Thursday, June 30, 2011

Children's Knit Ear Flap Hat

Not only did we make an infant alpaca knit ear flap hat, but we also made a Children's alpaca knit ear flap hat. This one is for sale here.

Just like the infant hat, this hat also was made 100% on our farm, with fiber grown on our own alpacas, hand spun into yarn by me on my spinning wheel, and knit into this cute hat by my husband.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

First product!

Certainly not the first products we've made, but the first we've had on hand and available for sale. I have it listed here, on our farm page on Etsy.

This 100% alpaca infant ear flap hat was made from yarn I hand spun at our farm. The fiber came off of alpacas in our herd. The alpacas lived on our farm, after their fiber was shorn, I took the fiber and flicked it so that I could hand spin it on my spinning wheel. After I spun two strands of yarn, I plyed them together. My husband took this 100% alpaca yarn and knit it into this infant ear flap hat.

This one of a kind 100% hand made alpaca hat is a true gem!

Alpaca Observation Deck

One of the many things I appreciate about my husband is that once he has an idea, he does it. I don't know when he first got the idea for this alpaca observation deck, because he only briefly mentioned something about it to me one day, then the next day he was already building it. Within a couple days, it was done!

His idea was to build a deck off our bedroom, where we already had a sliding glass door, so that he and I could sit out there and drink coffee while watching the alpacas. This time of year there is lots to watch! One on hand there are the dams who are due with cria. We love to watch and guess when those cria will be born. And, there are the already born cria who love to run and play. They are a blast to watch!

Here's the deck overlooking the dam and cria pasture. What you can't see is that the alpaca's area goes from straight back in our back yard to all the way around the side of our house. There is a hill on the side of the house that the cria love to run up and down. The people we first bought our alpacas from told us that the young alpacas love hills to play on and it is so true. From this deck, we can see all the way down and around that hill.

Here are our chairs and a little table J made where we can put our cups of coffee:

Shadow loves it too:

Sunday, June 26, 2011

New Deck

While I was busy this past week at work, my husband was busy planning a new deck. I came home one day to find this:

He is building this just off our bedroom, where we already had a sliding glass door to the backyard. His idea is that we could sit out there and drink coffee, either in the morning, or a cup of decaf in the evening. It overlooks the pen where the dams and cria are, so we can sit, relax and watch the babies run and play. It also will work well for cria watch, on those days we just can't bring ourselves to leave the alpacas because we are just sure that cria is going to be born

Saturday, June 25, 2011


My regular readers may have noticed I haven't posted in a week! Usually I have lots to say, and it's not that I don't have lots to say, it had more to do with juggling too many things. This past week was our first week of summer vacation where I was also juggling work, along with Zack's baseball and summer programs, of course in addition to the farm and all our usual day to day stuff. Something had to give and it ended up being this blog.

Once we get more used to our summer routine, I know it will get better. The change in routine is always the most difficult.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Forgotten Chores

We have some daily farm chores that we have to do. Most of them I don't mind at all. It's all pretty simple ~ feeding them grain, putting out hay, filling water buckets. It takes maybe 10 minutes. Now I know my friends who don't have alpacas think that cleaning up poop is a bad job, but I completely disagree. It's my favorite job. I'll pass the grain and hay feeding on to my husband in a heart beat and focus on the poop. The poop is easy to scoop and generally has no odor (though their urine can at times stink). The part that I like most about poop scooping is that it forces me to take a break from the rest of life, and I get lost in my own thoughts. How often in our busy lives do we have that luxury? It is the best therapy.

There are chores that I put off. It's too easy when I have a full time job, two children, and a farm to care for, to come up with an excuse not to do certain chores. I didn't realize how many things I walked by, knowing they should get done, but I had a ready made excuse why I didn't have to do it. Well, after our vacation to Wisconsin, I had a few days of vacation that I took at home. We came home from Wisconsin on Wednesday evening, but I won't return to work until Monday. Thursday I walked by a few things with the excuse that I was tired and recovering from our vacation. But when Friday came, I knew I needed to do away with the excuses or soon the vacation would be over and I wouldn't have completed the things I wanted to.

One thing I often rationalize and get out of doing is brushing Spot. Spot is a Great Pyrenees and is supposed to be brushed everyday. I admit I am terrible about this chore. I can't remember the last time I did brush him. So on Friday morning, I set out to give him a good brushing. He's moving so you can't see how handsome he looks, but you can see all the fur I brushed off of him (on the ground in the distance):

I did some other things like cleaned up our backyard, picked up a tarp that was out in the pasture, fixed a fence and so forth. Once I told myself no excuse would work, I realized how quick some of these things were to complete. I wish I hadn't put them off for so long. If I had just done them, I wouldn't have had to come up with excuses everyday.

One chore I really wanted to accomplish over my vacation was to rake up the leaves and weed the front flowerbeds. When we built out house we chose not to put in a yard, but instead put a very large flowerbed and landscaping in front of our house.

One thing I didn't think about was the fact that the chore I hate the most is raking leaves. I should have never built a house in the woods! Every year I put off raking the leaves and soon my flowers come up inbetween the leaves and it makes a huge mess. On Friday afternoon I decided it was time to tackle this dreaded chore.

It's not done, but after making each of my kids put in an hour of work on it, and I worked during those two hours plus another after they were done, I decided that was enough progress.

For Saturday and Sunday, my goal was to get some yarn spinning done. I'll post about that in my next blog entry.

More vacation pictures

I realized this morning that I have more pictures of our trip.

Here is the other picture of me and the kids in front of the dells:

And here is the one I did post (in both pictures Zack was being goofy but I've come to accept that's just the way he is):

This is the Wisconsin River where the Dells are, the unique thing about Dells is the layers of sandstone on the sides:

I wish I could have gotten pictures back in the river of the neat sandstone formations, but the jetboat ride we took was way to wet to take a camera with.

This is a picture of the Tour Boats. We took a jetboat that is only one level, goes faster in the water and everyone gets wet (perfect for active kid). The tour boats would be just right for the older quieter crowd:

I also wanted to add that this vacation was possible because of the generosity of Valerie and Dave who took care of our alpacas while we were gone ~ thanks guys!!

Friday, June 17, 2011


When you have an alpaca farm (or any farm for that matter) getting time away can be difficult to work out. This is the first year since we started our farm in 2007 that we took an actual family vacation. I don't remember that we took a vacation the summer of 2007, we didn't have our alpacas yet, but we were fixing up barns and putting in pasture, it was a very busy summer. In 2008, we took a few day trips to Lake Michigan. We were so excited about the new cria (alpaca babies) that going away wasn't in our plan. In 2009, our plan was to camp at a local campground (so we could come home everyday and keep on eye on the farm). But as the time got close, J hurt his back and couldn't sleep in a tent. So the kids and I slept in a tent on our land and we drove to the beach most days. Not exactly a get-a-way. The kids and I managed a weekend get-a-way to see my family in the Chicago area. We went for a weekend, but J stayed home to care for the farm. So, it wasn't really a family vacation. Last year, 2010, we used our trip to the National Alpaca Show as our family vacation. We did take the kids and spent some time in Fort Wayne, IN, having fun (we went to the zoo and did mini golf and so forth). The kids still felt they had missed out.

So we made a point to take a real vacation this year. We chose to take the kids to the Wisconsin Dells, where we stayed at the biggest waterpark we could find. There are lots of places to stay in the Dells. We were there in 2003, when Zack was a baby and Emma was 3 years old. Then we stayed in a quaint little hotel that only had a pool (for the Dells *only* a pool is a big differentiation since many hotels have water parks and/or amusement parks). We focused our time during that trip in 2003 on taking different boat rides through the Dells. We spent a day at Devils Lake (a place I camped at when I was a kid), and we spent a day riding a cute kids' train. This time we opted for a huge water park (there are 8 different water parks within the resort we stayed at). Both kids love water parks and water rides. While Emma likes roller coasters too, Zack does not (nor do I) so we didn't go to a place like that since half of us wouldn't enjoy that. But there certainly is a place to stay for whatever your family likes.

We stayed at the Glacier Lodge in the Wilderness Waterpark Resort. I didn't take a lot of pictures because most of the time was spent in the water parks. I'm not one of those parents that sit and watch their kids play, we are the type of parent that is in the water with them the entire time. No time to take pictures. Here is a picture of the entrance sign (I didn't have the kids get in the picture because this was taken the day we left and it was raining):

Since we were at the Dells, we did want to do a few local touristy things. No sense coming all this way and not at least seeing the Dells. So we did take a jetboat ride through the upper dells. Here we are standing with the river and Dells behind us:

Can you believe it, not only did we take a vacation, but there is a picture of me! I usually avoid pictures in every way possible.

Here is Zack in front of the river:

I didn't take any pictures on our speed boat ride because we knew from last time that you do get wet on this ride. I didn't even take the camera with me. Emma didn't believe us that you really would get wet, she was certainly pleasantly surprised.

We also went to a couple fun local restaurants. One night we ate dinner at the Moosejaw Pizza and Dells Brewing Co.. This is a restaurant that is built like a log cabin and has excellent food, they make their own beer and soda. Here are the kids with moose hats:

And we went to Paul Bunyan's Cook Shanty. They serve a family style meal set up like a lumberjack camp. Zack was very impressed with how tall Paul Bunyan was:

Zack wondered if Paul's bull, Babe, was like a blue eyed white alpaca (only a child who lives on an alpaca farm would wonder that!).

While we arrived home on Wednesday evening, I took the entire week off of work. I planned to get oh so much done at home, but that hasn't happened yet. There is still today and this weekend. I hope to weed our front flower beds and spin some yarn and ......

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Fiber Update: Spinning

I was so happy to be able to dig into some of the fresh fiber, shorn in May 2011. I had my pick of the bags :)

I snatched up some of Boppana's fiber.

Here is his fiber in a crimpy bundle (which is really hard to get a picture of):

Here is the fiber flicked:

And here it is in a strand of yarn on my spinning wheel:

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Fiber Update: Knitting

After I finally finished spinning that dreaded skein of white fiber, J quickly knit it into a baby/toddler hat (a mix of the white I just spun up and some rose grey yarn we had on hand):

Isn't is beautiful?!

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Cheyenne was born on May 17, 2011, and already seems like one of the herd.

It's interesting to watch how each female mothers their baby. We didn't know what to expect from Tehya, since Cheyenne was her first cria. Tehya's mother, Kateri, is a very doting mom who won't let anyone near her baby and won't let her baby wander too far away. We wondered if Tehya might be like that.

Tehya took to mothering right away. She had no issues with nursing. She seemed to know what her baby needed and tended to her easily. We do notice that Tehya and Cheyenne tend to sleep outside, when all the other ladies go into the barn to sleep. But other than that, Cheyenne is constantly around all the other ladies. Tehya hasn't kept her all to herself. Cheyenne will run and try to play with the other moms (who are not interested one bit). Cheyenne really wants a playmate. We are so happy Sancha finally had her baby so Cheyenne has someone to play with!

Here's Cheyenne at a three weeks old:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Our Peruvian Dark Thunder

Today, day 354, Sancha gave birth to our first cria from our male, SA Peruvian Greyt Exxpectations. We were very eager to see how Greyt's cria would turn out. We are very excited to say this cria is a mini of Greyt! It's hard to tell fiber characteristics on a newborn, but we can already see a lot of grey peeking through his dark brown fiber. He seems dense (it is hard to part his fiber to see his skin), with tons of curly cue fiber.

Birth stats:
18.8 pounds
Dark Rose grey!

This is actually the smallest cria we've had from Sancha, the other 3 she has had on our farm have been 20+ pounds. But birth weight really doesn't indicate full grown weight. And actually I like the smaller size adults anyway (which was one of the reasons we bred Sancha to Greyt, he's the smaller size I like).

It's a boy :) And he appears to be a dark rose grey. At first J was saying he was brown, but I could see the grey all over his legs and as his fiber is starting to dry, we can see grey on his back and neck, just like his sire. I can't get over how much he looks like his sire, SA Peruvian Greyt Exxpectations. One look at this boy and we knew we are going to repeat this breeding!

For Sancha's offspring we have used the theme of nature. We joked early on that if she had a dark boy we should name him Dark Thunder, since another boy we had from Sancha we named White Lightning. When this dark boy was born, we knew Dark Thunder fit, so we named him: Our Peruvian Dark Thunder.

Isn't he cute?!

Every time we have a birth on our farm, I marvel at how nature works. Sancha is an experienced mom, but still, it's so impressive how she knows what to do. She didn't read any books (though maybe the alpaca moms hold mom meetings in the barn and talk about parenting methods, but I sort of doubt it). After we weighed the little guy, Sancha walked him over into the shade, clucked at him and nuzzled him with her nose so that he would go to nurse. After she nursed him, she walked him over to the poop pile. There she pooped and he peed:

I'm so impressed, only a few hours old and already potty trained!

Mom shows lots of affection towards him:

Here he is next to Cheyenne (we just weighed Cheyenne today and she is 24 pounds, growing very well).
In this picture (from left to right) is Tehya, Cheyenne, Thunder and Sancha:

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


We have started breeding our open girls, Maddie, Latte, Jewel and Miss Kitty. Latte, Jewel and Miss Kitty came to us this past year open (not bred), and Maddie slipped her pregnancy last year (we discovered too late in the year to re-breed yet last year). Alpaca gestation on average is 350 days, pretty close to a year!! This means the girls we breed now will be due sometime late May 2012. Typically we have had girls due throughout the spring and summer (May through July). Though we would prefer to have them all due closer to the same time. That way when we are on cria watch, we can watch several at once. Now we watch one female, then weeks later another and so on. If we had more than one due right now, we could have sat home and watched Sancha all day Saturday, but had another one deliver. Since we do have two due in July, we rebred them about two weeks after they deliver so that means some will be due in July 2012, but for the ones we can, we'd like to coordinate due dates a little closer to each other.

This weekend we did three breedings:

Tucker to Latte

Greyt to Maddie

Tucker to Jewel (the newest girl on our farm)

Tehya delivered not too long ago, and should be ready to be bred again very soon. We didn't bred Miss Kitty yet either, so that breeding should be done soon too.

Our reasons for these breeding choices goes beyond the color of the alpaca. We look at all their qualities ~ micron, consistency of crimp, bundling, density, body style and so forth. It's exciting to think of the possibilities of what we can produce with each breeding choice.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Cria Watch

The fun part of cria watch is the day those new cria are born and you get to see this wonderful baby that you waited almost a year for!

The down side to cria watch is the waiting. And days like on Saturday, we were completely sure Sancha was in labor. She had all the classic signs. She was clearly uncomfortable. She wouldn't lay in the barn like she does every other day. She walked around and would pretend to nibble on hay, but we really just annoyed and agitated a lot. She squatted over the poop pile a few times and didn't produce any poop. We could see what we thought were contracts across her belly. I do have to say in the past I've seen contractions across their spine, I've never seen the kind we saw yesterday. She didn't have that cria yesterday, so she wasn't really in labor (false labor?). What we think happened is that the cria moved positions within her belly. She was uncomfortable. She was agitated. That cria was moving. But it wasn't eviction day.

During all this we canceled plans. We don't always do that when we think a female is in labor. Most of the time they deliver on their own and we don't have to be there. But given how agitated Sancha was, we were worried she was having difficulty and might need us there, so we stayed nearby (though often we sat inside the house so as to not agitate her further).

Since no cria was born, we have more days to look forward to where we could watch and wait and get all excited.... for nothing. It drives me crazy! But eventually that cria will have to be born, we will get to see this little one eventually.

Friday, June 3, 2011

July Cria

Our girls, Victoria and Kateri, are due in July.

Kateri will hit day 350 on July 12, 2011 (I couldn't get a full fleece picture of Kateri separated from the others so here she is with Victoria, Kateri is standing up, Victoria is cushed on the ground):

Kateri after shearing:

After shearing, we had a bit of a worry that Kateri might not have kept her pregnancy. We believe she is pregnant, but not 100% sure. Her belly just doesn't look clearly pregnant like Sancha and Victoria do. And we know in years past Kateri has had a very large cria belly.

Kateri is bred to Lightning. This will be Lightning's first cria. Kateri's color are brown and black (Bb). We don't know what Lightning's secondary color is. Both his parents are white, and he is white. There are no known cases of an alpaca having two white genes, so he got one of his parent's secondary color, either black from Sancha or fawn from his sire (I believe his sire has a fawn secondary color).

The color combinations could be:
Kateri (Bb) x Lighting (WF) = BW, BF, bW or bF
50% chance of white (BW and bW)
50% chance of fawn (BF or bF)

or Kateri (Bb) x Lightning (Wb) = BW, Bb, bW, or bb
50% chance of white (BW, bW)
25% chance of brown (Bb)
25% chance of black (bb)

If the cria is fawn, we know Lightning's secondary color is fawn, and if the cria is brown or black, we know his secondary color is black. If the cria is white, we still won't know his secondary color.

As for due dates, I've heard that females tend to deliever around the same day each year. This has not been true for Kateri, her due dates have varied greatly: day 360, 342, 338, and 351.

Victoria will hit day 350 on July 20, 2011:

Victoria shorn (she clearly has a cria belly, which given she is due last might not make sense that she shows more than the others. But, keep in mind that Victoria is a smaller alpaca. She runs around 120 pounds, when Snickers, for example, is closer to 200 pounds. Snickers has a lot more rom to hide that cria, whereas Victoria has no room to spare. Victoria has always had average size heathly cria with no birthing difficulties, so while she is a bit smaller, she's healthy and our best producer):

Victoria's past delieveries have all been fairly close to day 350: day 355, 347, 354, and 343 (that last one was a bit out of her typical range).

Victoria is bred to Georgio. I've written before that Victoria may have a dilution gene (I wrote more about that here). More recently we've thought that maybe Victoria's mother is diluted (exhibits a color lighter than would be genetically passed on), but Victoria might not be. (If her mother is really a brown with a black secondary color, Victoria could have gotten a brown gene from her mother, in which case Victoria is not diluted at all. We won't know this for sure unless she has a diluted cria). So far none of her cria have been a diluted down color. So for now, I will treat her as a brown with a black secondary color. If the cria is lighter than expected, then we will know she has a dilution gene, but until then we will assume dilution isn't part of the equation.

Victoria (Bb) x Georgio (Fb) = BF, Bb, bF, bb
50% chance of fawn (BF, bF)
25% chance of brown (Bb)
25% chance of black (bb)

Last year I posted some links to articles about alpaca color genetics. I will link to that post here. Anyone who is interested in this, I encourage you to look at all the links in that post.
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