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!

Monday, September 15, 2014

The New Kid in the Pasture, Mocha!

Early Saturday morning there was a low band of fog hanging over the corn and soy bean fields that surround our home and pastures. The light fog gave an ethereal quality to the scenery and I couldn't resist trying to take some pictures with my little Nikon. 
The view from the front porch.

And the view from the back porch.
The animals were still sleeping in the pasture and the morning moisture was clinging to the tips of their fleeces. All except for our new little guy, Mocha; we had put a coat on him the night before because the temperatures were predicted to dip to near 40 degrees overnight. His fleece was still damp in spots from his entry into the world and we didn't want him shivering through the night. Alpaca moms don't cuddle their offspring like some animals. They just lay nearby as you can see from the little purple coated Mocha in the center of the picture.

Our granddaughter, Zaidee, who lives out in Portland, Oregon had the naming rights to the next little baby born on the farm. She relayed a wide selection of names through her mother but the one that seemed to fit was a compromise. One of her suggestions was Latte, which I countered with Mocha Latte. That one pleased both of us and seemed to fit. Mocha has black ears, face, tail and lower legs. The rest of him is a very dark, coffee bean brown. He curiously explores the pasture during his waking hours when he is not nursing. He has made friends with Brutus and Asterius, both of whom run alongside their fence line when Mocha is circling his side of the pasture. 

His mama, Mango, keeps a close eye on him at all times and when she clucks her "come here" sound he returns to her side obediently. 

This kind of morning  has always meant autumn to me and so it was that Rich and I planned to do our fall outside decorating. A couple of weeks ago we ran down to the Amish farm on Rt. 13 and bought a variety of chrysanthemum plants in red, white and yellow. On Friday evening after dinner we ran over to the farm where we bought our pumpkins last year and loaded up the truck. We were all set to decorate. I'll post pictures of our fall display tomorrow when I have finished the final touches.

On Sunday I received a call from a former 7th grade student who is now a senior. Irene wanted to stop out for a visit and to see the animals. I hadn't seen her for a few years and was so pleased to have this chance to catch up with her. She and her boyfriend, Devin, stayed for about an hour and half and we had a nice chat. She told me about her plans for college and the future. As a teacher, it is always good to see that former students are headed toward success. Irene had been in my knitting group after school. It was one of the nicest group of kids ever. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Wait is Over! It's a Boy!

Remember how, for the past two weeks, I have been afraid to leave home for any length of time during the daylight hours because that's when alpacas generally have their babies? And remember how Mango just kept getting bigger and bigger and showing imminent signs of labor; kushing with her legs to the side, eating constantly, and just generally lolling around. Two days ago she was even foaming at the mouth a bit as if she was in distress. One of the websites I read says that this means labor could happen "today, tomorrow or two weeks from now." This  lulled me into a false sense of security, so that today I ventured out to buy groceries. Mango was grazing with the rest of the girls and seemed to be acting normal. The pantry and fridge were getting low on stock and I thought I'd be safe runing out for an hour or so. Wrong!

As I pulled into the driveway upon my return this is the sight that met my eyes:

Mango was grazing calmly beside a wet, little, black cria while Leezza sniffed curiously at the new arrival. I rushed my groceries inside, changed my shoes, threw on one of Rich's big sweatshirts and loaded the pockets with my camera, cell phone and the keys to the shop where I have the cria kit stored. I unlocked the shop and shoved Callie inside, grabbed the clean towel and rushed out to the pasture.

The little guy was still partially covered with the birth membrane and was shivering. Since Mango had not yet passed the placenta I figured that the birth must have occurred within minutes of my arrival. I rubbed him down good and picked him up in my arms. After my mistake with Asterius last year, I immediately up ended the baby to check the sex. Another boy! Though we had hoped for a girl, its impossible to be disappointed when you're holding a curly, warm, fresh cria in your arms and he is lustily "maaa-ing" for his first meal.

I set him back down near Mango where he attempted to stand on his own. After a couple of prat falls and nose dives, he got the feeling in his legs and began to wander around exploring the pasture! This feisty little guy had not even eaten his first meal yet before his curiosity got the better of him and he felt the need to look around. He wandered to the fence to make friends with Nikko, and then to the other side to make friends with Brutus and Asterius.

His Aunt Leezza seems to be the most interested in her little nephew. She constantly sniffs and prods at him with her snout. Mama Mango is always nearby making the throaty, clucking sound that they use to communicate with their new baby to let them know that mama is at hand.

After much prodding and poking about beneath his mother, the little guy began nursing heartily enjoying his first lunch tucked under his mama.

Little guy was born at 11:20 am today and by the time he was two hours old he had already had three visitors. Once I was satisfied that everything in the pasture was ok, I made a couple of phone calls to friends who had demanded that I let them know as soon as Mango delivered. My brother-in-law, Danny, who lives down the road stopped by, as he has done nearly every day for the past two weeks. He was surprised to see the new addition. Shortly after he left,  Myron and Rhonda, who own the little guy's father, Black Night, came up after lunch to see him. While they were still there, my friend, Liz, pulled into the driveway. Myron picked the little guy up and the three of us women coo-ed and patted the adorable little guy.

I texted Rich a picture right away, of course. He'll be home from work shortly, excited to meet the new member of our farm family. 

Be sure to check back each day for progress updates. They grow and change so quickly the first few weeks.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Still Waiting and Watching!

This morning, I went out to feed the herd as usual. The little boys waited for me inside the barn, with their characteristic "hunger" humming. They tend to whine a bit in the morning when they are ravenous (even though they have free access to the pasture and hay). Nikko poked his head in through the barn window to let me know that he was ready for breakfast, too. He knows that his trough gets filled next after Brutus and Asterius.

Finally, I picked up the bucket of feed for the ladies and let myself in through the gate where they were waiting for me, Took in front, followed by Leezza and mother-to-be, Mango. When I got closer to Mango I noticed something strange; she was foaming slightly from the mouth. This wasn't mouth breathing like they do after they have spit at each other. It was definitely foam. I had seen this on other animals in the past when they had eaten a weed or plant that didn't agree with them. Something as simple as clover, which they love, can cause foaming when they eat too much of it. But Rich had eradicated the clover from the pasture where they are currently living. This pasture is pretty much free of weeds and such. Mango ran inside the condo with the others as soon as I filled their feed troughs. Her appetite seemed normal as did her behavior. The next thing that occurred to me was that maybe this might be the day that she delivered her baby! Since it's her first its reasonable to think that she might be a bit stressed by the new feelings of the contractions and pressure.

I prepared some the last of the tomatoes (I pulled out the vines yesterday) and popped them into the oven to roast. Then I got my camera and my book and settled down in the air chair on the back deck to observe Mango for the next hour. With Callie resting in the sun nearby, I read a few chapters and waited. Nothing. Mango happily grazed in the pasture, rolled in the dust and just generally enjoyed the sunny, cool fall morning.

Callie and I gave up and went back inside to finish the chores that I had on my daily agenda. Though I kept looking out of the window toward the pasture, hoping for a new cria, Mango wasn't going to deliver today.

Yesterday, my friend, Rhonda from Grass Run Alpacas just south of here called and stopped by with a couple of friends. She brought along another alpaca owner who I had met on shearing day down at Rhonda and Myron's farm, and the little boy she babysits. This adorable little blond guy is two-years-old and totally fearless when it comes to alpacas. Hayden trotted right into the barn and pasture as soon as I opened the gate and boldly walked up to our Brutus. The amazing thing is that neither Brutus nor Asterius shied away from Hayden. They  seemed curious about the glowing mane of blond hair on the strange little "animal" that was Hayden.

I  brought out a small bucket of their favorite treat, sweet feed, and Hayden repeatedly dipped into it, grabbing tiny handfuls to feed to the boys. He would hold up his little fist full of feed and say, "Alpaca," and the boys would nibble away.

Hayden alone is an adorable child; add in two young alpaca boys and I could have watched their interaction all day. It was a delightful visit and Hayden can come back anytime!

Meanwhile, we are still watching and waiting; and Mango is growing bigger and bigger.