Friday, January 30, 2004

Is it real?

Check this out -

That is a tower of Cahir Castle in Ireland. Didn't know they had alpacas in Ireland, did you? Hee hee. They don't, that I know of. That image is a merge of two digitial photos. The alpaca you see there poking his head out of the tower window is Anthony, a cria at Foothill Alpaca Ranch. I took the photo in November. The castle tower photo was taken by my husband, Ken, during our trip to Ireland in February 2003.

To create that image, I used Paint Shop Pro ver.8 to crop the photo of Anthony, then cut and pasted him into the photo of the castle.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Technology meets livestock

Look what I found! I can spy on alpacas at farms all around the country as I sit here at my desk. How? Web Cams! It's best to visit these during daylight hours.

Ann Arbor Alpacas Paca Cam in Michigan

Lone Juniper Ranch AlpacaCam in Southern California

Stargazer Ranch Alpaca Cam in Colorado

It has been my experience that while many people choose the "alpaca lifestyle" to escape from a busy life in the city, they still want to enjoy the gadgets and toys created by the technological advances of our generation. At the AlpacaFest West show I went to in October, I have no doubt that everyone had a cell phone. One ranch used a computer to run a media presentation using PowerPoint. Digital cameras were being used everywhere to record the blue ribbon winners. I even saw someone "beam" his e-card to a PalmPilot when a fellow ranch owner asked him for his email address. So it comes as no surprise to me that web cameras are installed in key locations so that owners can keep an eye on their animals.


Saturday, January 24, 2004

A visit to Southern Cross Farm

Just outside Gilroy California, off Highway 152 -- in fact, right across the way from Bonfante Gardens Theme Park which is one of my children's favorite summer hang-outs -- you can find Southern Cross Farm and their 30 or so alpacas. Tom and Robyn Houts breed and raise a very colorful herd of alpacas. In fact, they have some of the most beautiful black females I've seen. I may just have to get myself one for my herd....

Meet Annikka and her male cria Carmelo (who is only 9 days old in this picture). These gorgeous animals are owned by Wendy MacBain of Shekinah's Alpacas. Wendy agists her animals at Southern Cross while her ranch in Colorado is being built.

So what is agistment?
Agisting an animal is kind of like boarding but with extras. For example, when you board a horse at a ranch, it has it's own stall. You, the animal's owner, are responsible for feeding your horse, mucking the stall, and maintaining its health care. When you agist, the feeding and clean up are handled by the ranch owners. Alpacas are herd animals. They are kept in paddocks with usually 3 or more animals of the same gender and age. Because of this grouping nature, it would be impossible to require a boarded alpaca to be fed and cleaned up after separately. As for health management, I'll have to double-check on that and get back to you. I don't know if that's included in the agistment fee. Many alpaca herd owners administer the basic meds themselves - yearly shots, worming meds, things along that nature. I would expect the ranch owners to keep an eye out for any health problems and pass along any pertinent information to the animal's owner. Although I would certainly expect that owners have to pay for any vet bills for their agisted animals.


Saturday, January 17, 2004

Spinning Guild Day

I love today. It's the third Saturday of the month. I look forward to today all month long. Today is the monthly meeting with the local spinning guild. I get to hang out with fellow fiber enthusiasts. I always come away from the meetings having learned something new. Part of what I love is the time that I get to spend, doing something that I find very relaxing with other people who are doing the similar things and chatting about everything under the sun but usually about fiber stuff that just puts me in a place of comfort. Another part is the fact that I *always* come home having learned something new. And yet another part has to do with this activity being something I do just for me.

The guild I belong to is called Serendipity Spinners and they are located in San Jose, California. Their web site is Mystery Batt

I borrowed someone's Lil Herbie wheel to spin up a yarn sample. Just yummy! Okay, you're going to have to trust me on that because this is a really bad picture.
Tropical Yarn sample

Tomorrow we're headed to Southern Cross Alpaca Farm in Gilroy. Robyn Houts is a nationally known alpaca fiber judge so I'm eager to see what's she got available in her fiber store. We're also curious about the layout of the ranch they have since it sits on only 5 acres - a plot size we may well end up with ourselves.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004


At Kristine's request, let me introduce you to Autumn Heat, our first alpaca.

Autumn Heat

Technically he's not ours yet, but that's only because money hasn't changed hands. We have notified his current owners of our desire to buy him so they're holding him for us.

Now I know I said we'd be buying females so why are we buying Autumn Heat, a yearling male not even old enough to be a stud? One word: Dana. Back in the fall, the kids and I went to an alpaca show in Santa Ynez, CA. At this particular show, they had obstacle course competition where most of the participants were kids. My dd, who has ZERO livestock experience just like everyone in our family, decided then and there that this was something she wanted to be involved with. At the time, I didn't take her serious figuring it would be yet another item to add to the list of "long forgotten desires" by the beginning of the New Year. Not so. She's still very much interested in showing alpacas. When you travel to shows you typically bring males (because females old enough to work with would be pregnant and you don't want to endanger the pregnancy), so we decided on Autumn Heat. Hopefully when he's old enough in two years, we can use him as our stud. He's got perfect conformation and a shy dispostion, not to mention buttery-soft, ultra-dense fiber. I sure hope he passes on those traits to all of his crias.


Humming Hearts Ranch is the our dream for the future. My husband and I are in the planning stages to escape the big city rat race of Silicon Valley to the quiet peace of an alpaca ranch. Perhaps we'll even have chickens (for fresh eggs - yum!) or sheep (to feed my wool habit) or angora goats (again, to feed my fiber needs).

Currently, the only decisions we've made include 1)we will start an alpaca business this year and 2)we would like to own property for said ranch by Summer 2009. We don't know where we'll be doing this ranch so we're spending about one weekend a month scouting out various parts of California. We are planning on selling our (IMO overpriced, thanks to the Silicon Valley real estate market) 4 bedroom / 2.5 bath 2186 sf house after we decide on a locale. In the meantime, we will buy 2 females a year and breed them so that we may grow our herd. All of our animals will be agisted in Hollister, CA at Foothill Llama and Alpaca Ranch. More about Foothill later.

Oh, there has been one additional decision: the name of our ranch! As I mentioned earlier in this post, we are Humming Hearts Ranch. Why that name? Well, you know how sheep "baa" and goats "bleat"? Alpacas "hum." And even your heart will hum when you see our alpacas.

Happy Day to You!