Another person who was not on the dreaded BB&G (Bad Boys and Girls) list? Campion! Clearly, Santa felt that Campion had been a very good boy this year and brought him his dearest Christmas wish a couple of days early:
Look how happy he is! Thanks Tara ( Yellow Rose of Virginia Alpacas ) for sending me this photo and letting me know how happy my boy was to find that Santa had brought him something special. I hope that next year, not too far from Christmas, Santa will deliver a little gift to YOU in the shape of a very cute female alpaca cria!
To all of our friends and other alpaca lovers:
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I have been avoiding making this blog entry as though, somehow, if I don't write about it, I won't have to face up to it. We delivered our last 2 alpacas this past Sunday and are now, no longer alpaca breeders. Ouch. That hurt. Above are the last two boys, Pendragon and Beowulf on their last day at the Mount Airy Alpaca Company. My sister Krissy and I fed them and fussed over them for the last time. Krissy has always insisted on "fluffing" the alpacas' hay whenever she comes over because she feels that they don't enjoy it as much if it is not fluffy! Irrational behavior but, I fear, genetically inherited. My mom used to argue that, if one horse in a field has a blanket in winter, they really should all have blankets or they may feel upset. So the boys had one last batch of very fluffy hay with maybe a tear or two mixed in, mine and my sister's.
Even Blair the dog seemed sad to have his friends go. Ok, the truth is that the alpacas don't really like Blair that much but in Blair's weak, little doggy mind, they are his friends because they like to chase him and he loves to be chased. This is Blair's last attempt to sneak under the stock gate to hang out with his alpaca friends.
Cassandra was doing last minute homework so Tom, Nick and I loaded the boys into the livestock trailer.
Nick performed his usual job of going inside with the alpacas to unhook their lead ropes while Tom kept them from jumping back out.
Then he climbed up on the trailer for one last look at the boys.
All too soon, we arrived at Sara's pretty place in Ellicot City and now it was time for the boys to jump back out of the trailer.
Sara and one of her sons took the lead ropes of their new alpacas and led them over to their new barn.
Tom started right in giving advice about how to arrange the barn, store the hay etc. He'll run your whole life for you if you let him. What a cute barn though! It cheered me up to imaging the boys in this cozy little home.
So Pendragon and Beowulf venture out into their new pasture to check things out.
The pasture looked very good, not weedy or patchy at all. While the guys got used to their new surroundings, I tried to creep closer to a hawk that I had spotted on the far side of the pasture and see if I could get a good photo of it. We have many hawks at our place but I have never managed to get a good photo of one. This time wasn't any different. Hmmm.... maybe Santa should buy me a new digital camera with a telephoto lens.
Sara was so excited about her new guys that I had to feel happy for her. I know she'll take good care of them and that means a lot to us. She was at our place a few weeks ago to practice giving the worming shots and trimming toenails and to pick up some hay. In my opinion, this is a historic moment in any new farmers' life and should always be recorded for posterity. You are not a farmer until you've bought hay and transported it.
Here is one last look at our boys, Beowulf and Pendragon. Bye guys.
What a great adventure this has been! Our lives have been so much richer for it. Today, as I write this, I feel like the years have passed so quickly and I'm glad that I wrote a lot of this down so that I won't forget our thrilling lives as alpaca breeders. Here is an excerpt from my journal from 1999. It feels right somehow to end todays entry with a look back at the beginning.
Sunday, June 06, 1999
Left the kids at my sister Krissy's house at 7:00 AM to drive to Lanark’s Llamas and Alpacas in Charlottesville, VA. We had met the owner, Antoinette Brewster, at the Eastern Alpaca Jubilee in New Jersey and really liked the look of her animals. So we made the plan to visit and headed down south.
As you approach Lanark’s, you can't help but notice that you’re traveling back in time to the Old Colonial Virginia of yesteryear. First we passed the Historic Michie Tavern where the former presidents went to hang with the other gentry and drink. Then we passed Monticello itself, home of Thomas Jefferson. Next comes Ashlawn Highlands, the former home of John Adams, then on past the Jefferson vineyards to the home of John Kluge, once the richest man in America. Just past the hand built stone fences of the Kluge estate lays Lanark Farm. This is the Old Dominion Virginia.
The long, gravel driveway cuts through fields for miles around. Some have grass, but many are red clay dirt, which blows about and hangs in the air. It is the summer of the worst drought on record in Maryland and Virginia and almost every farm is covered in dust of one color or another. On the right side of the driveway are several fields full of alpacas. There are about one hundred and fifty in all. Some are black, some gray or dark brown, but most look peach colored because the red clay dust coats their fur completely. It is just past 10 am but the temperature is already in the 80s. It will reach the mid 90s by lunchtime.
By the barn we meet Milt, the farm manager, and Amanda, the herd manager. He is the perfect Hollywood cowboy movie extra, not tall but all wiry muscles with a calm direct manner. He wears jeans and a white woven cowboy hat. He learned his animal skills on a cattle farm in Vermont back when he was a Yankee. He's had his arm inside many a cow's privates and isn't afraid to talk about it but doesn't brag either. The first time I hear him casually mention "her vagina" (the cow's) I have to freeze my face so I won't look shocked. I can't remember ever hearing any man say that word once much less over and over the way this guy does.
Milt washing the red-clay-colored alpaca babies
If Amanda were a character in a movie, she would be played by Debra Winger. She is a size 6 at most but with well-cut little arm muscles. She wears a tight white T-shirt and jeans. On the back of her neck, under her upswept, wavy black hair is a small blue tattoo of Sagittarius the archer. Her eyes are blue. She talks to the alpacas in a high breathy baby voice and calls the little ones "my peas" but she sure looks tough when she’s slinging a bale of hay around. She knows each one of the many, many alpacas by name! She sneaks a cigarette here and there as she does her farm chores. I like her instantly.
Antoinette shows up a fashionable 15 minutes late. All attention rivets on her immediately as she is larger than life. She is quite good looking, resembling an older Michelle Pfeiffer. Men must have followed her like pathetic little dogs when she was young but she is not all “Southern Girl” and coquettish. She stands close to me and her voice is a little loud so that I have to fight the urge to back up, but she also has some serious charisma. That can’t hurt if your job is to sell animals.
I’m shocked to realize that Amanda and Milt call her “Mrs. Brewster" instead of her given name! She has on a red and white checked shirt that is some fashion designer’s idea of a farm outfit but you can tell it’s not from Southern States or the tractor store. I appreciate her directness though. She is very professional and she doesn’t tell us any fairytales or offer any heartwarming stories. She assumes we are there to buy. She hands us a list of all of the bred females currently on sale along with their prices, dams, sires and birth dates and the tour begins.
A couple of hours later I am lost in a fog of half remembered animals, the teeth on this one, the color of that one. Which one had the good crimp? Which had the strange legs? I have taken notes furiously, but am not sure they are even correct. It is too much to look at so many animals and the added strain of trying to remember the sire and dam of each one makes the whole task impossible. I need a scorecard with photos, genealogical trees and pertinent footnotes on it, but no owner is going to remind you that the pretty one who’s fleece you love is also the one with the bad bite. I’m panicking!
We break for lunch beside the pool next to Antoinette's house. The pool has men's and women's bathrooms and a kitchen area with a sink and a patio with tables on it. There are statues of animals along the edge of the pool. For a second I forget why I'm there and wish desperately that I had a camera with me and that everyone else would momentarily disappear. I would kill if only my mother, who has never been rich, but is yet a faithful reader of "Town and County", could see this setup.
Antoinette leaves us discreetly alone to compare notes and not a moment too soon. I am dying to see what animals Tom has fixed on and turn to him eagerly demanding that we trade lists. That is when it hits me. He HAS NO LIST! We have been tramping around in dusty hot fields for hours staring at this animal and that and trying to decide which animal, if any, we will pay a small fortune for and Tom has NOT TAKEN NOTES! I briefly consider drowning him in the nearby pool but realize it cannot go unnoticed so I refrain. This explains why Antoinette all but ignored Tom while we tramped around and talked at me; SHE KNEW HE WOULD HAVE NO LIST! When I confront him Tom's defense consists of the lame comment, "I thought you were doing a really good job of deciding."
We head back out to the fields after a very good lunch at which Tom pigged out as usual. But Antoinette seems to find this behavior endearing and starts to like him. She smoothly asks which animals we want to look at again. I am sweating bullets but finally decide on Latte and Primrose. Latte is a lovely dark brown color, almost maroon, with a white face. Her sire is Pizarro. I disapprove of this name for its bad Karma but he is a beautiful guy. Latte radiates intelligence and self confidence and so, sticks out in a herd of merely pretty faces. Her mother, Marguerita, is one of the animals I initially liked but she is older than I wanted. Primrose, I pick because I love her face and her fleece. Antoinette has the fleeces of each animal bagged up for prospective buyers to look at. Primrose's famous sire, Drambuie is now in Australia. I have seen him in an ad in "Alpacas" magazine and he is gorgeous. Her mother, MA Krystal, is still at Lanark.
Finally, having picked, I feel I can relax but Antoinette surprises us. She offers to throw in 2 pet quality males and I must choose again. This is easier, because they are free, so I pick 2 boys just because I like them. Polo, because he is so friendly and has a crazy white afro and Lindt because he is cute and little and the color of a caramel candy.
For a big farm like Lanark these not-quite-herd-sire males might be just another mouth to feed. The big money is in selling breeding stock, not pets. But it is nice for Antoinette to offer them AFTER we have made the deal. For us, the boys will be invaluable. They are P.R. machines that can go to fairs shows and we don't have to worry that the stress will make them abort. And I am secretly thrilled because I am one of those nuts who can never have enough cute little animals to take care of. Four alpacas feels like a real start to our farm. It is almost 4:30 when we leave and I feel exhausted and anxious but incredibly excited too. We are now alpaca owners!
newly washed alpacas ( "little peas") at Lanark Farm - drying in the sun
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some of the Needles, Hooks & Books Gang
Life is weird - there's no doubt about that. I was hanging out with my knitting pals from Needles, Hooks and Books at the Mount Airy Library on Wednesday morning and I had brought my laptop with me. The Library is now offering FREE WI-FI ACCESS!!! Of course I had to try it out. So I jumped on their network and, since it was during knitting club, I started bragging about my friend, Roseann's knitting blog and how amazing it is and browsed over there to show it to the Needles, Hooks and Books gang. Imagine how surprised and embarrassed I was when it turned out that Wednesday's entry on her blog was about me and one of my alpacas. How funny! It was about a handspun alpaca hat that Roseann's been working on from my guy, Valentino. Val now lives at Endless Mountains Alpacas in northern Pennsylvania but I still think of him as mine.
me and my boy Val
Here is the link to Roseann's Wednesday blog:
Roseann's Blog - Possessed to Knit
I like to call Roseann the Uber Knitter because her knitting is amazing and she also speaks German and reads knitting books in German. I am way jealous of both of these abilities. Roseann and I took the FairIsle class together at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival last May and you can check out her gorgeous FairIsle work on her blog. Here is my pitiful effort at FairIsle using mostly alpaca yarn but the blue and pink are Merino wool.
This was the second time I had knit this glove up because the first one came out UGLY! It didn't fit and the color mixture was muddy looking. This one's far from perfect but getting there. Our teacher, Ann Feitelson did not approve of the alpaca wool at all. She is all about the way the colors look together and there was a whole day of class where we were supposed to understand what colors are a "tint", a "shade" a "tone" ect. I didn't get it and never managed to pick the correct ones to go with each other. I love the pattern part of the FairIsle though. I took out a whole block of pattern on the one above to improve the fit. Here is the one that didn't fit.
Here's my other big news: Rose Page has made herself a website!!! Rose and her brother Ben bought some alpacas from us in August and they now have them at their place in Dameron, Maryland. You can read about that teary, alpaca delivery HERE.
I strongly encourage ( some might say bully ) all of my alpaca buyers to do their own websites. I sit down with them and explain how to get started and what host to use and arm them with my secret alpaca web site document and then the nagging begins in earnest. To my happy surprise, Rose got right in there and built up a cute web site about her new alpaca farm and the very first photo is of my baby, Cher, the first alpaca ever born on our farm. My daughter made Cher a dandelion necklace to wear while we were all in the barn shearing this past April but it turned out that Cher was more interested in eating the necklace then wearing it. You can see Rose's Website at:
Coming soon, I hope, TARA'S WEBSITE!!!
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Here I am feeling all weak and sentimental again. We hadn't gotten over the sadness of dropping off our last alpaca girls when we started making the deliveries of our alpaca boys to THEIR new homes. Once again, we are thrilled to have found such good homes for them but there's been a lot of moping around here! We delivered Valentino to Judy Simpson at Endless Mountains Alpacas
near Scranton, PA in the last week of September. Judy is very experienced and we have NO worries about her care of our boy. Here is Val looking out the window of our barn, the morning he will move on to his new home.
Val was the second alpaca ever born on our farm and we were so happy when we saw this little chocolate, crimpy guy get up and run around. He was gorgeous! He never failed to produce crimpy babies even from the dams with no crimp at all. And he was a sweet, gentle boy for us.
Whenever we deliver one alpaca, we put the alpaca inside the van or, in this case, Suburban, rather than put them alone in the livestock trailer. We don't think they are happy being transported alone. Too scary!!!
Sure, it's weird to drive around with alpacas inside your vehicle and it makes for a smelly interior, but lot's of alpaca owners do it! Two things that always cheer me up on long drives are the opportunity to knit a lot and seeing the scenery. I'm a scenery freak so the trip to the Endless Mountains Area of the Pennsylvania / New York border was a good one. We went right by Other Kate (McKelvie's) place. I love how the cute little town of Glen Rock looks:
Up closer to Judy's place there was a lot of the type of road that they just blast right out of the rocky mountainside.
We all arrived safely and Val took up residence in his new field. He got his butt kicked a little, which is normal for the new guy but it hurt my feelings and I had an irrational urge to whoop up on the guy who was picking on my little boy. Of course I didn't. It's natural behavior for alpaca males to fight, but we don't have to like it. Here is how I prefer to think of Val. I love this photo of him from 2 winters ago on our farm:
Judy also has a nice photo of Val at her new place on Her Website so look for him there.
The weekend before Thanksgiving, we delivered Campion to HIS new home in Beaverdam, Virginia (near Richmond.) Campy was our top guy for years. He was our first herdsire. He produced 5 girls out of 5 breedings the first year we ever used him. He always took his job as top guy very seriously and patrolled the fenceline looking for threats to HIS herd. Every morning when I went outside, he would be there on the hill, watching for any sign of trouble, protecting his girls.
When we went into his field, he would come up and sniff us and check us out but not in a bratty way. Unlike most alpacas, who are scared of the camera, Campion never seemed to mind posing for photos. Even here, where, let's just say, he's not as young as he used to be, there's something beautiful and majestic about him.
So, with ouchy hearts, Nick and I walked Campy down from the barn to the Suburban. Campy went along with no fuss at all.
Tom led him gently into the back of the truck and Campy gracefully climbed in, ducking his head under and cushing right down. Those are two cute butts!
From time to time, Campy would get interested in the passing scenery and cars but Nick made sure that he couldn't come too far forward.
I often wonder how my kids will view these strange road trips when they are grown up. Will they tell their children what it's like to drive around with alpacas inside your vehicle? Nick tried to watch a Lord of the Rings DVD but Campy also seemed pretty interested in whether the Hobbits would prevail over Sauron's armies or maybe he just wondered what his pal Nick was so interested in.
Here are the super-nice couple that bought Campion, Tara and Jim Beatty of Yellow Rose of Virginia Alpacas. Web site coming soon - right Tara? These two really impressed me with their concern for their alpacas and how pleasant they are to do business with. No Prima Donnas here! They gave us a really good lunch and send us frequent e-mail updates on how Campy is doing. They are offering a really nice, discount price for Campion's first breedings in Virginia. You can find their contact information HERE.
Here is Campy, trying to hold his own against his younger rival at Jim and Tara's place, a white guy named Eggo! Eggo was not happy to find out that he might have some competition for HIS girlsfriends! In fact, Campion is going to breed a cute girl named "Pepper Ann" sometime in the next week or so but DON'T TELL EGGO!
Of course one of the things I keep coming back to in all of this is how grateful I feel for all the personal connections we have made over the years with friends we have met through our mutual love of alpacas. Just last night, we had a visit from Susan & Larry of Apple Valley Alpacas in Pennsylvania. They brought breeding papers to sign but, also, the photos of the new crias which I can't live without seeing. Here is a photo of Campion and Guenevere's son, Navajo Joe
Repeat after me, "I'm not jealous! I'm not jealous!......
Also received a photo from a woman named Becky Phillips who visited here quite a while ago and subsequently moved to Minnesota. She e-mailed with some really nice comments about our Alpaca Care DVD which she ordered by mail and offered a photo of her new alpaca farm in Minnesota with her first alpaca girls near her new barn. She's loving having her own alpaca farm. It feels good still be part of this on-going adventure in our lives and the lives of others whose paths we've crossed. I hope you all find as much joy in it as we have!
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