Monday, January 31, 2011

Birth of our Alpacas by Year

Every so often I get curious how old a certain alpaca is. It doesn't take long and I am wondering who is older and who is younger and by how much. So I decided to make up a list, by year, of when each alpaca on our farm was born. It's such a handy list, I also made it into a separate page that can be viewed anytime, linked straight from this blog. It can be found on the left side, under the heading "Pages".


February 3 ~ GF Raphaella's Sancha


June 1 ~ Persnickety Miss (Snickers)


August 15 ~ NL Smokey


June 14 ~ Dodge City Miss Kitty

June 28 ~ Kateri

July 28 ~ Hana's Victoria


May 21 ~ RPA Lucy


June 26 ~ My Peruvian Georgio

July 19 ~ AFR Our Peruvian Tucker

October 13 ~ Apollo's Griffon

October 23 ~ Straightfork Vanilla Latte


September 2 ~ KSF Midnight Masquerade (Maddie)

November 9 ~ SA Peruvian Greyt Exxpectations


July 11 ~ Kateri's Tehya


June 17 ~ OHVNA Pocahontas

July 24 ~ OHVNA Cavalier

August 23 ~ Ashton Stones Little Miss Rosco


April 25 ~ Enlightenment's Rocky Rose

May 21 ~ Our Copper Canyon

June 21 ~ Smokey's Twilight

July 10 ~ OHVNA Chaska

July 16 ~ OHVNA The Challenger

September 29 ~ Eclipse's Ginger Ale

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Friday, January 28, 2011

OHVNA The Challenger

Here are some recent pictures of our favorite guy, OHVNA The Challenger.

and some fiber pictures:

When he was born I was worried if he had enough grey - that is no longer a worry! He is clearly a rose grey, even from a distance you can see the grey on him.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Our Female 2010 Cria

I know our little ones have been growing by leaps and bounds. Here are some updated pictures of them

While we only had one female cria born on our farm this past year, we aquired two other 2010 females.

Smokey's Twilight was born on our farm. She is out of our female, Midnight Masquerade, and a male we own half interest in, Smokey.

A nice picture of Twilight from last month:

Early on in 2010, we aquired Enlightenment's Rocky Rose. She did not want to cooperate for a picture today, this was the best I could do. Rose is a beautiful tuxedo rose grey.

Ginger came to our farm a couple days after she was born. We even had the chance to name her: Eclipse's Ginger Ale. While she was born later in the fall than we would typically bred for, she has done great, growing and thriving:

We are excited how these three girls are growing.

Monday, January 24, 2011

50 bales of hay

Today J and I set out to get hay. While we do both have full time jobs outside of our farm, we don't always work typical schedules. J works for a hospital and has to work off shifts and weekends sometimes. He worked all this past weekend, and had Monday off. I chose to flex around my work schedule this week so I could help him get hay. While he often does it on his own, I know it's a big job, and a lot easier with two people. It also gave us a chance to spend the day together, which often gets lost in the busy-ness of life.

The temp inside the boys barn this morning was 10*F. It was a lot colder outside. Not only does snow not stop us on our farm, neither does the cold.

J found a local farm that sells hay. We've been purchasing our hay there for about the last 6 months. The draw back is that they are down to only the hay in the upper loft, meaning we have to climb up there to get it. It looks like a tangled mess up there:

And here the light is coming in the big door to the outside. Right outside there is a story drop to the ground. I'm not generally scared of heights, but I wasn't too fond of getting close to that door with a bale of hay:

From the loft, we throw the bales down into a pile (this picture was taken looking down from the loft:

And a picture from down below:

It was just slippery enough that we couldn't get the trailer any closer to the barn, so we had to haul each bale that far. Then we come home to unload and stack the hay in our hay barn.

While this is a big chore, it always feels good to have it done and have plenty of hay on hand for our hungry alpacas.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Negative 14* F

That was our overnight temperature. By the time I got up and went outside to do farm chores, our thermometer read -8* F:

When it is this cold out, we make sure to put out extra hay. The alpacas will eat hay to keep warm, so it is essential that they have hay to eat. I would be upset if I got up on a cold morning and found their hay bins empty, I would worry someone was cold and couldn't find hay to eat. I make sure there are no empty bins by putting extra hay out.

I also check everyone over in the morning, paying special attention to the youngest and oldest, and any that are skinny. I checked Ginger, our youngest, to make sure she wasn't shivering:

I also noted that Twilight (another young one) wasn't shivering.

Both Twilight and Ginger appeared happy and healthy with no concerns noted. Our oldest, Sancha, also appeared fine, no shivering, and eating up grain just fine:

I did find it funny that you could tell which alpacas spent the night in the barn, and which ones decided to stay outside. Tehya had a layer of snow and frost on her back, showing she was out in the elements all night:

Kateri's back was snow free, though it had a little frost and lots of hay, she clearly stayed in the barn:

We don't force them to stay in the barn. We let them make their own choice about where to go. We have had some who choose to lay outside in a blizzard. They know if they are cold or not, they know when they need to seek shelter. And even those that do stay outside, they cush on hay piles that keep them warm. The hay underneath starts to compost, causing it to be warmer than the frozen ground. This warmth radiates up through the alpaca's belly as they are cushed on top of it. The snow and frost on their backs never makes it to their skin. They have that super warm wonderful fiber on their backs keeping them toasty warm. I wish I had such a warm coat!

Everyone appeared to be fine despite the cold temps. I was warm in my layers of clothing, but it was one of the only days I noticed the wind hitting the front of my legs. It sure is cold out there. I'm happy to report the sun is shining now, in an area that doesn't get a lot of sun shine this time of year, this is a welcome sight!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Spring Alpaca Shows

As the spring show season gets closer, we get more and more excited about it. We love show season, and spring is when the new cria get their first shot before a judge. It's always a wonder how they will do. Zack and I have been working on halter training our 2010 cria so that they are ready for the shows. J and I have been making plans of which shows we want to go to, and which shows we really can go to. We'd love to go to more, but we need to be realistic about time, money and energy. I know farms who only go to one spring show, and the big farms that go to many. As an average size alpaca farm, we try to go to a few spring shows, the average amount :)

I have been editing and revising our show schedule all along. I think we are almost to the point of having a final schedule completed. I have the shows listed on the left side of the blog under "Upcoming Events". Each show has a link to the show's web page where more information on the show can be found. Here is a sneak peak at the "Upcoming Events" section:

Upcoming Events

+ March 12 & 13 2011: Best of the US Alpaca Show in Columbus, Ohio

+ April 9 & 10 2011: Indiana Alpaca Invitational in Fort Wayne, Indiana

+ April 30 & May 1 2011: Great Midwest Alpaca Festival in Madison, Wisconsin

+ May 7 & 8 2011: Michigan Alpaca Breeders Show in Davisburg, Michigan

We have gone to each of these shows before, in some way at least. The Best of the US is a newer show, on it's third year. We have been to this one every year and love it. It's the first time our new cria get out into the public and in front of a judge. We have heard that the arena has new lighting, so we are eager to see how that looks. The Indiana Invitational is another one that we have gone to every year. In it's first year, we were there to help another farm show their animals, we did not have any ready to show (it was 2008, our first full year as alpaca farmers). We have gone to this show every year since. My complaint about this show is that our animals don't seem to do as well. The competition is fierce! But, we also get a good evaluation of our animals so that we are realistic in their quality. The Great Midwest Alpaca Festival is one that we went to for the first time last year. We had heard such great things about this show that we wanted to check it out. It is a really nice show. We absolutely loved the city of Madison (I lived there for a few years in my childhood and remembered it as a nice town, it was good to see my memory was accurate). Now the Michigan Alpaca Breeders Show is one that we have not actually attended ourselves. In past year we sent some of our animals with another farm, Ashton Stone Alpacas. We have taken their animals to some shows, and they have taken ours. This has been a great way for a mid-size farm to get more exposure yet limit expenses. This year we want to actually go to this show. We know it's the highlight for many Michigan breeders and we want to be a part of that.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

More snow pictures

We had a snowstorm come through our area the beginning of this week. Our young girls(yearlings and maidens) spend most of their time in their shelter. They come out to eat grain and to poop, but otherwise pretty much spend their time under the shelter. It does amaze me how they end up with snow on their backs anyway.

The older girls, our dams, eat grain outside:

Even though they have hay in their shelter like the young girls, these older girls prefer to eat the hay in buckets outside. I hardly put any hay inside their shelter because they don't go there to eat it. In this picture you can tell the ones who spend more time outside have more snow on their backs.

Here you can really see the snow on his back:

Despite having that snow on their backs, they do not appear cold or bothered by it at all. That alpaca fiber is very warm and insulating.

I don't know what Spot in doing reaching into the snow:

No stopping for snow

In our climate, we have to keep on going even if there is a snow storm in process. On Monday the snow started falling with over an inch of fresh snow (on top of what we already had on the ground) by the time we began our afternoon chores.

Our alpaca, Snowstorm, always greets me:

Our barn cat, Fluffy, tends to be more aloof:

Despite the snow piling up outside, Zack and I set out to halter train our two little boys, to get them ready for the spring shows. Chaska is doing very well on the halter, he's almost ready for show season. While Copper isn't doing quite a well, he is improving each time we are out there. He'll get there yet.

Zack and Chaska:

Monday, January 17, 2011

Yarn Production Update

This past fall in an effort to increase our farm's yarn production, I made a goal to spin a skein of yarn a week. I knew, given that I have a full time job outside of the home, as does J, and we have two children (age 8 and 11), along with all our farm responsibilities, that goal was overly ambitious. But I also knew as I worked towards that goal, I was sure to spin up more yarn than I would without the goal. I truly hoped to spin about 3 skeins a month. That would be a significant increase from what I was doing.

Initially I kept track of the skeins in my head (I likely have some blog posts about how I was meeting this goal or not). Near the end of September I got the idea to keep a log of every skein I complete. What an awesome idea! I wish I had done this from the start of my yarn spinning career. I found a spiral notebook that I set aside for this log.

The log notes:
~ the date the skein was completed
~ the animal the fiber came from
~ the weight of the finished skein (though on many this is missing)
~ the length of the skein (in yards)

This is so handy to have! I not only can see how often I finish a skein but details about each skein.

My first entry is from 9/26/10 and the last one for 2010 was dated 12/28/10. In that time I spun up 13 skeins of yarn! I think that is great! While not exactly 1 skein a week, I think I a made a good stab at hitting that goal. I don't know how many skeins I completed for the entire month of September, I only have one listed for the 26th. Then in October I completed 2 skeins, 3 in November and a big finale of 7 in December. You can see I had a mad dash to complete some holiday products (gifts for people). What is even more impressive is that my skeins got bigger as the months went by. I started out with 8 ounces (two strands of 4 ounces) that by the time it is flicked and spun and washed, end up as a 6 to 7 ounce skein. I increased the amount of fiber I started with, and soon was working on skeins twice the size. The length of the skeins varied by how many ounces of fiber was used and how thick the yarn was spun. The shortest was 99 yards, the longest was 155 yards. (can you tell I like math :) I really could work out a statistical analysis for this).

I'm starting a new page in this log book for all skeins completed in 2011. I am very curious to see what an entire year of documenting this has to say.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Some days it's hard to get motivated, and today was especially hard. I was feeling down last night, and was struck by how much I miss Dottie (our family dog of 12 years, who we had to put down in October). Whenever I was down, she would follow me around the house, hang by my side, watch me throughout the night. She had a happy spirit that comforted me. I knew she did this for me, but last night when I needed it, I missed her absence more than I ever thought I would.

I've also found that since having Shingles, it's been hard to get my motivation up. It's unfortunate how drained it has made me feel. While I'm recovered from Shingles, I still don't have the stamina I had before. It's coming, just slower than I'd like.

Today I woke up to a dark, cold, snowy day. It is pretty out there:

... not too inviting. I would have rather just viewed it through the window while sitting by the fireplace. This happens every time, and even though I know it will happen, it's still hard to get dressed and start on the farm chores. Every time once I am out there doing the chores, I feel better, the tranquility of the animals rubs off on me and I'm so glad to be out there. Today Latte came up and gave me a sniff kiss. She does that to J and Emma a lot but not usually to me. While not Dottie, it struck me as so sweet, just what I needed this morning. It's amazing how animals just know.

I am telling as many people as possible so that I actually go through with it: this spring I am going to run in the Fifth Third River Bank Run. Before I had the whole shingles episode, I had talked myself into running the 10K. My reasoning is that I was already doing a 4 mile run most workout days, and a 5K would be shorter than my usual workout. It made sense to stretch myself - but no way do I want to think about the 25K! The 10K seemed like a good way to increase my ability, without adding on too much stress. I've only been on the treadmill once since having shingles and even running 4 miles seemed like a stretch, so I am going to wait and see about the 5K vs the 10K. For now I am just working on building up my stregth again. If it comes back at a good pace, I will be fine to complete a 10K in May.

Today I am motivated to spin yarn. I have some of Greyt's fiber

already started on the spinning wheel, with a toasty fire going in the fireplace:

Friday, January 14, 2011

Winter ~ hay

Unlike water and poop, there really isn't much different about putting out hay in the winter. I do put out more hay in the winter, since they use hay to fuel themselves to keep warm. I also use a sled to pull the hay out to the animals, rather than the wagon I used in the warmer months.

It seems no matter the season, the animals rush to eat the new freshly put out hay.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Winter ~ poop

I've taken different approaches to winter poop scooping over the years. The problem with winter poop is that it freezes to the ground. In an effort to get it all cleaned up, there have been times I was hacking at the piles to break it free. This took a lot of time and energy, with the end result of big ditches in the ground that filled with water the second there was a thaw. This made the most horrible poop soup. I decided there had to be a better way.

Last year I started to just rake up the loose poop on top, and leave anything frozen. The poop pile ends up being the same height as the snow. No more ditches and the horrible poop soup. The down side is that when there is a thaw, and the snow melts, so does the poop piles. Then I have a ton to scoop up. I was worried I would dread the days there as a thaw. But as it turns out, when the weather is nicer I like to be outside and usually don't mind being out there longer to complete this chore.

The part I don't like is hauling the poop in the wheel barrow through the snow all the way to the compost pile in the woods:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Winter ~ water

I miss summer when we have hoses out to fill all the water buckets. This time of year, I haul water in buckets. If the faucet outside works, I fill the buckets there:

Sometimes it's so cold the outside faucet is frozen, then I fill the buckets in our bathtub. Thankfully that doesn't happen too often.

Inside the alpaca's shelter we have heated buckets so that water doesn't freeze:

I do think chores are a bit more work in the winter. But I also think in the winter I tend to be less active and need to move more. In the end it's a good balance.


It's clear winter is upon us.

I thought I'd post a few blog entries this week showing how some of the farm chores change with the weather.

Monday, January 10, 2011


Last week I made a big mistake. When I feed the girls grain, I lock Spot out into the pasture. I feed him his food out there, and keep him from stealing their grain. Once everyone is done eating, I let him back in with the herd. I've often worried that I will forget him out there. It took awhile, but it finally happened. Friday morning when I went out to do the morning chores I saw this:

Poor Spot had been locked out there all night. He had no water, and no barn to seek shelter. I still feel terrible about it. I know he did fine, he doesn't even hold a grudge against me, but still, not ideal for him to be locked out there.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Can't Help It

I can't help but brag a bit. I love to show off products I've made. But, sometimes my pictures are lacking - especially the baby products I make, given I don't have a baby model at home. Our friends at Ashton Stone Alpacas have the perfect model. Check out the pictures in this blog post.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Herd Health Weekend

The first weekend of each month (or the second weekend if we have other things going on the first weekend) is set aside for herd health. Herd Health is when we weigh the young ones (anyone under 2 years old), we give any necessary shots, we trim toe nails, and assess body score (weight). We also look them all over to make sure there are no underlying issues. Alpacas are well known to be stoic and not show when they have a problem, so it is essential to keep a close eye on them.

Today we completed herd health with just over half our herd, 14 of the 22 residents on our farm. This included all the animals back by our house: the dams, most of the 2010 cria, and the yearling girls. Tomorrow we will go up to the boy's barn and complete their herd health for the month.

I am happy to report that neither J or I got injured today. Typically one of us has something happen. The only injury that happened today was that Tehya was giving us a hard time while trimming her nails, and the wick (a vein) in her nail got nicked.

You can't see anything in this picture other than that she has feet. The black tip on her feet are nails, like what you would find on a dog. Also like a dog, there is a vein in the nail.

What is noticed, is that where ever she walks there is a trail of blood:

There isn't much that can be done to stop the bleeding, it will clot on it's own. I guess if it was really bad Blood Stop could be used. It actually helped that there was snow outside, I imagine it numbed her nail, and it helped block the cut.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Blocking & Washing

After finishing up the pair of slipper socks:

I needed to block them. Blocking is essentially washing the item for the first time. Blocking also shapes the product, and future washing is a time to re-shape the item.

First step, fill the sink with hot water and dish soap, then emerge the item, soak for at least 15 minutes:

Next step, gently squeeze the item, be careful not to agitate too much or it will felt:

Then, fill the sink with plain water, and emerge the item again, soak for a few minutes, repeat until the water stays clear:

Lay on an old absorbent towel:

Roll up the item inside the towel:

Squeeze the item in the towel to really get the water out:

Lay the item on a new dry towel to finish drying. It's very important to shape the item so that when it dries, it's the right shape. At this point you can pull it bigger or squish it to make it tighter, this is the time to shape the item exactly how you want it:

(note: in this picture I show the slipper sock can be wore straight or with the top rolled down, it would be important to let it dry how you intend to wear it so that it shapes the right way. I dried these straight since that's the more common way to wear them).

It does take a couple days to finish drying. Once dry, it's important to store it flat. While you wouldn't hang up knit slipper socks anyway, it might be tempting to hang up a knit sweater which would be a bad idea because it would stretch out too easy. These hand knit products do take a bit more tender care, but they were also made special to begin with.
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