The Latest Scoop
19 May 2013 – We have 7 different areas through which we rotate our group of female animals. Most of the girls do not care which field they are in but Ella, our llama, has strong preferences. There are some pastures that she is very unhappy in and will pace the fence line continuously until I let her out to graze alone in a different area.
Yesterday, Ella really wanted to go to the pasture at the far back end of the property. As rain was forecast, and the girls were newly-shorn, I wanted to keep them closer to the barn so when I went to turn them out, I opened up two areas in front of the barn – one area with excellent grass and another with very good grass.
Ella was not having any part of this – and to my surprise neither were the alpaca girls. They remained kushed in their dry lot area. Occasionally one or two of them would wander into the pasture and graze for a few minutes before returning to the “sit-down protest”. Ella continued to hang out at the gate closest to where she wanted to go.
This went on for over 3 hours. The girls would not go into the pasture to graze and remained kushed together in their dry lot area. I finally opened the lane - the girls all ran up the hill to the back pasture. Ella is old and unable to run very well but she appeared pleased with herself as she slowly made her way up the hill. She has learned the value of collective action – or should I say “inaction” - and I can't help but wonder what is next on her agenda.
21 April 2013 – This weekend is the Taos Fiber Marketplace. I would love to be there but the next best thing --- a number of my handmade products are there.
A big thank you to the great folks at Winter’s Hope Alpaca Ranch in Arroyo Seco, NM arranging for members of CIABA (Cottage Industry Alpaca Breeders Association) to take part in this.
25 March 2013 -Scenes from around the farm on this 6th day of spring.
The view from my back steps this morning.
Alder has had enough of winter and heads back into his cozy little hut.
Ella ventures out into the elements to eat her grain. She appears to have recovered from her SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) – she was spending long hours cushed in her stall, eating poorly, and just moping around in general on days when it has been overcast and cold. I think she is just sick of winter like the rest of us.
Jack watches it all from a safe distance.
M-O-Lee and Cynara enjoy breakfast on their cozy paneled porch.
Then later, M-O-Lee
find some sort of weird pleasure in eating snow off the fence. I never see them eat it from the ground.
We each enjoy the snow in our own individual ways ---I can appreciate the beauty of the day as surely this is our last snow of the season.
19 March 2013 – More snow! Alder and Acer look a little bedraggled with their wet topknots.
Usually they go into their shelter at the first sign of bad weather but they remained out in yesterday’s snow.
Yesterday started off raw and damp - and with snow in the forecast - Ella did not want to leave the barn. She remained cushed down in her corner of the stall all morning. I left the alpaca girls in as I knew that if they went out, Ella would go out with them, and I did not want her going out if she was cold.
In the early afternoon I fixed a large bowl of alfalfa for her. I keep bagged alfalfa on hand for those times when she seems to need a little extra boost. She rose to her feet and I turned out the girls.
While Ella readily followed them up to the pasture, she cushed down which indicated to me that she was cold, and when the first snowflake fell, Ella headed back to the barn, leaving the alpacas out in the field. I had left plenty of hay in the stall for her and she soon went inside to stay.
This morning, I was happy to see that she was up and on her feet when I entered the barn. But after eating her senior feed and a little more alfalfa, she cushed down in her corner – seemingly settled in for a while.
At her age slowing down is inevitably but I do hate to see it.
6 March 2013 – While there is much to like about our mid-Atlantic weather – four distinct seasons for one – we do have occasional episodes of intense weather. In the summer there will be day after day of unremitting heat and in the winter, day after day of below-freezing weather. Sometimes, while not excessive in temperature, the season simply goes on for too long. As with the days of summer, these days of winter are simply to be plowed through and endured. This was the view from my sunroom this morning.
The animals I am most concerned about are Ella, Acer and Alder. At 21, Ella is considered an aged llama. While I keep a close eye on her for signs of discomfort, and am quick to slip her a little extra of her special senior feed, I do worry about how she will manage the cold. Ella, as wise as always, has worked her own winter routine and looks out for herself. If she sees me anywhere near the barn, she will quietly slip away from the herd and come into the barn where she knows I am always quick to give her a handout.
In the late afternoon, the alpacas are accustomed to coming in around sundown for their evening feeding. Ella will come in a few minutes early in order to position herself for the night. She quickly eats her grain, then takes her place at the far end of the hay feeder, in the corner, next to the wall.
This is to reserve her place for the night. She sleeps in this corner, in the warmest part of the barn, where I have piled the straw bedding extra deep for her. Soon after eating a bit of hay, Ella kushes down into her place and this is where I will find her many hours later in the morning.
The remainder of the barn animals appear comfortable enough. We have the girls’ porch enclosed for the winter with panels of heavy plastic. This keeps out the prevailing winds and when the sun is out absorbs heat in the area. The other side of the barn has a southern exposure – the winter sun hits that side and warms it nicely.
Acer and Alder live away from the barn, up on a hill with a small 8 x 8 hut for shelter. Their hut is relatively cozy as it is partially insulated and just large enough for the two of them to sleep in. The main concern for them is seeing that they drink enough water. They need to drink a good amount in order to prevent kidney stones which can cause serious problems in male alpacas. As they do not have electricity to their shed, we must heat water twice a day to carry up to their shelter. When the temperatures are especially low, we take twice as much hot water up.
But, seeing the colors of the winter sunrise as I take the dogs on their morning walk, I have inspiration for my next batch of hand dyed yarn and I remind myself that all seasons have their joys as well as their challenges.
May you have a joyous holiday season and may the coming year bring you every happiness.
15 December 2012 - My knitters group met earlier this week. We meet once a month, gathering first for a pot luck lunch. We come from a variety of backgrounds and knitting experiences and our lunch menu is usually as varied as the group is. We always have a couple of salads and desserts – we eat healthy but do like our deserts. The other dishes are usually always vegetarian – a nod from the group to the dietary preferences of some of the members. I usually end up taking away more recipes than patterns from this monthly gathering.
After lunch we gather into a circle and settle into our projects. While most of the group chose to knit, there are those who work on other needlecraft projects – even mending and other light sewing. One of the members reads aloud a chapter from Zen and the Art of Knitting by Bernadette Murphy. We have been slowly making our way through this book – a chapter a month – with some time off when the book became temporarily misplaced! In this book, which I highly recommend, the author explores ways in which knitting brings calmness and peace into our lives. Listening to the reading while we knit is indeed a calming experience.
After the chapter of the month is read, our conversation resumes. I enjoy the comfort of this group. A member of one of my other fiber groups recently stated “I hate being in a group of cackling women!” This group does not cackle. We discuss a variety of topics and the conversation is respectful as we quietly click away with our knitting needles.
Sometimes just sitting quietly, enjoying being in the fellowship of others is enough – there is no sense of needing to join into the conversation in order to feel a part of this group of women who are united in our love of knitting.
Too soon, our time together is over – we gather up our supplies, say our goodbyes, and make our way off to the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives.
And I reflect upon how fortunate I am to have this circle of friendship in my life. And how fortunate I am to have discovered the Zen of knitting.
12 December 2012 - Cosmo is a bully. This unpleasant personality appears to be a family trait. His Mom Barbi, while sweet and accommodating with two-leggeds, is a real shrew towards the other girls. She fancies herself the Queen Bee of the barn and is always getting into spats – or should I saw “splats” as most often these tiffs end with splats of spit here and there.
Cosmo’s half sister Briza, like her Mom, can be nice when she wants to. She is always the first to come to the fence when a visitor is present and people are impressed by her friendliness. However, herd health is difficult at best with Briza. She hates having her toe nails clipped and we usually end up wearing some spit by the time we get to the last toe nail.
I am always trying to get Petey to stand up to Cosmo. I know, let them work it out among themselves – but Petey is such a sweetheart and I hate it when Cosmo is nasty towards him. Petey is gradually becoming more aggressive towards Cosmo and I was so happy to see that this morning, Petey and Jack had positioned themselves in front of the hay feeder in such a way that Cosmo could not get access to it. Cosmo looked totally bewildered. He is using to being the one that blocks the others’ access and now that the tables were turned, he did not know how to handle the situation.
When I checked back later, Cosmo was standing with the others at the hay feeder. But he was not eating. He had residuals of spit in his mouth so he had had bullied his way in.
When alpacas spit, it leaves a nasty taste in their mouths. You can always tell if an alpaca has recently been spitting as he will have his mouth hanging open to air it out and he will be reluctant to eat due to the foul taste.
So, poor Cosmo made his way to the hay rack but was not able to enjoy his breakfast until he aired out his mouth. Jack and Petey had obviously not been involved in spitting back at Cosmo as they were happily munching away while Cosmo stood at his place at the hay rack trying to air out his mouth before the others ate all the hay.
30 November 2012 – Our llama Ella, at 21, is a wise old girl.
This morning when I turned out the girls, they all went flying up the lane to their pasture. Right up the center of the lane where all the grass is worn down, where there is mud due to the recent snow, and piles of evidence of the horse having walked through earlier. They were slipping and sliding and splashing mud all over their lower legs and bellies.
Ella took her time. She stayed close to the fence line where there is still a thick bed of grass. She slowly made her way up the lane, watching where she placed her feet. She arrived at the pasture later than the alpaca girls – but just a short time later – and she arrived with clean feet, clean legs and a clean belly.
There is more than one moral to this tale!!
27 November 2012 - There is nothing like the first snow to make us realize that winter is fast coming on. Autumn has passed in a blur of fiber festivals and craft shows as I work hard to keep up with my fiber arts inventory. With two more shows to go (out of 14 this year) the end is in sight.
I have not written about the alpacas in a while. They are all doing well and appear healthy and in good shape going into winter. We worked hard on our pastures all summer so the alpacas should have decent grazing for a while yet.
We continue on a hiatus from breeding so we miss having crias around – it is such a joy to see them experience their first snow. However, due to the uncertainty of the alpaca breeding industry as a result of the economic downturns of the past few years, it makes financial sense for our farm to focus on the fiber aspects of the industry at this time. As I am on track to meet my financial goals for the year in regard to income from fiber, this has proved to be a prudent decision.
For the first time since we have owned her, M-O-Lee made it through the summer without some sort of gastric upset. Each summer, until this past one, M-O-Lee would have episodes of abdominal pain that became more severe each year. We were never sure what caused this, but have ruled out clover which would be the most obvious culprit.
M-O-Lee and Barbi continue with their frequent tiffs. When Barbi first came to our farm, she did not show any deference to M-O-Lee , the Barn Princess, and M-O-Lee has never gotten over it. Due to over-seeding in one of the pastures, access to the girls’ grazing areas is now through a narrow lane created by cattle panels. Going out to pasture is not problem. However, coming in at nightfall, Barbi and M-O-Lee each jockey to get to the head of the line.. As they go into the narrow lane, the lead alpaca (either Barbi or M-O-Lee) will stop dead in her tracks, blocking the path for the remainder of the girls. This causes quite a ruckus as the girls are anxious to go into the barn for their evening feed. Barbi and M-O-Lee start spitting at each other and the disruption goes right down the line until I barge through the logjam of alpacas and break it all up.
Recently Barbi pulled a new one. M-O-Lee was alone in a stall finishing up her AM feed. Barbi laid down on the porch across the entrance to the stall so that M-O-Lee could not get out. Poor Emmy was confused at first as this was a new trick on the part of Barbi. But she lifted her head, gave a little “air spit” and marched right over Barbi.
And so it goes