles with being thin, especially after giving birth. We do spend extra time making sure she has extra grain and supplements so that she does not get too thin (she did after Lightning was born because we did not realize her additional needs, after Lily's birth we were on top of it, so we need to make sure to do that again after this next baby). I'm leery to bring her to another farm and ask them to take on the extra work of feeding her (I'm sure all farms we have deals with would be careful with her, but it's an extra thing to ask, and I'd worry about her the entire time she was gone). A drive by breeding would work, but all our deals at this point are out of state, too far to do a drive by.

Another girl that we struggle with is Maddie. She has a white spot, so I would not bred her to Tucker (risking a BEW). Apollo does not have what Maddie needs (she needs density, fiber bundling and staple length, he does not have the bundling that she needs, nor would he add fineness to her). Lighting being white would not be my choice either (risking BEW, plus, I don't want a white animal out of her, for several reasons that I can get into at another time). We would prefer not to send Maddie off to another farm for breeding when she is going to have a brand new baby at her side, being that she's a new mom. Again, I would worry about how her and her baby are doing, being that she is a new mom. I'm sure she'll be a good mom, she has the instinct, but I hate to send a new mom away. We feel better sending away either a maiden who would not have a cria at side, or one of our experienced moms (like Kateri or Victoria, we know how they are and they do just fine). These are some examples of the breeding issues we have come across.

So, we decided what we need is a good male at our farm that we could breed to Sancha and Maddie (and of course our other girls, but they have more options since none of them are at risk of BEW, and we would be fine sending them elsewhere). J managed to work out deals with 2 different farms. We now co-own Tucker, who will be gone for the next year. I will miss him! But, our farm will be busy with different boys, and he'll be back in a year. In return, we now co-own a Dark Silver/Rose Grey Tuxedo Male, Our Peruvian Navigator .

He will have some of the same issues as Tucker (I wouldn't bred him to Sancha or Maddie due to BEW concerns), but he adds other genetics and will work for any of our other girls. I love that he is rose grey! And his face, so cute!

We also will have SA Peruvian Greyt Exxpectations a medium rose grey:

Here is a more recent picture of him:

We can breed him to any one of our girls! We hope he will work out as a good mate for Sancha and Maddie. Sancha has a rose grey daughter, so maybe we can get another one out of her.

I'll get pictures of the animals after they get to our farm. We also have a young boy coming, and a young female. By tomorrow, we will have four new animals at our farm.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

TODAY show alpaca clip

Click on the title to this entry for the video player of Vocation Vacation on alpaca ranching from the TODAY show.

I disagree with the anchor in that it really is not hard, at least not the usual day to day stuff. They include clipping top knots and trimming toe nails which is not a daily chores (every month or so at most). The daily work is food and water. Every farm does poop a little different. We typically do scoop poop daily, but that is a choice. Daily work is 10 minutes max in the AM, and I typically work 20 minutes in the PM, but again some of that is by choice, I could do it quick then too.

Anyway, it is neat to have alpacas on TV :)

Green Alpaca,

For a neat report on raising alpacas, click on the title.

They are green, ie good for the environment; which is one reason I got into alpaca farming.

Growing Babies

Here are some recent pictures of our young ones.

Our youngest baby is Cavalier, he was the last one born on our farm this past summer. He has such a very cute face! His fleece is a soft creamy fawn color, with crimp that appears to be consistent. Crimp is what they call the waves in the fiber. Consistent crimp is what is needed to do well in the show ring. It is also important for spinning the fiber into yarn. Inconsistent crimp has a different feel each time the crimp changes, which makes it hard to spin into soft yarn. When the crimp is consistent, the fiber spin smoothly into yarn.

I do need to work on halter training him. As you can see, these pictures were taken through the fence. He's fine looking at me through the fence. He is a kicker and will shoot his back leg out as anyone who gets near him.

The next youngest is Pocahontas. We call her Poe-Poe. She is an incredible dark rose gray. Not only is her color incredible, but her crimp is consistent and full of bundles. This is the fiber we bred for! Standing behind her is her mother, Kateri. Poe-Poe got her father's face and attitude:

Our other 2009 baby, born this past spring, is Lily. Lily is so friendly that I could not get a good picture of her. She kept walking into the camera.

The next youngest is Brooklyn, who is joining the yearling group of alpacas:

And last, I have our yearlings, Tehya and Shelby. These are our two Goldsmith daughters. Tehya is up close, the fawn color. You can see Shelby's head poking out behind Tehya.

Our other yearling is Lightning, who I didn't get a chance to get his picture. All the other ones are our farm are 2+ years old, so no longer growing babies.

Friday, December 4, 2009


Here are some of the products we have been working on.

First I have an oversized hat. In our family there are 2 hat sizes, one for a "regular" person (me and Emma), and one for a person with a very large head (J and Zack - believe it or not, my 7 year old son has a bigger head than I do. In fact, his head was so big he had to have a head scan when he was 18 months old to make sure nothing was wrong. Nothing is wrong, he just has a big head. That's the official medical report on it). So, if you are one of those people who have a bigger than average head, you will LOVE our oversized hat. For once, a hat will fit your head just right.

This particular hat was made out of yarn from Victoria's fiber. She's considered a maroon color, a redish brown. For the stripe, I did a mix of Victoria's yarn and Tehya's yarn. I love the twist combination it makes.

J knit up a regular size hat and it fits me just perfect! This is made out of Lightnings fiber, so it is baby soft:

Last I have a scarf that J knit (football games are great times to knit, in less than 2 games he'll have a scarf all done). It is impossible to get a picture to justify how great this scarf looks. He does a box pattern that is very dressy looking. These pictures are the best I can do, I'm not very good at photography.

Trying to get closer to the box pattern:

We have many other projects in the works. Once we get some supply going, I will post products for sale on our Etsy account (right now it is mostly just raw fiber there, and some yarn - I also plan to get more yarn up there for sale). You can email us any special requests. We do not charge more for requests. It's easy to do, and we prefer to make something knowing the person ordering it is getting exactly what they want.

My blog list

I added some blogs to my blog list. I am always looking for blogs related to farming, alpacas, spinning, knitting, or fiber. I try to link to those that are updated fairly frequently. When we were first looking into getting alpacas, I found so many blogs that were neat, but no recent posts. I had a hard time finding any that were updated. I try to keep a list of maintained blogs going, so others can find them easily. And, I love that it automatically shows me when a new post is up.

If you have a blog or know of one, pass the link to me and I will add it to the list.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Industrious Living Room

The fiber process has sort of taken over our house. We have a skirting table in our basement, and the extra bedroom down there is now called "the fiber room". There we store the fiber, I have a sewing machine and other craft supplies. These are all pretty much out of sight of our day to day. But, our living room has become the center of fiber manufacturing.

My spinning wheel, when not being used, is stored on top of our TV in our living room (to avoid anything destructive happening to it. With 2 house dogs and 2 active kids, you just never know). When I'm home all day and doing some spinning, the wheel is set up by my couch. Also nearby is my flicker, a scale, and baskets of fiber. I put fiber in baskets for each step of the process, from skirting to washing to flicking to ready to spin. These baskets can be found all over the living room also. In this picture alone there is flicked fiber in the grey/metal bin on the floor, and washed but not flicked fiber in the orange bin on the bench, and ready to spin fiber in the pink bin sitting onto of the orange bin.

I also have the swift and ball winder on the portable table near the couch. I put these away in a closet during a busy work week, but on days we are home and working on projects, it's out and ready to use. Note our dog Dottie napping on my blanket on the couch. Animals everywhere around here.

The stand next to my seat on the couch holds my knitting projects (though usually I also have one in a bag in my car for anytime I have a chance to knit a row or two):

And the stand next to J's chair holds his knitting projects, along with some alpaca medical records and a cd for a computer program of alpaca medical records (oh, and one of those coffee cups is mine):

Injured Farmer

Well, it seems I managed to break my right hand. I'm learning all sorts of new coping methods, being I am right handed, very dominant right hand.

I am working on perfecting left hand only typing. Since I can't do much else, internet communication which requires typing is about all I can do (and catch up on some TV shows).

How I broke it remains a mystery. I hurt it some time during the day on Sunday. When I was settling in after dinner on Sunday, my hand hurt, especially my pointer finger. I figured I sprained it or jabbed it while we were doing chores. All day Monday it was sore, but I went to work, was able to type with minimal discomfort. Then came Monday evening. I was doing my regular barn chores, but when I went to scoop up poop, it hurt! the raking motion hurt not only my pointer finger, but into my hand. I wondered if my injury happened by my pointer finger being bent back too far. I insisted on finishing my chores, as I am not one to let an injury be an excuse. But, the pain got worse and worse, I didn't even finish scooping poop. I settled on essential chores only (food and water for the alpacas), and I went inside the house. That is when I took off my gloves (it's been cold enough here to wear gloves), which revealed a very swollen hand.

I can be stubborn, and I was still convinced this was not an issue. The pain was mostly in my pointer finger, so J taped it to the finger next to it. This gave it support, and helped lessen the pain. Though even after taking some ibuprofen, it was a rough night. I woke up around 2:30 a.m. with pain that I could not get under control.

Even in the morning, I pretended it was a normal day. Got the kids ready for school, and did my barn chores (morning chores are minimal anyway). I even went to work with full intentions of going to court (had a hearing I needed to attend). Well, the reaction to my swollen hand from my co-workers indicated this was more serious than I realized.

Diagnosis is that the bone in my hand just below my pointer finger is broken. Still no idea when or how, but doing chores Monday night clearly aggravated the situation.

Now I am home from work (left handed typing is better than sitting around bored, but not ideal for writing reports, and the pain meds make it so I shouldn't drive). I have mixed thoughts on which is worse, the pain when I don't take the pain meds, or the nausea when I do.

So, J and the kids are taking over many of the barn chores. The worst part, to me, is that I can't knit or spin. A few days off work, yet I can't work on any projects.
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