A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

April 21, 2011

Don’t You Just Love Alpacas?

April Open Farm Day

Ric conducts a pasture tour during our windy April Open Farm Day

Well of course you do because after all they are adorable, but on top of that they are also adaptable.

Our last Open Farm Day was challenged by incredibly windy conditions, with sustained winds between 25 and 30 mph and gusts up to 60 mph.  All in all the conditions were really not the nicest, but we discovered that the alpacas have some pretty dedicated fans who were determined to visit the farm despite the wind and blowing dust – a big thank you to all those who braved the weather to come out to see us!

Of course windy weather is pretty much the norm in Clovis in the spring, but this spring has been particular windy and very dry.  Our natural grass that we planted in the back field has been a big help in keeping the dust down, but there is still plenty of dust and also tumbleweeds to blow around.

At one point in the day the conditions just became too poor for us to continue with the farm tours, but we didn’t want to disappoint people, especially when they had braved the weather to come and visit.  That is when the adaptability of alpacas came into play, using first Buck and then Champ for our “volunteers” we brought the alpacas into the farm store so that people could see them up close, be out of the wind and actually hear what Ric was saying as part of his presentation.  The visitors could even enjoy a cup of coffee or a glass of lemonade and a cookie while they listened!

Buck Comes Into The Studio at Open Farm Day

Buck In the Studio on April Open Farm Day - He Saved People From Having to Suffer The High Winds And Dust That Day

Both Buck and Champ did well, Champ wasn’t too sure about lifting his feet to show people his soft pads and decided to cush (sit down) for a while, but apart from that the two boys behaved like stars – the beauty of alpacas!

So now with the April farm day behind us it is time to turn our thoughts to shearing.  We will be shearing this weekend and continue on shearing whenever we get the opportunity until the whole herd is done.  As warm as it is already I am pretty certain that the alpacas are more than ready for their cool summer do’s – mark your calendars for Saturday May 14 our next Open Farm Day and then you can see how different the alpacas look without their fleece – hopefully by then we will be rid of the high winds and Open Farm Day will be a pleasurable time for both humans and alpacas!


May 12, 2009

What You Don’t Want To Happen On Shearing Day!

Braveheart sporting his half shorn look

Braveheart sporting his half shorn look


This past weekend our plan had been to shear a large number of alpacas.  We knew we would probably not get them all done, but felt we could make a pretty good dent in our shearing load.

We had everything ready to go, plenty of plastic bags for samples and the various grades of fleece, a shearing order printed out, the shearing area clean, supplies on hand to deal with trimming toenails, teeth and in case of any shearing cuts (we try to avoid cuts but once in a while they happen).  Our fiber sorter Troy Ogilvie and his wife Mary arrived on Friday afternoon and we had helpers lined up for Saturday – things were looking good!  Even the weather was cooperating by being a cool 70 degrees instead of the 90+ temperatures of the previous days.

 After a good breakfast (got to keep your strength up on shearing day) we all went to the shearing area and got started. Chief was first to get shorn and left the barn with his new summer do, complete with a toenail trimming and some ear tick treatment for good measure. We continued on but soon realized something was not quite right with the shears.

On Friday night Bob and Regina Dart had come out to shear some of their female alpacas who are boarded here. Bob had mentioned that the blades on the shears did not seem to be cutting right. When we started shearing on Saturday we started with a fresh set of blades and cutters thinking that perhaps the blades Bob had used on Friday were either not sharpened correctly or had been used and put back in the wrong pile. Initially the shears didn’t seem too bad although we were not getting the same smooth shear that we usually do. As time went on though we could tell something was wrong.  Ric took the shears up to his worktable and was in the process of trying to adjust them to make them run better when two pieces of the shear head flew across the room!  That was the end of the shears.

Fortunately Ric was away from all alpacas and people when those two pieces of metal came loose, they were red hot and traveling fast as the left the shears.  Imagine if that had happened when the shears were being used on one of the alpacas.

With the demise of the shears we had a dilemma, how to shear the remaining alpacas including poor Braveheart who was now only half shorn.  Several phone calls were made to various livestock supply stores both in the area and further afield but we had no joy in finding a replacement set of shears.  Fortunately though a friend of ours had his sheep shears available and we were able to collect them to use for the rest of the day.

We released Braveheart back in with the other male alpacas while we were waiting for Ric to return with the borrowed shears.  Poor Braveheart was quite the picture with his half shorn look and I couldn’t resist taking a picture of him  (see photo at the beginning of this post).

We sheared for the rest of Saturday and all of Sunday and now have 18 alpacas sheared – only 25 left to go and we will be finished. 

So this next weekend we will be shearing again, our broken shear head has been sent for repairs and in an effort to prevent our “no shears” dilemma again we have ordered another set of shears to have on hand.  Braveheart is now fully shorn and with two sets of shears in the future we hope we never have any half shorn alpacas again!


May 7, 2008

Back Home and Back to Business

My visit to England is over and I arrived back in the US late Sunday evening.  Unfortunately my flight from London was delayed by two hours and so my two hour forty minute layover before my connecting flight was reduced to just forty minutes.  It was a challenge to retrieve my luggage, clear immigration, clear customs (including an extra baggage inspection as I had brought food back with me) recheck my bags and make it to my next flight, but miraculously I made it!


Of course now there is much to catch up on, from email and bills to preparing for shearing and birthing of the crias that are due, but it’s not insurmountable and I am sure by the end of the week I will be almost back to normal (whatever normal is!).  Having been without internet access for most of my trip this blog has been lacking in entries while I have been gone, but now I am home the entries will be posted regularly.  If you posted a comment on the blog while I was gone and haven’t heard back from me yet then please know I will be in touch shortly.


The animals are all pleased to have me back home, the dogs gave me a rapturous welcome, the cats tried to tell me that they needed more food and the horses greeted me with a lot of whinnying.  The alpacas all came up to see me and I received lots of “wuffles” from them as the gathered around me in the pastures.  The pregnant girls are all looking much bigger than when I left and some of them have developed udders showing that they are not far off from giving birth.  The boys sense that changes are about to occur in the girls pasture and are giving longing looks to the girls.  As the girls reach the last stages of their pregnancy their hormone levels change and the boys are more than aware of this.


Monday afternoon brought with it an urgent situation for our alpaca neighbors Bob and Regina Dart of Llano Soleado Alpacas.  One of the dams at their farm had been in labor for most of the morning and wasn’t making progress.   By lunchtime the vet had decided to do a C-section on the dam and I joined Bob and Regina at the vet’s office to give them a helping hand.  Fortunately the cria was still alive when the vet delivered him – a beautiful male cria with soft shiny crimpy fleece.  Not that we could see that when he was delivered as he was very wet and covered in birthing fluids.  My part of the process was to get him dry and take care of him while the vet completed the surgery on the dam.  The cria was remarkable strong despite his traumatic birth and once dried off he was very hungry.  As soon as was possible we got some colostrum from the crias dam and give it to the new cria who greedily sucked it down.  The cria appears to be fine and healthy but unfortunately the dam had to be euthanized yesterday following complications from the surgery.  It is always hard to lose an alpaca; to see a dam struggle for the survival of her cria and lose her life in the process is especially heartbreaking.   That little cria is one special boy and I hope that he goes on to win many ribbons for the Darts and brings them much pleasure as he grows and thrives. 


By Tuesday it was time to get into shearing mode as the Darts had a shearer booked to shear some of their herd.  The shearing went well, and it was a good chance to wake up those muscles that I don’t use for the rest of the year but do use once a year during shearing holding alpacas and picking up fleece.  Thank you Bob and Regina for giving me a warm up session prior to our starting to shear our herd this weekend!


It hasn’t taken me long to get back in the thick of things, life has a way of doing that especially when you work with livestock, but it keeps me out of trouble – well most of the time anyway!


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!



January 20, 2008

Oh Where Oh Where Has My Show Fleece Gone?

 Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to be organized.  Back in the spring when we were shearing the alpacas, I decided that with the slower pace of shearing it would be good to skirt the fleeces as they came off the alpacas.  By skirting as we sheared it would make a things a lot quicker later on when it came to sending the fleeces off for processing or showing.

One of the fleeces I had prepared was that of our white suri alpaca Christobal.  Christobal is 16 years old and his fleece is holding up well despite his years.  I thought it would be neat to show Cristobal’s fleece and have entered it in the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular Fleece Show, along with fleeces from TeQueely and Treasure.

With the entry paper submitted I went out to the studio to pull the three fleeces and make sure they didn’t need re-skirting before the show.  TeQueely and Treasure’s fleeces I found without a problem, but no sign of Cristobal’s fleece!

I know of at least a couple of occasions when we were pulling fleeces for other purposes and Ric had placed Cristobals fleece out for processing or display.    Ric is used to seeing show fleeces still wrapped in a sheet from shearing day, and so with Cristobal’s fleece not being in a sheet it looked to Ric as if it was ready to be processed.  I had told Ric that it was a show fleece and needed to be kept until after the show season was over.  I know we put that fleece somewhere safe to stop it from being sent off or used, but where is that somewhere safe?

The other night we both went through the fleeces in the studio with no joy.  We have searched high and low and still cannot find that fleece.  So today it is back to the studio to re-examine every bag of fleece in the hope of finding Cristobal’s show fleece.

I’ve never had this happen before, but then again this was the first time I had been so advanced in my preparations.  I think this year we will go back to “Plan A” of skirting the fleeces just before we show them – at least that we seem to be able to find them!


October 7, 2007

The Wonders of a Wagon

Green WagonA couple of our favorite pieces of equipment on the farm are our green wagon and our yellow wagon.  We started off with a green wagon a few years ago and then liked it so much we bought another one, but could only find a yellow one.  The yellow one is slightly lighter in weight but still works just as well.

So what do we do with these wagons, well for most of the year we use them as portable hay feeders.  They are great during morning chores, I can load up all of the girls hay and feed bowls, wheel the wagon over to the pasture and when I have finished feeding leave the wagon filled with hay in the pasture.  If it should rain we can quickly move the wagon inside one of the shelters, if we have young cria just starting to eat hay we can drop down one of the sides on the wagon to give them easier access to the hay.

We have also used our wagon for hauling feed bags (it can take quite a bit of weight), hauling a whole small bale of hay, moving bags of fleece from the shearing area to the studio and even giving small children rides (a great workout, and yes on once occasion the small children were not so small but rather adults who were feeling young at heart!).

The wagons are reasonably priced ($70 – $80) and really are a great asset to the farm.  You can get them at most large hardware stores (Lowes, Home Depot, Ace Hardware etc.)  and if you look at this time of the year you may find a good sale deal as the stores try and reduce their garden center inventory for the fall and winter. 

While on the subject of wagons if ever you get a chance to see the movie “All We Need Is A Little Red Wagon” then take it.  The movie only lasts for 5 minutes and will make you want to go out and find your wagon – then you will understand how two alpaca owners were once sighted at dusk taking rides in a wagon.  It wasn’t a red one, but it was just as much fun!


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