Sunday, December 31, 2006

Sunday, December 17, 2006

What do you do with an alpaca??

This blog is dedicated to my friend, Cozmic. Because long ago I was asked what I do with my alpacas, and all I can say is, the internet ate my answer....

Seriously!! I wrote out this lovely answer that took me about an hour, and then after I hit the publish blog button, it said it couldn't find the connection and the blog disappeared into cyberspace.

So, here it is my friend!

Hay Cozmic!
I get to name the ones born on my ranch. We have a herd identifier: BMAR (Black Magic Alpaca Ranch) and all of our alpacas are registered with our national registry ARI- Alpaca Registry Inc.
We name all our 'characters' after the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit books- my very favorite books growing up. With the exception of Fanny Bryce- my daughter got to name her! So far we have had: Elrond, Pippin, Bilbo Baggins, Mithril (one of our llamas actually) Tinuviel, Elanor, Nenya, Lady Galadriel, Arwen Undomiel, Gil Galad, Faramir, Heathertoes, Mithrandir and Earendil..... I think that's it. I have one white male who doesn't have a name yet. Sometimes they just pop out and we know right away. Other times it takes a while, hmmm, that one isn't a Hobbit, is she Elven royalty? No.... what about an Ent, or a Ranger? LOL.
Not all alpacas are registered, but most alpacas are. It isn't a requirement, but it is good business, and reputable breeders always register. Registered alpacas cost more, for good reason. Their ancestry can be traced, and they are all DNA typed, making them more desirable. The Alpaca Registry just recorded their 100,000th alpaca registered! So our industry is indeed growing here in North America.
There isn't anyone who says which alpaca is 'okay' and which is not. A good breeding program speaks for itself, and good stock is easily recognized. There are books out there by industry experts that are all known for their recognition of what makes an alpaca an alpaca, like correct conformation, ear shape, topline and body structure. Some alpacas look "cuter" than others, but I have had older, less attractive alpaca ladies here on my ranch that provided me with the most spectacular offspring when the right breeding decisions have been made. Conversely I have seen some really great looking alpacas spit out some not so great looking crias. It is all based on phenotype and genotype and the hallmark of a good male or female is in the progeny they create.
There are two types of alpacas, the suri- which has long locks that are very lustrous and silky and hang down from the body, and huacayas- that have crimpy fleece and look like fuzzy teddy bears. We have two suri males, one gelding and one breeding male, and the rest of our herd are huacayas. Someday I want some suri females!

There is a funny video out there of someone spit testing with a snorkel on :)) I think it is an Aussie production LOL. I suggested rain gear because yellow and green are so festive together.... ha-ha.

Yes, alpacas produce one of the finest natural fibers in the world, 22 natural colors, very, very soft. And we shear them every year, once per year. I send out my fleece to get it processed into yarn and my mother in law crochets it for us. Above here are pictures of some of the wonderful things she makes. Not me, give me a crochet needle and I will poke my eye out with it.
I can spin, and do have a wheel- what I don't have is the time to do it! I want to learn how to weave, it is a dream of mine. Anyone wanna get me a loom for Christmas?? --wink-wink--
In our first three years of production we bred solely for black alpacas, and were successful at it 100%. Now, we want them in all colors! We have had crias in black, white, three shades of fawn, various grays- including rose gray, and next year are hoping for more gray and fawn.
We make all the decisions regarding matings. The boys and girls are kept seperately, and we move our little boys out from their mommas and girlfriends before they turn 1 year old.
Breeding decisions are based on several things, like- what color we would like, fiber characteristics, density of fleece, desirable dispositions, and overall conformation of the animal. If princess to Die For needs more density, and we would like to see straighter front legs, we will choose Prince Charming based on those characteristics.
If Lady Fire Breather needs an attitude adjustment, we will factor this in our decision when deciding her mate- with a gentle temperament in mind.
The future of our industry is indeed in the fleece. Building a viable and sustainable North American fiber industry is what every breeder is contributing to at this time. There are a few coops out there, the largest being the Alpaca Fiber Coop of North America- AFCNA where the members send in a portion of their clip every year and in return get shares in the coop and product at wholesale.
I hope this has answered some of your questions! If you want to know more about anything, just let me know okay?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Cats on Tuesday, erm, okay, on Monday!

So, here I am with my first Cats on Tuesday post! Sorry it is on Monday, but I will be out all day tomorrow so....
I thought I would share first, a story about my mother. My mother, who has a double wide mobile home, and enough stuff in it to fill a 6 bedroom house.

She collects stuffed bears, and has enough of them to furnish an entire store.

My mother who loves cats, has 4, and also has everything related to cats. She has the fattest cat I have ever seen in person, Salem. A black kitty (of course) who is 'small in stature' but wide as a semi truck. He is very funny. She has Sassy, a gray and white striped fluff ball. Joy-Joy, a calico beauty, and Princess, a Siamese cross.

Fast forward to Christmas... what do you get a mother who has a house chock full o' stuff??

And got her this stuffed cat above. Last year I got her the "Fourth of July" cat, and I thought it was the silliest thing I had ever seen..... she LOVED it. Keeps it out all year long.

So, then I found this one at my local pharmacy. It is actually cute, and different from all the rest.

For her birthday I am going to get her the "Chili Pepper Cat" tee-hee

Now, on to my cats. Today we will feature Jack. AKA, Jack the Dog.

There is Jack, the cat who thinks he is a dog. Comes when you whistle, goes on walks with you- and the dogs, and 'talks' to you. He is also the bully. He fights with everyone else (meaning all my other cats ha-ha, oooh! with the exception of Shadow he-he), chases them all off the property if he can. And is the biggest lover you will ever find.

He snuggles with you, and is safe with even the smallest child handling him... go figure he is such a butt with the other cats!

Jack knows his name and comes when you call him. He is the one who stands at the door when the dogs start barking, ready to go out and "kill" the imagined intruder. Really he is just the official greeter of the place. Killer indeed, if you could be killed by leg rubbing, he's your cat!

Jack gives new meaning to the term- "revolving door". All day, in and out, in and out, in and out. We thought we would just give him an automatic 'door opener' to use at his leisure, but he would probably find some new way to torture the other cats with it.

Above (since I STILL can't figure out how to insert pictures where I want them... they always post at the top) is a picture of Jack with his dog, Fatty Lumpkin, AKA- Lumpy. (who is really my dog)

They are best buds. Lumpy is very good with Jack, tolerates him even when I think he is annoying. Much better than Lumpy's mom, who growls and chases him away. But she is a cranky old lady dog.

Only once did I ever think of sending Jack away. He chased off my Frodo cat a few years ago. I was devastated. Frodo was a feral cat I found in my garage as a very small kitten, just after 4th of July when we lived in Downey. The first time I tried to pick him up, he nearly tore my hand off. He was so terrified that he hid in my garage for 5 months. It got to the point that he trusted me, and would let me run my hand down his back briefly as he ran under it back and forth. Frodo desperately wanted love, but was terrified of it.
He would only let me touch him, and he and I shared a special bond, typified by a touch of his nose to my index finger.

To get Frodo here to our new house, I had to drug his food three different times. The first two times he ate the food and ran up into the rafters of the garage and slept it off. Finally I put the food into a crate and closed the door quick. He spent 4 days in the crate, lightly sedated for his safety. Then we released him into out new garage safely, and he adjusted to life on the mountain.

We had a Bassett Hound then named Miss Pouncible, and they were fast friends.

Well, Jack and his sister Diane were kittens when we brought them up here, and Jack took an instant dislike to everyone.... especially Frodo. Frodo, being the timid cat he was, eventually just didn't come home one day. It broke my heart, and only the pleadings from my kids saved Jack from going to live with his vet (who, by the way, adores him- as does the whole staff).

So, Jack is still here, and I do love him- annoying as he is. We refer to Jack as the "Million Dollar Cat" because he has cost us about that. His family was inbred, owners of his mother never fixed her, and she bred indiscriminately... a loose woman with low morals, we believe Jack and his sister Diane are the product of incest.

When we moved up here, we also brought their two brothers Sam, and Bilbo. Sam and Bilbo both died from bladder complications- genetically inspired. To our dismay, Jack too soon developed symptoms like his brothers. We caught them early and took him to the vet. After about 5 months of expensive treatment, it was determined that Jack needed 'corrective' surgery. My husband put his foot down. After many hundreds of dollars, dare I say thousands?? He had had it. So I explained the situation to our vet, and she, who had seen Jack basically living there at the vets- all the staff knew him and he had the run of the place- found a surgeon in Los Angeles who picked up the surgery for free for us.

So, Jack had all of his plumbing re-routed, and has to be on special food for the rest of his life. About a million dollars later, he is still here! And, I have forgiven him for Frodo, but.... I still miss my little cat.
Next week, Diane- AKA- Queen of the World.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Winter on the ranch

Here is a picture of my kid's Celtic group, The Rosebuds. This was at the Scottish Games in Bakersfield two years ago, where they have been invited to play for three years in a row now. The beat out several adult groups for this honor. Cool beans. I can't find the picture for this year, I think it went the way of my crashed computer :((

Tonight, snow perhaps! Not here probably, but up higher into town.
I love snow, and hate the rain.

Winter brings additional challenges to alpaca ranching. Frozen waterers, ice on the fencing and silly pacas who stay out in the wet until they get soaked and start shivering are just a few things that come to mind.

Every morning I go out with a hammer and break the ice, and sometimes I make them all a 'hot cup of cider'.
Their special cider consists of nice, warm Gatorade with apple slices on top!

Like people, alpacas don't like to drink water that is really cold, and dehydration is a real possibility in extreme cold. So we always make sure they have access to tepid water.
They love their 'cuppa tea' and the bucket is always empty at the end of the day.
Alpaca coats take care of the silly pacas who don't know enough to get in out of the cold, wet weather.

My son's "favorite" thing is the fact that the pacas poop pile grows exponentially the wetter the weather. Alpacas poop all in the same spot. Usually they average two piles per pen, but when the weather gets wetter, all bets are off! Some of the boys HATE to get wet! They will run for shelter the minute the first drop of rain comes down, and don't leave except to hang their butts just barely outside the shelter to go poop. Thus the pile grows...
Crias on the other hand, don't learn the rules of the poo pile until about 3 weeks of age. They go wherever, including IN the shelter and right next to the hay feeder.... okay, they ALL go right next to the hay feeder. We have to move the feeder about twice a season to get it away from the poop pile. Then, they start going right next to the feeder again. Why do we do it? Because we keep hoping we will prevail. Silly humans.
Lazy pacas!
Well, got to go sing in our Christmas program!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

what do you do all day?

Hi there,
well, so much for posting every day!
I thought I would give you a glimpse into my daily life..... okay, so I'm not the president, or anyone important, so it may be boring, but.....

All the same it is my life and sometimes just laying all out on the table helps me to not lose my mind. You know, all moms think they should be -- cue hero music -- "Super Mom"
So here it is:

4:30 am- I get up and try to savor the only quiet time I will have all day.
okay, really I snooze my way to....

5 am- where I then spend 1/2 an hour attempting to drag my 15 year old son out of bed. I used to be able to literally drag him out of bed, but since he is a good 6" taller than me now, that is a lose-lose situation these days.

5:30 am- I am dripping water on his forehead in a desperate last ditch Chinese Water Torture effort to get him up.

5:45 am- we are rushing around to be ready to leave for Seminary, which starts at 6:30 am. Then we leave and I drive 15 miles to the church- one way. Sometimes we can hook up with a carpool, but not if we are running late- which we are more times than not. He takes the bus from there to school.

Back home I go, to wake up my daughter at 7 am for school.

7 am- feed the cria.

8 am- off to take my daughter to school- 4 miles one way.

then I am back home to take care of various ranch chores and do as much business online as I can. Right now I am on the BOD of a national rescue and education organization for camelids that is just getting started, and on the development committee for the Alpaca Research Foundation- another national org. This year I am in charge of the "Super Stud Raffle" which means I coordinate and logisticate, and all that good stuff, the event which will be featured at our National conference in 2007. Of course I am supported by a fabulous bunch of dedicated paca people.
We started working on this project right after the last one ended... in May of this year. This year broke records for attendance and number of alpacas in shows. It was huge! It is held in Kentucky and attended by thousands.

I love it! It is so much hard work, but for such a good cause it makes it worth it. My only fear is that I will screw up somewhere and forget something vital! LOL, last year and the years before this event was run by a true Super Woman- and she is not here this year so it is up to little ol' forgetful me.... holy cow we are in such deep doo-doo.........

Anyway. So usually before I know it, it is 4 hours later and time to feed the baby again. Then I try to do laundry or some other paltry chore, but really, lets be honest. My housework is usually the last thing to get done. If there is one thing I have learned over the years, it's that the house will wait, and wait, and wait to get cleaned. And what the heck, living on a ranch, it is sure to get dirty immediately after I clean it anyway, so what's the diff?? I mean, seriously, I vacuum on Saturday, and by Monday it looks like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir tromped through here with their galoshes on after a rain storm.... why bother I say?

So, before I know it it is time to pick up my kids, or, one of them.
2:30 pm- back to pick up my daughter. then to the post office.
3:30 pm- Home again, home again jiggity-jig... until..
5 pm- off to pick up my son from any one of the following: Drumline practice, basketball practice
fill in the blank practice..... feed the baby.

Monday nights are family night.
Tuesday this time of year is choir practice at 7 pm at, you guessed it, the church that is 15 miles one way.
Wednesday night is youth night, at the church at 7 pm. (well, 7 for everyone else)
Thursday night is Cameron's guitar lesson at 5:45 in town- 10 miles away one way- then we have choir again at 7.
Friday is Celtic group music lessons from 3:30-5:30 (in town too) I am the promotional manager for the group and right now we are trying to get the CD out before Christmas. Ha-ha (she laughs weakly)
Feed the baby- ha-ha.

Sometimes I think I spend my whole life in the car- a sentiment I am sure many mothers can totally relate to. Sometimes I wish I lived on a paved road. 2 & 1/2 miles on a dirt road just to get to pavement, times at least six times a day = a sore neck for me. Since my last car accident I can't even tell you what trouble it has given me. Waahhh... poor me.... nuff of that.
Never do I wish I lived in the city again, even though my mileage last year rivaled the National Debt.

For fun, add this to the schedule- Wednesday after school I take my little autistic friend home with me for a day of fun before I have to pick up the crew at 5pm and be at the church by 6:30, then Friday afternoons I go to his house for Social Recreation Therapy. Sometimes I work at the school with him for a shift.

Sundays I used to have to be at church at 7:30 am for leadership meetings, but now I don't. I just have to be there at 9 am as I am the secretary of the young woman's program. (my new church calling hat) Ha!!! What were they thinking?? Me?? Organized enough to keep track of 20 something young women's activities?? LOL, OL, OL......... Oy.

So,,,,, by looking at the above schedule, I am sure you can see that, yes, I can indeed be in two places at one time. I have mastered time travel, but as of yet cannot be in more than 2 places at once. I am working on it. Once I do I expect the royalties to come pouring in as every mother in America jumps on the time dilation bandwagon.
Feed the baby.

You may ask, what about dinner? Well, Jack in the Box is a family favorite. We eat in the car a lot and they know us by voice.
"Will it be the usual ma'am?" Comforting, yet, somehow disturbing.

Throw in the every weekend sleepover from a friend, Saturdays where we try to do everything in the house and on the ranch we didn't do all week, hey! I get to sleep in till 6 am!! Drumline competitions & the football games they play at, basketball games for both kids, their Rosebud Celtic gigs, and all the educational events we attend every year with our alpacas, and well, there you have it.

We try to fit in visits to Grandma's house, doctor visits (especially for my daughter who sees a specialist in Fresno for her tummy condition- this requires an overnight stay usually), dental exams, visits to the vet and ranch visits in between in all our spare time. Parades like the one we were just in up here on the mountain, and press events are squoze in somehow.
I can be heard asking frequently: "Just how late are you open?" And: "Do you have appointments available after 7 pm?"
Hubby is working second shift right now, which means he is gone for work at 11:30 am, starts his shift at 2 pm (drives 80 miles one way to work) and gets home after midnight.... when:
HE feeds the baby.
Then he sleeps till about 8 am and tries to finish his honey do list in two hours before leaving to do it all over again. Soon he will start third shift and I will truly be a single mom again.
So, welcome to my life. I hope you enjoyed a glimpse of it. and here is where I admit my one weakness ( because as we all know chocolate doesn't count) Some days I just vegetate in front of the PS-2 and play video games, ignoring the phone and only getting off my tush to feed the baby. Sigh.... guilty pleasures indeed.
The alpaca in the picture above is my little Lady Galadriel- who is now away for her very first breeding. They grow up so fast!
Take good care of yourselves!