Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Halter Training

All alpacas should be halter trained - the process of teaching them how to walk on a lead.  This is so important for their safety and for our safety.  We need to walk them on a lead to take them to the vet, to move them from pens, to do herd health, and if desired to take them to an alpaca show or event.  I have seen extremes either way, of farms that do not halter train and their alpacas are difficult to work with.  I have also seen the opposite extreme where alpacas are treated almost as animals that do tricks.  We try to keep a balance ~ allow them to still be alpacas with their herd, but also know that was can halter and lead them somewhere safely whenever needed.  Our goal is for them all of them to safely walk on lead.

In order to halter train it is very helpful to have a training buddy.  It's easiest to halter an alpaca if there are two human to get the halter on.  My halter training helper is my 10 year old son, Zack.  Zack is a creative guy and he often comes up with new and different halter training ideas. 

This past weekend Zack and I worked on halter training our 2012 cria.

Here is Berry:

While Berry did lots of pulling and trying to resist us, she was way more cooperative than Night, who decided to avoid us entirely:

Sorry Night but we've seen the drop to the ground thing before, been there, done that, and we still will get you halter trained.

Zack and I have a step method.

The first session is just getting the halter on and leaving it on for about 5 minutes.  We are there the entire time, but we may leave the alpaca on lead, tied to a post for that time.  We are always nearby so that there is no worry of harm to them (alpacas breath through their nose and if the halter isn't on exactly right it can cause breathing issues).  But, we find sometimes if we are too close they are so focused on resisting us they don't really get the idea to work with the halter.

At the end of those 5 minutes we will see if they will take a couple steps and if so, then end the session. 

Always end on a high note, this is so important.

I am so adamant about this there are times I tell the alpaca until they do something right, we are not ending this session.

The next session might be a repeat of the first session, depending on how they did during the first session, or we might move onto the next step.  The next step is getting them to walk in a circle.  This is the easiest next step because if they are standing and you pull them slightly to the side, they will feel off balance and take a step - that's when I get them, walking on the lead.   Some alpacas move right into walking on the lead, they just start walking.  Others feel you change to walking in a straight line and fall to the ground or pull back.  This means more circle training, then moving to walking in a line.

Sometimes each step takes several sessions, other times the first session they will walk in a straight line on the lead.  They all have different personalities and different willingness to cooperate.

Once we get them to walk in a straight line, then we start the next phase.  This next phase is getting them used to standing and being touched - essential for the show ring but also for herd health days and vet exams.   Alpacas do more standing on lead than walking so don't ever forget to practice standing (a step I missed the first couple years I halter trained).

Once they have walking in a line mastered and are used to standing and being touched and handled, then we move into the master stage.  This is where we walk them into unknown areas.  Zack and I will take a walk with them down the driveway, completely outside of their pasture.  This is where they really need to walk well and trust you in order to follow you.   We haven't practiced getting into and out of the trailer but last year Zack and I decided that we would add that step.

Of course each year we have a stubborn alpaca who needs extra attention in certain areas.  This is actually Zack's favorite part ~ coming up with new and different halter training ideas to work on a specific problem.  You have to get creative sometimes because they come up with some wacky stuff.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Cruise Ship

Not to make light of the recent cruise ship debacle, but, I have to say after hearing about that on the news, and then seeing my alpacas poop inside their barn, I couldn't help but say "they just think they are on a cruise ship."

So, the sled that for formerly known as the "poop sled" has been renamed the "Cruise Ship":

I have to say using a sled like this is the easiest way to clean up the paddocks and pastures in the winter.  It will slide over the snow and I can dump it onto our compost pile outside the pasture.  When the snow gets deep pushing a wheel barrow around gets really hard.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Another Skein

I finished this one last weekend, washed and ready:

It is a very long skein, almost 200 yards long.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Remember the Two Color Twist Yarn

We have been working on some products:

I love the subtle yet noticeable color combinations here.  The scarf is the plain white, but it doesn't seem plain when knit into a lacy pattern.  The hats are fawn color with just a touch of color twist at the end.  I love how that twist yarn adds just the right accent.

We have found with home spun alpaca yarn that the more simple the pattern the better.  Complicated patterns get lost on our homespun. I can knit cables and all those other things.  And in so many knit products those patterns look great!  But with my home spun, those patterns get lost.  So we stick with simple knitting patterns and let the yarn be all the character :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Last week I spun up some of Twilight's fiber.

Into the tumbler:

To spinning wheel:

To yarn:

Hanging dry by our fire place.

I measured this to be about 100 yards long ~ so added 100 yards to my yearly counter :)  giving me over 500 yards spun this year.

Monday, February 11, 2013


Smokey's Twilight was born on June 21, 2010. Her birth post is here.

It was clear at birth how much she looked like her mother :)

While we thought Twilight was cute and could see her fiber was better than her dams, we didn't really know what we had until we got her to a few shows.   Twilight rocked the show circut!!

Smokey's Twilight ~ Best of the US, 3/2011, Colubus OH (Level IV)

  Awards Received
1st - Best of the US, 3/2011, Columbus OH (Babs Manion) Level IV, Indefinite Dark class
3rd - Indiana Invitational, 4/2011, Ft. Wayne IN (David Barboza) Level IV, Silver Grey class (Darkest Grey in group)
1st - GMAF, 5/2011, Madison WI (Dawn Brooker) Level IV, Mixed Combined class (beat a white with a brown spot)
1st - MBS, 5/2011, Davisburg MI (Helen Humphreys) Level II, Silver Grey class
2nd - Best of US, 3/2012, Columbus OH (Wade Gease) Level IV
2nd - GMAF, 4/2012, Madison WI (Peter Kennedy) Level IV
2nd - Buckeye, 5/2012, Columbus OH (Peter Kennedy) Level IV

Her fiber is a treat to work with! It is soft, bright, shiny and a beautiful very dark silver grey color (the color really doesn't come through in this picture):

Now Twilight is ready to become a mom herself.  We can't wait to see what incredible offspring she will create.

Here she is today (she doesn't mind the snow at all ~ she has all that warm fiber :) ):

Friday, February 8, 2013

It is pretty

This morning in front of our farm:

The sun really will come out, tomorrow.

We shoveled paths from our door to the alpaca's fences.   The cats liked the paths:

And we shoveled around the hay bins:

The trees look pretty:

The alpacas all checking out their newly shoveled trails:

And the house dogs figuring out their trails:

12 inches

Looks like the snow has finally tapered off.

I cleaned off our patio table before this storm hit.   This morning I went out to measure how much we got:

That's a 12 inch ruler and the snow goes to the top.  I'm going to guess out there by the alpacas there are deeper spots and less deep spots (under the trees).  But overall 12 inches is a huge snowfall!

I took these pictures in the dark with my iphone, so not the best but I think you can get the idea.

Once the sun comes up we will head out there to dig out the paths for us and the alpacas to do chores.  I'll get more pictures then :) 

According to the news our official total was 14 inches of snow. I totally believe that!  While I did my own measuring of 12 inches on our patio table, it is a table where snow can fall off and blow away.  Either way it's a lot of snow!  

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Snow!! Snowpocalypse 2013

Night was enjoying the snow :)

So was Tehya

And Jewel - notice Zack in his orange jacket on the swingset:

We had a pre-snow storm from Wednesday night into Thursday morning.  That dumped about 3 inches on our farm.   Then around noon on Thursday the real snow storm started.  I took these pictures around 4 p.m., which they said would be the middle of the storm (meaning we have this much more to go yet!).

I cleared off this table last night before the pre-storm, so here is the accumlutation of the pre-snow storm and half way through the real snow storm:

It was at about half a milk jug.  I expect by morning it will be 3/4 of a milk jug deep.

I am predicting that by morning, I will be shoveling snow to get out my door.  I would say that farm chores will start with me shoveling trails before we can even start getting the animals food. 

The alpacas will hunker down during the storm.  Some of them choose to go inside the barn, others like to cush outside.  They will be toasty warm with their warm fiber. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Another Accent Skein

When I finished the suri skein, I noticed these two single strand balls on my fiber stand: 

Those "two color twist skeins" as accent yarn are very fun and addictive:

Completing this added another 28 yards to my 2013 spin meter :) 
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