Welcome Zena’s Stage Door Johnny-35 alpacas now

May 26, 2010

This has been an ultra-busy week. My mentor, Carla Llewellyn flew down from Wanship, UT, to help me get ready for three births. Only one of the girls obliged and delivered while she was here–but what a nice cria and what a textbook presentation! Our beautiful color champion Caramel Sundae presented us with an 18.2 pound white-faced, red brown Aspen Ace son who we named Zena’s Stage Door Johnny.

In 1968 or so, I won big-time betting on a horse by that name in the Preakness. In case anyone is wondering, a stage door johnny is the dapper young man who waits for starlets by a theatre’s back entrance. Johnny runs everywhere like a race horse and with his already gorgeous fleece he is sure to get those starlets to go with him. We own a half-interest in his full brother, but this boy may give him a run for the money.

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May 7, 2010
The Cria Demand Their Grain

The Cria Demand Their Grain

We are working, trying to get our ranch set up for our June 10 Grand Opening. The Grove Chamber of Commerce will host a ribbon cutting ceremony at 11 a.m. and we will be officially classified as one of Grand Lake’s official attractions. There are not the same event, but both are part of the promotion of an alpaca ranch. We plan to have a little shop with fleece, yarn, alpaca bears, and finished alpaca products. Whew! So much to do. Eventually we hope that most of the things we sell will be made from our our renewable alpaca fiber. We are biting purposely biting off more than we can chew, I think–but watch us grow.

Noah’s Ark Alpacas–two by two

May 5, 2010

We were blessed with six crias (baby alpacas) last year, a pair of white ones, a pair of brown ones, and a pair of ??? OK, that’s not a matched set. A little respite today before I go on and on about our new cria, born yesterday. Yes, the suspense is killing me too, but not all of the pictures and details are in yet so you’ll just have to wait like me.

Today, photos of last year’s crop of cuties before the onslaught of this year’s crias.

SkyKing and Cosette

SkyKing and Cosette

The black spot on King’s neck appears to be goop of some unknown origin and is not a sign of color genetics. There’s Starbuck in his genetics and Kotzebue is his sire. Mom is our multi Sonnet. Cosette is Montoyo’s daughter by our own multiple award winning Amber Rose.

Ezekiel (Zeke) and Tevilla

Ezekiel (Zeke) and Tevilla

Zeke is the son of Nomar, grandson of MacGyver and our Divinity and Tevilla is daughter of Kalvin and our own Dynasti.

Cruz and Drusilla

Cruz and Drusilla

Cruz is everyone’s favorite baby doll, personable and fond of petting. He’s a Nomar son, MacGyver grandson from our own Mindy May. Drusilla is a true black girl, also a Nomar daughter and MacGyver granddaughter. Mom is our Laguna by Brigadier.

There. I’ve finally given you a few photos to look at and enjoy. Time for me to go out and enjoy them in person. If you’re out our way, come on by.

Watching Alpacas–TV Broken

May 5, 2010

We bought a new RCA 32″ television in November from Walmart. The plate on the back says it was made in August 2009. In early March it decided we didn’t need a picture; last week it decided we didn’t need sound either. Now you may ask why we kept it around until the sound quit. Simple, we moved and I put the receipt in a “safe” place where Tom couldn’t lose it. The television didn’t move, I just came to join it and Tom in Oklahoma.

No matter, right? Walmart stands behind the things they sell. Wrong. We tried to exchange the television for a working model and were informed: 1) It was a DirectTV problem but they would not even test the set. 2) We had had the set for 93 days and their cut-off for returns was 90 days. No problem, right? They gave us a number for RCA so we could deal with them. Small problem though, the number doesn’t work and good luck finding a real person on the internet. So now we are down to the little ancient television in my office, the one that was old five years ago that we only brought to Oklahoma because it plays VHS tapes.

Once things calm down here, I expect to suddenly discover the receipt. In the meantime, does anyone have a contact for RCA? The good news is that since we can only watch the tv in the office, we no longer seem to need the new tv as much. The bad news is that I have missed American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, The Biggest Loser, and The Amazing Race and I think I may care a bit–just not enough to check on the internet to see how everyone is doing. So for this time being, at least, we are out hundreds of dollars.

In the meantime, there’s the Alpaca Network out the windows.

Alpaca Blog Update–About Comments on “Alpaca Sadness”

May 3, 2010

Thank you to everyone who took a peek and maybe shed a tear yesterday. 111 people clicked on “Alpaca Sadness” and made it the most read blog I have written by far. After sharing it, I felt reconnected with all that is good about people.

Several people commented, saying things that had never occurred to me as I wrote. “It is about the strength of mother love and appropriate that it was written just a bit before Mother’s Day.” Jesse would not leave her cria. She had carried it for ten months and she knew it was hers, alive or dead, for better or worse, forever, eventually she went on without it because there was nothing else she could do.

“It is about friendship and how girlfriends stick with you.” Thanks to Laguna and Tika. You go girls. When I watch the alpacas out in the fields, it is as though they were joined by some kind of invisible floss. They move in groups like ladies going to the powder room (or to the poop pile), hum to each other, watch out for each other, comfort one another. I guess friends are good no matter what your species. I am delighted to see that my beloved alpacas care about each other. For additional information on this, read my earlier blog about alpaca family groups.

“It’s life and death.” What can I say to expand on that? Life on a ranch is all about life and death and a connection to land, earth and sky and water and weather. It feels good to be here with the gentle, sweet alpacas. Even in sorrow we are truly blessed. As someone told me, it’s important to not pretend that there is never a tragedy and that bad things never happen. Life continues and is affirmed. We are expecting more 16 babies this year. I hope they are all strong and healthy. We will never forget that one.

Thanks to everyone. I’m working on a giveaway for my followers. Fleece, yarn, clothing? Something alpaca. We’d like to share our bounty with you. Watch this space.

Here Kitty, Kitty–waiting for Godot Alpaca

May 2, 2010

April 14 came and went. It’s been blustery, cold, and snowy up in Utah and Kaatakilla (named for the Incan moon goddess) was just not ready. We are still awaiting the birth of her full-Accoyo suri cria. Every day I think to myself, “O. K., today’s the day.” Now it is May 2 and still nothing. The little entity moves around and kicks poor Kat from the inside but refuses to arrive no matter how hard we wait and we still don’t know what color the nursery should be.

April in Utah this year seems to have meant no spring at all. Our house is still on the market and we are trying to decide if a new realtor is the answer or if the one-two punch of bad economy and nasty weather is somehow not his fault. Spring is here in Oklahoma, but not in Utah.

I hear that alpacas can “hold off” a pregnancy and I think I’m believing that’s true about now. Please Kat, one healthy, beautiful cria at your earliest convenience–a boy or girl would be just fine.

Oh, and for those of you who thought this blog would be about cats, here’s Bristol…

Bristol samples alpaca drinking water. Is it better than cat water?

Bristol samples alpaca drinking water. Is it better than cat drinking water?

Happier Alpacas

May 1, 2010

After our sad times, we are moving back into happy times. Two crias are due in Utah (yes, we still have alpacas there), three are due here in Oklahoma, and one is due in Michigan. We have a nice vet in place here and with the recent rain, the fields are green, green, green.

The house and barn look close together from this angle.

The house and barn look close together from this angle.

How do we raise alpacas? Do they take a lot of care? Our idea is to keep their environment as natural as possible but to supplement so they can add to their diet at will. Except for grain. Alpacas will eat grain until they burst, so we monitor their intake carefully.

We currently have four fields, about six acres, and four paddocks with four stalls currently set up in the barn. The alpacas can come and go within reason. On windy or rainy days I always say they are in and out like yo-yos (since they are not terribly fond of that weather. We were fortunate to miss the worst of the storms last night. Tornadoes, thunder, lightning–it all passed to our south and into Arkansas.

The crias try to decide if the grass is greener...

The crias try to decide if the grass is greener...

Usually Carmel Sundae leads the herd in and out. The girls in the next pasture over keep an eye on her for clues about potential danger and Carmel usually sleeps near the barn door in the paddock so she can keep an eye on everyone. I think Divinity misses Zeke, who is across the barn with the soon to be yearlings, so she is usually the first in and the last out. I would like move her in with Demelza her previous cria, but Divinity is a grain fiend and will keep everyone in Demi’s group away from the grain, frequently spitting a spray of that grain as a warning that she gets hers first.

I am wondering what will happen when Caramel Sundae has her cria next month. She will move away from the main herd for a short time and will then be in with the new moms. Can she lead from the sidelines?

Alpaca morning in Oklahoma

Alpaca morning in Oklahoma

Alpaca Sadness

April 30, 2010

A lot has happened since I last took blog in hand. We experienced one of the most horrific shearings I’ve ever heard of with shearers arriving after 9 p.m. It lasted until one-thirty a.m. and, sadly, three days later he had a still birth. While I might have blamed the shearers, given the events of that day, it was probably a blessing in disguise. The poor little one was an abomination far smaller than it should have been with sad little white glazed malformed eyes and a cleft palate.

Perhaps we should try to hide that the sad little creature was born and pretend it never happened, but even these small mistakes are a piece of the fabric of life.

I noticed that Jesse was missing from our daily grain feast and saw her alone, out in the field and my heart instantly knew something was wrong. She lay there three feet from her newborn cria, confused. She had never delivered a baby. It didn’t move, had never moved and would never move and she couldn’t leave it. I had been told by a friend not to suddenly remove a cria in this circumstance and stood back a bit waiting and uncertain of just what to do.

After a bit, two of the other girls, Laguna and Tika, came for her. In its own way, it was a beautiful thing. Jesse slowly got up and they escorted her quietly to the barn, one on either side. She did not look back. I quietly and respectfully removed the little creature from the rise in the field where it had been born. We buried it with its head facing west since the Indians say it is better when the Great Spirit comes for it. It was a very sad, yet awe-inspiring day.

Shearing Alpacas 101–past midnight

April 12, 2010

Ain’t life fun? Sometimes maybe not, but if it works out in the end???

We sheared alpacas Saturday night, or was it Sunday morning. Two days later we are all bleary-eyed except Tom, and maybe the shearers. The alpacas and I are still dazed.

Friday I picked hay, straw and all manner of stuff out of 26 fleeces. Saturday I did fine tuning picking. We had our helpers in place and we waited for the shearers to arrive in the afternoon as planned. 4 p.m., 5 p.m., 6p.m.–our volunteers started to leave. We sent our ranch helper home at 6:30 since she has a family and we fed our alpacas hay, which they promptly absorbed into their fleece by rolling and rolling and they spread it everywhere–so much for all of our work, and we don’t know yet what we will be able to salvage to show or sell.

People who know me from twitter are aware that I began dissolving sometime between 8 and 8:30. I called our alpaca shearing central and she tracked them down. It seems the farm/ranch before us had 46 alpacas instead of 23, so it took a little longer than planned. Our shearers arrived at approximately 9:10 p.m.! Only Tom and I were left–he was 9/10 asleep and I was a total basket case. The shearers wanted to get the shearing done. Somehow it was done, but I’m afraid to even look at the fleece and two days later I haven’t even entered it all into the record. Near the end Tom was reporting post-shearing weights that were higher than pre-shearing weights.

We did not get to give the post-shearing vitamins we had ready–no one to do that job was left. It was all we could do to identify who was being sheared and label the bags. So much for being prepared. People, please let the shearers know how many alpacas you have–the real number including any from neighboring ranches that you might have for them to do. There is no way to plan for something like this. We knew we would be later in the day, but we never planned for shearing past one a.m. The alpacas all screamed–it was past their bedtime and a couple were so groggy I was afraid they would never recover. …and we try so hard to keep stress to a minimum.

Still, they are shorn and it is done for a year. I’ll report on the fleece in my next blog.

The shearers were good and there were no nicks or cuts, but I suspect it will be next week before we know what the true effects of this nocturnal nightmare will be. Personally, I am trying to schedule time to be downright ill. Not a very good experience for our first shearing.

No pictures, sorry. No pre-shearing, full fleece photos for our website. Now excuse me, I’m going to faint. I’ll let you know if we have any fleece from our prize alpacas in a few days. The good news is that we are all still here.

Alpacas and the Business of Spring

April 7, 2010

Whoa! Time slips by quickly, doesn’t it? Saturday is our first shearing here at Zena. Spring=nude alpacas. There is some lovely fleece out there in the fields that I can’t wait to get my hands on–unfortunately there is a lot of hay in it and picking it out at this point seems to do little good since it magically reappears overnight.

The little ones are pretty much weaned and partly/mostly halter trained just in time for the business in store for us. Saturday is our big shearing day! I almost messed us up good and didn’t find a shearer to come. I had plenty of time and then I suddenly had no time. Fortunately we have been fit into a schedule. Shearing will happen in the evening on what should be a beautiful Saturday–or the crew may wait and do the deed early Monday morning. We are providing a place to sleep and a nice bathroom with shower.  🙂 The crew does not work on Sundays so we will be playing everything by ear.

I have been invited to speak about alpacas to a local woman’s club and we have had our first ranch visitors. We plan to be open for visitors several times a week–this is a big summer tourist area. The local Chamber of Commerce has announced that we are one of the area’s attractions and we had to put up a gate (before we even talked to the chamber) because we were having so many unannounced visitors. And here we thought we were so out of the way no one would ever come. Now we have to announce hours and everything. Come and visit if you’re out our way, far Northeastern Oklahoma–less than 25 miles to Kansas, Missouri or Arkansas.

There will be a grand opening for our business in June and by then, hopefully our shop will be in place. I owe all of you photos–now all I have to do is find my camera. So much to do!

Our first visitors came with their grandparents on a rainy, cold April day. Luckily we have a big barn and a heated office. The boys came to check them out and appointed Marti as their official spokes-alpaca. We will have another group of alpacas coming in June and have half a dozen babies (cria) due this spring.

Please call 804-389-2579 or email zenasurialpacas@gmail.com for information about tours, purchasing alpacas, alpaca products or agisting (boarding) alpacas.