A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

August 11, 2009

We Have Ribbons

Our Latest Ribbons From The AFCNA Continental Fleece Show

Our Latest Ribbons From The AFCNA Continental Fleece Show

 

Last Thursday we received a delivery via FedEx – our fleeces that we had submitted to the AFCNA Continental Fleece Show.

 

We were surprised to see our fleeces back so soon after the show, the show had concluded the Sunday before and sometimes it takes while for fleeces to be shipped back to their owners following a show.

 

It is always an exciting moment when you open your box of fleeces wondering if you have won ribbons and for us the answer was yes!

 

Our Windrush Zindel’s Atlas had placed 1st in his class and our Windrush White Blast placed 6th in his class. Unfortunately there were only four entries in Atlas’s class, Atlas has a gorgeous fleece and while we were happy to receive our blue ribbon it would have been good to see how he would do against more competition.

 

Blast’s fleece definitely had competition as he was 6th out of 15 in the ever competitive white classes. I had not been happy with Blast’s fleece when I sent it in as it had become tangled up prior to my skirting it. I didn’t feel that it looked as good as it could do, so I am happy to know that Blast’s fleece placed in a large class despite the mess it was in!

 

I don’t know if I will show Blast’s fleece again, it will depend on how it looks when I take it out of the bag. Maybe I will have got lucky and the fleece show volunteers were able to do a better job of straightening it out than I did! Atlas’s fleece will definitely be shown again.

 

Blast (Left), Biscotti (Center) and Atlas (Right) enjoy some hay, oblivious to Atlas and Blast's latest accomplishments

Blast (Left), Biscotti (Center) and Atlas (Right) enjoy some hay, oblivious to Atlas and Blast's latest accomplishments

So our two up and coming junior herdsires have some more credentials behind them. Atlas at just over a year old is not ready to breed yet, but we have some good news on Blast. It looks as if Blast has got a female pregnant at his first breeding attempt. We still have to confirm the pregnancy by ultrasound, but Dona is spitting hard and fast at any males that come near her so we are pretty confident she is pregnant. How exciting – now all we have to do is wait the 11 ½ months or so for the cria to be born, but if this year is anything to go by the time will go by in a flash!

 

Rosemary

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July 23, 2009

To The Fleece Show We Go

 

 Well not us, but two of our fleeces headed off to the AFCNA Continental Fleece Show this afternoon.

 

If truth be known the fleeces probably should have left earlier, they will still arrive at the show with a day or two to spare but I hate taking a chance on something going wrong with the transportation and the fleeces arriving late. Also having been a fleece show superintendent myself I understand how nice it is to receive entries and fleeces well in advance of the show. (My apologies to all involved with the AFCNA Continental Fleece Show this year!).

 

So which fleeces did we send? After some discussion we settled on Windrush White Blast and Windrush Zindel’s Atlas.

 

White Blast did really well in fleece shows last year winning the white color champion at the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular against some stiff competition. Blast has a beautiful fleece with tiny micro bundles, high frequency crimp, superb brightness and a soft, soft hand.

 

When I went to prepare Blast’s fleece for the show I discovered that it had somehow become entangled within the bag and it took me a while to sort it out. That doesn’t happen often but when it does it is quite a challenge to unravel the puzzle of which piece of fleece needs to be turned in which direction. I had one heart stopping moment when I wondered if the fleece I had prepared was Blast’s 2008 fleece which had already been shown several times. That would have explained the twisting but would also have meant I had wasted my time and would have to start over on the 2009 fleece. I checked the fleece bag and “phew” the bag was marked Blast 2009! I did my best with Blast’s fleece but with it having become twisted I wonder if the judge will stumble across a piece of fleece that should have been skirted out. I wouldn’t’ be surprised if I get the “needs more skirting” comment on my scorecard.

 

Atlas did well in his first year of halter shows and this shearing was his first. Atlas also has a beautiful fleece in a bronzed light brown color. Atlas is really consistent with his fleece, with his crimp style extending all the way down to his belly and upper legs. Like Blast Atlas has a super bright fleece with high frequency crimp micro bundles. Atlas’s fleece was thankfully not tangled and so skirting it was a little easier, although I did start to wonder who allowed him to roll in the straw before shearing!

 

With the fleeces on the way to the show, now I can sit back and wait for the results. The really nice thing about this particular show is that you also get a DVD of the judges oral reasons on each class and of the seminars held at the show. If your fleece places, you get to see and hear the judges comments about it, which is great fun and a good addition to your herd records.

 

If you are thinking that you missed a great opportunity to show fleeces in the AFCNA Show then think again. The show deadline has been extended and late fees waived. Go to http://www.alpacawebsite.com/ for more information and then get your fleeces on the way to the show!

 

Rosemary

April 27, 2009

It’s a Start

Geraint - nicely shorn for the summer

Geraint - nicely shorn for the summer

 

Saturday found us making a start on shearing.  We didn’t plan on doing the majority of the herd, we just wanted to do a few to help Ric get back into shearing mode and make sure that our set up was good for when we do a larger shearing day.

 

Things went well, the pace was not a fast one and neither had we intended it to be.  One of the advantages of shearing your own alpacas is that you can set your own pace.  In past years when we have contracted a shearer to shear the herd, the pace of shearing was dictated by the need to get all the alpacas shorn before the shearer stopped at the end of the day.  Granted professional shearers are much faster at shearing than Ric is (they’ve had a lot more practice over the years), but we still had to keep things moving at a pretty good pace to get all the shearing done by the end of the day.  On Saturday we took our time and at the end of the day we still had calm alpacas and calm humans.

 

The pace of our next shearing will be a little faster, but we would rather take our time and do a good job than rush things and make a mess.  Believe me you can really make a mess with a novice shearer and a pair of electric shears.

 

Rascal, Echo, Zeus, Geraint and Orchid now sport their new sleek summer look.   We could feel how warm they were when we sheared them and I am sure that they are enjoying being cooler.

 

Surprisingly our fleeces were not as sand laden as we thought they might be.  The wind has been blowing frequently and hard for several months now and we were sure that out fine red dirt would have found its way into the fleeces but that was not the case.  There was some dirt, but nothing like a couple of years ago when little piles of sand accumulated on the shearing mats from each alpaca we sheared.  We did vacuum out our alpacas before shearing this year, so maybe that helped some.  Whatever the reason the lack of dirt helped our blades on our shears to keep going longer and made for cleaner fleeces to be sent to processing.

 

The majority of our fleeces I will have sorted by Troy Ogilvie of Timber Lodge Alpacas, who is a client of ours and also an apprentice fiber sorter.  The fleeces from Saturday’s shearing will have to be sorted from the bag when Troy arrives for our next shearing day, but those fleeces that are shorn on our next shearing day will be sorted and graded as they come off the alpacas and then the various grades will be ready to go to the Regional Collection Facility for the North American Alpaca Fiber (NAAFP) Co-op.  Sheared, sorted and shipped – that’s the way to deal with your fleeces!

 

While the majority of our fleeces will go to the NAAFP Co-op, we will also be sending some fleece to the Alpaca Fiber Coop of North America (AFCNA), the Alpaca Blanket Project, the New England Alpaca Fiber Pool (NEAFP) and then of course there will be some fleeces kept for showing and for my own fiber projects.

 

We still have close to fifty alpacas left to shear, but at least we have made a start and have put ourselves in a shearing frame of mind.

 

Rosemary

February 21, 2009

Alpaca Fiber – Today, Tomorrow and Beyond

That’s the theme for the Alpaca Fiber Symposium, which will be held April 3, 4 and 5 at Gaston College Textile Center in Belmont, North Carolina.

 

I love the theme for this Symposium as it expresses how far we have come with the focus on the fiber side of the alpaca industry.   When the alpaca industry was first established in the US the focus was definitely on breeding stock with little to no attention being given to the fiber side of the industry.  At that time alpaca breeders were interested in growing and improving the national herd.

 

Over the years we have witnessed the gradual change of focus within the alpaca industry.  The focus on improving and development of the national herd is still there, but now as the numbers of both alpaca breeders and alpacas in the US swells more attention has been given to the fiber side of the industry, and quite rightly so.

 

We are often asked by people researching the alpaca industry if it is going to follow the direction of the llama, emu and ostrich industries, all of which eventually collapsed causing the pricing of llama, emu and ostrich to bottom out.

 

My answer to that question is that the alpaca industry has studied what happened in the llama, emu and ostrich industries, learned from their mistakes and taken steps to ensure that the alpaca industry does not follow suit.  One of the biggest steps that has been taken is the development of the alpaca fiber industry. 

 

In any livestock business you have to have a purpose and an end product to market and sell.  While alpacas themselves could be considered an end product, the real end product of the alpaca industry lies in the beautiful fleece our alpacas produce year after year.

 

It’s not been an easy path, there have been mistakes along the way, no doubt there will be more mistakes in the future, but gradually the alpaca industry has put more attention on the fiber side of the business, developing product, improving processing techniques and educating consumers in the wonders of alpaca products and the availability of alpaca products made from North American alpaca fiber.

 

The Alpaca Fiber Symposium has a variety presenters including the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association (AOBA), The Alpaca Fiber Cooperative of North American (AFCNA), The Alpaca Blanket Project, North American Alpaca Fiber Producers (NAAFP) and more.  Keynote speakers will be Dean Godfrey of North Carolina University’s College of Textiles and John Anderson, the Director of the Textile Center at Gaston College, Belmont, North Carolina.

 

To me this is an exciting time in the world of alpacas, there are many things going on behind the scenes to develop and promote North American alpaca fiber and the products that can be made from alpaca fiber.  Where once it was said that there was not enough alpaca fiber in the US to run commercial mills, we now have commercial mills producing runs of product made of alpaca fiber and that, to me, is a significant step for the alpaca fiber industry. 

 

Many of the people involved in this development have devoted numerous hours of their time to ensure the future success of the alpaca fiber industry, a subject that they are passionate about.  Several of those “alpaca fiber pioneers” will be at or represented at the Alpaca Fiber Symposium where they will get the chance to share news of their efforts with attendees.

 

The Alpaca Fiber Symposium promises to be an interesting event, not only for alpaca breeders new and old but also for those contemplating purchasing alpacas who want a more in depth explanation of the history of the development of the alpaca fiber industry and where the future lies for the alpaca fiber industry.

 

Rosemary

August 9, 2008

The Fleeces Are Back – With Ribbons

Winning Fleeces - Blast and Velvet

Winning Fleeces - Blast and Velvet

 

 

 

Thursday saw the arrival of the FedEx van and the return of the fleeces we sent in to the AFCNA Continental Fleece Show.

 

One of the fun things about mail in fleece shows is the moment when you open your box and discover if your fleeces have won ribbons – it’s a little bit like opening a Christmas or birthday gift, except sometimes you experience a little disappointment if your fleeces have not won anything.  Still with a fleece show you at least get the scorecard in with the fleece showing you how your fleece scored in the various areas (fineness, handle, uniformity of micron/length/color, crimp style, staple type/density, brightness, lack of medullation, lack of impurities/stain/damage and fleece weight) and any comments from the judges.

 

So how did our fleeces do?  No firsts or seconds I am afraid, but we did get ribbons.  A 4th place for Velvet and a 5 th place for White Blast.  Not too shabby for a large show with over 300 entries.

 

Velvet’s fleece had been moved from the dark fawn class to the light brown class.  This is not the first time that has happened to Velvet.  Her color is between the two shades and we have found that it depends on the lighting at the facility as to which color designation she is given.  Having the vicuna shading (graduating from dark on her back to lighter fleece toward her belly) Velvet is always at a little bit of a disadvantage when compared to a solid brown or solid fawn alpaca.  When I skirt her fleece to prepare it for showing I end up removing all of the lightest shade, leaving just the dark and mid shade, which of course reflects in her fleece weight.  In fleece shows we are aiming to show the good qualities and consistency of the fleece and so to leave the lightest fiber on Velvet’s show fleece would result in fewer points for color consistency.  Velvet is also very fine which does not help her fleece weight either.  At the end of the day though there were three other fleeces that scored higher than Velvets.  Her score card will give me pointers as to which areas she is lacking in and will assist me in helping to decide which herdsire to breed her to when she comes to breeding age.

 

White Blast placed 5th in his class.  I know the competition in the white classes would have been stiff and so a 5th place is still an achievement.  Another bullet to add to Blast’s future herdsire resume!  Blast’s fleece scored high in all areas except his fleece weight where his fineness and small stature probably didn’t help him too much.  Blast is still young though and has been doing some good growing this summer.  While he will never be a large alpaca he is not undersized by any means and according to him he is ready to try his hand with the ladies.  As he is only 15 months old it will be a little while before he goes on his first date, but he definitely has the potential to make a good herdsire.  As well as Blast’s fleece scores the Judge had written the comment “Commendable Brightness” in the notes area of Blasts scorecard, which is a nice compliment in itself.

 

The fleeces will now go back out to the studio for storage until the next show.  They might need a little straightening out depending on how they were handled at the show, but it will not take much to get them ready for the next time.

 

We are proud of the achievement of our two young alpacas and have several more fleeces to show during the course of the year, which, fingers crossed, will also bring us more ribbons in due course.

 

Rosemary

August 3, 2008

Clearing the Fleece From The Barn – Another Option

 

As we continue to work to get all of our fleece out of our barn and processed into product I am continually looking for new ideas and resources to help us make a profit from our fleece.  

 

This year we will sending fleece to the North American Alpaca Fiber Producers (NAAFP) Cooperative, the Alpaca Fiber Coop of North America (AFCNA) and the leg and belly fleece will be processed into the beautiful rugs and energy mats that have been such good sellers during the past year.  Some special fleeces will be sent to a mill for putting into roving so that I can hand spin some of our own fleeces for special projects.  With close to 60 alpacas on the farm we have plenty of fleece to disburse!

 

I was recently made aware of a project that is interesting and that could be helpful to some alpaca breeders looking for a use for their alpaca fleece.

 

Peter and Carol Lundberg of Elderberry Creek Alpacas, Stayton, Oregon have started the Alpaca Blanket Project and are looking for alpaca fleece to keep their project moving forward.

 

The Alpaca Blanket Project has evolved from collaboration with Pendleton Woolen Mills, Pendleton Woolen Mills has a world-wide reputation for creating beautiful blankets, throws and clothing and has been a family owned business for 140 years.  The Lundberg’s have worked with Pendleton Woolen Mills to develop a Pendleton Blanket made from alpaca fiber.

 

The alpaca fiber used for the project will be graded and sorted prior to being sent to the mill.  Peter and Carol will be doing most of the grading and sorting.  The mill requires at least two sorts of 400-500 pounds of fiber in the same grade, but different colors, for each run of blankets (throws), meaning that Peter and Carol are going to have their hands full – literally.  Once the alpaca fiber has been graded and sorted Pendleton Woolen Mills will do the carding, spinning and weaving.

The throws will be approximately 60” by 70” and the Lundberg’s goal is to have the throws completed in time for the 2008 holiday season,

 

While initially those sending fiber to the project will not be paid for their fiber, it is hoped that if enough blankets are produced those donating 10 lbs or more of fiber will be given the opportunity to purchase one of the blankets at a wholesale price.  It is anticipated that in the future there will be payment for fiber sent to the Alpaca Blanket Project.  Those donating fiber to the project will be taking part in a project that will increase public awareness of the wonders of alpaca fleece, something that benefits the alpaca industry overall.  They will also be helping a project get off the ground that will eventually be another resource for alpaca breeders to make income from their alpaca fleece.

 

If you are interested in learning more about the Alpaca Blanket Project there is plenty of information available on the Lundberg’s website www.elderberrycreekalpacas.com.  The blog of the Elderberry Creek Alpacas site contains more information and updates on the project’s progress so don’t forget to check that out while you are on the site.

 

Rosemary

July 16, 2008

Well Isn’t That Pretty

Blast's Fleece

Blast's Fleece

The last couple of days I have been busy preparing a couple of fleeces for the Alpaca Fiber Cooperative of North America (AFCNA) Continental Fleece Show which is to be held in Denver, Colorado on August 2 and 3.

 

I enjoy entering the AFCNA Show, it is a big show with good competition and included in the price of the entry fee is a DVD of all of the seminars given at the show, plus the judges’ oral reasons on the winning fleeces for each class.  It is so nice to “take part” in the seminars at your leisure at home, how many seminars have you attended in the past where you later wish you could repeat or re-hear part or all of the seminar.  Well with the AFCNA show seminars being recorded and sent out on DVD after the show you can repeat all or part of the seminar as you need.   It is also great to see the judges’ oral reasons on the winning fleeces, especially if your fleece is one of those winners; it gives you feedback which is accessible time and again.    My experience at shows is that usually you are so busy with the show itself that you do not get time to attend the seminars, if you are showing alpacas and win you hear the judges comments at the time of your class, but it is so easy to forget the exact words used and sometimes the PA system at the show grounds means that all you hear is a garbled noise.  With the AFCNA show the judges comments are available to you at your convenience – isn’t that a nice luxury.

 

I am sending in the fleeces of our young male Windrush White Blast, who is out of our dam Clarissa and a herdsire from Texas called FRA Lucero.  I have been really pleased with Blast and when we sheared him his fleece was so beautiful I knew it was a definite candidate for a show.  No doubt Blast’s fleece will be in a large highly competitive class, but I feel it is good enough to stand up to the competition.  Just look at it in the picture at the beginning of this blog entry, it is beautiful, bright and shiny with a consistent high frequency crimp – such a pretty fleece and I am sure it will catch the judges attention.

 

Also being sent off to the show is the fleece from our young female Windrush Zindel’s Velvet Princess.  Velvet is the first offspring from our herdsire Windrush Jennifer’s Zindel and she has a unique velvety handle to her fleece.  Velvet’s fleece has a higher frequency crimp than Blast’s but lower amplitude of crimp.  Two very different fleece styles but each beautiful in its own right.

Velvet's Beautiful Fleece

Velvet's Beautiful Fleece

 

So I will finish preparing the fleeces and send them on their way to the show later this week.  Fingers crossed they will win some nice ribbons, and even if they don’t at least I will get some education and fun from watching the show DVD’s.

 

Rosemary

February 25, 2008

Fingers in the Fleece

Geraint - Summer 2007We are back to the task of sorting through the fleeces in the fleece room.  I am determined to reduce the pile before we get to this year’s shearing!

The deadline for submission of clip to the Alpaca Fiber Coop of North America (AFCNA) is February 29 and so I am trying to get as many fleeces as I can shipped off to them today in order that the fleeces are received by the deadline date.

To me sorting through fleeces is an enjoyable task, it gives me the opportunity to reassess the alpaca whose fleece I am working on and consider any breeding decisions I need to make for that particular alpaca.  For some of the boys there is no breeding decision to be made, for one reason or another they will not be used for breeding, but as I look at their fleece it is a good reminder of what the pairing of the parents produced.

There were a couple of fleeces in my stash yesterday that I decided to hold back for show.  We sheared a lot of show fleeces last year and I haven’t had the opportunity to show them all and as I looked at them on the skirting table I decided that it really would be worth entering them in a show.  There is a good-sized fleece show coming up in May in Denver and so I plan on entering the fleeces in that show.

One fleece that did make me smile was that of Geraint who is pictured above.  Geraint is the only surviving offspring of Primera who is a research female we have at the farm.  Primera was donated to our vet, as her crias had never survived.  We became involved in working with our vet to see if we could get one of Primera’s crias to survive and Geraint is the result.  As alpacas go Geraint is hardly the example of an award winning alpaca, but his fleece is actually not too bad.  As I worked on Geraint’s fleece on the skirting table I could feel it’s fineness and lovely soft handle and he even has some crimp definition and brightness to his fleece.  I took a little sample of it to Ric (who is still recovering from the flu) and asked him to guess whose fleece it was, he was unable to guess correctly whose fleece and was impressed when I told him that it was Geraint’s. 

This year things will be a little different at shearing time as we are going to have some of our fleeces sorted by a fleece sorter as they come off the alpaca on shearing day.  Our friend and client Troy Ogilvie of Timber Lodge Alpacas has completed his fleece sorting class and needs to work his apprenticeship by sorting a certain amount of fleeces and so will be coming to our farm to sort for us.  Those fleeces will then be sent to the North American Alpaca Fiber Producers (NAAFP) Cooperative to be processed into high quality yarn and products.  The great thing about having our fleeces sorted on shearing day is that at the end of the day all I will need to do is package up the various bags of fleece and ship them off to the Regional Collection Facility – no storing them in the fleece room or having to prepare them for the processor at a later date.  It will be done on shearing day and off the fleeces will go!  I will even get a report on my fleeces, which I will be able to use to help me with my breeding decisions.

That doesn’t mean to say I won’t get a chance to get my hands on some of my fleeces as I know there will be some we will hold back to show.   Those fleeces I will need to prepare for showing prior to sending them in and so I will get my fleece fix from working on those.  Fingers in the fleece – you just can’t beat it!

Rosemary

January 30, 2008

Congratulations Cody!

FFTX CodyGood News on the alpaca show scene.  We heard yesterday that Audrey and Lloyd Conklin of West Texas Gold Alpacas had received a special award at the Fiber to Fashion Fleece Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

We have known Audrey and Lloyd for several years now, they are both wonderful people and Audrey has her own style of telling a story that is always entertaining.  Audrey really needs to put together a book of all her funny stories!  I have particularly warm memories of Audrey and Lloyd helping us out at an alpaca show several years ago when one of our alpacas was taken ill at the show.  Audrey and Lloyd loaned us all sorts of supplies from their medicine kit and did all that they could to help us throughout the show.  Audrey and Lloyd are good people and it always is a pleasure to hear of good things happening to good people.

Fiber to Fashion is an annual event held by the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association (AOBA) and is the industry conference on the fiber side of the alpaca business.  The fleece show held at Fiber to Fashion is usually a large one with some stiff competition.

Audrey and Lloyd were not able to attend Fiber to Fashion in person but sent in several fleeces to the fleece show.  A friend of theirs was going to Fiber to Fashion and arrangements were made for their friend to pick up Audrey and Lloyds fleeces from the fleece show.  The friend was keen to report that Audrey and Lloyd’s fleeces had received several ribbons at the show including one really nice special one – the AFCNA Spirit of Fiber Award.

The AFCNA Spirit of Fiber Award is given to only one suri fleece and one huacaya fleece out of all of the fleeces entered in the Fiber to Fashion Fleece show.  The Award is sponsored by the Alpaca Fiber Coop of North America (AFCNA) and is awarded to the fleece that best exemplifies what our fiber industry is breeding for.  It is a prestigious award.

The alpaca whose fleece is that won the award is FFTX Cody, one of Audrey and Lloyd’s herdsires.  Cody is not unfamiliar with winning blue ribbons and now can add the AFCNA Spirit of Fiber award to his list of credentials.

So congratulations to Cody, may your date book be well booked for this upcoming breeding season, and of course congratulations to Audrey and Lloyd too!

Rosemary

December 31, 2007

I’m In My Element

Me and My Honda Element  I’m in my element in more than one way today.  First I have completed skirting all of the fleece that is going to Canada to be processed into more Windrush Alpaca socks.  The fleeces that are earmarked for the Alpaca Fiber Co-op of North America (AFCNA) still need skirting, but at least I am making progress in my skirting agenda.

While skirting fleece is time consuming it is also a good chance to re-examine and re-evaluate your fleeces.  I am certainly in my element when working with fleece.  To me there is nothing quite like getting your hands into the fleece and assessing the various characteristics good and bad for each one.  The fleeces going to Canada are all in the 23 –25 micron range.  They are not what some would consider our best fleeces, but to put our finest fleeces into socks would be somewhat of a waste.  The 23-25 micron fleeces are great for making sock yarn, they are all consistent fleeces and from a processors point of view they are versatile fleeces that they can be used for several applications.

Today I will take a little break from skirting to catch up on other tasks that have been accumulating while my attention has been on skirting fleeces.  There are bank reconciliations to be done, phone enquiries to follow up on and marketing pieces to prepare.  The TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular is looming closer as well, and as I am the Fleece Show Superintendent my tasks related to that show are going to need to start to take priority.

But I will also find the time today to take a little ride in my new car, my Honda Element!  Having realized that all of our vehicles were suffering from old age and high mileage it was necessary for us to find at least one replacement vehicle.  I have had my eye on a Honda Element for some time now, but Ric finds them to be ugly and was not to thrilled at the prospect of owning one.  While I would agree that a Honda Element is certainly not a sleek sports car, I am a little more practical than Ric when it comes to vehicles.  Our big pickup truck is great for our business and hauling our alpaca trailer, but for day to day errands we needed something smaller.  As we have four dogs it is not unusual for me to have a dog in the car and so I wanted something that had plenty of space for dogs and that could be cleaned easily.  The Element has more than enough room for dogs, and with the rear seats folded up I can even get an alpaca or two in it if I have to!  It can also be hosed out and wiped down really easily and so is a very practical car for us to have.

Ric is gradually getting used to the idea of the Element and he has to admit that it drives and handles well and is a lot more economical than our large pickup, but to date Ric has only driven the Element after dark claiming he does not want people to see him driving it!  That’s fine by me as it leaves the Element free for me to zip around in, and then I can truly say I’m in my Element (and I even have a plate on the front of it that says just that!).

Rosemary

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