August 10, 2009
Long before we knew we would raise alpacas, we purchased a parcel of vacant land in far northeastern Oklahoma where it is green and beautiful. We did not know why we bought it except that I come from an old Irish family and the thought of owning land was drummed into my very soul from the time I was very young. Add some friends who also bought land in the area and a rancher who would pay to use the property until I knew why I had wanted it so much and it was a done deal.
Flash forward five years to the present and we’ll cover everything else eventually. We, my husband and I have 10 suri alpacas agisted near Salt Lake City, Utah. Oh, yes, and the 11th is in utero and due in November. As our herd has grown from the initial purchase–three because you can’t just have one and while two was nice, there was a price break at three–we have come to realize we find alpacas to be cute, sweet, and a great source of fiber and prize ribbons.
We did the math and realized agisting (boarding) was going to become prohibitive by the end of next year. Our mentors have been wonderful but sooner or later, if you want to have first-hand contact with your alpacas, you need your own place to keep them and your own knowledge of how to care for them. If you have an urge to buy an alpaca, find someone you can talk with easily, who raises alpacas of their own, who is willing to teach (and a good teacher). They will sell you one or more and be your mentor.
So then we decided to build a shed on the property for storage, then a house. Some time this winter we hope to be able to take our alpacas to Utah and move into the house. (They, of course, will move into the barn.)
Wish us luck, we’ll keep you posted.
April 10, 2011
Coco Demonstrates Fantastic Luster
Finally a couple of pictures! Granted they are taken with my cell phone and it has a permanently clouded lens, but there is nothing that can hide just how gorgeous Coco is–and Carmel Sundae looks pretty good for six and a half years old too. Carmel’s most recent cria is Stagedoor Johnny who is a simply stunning and promising junior herdsire.
It ‘s amazing what a few weeks of great hay, extra grain, and a huge field of verdant grass can do. Everyone is packing on the pounds. Here is a photo of the alpacas in the new field.
The alpacas love their new field.
I had to lure the alpacas into the new field with grain. Carmel is the alpha female, so most of the other alpacas followed her as she followed me to the open gate. When we reached it I heard something similar to the sound a child makes at Christmas when it sees all of the presents spread under the tree. Gone were any thoughts about the grain as she dashed 15 feet into the field before suddenly stopping to eat–she was nearly run over by the others scrambling to get in too. There is plenty of room for all. I am going to move the boys over to the vacated girls fields where the grass is now running amok since it was had rain, warmth and sunshine and no one eating it. That will give the boys’ fields time to rest a bit before formal weaning. Many of the crias are already naturally weaned but a few are not above grabbing what they can get on the side.
Amber Rose and her Cria Samantha Before the Mad Dash
A couple of the alpacas had to be haltered and brought to the field. Amber was a skeptic. The former alpaca fields for the girls were two acres and one and one-half acres. This one is 15 acres and they love running and pronking in it. (The odd shape in the foreground is my finger.) We bring the girls into the paddocks at night, or should I say they bring themselves in and we shut the gates for added security. Now we have to get up extra early because they line up in the little one acre field by the gate just before dawn waiting to get into it. I love watching them as they graze in a herd, moving up and down the field and back and forth across it. We are all in love with the new field.
April 8, 2011
OK. The thermometer has officially hit 88 degrees and the real feel is 92. Just over two months ago it was 27 below zero with a nasty wind chill on top of that. Who would have imagined? We have not turned on the air conditioner because of ceiling fans and a gorgeous breeze. Because of Tom’s schedule we moved shearing to next week so today is a truly lazy day.
You may ask how the alpacas are taking the weather. They are out in their new field, some basking in the sunshine, some grazing on the lovely grass and some enjoying–shade. Yes, there are a few trees and a three-sided barn out there. The main water sources are closer in and I suppose we will have to run water out there eventually. Currently they just saunter in for a good, long cool drink before moseying out again. There is so much grass out there that they occasionally just cush and chew cud for a while.
I am setting up a hammock on the porch for easier viewing (if I don’t fall asleep.) Everything is simply gorgeous. If I could only find that camera cord or the one I bought when I couldn’t find it last time I’d show you. I think they are together in the same safe place. Does anyone know how to send a photo from my cell phone?
April 6, 2011
Maybe the 35 mile per hour gusts will blow the hay out of the fleece before shearing. It is windy again today and reminds me of a cruise Tom and I once took. He insisted on going up to the very bow where the wild wind made it impossible to speak. It’s difficult to believe that too much air can suck your breath away, but it can.
All of Oklahoma is under a burn ban and with wind like this it seems anything could burn. West of us there are fires–but far west so far. We see pictures on the news and smell whiffs of smoke on occasion and it is unnerving. We are a bit more fortunate than most of the state. This is Green Country and we have had rain. But I would not take bets on fires not catching given the right circumstances. The alpacas don’t seem worried and they seem to know about things long before we do.
I’m not going to write too much today. The new field will be ready in less than an hour and we’ll be letting the alpacas in shortly. The fence is not totally complete on the south side–there is fencing, just not the 5 foot no-climb I like so much. Since the field is somewhere around 12-15 acres, I don’t expect them to notice the fence at all, just all of the grass. They will only be allowed in the field when I am home and able to keep an eye open in that direction and they will be able to come into the barn at will. I don’t expect them to want to come in very soon.
I’ll get pictures and look for that camera cable. I promise.
April 5, 2011
If I had time I would be looking for my photo cord, but the truth is I just don’t. The alpacas are happily letting themselves in and out of the barn in the morning, but the boys didn’t want to stay out or use their three-sided shed last night, so today I had to do door duty for them. Last night was freezing cold but it is 10-15 degrees warmer in the barn this time of year and there is no wind chill. Yesterday we had gusts up to 40 mph but in the afternoon the wind stopped.
Tom and I were watching the news and I said, “What was that?” What it was, was no wind. It’s slated to start again later today. No matter really. The alpacas only mind it when it is cold and when it is warm the suri fleece lifts and they are air-conditioned. We should hit the sunny mid-60s later. The grass has greened up very nicely and with any luck we will get to open the new field this afternoon. They will have access to one of our little half-way house barns as well as the main barn for wind protection and shade and the new field has something else they have not been able to get near–up to this point: It has trees.
Oh, I almost forgot about the shearing in the title. We shear on Friday–how did I ever wind up with shearing on a Friday??? I think this means I have no helpers at all. I hope the shearer brings help. I am trying to concentrate on getting bags and labels and the CDT shots about half of the herd needs ready. We will also give vitamins and weigh both alpaca and fleece I am nervous. Last year’s shearers weren’t so wonderful. Read down in my blog history if you want to know how awful it was.
I feel as though I am going in for a new hairdo myself. I wonder if the shearer does people too. If he does a good job, I’ll ask. Oh, and if you’re in the vicinity come on by and I’ll put you to work.
April 4, 2011
The sun is rising earlier and earlier and so am I. Once upon a time in a prior life in Salt Lake City, I got up at 9:30 or 10 and it was the unusual day that saw me bathed, dressed and ready for the world before 11. Currently, wake-up is done by the sun at about 7 and I go out to check on the alpacas–half of the time still in my robe. For the most part, they aren’t up yet, just cushed and chewing cud. The looks I get! I sneak back out and wait until 8 before putting out hay and filling/cleaning water buckets.
My main purpose in their lives has become that I am SHE WHO GIVES GRAIN. I am convinced that they listen for the squeak from the front door (remind me to oil that) and recognize the sound since they look up and, if they see me, come running even from the farthest fields. I am an easy mark.
Saturday was an absolutely perfect day, the kind you would like to bottle and keep for emergencies. Sunday could only be described as hot–and sunny–and windy. We have had winds gusting up to 50 mph for a full 24 hours now. Welcome to Oklahoma “where the wind comes sweeping down the plain.” It should be here another day or two and then die down for a bit. Most of Oklahoma is dry, dry, dry, but we have had quite a bit of rain here in the far northeast Green Country. Our biggest worry is wind-driven fire across the prairie Possible thunderstorms are forecast every day this week, I think–a little frightening but so beautiful. We have cut the fields so there is not a lot to burn and more green grass.
I really am looking for my camera cords so I can begin including pictures again. If it stays not so very nice out I may have time to look… in the meantime, it’s a simply breathtakingly windy, glorious morning and it may freeze tonight and it will be in the 70s and 80s later in the week.
Excuse me–the alpacas and I have a plan to march up and down the fields and take a look at the big new field going in as I write–about 15 acres, I think (3 sides=1/2 mile of fencing.) I’m glad that I don’t have to try stretching fence myself today. This wind almost takes your breath away. There is an added bonus to all of this wind maybe? Maybe some of the vegetation and hay will blow out of the fleece before shearing on Friday.
April 2, 2011
After one tough, record-breaking winter we are crawling out to inspect the damage and to prepare for shearing–yes, shearing will be on April 8 this year.
We had not one but two “Storm of the Century” events that brought 14 inches of snow and a week later 27 inches of snow (our average yearly snowfall here is 8 inches), a record-setting 27 degrees below zero, and wind gusts around 30 mph. OK Mom Nature, we know you can surpass your own records after the driest, the coldest, the wettest, the hottest: Can we just be average for a bit?
In the midst of all of that on a cold, but sunny day I was on my way to try to help a friend’s llama that was down when I managed to totally roll and destroy my trusty Trail Blazer. When it was over, Spot (who had been sleeping in the back seat) and I were covered in soft dirt and basically OK. I got to go to the emergency room in an ambulance, had a flare-up of my RSD (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) and am still stiff and sore over three months later. I was scarcely able to move for weeks, but the call of the alpacas finally got me up and moving. They more than missed me–more on that at some later date.
Just now, I am going out to enjoy a sunny day in the 70s amongst my alpacas. They are so happy to see me that they come running even from the furthest fields. I find myself sneaking around, going out one of the other doors: Maybe I need a Halloween costume so they won’t know it’s me? Maybe I need to stop feeding special treats? I think I am just so happy to be a survivor that I have spoiled every one.
July 16, 2010
I just had an amazing experience. I always thought alpacas might be therapeutic but I had no idea. Tonight is one of my truly difficult times with compound regional pain syndrome and I went downstairs and just plain screamed. I didn’t want Tom to hear me. Rough.
While I was downstairs, screaming so loudly Tom could hear me upstairs, Carmel Sundae came to me. Alpacas like to stand at about arm’s length so you can’t touch them. Carmel came over and offered herself to me. She let me touch her bonnet, her baby, and anything else that amused me. There is nothing like the trust of something so soft that comes to you because you need it. I am truly blessed. I have a wonderful husband and alpacas that understand. Who would have ever thought.
July 11, 2010
It happened rather suddenly, really. Our house in Salt Lake City sold, Tom went there and supervised the packing and loading of our “stuff” and the rest of our Utah alpacas have hit the road for home. They (nine alpacas, five adult girls, three crias and one 14 month old boy)should arrive here shortly before midnight tonight, July 10, and the furniture should get here sometime on Tuesday.
Thus ends our Utah odyssey, a stay that only lasted long enough for us to enter the alpaca world with enough knowledge to get along and understand most of what we are doing.
Half of a double rainbow at Zena
At almost sunset, we seem to be in a rainbow continuum of some kind. In the past two weeks, we have seen two different sets of double rainbows. Perhaps this has a special meaning?
Stage Door Johnny and Rainbow
The only sad thing is that the second rainbow in both of these pictures, taken two weeks apart, didn’t show up very well.
June 19, 2010
Jeepers! It’s HOT! With crias on the ground and the weather in the mid-nineties and the humidity way up, we are counting our blessings that we built where we did. There is an almost constant breeze, frequently a wind, that blows up the ridge from the trees and keeps the barn lovely and cool. The insulation under the apartment and in the overhangs doesn’t hurt either. There is another benefit to living in air-conditioning over the barn.
In the meantime, the crias are growing by leaps and bounds.
Johnny is already 30 pounds and won’t be four weeks old until tomorrow. He already considers himself quite the macho guy. This is one fantastic young boy.
Cassandra is younger by far, but the two of them are starting to play under her mother’s watchful eye. Jenni doesn’t want Johnny to get too rough. She’s growing by about one-half pound every day, despite the heat. Jenni is a very good mother.
Cassandra is only a baby, after all. She looks like a little deer to me. She was born June 14.
June 15, 2010
What would make a person who likes to travel, who has trouble sitting in one spot, who seldom worries about much, who likes to sleep in get up at 6 a.m., and spend three weeks waiting and watching anxiously?
Spring crias. Finally they are here and I am once again breathing deeply and relaxing.
They are wonderful and their mothers have everything under control with little or no help from us. Two were born at Fox Run Suri Alpacas. Those were the easiest since Carla and Don Llewellyn did the watching and waiting and delivering like the experienced alpaca people they are. Carla was here for our first delivery at our ranch here in Zena, Oklahoma, and all Tom and I had to do with the last two was watch in amazement.
More details about our darlings is coming soon, but here are the photos–one birth to go.
Zena's Peruvian Accoyo Topaz
Zena's Peruvian Cullinan
Zena's Peruvian Stage Door Johnny
Zena's Peruvian ZephyrZena's Peruvian Cassandra still wet, but on the ground three weeks late
Zena's Peruvian Cassandra