A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

October 2, 2009

Now Where Are We?

Well…  Ric is still at home with the alpacas.  I am in England visiting my mother on my annual trip to my home country.  Usually I travel earlier in the year, but this year shearing, crias and new a new puppy meant I postponed my trip to the fall.

Today England is warmer than I remember it being in the fall (or autumn as we tend to refer to it in England).  The English summers have been getting warmer and drier, the storms more severe and the fall and winter milder.  You cannot help but wonder about global warming when such climate change takes place.  I think you would have a hard time convincing many British people that global warming is not a fact.

 During my trip I will be helping my mother with tasks such as filing her tax return and anything else she has on the to-do list for me.  My mother has coped remarkably well since the loss of my father last year, but there are a few things she needs assistance with (and let’s face it who really enjoys filing tax returns anyway!).

 I also will be spending time with my good friends Linda and Val (with a very special party on the agenda but more on that later), my nephews and former sister in law Roisin (who is still very much a member of our family) and of course Laura (step daughter), Ren (Laura’s husband), grand-daughter Aida and Paul (step son).  Also on the agenda is a trip to Totley in South Yorkshire to visit my Dad’s cousin Stella and hopefully see a nearby alpaca farm and while I am there I am hoping to be reunited with my friend Anne-Marie who I have known since pre-school.  Anne-Marie and I have kept in touch on and off through our parents and now via Facebook which has brought us together again.

 At home Ric is very busy with caring for the farm.  It’s a lot for one person to take care of, and now has he added task of looking after puppy Blue who will let  you know in her own way (by chewing something you treasure!), if she feels she is not getting enough attention.  I fully expect Ric to be somewhat worn out and possibly a little thinner by the time I get home – although our dear neighbor Darlene is providing him with some meals and so I know he will not starve to death (A big Thank you Darlene as always!).

 As well as routine chores Ric will be hauling loads of hay while I am gone.  We finally found some wheat hay that satisfies our requirements, with only one drawback; it has some wheat heads in it.  We really do prefer beardless wheat hay, but this year have not been able to find any that is nutritionally correct for the alpacas.  The hay we purchased is almost perfect in its analysis and was cut just as it started to head out, so we felt that it was the best option available to us.

 As if all of that is not enough Ric also will be keeping a close eye on Theresa who is due October 25.  For her first four crias Theresa gave birth on day 345 of her pregnancy, but then threw us for a loop by not delivering her fifth cria until day 368 in temperatures above 100 degrees.  So who knows when Theresa will give birth this year.  Before I left I checked Theresa, her udder was not yet developed and she was not puffy under her tail so there should be at least a little time before she gives birth.  I had a word with Theresa too and asked her to hang on to her cria until I was home, but not to wait until day 368 again – I guess we will soon find out if she was listening.

 My blog entries will be sporadic during my trip I am sure.  Ric may decide to post an entry or two – in his spare time that is, but whether his entries will be coherent or just consist of a string of exhausted zzzzzz’s will remain to be seen!


December 5, 2008

Staying Warm In Record Lows


Sometimes life doesn’t cooperate the way we would like it to.  While I made it safely to England for the funeral services for my father, Ric has had a more challenging time at home.


When Ric returned from his trip to England, he apparently brought an unwanted gift with him – a nasty virus which has left him with a sore throat, cough, low energy and which has stolen his voice.  Not really what you want when you are running the farm on your own, but so far he has been managing. 


If that was not enough to deal with the weather has turned really cold with Wednesday night/Thursday morning bringing record lows.  (I think Ric said minus 15, but with his lack of voice it is difficult to understand him sometimes).


Cold weather always brings more work with it, the alpacas need extra bedding and we also increase their hay to help them keep good energy during the cold temperatures.  Extra beet pulp shreds soaked in warm water are always welcomed by the herd, who love to slurp up the warm sweet water that the shreds are in.  We also like to put out buckets of warm water for the alpacas to drink.  Ric contends that the warm water freezes more quickly, but often the alpacas drink most of it before it gets a chance to freeze.  The first couple of warm water buckets may show less consumption but usually once word gets around (and it is amazing how quickly alpacas spread the word of something good to eat or drink) the warm water is the first to go.  It makes sense really; I know I prefer to drink warm drinks over iced drinks on a cold day.


The youngest of the crias have been practising their warm up routine, galloping at high speed around the pasture at dusk, and Ric reports that on Thursday morning the cria group had figured out that if they all cushed close together they could all be pretty comfortable.  Usually crias tend to sit with their dams at night or when it is cold, but I have noticed in the past that this fall cria group will often sit in a group together and sometimes even lie across each other.  They are a happy, friendly (and now in the cold weather comfortable) little group.


To keep us humans warm in such cold times the solution is lots of layers of clothing and I can be pretty certain that Ric is using his insulated coveralls, fleece lined jeans and of course alpaca socks (a post on our newly arrived line of alpaca socks will be following in the next day or two!).


The forecast says that the temperatures in New Mexico are due to start to warm back up again, so hopefully that will be the case.   I am sure not only Ric but all of the animals will appreciate some warmer weather.


Here in England I am doing my best to stay away from anyone who has the slightest hint of a cold or sickness, the only thing I plan on bringing back are my suitcases and some goodies from the grocery stores that I cannot buy in the United States (and with my trip coming so close to Christmas there are lots of goodies to choose from!)



April 28, 2008

A New Life in an Old Market Town

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpacas, Family, General — Tags: , , , , , , — alpacalady @ 7:28 am


My mother’s move has been completed and she is busy unpacking boxes and settling in to her new apartment in the historic market town of Baldock, Hertfordshire.


Baldock High Street is a picturesque place with a variety of old buildings, wide streets and trees.  There is still a market held here every week, although we have yet to make it out to the market.  Being on an old coaching route several of the old buildings have arches through which horse drawn coaches could have passed.  The town has a lot of character and history, there is a presentation on the history of Baldock at the local community center in May, but I will have returned to the US by then and so will miss it, maybe I can catch it another time.


So far we have been impressed with the friendliness of the people we have met, people on the streets smile and say hello, those we have met in the shops have been helpful in finding us all that we need and the people we have met at the nearby dog park have all been ready to welcome a new dog owner into the area and tell us about the dog walks close by.


Peanut, my mother’s dog (we call her a jacksund as she is a cross between a jack russell terrier and a dachshund) has settled in well to apartment life and is enjoying her trips to the dog park, her little legs galloping and her tail held straight up in a salute to the new scents she encounters on the way.  She is still a little prone to barking at other residents of the apartments when she sees them, which gives them a bit of a start as she has a loud bark for a small dog.  Gradually Peanut is learning though that she has to share her territory with others and over time I am sure the barking will subside.


Not far from the apartments is a school for preschool and elementary age children, it was interesting to me to see the children out playing in the rain the other day, for in the US they would have been kept inside if the weather was inclement.  Here in the UK where rain is a way of life the children were quite happy to be out in the rain, playing with their coats on without a care about getting wet.


At home Ric is starting to sound a tired, between caring for the alpacas and his substitute teaching his work plate is a little full!  This weekend he will be helping Bob and Regina Dart of Llano Soleado Alpacas as they shear some of their herd, and the rest of the time he will be preparing our shearing area so that we can start shearing when I return home.


According to Ric the pregnant girls are looking as late term pregnant dams should, waddling around the pasture and taking it easy.   Not long now and the new crias will be making their appearance.


On Saturday I helped my friend Linda with her book signing.  Having written and published her autobiography Linda is now in the process of promoting her book and I spent Saturday with her at a book signing at a Waterstones bookstore in Berkhamstead, Hertfordshire.  The book signing went really well and she sold several more copies of her book.


Sunday was set aside for Linda and me to walk a beautiful walk around Tring Reservoir.  Linda’s brother Martin joined us and we enjoyed our time together walking in the countryside and looking at the birds, ducks, geese and swans.  Halfway through our walk we stopped at a local tearoom for breakfast, and were fortunate to be there under shelter when the heavens opened and the rain fell.  By the time we had finished breakfast the rain stopped and we went on to the second half of our walk – perfect timing!  

It’s a great time of the year for walking, as the trees are a brilliant green from their new spring growth and many are starting to blossom. 


Today my friend Val will be joining Linda and myself for a trip to Windsor to see Windsor Castle and we will have an easy day enjoying the town and the local dining.  The three of us usually arrange a spa day together when I am over, but with my mother’s move it was difficult to arrange a set date and so we have opted instead to go to Windsor which is a place I have only ever driven through, so it will be great to stop there and see all the sights.


On Wednesday I will finally get to see Laura and her new baby Aida who has already grown three inches and now weighs 10 lbs.  At that rate she will soon outgrow the clothes I have brought her.  Laura seems to be enjoying her first experience of motherhood but says that it now takes her two hours to get ready to go anywhere and both she and Ren are ready for bed by 9:30 pm.  The joys of parenting!


It is hard to believe that I am nearly at the end of my trip here, the time has gone really quickly as there has been so much to do.  My brother Chris has now returned to Italy and we both find it hard to believe that we managed to get as much done as we did.  It was great to spend some time with Chris, but hopefully next time we spend time together it will be doing something more leisurely!  My mother’s move was an enormous task, but we got it done and have told my other brother John, that should my mother decide to move again it will be his turn to organize things!



April 19, 2008

Fish and Chips and Champagne

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Reproduction, Alpacas, Family, General — Tags: , , , , , — alpacalady @ 12:17 pm


Well part of the move is completed, but only a small part.  Thursday night my mother spent her first night in her new apartment.  My brother made an arrangement with the management at the apartment complex that we could put the moving boxes into the empty apartment next door to my mother’s so that the first time my mother saw her apartment with furniture it looked as we hope it will look once the moving boxes have been emptied and the contents put away.  Of course that initial view only lasted a short while as then we had to move all the boxes into my mother’s apartment in order to unpack them.  Oh well it was nice while it lasted and hopefully we will eventually get everything unpacked.


We celebrated the moving in night with a meal of good old British Fish and Chips, accompanied by a bottle of champagne, not a traditional drink to accompany Fish and Chips, but definitely a traditional celebratory drink.  By the time we got to eat it was past 11 pm – a bit late in the evening for dinner but by then we were more than ready to eat.


While we thought storing boxes in the next door empty apartment would be our only time there, we soon found out different – the hot water in my mother’s apartment is not working and the plumber is not available until Monday so we are being allowed to use the empty apartment for showers.  We just have to coordinate with the realtor who is selling the apartments to make sure that when she is showing the one next door she doesn’t end up giving her potential customers a surprise if one of us is in there taking a shower!


The old house still has a tremendous amount of possessions in it and my brother Chris and I are starting to wonder how on earth we will get it all cleared out by next Friday, especially as Chris returns to Italy on Tuesday.  If we get that accomplished it will miraculous, but you never know when a miracle will happen.


Back in New Mexico, Ric is still “enjoying” the windy weather that has been a constant theme of 2008.  He reports to me that he has had some calls regarding breedings to our herdsires, it’s that time of the year when an alpaca breeders thoughts turn to breedings and our herdsires will be happy to meet some new girlfriends.


As of Ric’s last report all of the alpacas, dogs, cats and horses were fine, but I have not been able to speak to him since Wednesday and have not had access to an internet connection.  It’s a little unsettling that at the moment Ric has no way to get hold of me if he needed to, but hopefully he would get creative in an emergency and be able to track me down and most likely there are no emergencies and everything is ticking along as normal at home.  This blog entry is being uploaded from the computer at my mother’s old house (during a quick break from house clearance) and I don’t know when I will have internet access again.  Ric is still trying to figure out the new WordPress control panel – he will probably figure it out the day before I come home!  That’s okay as I still think I will be more than ready for a vacation by then!



April 14, 2008

Time to Get Busy


Having arrived in England it’s time to get busy with preparing my mother for her move on Thursday.  There is a lot to do!  Yesterday was spent trying to assess what is going to go to the new flat, what is going to be given away or donated to charity and what is going to be disposed of.  We made some progress but there seems to be an endless amount of things to go through.


My trip over to England went smoothly even though my first flight was delayed by 30 minutes.  I always allow a lot of connection time between my flights when flying overseas as it seems that the airlines love to land you in one terminal and then challenge you to get to the terminal furthest away collecting your luggage and clearing customs on the way.  I would rather spend a few hours sitting in the airport than doing the airport dash!  I was a little disappointed that in my hurry to leave the house and get to the airport I forgot to grab my alpaca energy mat, the flight just was not the same without it.


My friend Linda was at the airport to meet me and drive me to my mothers, the journey on the M25 to Heathrow is a little better than the journey to Gatwick, but the M25 still had an enormous amount of traffic on it, especially compared to the traffic we get in Clovis, New Mexico.  Linda and I took the opportunity to stop and have a cup of coffee together, catching up on our latest news including hearing about Linda’s recent radio interview on Three Counties Radio, a local radio station.


Back at home Ric has been busy too, doing some substitute teaching and keeping up with chores.   The visiting girls were ready for behaviour testing following their breedings.  Celeste was pretty definite that she did not want to see any male alpacas, but Marti and Cariad were a little less certain.  With Marti being a maiden she may be confused about the signals her body is sending her, it is not unusual for a maiden alpaca to be a little difficult to read when it comes to behaviour testing.  Cariad though has been bred before, so her behaviour might be telling us that she has ovulated but has not conceived a pregnancy.  The next behaviour test will give us a better idea of which girls could be pregnant and which will need rebreeding.


The next few days are going to be very busy here in England, the removal van is booked for April 17th and once everything earmarked for the new flat has been moved we will have to finish clearing out whatever has been left at the old house, but once the job is done it will be a good feeling.


Ric has told me that he has a blog entry to upload in the next day or two, so hopefully I will get a chance to talk him through the new control panel on WordPress that was installed just a few days before I left for England.  The new control panel is, to me, less simple to follow and it might take Ric a few attempts to get his blog entry loaded.  So keep checking back to see if Ric is successful in loading his blog entry and what he has to tell us about “A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas” during my absence.




April 12, 2008

It’s That Time of the Year Again

Filed under: alpaca, Alpacas, camelids, Crias, Family, General — Tags: , , , , , , — alpacalady @ 7:12 am

Velvet and Blast


For today I head off to the airport to catch a plane to England.  I usually go back to visit my homeland every spring, but this year I am going a little earlier than usual.


My mother has sold her house and is moving, it’s been a while since she last moved house (about 44 years or so) and in the meantime she has acquired just one or two (or many more!) things.  So my brother Chris from Italy and I will are both flying over to help with the move.  My other brother John, who lives in Massachusetts, will be flying over to visit my mother after she has moved, giving my mother something else to look forward to once the house move is behind her.


It was a difficult decision for my mother to sell her house.  The house was designed by one of my uncles and built by my parents using direct labor.  It is the house where my brothers and I grew up and naturally has many happy family memories attached to it.  But circumstances change and with them bring other changes, my father is now in a nursing home, my mother is not getting any younger and the house has is a lot to manage.  It is a large house with a large garden and beautiful though the house and garden are they create a lot of work for one person.  So after much thought my mother has bought herself a new, efficient retirement flat.  The flat is smaller than the house and will be easier to maintain, which will hopefully make life a lot easier for my mother and give her more free time to visit my father and enjoy life in general.


It is always good to go back to England and visit my family and friends, although this year will be much more of a working holiday as there is a lot to do for the house move.   Still I will also get to spend some time with my dear friends Linda and Val and I am sure the laughter will be flowing freely among us.


Of course there is another reason for visiting England too, I get to see baby Aida and her parents Laura and Ren – Ric is so jealous that I will get to meet Aida in person before he does, but he will be traveling over later in the year to meet the latest addition to the family.


Leaving the farm is always hard, it is such a big part of my life and the animals are my other “family”.  It takes a while to prepare to be away from a business for this length of time and set everything up to run smoothly in my absence.  Ric will of course be here to take care of everyone and I have had a word with all of the animals and asked them to behave while I am away, whether they listened though is anyone’s guess!  In particular I had a word with the pregnant girls and asked them to hold on to their crias until my return, Ric will have enough to do without delivering crias too!


I am told that the weather in England will be in the 50’s and the chance of rain is good.  As cool of a spring as we are having I don’t know that I will notice the difference in the temperature, but seeing some rain will be nice and I doubt that the wind will be as severe as it has been here recently.  This last Thursday was horrifically windy with sustained winds of 40 mph and gusts around 60 mph, accompanied by one of the worst dust storms I have ever seen.  Let’s hope that is the last we see of that sort of weather for a while!


During my trip I will update the blog when I can and Ric has promised to write an entry or two.  I am not certain as to what sort of Internet access I will have, but I will have my laptop with me and I am sure I will be able to upload posts from time to time.


I will be returning to the US in early May, just in time for the girls to have their crias and shearing season to commence – after which I will probably need a vacation!



December 28, 2007

The Chaos if Christmas!

Well we have survived Christmas, just barely!  It seemed to be one of the most chaotic Christmases we have experienced.  I don’t know whether it was our lack of planning or everyone’s schedules which are so packed and busy these days.  Still I take consolation in the fact that everyone I have spoken to has expressed the same feeling. 

Having rushed to do our chores on Christmas morning it seemed as if the time just disappeared and after a short phone call to Laura, Ren and Paul (who were thankfully all having dinner at Laura and Ren’s house enabling us to talk to them all during the same phone call) we just had time to open a couple of presents and then get ready to go over to our friends house for our Christmas lunch.

I was cooking the turkey, gravy, stuffing and a desert and our friend Claire and her family were cooking all of the side dishes plus some more deserts for good measure.  We called Claire once we had set off from the house thinking we were running 20 minutes late.  Claire was a bit astounded by our phone call as she had been thinking we were due to arrive a good hour to hour and a half later!   During all of our planning neither Claire or I had actually discussed what time we were going to serve lunch!

Still apart from Claire being thrown into turmoil for a few minutes (she is a master of managing a crisis) we soon had our lunch all cooked and ready to go thanks to everyone working together including Claire’s parents who are visiting from England.

Lunch was wonderful, we enjoyed our time spent with Claire and her family and then it was time to head home for afternoon chores.  As we drove up the driveway we were greeted by some longing stares from the alpacas who were wondering where their evening feed was.

Christmas Day had started out as a beautiful New Mexico day, with blue skies, the sun shining and the temperature pleasant, but to go along with the Christmas chaos theme by the time we started chores a horrific cold front was raging through our area bringing with it high winds, blowing dust, freezing temperatures and snow.  Well that soon helped us work off our Christmas dinner.  The alpacas ate fast and were soon cushed down inside their shelters out of the wind.  We settled in for the evening with a nice cup of tea and watched as the snow blew horizontally past the windows of the house.

So now Christmas has passed perhaps we can get back to our “to-do” list.  I still have a studio full of fleece to work on and tax season and show season are rapidly approaching.  It is said that keeping active keeps you young so at this rate I should never age.  I somehow suspect that theory won’t hold true but I can hope anyway.


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