A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

November 4, 2009

Happy Birthday to a Special Herdsire

 

Enchantment's Prince Regent

Our herdsire - Enchantment's Prince Regent

 

 

We had a special birthday over the weekend.  Our herdsire Enchantment’s Prince Regent turned 10 on Halloween (October 31).

We don’t make it a habit to celebrate all of the alpacas birthdays, with as many alpacas as we have we would be doing a lot of celebrating if we did that, but it is nice to remember significant events such as Regent’s 10th birthday.

Enchantment’s Prince Regent was our very first cria, his dam Enchantment’s Peruvian Jennifer was our first alpaca purchase. We purchased Jenny in June of 1999, she was already pregnant by PPPeruvian Yupanqui and we were excited to see what our first cria would be like.

Of course Jenny went past her due date and we anxiously awaited the phone call from the farm where she was boarded telling us that Jenny was in labor.  We lived about three hours away from the boarding farm, Enchantment Farm Alpacas in Ruidoso, New Mexico and so we knew that we had little chance of seeing our first cria being born, but we wanted to get to see our cria as soon as we could.

Fortunately it was a Saturday morning when Jenny went into labor, Ann Evans from Enchantment Farm Alpacas called me to give me the news.  At the time of Ann’s call I was on my way to volunteer at a local animal shelter but that plan soon changed and after returning home to collect Ric we were on our way to Ruidoso.  To this day Ann Evans teases us about the speed in which we made that journey, she could not believe how fast we made it to the farm.

Arriving at Enchantment Farms we could see Jenny and her cria penned in the pasture.  Ann and her husband Rick met us at the pasture and took us in to see our new arrival, a little white male cria who we called Enchantment’s Prince Regent.  Initially we were a little disappointed that Regent was a boy, but when Rick and Ann suggested that perhaps we would like to sell him to them we realized this was not just any little boy cria, he was something special.  While we were grateful for Rick and Ann’s offer we decided to keep Regent and have been so happy we did so.

 

Rosemary and Regent

Rosemary and Regent the day Regent was born

 

 

Regent was undeniable cute as a cria, Ann nick named him Little Monkey Face because of his round face, but as time passed by Little Monkey Face soon became an alpaca with a beautiful sought after head.  We have had people book breedings to Regent just because they liked his head style.

Regent has shown us many aspects of alpaca management during his life.  It was with Regent that we first learned how to bottle feed a cria, Jenny did not have enough milk for him and so Regent received supplemental feedings.  I can still remember being in the pasture with Ann’s daughter Thea during one of our visits to see Regent.  Thea (who I think was then about 9 or 10) instructed me in how to hold onto Regent and get the bottle in his mouth at the same time.  It was quite the challenge to me, but Thea had it down to a fine art!

We experienced our first alpaca show with Regent along with our female gray alpaca Ma Cushla in Estes Park Colorado.  That was to be the first of many alpaca shows for Regent and for us, and during Regent’s show career he won many ribbons and gave us our first Reserve Color Champion.

 

Regent at TxOLAN

Enchantment's Prince Regent wins his first Reserve Color Championship

 

 

Regent has been responsible for bringing income to the farm in the form of breeding fees and the sale of his offspring.  His offspring have done well in the show ring and he has several color champion offspring to his name.

At 10 years old Regent is still looking good and still getting bookings for breeding.  His correct confirmation, dense fleece that has held its fineness, heavy bone and of course that beautiful head make him a herdsire that is still sought after – and he is more than happy to continue to have dates with beautiful alpaca girls.  As a herdsire he is easy to manage, all you need to say is “girls” and he will stand still and allow himself to be caught and haltered.  He is well mannered with the ladies and if a girl says no, while he is undoubtedly disappointed, he will allow himself to be led out of the pen with just a little grumbling.

There is a saying that just because an alpaca is male does not mean he deserves to be a herdsire – a saying that is very true.  With Regent though he truly does deserve to be a herdsire and how fortunate we are to have been blessed with such a wonderful herdsire as our first cria.

So on Regent’s birthday I sang him Happy Birthday, told him how much he means to us – and then had to apologize to him as I didn’t have a breeding arranged for him for that day.  Oh well that’s all part of life as a successful herdsire and Regent was quite happy to receive hay and feed as a birthday treat instead.  Happy Birthday Regent!

Rosemary

 

August 21, 2009

It’s That Time of The Year Again

When the temperature starts to cool a little, the sun sets earlier and the spinning wheel starts calling me!

Having knitted several projects recently I think it is time for a change, so the spinning wheel will be getting a workout

Right now my spinning wheel has some alpaca fiber on it that has been spun but that has also been grabbed by puppy Blue and entangled.  I really need to untangle the yarn and ply it then I will be able to move on to a new project.

I have some white roving ready to go and recently have been viewing some pictures of blended fibers (thanks Theresa and Nichol!) which have set my imagination going and are tempting me to try blending something with the alpaca roving I have.  I still have that really pretty lilac colored tussah silk which I think would look nice against the white roving I have on hand; I just need to pluck up the courage to give it a try.

Within a few months I hope to have a large supply of gray roving on hand as I have finally got around to skirting my collection of blanket fleeces from our one and only gray alpaca Ma Cushla.  Cush is not the softest alpaca in the world but her fleece has a beautiful even silver gray color to it.  I am sending Ma Cushla’s fleeces in to be dehaired and put into roving, some of which I will spin into yarn for knitting and crochet projects and some I want to use for felting (a nice nuno felt scarf maybe).   It will be fun to work with Ma Cushla’s fleece during the cooler months and while I am waiting for it to return from the mill I can start to think about some potential fibers to blend with it.  (I can also think some more about the small rigid heddle loom I have my eye on – but don’t tell Ric who claims I already have too many fiber arts toys as it is!)

That’s the thing with fiber there are so many different things to do with it and so much fun to be had trying new techniques.  The real trick is to find the time to do it all, but it’s amazing what even 15 minutes a day will create.

Rosemary

April 15, 2009

There’s Nothing Quite Like A Good Auntie

Candytuft stands between Orchid and Ma Cushla (really girls you need to learn to chew with your mouths closed!)

Candytuft stands between Orchid and Ma Cushla (really girls you need to learn to chew with your mouths closed!)

 It has been interesting to watch the progress of young Candytuft who is here with her dam Orchid who is here for breeding.

 

When Candytuft first arrived she was very wary of us, not wanting to come near us at all, sticking closely to her dam’s side.  We didn’t force the issue, crias are curious by nature, I knew that if we just went about our business without making an attempt to interact with her that her curiosity would get the better of her.

 

In a short time Candytuft has progressed from running away as soon as she saw us, to peering around the side of her dam to watch us, to now coming up when we are putting out hay and gingerly taking some from our hands.  Candytuft is coming around and gradually starting to trust us.

 

Along with learning to trust us, Candytuft has also formed a bond with our grey alpaca Ma Cushla.  Ma Cushla has always been something of a herd auntie, she has never been able to carry a pregnancy to term and so has never had a cria of her own.  Instead Ma Cushla likes to be the auntie to the various crias at the farm.  Something about her attracts the crias to her; in return she is very gentle with them and even joins in with the crias when they have one of their “cria dashes” around the pasture.  Candytuft has been no exception to Ma Cushla’s charms.

 

While the other alpacas in the quarantine pen would all be at one hay feeder, it was not unusual to find Ma Cushla and Candytuft side by side at the other hay feeder eating together.  Orchid seems quite willing to leave her little one with Ma Cushla and shows no concern that her cria is not at her side as long as Candytuft is with Ma Cushla.

 

Orchid has now completed her quarantine period and we have put her and Candytuft in with the main herd.  Sometimes with visiting female alpacas we will leave them in the quarantine pen for the duration of their stay along with our two companion females Primera and Ma Cushla, but with Candytuft being the only cria in the quarantine pen we felt it was healthier for her to be able to interact with the other crias in the main herd.

 

The first day of Orchid and Candytuft being in with the main herd was strange to them, they didn’t know where to go to eat and had to get acquainted with the other girls in the pasture.  Orchid soon discovered which pen she would be fed in, Candytuft preferred to stay outside of the pen initially and on those first few days while Orchid was eating we would find Candytuft seeking out Ma Cushla and comfortably settling in beside her until Orchid had finished her feed.

 

Now Orchid and Candytuft are more settled in with the main herd.  Most times Candytuft now goes into a pen with Orchid to eat, but other times she stays out and seeks out the company of her favorite herd auntie Ma Cushla, proving that as is the case for many crias there’s nothing quite like a herd auntie for good company.

 

Rosemary

April 8, 2009

A Weekend of Felting Fun

 My weekend in Colorado was a great success and a lot of fun too.  The weather behaved and while the drive up on Friday was a little windy, the snow cooperated by arriving on Saturday and being gone by the time I left on Sunday.  Those who know me know that I am not a fan of being out in the snow and even less of a fan of driving in it, so to enjoy the beauty of a snowy mountain landscape while having the luxury of staying inside and working on fiber arts was a treat.

 

Friday evening and Saturday morning were spent working on a silk and alpaca felt scarf using the Nuno Felting technique.  The combination of silk and alpaca is a great one and it was interesting to feel how quickly the alpaca felts beneath your fingers.  This was my first venture in felting alpaca this way, I have felted alpaca before by knitting and then putting the knitted product in the washing machine, but have not felted by hand until now.  The felting process was really not hard at all and under the guidance of my friend and teacher Judy Sims-Barlow I soon produced my first silk and alpaca scarf.

 

Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning we moved onto the next project – making an alpaca felt hat.  This was a little more involved and sadly I was unable to use either of the two fleeces I had taken with me.  Both Chamberino and Ma Cushla’s fleeces were deemed to be too hairy and so they will need to be dehaired before being used.  Fortunately Judy had some alpaca batting from her alpaca Ruby Moonlight that was suitable for hat making.

 

By Sunday afternoon I had also completed the hat.  It’s amazing what you can do when you have the time available to work on nothing but that one project. 

 

I will post pictures of my two creations in days to come, for a first time attempt they came out really well.

 

A big Thank You goes out to Judy and Will Sims-Barlow of Spanish Peaks Alpacas for accommodating me over the weekend, for the wonderful meals they provided and for teaching me new skills I am now eager to put to use.

 

Rosemary

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.

 

Rosemary

March 23, 2009

Getting Acquainted

Orchid and Candytuft our guest alpacas

Orchid and Candytuft our guest alpacas

 

The weekend was a full one.   First we settled Orchid and her cria Candytuft in to the quarantine pasture with Ma Cushla and Primera, weighing them first so that we can monitor Candytuft’s weight and also know if Orchid is holding her weight during her visit.  Orchid is a little on the heavy side, but as Candytuft is a strong, robust cria she will probably nurse a lot of that extra weight off Orchid.  Our farm must be such a dramatic change for those two girls after the lush green pastures of Louisiana.

 

We then spent time getting caught up with Dale, finding out what he had been up to since he retired from the Air Force and updating each other with news of friends and acquaintances. 

 

Dale had asked us if we could spend Saturday educating him in good and bad points to look for when purchasing alpacas and also showing him routine tasks such as toe nail trimming, teeth trimming, our feeding practices and other aspects of alpaca care.  So Dale got a pretty intensive Alpaca 101 course in a day!  It was a lot of information for him to take in, but he seemed appreciative of the information we shared with him and said he felt more confident in assessing alpacas by the time he left us on Sunday.

 

Part of Saturday morning was spent helping Dale decide which herdsire he wanted to use on Orchid.  We looked at Orchid first and established her strong and weak points and then showed him our herdsires and also their fleeces from last year.  Our Enchantment’s Prince Regent was Dale’s selection and I am sure that Regent and Orchid will make an outstanding match.

 

After that we went over the breeding contract and also talked about contracts in general to help Dale when he comes to drawing up contracts for his own alpaca clients.

 

We covered a lot of information during Dale’s visit, it was a lot to take in and remember but Dale knows that if he forgets anything or needs to clarify anything he only has to pick up the phone and call us.

 

During his visit Dale commented on how relaxed our alpacas were and how our girls go into their different feeding pens at feeding time.  He also said he hopes Orchid and Candytuft will learn to be that relaxed while they are with us.

 

For now Orchid and Candytuft are wary of us and still getting used to their new surroundings.  We will take things easy with them initially, not making an effort to interact with them unless they come up to us.  So far Orchid has come up to sniff me a couple of times, but Candytuft will only stand behind Orchid and peer around her to look at me – she will come around in time I am sure.   We will handle them with care and respect during their visit and in time they will learn to relax around us.

 

For many alpacas one of the biggest hurdles in human interaction is trust and we work hard to raise our alpacas to know that they can trust us.  During their stay Orchid and Candytuft will learn to trust us too, already they are watching how our alpacas interact with us which in itself will help them feel more at ease with us.  Alpacas being herd animals do pick up on the behavior of others in the herd.

 

Once quarantine is over we will introduce Orchid and Candytuft to our main female herd.  It will be nice for Candytuft to be able to play with the fall crias, while she is quite a bit younger than them she is a good size for her age and will not have any problem joining in the cria games in the evening.

 

Already though Candytuft has an admirer.  I discovered Little Man (aka Windrush Peruvian Tonka) looking longingly through the fence at her on Sunday morning.  Usually Little Man is one of the first to go into the cria pen at feeding time, but on Sunday morning he was completely distracted by Candytuft’s presence.  I’ve told Little Man that he will get a chance to meet Candytuft soon, but somehow I get the feeling that for him it will not be soon enough.  He may be a little but he’s telling me he’s definitely a man in alpaca terms, a herdsire in the making – one day Little Man, one day.

 

Rosemary

March 21, 2009

The First of the Farm Visitors Arrive

 

Yesterday afternoon our friend and fellow alpaca breeder Dale Amer arrived at the farm bringing with him a date for one of our alpaca boys.  Dale drove from Alexandria, Louisiana, a long drive especially when you are hauling a trailer with a female alpaca and her young cria.

 

We had the quarantine pen set up ready for the arrival of the two alpacas, and Orchid (the adult female) and her cria Candytuft soon made themselves at home.  Our girls all lined up at the fence line to view the new arrivals and our fall crias were very curious about Candytuft, staring at her through the fence and watching her explore the quarantine pen.  To keep Orchid and Candytuft company we also put our two non-reproductive females Primera and Ma Cushla in the quarantine pen.  It is so nice to have a couple of females who we can use for quarantine companions, especially when you only have one or two alpacas arriving to go into quarantine.  Alpacas really do like to be in groups and by providing Primera and Ma Cushla as companions we find that the visiting alpacas soon settle down and start to feel at ease.

 

Dale is a relatively new alpaca breeder and so today will be devoted to answering any burning questions he has and showing him how we manage our herd at our farm.  He will also get to select which male he wishes to breed Orchid to.

 

Orchid and Candytuft will remain in quarantine for three weeks and then we will breed Orchid.  Hopefully she will get pregnant easily and it won’t be too long before she is headed back to Louisiana, although in view of the long journey ahead of her she will probably not return home until she is at least 60 days pregnant.

 

What was good to see last night was that at dusk Candytuft was galloping around the pasture as a happy cria will do and Orchid was standing at the hayrack alongside Ma Cushla and Primera.  Looks like the long journey did not bother our two visitors too much!

 

In the next few days we will have another visiting alpaca arrive – breeding season is definitely starting and according to our herdsires it’s not a moment too soon!

 

Rosemary

March 16, 2009

The Folly Of Mother Nature

A Scared Baby Rabbit

A Scared Baby Rabbit

 

Just before our recent snow fall it was starting to look like spring around the farm, fruit trees were blossoming, elm trees were bright green with young leaves, the bluebirds had arrived for their short stay before heading further north and madam skunk had been prowling the property.

 

Then the snow came and everything was plunged back into winter.  That is the nature of the weather in Eastern New Mexico, extreme and changeable.

 

While doing chores in the snow on Friday morning I was made aware of how much nature had been fooled by our warmer days.

 

Putting hay out for the girls is always a bustling time.  They want to be the first to get their head in the hay feeder, or even better get their head in the bucket of hay I am carrying, especially if we are treating them to a little alfalfa as was the case on Friday.

 

As I put hay out in the feeders in the large blue shelter Griffin the llama was standing by my shoulder trying her best to get her head in the hay bucket.  Suddenly from the direction of Griffins feet came a squealing sound.  The sound was vaguely familiar, I didn’t think it was a cria and hoped it was not as we are not due for any births until May.  The squealing continued and eventually I found the source of the noise.  There under Griffins foot was a tiny baby cottontail rabbit. 

 

Fortunately Griffin did not have her feet completely on the rabbit, she’s a large girl and that would have been the end of the rabbit I am sure.  I nudged Griffin to move and the little rabbit dashed off to the side of the shelter.  It was then I noticed a ball of downy fur nestled in the straw where the mother rabbit had made a nest out of her own fur.

 

The dashing of baby rabbit number one had alerted baby rabbit number two who then ran out of the nest to the side of the shelter.  There was no sign of the mother rabbit, but there was enough activity to get the attention of the llamas and the alpacas.  They watched with curiosity as the little rabbits ran around the shelter dashing from one side to the one.  Then, once the rabbits had stopped, Inca (another of our llamas) and Griffin decided that they should check out what these little furry speeding balls of fur were.  Very gently Inca and Griffin reached out their necks and sniffed the rabbits.  Can you imagine what must have been going through those rabbits minds as the large llama muzzles came down towards them?

 

After a couple of sniffs and some words of reassurance from me that the rabbits were okay Inca and Griffin returned to eating hay.  Two of the alpaca girls Keeva and Ma Cushla though felt they needed to be in on the action and so also went over to sniff the baby rabbits, who by now must have been petrified.

 

As the rabbits seemed okay, apart from being scared, I decided that the best thing to do was to leave them alone to settle back down and return to their nest in the hope that the mother rabbit would return to care for them.  I moved the girls hay feeder away from the nest to make sure that no one stepped on the rabbits again and left the shelter.

 

We have seen the baby rabbits since Friday; Ric caught a glimpse of them on Saturday morning.  They seem to be faring well and I am pretty certain the mother rabbit is tending to them when we are not around.

 

I am glad that the little rabbits and their mother were not scared out of the shelter.  It provides great shelter for them and has some nice deep straw in it where they can stay hidden and warm, provided that is that the girls do not step on them again.  It is early though for such small rabbits and goes to show how Mother Nature sometimes fools herself.

 

Rosemary

September 7, 2008

Ivanna Gets a Gift

Ivanna, the recipient of a kind gift from a farm visitor

Ivanna, the recipient of a kind gift from a farm visitor

 

 Our Open Farm Day went well, we had good attendance and as usual enjoyed meeting our visitors.  For some it was their first visit to our farm, for others it was their first time seeing an alpaca up close and others have been to visit us before and wanted to come and visit us again.

 

The weather was reasonable until later in the afternoon, but fortunately we had the air conditioned studio where people could cool down and enjoy some cold lemonade and cookies.

 

We had a lot of children visit us this time with their families and it was wonderful to see their fascination with the alpacas.  We were impressed with how many of the children remembered the things we talked about during the course of the visit, a good indication that they were interested in alpacas and had been listening to what we said.

 

Regent and Asteroid behaved well when we used them to demonstrate the various traits of alpacas and what traits are common in the camelid group.  The boys did get a little restless after a while but as we were discussing them while standing in front of the girls pasture that was hardly surprising.

 

For Mags and Song, the two orphaned crias, the visitors were a little too much excitement and Mags started to revert to some of his inappropriate behavior.  We didn’t feel it was fair on Mags to challenge him with dealing with so many visitors and so put him in a pen with Song away from the visitors.  He soon settled down to a relaxing day eating hay away from all of the activity.

 

One group of visitors experienced the fun of giving the alpacas a “shower”.  The girls all came running once they realized the hose was turned on and then there was the usual jostling to see who could get closest to the hose and hog the water.  Ma Cushla, our gray alpaca did her usual trick of drinking from the hose and TeQueely’s cria Pride decided that the standing water on the ground was much tastier than the water in the various buckets and waterers in the pasture.  Apparently hose water and dirty water is much more appealing than clean fresh water!

 

We were also fortunate to experience the kindness of our visitors when Joy, Matthew, Barbara, Gemma and Aubrey from Lubbock, Texas showed up with a gift for our alpaca Ivanna – some sterile water!  The family had read on the blog about Ivanna’s allergies affecting her eyes and our not being able to find any sterile water in Clovis and so brought Ivanna some sterile water.  What a wonderful gesture, their kindness truly touched us, and we are sure Ivanna will appreciate their gesture too as the sterile water soothes her irritated eyes.  Thank you all!

 

So now we look forward to our next Open Farm Day, which is scheduled for September 27 as part of National Alpaca Farm Days.  If you happen to be in the area at that time come over and join us, we would love to meet you.

 

Rosemary

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