I've said it before, but it bears repeating. I love all the friends that I have made in the alpaca business and how they continue to check in to let me know how all my furry babies are doing in their current homes. Photo above is from an e-mail from Endless Mountains Alpacas in Northern PA.
The subject line of the e-mail was "Hi Mom!"
That choked me up a little.
It went on to say that my boy, Valentino is doing fine and staying warm up there. Thanks Judy! Val is the daddy of the little girl whose photo I use at the top of this blog. You can see the resemblance.
It's kind of an ESP thing on Judy's part because I have been thinking of Val a lot this week. I have been doing a re-Knit of a sweater I made out of his fleece a few years ago. I have worn it for years but it never fit exactly the way I wanted it to so I frogged it (rip it rip it - lame knitter's joke) and started re-knitting it, throwing in a little hand spun blue merino for color. Here are the first couple of inches:
This week turned out to be like "old home week."
Also had a dinner invitation to come see some of my former babies in person from Susan at Apple Valley Alpacas If you have seen our DVD, Susan and her husband Larry are guest stars in the movie.
My pals at Wildwood Alpacaschecked in with their report about my girls, Pinka and Glad and their boys. My favorite part of that e-mail is where Sue says about Glad, "I put out an additional "secret bowl" for her on the other side of the barn. It's our little game to allow her to eat her full in peace without all the pushy girls around."
That's the great thing about small alpaca farms, you can fuss over the eating habits of each one of your furry people. Some of us just need the secret bowl to feel secure in getting our share without panicking or choking!
Some furry persons who do NOT need extra help getting their share of food from me are the evil squirrel people. Our squirrels usually content themselves with eating what the birds drop and hanging upside down on the suet container, chomping away UNLESS it snows and then they get crazy and just knock the bird feeders onto the ground and plunder the entire contents. Here is one of my feeders already knocked down with the useless, squirrel-loving dog eying it confusedly.
But, no, the vile little squirrel did not stop there. I soon caught him just as he was about to make a jump for the larger feeder. Bark you dumb dog! That's your job!
This week is also WEBSITE WEEK! I worked on Amanda's website www.AlpacaLove.com last week and am almost done with her massive update. For those of you who don't know her, Amanda used to be the farm manager at Lanark Farm in Charlottesville, Virginia. She knows ALL about alpaca care and breeding, so go ahead and click on her link and bother HER with any alpaca questions you may have. But, Shhhhh! don't tell her that I told you that.
Then I checked in on my newest webmaster protege, Tara at Yellow Rose of Virginia Alpaca Farm. Tara bought my guy, Campion. I was thrilled to see how great her website looks now, and she did it herself with just a little bullying from me. Great job Tara! Go check it out: Tara's Website
But!!! Drum Roll Please! The biggest news of the week is that I got the PACKAGE yesterday.
Each year I eagerly, breathlessly wait for the package from one of my friends from the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival Committee. I can barely stand to wait this long to see what classes will be offered in knitting and spinning, what the cover art contest winning entry looks like (that is what you see on the catalog, mugs, T-shirts, etc.), what vendors will be at the Festival, what the showcase event is, etc. etc. After I calm down, I take the contents of the package and use them to build this year's MD Sheep and Wool Festival website.
If you are wondering what that has to do with alpacas then you just don't get it. Alpacas are fleece producing animals and the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival is the largest fleece event there is. It is the Holy Mecca of all U.S. hand spinners, knitters, felters, weavers and other fiber artists. There is nothing you can't find there from all types of wool to alpaca, to 5 kinds of silk to Yak, Quiviet, Mohair, Cashmere, Cashgora, Eco-spun (re-cycled soda pop bottle fiber) and Ingeo (fiber chemically extracted from corn) Plus, you can buy any spinning, knitting or weaving equipment no matter how exotic. I am very, very honored to be their webmaster.
The cover art winning entry for the Festival is never announced to the public until AFTER it is revealed to the Festival Committee members. I love it! but, if I showed it to you here, I would have to kill you. That wouldn't be nice so you will have to wait. (evil laughter)
One of our festival committee members and a great spinner and educator died this past year of pancreatic cancer. Her name was Jane Hyland. she had a lot of jobs on the committee but most people remember her as the Sheep to Shawl contest auctioneer. I just happened to take a photo of her last year at the festival, walking along with her husband in a state of post-fleece shopping bliss. Of course I had no idea that she'd soon be sick, so it was just dumb luck on my part but, I am very happy to have taken that photo now. This year's catalog has a nice dedication to Jane's memory. If you have never been part of something like the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival Committee where the work is a labor of true love and the people feel like your own family (or possibly better in some cases), I highly recommend it.
Here's looking at you Jane.
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How annoying is it that some people have to just ruin other people's little hobbies by spewing spam all over the entire online Universe! Grow up you losers! OK, sorry for venting but I had to remove my comments from this blog because someone from Russia (but it could have been anywhere) posted a spammy link about a toothbrush. Of course I did not click on the URL myself, not quite that dim, but it clearly was NOT an actual comment on this blog. PLEASE be careful everyone. If you have a cached version stored in your computer somewhere, don't click on any comment! You can't imagine how much I would hate to be the vector of infection for someone else's computer virus.
PS> Still trying to figure out the horse leg thing. Went today but the boots seemed to have made Sweetie's legs sweaty so I went back to polo wraps but I will still use the boots when riding when she recovers (positive thinking!)
However, while, cruising the Internet for yet MORE opinions on how to support/wrap horse ligaments, I found a site called www.POLOWRAPS.com which had the following sad message on it:
"Because the weather here in CO has been absolutely relentless, we've been forced to close our online store for the time being. If you would like to be notified when we re-open, please e-mail and let us know.
I'm very sorry for any inconveniences this creates, but we have not be able to get into the office consistently for nearly a month, and there is no end in sight in terms of the weather. We feel it would be completely irresponsible to accept orders when we do not know if we'll be able to process them. Again, sorry!"
I feel very sad for these polowraps.com people. I think we should all send some WARM thoughts to Colorado.
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Alpaca Care DVD sales are going well but I am extra - especially excited to be mailing one to Finland tomorrow! I am feeling very international now because it had never really occurred to me that we might have International sales. So, of course I had to poke around on this person's web site which is:Unique Alpacas And I found, much to my intense jealousy, that this person not only breeds alpacas, but also Icelandic Horses. If you click on the little alpaca piece of the puzzle on her main page, you will have a choice to translate the page to English. The owner speaks very good English.
Prior to this twist of fate, the only thing I really knew about Finland was Nokia phones are made there, Matti (can't spell the last name) the amazing ski jumper is from there and my 14 year old daughter is desperately in love with a Finnish rock star named Ville. See photo below
But now I felt that those 3 things didn't really constitute a proper understanding of Finland so I did a little quick research and found this map:
and this photo by a Finnish photographer named Elina Brotherus:
Is that some scenery or what! Here is the site where I found this haunting photo and contact information for the photographer:
Virtual Finland Gallery
I may try to buy a copy of this photo if I can figure out how. The above site is in English by the way. It doesn't load quickly but it was worth the wait.
So now I feel a little less dumb about Finland and, if you are Finnish or Swedish, I hope you will visit Unique Alpacas and Icelandic Horses. If they were smart enough to buy our Alpaca Care DVD, they must be planning to take very good care of their alpacas.
Meanwhile, back on the farm.... Some of my friends have expressed the worry that I may be missing having animals to care for but, never fear! I have been doing horse veterinary care every day for 2 weeks now and I still have a few weeks to go. Sweetie (the devil horse) has a suspensory ligament injury so I have had a crash course in how to use DMSO (do NOT get this liquid on your hands when you are applying it because you will immediately taste it in your mouth - creepy!- but that's how quickly it is absorbed), also how to do polo wraps to help support the ligaments, why polo wraps never stay on in the mud and muck unless they are covered with vet wrap, why the vet wrap will probably make the polo wraps too tight, and why you should probably just bite the bullet and buy sports boots for your horse.
My vet wants Sweetie to have polo wraps on for 1 month. Since I didn't own a pair, she couldn't show me how to put them on and the advice I have had about polo wraps from all the other boarders at my neighbor's horse farm where Sweetie lives is:
1. Try to get them even and don't wrap too tightly but not too loose either.
2. Start wrapping in the middle of the leg and then go down and back up after you have wrapped under the hock.
3. Go clockwise on the right leg and counter-clockwise on the left leg.
4. You CAN'T wrap them too tight.
5. If you wrap them too tight, you will make things way worse and bow the tendon and the horse might never recover.
6. It's better not to wrap at all if you don't know how to do it.
After getting all this advice from 6 different people, I eventually got terrified and panicked and begged the most experienced horse person I know to tell me exactly how to do this thing. She said,
Start in the middle, pull tightly around the front of the leg but don't pull at all around the back of the leg.
If you wrapped around the hock at the correct angle, there will be a sideways V shape at the bottom front of the leg.
The fastening should end up on the outside side of the leg.
You should be crouched sideways to the leg when you wrap.
She also said that, if you have to cover it with vet wrap to keep it on, unroll the entire strip of vet wrap you are going to use and then roll it up more loosely before putting it on. This is to avoid making the vet wrap too tight because you are trying to unroll it and wrap it at the same time. Good advice for any veterinary use.
But, her final advice was, to just get sports boots for the horse because they are safer. They are impossible to wrap too tightly.
So now my horse has yet another high priced accessory item but I am less scared of making her lame forever. Another part of this daily treatment is "hand grazing" her every day. This basically means that she never has to get ridden, but I have to walk her around in a flat spot to let her graze for 45 minutes or so every day. My neighbor pointed out that, if there was any one of the 25 horses there that was smart enough to fake an injury so she could be hand grazed and never work, it would be Sweetie. That thought's occurred to me also but I haven't caught her limping on the wrong leg yet. Here she is grazing happily. Injured horse or big, lazy faker? You decide.
There's not much to do during this daily chore besides look at little plants, rocks and other things on the ground. Here is a strange feather that I noticed on one of these nature gazing opportunities.
Since the weather's been in the 50s and 60s for the last two weeks, a lot of my friends have been out riding every day and the horses that are not getting ridden are lining up to watch like they are hoping to get chosen. Or maybe they are just hoping to get a few treats and a nice grooming.
My favorite in this pasture is Star. Star reminds me of the horse you see in those famous Native American Prints but she is really a "Hungarian Sportlo" whatever that is.
After her hand grazing, Sweetie has to go back to the small pen by herself, which makes her cranky. She wants to be with her friends but the vet has other plans. 1 month in solitary so she can't canter, trot or fight with others. Check out the hurt, boo boo look on her face when I put her back in her pen.
She's not totally alone though. She can see her friends through the fences and she has a steady stream of barn cats that come to drink out of her water:
So, as usual, I am feeling lucky to have a life with such beautiful animals and scenery in it but my knees are a little sore from all the crouching to wrap, unwrap and re-wrap horse legs. Do they make sports boots for people?
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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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