Monday, March 28, 2005

Heart of the Valley Show

The Heart of the Valley Show (put on by our regional alpaca association WABA) is over, and we didn't win any ribbons. I'm not too surprised or disappointed. The judge was a huge fan of crimp, and El Barto isn't that crimpy yet. Barto was also the youngest animal in the ring and had not been shorn before, which made his fleece look different from the other animals. Plus, the class was so huge, they had to split it into two classes. It was a tough competition.

But I'm not bitter or making excuses. Really, I'm not.

Barto did beautifully in the ring, so I suppose all those early-morning training sessions paid off. He was relaxed, walked with his head up for the most part, and stood quietly. His two behavioral boo-boos were 1) he relieved himself in the ring and 2) he panicked when the judge grabbed his tail and then checked his fleece. At that point, Barto tried to cush, but I had him by the front end and the ring steward had him by the back, so we were suspending him in mid-air. Charles has a great picture of this which I'll try to get online soon for you.

The main point of the show for us was to schmooze with the public. We gave out a lot of business cards, and collected names of people who might be interested in some information I have or might want to come to visit the ranch. When we have our next open ranch/alpaca party, we'll invite those people, too.

I learned to spin at the show using my grandmother's Turkish drop spindle from a group of spinners who spent the whole show just above our stall. It was so much fun that I bought a roving from our friends at Alpacas at Lone Ranch, which the dog promptly claimed as a toy (it's salvageable). This summer, my grandmother will come up here for a visit and will teach me to spin using her old spinning wheel. I can't wait!

All in all, it was a good show. We were completely exhausted by Sunday night, and we went to bed at around 9:30. Spring quarter began today, so we started classes tired, and a little unprepared. I don't think we will go to any more alpaca shows during the school year, but there are plenty of summer shows. We will go to Heart of the Valley again next year because it should coincide with Spring Break again. Otherwise, it will be summer shows for us!

Monday, March 21, 2005

Having a new baby around is like...

Our cria has a name: Milhouse!

Yes, he is already Barto's best friend, and, typically, he runs to his mom when he's had enough of Barto's rough-housing.

When Milhouse was two hours old, he ran laps around the maternity pasture. We weren't surprised by this because he had been kicking Consuella from the inside mercilessly for about a month before he was born. This is a vigorous baby.

Milhouse, Consuella, and auntie Cabernet were confined to the maternity pasture--a smaller pasture with lots of trees and more secure fencing--for about two weeks for a couple reasons. First, we were concerned that a clumsy baby could get tangled in the New Zealand fencing we have up in the rest of the pastures. Second, Barto was too rough for a while; we wanted to make sure Milhouse could get away from him if necessary. Milhouse is actually more agile and light-footed than Barto is, so we don't have to worry anymore.

When he is out in a field, Milhouse thinks he is grazing. He takes mouthfuls of the little grass that we have, and seems to enjoy munching it. I am so new at this that I have no idea whether he is actually eating or just mimicking mommy at this point. Either way, he is awfully cute doing it. Now that he is in the big pasture with the other alpacas, the circles he runs around his momma are getting bigger and bigger. He is a very independent cria, and will often cush down 75 feet or more away from Consuella. His exploring has taken him much farther than that from her, but he makes a bee-line for her if he is ever frightened by something.

Charles and I are finding cria-watching more entertaining than TV. Alpaca watching has been a good hobby for us, but the baby has made the view out our breakfast nook window all that much cuter. Milhouse's dark eyes really stand out from his little golden head, and his ears always seem to be cocked at an adorable angle. I'd believe it if someone told me that there were cuter babies out there, but I'd need proof first.

The farm is really greening up. The "pastures" are beginning to show evidence of tiny shoots; they are far more evident outside of the alpaca pen. The cherry and apple trees are blooming and their branches have so many blossoms that they look like they've been strung with popcorn. The maples are showing signs of life, too, but so is the poison oak. This means that our stick picking will become more risky, as the new leaves of poison oak have the most oil on them.

This is spring break for WOU, so I'll try to write more this week than normal. We have the Heart of the Valley alpaca show coming up on Saturday and Sunday, so I'll fill you in on our preparations for it.


Wednesday, March 09, 2005

New and improved website and More Pictures

Below is the link to the new and improved version of our farm website.

And, of course, we took more pictures of the baby yesterday. Here he is all dry and fluffy.

Click on 3-8 for the most recent pictures.



Tuesday, March 08, 2005


The newest addition to our alpaca farm is here!

Click here for pictures:

This time, everything was text-book perfect. We noticed that Consuella looked like she was in labor when we went out to the barn to give the alpacas breakfast. First, Consuella made a bee-line for the poop pile instead of munching on hay for an hour or so in the barn as usual. Then she lay down, stood up, and lay down again on one hip and looked uncomfortable. Then she went back to the poop pile.

Charles and I went back into the house at this point because there was nothing more for us to do. We also assumed that if Consuella was actually in labor, she would be in labor for about an hour. Not so! By the time I was out of the shower, Charles said, “Hey, there’s something hanging out of her butt!” By the time I threw on some clothes and grabbed the camera, the little critter was half-way out.

Consuella was in observed labor for only about 35 minutes. The cria stood up after 50 minutes, and immediately started to nurse. He was running laps around the pasture at two hours old, which isn't surprising given how much he kicked while he was still inside Consuella.

The baby is a beautiful golden-colored boy, the spitting image of his father, Tocto. We haven’t decided on a name yet, but we are trying to keep things on a Simpsons theme. Ralphie, Milhouse, and Nelson have been suggested.

It is so nice to have a normal, healthy cria that plays and runs around. The cria that died last month didn't have the energy to do so, but because we didn't have any experience with normal babies, we didn't know he wasn't normal. This one is full of beans.

Hooray! I’m so relieved and happy. Now we can focus our attention on getting El Barto ready for the show in two weeks.


Friday, March 04, 2005 and "Cria Watch"

I've been avoiding grading by trying to post our website this morning. The result is the inaugural page for Currently, it has one picture of two alpacas and a link to this blog, but very soon it will have a sales list, etc.

Today Charles has flown off to a wedding in the Bay Area, so I am obliged to stay on the ranch on cria watch. Consuella is now due in one week exactly, which means she could drop her baby at any time. Nine times out of ten, this happens quickly and without human intervention, but those one out of ten times, someone has got to be there to help. That's me this weekend!

Cria watch consists of somebody (me, my husband, or my mother) lounging around the house doing whatever work or television watching we need to do with a leisurely stroll to the window once an hour or so. We watch Consuella to see if she is doing anything unusual like rolling a lot, cushing strangely, squatting at the poop pile with no "results," and the like. The only unusual behavior she's been exhibiting, however, is general bitchiness. She reportedly spent Wednesday chasing the other alpacas around the pasture in a fit of crabbiness. I suspect she doesn't feel very comfortable because she had been a demure, sweet alpaca up until then.

Eventually, she will show some signs of labor and I am hopeful that she will have an uneventful birth. Until then, someone will be checking on her during daylight hours.

Off to the window!