A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

April 13, 2009

Easter Brings The Joy of Rain

Following a week of dust storms and severe winds, thankfully Easter weekend brought us some rain.  Not a huge amount, no torrential downpours (thankfully) but some nice steady rain.  The ground is still damp and the dust is not blowing even though the wind has again picked up speed a little.  While local families went on Easter Egg hunts, we had an Easter Egg hunt of a different kind, as we looked at the dry oval patches on the ground where the alpacas had cushed in the rain.  


The alpacas felt there was sufficient rain for them to go into their shelters at times, cushing down in the straw and chewing their cud as they settled down to watch the rain.  They were much more relaxed than when they had to cope with the high winds, then they would stick their heads out of the shelter and make a mad dash for a different shelter taking a more diagonal route than they had planned as the wind blew them sideways.  To give you an idea how powerful the wind was last week, the latch that holds our feed barn door open was ripped off by the wind and I used two bales of alfalfa to prop the door open, the bales weigh about 60 lbs each and were stacked on top of each other but the wind moved them with ease giving me an extra workout as I put them back in place each time the wind moved them.


As the rain continued some of the alpacas ventured out for a soaking, enjoying the feeling of the rain on their fleeces and hopefully washing out some of the dirt that has accumulated in their fleeces over the past months.


The upcoming week has a forecast of more rain – we will take whatever we can get and hope that it travels on to give Texas a good soaking too.  There have been some terrible grass fires in the past week in Texas and New Mexico and rain is much-welcomed friend to those fighting the fires.


As we prepare for shearing we are even more grateful to the rain, hoping to get the alpacas a natural rinse before we start to shear.  The dirt is hard on our shearing equipment and is something we would rather not have in our fleeces.  

One of the advantages of shearing our own herd is that we are not tied to a particular day as we are when we contract a shearer to shear, allowing us to adjust our shearing days a little to ensure we have dry fleeces to shear.


We will hope that the forecast is right for this week, the rain will help our struggling winter wheat grow and once it is a little stronger we can let the alpacas take turns grazing it – and then we will have a really happy bunch of alpacas!



November 13, 2008

A Farm Resident Returns

Filed under: alpaca, Alpacas, camelids, Family, General — Tags: , , , — alpacalady @ 6:13 am


No, its not Ric, he’s still on vacation in England but is due to return on Friday evening airlines permitting!


This is a farm resident of the feathered kind, one who we haven’t seen for several years – an owl, or rather a pair of owls.


We first encountered the owls during our first year at the farm.  One night we could hear a strange noise outside our bedroom window and couldn’t figure out what it was until we noticed the owls sitting on top of two power cable posts.  They used to perch there every night, making their odd owl noises (not the stereotypical “hoot” noise that people think of when they think of owls).  The owls stayed on the farm through that summer and we were glad to have them around as they help keep the rodent population under control, although we were not to happy to have them try and steal our barn cats (at least one went missing during that time and another one we found with distinct wounds where the owls talons had gripped her).


Suddenly though the owls disappeared and were not seen or heard again until Tuesday evening when they swooped over to the same poles where they used to perch.    Each owl sat atop a pole and for several minutes they seemed to be observing the activities of evening chores, swiveling their heads and staring with their large eyes.  Having seen what I was up to the owls flew off toward the tree at the side of the house.


I have been trying to identify what sort of owls ours are.  They are not barn owls as they are the wrong color.  Our owls are a dark gray brown in color with distinctive ear tufts on their heads and they are about 18 – 24 inches in length.  As far as I can tell from checking out various owl web sites the owls are most likely Great Horned Owls.


I do wonder where the owls have been these past years, I suspect that they are the same pair, owls mate for life and these two knew exactly where they were headed when they flew in to perch on the power poles the other night.  Most likely the owls have not been too far away, maybe they found a better perch to share at a neighbors property.  It was nice to see them back though and I will be watching and listening for them in the days to come, knowing that the strange noises outside the bedroom window belong to them and are no cause for concern!



October 12, 2008

Wet Weather Jack In The Boxes

Yesterday we were treated to some heavy moisture as a result of Hurricane Norbert coming in over California.  It’s amazing to think that weather in California could affect our weather in New Mexico, but on this occasion it did.  The day started off with some heavy showers in the morning the rain became heavier and steadier rain as the day went on.


With three young cria in the pasture I wanted to make sure they stayed as dry as possible.  Sometimes a crias dam will get comfortable sitting out in the pasture during a heavy rain and there beside her will be her soaking wet cria.  I know that alpacas are pasture animals and a little rain will not hurt them, but I hate the thought of a young cria getting soaked to the skin and then becoming cold and possibly chilled as the evening draws in.


In preparation for the weather I had some cria coats ready.  Carina’s cria has been wearing a cria coat at night since she was born, but Sleeper and Dutchesses cria were not used to wearing cria coats.  As soon as it started to sprinkle with rain I went out and put the coats on the crias.  Once a cria is wet it can do more harm than good to put a coat on over their wet fleece so I wanted to get the coats on the crias before they became wet.


Throughout the day I would check on the crias.  At one point when there was a break in the rain, Dutchesses cria suddenly appeared without his cria coat on.  He was running and kicking his little legs up in the air as if to say, “I’m free, I’ve got it off” and there in the pasture lay his cria coat.  I went out and put the cria coat back on, much to the little guy’s disgust.  He’s a macho young man and I think the idea of having to wear a cria coat was not macho enough for him!


Whenever the rain started to increase I would look out to check that the crias were inside the shelter and quite often they were not.  Their dams were all taking shelter but the three little ones would be sitting out in the pasture cushed in the rain.  So out I would go and put the crias back in the shelter, where they would stay either until the rain eased or until they felt it was a good time to run outside again.  I seemed to spend most of my afternoon running out, gathering up crias and putting them back in the shelter, only to find they had popped back out again a short while later.  It was like trying to keep the lid on three very active Jack in the Boxes!


For most of the year our three sided shelters are great for our weather, but on a day like yesterday it would have been lovely to have a barn I could have penned the crias and their dams in.  Still this amount of rainfall is a rare occurrence in our area and our alpacas much prefer to be out than in, so it is hard to justify building a large enclosed barn to be used just a few times a year.


I am not sure that the crias found their trips in and out of the barn fun, but towards the end of the day I did start to wonder if I was the victim of a mischievous alpaca game, as the little ones tried to see how often and how fast they could get me to come out of the house to put them back into the shelter!



October 1, 2008

Taking Stock

Having lost our downtown end product outlet earlier in the year (the store owner retired) we have been looking into other options for us to get our alpaca products into a local retail location.  After looking at several options we have decided to try a booth at Main Street Crafters Mall, which is in the downtown area of Clovis.


There has been a lot of effort to promote and improve the area of downtown Clovis.   To me it has a lot of character ranging from the brick road to some beautiful architectural features on the buildings.  The Clovis MainStreet Program has been busy planning and securing funding for various projects.   The Chamber of Commerce has now opened a Norman and Vi Petty Rock and Roll museum in the downtown area and various events are scheduled in the downtown area throughout the year.


So today, following chores and with cria births permitting, we will be spending our time setting up our booth and making it as eye catching as possible.   I am challenged when it comes to artistic layout but am improving over the years, Ric has a better eye for display than I do so he will be putting his creative touch to our display.


The Main Street Crafters Mall consists of a collection of booths stocked by local artists and crafters.  There are a wide variety of products to choose from and it is a good place for gift shopping.  Having been open several years it is well known locally and usually gets a good flow of visitors throughout the week and weekend.


A crafters mall (or similar idea) can be a good place for alpaca breeders to place product, it allows you to get exposure for your product and your farm (don’t forget to include alpaca pictures and perhaps some rack cards or postcards about your farm in your display) while not tying you down to being at a store every day.    Some alpaca breeders I know have also sold product at Farmer’s Markets which can be another good avenue for end product sales (especially if you are willing to sit and spin, knit, weave or crochet which will get people’s attention).


To prepare for the set up of our booth we have inventoried our entire end product on hand and have had to re-label everything to comply with the requirements of the store.  It has taken a little time but it is a good opportunity to remind yourself what you do have on hand and maybe adjust pricing of various items depending on current markets and how long you have had that particular item in your inventory.


We are still planning on having a small online store on our website, and will offer products for sale at our Open Farm Days, but we like the idea that our local customers will now have easier access to our product on a day to day basis.  With Christmas rapidly approaching we are hoping that sales will still be good despite the current economical crisis in the US.


By the end of today our booth should be pretty much set up, I am sure we will need to come up with some additional signage, but we should have enough supplies and product on hand to make a nice display to start with.  Some of our marketing pieces will need to be changed to advertise the new location of our products –to ensure that as many people as possible know how to get their hands on our lovely alpaca goods.  Here’s hoping for some healthy alpaca product sales!





September 15, 2008

It’s Back! The Second National Alpaca Farm Days Is Almost Here

2008 National Alpaca Farm Days Poster

2008 National Alpaca Farm Days Poster

For the second year the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association (AOBA) has coordinated National Alpaca Farm Days in order to increase the public’s awareness of alpacas.  For alpaca owners, alpaca lovers and those who have yet to meet an alpaca National Alpaca Farm Day’s provides an easy opportunity to find an alpaca farm or ranch to visit.


The date for this year’s event is September 27 and 28 and once again the National Alpaca Farm Days web site has been set up, complete with interactive map to help people find the nearest participating farm or ranch.    Once you get to the National Alpaca Farm Days web site at www.nationalalpacafarmdays.com just click on the “Find a Farm Near You” tab on the left hand side of the screen and the interactive map will appear, complete with search fields for you to enter.  You can enter just the state you wish to visit, the town you live in or even a specific farm name if there is a particular farm you wish to visit.  Do note that the interactive map comes up as a pop-up screen so if you have a pop-up blocker installed on your computer you will need to temporarily disable it.


Windrush Alpacas will again be taking part in National Alpaca Farm Days and will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, September 27.  We will have free refreshments, tours of the farm, educational presentations on alpacas, alpaca products and of course plenty of opportunity to meet an alpaca.  I can’t say for sure that we will have any new crias by then, but you never know!


So mark your calendars and come and visit us on September 27, we will look forward to seeing you then!



August 6, 2008

Marketing Our Wares


Yesterday was spent visiting local stores to try and gauge their interest in carrying some of our products.  Until this spring we had a booth at a store in downtown Clovis, NM that carried all sorts of unique gifts and products.  Sadly for us the owner decided that she needed to do something different in life and closed the store down, taking away our outlet for local product sales.  As the holiday season is rapidly approaching (I know, it’s only August but before we know it the holiday shopping season will be upon us) we want to get our products into the stores to increase people’s awareness of them.


In the past we tried running a small store at the farm, but with two of us and close to 60 alpacas at any given time it becomes quite a juggling act.  Retail customers often don’t understand that you are in the middle of chores and not really attired for selling fine alpaca products, after all they don’t encounter that situation in most stores they visit.  So the farm store is now only open during events such as our Open Farm Days.  That works for helping deal with the workflow at home but does not provide our retail customers with easy, convenient access to our products.  Hence our current expedition to find another local store or two where we can place our products in addition to our online store which is still in the works.


Funnily enough when we first started to raise alpacas I never envisioned having to deal with retail sales of product.  I knew the alpacas would need tending to, I knew that there would be bookkeeping and other paperwork to do and I knew that there would be a need to do marketing, but the penny didn’t quite drop that I would need to retail our products.


Not long after we purchased our first alpacas I started to realize that it would be beneficial to us to be able to sell products made from alpaca fleece.  It’s not an obligatory part of alpaca ownership by any means, but it does bring additional income to the business and tends to be a more steady flow than the sales of the alpacas themselves.


Our journey into the world of alpaca end product sales has been an interesting one.  We now have a better understanding of why it takes so long to have product made from our own fleece (an average of seven months turn around time), we have a better understanding of what grades of fleece are best for which products, we have a better understanding of production costs, and we have a better understanding that end product retail sales are a whole business and education in themselves! 


At the end of the day we know we don’t want to become a full time retail product operation, our love is managing an alpaca herd and selling alpacas, but the hands on education we have received while learning how to sell alpaca end product has given us a greater understanding of where we need to be headed with our breeding goals and along the way our end product sales (even with our novice understanding of retail) have proved profitable.  Additionally our experience in retailing alpaca product has helped us to understand how important it is that the alpaca industry focus on further development of the fiber side of the business.


Personally I feel that the alpaca industry is at an exciting time in it’s development, the market for North American alpaca products is most definitely there, the challenge now is to continue to build interest in North American alpaca products and bring those products to the consumer at price that is acceptable to them while still putting profit into the alpaca breeders business.  With the development of fiber cooperatives and joint end product ventures the ability to meet that challenge is within our grasp.  How exciting to know that the fleece from our herd could one day, in the near future, be in a product in a major department store or in a piece of couture clothing.


While marketing our product locally is only a small piece of the puzzle, it is a piece all the same.  The customers who purchase our products often tell their friends and relatives how much they enjoy them, or send our products to friends and relatives as gifts.  Slowly but surely the word spreads and the demand grows.


So albeit that at the start of our alpaca business I never envisioned that retail product sales would be something I would be dealing with, here I am today doing just that.  Meeting interesting people, learning from the information they are willing to share with me, and doing my little bit to promote alpacas. 



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!



March 9, 2008

Swift Sales On a Good First Day

The first day of the Clovis Arts and Craft Fair went well.  The Convention Center was well set up and there was a good flow of people throughout the day.  The Energy Mats got a lot of attention, we had a couple of them set out on chairs for people to try and we sold quite a few.  What was interesting to me was how people were drawn to them as they walked past the booth, reaching out to touch them and stopping to look at them.  I had better call our weaver on Monday to check up on my next batch of Energy Mats and rugs that are being made.

As always the alpaca socks sold well, even though temperatures were in the mid 60’s outside.  I think we have had enough changeable weather recently that people realize we could still be in for another cold snap or two.

I had several knitters and crocheters stop by to feel the yarn and in some cases to buy yarn.  One lady told me she has been looking for three years at our yarn and finally decided to buy some today.  I hope she is happy with her purchase and creates something special with it.  Her comments reminded me how important it is to have consistent marketing and to remember that sometimes it takes a long time for customers to take the first step when buying something they are unfamiliar with.

Just prior to the Arts and Craft Fair I received my first shipment of yarn from the North American Alpaca Fiber Producers Co-op (NAAFP).  The yarn is a stunning blend of Huacaya Alpaca, Suri Alpaca and Tencel.  It has a beautiful soft handle to it and a seductive sheen.  The new yarn got many oohs and aahs from the knitters and crocheters and I believe several of them will be saving up to add some to their fiber stash.

Among our customers today were several repeat customers who have purchased from us in the past.  It is great to see people so happy with their first purchase that they return again to buy more.

Today the Arts and Craft Fair does not start until 11 a.m. and runs until 4 p.m., hopefully it will be well attended again.  In a small town there is a limit to the number of people who will attend an event, but some people like to come on the first day to just browse and see what is available and then come back on the second day to do all of their buying.  Fingers crossed it will be another busy day, with customers old and new stopping by to visit and enjoy the feel of alpaca.


March 8, 2008

An Early Start

It’s an early start for me this morning as I am taking part in a Spring Arts and Craft Fair at the Clovis Convention Center.  The Craft Fair runs from 10 a.m. to 5 pm today and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. tomorrow.  The reason for my early start is that I have to be at the Convention Center to set up by 7 a.m. – looks like Ric will be doing most of the chores today.

Yesterday was spent putting together signs for my booth at the Craft Fair, gathering product and marketing pieces and loading everything up to be ready to go first thing in the morning.  I am sure I have forgotten something but if so I will have to call Ric once I have set up and see if he can run it out to me.

It’s always interesting the first day of a new event, while I have a brief description of what will be provided at my booth you never really can tell how to set up the products until you get to the event.   I have a good selection of socks, scarves, glittens and yarn to sell and hope everyone coming to the event will be in the mood to buy.  The weather is supposed to be warm and spring like, but in a way I would like it to be a little chilly to encourage people to buy socks, scarves and glittens!

Hopefully the event will be well attended.  It has been advertised well on the radio and in the local paper.  I have been to some events when the only people in attendance have been the other vendors, but I get the feeling that this one will bring in a good crowd.

It will be fun getting to know the other vendors at the event and getting to see what they have to offer for sale, it is amazing how creative some people are.   Usually event vendors are a friendly bunch and by the end of the event we all know each other better.

Tomorrow of course our clocks Spring Forward as we enter Daylight Saving Time – lets hope that I remember to put the clocks forward after a long day at the craft fair! Rosemary

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