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.

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!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Farm Friends!

With National Alpaca Farm Days just a week away, we have put special efforts into our farm decorating this year. I still have some work to do in the store; tagging some new yarns and painting some small wooden items but, I must say that we certainly look festive. We have some advertising placed in a couple of local newspapers later this week to invite the public out for a little "alpaca education."

This weekend, though, we have been lucky to host friend and family members on the farm for a sneak peek at our new baby, Mocha, and the rest of the herd. My sister, Laurie, and brother-in-law, Steve were up yesterday bringing Greek carry-out food for our lunch. It was a breezy and sunny early fall afternoon; perfect for a foray into the pasture to feed treats to the alpacas. Mango and Took enjoyed the sweet feed treats almost as much as Rich and I enjoyed the Gyros! We always enjoy spending time with Steve and Laurie.

Earlier this week Olivia had texted me that her bff, Savannah, wanted to bring a friend up because he was fascinated with alpacas. When Rich and I went down to watch grandson, Max, play football on Wednesday, Olivia and I discussed the visit and set up a time for her to bring her friends. We were expecting the kids around two. In the meantime our good friends, Athena and Jim, called to say that they were nearby and would like to stop. They had been out and about with their beautiful granddaughter, Madi, an animal lover, and she wanted to see the herd.

Our yearlings, Brutus and Asterius, put on a good show as they always do. Asterius is always ready to give alpaca "kisses" to pretty girls (or anyone else for that matter) and Madi, of course, received a sniffer! But I think that the highlight of her visit was probably when Madi actually got to hold little Mocha (who is now up to 20 pounds) in her arms. It made one of those unforgettable moments and a lovely picture. Pretty girl, pretty baby!

Olivia and her friends arrived as we were standing in driveway saying our goodbyes to Jim, Athena and Madi. I always like to have an opportunity to introduce my own beautiful granddaughter to friends. Olivia and Savannah have been friends since kindergarten. They are both juniors in high school now, attending different high schools, and are closer than ever.

We haltered up the Brutus and Asterius and Savannah and her friend, Max, also a junior, got to take them out for a little stroll around the yard, after which we gave the little guys their annual CDT booster shots.

Savannah got her kiss from Asterius.

Max  arrived on the farm already curious about alpacas. He seemed to have a natural instinct when it came to handling them and I think he would have taken our Brutus home with him if he had any place to house him in the city! We assured him that he is welcome to return any time for a visit. I'll even teach him how to give shots, trim toenails and shovel the alpaca beans!

Ask any grandmother and she'll tell you that visits from the grandchildren give us so much happiness. Today I learned that when a teen aged granddaughter wants to come for a visit and bring her friends along it just compounds the joy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Pumpkin Smiles!

Pumpkins make me smile! Each year I can hardly wait until we get our fall decorations put up. Before we turned Rich's huge garden into pastureland he used to grow our own supply of pumpkins each year. Now we have to buy them. Fortunately we found a farm just a few miles away that has loads of lovely pumpkins for sale.

This year we are hosting an open house on Saturday, September 27th in honor of National Alpaca Farm Days, so we really wanted to go all out on the decorations. I think we have succeeded. Today's pictures are of the outside decorations. In future posts I'll have photos of the inside decorations.

Our little Mocha is growing like the proverbial bad weed. He weighed in at 19 pounds last night; that's a pound a day which is what should be happening if he is getting proper nutrition. Every time I look out the back windows toward the pasture Mocha is nursing while mama, Mango, stands patiently staring off over the fields. For a first time mama Mango has adapted very well.

Last night after dinner, Rich I and went out to weigh Mocha and give both mama and baby their CDT inoculations. Rich holds the animal while I give the shot. It's not something either one of us ever thought we would be doing...ever. This whole experience raising alpacas has challenged both of us in ways we never thought possible and surprisingly we are discovering that with a "can do" attitude we are living up to the challenges and having a great time doing it.

I started knitting a pair of socks from the yarn produced using our Leezza's soft, brown fleece. I'm not sure yet who will be the recipient of these socks; but whoever it is will certainly have warm feet this winter in these cushy socks. This sock yarn is knitting up so easily that its a joy to work with. My Oregon daughter, Susie, is working on a baby sweater for a friend's new baby, from the same yarn. She has high praise for it, too. This is just one of the many yarns we will be having on sale for 20% off during our upcoming open house.  The next event after the open house will be at the Garlo Nature Center's Octoberfest on the first Sunday in October. This will be my third year doing a spinning demonstration there and Rich will be showing two of our alpacas. The Octoberfest has been expanding each year and has activities for all ages. Later in October we have our annual family reunion. September and October calendars fill up fast with truly smile making events.

This evening we're going to attend our grandson, Max's, football game. He plays QB for Weaver Middle School's 8th grade team. We both enjoy watching the kids play and cheering for Max.

Octoberfest, open house, Max's football games, family reunion and pumpkins! Smiles, smiles, smiles!