Monday, February 28, 2011

The best days

Often my day job does mean a lot of sitting. Sitting by a computer, or sitting in a car driving to appointments, or sitting at court waiting for hearings. I'm not very good at sitting, so by the time I get home I am iching to get outside and do something.

My favorite days are the ones when the sun shines:

Even with all the work of feeding the animals and picking up afterward (in this picture I have lots of bowls and buckets and sleds to pick up), I love being out there. The sun, the fresh air, the activity, it is all good for me.

I like this picture of Spot in the sunshine:

While I cannot wait for spring, I am happy with even a snowy day, provided the sun is shining.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Farewell my friend

This past week we said goodbye to three of our boys.


Apollo's Griffon

and OHVNA The Cavalier

These boys went to their new home, at a farm who is just starting their adventure with alpacas. I know these boys will have a great time at their new home.

While every alpaca on our farm is important to me, some stand out for one reason or another. While Snowstorm is *just* a gelding, he has always been one of my favorites. The first three alpacas on our farm were Kateri, Hana's Victoria and Snowstorm. Snowstorm was a gelding, but he was there to give us a complete herd (you need at least 3 to be herd). And he was a great guardian to our girls. The first few days they were on our farm, I was so sad because when I arrived to feed them, they would run out of the barn and get as far from me as they could. I had been so excited to have them on our farm, that it really hurt my feelings when they did that. I knew it was normal, but still it was hard. After they had been on our farm a few days I was in the pasture doing some cleaning when I felt breathe on my neck. I turned to see Snowstorm jump. He had been following me! As long as I didn't look at him, he'd creep closer behind me. The second I'd turn towards him he would jump back. This became our daily routine.

In those beginning years Snowstorm was invaluable to us. He was there when we just had Kateri and Victoria to give us a herd. When we added more alpacas to our herd, we could put Snowstorm in with any age and sex and he would be their guardian. We had a wealing pen, with only two young girls in there, so Snowstorm went in with them. He was gentle and acted as a loving uncle to them. Later on there came a time we had some older rambunctious boys. We put Snowstorm in with those boys and the fighting decreased significantly. Our farm has now gotten to the size that we have plenty of weanlings to fill a pen and don't need an extra gelding in there to make a herd. Ours years of needing Snowstorm have come to an end. We decided it was time for Snowstorm to go on to a new home that could use his services.

I will miss Snowstorm.

I don't mean to leave Apollo and Cavalier out of my story, but the truth is that I'm not as attached to them. There really was something about Snowstorm that stood out to me personally. I do remember the day Cavalier was born. Emma had walked home ahead of me, but called to let me know she found a baby on the ground. I rushed home to see our new cria. Here was this fluffy fawn boy, that took us days to come up with a name for him. He was too pretty for any of the macho names we had been considering. Once I thought of Cavalier, we knew it was perfect. Even though he acts like he thinks he could be tough, he's so pretty he looks elegant and luxurious.

I wish our new friend well with their adventures in alpacas.

Friday, February 25, 2011

ATA Peruvian Boppana

We are excited to add ATA Peruvian Boppana (Bo) to our herd. Bo comes to us with a new set of genetics, not found on our farm. We were specifically looking for a male with certain fiber characteristics to breed to our girls.

Bo has the Accoyo bold, high amplitude crimp style Shangri La is know for putting on his offspring. Bo also has great consistency, uniformity, bundling, and density.

Click on his name to see his full Alpaca Nation page. He is already two years old, so he is ready to breed.

I was most excited to see the bundling that he possesses. That is something that some of our girls could use a boost in. I can't wait to see what he will produce with our girls.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

ATA Peruvian Harley

We are excited to add ATA Peruvian Harley to our herd. Click on his name to see his Alpaca Nation page. Here is what we wrote about him:

When I saw Harley at the Indiana Invitational in 2010, I loved how he was the total package. He has the compact, big boned body style we love. His head is absolutely gorgeous. His confirmation and bite are terrific. Add his incredible fiber characteristics, and you have a Jr. Herdsire who has everything we are breeding for.

Harley's sire is the impact herdsire 2002 Lord Stanley, a Conan son. Stanley has given Harley his extreme brightness, density, and bundling. Harley's dam, Picolo's Peruvian Heide has added her fineness and crimp style. The combination has produced the type of male we are striving for.

Fiber pictures:

Harley will be 2 years old in June. We are hopeful to use him for breeding this year.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


While I haven't been spinning as much yarn as I'd like, I am spinning some. This is a skein from fiber off of Rosco. This skein is already sold, since it was spun as a specific request. I hope the buyer enjoys the skein.



I am now officially out of Rosco's fiber. This is the first blanket I have sold out of this year.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Digging Out

While the last storm got a lot of media attention, this storm left more snow at our house. I think the last storm encompassed more of the country, and did leave a lot of snow for a lot of people. In our location, we got just under a foot with the last storm. This time I am measuring over a foot. Either way, it's a lot of snow!

Out the door:

The bowls in the snow (note that the table was completely clear of snow before this storm started):

I didn't get a lot of pictures of the alpacas in the snow. As it was, it took me over 2 hours to dig everything out so that I could do my 10 minutes of daily chores. We are set now, so the evening chores should go smoothly.

The plow guy came when I was out there doing chores. Our snow pile is almost as high as the alpaca trailer:

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Winter's revenge

After bragging about our spring weather and the spring cleaning we were able to get done, we are back to winter here. I knew this storm was coming, so it's not a surprise. But certainly a disappointment after enjoying that wonderful weather. We actually were motivated to get more done before this storm hit.

The snow was predicted to start sometime mid-day on Sunday. Since we live in a rural area, out in the woods, we are always conscious of the possibility of losing power. The biggest issues being that then we would not have use of our furnace or water (we have well water). We make sure to have plenty of fire wood ready, so that we can heat our home with our fireplace if necessary. We also fill water buckets with water to have on hand, just in case. I've found that if I have a nice clean house, we don't seem to lose power. It's the times I skip doing the dishes and haven't straighted up that we lose power. Then we have a real mess that can't be cleaned until power is restored. So we spent the morning cleaning the house and getting everything ready.

The snow didn't start to fall at our house until about 2 p.m. By the time I did farm chores at 4 p.m., I walked out to this:

While Spot seems to manage not to let snow accumulate on him, the alpacas will lay out in the pasture with inches of snow sitting on their backs. Here they had already stood up because they saw me and knew grain was coming.

What struck me was how fast the snow was accumulating. In the short time between dumping out the hay bin, then grabbing new hay and walking back, the hay bin already had a layer of snow in it:

The same thing happened to the grain bowls. Between the time the girls finished eating and I picked up the bowls (we are talking maybe 10 minutes tops), the bowls had a layer of snow in them:

This morning the table here was clear of any snow, by 4 p.m. there was this:

Keep in mind that it's still snowing. These pictures were taken at 4 p.m. showing only the beginning. Now it's almost 7 p.m., it's still snowing, and it's supposed to continue snowing through much of the night.

I was worried to leave anything out there, out of fear it will be buried in snow by morning. Usually I leave the buckets, that I carry water around in, out by the water faucet. Tonight, I put them in the garage:

I'm anxious to see what I wake up to in the morning. I am thankful that so far we are getting snow and not ice (which is falling south of us). I'm also thankful that so far we continue to have electricity. I hope it stays that way.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Spring Cleaning

During the last week we have had warmer than typical temperatures. We took advantage of this spring like weather to clean up the farm a bit. J spent most of Friday cleaning out the boy's barn. He started before I had a chance to get a before picture. And somehow I managed to forget to take an after picture. What I do have a picture of is the pile of junk (a mix of hay, straw and poop) that he hauled out of the barn:

He lost track of how many trips he took to get all the junk out of the barn. The boy's barn is so nice now!

I did a slower project, everyday scooping up more and more of the poop piles in the girl's pastures. As the mounds in the pastures thawed a bit each day, I cleaned up whatever I could scrap free. During my usual daily routine, I take one sled or wheel barrow trip. This week there were days I took 6! There was a lot of extra stuff to clean up. But I'm happy to say I've made a lot of progress. Unfortunately we are supposed to get another storm of snow and ice starting tomorrow.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Happy Faces

Not everyone out there is ornery. I had several come up to me and want to sniff at me. I almost always get kisses from Latte:

And our 2010 cria have been friendly.




Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tempers Rise

I don't know if it's hormones, or spring fever, or the fact we've moved around some of our girls (they reassess herd dynamics any time there is a change in herd membership), but I see a lot of neck wrestling and spit fighting.

When I was out there feeding them, I caught Miss Kitty, post fight, with the lingering spit lip:

Sancha had the other spit lip, so I knew it was the two of them. I didn't manage to get a picture of Sancha's lip.

Alpacas main defense is to spit (after an attempt to run). They also react to each other with spit. I find that after a good spit fight, their lip hangs there, burning from the spit acid for some time. If it's feeding time, sometimes they can't even eat their grain because of the spit lip.

Miss Kitty is still trying to figure out her place in our herd. I've seen her several times now trying to take on our herd leader, Victoria. I wouldn't suggest taking on Victoria, she's been the leader on our farm since day one. But, Miss Kitty doesn't take advice from me. She'll learn, she's just determined to do it the hard way.

Miss Kitty isn't the only one fighting. I see many of the other girls getting into fights here and there. Something is in the air.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The hat

Remember this picture of my daughter?

This hat was made for a very special girl who is going through a very difficult time. She is the exact same age as my daughter, but she is fighting cancer. She also is a lover of animals, so I just knew she needed a hand spun homemade alpaca hat:

Her mother has kept a log of her journey, you can follow along on her blog here: Fight Like a Girl.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Sun!

This was the view to the front of our pasture today.

I love sunny days! It was so great to see the sun.

a thaw ~ the good, the bad and the ugly

Is it spring? I know, this is just a preview, winter isn't really gone, but I love seeing temps in the 40*s:

A daily high of 45* and a low of 23*. So much better than the negative temps of not to long ago!

I love spring. It is by far my favorite season. I gain more energy in the spring, my mood is raised, I accomplish more in the spring than any other time. Spring is my season. I love seeing the sun, I love the warm air, I love the snow disappearing (and soon the flowers emerging).

What I don't love is the ugly mess that I find when a thaw comes around:

And this isn't even a bad mess. I've mentioned "poop soup" before, it's really that bad sometimes. Thankfully we don't have that (yet). So far my method of scooping up poop is working. I scoop only what it level with the snow. I used to dig down and that made the most awful poop soup mess. But, it does mean when the snow level goes down, I have extra poop to scoop. On Sunday I made three trips with the poop sled. Typically I scoop up enough for 1 trip with the poop sled each day. Three trips should have counted that as a "cross training" work out! I had already ran 5 miles on the treadmill though, so I got a double workout.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Trading Alpacas

One way to get new genetics on your farm is to trade alpacas with another farm. Not only can you get new genetics, but you can tailor the new alpaca to be exactly what you want. Instead of picking a specific breeding and wishing and praying for a certain outcome, hoping that cria is a certain color, you can find an animal the meets exactly what you want.

It's not always that easy. Often what you want, people aren't willing to part with (unless you are willing to shell out a lot of money). And it's not always easy to figure out an even trade. It's not always one alpaca for one alpaca. If you really want a certain one, you are willing to offer more in return to sweeten the deal. And there is always the quandary of is a male worth more or a female? It depends on the quality of course. And while it shouldn't matter, there is sometimes the emotional component. There are some animals on my farm that I would be willing to trade, but only for the right trade.

We've been working on several different trades. I don't want to post the exact specifics, because I think those are personal matters. I'd hate for another farm involved to feel exposed by my blabbing it all. I also don't want people to scrutinize each trade. It becomes a value call, because the only way a trade will work is if what you are getting is worth what you are losing, for both parties involved. And that truly is a personal call. We are looking for some specific things to boost our breeding program, and are willing to part with some wonderful alpacas in order to get that.

What you will noticed is new faces on our farm, and some of our current residents no longer being here. While it will be sad to say goodbye, we are determined to push ahead. We have a vision that we are determined to follow.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


We've had a farm page on facebook, but recently they made some changes to the business pages. This means a new address for it:

As far as I can tell, the old link still works too. And the link on the left side of my blog will take you there. If you haven't done so yet, please visit our facebook farm page and "like" us :)

I'm still learning all the new gadgets that come with the revised business page. I can now log into facebook under our business farm name, or my own name. I hope I don't mix up my identity! I do like having two separate accounts. I also like the pictures across the top of the page like (like they did with the personal pages). On the farm page, I have pictures of alpaca products up there for anyone to view. I still have my blog linked to the page so you can view blog posts directly on my blog, on facebook, on Ravelry (under my profile "oakhavenalpacas") or at The Hive.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Pictures of Miss Kitty

I know I cheated last week, posting about our new alpaca, Miss Kitty, but then not including any pictures. I went back to that post and did add a picture, but she's full of snow, you really can't see anything. Miss Kitty has incredible genetics, but has gotten a bit overweight. Our goal is to slim her down some so that we can breed her.

Miss Kitty is the one standing straight up behind the feed bin in this picture:

I know it's hard to get a size comparison in a picture. The maroon colored alpaca in front of her is Victoria. You can see how Miss Kitty towers over Victoria. Though for perspective, Victoria is a smaller alpaca, weighing around 130 pounds.

In this picture I am standing behind Miss Kitty, she is bent down eating out of the hay bin. Maddie is standing next to her (the black alpaca). Maddie is an average size alpaca, running about 160 pounds - here you can see how Miss Kitty has a lot of weight on her in comparison!

Miss Kitty is not bred, so all that belly is her:

Miss Kitty does have nice bone on her. She's a tall alpaca. She has great genetics and nice fiber. I will keep you posting on how our slimming diet is working for Miss Kitty.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Exciting things

Our next exciting upcoming event is Show Season. That is by far our favorite part of alpaca farming. We love traveling to different area. We love meeting up with other alpaca farmers. We love showing off our animals. While we know they won't all do as well in the show ring as we would hope, we find that we learn so much at shows, that even the poor placements help us grow as farmers.

After show season there is shearing. While the actual shearing is really hard work, it is wonderful to have that luxurious fiber to work with. This year we are committed to sending some to a mill to get mill spun yarn and rovings. There is not enough time for me to spin all of it myself, so we are determined to get some of it to the mill this year.

But another exiciting time is Cria Season. This year we are expecting six cria: from Kateri, Victoria, Sancha, Snickers, Lucy and Tehya. Their due dates are listed at the bottom of my blog. Maddie did not take with her pregnancy and we found out too late in the season to rebred her. Latte had a cria in late September, too late in the year for us to want to bred her for that time of year again. And Miss Kitty came open, she needs some work before we will breed her (she needs to lose some weight).

The first cria due this year will come from our own Tehya. Tehya was born on our farm, she was our first years cria. I saw Tehya be born, the first delivery I saw from beginning to end. Tehya did spectacular in the show ring. I am so excited to see what she will produce!

Lately, Tehya has been looking very pregnant. Not all females show that they are pregnant, and maybe she doesn't to the naked eye. From the side, not much to see:

I notice how her sides pops when she is viewed from the front (or back), more so than she ever did before:

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

New Feeder

As our little boy barn grows with more boys, we knew we needed a bigger feeder in there. As it was, we only had a couple small buckets in there to put hay in.

J built this:

The boys didn't want to go by it when I was there, so I had to sneak this picture with Cavalier there:

It's plenty big for us to add more boys in that barn and have enough hay for everyone to eat. In the near future we will be moving Challenger up there. It's come time for him to wean from his mom.

Monday, February 7, 2011

New Tools

About a week ago J and I were in a local store and saw this really neat sled that would be perfect as a poop sled. I had this in the back of my mind after a couple people mentioned on my blog that a sled might be the answer to my wheel barrow vs snow problem. I looked at this sled and could see the value in it. J thought we should buy it right then and there, but I resisted. We don't usually get that much snow at one time, I've managed using the wheel barrow in the snow. I didn't really NEED it.

Then we got dumped on this snow this past week. Wednesday we were so buried in snow I didn't even think about cleaning up the alpaca's poop. It wasn't until Thursday evening that I realized I had a poop problem. If I could barely push the wheel barrow around before this storm, adding on another 10+ inches of snow would make it impossible. Looking at the weather prediction for the next week, we aren't in for a thaw anytime soon. I came inside after farm chores and said to J that I may have made a mistake passing on that sled.

Friday when I came home from work I found this in my back yard:

After 11 years of marriage, while I definitely do appreciate flowers and chocolate, it's the really thoughtful things, like a poop sled that will make my life easier, that becomes the most romantic. This sled is actually made for ice fishing, but it's the perfect size and shape for a poop sled.

I tried to get a picture to show the depth, but this really doesn't give a good frame of reference:

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Fiber Trade Off

Unfortunately I did not finish even one skein of yarn during the month of January. Throughout the month I kept intending to spin yarn, but it seemed like something kept coming up. I recently realized what the real issue was. I decided to run in the 5/3 River Bank Run this spring. Since making that decision, I have made a concerted effort to run more. This means instead of using barn chores as exercise and getting on the treadmill maybe once a week for a good solid workout, I am now getting on the treadmill 3 or 4 times a week. Not only am I on the treadmill for about an hour, but there is time getting ready before, the cool down, and the shower afterward - by the time I add all that time up we are talking close to 8 hours each week that I *could* be spinning yarn. This is only going to increase as we get closer to race day. I will run further each day, and run more days of the week.

I decided it is a trade off. I can't do everything and right now getting in shape and running this 10K is important to me. So I am going to give myself a break and not worry about yarn spinning for now. My goal of a skein a week will be on hold for now. If I am able to spin a few skeins here and there that is great, but it's ok if I don't.

I did manage to complete these this weekend:

It's a large skein of Greyt's fiber, and a small skein of a twist of Greyt and Tucker (a perfect size for an accent yarn). These are my first skeins for 2011.

All I had to do this weekend was ply two strands of Greyt's fiber, I had already spun two strands. Greyt is a beautiful Rose Grey. His color doesn't show up great in there pictures. You'll have to trust me, it's even more wonderful in person. Plying Greyt:

This was a very large skein, I could barely fit the entire plyed skein on my wheel (and my Louet is known to hold more yarn than most spinning wheels). I measured it as 180 yards and 11.5 ounces.

I had a little left over of one strand of Greyt. I love it when this happens, because I will ply that left over with some other left over, making a multi-color small skein as an accent yarn. I happened to have a strand of Tucker's fiber (Tucker is a beautiful light silver grey). The mix of these two greys was fun to ply:

I ended up with 19 yards, 1.5 ounces, of this contrasting accent yarn (again these pictures do not do justice to the true beauty of this yarn):

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