Happy Hills Alpaca Farm

  (Monroe, North Carolina)
Paca Days
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LIFE IN THE BACK LANE

                                      LIFE IN THE BACK LANE

    Living in a place where time forgot, not much to do. Watching alpaca hair grow, watching them chew their cud, all is content.  Slowness is perhapsa gift, one that is underappreciated now.  Hard for me who suffers ADHD in middle age.  No one cares if the house is clean, at least I don’t except for the occasional fits of company.  I luckily hardly ever have to cook, since that is my husband’s forte.  So I write, I spin, and I sometimes garden.  Sounds like a wonderful plan.  Occasionally I get restless.

    Just coming back from a week in Florida, I now find myself so. I enjoyed the faster life, the shops, restaurants, beaches that were once a part of my past life.  This farm is definitely not ground zero and we should be totally safe in case of a terrorist attack.  I need to stock up on food.

      Sitting on my back deck surrounded by vinca vines, impatience, pansies and dianthus, blooming and waking themselves up after a sleepy, rainy morning;  I should rejoice.  Peace, I love it and having the world in pace with a quiet day, it is something to be praised.  But oh my, the oddity of dichotomy.  Where’s the fun?    Perhaps, no definitely, I’m not looking  in the right place.  Wait, a large dragonfly type bug just buzzed past my head.  North Carolina really has magnificent bugs.  Oh yes, and we mated Ivanhoe (the black herdsire) to Natasha (a true black female) last Saturday night.  They had a good time.

They made the most gorgeous true black boy last year with a white scallop mark on his face.  I named him Moondancer, he was born on an October full moon. You could just hear Van Morrison’s wonderful song.  He’s such a cutie and a sweet boy!   Ivanhoe is such a pro.  A true herdsire.  Time to feed the herd.

          They are muddy, wet and humming now for me to get to it.  I can’t wait. The feed buckets are full of water,  I’m going to get mobbed by their graceful wet bodies and come back in muddier than a  mud puppy!  Ahhh,  life in the back lane, don’t ya just love it?

 
 

The Black Sheep of our Family

Well, every family has a black sheep and now ours does too, but literally! I've always wanted a sheep, even back in college at the Univ. of Wisconsin.  When I was bored, stressed, angry or all three I would walk to the Ag. barn and watch the sheep.  Something about the way they baaaa  or is it how cute they are?  Anyway, as an Ag student in horticulture, the barn wasn't too far away from my classes and I went there often, wondering if I would ever have a sheep perhaps.  This was the farthest thing from my mind then.  So here I am thirty some years later, several careers later, and I decided to buy a sheep.  And she  is black!   And cute and tame and now she is walking on a lead with a collar like our dogs.  So adorable and fun for everyone.  It turns out she is a heritage breed wich is a huge plus, I think.  Part Jacob (from way back in Biblical times, ) and part Tunis, which has a really cool history!          Tunis sheep came from Tunisia and were given to a farmer in Pa in the late 1700's. This farmer gave them to Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, they became widespread in the south because they were so heat tolerant.   However, during the civil war, nearly all the southern stock was destroyed,  The breed survived due to a clever man in S.Carolina (by Columbia) who hid his sheep in a george.  Thus the Tunis has survived today.            Gracie Mae, is her name and she is so sweet tempered, has bonded to our alpacas and especially to our sweet "Heather" who is soon to be a mother.  Come and visit the farm and meet our black sheep, Gracie!                        

 
 

SPINNING YARNS

SPINNING YARNS

Its been a while since I blogged. About seven seasons, four baby alpacas ago and in time about a year. Real farmers just don’t have time to blog. I’d love to be on Farmville, I’d love to be on facebook. Good marketing skills but unrealistic in time for me.

Most of my time is spent scooping poo, feeding alpacas, keeping up with emails and doing other marketing programs. I also sell at the farmer’s market, network and occasionally go to alpaca shows. This is the ultimate fun, seeing all the alpacas and their two fooded owners. The last show I went to had over 600 alpacas entered. We were fortunate that we took ribbons for all our alpacas that we brought. Well, I only brought two but came back with four ribbons! How did that happen? One alpaca male, Andy, was shown twice and the other ribbon was for the dam who was barefoot and pregnant back home on the ranch. This is a greatly prized ribbon called "Produce of Dam" and is won by bringing in two of her offspring from two different sires. Sapphire, our dam, won the blue and we are so proud of her! She does make wonderful alpacas and is one of our most reliably producing females.

Her cria (baby) this year is an absolute stunner! The cutest little thing on four feet! She is a pinto that looks just like an Indian pony. We named her "Shoshone". Colors of black, white, brown and fawn mixed in pinto manner, with four little black spats on her feet. To top it off, her face is mixed with black and white into the cutest pattern. One of her eyes has black lashes and the other one has white eyelashes. Once in a great while she will give me a kiss.. This is a moment to remember in your life and is the hook that gets all alpaca owners into the business. If you haven’t been kissed by a cute little alpaca cria, you haven’t lived. To do so, you have to stay still, bend down to their eye level and whisper cute little sayings that will make the cria come up to you. When they feel safe and curious enough, the cria will slowly move toward your out- stretched face and come up and smell your nose and actually breath on you. This is how they kiss. They smell, exchange breaths with you (for some magical reason) and thus, the alpaca kiss.

Shoshone’s cute little black nose and curious, shy expression is just the greatest. It was on my bucket list :) and still is, every day. However, just like all good things; banana splits, chocolate malts and hot air balloon rides, you don’t get one every day.

So why besides cria kisses do people raise alpacas? My reason was because I am a hand spinner. A what? Yes, one of those strange people that spins yarns on a non mechanized, non electric spinning wheel. Perhaps a bit strange, but like Gandi, I feel centered when I spin. The world makes some sense to me when I spin , making a soft and luxurious yarn from my alpacas. I feel emanently productive. Imagine, taking the fleece from my beloved animals, feeling the luxurious softness, realizing that I am giving them the right nutrition because their fleece is so soft, shiny and healthy and turning it into a product that will benefit someone. Not just a benefit, but an extremely "green" and healthy product that is useful. Hypo-allergenic, soft, warm and it has anti-microbial properties. It also has a magic quality yet to be scientifically determined. The words "feel good" don’t quite describe it. Whether it’s a pair of alpaca socks or a soft, cushy alpaca afghan, the microns line up with the free radicals and create a super relaxed, tension is gone feeling. It is documented in many of my customer’s reactions. I should blog about it someday.

Yesterday I scooped up about seven bags of alpaca manure and called one of my gardener friends and said that the manure was ready. There is actually a waiting list in the spring. So her husband came over with a ""good ol boy". He had to get out of the car and see what the heck an alpaca was. After the normal, how is it related to a llama questions, I showed them my fiber studio and demonstrated spinning to them. They sat down and watched me spin for a while. All the time telling me stories of how they grew up, stories from their youth which had been some distant 65 years ago. Before we knew it, an hour had gone by. It had been fun. I got to know these men in a unique country way and we all enjoyed the time that had been well spent just spinning yarns.

Would I have ever had this experience to share memories with them otherwise? Probably not. It happened because of my alpacas and their useful by products!

 
 

JANUARY ... NEW BEGINNINGS

January is always a time for new beginnings. I re evaluate everything, throw out all the old stuff, the piles of magazines that I hadn't gotten to all year, the old bills go in a big folder marked for that year. Hooray, the bill pile is smaller, the bookeeping easier, the hopes renewed again for a great and prosperous year.
   Reflecting on last year we did have a great year, considering.
Four beautiful new crias (alpaca babies) were born and no losses.  All are beautiful, big and fluffy and mostly weaned from the mom's now. We could have had a disasterous year and lost two of them.  We didn't! Thank God. One had a distotia birth and I was fortunate enough to have had the ability to save him. One of his front legs was totally back inside mom and she couldn't birth him right. After taking a seminar on how to reach in and retrieve the folded back limbs I did this!! I was amazed myselt that it worked. Fear gripped me, panic took hold as I realized Mopsey was having trouble.  She was out in the field and standing with the little crias nose out and one leg but nothing else would come. So I went up to her and tried to pull out the cria. She moaned with pain.
So now what?  OK, I said, I know what to do. Put the fear aside, I have to. Do what they told you to do, I said. So...I put on a glove and reach inside Mopsey on the side where the missing leg would be.  Ha, I felt it, Reach down and follow along the leg and find the foot. ...I did. Ha,..so now gently pull. Hooray, the cria came slipping out like water out of a broken water balloon. But oh no,...now it happened too fast. The cria was breathing but was gurgling. Crias need to hang after their head comes out to drain the fluids from the lungs. ..OK, so I can swing him.  (I've done this with our cats when they had the same thing when they were born.) So gathering up the little wet crias' limbs, two in each hand, I swung the baby. About 3 times around in a circle with his head hanging down.  Mopsey mama hollered at me!! She didn't like this one little bit!  Ok mama, now he's down, now he's breathing just fine. But, its horrible cold. This is May but its the coldest May we have ever seen in NC where we are.  Out comes the extention chord and the blow dryer!  Blowing, blowing, blowing, the baby is still shivering. Finally his coat is dry and he's still shivering very badly.  OK, take his tempurature.  OK,... OMG!!! Its only 97 degrees.
He's supposed to be 101 or 102.  OMG!!! now what do I do. I have never encountered this before.  I put him in a cria coat to keep him somewhat colder, get on the cell phone and call my friend in Vermont!!! Can't afford the vet this year and anyway, if I don't solve this asap, by the time the vet does come he will be dead!! She would be over an hour at least away.
   Thank God, my friend answers. She says put a heating pad on him asap.or else!! OMG!! I don't have one!  She chastises me for this and says then I need to get large storage bags and fill them with the hottest water possible. OK, so of course I call my husband from work. Come home immediately and buy heating pad. He answers and is on his way.
We have to save this baby. Mopsey lost her beautiful baby girl last year because she was born premature. We had spent over $2,000. trying to save her by calling in the vet, giving a plasma transfusion, bottle feeding, the whole works. 4 days later, little "Tootsie" died. We were all devasted. Particularly Mopsey, who is the most adoring mother alpaca I have ever seen!  She wouldn't eat for days, she cried and cried. Litterally. We could see her head sobbing with silent tears, bobing up and down. The whole heard was devastated at the loss.
   So you see, it was imperative that we save this baby. We were'nt going through this again for poor Mopsey.
     The hot water seemed to help. Soon my husband was here with the heating pad and we plugged that in, put it around the tiny cria and then the cria coat over that.  He was starting to respond. He stopped shivering and started to try to stand up.  Time elapsed since birth has now been about 45 minutes to an hour.  Crias should be up and walking within 30 min. at the outside.  He struggled, its so hard to watch them fall down. But we can't make him do it. The crias have to do this on their own. Finally the little guy makes it up! But, OMG! he's walking with his pasterns terriby down!! He's walking like a duck!! He's totally flat footed!! OMG!! What now?...nothing.  We move him to Mopsey and she patiently waits for him to start suckling.  Also another agonizing thing to watch.  Fumble, fumble, little one. He's too weak to try any more. We hold him up to momma for the precious colostrum that he needs in life to fight off disease. He succeeds.!! Hooray, we have him hooked up to mom.  Now he knows where the goods are, we hope! 
  So, ok, we have an electrified alpaca baby, walking flat footed like a duck , draging the orange electrical extention chord all over. My or my! He and mama are in the triangle catch pen now so that they can bond and have peace and quiet.  He's light fawn, my favorite color, crimpy fleece that bundles (really good for the show ring) and has a beautiful series of white spots on his forhead that look like stars.  Wow. too cute. Now darling, just make it!! The next few hours are sooooo critical. 
  Oh, did I tell you that this all happened while I had a group of 6 ladies overlooking the field on my deck?  Yes, of course, I was having a basket making class with a friend of mine teaching us. She's a wonderful basket maker and getting her to teach the class too me about 2 months of scheduling, rescheduling, etc.  Yes, all the ladies watched me, cheering when I got the cria to come out. Gasping when I swung him around three times and praying for him to make it, thank God.  I was not in the entertaining mood once I realized Mopsey was going to have baby there in then, standing with legs apart giving birth right in front of all of us!!
   I think it was a good thing. I was forced to stay calm with an audience.
I had a tea party scheduled as well after class. The dining room table was all laid out, china, crystal, good silver...oh well. I was on the red clay and working like a vet that I never thought I could be.
   So I look back on this adventure in alpaca birthing, reflecting on the year 2009 and thank God! 
    We named him "Ursa Major" for the constelation of little white spots on his forhead.  Also because he looked like a little bear.
    You should see him now. He's huge, he's cuddly, he's absolutly the best cria I have seen! But no kidding, He's fantastic, big boned, beautiful bundlely fleece and the loveliest shade of light fawn I have ever seen!
Our little electric, duck footed cria who looked so pathetic has become a star !  rather a constelation!  He's so beautiful and we thank God for this.
Ursa is the first to give kisses too. Especially to children. Email me and I'll send you pictures of this. In fact, I'll put it up on this site.
   The bible says, "Do not despise small beginnings."  We all start out small, but Ursa really did look pathetic for a few weeks even.  Not now.
A show is coming up, but I really think he's too small yet to go to the show. He's 6.5 months old and just weaned, we hope. (Mopsey moma still wants to feed him, though.)  We'll not take a chance with our beautiful Ursa and just wait a few more months or maybe next year for him to go to the show.  I know he will win lots of ribbons.  But that's not really so important. He's the special cria that I was able to help give life to.
What a treasure that is.  Guess that makes 2009 a fantastic year!!
    Next blog, I'll tell you about our other crias birth, Zadie. OMG!!!

 
 

November

 

           Chester

too suddenly

too fast

now gone.

My beautiful black smoke Persian cat.

He was one that I had bred, one of the second litter from Muusta.

He was our favorite kitten and grew to be so beautiful.

Such a handsome cat he was, Chesterfield Greystoke.

I had such plans for us. You were to last us, to be with us,

to be our friend through the rest of our lives.

You were to last into our old age.

We were to grow old together.

You and us - both greying together.

To grow happily into old age.

Now you are gone.

It happened so fast. Within two days of knowing

you were ill, you were gone. The treatments didn't work.

The doctor was visited.

The medicines were given,

You were gone so fast my darling,

we didn't have time to worry to wait...

you were so healthy and vibrant and now

in the blink of an eye you are gone.

Eight years has gone by so fast.

We wanted more together.

More time to laugh at your antics.

To watch you do all the cleaver things you did.

...climbing ladders

...pulling down my flower vases to see the water fall

(how I didn't like that one).

...watching as Kaarlo would fix things and even helping!

I was even trrying to get you to paint.

I knew you could with

little paw prints full of water paints on paper.

You tried a little.

We just needed to practice more.

We needed more time with you, my dear.

I can picture you so easily in my mind's eye.

Sitting on the table out back.

Handsome and sturdy, stockily built.

Your gorgeous Persian face and

bright yellow eyes.

By seven you had one white wisker.

I remember I cut it off once, so you would be symmetrical.

By eight you had two of them and you were.

We were goint to grow old together.

Today we had to bury you.

Just behind the St.Fransis of Assisi statue.

We cried as you were placed there.

We covered you up and put rocks on top.

There your body will lay next to our little cria, Tootsie.

We know in our heart of hearts that

you are not really there.

Just your earthly body, that had failed.

You are now in heaven with the creator God

who has created all things.

You are now up there happy and healthy and playing...

Jumping in the tall grasses with flowers (perhaps lillies or loosestrife),

chasing frogs and crickets.

Having a wonderful time.

You are there with Tootsie, who has grown so big now.

Her black mahogany hair must be long and silky.

You are there with all the other kittens we have lost over the years.

You are there with my son who I lost so many years ago.

Heaven will be a grand place when we come.

We have made our home up there.

It is already filled with loved ones.

Heaven is forever.

This is our eternal home.

Soon we will see you there, my darling Chester.

Soon we will all be home together.

CHESTER
 
 

HARVEST TIME

WHAT IS HARVEST TIME LIKE ON AN ALPACA FARM?

 We don't havest apples,corn, vegies or fruit on our farm but we do have a wonderful harvest here!  The spring brought us four beautiful babies, two boys and two girls. All adorable of course. So what is our fall havest?

   Well its seeing our crias thriving for one. They are nearly all 5 months now and strong and healthy! The mothers are beginning to wean them off and they are chewing the hay and muching the grain.  Mother's kicking them slightly away from their teats, avoiding their humming bleats seem a little cruel perhaps but so necessary. The crias are learning the hard way that the hay and grain will sustain them. New babies are in the making and the mom's sense this and know they have to nourish the new life.

  Havest time on the farm is also a spinning project of very long duration. I have started spinning the cria shearing from the last years babies (Sambucca, Max and Inca) and I feel like I'm spinning gold in the form of soft clouds.  The fiber is wonderful and spins so perfectly. Great crimp and handle that makes this the best fleece that I have ever spun. Its my first time in actually hand carding my fleece and spinning directly from the raw, shorn fleece. No mill necessary. I'm able to spin it very fine and after putting into skeins I will wash it and hang out to dry.  This is like harvesting grapes and putting into wine . Truely it is a bountiful harvest. The fine charachter of the fleece is proving to us our nutrition and breeding program is working. We don't skimp on the type of hay or grain, they are getting the best. And we give fiber nutrients to boost their fleece. I hope to win several spin off contests this year with the harvest of the fleece.

 
 

July... Paca Days. Rich with abundance. Beautiful Babies.

 

April and May were the proverbial calm before the storm. Waiting for babies and they came one , two, three upon us. Two of the births were

a bit difficult , one baby being born at 11 pm at night. We had so much rain then that I believe the females wait until a dry period to have the birth.

So it proved with our mom’s. Then they came quickly. So far we have had two beautiful girls and one handsome boy. Two are fawn in color (light tan)

and one girl is a dark brown. All are healthy and running around playing.

What a delight it is to see the crias run and jump and play with each other.

Some very funny antics are going on.

We had considerable time to think of the names. One wants to have a proper "show name" and then a nick name that we can use at the farm.

With that in mind, we named our boy "Ursa major" because he is fawn with a white spot, like a sprinkling of stars on his forhead. We call him "Ursa" for short which also means Bear. He is like a big bear, growing strong and he has very large boned legs which is great. He’s a good bit taller then the others. Then we have our little girl, also light fawn, who was born at night.

I had this name picked out and it really fits her..if you research the name.

"Scheherazade"...so we call her Zadie.

And we have our lovely dark brown girl that we have named "Nefertiti",

which means, "the beautiful one has come"...we waited actually 2 yrs for her.

We had thought her mother was pregnant last year when she came to us from Arkansas, however the pregnancy didn’t take. So after 2 long years of waiting for her mother, Abby (our best female) to have a cria, she has finally arrived. And lovely and healthy she is.

Sapphire is due as I right this blog, This will be the last cria of the year for us. She is a super mother and all of her crias have been fantastic. So soon within days she will deliver. I have both a boy and girl name picked out.

Will keep you posted. But again, I am anxiously awaiting.

New birth is always so wonderful.

 
 

WAITING FOR SHEARING...WAITING FOR BABIES

Waiting for Shearing; waiting for birthing:

Beautiful spring is upon us now, most of the leaves have budded out on the trees. We are still awaiting our oak trees to bud out and make wonderful shade for our alpacas.  They are loving this cold weather  this spring and we hope it holds out at least another week.  We have not yet sheared our alpacas.  Very late this year ! We rescheduled our shearing due to the cold temperatures and wet weather. Soaking wet alpacas are not condusive to nice fleece processing. And so we wait. Shearing the boys on April 30th. We are also waiting for the birthing of three alpacas. May will bring to us  three new "crias" to bless our herd with. These are long anticipated as gestation is 11.5 months or even longer.  All of the mothers in waiting have given birth before and we have midwifed before so my nerves are not as bad as last year's birthing season. The mothers will be sheared May 31st.

   Two of the mom's: Bella and Abby have been bred to our newest herdsire, Ivanhoe. I'm so anxious to see how the babies come out. The mom's are now bulging and heavy with cria.  Ivanhoe is a six time national ribbon winner so I have high hopes for the crias. He is also true black , which is the hot color right now and he is gorgous! So, Ivanhoe, we are anxiously awaiting your babies.

  Monte, our other herdsire is waiting as well. It will be his chance to breed to some of the girls soon. He makes wonderful babies and our little Max proves this. He won a ribbon the last show and everybody loves his fleece. Long, long staple length, super bold crimp and crimpy througout his body. We just love our Max (Maximus) and he's so cuddly and laid back one thinks of him like a teddy bear. 

  So, we are waiting. Waiting for the oak leaves, waiting for shearing and waiting for the births. Thus is lovely springtime.

 
 

Paca Days-March

Cold weather and march snow storm in the Carolinas...go figure. Its been a very cold winter here but the alpacas love it. Native to the high altiplano of the Andes, this is a piece of cake for them. And no wonder..         As I freeze in my house, or relatively, I grab my first hand spun alpaca afghan that I knitted.  Rather lumpy and bumpy but ohhh so warm and cuddley. Its like cuddling into a cloud of warmth! The coziest thing I've ever had.  And so I put on an extra alpaca blanket on bed at night, the afghan on top and have two layers of pure alpaca on me.  The heat is down to 59 and I sleep like a baby.  So this comforts me to know they are warm outside when its 22 degrees.  
    The boys were out in our back pasture where we keep the herdsires. They can't be with the girls or they "bother" them. But they do seem to protect them.  With all the big rain we've had, our little creek became so filled it litterally was a rushing stream and headed up to our hill. Half way in fact to the paddocks. Could be scary but luckily the rain stopped.
   Ivanhoe, our black herdsire impressed me greatly.  Here it is raining buckets of icy water in temps in the 20's and he's out of his shelter, standing guard , staring at the water down below. Amazing!! He was actually watching to make sure it wasn't going to endanger anyone.
  Anyone of his herd that is.  Three of our girl pacas are going to have his babies in May. We are so excited !  This will be new to us as we just purchased Ivanhoe last summer.  He's a national spin off winner so we are looking forward to his cria (babies).  Black is a hot color now in alpacas and to get fine , black fleece is rare indeed. He is really fine so we are looking forward to them.  He is aparently too. Animals are definetely smarter than we think. ..Ivanhoe protecting his herd :) !

 
 
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