It's always fun when farm visitors come back for a second or third time. Sometimes the gap between visits is a day or a week, and sometimes it's much longer - but most of the time returning visitors will remember one or two animals that were special in some way.
Two years ago, Forrest worked his way into many hearts so I thought I'd give an update on him.
As many of you will recall, Forrest was a preemie. We fought a tough fight with him his first couple of weeks. While he wasn't strictly bottle fed, there was a lot of hands-on with him. He grew into a very friendly and inquisitive boy, but then we became worried that he may be turning a little 'too friendly' which can sometimes be a problem with male alpacas. His forward nature was incredibly endearing at 20 pounds, but it would not be so cute at 200 pounds! Sadly, we began limiting interaction with him so as not to encourage inappropriate behavior.
For more photos and info on Forrest's birth and precarious start, scroll down to previous blog posts from June 2012.
At 2 years of age, Forrest has comfortably settled into the 'Big Boy' pasture. He does not get nearly the amount of interaction with guests, but we are proud to report that he has matured into a very nice, well-mannered and properly socialized boy. He still loves attention and to get a neck rub every now and again, but he is not so inclined to lean on, or rub up against, people. Because he still loves to interact, I have decided to begin clicker training with him. He is a perfect candidate! You can expect to see a little more of Forrest in the future. For now, here he is at 2 years of age...
This has been a fun summer for us because we have had so many babies born this year. Never before have we had so many in a single summer! They are a joy to watch as they grow up and their personalities become apparent. We delight in their antics!
We have 5 crias right now, but are anxiously awaiting the arrival of 2 more.
Lilah is due any day now, and Lily is due at early Sept.
Ok, I'm going to try it again! I love blogging about what's going on here at Pronkin' Pastures, but have such a hard time finding the time to do it. Everyone wants to know about the babies, though, so I'll jump right in and get you up to speed on this year's arrivals...
The babies started arriving on June 4 when our lovely young Daphne delivered her first cria - a handsome light fawn male that we have named Beau (French meaning handsome).
Our first cria of the season was quite a challenge. Daphne delivered a little earlier in the season, but later in the day, than we expected. On her 339th day of gestation, I had been checking on her up until just before 2:00 in the afternoon. Typical gestational length is usually around 345 days, so 339 days is not too far out of the park. But deliveries late in the day are uncommon, so when at 2 pm, Daphne was showing no signs of imminent delivery, I quit checking on her for the day. Much to my surprise, when I went out to the pasture at almost 4:00, Daphne was in the process of delivering her placenta. The baby was laying in the shade - cold and apparently lifeless. I picked him up expecting the worst, but was treated to a lift of the head and opening of the eye, so I rushed him to the barn where I worked frantically warming and drying the little guy. His body temperature was critically low, but with perseverance and, I think, a bit of luck, we were able to bring him around.
It was touch-and-go for the first week or so with this little guy, but our efforts have paid off. As of today, Beau is healthy, active, and growing! He has a very easy-going disposition, and many visitors have had the pleasure of getting their hands into his wonderfully soft fiber!
Just as the worry of caring for little Beau started to subside, our sweet Willow thrilled us with the delivery of a richly colored dark brown cria on June 21st. It too, is a boy, but we were delighted to see the dark color that Willow was able to produce.
Willow is a no-drama, no-fuss, kind of girl. No big story to tell about this delivery - just the arrival of an exceptionally nice young male. He is all we had hoped for when we bred Willow to Ryder! We are hopeful that he has what it takes to earn a spot in our herdsire line-up when he matures.
He is officially named Lucas, but we call him 'Luc'.
Next up? Milo! Arriving on July 3, and also without incident. Maddie is an experienced mom and true to form, delivered her baby and and cares for him like a pro! At first glance Milo looks quite a bit like Luc, but once you get to know them, they are very different. Luc is calm and mild mannered; Milo is the troublemaker of the group. He is forever pestering, poking, or jumping on someone out there. He loves to run and jump, and is quite entertaining with his antics!
At this point, while we are loving the quality of these crias, we are getting a bit disappointed in the boy/girl ratio.
Then along comes a ladybug... Yes, a ladybug!
On a warm and sunny Saturday morning 2 weeks ago, our first set of farm visitors for the day arrived. I took them into the paddock area to get closer to the girls and babies. While we were talking, I looked off to the side and noticed that Sweet Mariska had separated herself from the herd and was showing signs of discomfort. I excused myself to check on her, and yes, it looked like labor was starting. I returned to the group of visitors and explained to them that births are usually fairly quick and uneventful, and that we could just stay where we were and watch from a distance.
As I was talking to them, a ladybug landed on my shoulder. One of the visitors pointed it out, and I tried to gently flick it off. The ladybug was going nowhere, though; it seemed quite content to stay on my shirt. Another person in the group suggested that I leave it where it was and said that ladybugs signify good luck - maybe this was a sign that we would finally get the girl we so wanted. As it turned out, we did! Shortly after that, Sweet Mariska presented to us (in front of a crowd of visitors) a beautiful fawn colored baby girl! One of our visitors suggested LadyBug as a name. We like it and think it suits her perfectly. So LadyBug it is!
We had a day of non-stop visitors, and all were delighted to see the newborn alpaca. The video clip below was taken by one of our visitors as LadyBug attempts her first steps!
Sweet Mariska and Laurel were bred the on same day last summer, so it was our hope that these two girls would deliver around the same time, but that was just not to be. While Mariska delivered at 344 days gestation, Laurel needed a bit longer...
We waited on pins and needles for Laurel's cria, and finally on Aug 11 (at 360 days gestation), Laurel's baby finally made it's appearance. A robust and active little boy. Meet Alladin of Pronkin' Pastures...
We have had a fun and busy summer with these 5 crias, but we're still not quite done. Both Lilah and Lily have babies on the way, so we still have a chance to work on that boy/girl ratio and hope for at least one 'gal-pal' for LadyBug. Stay tuned...
It's been so much fun getting your photo submissions in response to my last post! Thanks to everyone that has participated so far. Here are a few I'd like to share.
As you can see, it's a fun and different experience. For those that have not been to Pronkin' Pastures, we invite you to visit!
Speaking of visiting, we are holding an informal 'Open House' this weekend. Stop by for a cup of hot apple cider and a visit with the alpacas. And if you need to do holiday shopping, our store will be open and is packed full of goodies, too!
We hope to see you soon - both in person and in photos! Keep sending your photos in for a chance to win a $20 Pronkin' Pastures gift certificate.
It’s been a busy, busy year. We have enjoyed visiting with guests and introducing our alpaca herd to all of you!
As many of you know, I love taking photos of the farm and animals. One thing I find lacking in my photos, though, is YOU! It seems that I never have my camera available when visitors are around - and there have been so many fun photo opportunities and special moments.
So, I am asking you…
Have you taken photos during your visit to Pronkin' Pastures? Would you be willing to share them?
I would love to see your photos - particularly those that have visitors and alpacas in them - and add some of them to the website. To encourage responses from you, I am offering a little incentive… a $20 gift certificate.
Just send me an email with your farm visit photo attached. Be sure to include the text 'Farm Visit Photo' in the subject line of your email so that I don't mistake it as something with a dangerous attachment. Include in your email the date you visited and any other info about the photo that you would like to share. For each photo you send, your name will be entered into a drawing. On Dec 31st, one name will be drawn to win a $20 gift certificate for use on any item in the store.
Hope to see your photos soon!
Once again, it's been much too long since I've posted. I love writing the blog, but have such a hard time finding the time! There's lots to tell you, but for today, will start with our most recent event.
After another long year of hard work, Fiber Fusion Northwest has come and gone. The big event took place last weekend. I am very involved with the planning of this event and, along with a small but dedicated team, have put a lot of time into it over the past year. Finally the day came to see the results of our labors. The YouTube video below was created by another member of our committee and shows a compilation of the show.
The show was as much fun as it looks, and it was so rewarding to see it all come together!
In addition to being active on the planning committee, we participated as a vendor selling yarn and roving from our booth, and we entered 3 fleeces in the alpaca fleece show.
We couldn't be happier to have these three alpacas in our herd and breeding program!
With Fiber Fusion over for this year, it's time to look toward what's happening next. That would be Whidbey FiberQuest, and it's happening this weekend! Similar to a yarn shop tour, Whidbey FiberQuest is a self-guided tour of several fiber farms, a yarn shop, two wineries, a deli and a chocolate shop. Visit all on the tour for a chance to win great prizes, including a wonderful fiber-filled gift basket valued at over $300. Visit the FiberQuest website for all the details, and plan on making a trip to Whidbey Island this weekend! It will be a fun, fiber-filled event you won't want to miss. Hope to see you!
"Gang of Four' is what this blog post was originally titled.
It went on to read... Four crias - that is!
Yes, with the delivery of Tess's cria on July 5, we are now up to four crias this summer! It's another boy, and a very handsome one! He's a beautiful shade of rich, dark chocolately brown unlike any other color in our herd.
Although Tess delivered when we expected, we still missed it! When we got out to the pasture in the morning, baby was already delivered, partially dry and nursing. So, without further ado... meet 'Morgan of Pronkin' Pastures'.
Caelia is due to deliver next - sometime next week if she goes according to schedule. While we are happy with the boys we have gotten this year, let's hope Caelia brings the boy/girl ratio back into a better balance. I'm sure our little Laycee will be glad for a gal pal, too.
This blog post was interrupted here and saved as a draft.
You see, we were experiencing a very exciting day in the weather department as I was writing this! Thunder and lightening are not very common here, but we were treated to an incredible show Friday!
It began in the wee hours, continued into the morning, and then ended up lasting all day long. The intensity rose and fell, but at one point, the thunder and lightening were so strong that the whole house seemed to feel it. We began to worry about a power outage, so I saved my work and turned off the computer. A power surge could be the kiss of death for this old computer.
So there I left it, and outside we went. Ron to begin daily clean-up chores, and me to get the store open and ready for visitors (even though we didn't really expect any to brave the storm).
No sooner did we get started, when we were 'interrupted'. In the middle of this very exciting thunderstorm, Caelia appeared to be going into labor!
Within a few minutes, we could actually see the baby. If you'd like to see a photo of baby being delivered, click here.
Once we could actually see nose and toes, it was just minutes before baby was on the ground. The whole process - from first signs of labor (above) to actual delivery - was about 30 minutes.
Half an hour later, baby is warm and dry (with the help of towels and a hairdryer).
And shortly after that, she's up and at 'em!
Because she was born during an incredible thunderstorm, we decided a name to that effect would be appropriate. So, this is 'Tova of Pronkin' Pastures'. Tova is said to be the feminine version of Thor - God of Thunder.
It's so much fun to see the little ones grow up together! They are full of energy, curiosity, and mischief.
And that concludes this post! Stay tuned for details and photos as these 5 babies grow up!
And yes, we did end up losing power for several hours, but thankfully, no damage to this old computer.
After what seemed like forever, it finally happened. At 357 days gestation, Maddie finally delivered her cria! 357 days isn't normal for her, but evidently delivering in front of an audience of farm visitors is! Maddie is the only girl in our herd that has ever delivered while we have visitors, and this is the second year in a row that she has done it! Our farm visitors were delighted to witness the birth and to see a newborn alpaca.
As has been typical of Maddie's babies, this little guy didn't waste any time. He was up on his feet within a few minutes, and nursing right away.
Visitors later in the day found it hard to believe that this baby was only hours old!
While we always love to get female crias, we are not unhappy with this handsome little boy. Maddie has already given us 3 beautiful girls, so it was time for a boy, and this one is sired by our herdsire - Camilio's Caramello. We hope this little guy has what it takes to follow in Dad's footsteps.
Since he was born on the 4th of July, we have named him 'Patriot of Pronkin' Pastures'.
Cria birthing season is fun... and laden with anticipation. Right now, we are eagerly waiting the arrival of Maddie's cria, and now Tess is due to deliver, too!
Average gestation for an alpaca in our area is between 340 and 350 days. Note that I qualified that number with the word 'average'. Average is key. Gestational length in alpacas can be quite variable. We have had babies born as early as 317 days, and as late as 359 days - that's quite a range!
Today, Maddie reached 357 days. I wonder if she is going for a Pronkin' Pastures record? I expected Maddie to deliver right around the same time Willow delivered.
In the past Maddie has never gone longer than 342 days. Needless to say, I have been on cria watch for some time now! Each morning, the minute I get out of bed, I pick up my binoculars and focus on the pasture looking for any new additions. Each day, much to my disappointment, Maddie's belly looks bigger and more mis-shapen than the day before. All day long, I make trips back and forth, just checking, until I finally give up in the late afternoon.
Maddie has waited so long that I am now watching Tess for signs of delivery, too! Tess is at day 341 today.
Meanwhile, Forrest and Laycee (the crias that have been born) are thriving. They are both gaining weight steadily and are active and healthy. Farm visitors are smiling and laughing at their cute faces and cria antics.
Keep you fingers crossed for two babies very soon! I'm hoping for a 'two-cria' day!
Willow has delivered her cria! The anticipation of this particular cria's arrival has been intense! Willow is my favorite girl in the herd and this is Willow's very first pregnancy. She was bred to our herdsire Chocolate Chip. We had high hopes for this cria.
Yesterday, the wait was over. At 348 days gestation, Willow delivered a lovely, healthy, and large (18.8 pounds!) cria. It's a girl - and we couldn't be happier!
Poor Willow... She is a small girl, but her belly was huge! I knew when I put the girls out on the pasture, that Willow would be delivering sometime today. She is in the early stages of labor here.
Even though inexperienced, Willow handled delivery like a pro! In less than half an hour from the time the above photo was taken, she had delivered her baby.
It was still cool and cloudy, and baby was cold, so we moved to the shelter where I could warm her with the hair dryer. Willow is so sweet and calm. She waits patiently and gets to know her baby while allowing me to handle her.
Although it's hard to tell in the pictures, the baby is a lovely mix of light fawn and white colors. Not really a pattern, but a more subtle blending of colors.
At just an hour old, baby takes her first steps. A greeting for Mom and she's ready for the 'milk bar'.
With a bit of milk in baby's belly, and a clear bond with each other, Willow takes her baby to the lower pasture for the afternoon.
The rest of the herd is very excited to meet the newest addition!
We are pleased to introduce the newest addition to our herd - Laycee of Pronkin' Pastures!
I’m sure you noticed that I never told you the new baby’s name. That was intentional.
Our first two days with the new guy were really tough - we weren’t sure he would make it. And even the next couple of days, though better, still weren’t great. It doesn’t take much for a fragile cria to crash.
In his first few days, our little guy had a good suckle reflex, but showed little more than a passing interest in nursing. This isn’t a good thing for baby or mom, and threw us into a bad pattern. Since the baby wasn’t nursing, Lily’s udder became quite full and she became uncomfortable. Once Lily was uncomfortable, she no longer welcomed his little head tentatively poking around under there.
A little human intervention and some medication got Lily back on track, but our little guy just wasn’t very persistent. Once again, his lack of interest got Lily to the point of being uncomfortable and required more intervention by us. Around and around we went!
By Saturday morning, we were headed down a slippery slope. He had lost nearly a pound since Thursday. We continued to do the best we could to keep Lily comfortable, and supplemented baby just enough to keep his energy up but his tummy looking for more. We walked a fine line between supplementing him with a bottle so that he didn’t get too weak, but not giving him enough to make him full or to expect to get his groceries from another source. We wanted him to keep looking to Mom for that.
I’m not sure what caused the turn around, but when I came out to check on Sunday morning, I was delighted to see our little guy nursing! Evidently something clicked overnight because his weigh-in showed that he had gained about 2 tenths of a pound! This is not a huge amount, but is so much better than losing weight!
He is now gaining each day… From 18.6 pounds at birth, he dipped down to a low of 17.8, and is up to a whopping 20 pounds today! I’m hopeful that he is on the right path now!
Since we think he’ll be around for a while, we’ve given him the name 'Forrest of Pronkin’ Pastures'. And in case you are wondering… that’s Forrest - as in Forrest Gump.
the weather report shows that we have had more rain in the first 8 days of June than we normally have in the whole month, but that didn't keep our Lily from selecting this particularly wet morning to have her baby.
On Thursday morning I let the girls out to the large pasture. They usually go out there and wander and graze and spread themselves out around the pasture. As I was cleaning in the paddock area, out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of an alpaca running out there. Then saw that the entire female herd was all huddled up, and I knew what the excitement was all about... Lily was delivering her baby!
Delivering the cria in this position is not the normal way it is done. Normally, the dam is standing. But we call Lily 'our drama queen' for good reason - because she really is a drama queen! She is the first girl in the herd to cush, lay down, or scream in protest whenever she is unhappy. If it were any other female in the herd delivering like this, I would have been quite concerned, but knowing Lily, I know this is just 'her'. She is an experienced mom and has always given birth quickly and with no assistance. This time she has delivered an 18 pound boy.
Once the baby was on the ground, and Lily was ready to follow, I brought them up to the barn to dry baby off and take his temperature. Baby's temp read less than 97 degrees - too low for a baby alpaca - and time to get baby warmed up quickly! I dried baby off with a towel, followed by warming with a hair dryer.
Next step, into the 'cria hot tub'! Yes, baby is put into a tub of warm water to help raise it's body temperature. But before entering the tub, baby is put into a heavy duty plastic bag to keep dry.
Thankfully, I called my faithful friend, and she came to our rescue. I could not have managed the 'hot tub' by myself. She kept baby calm and dry, while I brought warm water out to the barn.
He got to feeling pretty good in the hot tub. And what a sweet face!
Just out of the hot tub, he takes his first shaky steps while Lily has a little snack.
While baby was in the hot tub, Lily left the cria care to me, and took care of passing the placenta. She is happy to meet her new baby.
Lily and baby get to know each other.
Later that afternoon, baby takes a break. It's been a very long day!
To be sure he stays warm and dry overnight, we put a coat on baby and tuck him and Lily in for the evening.
Last week we had a sad, and scary, day at Pronkin’ Pastures. We lost one of our hens to an eagle. Her name was ‘Fancy Pants’. Fancy was a pretty white Brahma – a breed of chicken that has feathers on their feet. Her feathered feet reminded me of bell bottom pants of the 70’s, thus the name ‘Fancy Pants’.
When we first got our chickens we made them a coop and a small covered run. But it wasn’t long at all before the chickens scratched up all of the grass in the run and were left with a boring bare dirt enclosure.
The chickens began looking longingly at the grass in the small adjacent alpaca paddock, and we felt sorry for them. So we decided to let them go out into the paddock to ‘stretch their wings’ and do a bit of 'free - ranging'.
We hoped that the area was small enough, and close enough to 2 buildings that our chickens would still be safe.
We have been lucky for quite some time, especially as our hens have ventured out further and further from their intended area - happily scooting under fences and between fence posts, scratching and clucking away.
But last week luck ran out.... A bald eagle landed in there! Right in the littlest of our alpaca paddocks! Our little hens ran for their covered area and into their coop, but this eagle was persistent and followed our little hen - on foot - right into the ‘safe’ enclosed area.
The eagle was busy when Ron went out for evening chores. The rest of the girls made it into their coop, and Ron quickly shut and locked the door, but poor Fancy made it only to the covered run. The whole thing was ugly.
Poor Fancy feathers everywhere... And you definitely don't want to see Fancy...
and an unhappy eagle in an extra large 'cage'.
While the eagle entered the chicken pen easily enough, he didn't have a good understanding of how to get back out....
He paced back and forth, but it took him several attempts to find either of the 2 open gates.
Just a tiny turn to the left and he'd be out of there!
Finally, he 'gets' it...
And off he goes....
The alpacas watch the whole ordeal from a distance. The whole incident has an effect on the chickens, the alpacas and us.... This is an experience we hope never to repeat.
Well, here I promised to post on a regular basis and now 3 moths later I am just getting back to it! I am sorry! So many things have happened lately to take me away from writing. Hopefully, I am back on track now!
In regard to alpacas, here's what you missed....
We have added two new girls to our herd! Meet Tess & Damaris.
Tess is pregnant and due to deliver sometime in July. She is dark brown in color and looks unlike any other girl in our herd. In addition to being very cute, Tess has given birth to some lovely, high quality crias. She is bred to a handsome male named Black Ryder, so we expect a dark cria, but you never know!
Damaris is sweet as can be and has also produced several quality crias. When visiting the farm where we purchased Damaris, I was able to see Amazing Grace - Damaris's 2011 cria. Little 'Gracie' really is amazing with beautiful fine silver fiber, soft hand, and exceptional staple length. Damaris will be bred again to Captain Kirk, Gracie's sire, so I'm hoping we'll be lucky enough to get a 'Gracie' of our own.
Both girls have settled in beautifully in their new home. I think they like it here, and we are thrilled to have them. They bring genetic diversity to the herd as well as offering the potential to improve the fiber quality in our herd.
Because alpacas are fiber animals, and we are actively processing and using as much fiber as possible, we we are striving to add animals that produce a good usable fiber throughout the course of their life, not just the first few years.
Our veterinarian paid a visit last week... She performed ultrasounds on several of the girls. Seven ultrasounds, 5 confirmed pregnancies! I can hardly wait to see the babies this year! In addition to Tess, Willow, Maddie, Lily, and Caelia are all expecting with due dates mid-June to mid-July. It will be fun to see the little ones grow up together. I'll be keeping a close eye on all these girls, as I'd hate to miss witnessing the birth.
It looks like warmer weather is finally making an appearance. The alpacas enjoyed soaking up the sun today, and I just couldn't resist including a couple of photos of that too.
As much as I enjoy being outdoors when the weather is so nice, it's time to focus on other business. This week will be dedicated to Fiber Fusion Northwest and the Whidbey Island Fiber Quest. As vendor chairperson and webmaster, I am actively involved with the planning of Fiber Fusion Northwest - and there is lots to do in that regard right now! I am also participating in the Whidbey Island Fiber Quest taking place May 17-20. Based on previous Fiber Quests, we expect many fiber enthusiasts to visit over the course of the weekend.
These are both fun events for any one interested in fiber or fiber arts. Take a look at the websites to learn more about them!
Fiber Fusion Northwest - www.fiberfusion.net
Whidbey Island Fiber Quest - www.whidbeyfiberquest.com
Inspiration for this post comes from a comment on my last post - “Who is that in the picture?” So, I thought I’d give you a run-down on some of the new header photos….
So, there you have it! Hope you enjoy the photos!
About the author:
Always an animal lover, alpacas entered my life in 2005.
I enjoy all aspects of life with alpacas - from caring for them, to training them, spinning and knitting their wonderful fiber, photographing them, and even writing about them!