A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

April 3, 2009

North To Colorado


This morning I will be headed north to La Veta, Colorado.  There I will spend the weekend with Judy and Will Sims-Barlow of Spanish Peaks Alpacas and receive lessons from Judy in how to make an alpaca felt hat and a silk and alpaca felt scarf.


Judy is extremely talented with her felting, I saw some of her hats a couple of years ago when I delivered one of our girls to their farm for a breeding to one of their males.  The hats Judy makes are beautiful with such a lovely smooth finish.


Ever since I saw Judy’s hats I have been asking her to show me how to felt alpaca, and now we finally have a weekend when we are both available!


I am taking two fleeces with me – Chamberino’s (a dark brown/maroon fleece) and Ma Cushla’s (a pretty medium silver grey) plus some fawn roving from one of our boys, Homer, and some white roving that is a combination of several white fleeces from the herd.


When Judy sent me information on the type of fleeces to use for felting she mentioned that the micron count of the fleece for the hats should be around 27 micron.  That made me happy as we still have Chamberino’s blanket fleece from 2008 and dear Chamberino is a consistent 30 microns across his fleece.  For an alpaca 30 microns is not a desirable figure.


Chamberino’s fleece still spins up to a soft yarn and has a lovely handle to the yarn partly due to the consistency of his fleece.  It will be great to have something different to use that fleece for and I am looking forward to seeing the end product.


While I am away learning how to felt alpaca, Ric will be home looking after the herd.  We don’t have any cria due yet and all that needs to be done is routine chores so it shouldn’t be too much for Ric to handle – except of course for the 75 mph wind gusts we are expected to get in Clovis on Saturday which might just make chores a little bit challenging.



March 31, 2009

Is It Me Or Are The Winds Getting Worse?

Inca Peeks Around The Corner Of The Shelter During Last Friday's Snow Storm

Inca Peeks Around The Corner Of The Shelter During Last Friday's Snow Storm


We are used to windy weather in the spring in Eastern New Mexico, but it seems as if the wind is getting more extreme.  Yesterday we were treated to sustained winds of 42 mph with the occasional 50+ mph gust thrown in for good measure!  It’s quite something to look out into the pasture and see our feed wagon moving across the pasture propelled by wind power!


Raking up the poop and taking the wheelbarrows out to the compost pile in those high winds was quite an experience.  Putting out hay was also fun as we tried to get it into the feeders before it all blew away.


The alpacas seemed to take the high winds pretty much in their stride.  We did see one or two watery eyes, which is hardly surprising considering all of the dust blowing around.  We will check the herd today and make sure everyone’s eyes look good.  For the most part the alpacas stayed cushed, getting up to eat and drink and make a mad dash between the shelters.


By the end of the day I think everyone was tired of the wind except two of the llamas Maya and Inca who decided to have a pronging session around the pasture.  It was wonderful to see them running and pronging, they looked very elegant and they interspersed their pronging with squeals of delight.  I’m not entirely sure what there was to be delighted about but I wonder if perhaps they were getting some extra lift from the high winds and that is what was pleasing them.  It’s not often that the llamas have a good pronging session so something must have tickled their fancy – either that or the wind had caused them to loose their sanity by the end of the day!



February 28, 2008

Shifting Sands

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Fiber, Alpacas, General — Tags: , , , , , — alpacalady @ 7:03 am

One of the challenges of living in semi arid desert is sand. When there is a little moisture the sand clumps into a muddy mess, but in times of severe dryness, as we are experiencing now, it becomes a fine red sand that blows and shifts easily.

The fine red sand gets into our alpaca fleeces, giving them a gritty feel and can also give them a nice peachy hue! Fortunately our sand washes out of our fleeces but in some other areas of the country the sand actually stains the fleece to where it cannot be washed out. I have some alpaca yarn in my inventory that was sold to me by a processor who was unable to get the stain out of some alpaca fleeces that had been sent to him from Georgia, rather than discard the yarn or continue to battle to get it back to white he decided to call the yarn Georgia Peach and sell it as is. The Georgia Peach yarn is the prettiest color and has always sold well, natural dye at its best I guess.

Yesterday the weather gave us a break from the wind; it was a beautiful day, warm, sunny and still. Taking a look around the farm we could see the destruction caused by the wind. In places our top soil is completely gone and in other places the ground is a different height than it was a few days ago.

In the alpaca pastures we have a continual problem with the sand building up around the fence lines. As we have to have secure fencing it means there is more to catch the sand and stop it at the fence line.

In the girls pasture the fence line on the east side of the pasture had gone from being 5 feet tall to being about two feet tall in places due to the build up of sand. Thankfully alpacas are home bodies so no-one had taken the initiative to step over the fence, but they easily could have done so.

So it was out with the tractor and rake for a session of distributing the sand back around the pasture. To help keep it down we also raked some of the waste hay from the big bale of hay over the sand.

The alpacas get most excited when they see the tractor, usually it means the delivery of another big bale of hay. This time though the tractor just moved dirt and hay around, but it still gave the alpacas something to look forward to. They found new pieces of hay to chew and then had the treat of having a good roll in the soft dirt and hay that had just been spread out. Once they had finished rolling it was time to stretch out, bask in the sunshine and enjoy the calm day. For the alpacas life was good!


February 24, 2008

Shades of Spring

The calendar may say we are still in winter but nature is telling me it is springtime.  Our weather has warmed up considerably with our daytime temperatures now in the 60’s.  Nighttime temperatures are still dropping down to the thirties but the days are sunny and warmer and the skies are blue.  A couple of days ago we had one of those crazy New Mexico forecasts that warned us of a chance of snow and thunderstorms.  As it turned out the skies darkened as the clouds rolled in, the winds picked up and one little corner of Clovis got about three minutes of rain.  Then the clouds rolled off into the direction of Texas not to be seen again.

The winds are also telling us it is springtime, yesterday the sustained winds were in the 25 – 30 mph range with gusts around 50 mph.  With our dry conditions this meant that we had dust storms for most of the day.  Stepping outside required a hood tied firmly on your head and some form of eye protection to keep the dust out of your eyes (in my case a pair of old sunglasses now referred to as my “Shades of Spring”), even better yet is to wear a dust mask, but I have to admit I find those difficult to wear while working and half the time our fine red dust creeps underneath them anyway.

By the time we come in it feels as if we are a couple of pounds heavier with all of the extra dirt we are carrying.  There is nothing quite like looking down in the shower to discover you are standing in your own pile of mud, created from the dust you have just washed off!

The winds bring warmer weather but bring danger too.  We are under a fire watch most days and yesterday one of our neighbors had a frightening experience when a trailer of hay she was hauling caught fire.  The hay was not hot hay, but somehow on the journey between the feed store and her house it caught fire.  Our neighbor tried to pull the burning bales from her trailer, but with the high winds the fire continued to grow, and even worse pieces of burning hay started to land on various spots in our road.  The fire department came out and put out the blaze, but the trailer and the hay were a complete loss.  Thankfully though our neighbor suffered no more than being badly shaken up and some singed hair.   The more we think about that burning trailer of hay going up the road in the high winds, the more we realize how fortunate we were not to have several major grass fires as a result of it.

The more pleasant aspects of spring though are also here.  The birds are starting to sing more; our American hawk is making an appearance again and appears out of nowhere to capture poor unsuspecting sparrows.  I think it is a little early for the hawk to have hatched her eggs yet, but if she is not feeding a brood she certainly has a vigorous appetite.  

Through the earth we are seeing little blades of green starting to emerge.   Should we get rain soon the ground will rapidly transform as the native plants so well equipped to thrive on a raindrop or two take advantage of the moisture and start to grow.

The alpacas too are showing us that spring is near, their fleeces are getting long reminding us we need to start planning on shearing, and the pregnant girls are starting to look more pear shaped as their crias grow.  Yesterday the herd spent their time dashing from shelter to shelter to avoid the wind and by the evening feed we had several who had straw covered fleeces, evidence of a day spent luxuriating in the deep straw and shelter of the barn.

This morning I will no doubt have to don my “Shades of Spring” outfit again, the sunglasses, hood, gloves and whatever else I decide to wear to protect myself from the dust will, I am sure look, most fetching, but I am too practical to care about appearances when it comes to doing chores!

We will enjoy the warmer temperatures this coming week and will continue to hope that we can soon change out of the “Shades of Spring” outfit to they “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” ensemble.  It all puts a different light on using the words “alpaca” and “fashion” in the same sentence doesn’t it!


January 29, 2008

It’s Back! The High Wind Returns

I had to chuckle at the weather forecast I heard on the radio yesterday.  The young lady (a meteorologist based in Amarillo) described the day as “another gorgeous day”.  To give the lady her due the temperature was at least warm, but it is difficult to apply the word gorgeous to the day when the winds are blowing around 30 mph with 50+ mph gusts.

To add to our “gorgeous” weather the dirt and tumbleweeds were blowing freely as well.  As I drove back to the house from an errand there were times on our road that visibility was only a few feet due to the blowing dirt and the only way to know about the tumbleweeds was to see them appear out of nowhere and then slam into the side of the truck.

The current dry conditions are almost as bad as they were in 2004 when serious dust storms were a problem.  I can still remember driving to the show in Fort Worth and driving through areas where the visibility was almost down to nothing.  Not what you want at the best of times but definitely not what you want when you are pulling a trailer load of alpacas.  It is tempting in those conditions to pull over and stop, but the problem is that even with the vehicle’s lights on people are still unable to see you and may run into the back of your vehicle.  We were so lucky that year to miss being involved in a major pile up in one of the dust storms we drove through.  We missed it by minutes, someone was watching over us that day.

Despite the dry conditions our winter wheat is making a valiant attempt at coming through, but unless we receive moisture within the next week or so the winter wheat is unlikely to survive.

The weanlings were not too impressed with yesterday’s weather.  Velvet in particular seemed to miss her dam and did a little fence pacing and ran up to me whenever I went into the pasture.  I suspect on days like these Velvet would feel safer cushed beside her mother in the pasture.

Today is supposed to be the same as yesterday, reasonably warm with high winds.  It will be another day when I will end up wearing a “Clovis tan” by the time chores are finished, due to our fine red dirt sticking to my skin.  There’s just nothing like another “gorgeous” day on the high plains of eastern New Mexico!



January 16, 2008

Snow Gets a Surprise

Sandia SnowYesterday was another one of those “delightful” windy days on the high plains of Eastern New Mexico.  It started off reasonably calm, but the winds soon picked up again with gusts around 40 mph.  At least it was not cold as well with the temperature staying in the late fifties all day.  Today is supposed to be a different story though as an artic air mass descends upon us causing our daytime high to reach a chilly 28 degrees Fahrenheit and our nighttime low forecast to be 12 degrees.

We will be sure to put extra straw in the shelters for the alpacas to cush on during the course of the day and will be keeping a good eye on the young crias to make sure they are not starting to shiver or show signs of being chilled.  We may even give the alpacas an extra ration of warm soaked beet pulp shreds at evening chore time to help them stay warm throughout the night.

Chores took a little longer yesterday; they always do when you are battling the wind.  We typically start off with the boys’ pastures first and work our way towards the girls’ pastures that are nearer to the house.   It’s quite a challenge to put out hay and scoop poop in the high winds but it has to be done and so we just keep working at a steady pace until everything is completed.

Having put the weanlings in their day weaning pasture I headed back across the girls pasture picking up an empty hay bucket as I went and intending to put the hay bucket and the weanlings halters in the feed barn.

As I turned open the gate to go out of the pasture I heard a commotion.  Turning around I could see some of the alpacas scattering out from one of the feed pens.  I headed toward the pen to be greeted by the site of poor Snow with one of the large hay buckets on her head.  The hay buckets are 16 gallon rigid plastic and measure about 20 inches across, they are so big that I would never have imagined that an alpaca could get one on top of its head, but there was Snow in a total panic with the hay bucket on her head.  I ran toward the pen to go and help Snow and as I reached the pen she managed to get the bucket off her head.  I closed the pen gate and checked her out to make sure she had not hurt herself, she seemed fine just a little shaken and so I gave her a relaxing head rub to calm her down (there is an acupressure point on the very top of the skull which is good for relaxation). 

I am still puzzled as to how Snow managed to get the bucket on her head.  All I can think is that she had knocked it onto its side and then stuck her head into it to get some hay.  By sheer fluke the wind must have had enough force that when she went to lift her head out of the bucket, instead of the bucket coming off her head, it came with up with her.  Who would have thought that the wind could do such a thing?

I hope Snow was not too shaken up by her ordeal, she is only a few months pregnant and a maiden as well and I would hate to think of the stress of her bucket incident causing her to lose her pregnancy.  Snow is usually a calm alpaca, and was not shaking or showing signs of great stress when I examined her and so hopefully everything will be okay.


January 6, 2008

A Touch of Anemomania Perhaps?

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpacas, camelids, General — Tags: , , , , — alpacalady @ 7:55 am
The winds are still blowing with the forecast showing continuing high winds well into next week.  I don’t mind the winds too much, they are a part of life around here, but when you have to do chores in the winds day after day after day with no break it does start to get to you a little.

Yesterday morning I wore my MP3 player while doing chores just to have a different noise in my ears.  There are some great shows on National Public Radio (NPR) on Saturday morning and they definitely make for better listening than the constant whoosh of the wind.

The alpacas are not great fans of the wind, they will spend most of the day in the shelter as long as the wind is blowing so hard and then by evening feeding time they are all a little crazy, rearing up on each other, jumping and pronging around the pasture.  They are quite funny to watch and I have to be aware of their antics as I carry in the feed and the hay.  It’s hard enough to hold on to the feed and hay buckets in the wind but when you are surrounded by a herd of frisky, bouncing alpacas (and three large bouncing llamas) there is the potential to get knocked during all the frivolity.

Years ago we visited some friends of ours who had a cattle ranch in California.  Their ranch house was beautiful, based on a central hexagon with rooms built out from that.   I can still remember sitting in the kitchen of the ranch house learning about how people in that area had actually gone mad as a result of the constantly blowing winds.  I had no idea that several years later I would be moving to New Mexico and to an area where the winds blow nearly all the time.

You don’t often hear the term Anemomania, but it refers to a condition where victims become morbidly anxious about the direction of the wind.  Hopefully our winds will die down before I get to that point!  Roll on summer with its calmer, warmer days!


October 18, 2007

Poop, Soup and an Interesting Facial!

Yesterday was an incredibly windy day with sustained winds at 35 – 40 mph and some wind gusts reaching in the mid fifties.  It is always a challenge to do chores in those conditions, getting the hay to the pastures without half of it blowing away, putting out fresh water without a ton of sand landing in it, trying to scoop poop and getting it successfully in the wheelbarrow – such are the joys of doing chores in high winds.

On such an inclement day I have little inclination to be working outside so once the chores were finished it was time to take care of some tasks inside the house.  I am leaving on Friday to go to the Wild and Wooly Alpaca Expo in Folsom, Louisiana to give a presentation on preparing alpaca fleece for showing, and so took the opportunity to gather my paperwork together, check my travel arrangements and start packing for my trip.

With the fall weather outside, it was a good day to have something warm to eat and so I made up a batch of minestrone soup for lunch.  It’s been several months since it has been cool enough to have soup here and so it was a welcome change to our lunch time menu – and it didn’t last long either!

Then it was time to run some fecal tests on the girls pasture.  I had tested the quarantine boys the day before and discovered that despite giving them a preventative treatment for coccidia when they first returned from the State Fair there was still some coccidia present, so another round of treatment is in the works.  The girl’s fecal test however was good which was pleasing and is a testament to our quarantine procedures and also to our use of diatomaceous earth on our feed.  As always when working with fecal samples I was extra careful in the handling of the samples and also of the clean up of my work area once I had finished my tests.  Bleach solution is a wonderful thing!

By 4:30 pm it was time for chores again and the wind was still blowing hard, so round two of battling the winds commenced.  The poor alpacas were not too impressed with the weather either, they loved the falling leaves dropping into the pasture but the wind and dirt blowing into their eyes was not nice for them.  They have access to their shelters and stayed in there for part of the day, but as grazing animals they need to get out and about several times during the day.

On days like today we joke that there is no need to spend money on skin exfoliation treatments in this area – just a couple or rounds of doing chores in the wind and the dust and you get plenty of abrasive exfoliation for your skin!  So not only did I get my work done but I also got to have a facial too!


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