Monday, March 14, 2016

And They Say That April is the Cruelest Month!

Less than two weeks ago when Rich took down the winter snowman display and put up the Leprechaun and Pot 'O Gold, it looked like this:

I had to clear away the snow to snap pictures of my sprouted chives in the herb garden and the daffodils out by the front fence.

Callie insisted on going  outside to play ball in the snow but every time I tossed it she returned with a frosty ball full of snow. It's usually difficult to get her to drop the ball for another round but not that day. Even she didn't want to hang on to it very long, dropping it when she returned to me and champing her teeth repeatedly. She must have been feeling the cold on sensitive teeth.

Within a couple of days the snow was gone and the Mocha and Dio were feeling frisky with the milder temperatures, longer daylight hours and the promise of spring. I caught them chest bumping and neck wrestling in the pasture on one of the warmer days after the snow melt.

Little Dionysus, the younger of the two half-brothers, is usually the instigator of the play time, with Mocha man being the patient older brother for only a limited amount of time. Mocha puts up with the neck wrestling and chest bumping. Dio gets really fired up with this rough housing and eventually does a speedy circuit of the pasture and finished by jumping onto Mocha's haunches. This is where Mocha draws the line and twists that long neck of his around and accurately lands a wad of spit in Dio's face. The little guy backs off and runs for mama, Mango,

This past month as Dio neared the six month of his short life we noticed that Mango had been pushing him away most of the time when he attempted to nurse. Saturday was such a lovely day that Rich and I decided to move the two little boys to a pasture of their own to complete the weaning process. Both of the boys seemed a little befuddled when they first entered their new pasture and eventually began exploring the newly sprouted grass. Rich had put some sweet feed in the trough of their new condo and it didn't take long for them to discover it.

For some reason their transfer seemed to really upset Nikko who ran up and down their common fence line making peculiar agitated noises. Whenever the little guys got near their gate Nikko poked his head between the slats attempting to bite at them. They have always had a common fence line when they were in with their mama, Mango and Nikko did not behave like this. Nikko kept getting more and more worked up and his ire seemed to be aimed at Mocha who is nearing two years of age. Mocha is clearly beginning to feel his hormones since he often does that tail roll up thing when Nikko is near the fence so I can only assume that what happened next is because Nikko feels that his place as king of the herd needs to be defended.

Nikko had been continually ramming the gate trying to reach the little boys when they were near and eventually pulled the latch chain right out of the wooden slat where it had been anchored. He chased the little boys up the runway and cornered them where he began jumping on Mocha and fiercely biting his neck.

I was inside and heard Rich calling my name and alternately yelling, "No!" When I slipped on my shoes and ran outside I saw that the empty pasture and immediately realized what had happened. As I rounded the barn I grabbed a slat off the wood pile and ran into the girls' pasture. Rich was holding Nikko around the neck with his front legs off the ground but the two little boys wouldn't go back to their own pasture. This was one of the times when I think that these animals, as cute as they may be, are as dumb as a box of rocks. Even though Nikko had attacked Mocha, once Rich had pulled him free, Mocha and Dio stayed right in the middle of the fray!

I grabbed a halter and lead and eventually Rich and I got Nikko haltered up and pulled back into his own pasture. Rich held him there while I secured the little guys in the runway. Nikko is now in the pasture right behind the house and isolated from the rest of the herd. In this whole process, Nikko somehow bit Rich in the neck which was a little scary. In theory, humans should never get between two fighting males because the human will never come out unscathed. In actual practice, when one sees a mature male hurting an immature eighteen month-old if we don't intervene the outcome for the younger male will likely be dire.

Now we have some decisions to make since Nikko has shown some aggressive tendencies toward me in the past and I won't go into the pasture with him. After this latest episode we need to discuss our next course of action with the vet and other more experienced alpaca owners. Nikko may need some "alterations" in order for us to be able to keep him. He's a beautiful animal and the source of the largest amount of very fine fleece of any alpaca in our herd. Decision day is on April 27th when we will be shearing the animals. What to do?

Meanwhile, today is "pi" day (3/14). So to celebrate I baked this razzleberry pie from my brother-in-law, Tom's famous recipe given to him by a lovely woman named Marie;-)

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Why Didn't I Visit My Sister This Week?

Ok, ok, ok! I know it's mid-February and I know I'm in Ohio. But, come on, 19 degrees, 20 mph winds and snow? Last week it was in the 50's and I know that overall, we have had a very mild winter and I shouldn't be complaining, but...

Even the alpacas whose place of origin is in the high mountains of Peru, are hunkering down inside their cozy barns and bungalows, and are nowhere to be seen.

Last week, during the milder weather the animals, in particular the two little boys, Mocha and Dio, were feeling a touch of spring fever. With the longer daylight hours and the sparse grass exposed in the pastures, the entire herd was spending most of each day outside in the pastures. One afternoon, Rich and I strolled around the end of the barn to find the boys neck wrestling, chest butting and generally frolicking in the barnyard. You can't help but laugh at those two frisky, young alpacas.

Mild mannered Mocha, a year older, outweighs young Dionysus, who is definitely the instigator in most cases. Because of his sweet nature, Mocha, never seems to play too roughly with the little guy. They seem to be good company for each other. It's a good thing that they do because it keeps them from agitating their mother, Mango, who is in the pasture with them. Soon that situation will have to change for two reasons. In another month it will be time to wean Dionysus. At about that same time I expect Mocha to begin showing serious signs of having male hormones. Both of them will have to be separated from Mango for obvious reasons and our only other male is herdsire, Nikko. Now that he has had a chance to "romance" the females, Nikko is under the impression that he is the "king" of the herd. He tends to be a little hostile toward the younger males and so they can't be put into the pasture with him lest he harm them. Since these two younger guys have been living in the same pasture for some months and are used to each other, we should be able to put them together in their own pasture.

A few weeks ago before my trip to Florida, I had the chance to do a spinning demonstration for a daycare/preschool center in a town where I taught for many years. I always enjoy teaching the little ones about alpacas and the uses for their fleece. I have samples of cleaned and carded, un-spun fleece, otherwise known as roving, for them to touch and play with and several knitted scarves and shawls for them to hold. I show them pictures of our alpacas and tell them a bit about the size and nature of the animals. Far and away the most fascinating part of the short demonstration for the kids is the spinning wheel and the magic of spinning fleece into yarn.

I always make a point of letting each child come to the wheel and make it go around. They seem to like the feel of pedaling first one foot then the other, much the same as their tricycles, and watching the wheel spin faster and faster. I hope it impresses some of them enough to want to give real yarn spinning a try when they are older.

At the end of every presentation I answer questions and then we pose together for pictures that I can post on the blog and they can hang in their classroom.

I want to thank my old friend, Gayle, the director of the daycare, for giving me the opportunity to visit with and talk to the kids.

Monday, February 1, 2016

February 1

This is the kind of day when you can sit inside looking out at the sunny sky and almost imagine that spring is near. Even the daylight hours are getting longer causing the birds to sing in the mornings. But the fact remains that this is Ohio and it's still winter for a couple of more months. The weather report for tomorrow is calling for a high of 51 degrees F and 60 to 100 percent chance of rain in our area and a whopper of a snow storm in states west of us. I doubt that the proverbial ground hog will see a shadow tomorrow. Yep! It's still winter in Ohio.

I really don't have reason to complain since I just got back from a week in Florida visiting my sister. In late December, noticing that I was a little down after the holiday, Rich made the off hand suggestion that I might go visit my sister. He didn't have to say it twice. I found cheap tickets the next day and made the reservation!

I flew into Punta Gorda where my sister, Laurie,  picked me up and we drove north to visit my niece, Anne, in St. Petersburg for a couple of days. Anne and her husband, Drew, were the perfect hosts, allowing us to stay with them in their renovated bungalow. They have done the work themselves and their home is charming. I got to check off one of my bucket list items when we all piled into the car and spent a day in Tarpon Springs. That's the gulf side village where Greek sponge fishermen settled during the 1890s and today it has the largest concentration of people of Greek background of any US city. It was like stepping into a tourist town in Greece where all of the natives were speaking Greek to each other. We met a lovely woman in the Greek import shop who gave me some advice and information to look for when researching my grandfather's background. Of course, we dined on a delicious Greek meal in one of the many Greek restaurants.

Back in Ft. Myers Laurie's friends were all so welcoming and gracious. I was entertained at a community lasagna dinner by the lake in her condo complex and later a tapas party with a small gathering of neighbors. Laurie and I did lunch one afternoon with her friend, Gloria, a lovely woman. The afternoon before I came home we went to a charity fashion show/luncheon with 11 of her friends at a country club nearby. Even with all of the social engagements I still had time for yoga on Laurie's upper deck, a few morning strolls about the neighborhood, reading on the lanai and enough shopping to last me until spring arrives in Ohio.

The weekend before I left for Florida, Rich and I celebrated our 15th anniversary by spending a night in one of our favorite hotels, The Dearborn Inn, and going to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Like I said before, I really have no reason to complain about the winter. It has been very mild this year compared to the past two years and I have had plenty of distractions.

Dearborn Hotel

We have been to the Henry Ford several times and still I learn something new each time we go. There is just so much to see. Rich and I were clowning around in one of the children's exhibits and I got him to pose in the giant hot dog bun beside the Oscar Meyer Weiner-mobile. That's one big hot dog!

We have noticed that with the longer hours of daylight and the milder temperatures, our two little boys, Mocha and Dionysus, have been feeling frisky. Both of them are kicking up their heels and chasing each other about the pasture. Little Dio has hit that stage in his development where he behaves like a toddler and is unable to walk anywhere. He will suddenly jump and twist in the air and take off running for no apparent reason. Just because he can. They are so cute at this stage and always make me laugh at their antics.

Mango and her boys

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


I can breathe a sigh of relief now. I have all gifts purchased, wrapped and sent. We have one Christmas celebration under our belts already. On Sunday we celebrated with our daughter, Amy, son-in-law, Steve and Olivia and Max, the grand kids. For some strange reason there were no pictures taken except the one above that Olivia snapped with her phone. It says a lot that we were so absorbed with each other that we just forgot the pictures.  I realize that our time with Olivia, a senior in high school, and Max, a freshman is dwindling and therefore, precious. She will be off to college next year and Max is very involved in cross country and track. Isn't it ironic that when the kids finally grow into the independent people that you want them to be and that you enjoy being around you see less of them? They are off to Colorado today to spend Christmas with their other grandparents. I wish them a safe journey.

We have a house guest this week so things will still be lively around here. The kids left their dog Calypso to stay with us while they went west. Our Calliope (Callie) is a happy dog whenever her sister, Clyppie, comes to visit. The two of them always enjoy having each other to romp with and they are finally at an age where they keep the craziness to the outside. The two black labs dash and dart across the lawn chasing the toys that we toss for them. They often go after the same large rubber ball and end up in a tug of war.

Callie and Clyppie last July 
They two girls look so much alike that I often find myself commanding, "Callie, sit!" while Calypso stands in front of me in a puzzlement and Callie is actually in the background, already sitting. So this time I tied a small red ribbon to Callie's collar and a green one to Clyppie. This visit, at least, I know which dog I'm yelling at! They play so hard and non-stop when we go outside that when they come in they both collapse in exhaustion and immediately drop off into one of their frequent naps. I often find them sprawled in a mirror-like formation on our living room floor.

We have two more Christmas dinners, one at our house with Rich's mom and dad and his brother Dan. The final one will be on Saturday, down the road at one of Rich's other brother's house. I took the easy way out this year and for the kids I had Rich pick up some smoked pork and brisket from City Barbecue and I made the sides. For Christmas day, we got a ham from a great little meat market in the country, Hasselbach's, near Fremont. The party is so much less stressful for me if I buy the main dish and just fix the sides. (Thank you, Ina Garten) This is one of those tricks I learned from watching all those cooking shows that Rich makes fun of. This way I can spend more time with my guests.

I wish you all a very happy holiday season! No matter which one you celebrate I hope that you get to be with the ones you love. If you can't then try to spread some of that love to who ever you encounter on your life journey. I wish you love, joy and peace for the new year.

By the Rich and Linda log house construction team.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

What a Strange Winter in Ohio!

Mango and her two "boys," Dionysus, 3 months, and Mocha, 1 year

I'm pretty sure that when I look at this post at some time in the future I'll ask myself why I put up a picture of the animals in springtime. Actually, this photo was taken just a few days ago when the temperature went up to almost 70 degrees F. This December hasn't felt like winter or Christmas time at all; nor does it look that way. We are very festive on the inside since Rich and I put up the store decorations on the week before Thanksgiving and the house decorations on the following weekend.

Altogether, we have seven Christmas trees, three in the store and four in the house. There are also many more small wooden tree decorations in the store for sale, including the ever popular (with the little kids) lollipop tree. Our farm store is the place to come for those last minute gift items. Mention this blog and I'll take off 10%.

We have some newly created gift items in the store, too. Rich made some new multi-wood cutting boards, including one in the shape of our state that is selling like the proverbial hot cakes. These cutting boards are made from an assortment of solid hardwoods that were milled right here on our property from trees culled in our woods. There is maple, cherry and walnut in various combinations. My favorite is the "slice of swiss" cheese board that I use for parties quite often.

I also have two new bulky alpaca yarns thanks to my friend Andrea who supplied me with a couple of bags of alpaca fleece from her animals. I owe her big time for this because these bulky lopi yarns are one of my best sellers. Last year I sold most of my white to two different people on my Etsy store, and all of it sold out within a few months. This year's white is lovely but the black is my favorite. The black has a beautiful shine to it that makes it fairly glow. All of my yarns are available on Buckeye Star Alpacas on Etsy. I'm definitely saving some of the black to make something for myself!

Again, thanks to Andrea, I have some rug yarn to sell and it's just beautiful. It is 100% alpaca, with an alpaca core which is how my new mill makes it. Carrie and Rob at America's Natural Fiber Works in Somerville, Ohio produce lovely yarns from our fleece. I can hardly wait until shearing time in late April when I can get a wider variety of yarn weights made. This year I think I would like to have some fingering and DK weights made and, of course, more rug yarn. I'll be making some rugs for sale in the store and at the Farmer's Market next summer.

This year I began shopping in October and finished up recently. I have everything wrapped and hidden away until the Big Day. I even finished knitting all of my gift projects and won't be frantically knitting the week before Christmas like last year. I have two pair of socks knitted, one for each of our daughters. It's OK to talk about gifts in this forum because my own family generally doesn't read it! I am just finishing a bonus gift, a soft white alpaca ski cap for my granddaughter, Olivia. Since I was done with everything else and always have to have something to busy my hands with I decided to throw this in at the last minute.

We will be celebrating Christmas three times this year; the first this Sunday with the kids who will be celebrating the actual day with the other grandparents. The second will be on Christmas day with Rich's parents and one of his brothers, Dan. Then the day after will be the big family celebration with the rest of Rich's relations. After that I should be tired enough to just sit back and relax in January when, who knows, we may finally get a snowy winter.

Here's wishing you all a Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa and just a generally wonderful holiday season from Rich and I and all the critters out here at Buckeye Star Alpacas!

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Thanksgiving Wish

I was gently reminded by one of my regular readers at a party recently that I had not written anything for quite a while. I had intended to sit down the next day and write something. The next day when I opened the blog to write I sat staring at the blank screen as if in a coma. No, I didn't have writer's block to blame. I wish I did. It would have been preferable to the depressing paralysis that I have been going through since the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, that fairy-tale-like city that young girls dream of visiting to find romance. "April in Paris," An American In Paris, Evening in Paris...songs, movies and even perfumes named after the iconic City of Lights. People aren't supposed to be murdered as they socialize with friends in a local cafe, cheer on their favorite soccer team or rock band. I'm not a philosopher or even a social commentator; just a city girl transplanted to an alpaca farm in the country. Like most of you I have had a lot of trouble processing this awful time. Then about the time I decided to just turn off the news, along came another attack; this one in a hotel in Mali. I don't know how to process all of this violence and hatred. I wish I could offer some sage advice on how to deal with it. I can't. I've gotten over my first fearful reaction and have decided to choose to live my life just as I always have. I'll go to malls, travel, go to a show if I feel like it. I'll try not to look suspiciously at anyone who may look or sound differently than I do. I'll do my best to be happy and to do what I can to help those around me be happy, too. We all learned to deal with the changes since the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. We'll learn to deal with this new type of terrorism, too. But wouldn't it be so much nicer if we all just got along? I wish, I wish...

I'll leave you with a more serene image. One that I'm am so lucky to have in my own back yard.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Diagnosis

When I received the promised call from Dr. Sabrina late this morning we decided that she should come on out and do a more extensive exam of Took. Rich and I were so sure that Took had a baby in there since she had not only spent a couple of days last month showing signs of  pre-labor stress, but she also violently reacted to Nikko when we put her into his pen a couple of weeks ago. Spit tests are usually accurate in about 80% of cases and have, in the past, been accurate for Took in particular. We watched our Took closely since last Thursday when the vet injected her with a medication that would induce labor and cause her to expel what we suspected to be a dead cria. When she didn't we were worried that she may have a torsion of her uterus which would require expensive and delicate surgery.

Dr. Sabrina, who is a very competent young veterinarian I might add, came out this afternoon and gave Took a mild sedation. Dr. S. set up her ultra sound machine while we waited for the drugs to take effect. Took was absolutely comical, staggering slowly around the barn where I had confined her. Her eyes glazed over and she swayed slightly with each step. She looked like she had been on a bit of a bender!

I held Took, bracing her between the feed trough and myself while Dr. Sabrina shaved a small spot of fleece off of Took's underside in order to provide a clearer picture on the ultra sound. Left side first, then right. Nothing unusual. The vet did a very thorough internal ultra sound next, zeroing in on the uterus and ovaries.

After the ultra sound Dr. Sabrina rolled up one sleeve of her shirt and pulled on the longest latex glove I have ever seen. I knew that what came next would not be pleasant. And it wasn't. Because of the sedative, Took had been extremely cooperative throughout the exam. She exacted a quiet revenge at this point in the exam. Luckily alpaca poo is in the form of "beans" and not the consistency of cow poo.

Dr. S. was able to feel a normal, compact uterus. The final diagnosis is that Took is not pregnant; is perfectly healthy, if a bit overweight; and is ready to be bred again.

Before she left, Dr. Sabrina helped me catch both Dio and Mocha in order to draw a blood sample for each of them. This is required by the ARI in order to register our animals. I'll send the blood cards off tomorrow.

I kept Took confined to the barn until after dinner this evening just to be sure that the sedative had worn off completely. When we released her she joined Mango and little Dio in the pasture where all three turned their backs to us in what I could have sworn was a show of disdain. An alpaca mooning, if you will.