Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Alpacas in Smart Money!

So, you want to start an alpaca farm? This links to a story about starting a small business while keeping your "day job," and it includes a couple that started an alpaca farm while remaining teachers. It's what Charles and I did.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Evergreen Terrace's X-mas 2006

Hello everyone!

We've had a busy year, naturally, and it took a couple of interesting turns. We've have a pretty good year with the alpacas, artistic endeavors, website building, consulting and caring for family members.

First of all, Maren has been busy writing, but branched out this year into filmmaking as well. Maren and a friend made two short films together this year. One was a documentary about alpacas at the Heart of the Valley Alpaca show.

The alpacas are doing great. (Snowball is the Rudolf impersonator in the picture.) We have two adorable babies who were born at the end of the summer. They play together and are endlessly entertaining. The male, Willie, was born two weeks early, but he is robust now, and the color of a new penny. The girl, Lisa, was born a month later, and is a very light fawn.

We have had a productive year entering alpaca fleeces in fleece shows. Bart and Duffman have each won one fleece ribbon, but Milhouse has won two, including third place out of a class of fourteen in a spin-off competition. We are very proud.

We want to reiterate that everyone is welcome to come visit us on the ranch.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Charles, Maren, Tigger, the kitties, and the alpacas.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

November Updates and random photo

This is the random alpaca picture of the day. Milhouse was backlit nicely by the sunset in September.

It’s about time for us to spit-test and progesterone test Consuella. It has been three weeks since her last breeding with Barto. I hope that all tests show her to be solidly pregnant, but given the difficulty the pros at NWA had in finding her pregnancy last year, I’m fearful that she will be equally difficult to pin down this year.

In other news, the rains have come back and, despite our French drain, the barn still floods. However, we aren’t in the “water flowing through the barn” stage or the “water standing in the barn” yet as we were last year. We have some mud, and a pool of water where the clay floor of the barn is saturated with urine. The boys are a muddy mess. We have made progress, but it is still disheartening that there is still so much water in that stall.

Maybe we should build a dike next year.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Breeding updates

Cabernet has been confirmed pregnant with a progesterone test. Later on in the season, we may ultrasound her, but we didn't last year, so I don't think it is necessary.

Consuella's progesterone was so low that we decided to tease her again with Kuna. It could just be that she doesn't accept El Barto's authority yet, so to speak. He'll get more macho as he matures.

Anyway, Kuna was able to get Consuella down, and Bart was right there to finish the job (after 1/2 hour!). A few days later, we brought Kuna back to tease her again, and she spit and threw a fit. She did the same thing on Tuesday, so we're pretty sure she thinks she's pregnant. We'll tease her and do another progesterone test in a couple weeks to confirm it.

However, we won't be able to tease her with Kuna anymore. Polly was able to sell him to someone in Connecticut. He's leaving in a couple days. Polly is sad, but he'll be happy as a clam there with all sorts of girls to play with.

Our final bit of news is that Dawn is at NWA for her date with Pachacuti. This is a re-breeding because she lost her pregnancy sometime last spring. She was bred on Saturday, and spit off on Tuesday. They'll try again on Friday, but she may have taken on the first try this time. Keep your fingers crossed!

So, we may finally have everyone pregnant. Yippee!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

2006 Fiber Odyssey Spin-off ribbon

Milhouse won a ribbon!

Back in July I sent off 2 oz. of Milhouse's fleece to Idaho for this spin-off contest, and promptly forgot about it until I received this package in the mail today!

Milhouse won third place in the Fawns for his fleece, out of FOURTEEN entries! He lost the most points for lack of crimp and architecture in his fleece, but obviously, that isn't enough to hold back a nice yarn!

I'm so proud. :)


Friday, October 13, 2006


The Alpacamania show was October 7 and 8 in Medford, Oregon. I had never competed in a show besides Heart of the Valley, so I was eager to bring one of our animals to an outside show, plus I wanted to take Duffman to a show before the next HOTV in May when he will be 20 months old. I convinced Polly McCrea to send a couple of her animals along, too, so that we could split the price of a pen.

The animals we brought were: Duffman, our Hemingway grandson; Eli, Polly's Tocto son; and Montiero, Polly's black boy who won a ribbon at HOTV '06. We supposed that Montiero had a really good chance of winning a ribbon, Duffy had a chance if he had 2 testicles that day (since he had a habit of hiding one), and that Eli was just there for kicks.

It turns out that Eli, who was scared spitless the entire show, was the one who won a blue ribbon. The judge was very impressed with his "showmanship," which floored me. I didn't even think he was talking about us as he went on and on about how well this animal was showing, etc.

Duffy ended up with a fourth place ribbon out of four, even though his testicle was nowhere to be found. The judge was very kind about giving us a ribbon for what can be a disqualifying fault.

Monty didn't get a damned thing, which was the biggest surprise of the show. However, it was understandable. He was in a class of thirteen, all but two of which were older than he. They were all lovely, and the first and second places were won by near-two year olds. It was disappointing. However, I have never seen such a strong class of black animals.

We spent the time we weren't showing talking to people and handing out flyers for El Barto's stud services and Polly's retirement sale of alpacas and her ranch. (See her alpacanation [] site for more information.) I gave out all of Polly's flyers and I had to make more copies of ours since I left one at every stall at the show, and handed them out to people. We hope to get one or two breedings for Bart out of it (which would pay for the show, plus some), and maybe sell some of Polly's animals.

Plus, the show was lots of fun. :)

Barnyard surgery

Dawn isn't going to NWA this weekend because we had the huge, quarter-sized corn removed from her hind foot yesterday. The vet (and us) was eager to take off the corn because 1) it continued to grow, 2) Dawn isn't pregnant or lactating, 3) we weren't 100% sure it was a corn (read: we hoped it wasn't a tumor). So the vet sedated her, and removed it right there in the barnyard.

Now, my little brother is a surgery resident, and I'll bet he had never sutured something while kneeling in the gravel while shooing stray chickens away.

All went well, and Dawn is now sporting a pink bandaged leg.

This does complicate re-breeding her because, ideally, we'd keep her on our farm until the stitches are out...another 2 weeks. This presents two problem: 1) the stud we'd like to re-breed her to leaves at the end of October, and 2) the later we breed her, the more likely she'll have her baby after school starts.

So much for my well-thought-out plan for pre-school cria. :)

Dawn isn't pregnant

We had some disappointing news before I left for Alpacamania on Oct 5. We had a couple people look at Dawn and they confirmed our worst fear: Dawn isn't pregnant. I had been saying for some time that she wasn't big enough to be late-term, but I held out hope.

It turns out that Dawn is actually just fat. This is a first for her. We think she lost the baby when she was so sick in the spring with diarrhea,and she became so painfully thin. We changed her diet to a high-calorie, high-fat feed and put her on a daily diet of probiotics. That fattened her up, but it must have been after she lost the pregnancy.

The bad news is that we've lost a year of "production" out of her. The good news is that she is fat and happy and is in perfect condition to get pregnant. We're working out the details for when she can go back to NWA and see Pachacuti again sometime this month.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

El Barto does his job!

El Barto has done his job in one try!

The female we bred to El Barto, Consuella, has spit him off twice! This usually means that a female is pregnant! We will have her progesterone tested in a couple weeks to make sure.

This is good news because it shows that not only is El Barto a potent stud, but that he can "get the job done" in one try! This will be useful information to give people who'd like to use him as a mobile herdsire (the sale is still on, everyone!).

Friday, September 29, 2006

Still still waiting

We're on Day 16 of being over due, Dawn! It's time to have a baby so that Charles and I can get on with our lives!

So much for planning. We had it all worked out so that the critters would be done birthin' by the time school started. We also had it worked out so that the babies would be born within 2 weeks of each other so that we wouldn't be on cria watch forever.

Then Cabernet had her baby 2 weeks early and Dawn is working on 2 1/2 weeks late (so far). Consuella was two days late, which was basically right on time.

Alpacas are such contrary animals. Dawn keeps looking at us like, "What?" whenever we look at her through the binoculars from the kitchen. The baby is kicking and rolling around inside her and seems very interested in getting out.

Ugh, it's frustrating. But that is the way it goes.

I am now trying to plan what to do next weekend when we are going to Central Point, Oregon, for an alpaca show. If Dawn hasn't popped before then, we are going to have to make more arrangements than if she has had her baby. Hiring a farm sitter is much more expensive than having my mom come out to feed the critters at night. The farm sitter would have to sit at the farm and watch Dawn, assist during the potential birth and call the vet if necessary. It's more time consuming because she can't leave the farm at all before noon, and has to check on Dawn every couple hours after that.

Well, the good news is that the baby is still alive inside her, and she is healthy and happy (if pig-headedly stubborn and uncaring about how inconvenient she is).

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Still waiting on Dawn

Dawn is now eight days late. She's going to mess up our plans if she doesn't have her baby soon.

She has minimal udder development, but her hind-end is definitely relaxed (it jiggles when she walks). Her vulva is slightly larger, but not enough to scream "Today!" at me. She passed what we think was a mucus plug on Monday, but that can happen several days before actual birth.

We are planning on sneaking off to the coast on Saturday as my birthday present. It would suck mightily if we had to put that off because Dawn was still waiting to deliver. The weather is supposed to be perfect this weekend, and there are no guarantees about next weekend.

Plus, school starts on Monday, and I have to teach beginning at 10 am. This means that Charles would have to take care of things on Monday, were she to deliver. That isn't to say that he couldn't take care of things, but we would both prefer that both of us were there for the event.

The baby is kicking and thrashing about inside her, so we know it's alive and well. The baby isn't doing the creepy Aliens thing as Lisa was inside her momma, but it's still a little odd to see it writhing about in there.

Anyway, any day now we'll have another cria to coo over. I'm thinking I'd like to re-breed Dawn just a week earlier so that next year she won't bump up so close to the start of school.

We are planning a mobile breeding for Dawn at NWA, too, since she had that allergic reaction in August. We'd like to keep an eye on her. I think we'll be using their stud Impact this year.

That's all for now!

Link to Alumna profile

I had been looking for this since February when the article came out. I finally found it!

This is a link to the article published about me and our alpaca farm in the Mount Holyoke Alumna Quarterly. I was interviewed in September 2005.


Sunday, September 03, 2006

Little Lisa has arrived!

This is baby Lisa!

She the first female cria born on our ranch, so we are very excited!

We worked outside until 12:30 PM this morning. Consuella (mom) was acting normally. Her teats weren't any larger than they have been in the last week, she was eating fine, and her vulva wasn't any larger than it has been this week.

However, after we showered and had worked for a bit, Charles peeked out the window. He called to me, saying, "Hey, what's that next to Consuella?"

That something turned out to be little Lisa. Sneaky Consuella had delivered all by herself, without showing any signs of labor, hard or otherwise. In fact, if Lisa weren't white, Charles might have mistaken her for Willie and not said anything. Consuella certainly looked content and unconcerned.

We went to the pasture to take a look. Lisa popped up to standing and then tottered over to get a drink. She must have been less than half an hour old because she was still wet.

We decided to towel-dry her and dip her umbilical cord in iodine while we were in the pasture. This is a much more difficult feat than it was with Cabernet's baby because Consuella hates it when people touch her babies. She bites and spits, so one of us had to hold a towel up for protection while the other dove in and worked with the baby.

After a couple hours of quiet (away from boisterous Willie), we swapped pastures so that Willie and his mom could be in the barn and Lisa and her mom could be outside without being bounced. We hope that he will wear himself out running the fence so that when everyone is in the barn tonight, he won't have the energy to play too roughly. Otherwise, we might have to separate them in a separate stall.

Well, that was exciting! I'll get statistics and details for you later!


Thursday, August 31, 2006

Herdsire Stud fee sale!

El Barto
Introductory mobile stud fee special
Sliding scale $550-$950 until 1-1-07

This is our stud, El Barto. We are offering a fall 2006 sale for the first five breedings (total) on his stud fee for mobile breedings. We don't have the facililities for traditional breedings (we don't have a proper quarantine area), so this is our compromise.

El Barto has lovely, 19 micron fleece with high-frequency crimp. It is delicious to work with.

He is a Glacial Storm son and an Augustus grandson. He is also the son of our import Dawn who has incredible 22 micoron fleece at NINE years old.

Go to our website for details:

We'll go up to 100 miles for the cost of the breeding, and charge $.75 mile thereafter.


Still waiting on Consuella

Consuella is due tomorrow, but we've been watching her closely for the last two weeks. I have been sure that she was going to deliver a couple different times this week because of a couple things: 1) her udder is pretty full, although not engorged, and 2) the "alien" thing.

On Monday I noticed that something was moving under Consuella's tail. There was a bulge by her anus that was moving in and out. It was very creepy looking, but it was obviously the cria's feet. I thought, "Aha! The cria is in position and so Consuella is going to have her baby today!"

Not so.

I saw the feet again on Tuesday. "Surely today!" I thought. Nope.

We've seen the feet moving every day since, and Consuella still shows no signs of going into labor. She is very content to eat, chew her cud and look at us with her wise look, mildly puzzled by our attempts to look at her backside.

The best news out of all this is that there are feet in the birth canal. This is much better than any other single body part. I'm not even concerned whether they are front or back feet. Feet in the birth canal mean that we should have an uneventful birth (knock on wood).

Eventually, anyway.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Dawn Scare

We had a scare yesterday with our 10-year-old import, Dawn. At breakfast, she was normal, wolfing down her pellets, etc. When we got back outside to scoop poop, she was standing with her head down, drooling and coughing. She was obviously miserable.

I called another alpaca owner who has many more years of experience than we do and asked her what she thought we should do. We decided it was probably a case of "choke" where a blob of food gets caught in the esophogus and the alpaca tries to cough it up. You are supposed to massage the neck to see if there are any hard lumps and then try to break it up with your fingers. I tried this, but I couldn't feel any lumps.

We finally called the vet after about an hour of Dawn alternately coughing or standing very still going "uhn, uhn, uhn," and then holding her breath. The vet told us to get her into the barn where it was probably cooler (it got up to 94 yesterday).

By the time the vet arrived, Dawn was much worse. She had cushed down and was looking more and more depressed. The excitement of shooing her into the barn had caused another coughing fit and she was exhausted. She didn't even get up to get away from the vet, although she spent the entire visit with him screaming as only Dawn can (this made listening to her lungs difficult).

Dr. MacGuire heard fluid on her lungs and decided that perhaps she was having an allergic reaction to something. He gave her an antihistamine, a diuretic, and a tranquilizer that acted as a mild cough suppressant. Within five minutes she was breathing better, coughing less, and within an hour (after the vet had gone) she was up and eating.

We don't know what caused this reaction, but we have a syringe of antihistamine in the fridge from now in just in case. I'm thinking that she may have been stung by a bee or something.

It's the weirdest thing.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Alpaca comics

Check out our new gallery. Not only do we have pictures up on, but I have discovered another time-wasting device: a program called "Comic Life" which allows one to take photos or drawings and plop them into a comic format. It has automatic speech balloons. So fun!

I've posted the first alpaca comic, entitled "Pool Party!" Enjoy.


Friday, August 18, 2006

Mobile Breeding

We are going to try mobile breeding with El Barto. We are not really in a position to quarantine animals sent to us effectively, so we think that this is a good compromise. We can disinfect a trailer and get health certificates more easily than we can build a quarantine pasture.

This link is to Mike Safley's article on mobile breeding.


More baby pictures

He's so handsome!

Look at that bright fiber!

So content.

We are now over 26#, so he's put on ten pounds since he was born three weeks ago.

We are thinking of calling him "ETF G.K. Willie" for Grounds Keeper Willie on the Simpsons, the only character on that show that has red hair.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Flikr address

I'm lazy. I admit it. I am going to forgo re-vamping the photo gallery on our website in favor of using super-easy Flikr.

I've got some photos up already. Take a peek!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Cria update #3

Well, Cabernet's cria is 2 1/2 weeks old, 24# 4oz., and is acting like a normal cria. He is running laps around the pasture for the sheer joy of it. He's chewing on our pantslegs for the fun of it. And he's getting into trouble, like "bouncing" his mother and his aunties, again for the fun of it.

Polly (our alpaca friend) says he is a very lovely little boy, and shows signs of being herdsire quality. Yippee!

He is still unnamed, but Apu and G.K. Willie (for Grounds Keeper) are the front-runners for now. Willie is the only character on the Simpsons with red hair (besides Ron Howard).

In other news, we are going to take Duffman to his first show in October. We are also taking two of Polly's little boys since she is going to a wedding that weekend. See you at Alpacamania!


Friday, August 04, 2006

Another use for alpaca geldings?

Just in case you thought alpacas were all love and fuzz.


Cria update #2

It's been a tiring few days since our little baby boy was born. As we indicated before, he was two weeks preemie, so we had been administering TLC until yesterday. This included waking him up every two hours (during the day) and encouraging him to eat and milking his mother and squirting milk down his throat once or twice a day.

TLC seems to have worked! It took him until Thursday to begin acting like a normal baby alpaca; that is, doing some running, nibbling on leafy things, and going on exploration missions away from mom.

He was able to cush upright with his head up without shaking by Tuesday night. Before he would topple over and then just give up and sleep all stretched out. The vet was very worried when he saw the cria on Sunday because the baby was practically unresponsive until we walked up to him and picked him up.

Now the baby fights us when we pick him up instead of hanging limp. This makes it somewhat difficult to weigh him since he messes up the reading on the hanging scale when he kicks. We are certainly not complaining, though. Better to have an inaccurate weight due to kicking than an accurate reading due to lethargy!

I am no longer deeply worried about this little boy. I think he's going to make it. We still have a couple days of antibiotics to get through, but I am very pleased with his progress so far.

Now we just need a name!


Sunday, July 30, 2006

Cabernet cria update

Cria naptime

Here are the statistics:

Dam: Cabernet
time: 4:40 pm
time standing: 6:40 pm
time nursing: 7 pm
weight: approx 16# (our scale is inaccurate and our new scale hasn't arrived yet)

We called the vet this morning because the little guy just wasn't vigorous. Normally, crias are actually running around by the time they are a few hours old. This little guy is still tottering around unsteadily when he isn't sleeping in a coma-like state. The vet couldn't find anything obviously wrong with him, so he put him on a course of antibiotics just in case and give him his vaccines. If we're worried about him not eating enough we are supposed to milk (!) Cabernet (surprisingly, she lets us do this) and feed him with a syringe, but I think he's nursing enough that we won't actually need to do this.

Cabernet delivered this cria at 11 months, instead of 11 1/2 months, just as she has for the previous two crias. Also, like the last cria, she delivered this little guy in the evening, not the morning. She just has to be different, but at least we've identified a pattern.

We hope that a little extra nurturing will give the little (as yet unnamed) guy a chance to catch up. It's all we can do for now.

But he is extra cute. This picture is of him taking a nap on Charles's lap after we fed him some of his mom's milk with a syringe last night.


Saturday, July 29, 2006

Cabernet's Cria

Here he is!

Cabernet's cria arrived at 4:40 PM today, and weighs in at about 16 lbs.

More later. I'm sooo tired.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Four weeks to go!

Oh, so pregnant alpaca!

Cabernet is due in 4 weeks, August 13th. The last two years she's had her babies two weeks early, so we are going to begin watching next week, even though "cria watch" traditionally begins two weeks prior to the due date.

You can see in this picture how low she is carrying the baby. Usually, her tummy is tucked way up above her knee. It is now approaching her knee, and may be below her knee when she is close to her due-date.

So funny. So fat alpaca.


Thursday, July 06, 2006

Alpaca Wethers as livestock guardians
This article is about using alpaca wethers (gelded males) as livestock guardians in Australia. I had a phone call a few months ago from someone on the East coast asking about using alpacas as guardians because someone on her farm was afraid of llamas because of their size. I told her to buy two alpaca geldings and use them together as guardians.

The main problem with using alpacas as opposed to llamas as guardians is that alpacas are at a size disadvantage. However, most predators will back away from a challenge, and my alpacas (even my pregnant girls!) will challenge stray dogs and coyotes. The advantage may be in numbers, however. I still recommend that people get two alpacas because they don't seem to bond to other livestock the same way that llamas do and get lonely without another alpaca. However, according to the article, they still bond to the flock and will protect it.

I think this is a great use for gelded males who might not have the best fiber, especially the assertive ones. I am certainly going to use this article as a marketing tool for my fiber males.


Friday, June 30, 2006

Six weeks to go!

I will have pictures of the very pregnant Cabernet later this weekend. She is smuggling basketballs in that tummy, I swear.

Cabernet has had trouble with her last two babies so we have all our fingers and toes crossed for luck that she will carry this little one to term and deliver it without assistance. She deserves to be a mommy again.

That said, she is being a righteous b**** at the moment. She tries to steal food from the other girls and hogs the hay bin whenever she can. We try to excuse her by saying that she is pregnant and hot, but really, Cabernet just likes to be boss, and so she is bossy and demanding, even when she isn't pregnant.

I can't wait to have little cria bouncing around again! They are sooo frigging cute.

Pray for girls.


Friday, June 23, 2006

baby pool

How many alpacas can you fit into a baby pool?

I promised you pictures!

It hit about 80 degrees today, so I filled the baby pool. This is what happens when the girls hear the water against the plastic.

Spitting ensued shortly thereafter. Here's a shot of the "winner."

Dawn wins!

In other news, we are baby-sitting a due-any-second-now alpaca of Polly's because she is out of town overnight. There could be cria pictures this weekend! Or, we could just sit around and watch her play dead (like the alpacas previous posts).


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

shearing update

Quickly, the shearing went well on Saturday. As is typical, Dawn shreiked like a banshee (you think I'm exaggerating, don't you?) the whole time, and Consuella just accepted it.

The excitement came when we were shearing little Snowball, a.k.a. Ringo. He was cut by the shearers. He didn't even flinch, but the rest of us were very upset. We closed the wounds with superglue (it's what it was designed for, you know), and slathered triple antibiotic ointment on it. It is now healing fine.

I need to get an "after" picture of Snowball up. He looks even less like his "before" picture than the fuzzy alpacs do.

What happened to these 'pacas??

What happened to these alpacas?

Actually, they are sunbathing. The first couple times you see this out your window, you go rushing out thinking that they are dead. They sit up when you get close and look at you expectantly. "Well? What did you wake me up for?"

This also demonstrates what the weather is like here. We only have a few more hours of "Spring," which is nice because it has been rainy and cool here since one freak weekend in May when it hit 90 degrees. Now it is 70 degrees with the promise of summer-like 80s next week.

When it gets that warm, the alpacas seek out the shade. I also fill up the baby pool for them. They love that so much that they fight over it. I'll have picutures, I promise.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Pre-shearing Pictures

Snowball, a.k.a. "Ringo," pre-shearing

I'm just preparing for Saturday when our final three alpacas will be shorn. This is our only suri alpaca. Notice how his fleece is twisted and stringy, not fluffy like the other alpacas. This is a genetic variation that is actually a dominant gene, but suri alpacas were nearly wiped out by the Spanish sheep hundreds of years ago because they can't stand the cold as well as their huacaya cousins.

The other two to be shorn are Dawn and Consuella, both of who are due in September. This is a little late to shear them, but it is still a week earlier than we were going to shear them originally.

Alpaca pregnancies are a little delicate the first three months and the last three months of an 11 1/2 month term. They are pretty solid those middle six months, but immediately after breeding and approaching delivery, you don't want to stress the mammas. They can and do re-absorb pregnancies during the first three months and they can abort during the last three months. This means that we like to get stressful things like shots and shearing done in that six-month window, or do it between birth and re-breeding (about a 2 week window).

We're pushing it with Dawn and Consuella as they are due between 10 and 12 weeks from now. I think it will be okay, though, since both of them have had many unproblematic pregnancies.

However, I am going to be far more vigilant in the future to schedule shearing in May when all of the girls will still be in that six month "safe zone." I'll sleep better at night if I do.

In other news, Cabernet is due in eight weeks. This means that cria watch will begin approximately the last week of July. This might be a problem with filming the movie this summer, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

That's all for now.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Fleece show Update!

This is Duffman's Fleece. He won a 3rd place ribbon!

This is Milhouse's fleece. He won 2nd place!

This is our display. I shared with Polly from Fernhill Alpacas.

This is my entry in the fiber arts contest. I won 1st place!

It was a good show for ribbons, but I didn't sell a blamed thing. Oh well. I'll pick the fleeces and send them off for processing.

I'm thinking of using the black yarn from Tony for myself. I'm thinking shawl.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Skirting table

As you can tell, I've figured out how to post photos to this blog.

Above is a shot of my skirting table in our embarrassing skirting room (a.k.a. spare bedroom). Notice the TV where I can watch my "stories" as I mindlessly pick poop, vegetation and bib hair out of fleeces.

The skirting table is made out of hardware cloth and plastic pipe. I can send the plans along to anyone who wants a copy.

That's Milhouse's fleece on the table there (the naked critter in the previous blog). That is his blanket fiber, which we are entering in this weekend's Willamette Valley Alpaca Fleece Show

It is associated with the Scio Lamb and Wool Festival, which has a sheepdog trial, too. I'll be there with a booth with other fleeces for sale and some yarn.

I am entering El Barto's, Duffman's and Milhouse's fleeces for this year. Since we only had them sheared on 5/6, I've been picking these three fleeces pretty furiously. I should estimate how long it takes me to pick a show fleece someday. Usually, I spend a couple hours on each before I get disgusted and give up.

I've only got three more days (two really) before I have to turn the fleeces in.
back to work.


Monday, May 08, 2006

Saturday, May 06, 2006


Oh, my.

Alpacas do look silly when they've been shorn. Milhouse in particular looks ridiculous without his fluff.

It's a good thing their feelings aren't hurt when you laugh at them.

Or maybe they are hurt. They just look so sad when they are naked that it is difficult to tell how they feel.

hee hee hee

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Shearing in a week!

We have two shearing dates this year: May 5, and June something. This happened for a couple reasons:

1. Cabernet will be too close to her due-date to shear in June. She is due in August, and has had a history of having trouble in late-term pregnancy. We will be far more comfortable shearing her three months out than two months.

2. There is a fleece show in Scio, OR, the third week of May. I'd like to have the boys' fleeces for the show, but our original shear date wasn't until June. Polly is going to bring her boy over to be shorn for the show as well.

The bad news is that I haven't been working with Duffy on the halter nearly enough. I put one on him for the first time today. He was pretty good about it (Barto was, too, when he was a baby), but I need to work on Milhouse as well, especially since he was such a stinker at the show.

It will be a very interesting shearing because the shearer is going to use a table: This thing swings up vertically, then you strap the alpaca to it, then you flip it horizontal, then you shear them lying down. None of the animals have seen one of these before, I think. It will be weird. :)


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Heart of the Valley wrap-up

We didn't win any ribbons at the HOTV show.

However, we did have some good times, make a movie, and sell an alpaca. I have to say that it was a successful show!

Some friends of mine (all college professors or librarians) decided to enter a documentary film contest (I'll add the URL to the contest soon). The contest allowed competitions 4 1/2 days to make a 4-8 minute documentary, but they would give us a topic and a "theme" at the beginning of the contest to keep people from starting early. We brainstormed ideas before the contest, and I brought up the alpaca show. My friends love our critters, and we decided that, if we could, we would shoot the documentary at the HOTV show.

The topic turned out to be "sports" (if dog shows are a sport, so are alpaca shows!) and our theme was "freedom" (so we shot pictures of the critters running "free" across the field). The crew shot some footage at our farm the day before the show, took shots of us loading the boys up in the trailer and shots of the show set-up on Friday, and then spent most of Saturday at the show filming and interviewing people. They spent Sunday editing. I was still at the show.

They finished the film and mailed it off on Monday. I have a copy for ETF and one for WABA. I think the film is great. They focused on the fact that alpacas are "flight animals," and so this whole show thing is a little bit of a strain for them, and unnatural. I'll be showing the film at our WABA meeting on Thursday.

The other good news from the show is that we have sold Tony! If you remember, Tony is the replacement alpaca that the previous owners of Cabernet gave us when her baby died last year. Actually, we picked him up at last year's HOTV show! Anyway, the people who have bought him bought another male from another farm, too. They just wanted some pets for their kids. They have some land outside of Corvallis, and four little red-headed children. I think Tony made the sale when he let each of the kids (except the 2 year old) lead him around on a halter. He was so curious about them and gentle. I suspect he is going to be a 4-H project or something someday.

We didn't get as much money as we wanted for Tony, but I agreed to the price on the condition that we get this year's fiber off of him. They were perfectly happy to do that. The yarn we had made from last year's fleece was so nice that I have been looking forward to this year's fleece for a while.

So, it was a good show. Tony's sale just about covered our costs if we don't look at them too closely. Yay!

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Show List

We are preparing for the Heart of the Valley Show which begins on Friday. Just so you all know what's involved, here is my list of to-do's and don't-forgets for the show:

  • feed--hay, pellets, water bucket
  • grooming--whack-it
  • poop--small broom (better on the mats than a rake)
  • fiber for fleece show--picked and bagged
  • halters and leads
  • yarn (if it is back from the mill)--lables, reciepts, display, sacks
  • fiber for sale--lables
  • folding chairs, snacks, photo/ribbon album, corkboard (for display)
  • sheet protectors, information sheets on animals, zipties, banner, cards
  • showbooks (I made them this year)
  • decorations

We also have to arrange with another alpaca owner to take our alpacas to the show because both of us have final exams to give on Friday. Oh well.

Gotta go!

too much to do


Thursday, February 23, 2006

new WABA website

Charles and I are members of the Willamette Alpaca Breeders' Association or WABA. For the past six months or so, we have been members of the committed created to re-vamp the WABA website. We launched the new site on February 16. Take a look!

It was a lot of work, but I think the site looks really good. Also, check out the sales pages and herdsire pages. WABA members get to post their animals on these pages for no charge (beyond membership dues). Sweet deal, huh?


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

An Escape!

We have New Zealand fencing (posts with high-tension wires strung between) on our ranch for a couple reasons. First it is quite cheap compared to woven-wire fences and easy to install. Second, it was recommended to us by a large alpaca ranch. It can be electrified and is quite adequate for animals like alpacas which don't challenge fencing. It does come with a couple risks, however.

First, it is not for horses because they can get tangled in the wires, freak out, and do serious damage to themselves.

Second, alpacas can escape.

We have seen this escape three times, but I am convinced all three were accidental, and none of the alpacas involved actually know what happened. This is what I think has happened: The alpacas love to roll in the dirt (or mud, whatever), and in their vigorous rolling, they get their feet, then their heads outside of the fence so that when they stand, they are on the other side! They always seem as surprised as the rest of us when this happens.

Our biggest alpaca, Cabernet, has done this twice, and both times I'm sure it was accidental. The most recent escape was on SuperBowl Sunday, when Charles, my mother and I went outside during a commercial to put the alpacas to bed quickly. Naturally, that was when we discovered Cabernet on the wrong side of the fence, very much wanting to go into the barn to get her treats. We are fortunate that alpacas are very herd-oriented because I have no idea how long Cabernet had been outside the fence before we found her. If she were a horse, she could have been miles away by the time we noticed.

We finally caught her and put her away after only about ten minutes of chasing. Thank goodness we took the time to halter-train her!

We had heard stories about cria accidentally rolling out of New Zealand fencing, so our maternity pasture has 2x4 woven wire fencing. But we never thought a big alpaca could pull the same stunt!

This probably won't be a problem once we get the fence electrified. I suspect it will only take a couple zaps before all the alpacas avoid the fence completely. But take it from me, New Zealand fencing is not secure for alpacas. They can get out, and I wouldn't put it past a smart one to figure out how to do it if it happens to him once or twice.

That's all!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

We're famous, and we're upgrading

I am featured in this issue of the Mount Holyoke Quarterly with El Barto, our ribbon-winning alpaca! This is the link to the magazine, but the online version does not have the sidebars with the class notes, which is where my part is.

The sidebar feature talks about our little farm and how we became involved in alpacas. I was interviewed last September for this, but the magazine has only just come out. I have to say that I now hate the picture I sent them, but what are you going to do? Anway, I have had two responses since the magazine was mailed yesterday from other Holyokers who have alpacas or are going to get some soon! How fun!

In addition, I am finally upgrading our website so that it looks more professional. Partly this is because there will be more traffic on the site now that we have been featured in a national magaizne, partly because I am done tweaking it. If any of you find mistakes, please let me know a.s.a.p. I think I have checked all of the links, but I may have missed something. Check us out again at



Sunday, January 29, 2006


This is about the 40th day of straight rain here in Western Oregon. This means that the barn and pastures are simply flowing with water. The alpacas seem unaffected except that they spend more time in the barn when the rain is really coming down, and their fleece is simply a mess. The barn is flooded, so cleaning it is a soupy chore. We really really need to put a drain around the barn in the spring or summer to keep this from happening again.

Other than that, we are gearing up for the show coming in March. I am putting together the showbook for the Heart of the Valley Show on March 25 and 26, which happens to be the weekend after finals week this year. At least the show will be over before spring break so we could actually relax a little. We are taking Barto and Milhouse, but we may also bring Duffman, who will just be old enough to compete. I don't have his registration yet, and I can't enter him until I do, so we'll see. He has such gorgeous fleece.

Finally, I am finally putting together a lot of fleeces to be spun by Starcastle mill in Washington. I am picking the last of the fleeces, and I'll throw them into the mail when it is done. I am hoping to have the yarn back before the HOTV show! Wouldn't that be great? I am very very excited. :)


Thursday, January 19, 2006

Quarantine is over!

We have spent the last several weeks keeping the girls and the little boys separated from the big boys so that we can treat the recent additions for coccidia. We know that the places where the girls spent the fall had coccidia infections because either other animals were sick or Dawn was sick. On the advice of our vet, we kept a strict quarantine for two weeks (no sniffing, even) and treated for the coccidia for three.

Now everyone is well and we can put them into adjoining pens again. They like to sniff and say hi.

The stall the girls are in is still a soupy mess, but it is better than last winter. Also, they now have two stalls to roam in, so there is a dry spot for everyone to sleep on.

In other news, I am in the process of taking all the entries from 2005 and re-writing them into a book. That is a big enough project to keep me off of the streets for a while. :)


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Alpaca Breed Standard

I’m going to give my two cents about the idea of an American Alpaca Breed Standard. I’ve done a little research, and these are the conclusions I’ve come to.

First of all, I’m not sure that we need a breed standard. Breed standards are useful in dog shows because they need to ensure that their animals are pure. ARI registered alpacas in this country are all DNA tested and their parents are registered and have been DNA tested. There is no reason to question the “purity” of registered American alpacas.

Second, if we accept that the ultimate goal of alpaca breeding is to create animals that are conformationally healthy and will produce ample commercially viable fiber. It has been shown that great fiber can come from any phenotype. That is, some very ugly alpacas can produce some very great fiber. What this means is that a breed standard which focuses too much on aesthetics may not contribute to the breeding of great fiber animals.

Third, let’s say that AOBA adopts a breed standard that favors a certain phenotype: for giggles, let’s say that the alpaca standard calls for a long, goat-like beard. Very few alpacas would show this trait, but those that did would instantly increase in value. In addition, everyone would want to breed to these animals in order to get the genes for this beard-trait into his or her own herd. What this means is that, because of the demand for the genes of these rare animals, many animals would be born that would be very closely related to each other. Alpacas have a limited gene pool in the first place compared to say sheep or cattle, and further limited their genes would make them far more susceptible to disease. Cheetahs have been held up as and example of what can happen to species with limited gene pools. With our closed registry, it seems like a very bad idea to further limit our animals’ genetic diversity for purely aesthetic reasons.

Some breed standards that are based on aesthetics are harmful to breeds. Take, for instance, English bulldogs. English bulldogs have been bred to have such big heads that the animals cannot give birth naturally; they must have Caesarian sections. These animals cannot reproduce naturally because of an aesthetic trait that humans appreciate. This is a not-so-extreme example of how aesthetics can overshadow the useful traits of the animals involved.

Part of the fear that small farms have expressed about the breed standard is that large farms who have a “trademark” phenotype will try to get that phenotype written into the breed standard. All joking aside, let’s take the Accoyo head as an example. I must admit, I love the look of the Accoyo head, with the fuzzy cheeks and fluffy topknot. However, this is a phenotype. Don Carlos calls it his “trademark.” The fuzzy cheeks and fluffy topknot are not the sole indicators of an animal with dense, fine fleece. This is an aesthetic characteristic. Period. There are people who breed almost exclusively for this type-y head. But because their animals have fuzzy cheeks does not mean that they have animals with great fleece. If an Accoyo head become part of the breed standard, though, then those animals become more valuable, and other breeders are left out in the cold.

I have identified two pros. First, an alpaca breed standard could make judging at shows more uniform. With a clearly-written standard, animals would be judged based on the standard, not just compared to other animals in the ring. Also, a breed standard could be used as a tool for breeders to evaluate their own animals, or for buyers to evaluate animals they are considering buying.

Second, if we accept the thought that the goal of alpaca breeders is to create animals that have good, healthy conformation and can grow abundant fiber, then we can design an American Alpaca Breed Standard that is reasonable. The Canadian Alpaca Breed Standard is pretty bare-bones, but it is a good start. It simply gives a description of correct confirmation and fleece type. There are no aesthetic attributes.

All in all, I am opposed to any but the most basic of breed standards. We don’t need to define different breeds since we have only two very distinct varieties of animals, I think there is a high probability that aesthetic characteristics will become the focus of the standard, and limiting the already small gene-pool that we have is a dangerous thing. Those are my thoughts. Please see the websites listed below for further information on the Alpaca Breed Standard.


Canadian Breed Standard:
Comparative Analysis of Breed Standards:
Tears of an Alpaca: