Thursday, October 23, 2014

Club Meeting: Two Blog Posts in One Day

I just had to report on my Research Club meeting this afternoon. I am proud of myself that I had timed my presentation to under 1/2 hour and hit it on the head! It must have been OK because there were quite a few questions and my friends were all eager to go out to the pasture to see the herd. I am sure that my good friend, Marilyn, the former speech teacher, would have lowered my grade a few points for all of the "um's" and for putting my reading glasses on and taking them off too frequently. However, my good friend, Marilyn, the grandma, (both one and the same) would forgive me for the glasses because I have "old age eyes!"  Also, she clearly loves the alpacas.

Brutus and Asterius love Marilyn, too!

Brutus and Asterius were a hit as usual; and the new little Mocha also fascinated the crowd. All of our animals were also thrilled to have visitors and put on a good show in the pasture and at the fence. I have invited everyone to come back at any time and bring children, grandchildren, spouses and friends.

Asterius tries to give Ramona a kiss

We're Expecting!

We awoke this morning to a bit more fog than the weather people had predicted. Many schools in the area had two hour delays. Out here on the farm though, it's the type of October morning that I absolutely love. The fog softens the autumn colors in the surrounding woods and the alpacas in the pastures out back look positively ethereal as they float, ghost-like, grazing silently on the wet grass.



Our studly Nikko can barely be seen out in the farthest area of his field. I use the adjective "studly" now because it appears that he has proven himself with our Took. His first "date" with Took didn't take. We figured it was because that was his first time and he was a bit anxious and didn't wait until she had her tail curled up. Rich and I set them up with another date two weeks later and he was a bit more "romantic" and gave her a little time to kush down first. This past Sunday we put Took back into his pasture for a behavior test and, hallelujah, she spit at him and ran around speedily to avoid Nikko's advances. These are sure signs that a female is pregnant. So now we wait 11-1/2 months.


A week after his first date with Took, we arranged a date between Nikko and Mango. It seems a bit unfair to mate a new mama just a month after she delivered a beautiful baby boy, but that's the way it's done in the alpaca world. They can actually be bred a mere ten days after delivery. So this Sunday, we plan to put Mango back in with Nikko to do a "spit test" to determine whether she is pregnant. We're keeping our fingers crossed.


This evening we are giving Nikko and our beautiful brown Leezza a chance to get acquainted in the hopes that she will also become pregnant. Nikko, being the only mature stud in the pasture that is not related to any of our girls, is a very busy guy! He's either going to be very happy or very exhausted.


This afternoon I am going to have my Research Club members out to the shop for an alpaca presentation. This club meets once a month at which time a  club member is responsible for presenting an educational program of their choosing. This year I volunteered to host and present on the same day because showing the actual thing one is talking about is so much more effective than a power point. You know how I love being able to introduce people to our alpacas! This way my club members can actually interact with the animals and have a hands-on experience with the final products: yarns, rovings, and knitted items. I plan on doing a short spinning demonstration, too.

Callie and I spent time in the shop early this morning after we fed the herd. Since it was 39 degrees this morning I needed to turn on the heater early to warm the place up. While I was out there I ran the vacuum, rearranged the seating and set up my posters and pictures in preparation for our meeting. I also had to price out some of the rag rugs that I had taken off of the loom the other day and arrange them on the display rack. Everything is ship shape now and all that remains is to review my notes. I am really looking forward to seeing my friends this afternoon.

This past weekend we went down to Lake Hope State Park for our annual family reunion, a tradition that originated with my brother-in-law's family almost 50 years ago. Once he married my sister and our  families were joined the event has evolved into a blended family event. We rent all of the cabins in an area of the park almost a year in advance and fill them with 20-30 of our family members, depending upon who is able to be there. This year my niece, Annie, and her new husband, Drew, whom we all love, came the greatest distance from St. Petersburg, Florida. My sister used to be in charge of planning the event and gradually my granddaughter, Olivia, has taken over the task. She does a great job of scheduling the menus and events, like trick-or-treating, pumpkin carving and the pizza making contest. Since each family has their own cabin we have just enough "togetherness" and still have a place to retreat for solitude when we want it. It's a great weekend of hiking, cooking out and other outdoor activities.

Olivia driving her great-grandpa's tractor with Callie and Calypso in the foreground
Rich just purchased his grandfather's little red IH Farmall Cub tractor from his uncle, who had been restoring and showing it for many years. He is so thrilled to have this little gem back on his grandparent's homestead where we live. It will make a great hayride tractor when the kids come up. Olivia and her dad, Steve, each took a turn driving it when they were last up here, and I have made up my mind that I am going to learn to drive it this weekend!


Monday, October 6, 2014

Oktoberfest and Other Weekend Fun!

Our Brutus and Asterius were a big hit at the Garlo Nature Park's Oktoberfest yesterday. So much so that they got a front page mention in this morning's Advertiser-Tribune, the Tiffin, Ohio newspaper.


Although overcast and cool, it never rained and there was a steady wave of people beginning an hour before the official opening time until the event was over. I have been spinning there for three years now and kids and parents alike are interested in how fleece is turned into yarn. This was the first year that we took animals along and the boys were a big hit. In the picture above the kids were feeding treats to the alpacas, who eagerly gobbled them up as usual. Rich spent the day stationed by the pen which was located between the two log cabins on the property. He had a chair but, of course, got a chance to visit the cabin that housed the German Bakery where he bought a couple of springerlie cookies and a very large peach streuselkuchen, or peach cake with streusel on top. Karin Brown was in charge of the bakery and is as authentic as the German products sold there; most of which she bakes herself. This is one of the most popular stops in the park.


I spent most of the day in the wood-stove-heated cabin next door to the bakery cabin, spinning yarn from Brutus's baby fleece. Like the two years previously, I met so many people who were genuinely interested in the spinning process. One little boy named Henry, was so enthralled with the spinning that he parked himself on the floor, cross legged in front of the wheel to watch. I told his parents that he is either going to be a fiber artist or an engineer. He seemed equally interested in the mechanics of the wheel and how the fiber was turned into yarn. Kids like this make the whole hassle of hauling pens, animals, hay, water buckets, spinning wheel, chair, and yarn products the four miles to the park and then back home again.


Rich and I had driven up to Dearborn, Michigan on Friday afternoon to spend the night at the Dearborn Inn. A few years ago we discovered that this is a lovely place to stay for a relaxing weekend getaway. We combine this with a visit to either the Henry Ford Museum or Greenfield Village and have always had a great time. This weekend was the annual Fall Flavor Weekend. We had attended this event last year and enjoyed it so much that we decided to go back. When we arrived at the inn we were greeted with an unexpected upgrade to a suite in The Patrick Henry colonial home because so many weddings were scheduled that the actual inn was fully occupied with wedding guests. Our good luck!


On Saturday we walked all over the village, enjoying the farmer's market and all of the period specific cooking demonstrations in each of the historic homes of the village. My favorite, and I think Rich would agree, was the outdoor beer making demonstration. The young man dressed in the costume of the period was making beer over an open fire from George Washington's own recipe. Besides being a great demonstration, we enjoyed a lively conversation about the ingredients and the process of beer making with him.

With Oktoberfest following so closely after our trip up north, needless to say both Rich and I were pretty much exhausted last night. We decided to retire after the evening news at 7 p.m. (I know if my kids were reading this, which they never do, they are making fun of us for being old fogies!) We turned  on the TV and I promptly fell asleep. Rich said that he was not awake much longer than I. Though we will probably stay up a bit later this evening, I'm sure we'll sleep just as soundly again.

Monday, September 29, 2014

More Open House Pics!

The husband of my good friend, Nancy, took these lovely pictures on Saturday. Wade did such a great job that I just had to post some of his photographs. Take a look:

Rich holding baby Mocha for a photo op

Rosalie admiring little Mocha

The little guy is growing fast...24 pounds.

Nikko, Asterius and Brutus

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Thanks To Our Visitors at the Open House!

Rich and I had the best time at our open house yesterday and we hope that all of our guests enjoyed themselves as well. We couldn't have ordered better weather if we tried. We were able to take anyone who wished to, into the pasture where our two "farm stars," Asterius and Brutus entertained them.



We would like to thank all of our visitors, both old friends and new, for coming out and making our first National Alpaca Farm Days Open House so successful. We were so pleased that everyone who came out seemed genuinely interested in alpacas, and that we were able to share our love of these strange and interesting creatures.


The children especially were fascinated by the alpacas and our two little guys put on quite a show. Both of the yearlings are always eager to be friends when visitors offer sweet feed treats to them. Asterius, in particular, offers "kisses" to show his thanks.

Emma gets a kiss!

Little sister, Ella, is not sure she wants a kiss.
I also enjoyed serving cookies and cider when visitors came into our little farm store to browse. We have a large stock of wood furniture and home decor that Rich has made, along with my baskets and rag rugs woven on his grandmother Elizabeth's antique loom. The alpaca yarns made from the natural colored fleeces of our animals was far and away the best seller yesterday. I am sure that the knitters will enjoy them as much as I do. I am currently working on a lovely pair of socks from the yarn made from our pretty Leezza's brown fleece. Every stitch is a joy to knit.



It was lovely to see old friends stop by, too. Many of them had not yet seen our new little member of the herd, Mocha. He just keeps growing and getting friskier. Yesterday he weighed in at 24 pounds. 


Brutus even got photo bombed as he was having his picture taken.


Rich and I discussed the event this morning and we brainstormed ideas for next year's event. At some points yesterday we both were so busy that we didn't feel that we had enough time to spend with each new group. Next year we think that we will put out a call for grandchildren and former students to assist us. We would like to incorporate more activities for kids like face painting, an old fashioned apple bobbing contest and a hay ride. We will need the assistance of some talented teens.

Callie was also happy to have so many visitors. She is the official greeter, running out to escort each vehicle into the parking lot. Callie feels that everyone is coming just to see her and we cannot convince her otherwise. Today she is one tired puppy!


This evening before dinner, Rich and I had to do some routine herd maintenance in the pasture. Mango needed her toenails clipped, which is so much easier to do now that she has delivered little Mocha. She isn't as touchy  as she was in the late stages of her pregnancy when she was so uncomfortable. Took needed a pre-breeding, booster CDT shot, so we figured that as long as we had her harnessed up we may as well lead her into Nikko's area for the initial attempt at breeding...his first time ever. She was a little reluctant to leave the safety of the female's pasture but some sweet feed treats solved that problem.
Took

Once in Nikko's pasture, she kushed too near the fence and the poor guy, who was clearly ready, couldn't get into the proper position to do his job. He started making his mating sound called an "orgle." He was orgling, and orgling in frustration until Rich pulled him back and I pulled Took to her feet and led her to a more open area. 

There is only one job that I absolutely refused to do in connection with the animals. I have given shots, enemas, held them for the vet to do internal ultrasounds and fecal samples. I am the first one on the scene when a new cria is born to wipe the membrane off and I pick up the placenta in a plastic trash bag in order to dispose of it. I have even held plastic bags in the freezing air of this past January while the vet deposited necropsy samples from our poor Firenze,  into them. The one job that must be done during breeding is to get down on the ground to check that the male is making contact. Nuh, unnh! No way am I going to do that. This one belongs to Rich. So for the approximately 15 minutes the process took to complete, Rich knelt on the ground in the stones to hold up Took's tail! Let's just say that Rich especially wants the behavior test, done two weeks from now, to be positive.

I did take pictures but I'll spare you the alpaca porn and just show the photos of the other girls curiously looking on from over the fence!



Saturday, September 27, 2014

National Alpaca Farm Days!

Don't forget to come out to Buckeye Star Alpacas today sometime between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. for our Open House. Help us celebrate National Alpaca Farm Days. Our goal is to educate our visitors about these gentle animals and their super soft fiber. We are helping to promote the domestic production of alpaca fleece for home knitters and crafters, and for use in clothing items for the retail market.

Each child that comes out today gets a homemade alpaca sugar cookie until we run out! That's going to be difficult to prevent since they are one of Rich's favorite cookies!






Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Just Another Beautiful Fall Day!

Nothing much happening out here on the farm today. The sky was clear and sunny; the air crisp and clean. When I went out to feed the animals early this morning before I left for a day of shopping with my girlfriends, our brown Leezza was foaming slightly from the mouth just like Mango did the week before she gave birth to Mocha. I don't know if it means anything. We still aren't positive that Leezza is pregnant. If she is then she will be due sometime between October 5th and Halloween! She kushed every time for her male friend last year, so who knows? We are keeping our fingers crossed.

They are harvesting corn in the big field down the road about a mile. The big trucks full of  golden yellow kernels of corn keep speeding down the road to deposit their treasure, only to rattle, empty, back the other way for another load.

The animals are happily grazing in the field, enjoying the cooler air. I snapped a few pictures just for our new friend, Max. Brutus was his favorite, so here he is with his bff, Asterius.


Rich and I missed an opportunity to weigh these two little boys the other day. We should have used Max, a strong young guy, to help lift them onto the scales to weigh them. Asterius is getting a little heavy for Rich and still won't stand on the scale himself! We need to schedule an intense training session for these two.


Brutus would like to break out of jail!


Don't forget to mark your social calendar for National Alpaca Farm Days this Saturday, September 27th. Come on out anytime between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m to see our new little addition, Mocha, who is growing steadily. He is already eating bits of grass and hay, quite unusual for only a week and a half old. Mocha is so frisky and loves to tear around the pasture at top speed. We look forward to hosting you this weekend!