I should probably apologize right now, as this is going to be another of those oddly-specific posts that you are going to either get VERY excited about, because it’s exactly what you need, or it’s not relevant to your life at all. This post is about making coats for alpacas! 🙂
These coats lay across the animal’s back and attach under the belly with a strap and fasten across the front of their chest with overlapping panels and either straps or velcro. Let’s start with the basic shape. I found this pattern image online and used it as a guideline. I would love to give credit to the originator, but all I have is this google drive link.
The U-shaped part at the top is where the alpaca’s neck will go, and the chest straps will connect across the alpaca’s chest and the belly straps will connect under the belly. You will need 2 measurements for the alpaca you are making the coat for: around-the-belly circumference and length of back (from neck to tail).
My first venture into making coats was last fall, when we knew we had a baby on the way and it would be due in October. What a heck of a time of year to be born! So I made two coats — a lightweight one and a warmer one. I used measurements off the internet for the sizes of coats that were for sale. I was so glad I did. That little guy really needed his coat! He was basically born shivering and after I dried him off, I put it on him and he perked up a lot!
The next day, I made him a neckwarmer and put that on him too.
As he got bigger and winter got colder, we put his thicker coat on him. This one was insulated with alpaca fibre from his mama!
Isn’t he adorable!?! He grew up really well and is still very gentle and likes to come nose-to-nose with me. I think he knows we will take care of him no matter what!
Okay, we are in danger of getting sentimental, so let’s get down to business and look at how I made these coats! 🙂
I felt pretty good about how that went! We used the light blue coat for Rupert for a few days when he was born this summer too!
If you just can’t get enough of these little ones, check out my posts here.
One cold evening last year, I noticed our elderly female, Uki, shivering. I felt so bad for her! She was still nursing little Pigpen and earlier in the year, she had been putting a lot of energy into growing him and not her coat.
So, I quickly made up a three-layer coat to help her keep warm. This year, with more time to work on it, I made some alpaca fibre into batts and added a quilted layer! I used the existing coat as a pattern and cut out the cloth from an old but very soft sheet.
Using full-size batts was far better than hand-carded fibre, and I only anchored it every 3-4 inches.
I machine quilted the section at the chest, so that it isn’t quite as puffy. I figured out how to do it without the cloth puckering (thank you, internet). I then stitched it to the windproof layer in ten or so places. We put it on her tonight, even though it isn’t forecast to be too cold. She is pregnant again, with her cria due in June, so I think she might just wear this coat all winter!
Last year, the coat was a bit too loose and would sometimes creep forward and end up bunched up around her neck. Hopefully now that it’s a puffy coat, it will stay put better. I did it up as tightly as I could.
I should make another one in case Daisy needs it! She is still nursing little Rupert, but at least she is not pregnant too. What a toll that must take on a body!
Now I have friends asking if I can make coats for dogs! I’m not sure I want to get into that racket… but then I hate to see an animal cold! 🙂
Take care, everybody! Stay warm!
We had some extra excitement today! Just a little backstory… last time I cut hay with the swather, I got stuck. Actually, I only got one tire (out of three) stuck, but it was really making a nice round pothole and I couldn’t drive out of it, so I had to get the tractor to pull myself out, which worked fine. I left behind a round crater-shaped rut/pothole that I have been wanting to fill in so that we can go and finish cutting hay. Yes, it’s the latter part of September and I’m not done making hay. But at least the forecast is good — really good!
So, I used our riding lawn mower and a small utility trailer to haul some dirt/manure/wood shavings to fill in the pothole in the hay field. There were some nice molehills out there too, so I harvested them — I scraped the loose dirt off with a shovel and filled the utility trailer. I have been needing some nice loose dirt on the yard, and in particular, near the house.
A little more backstory: There are 3 areas of our yard. The hay field is out beyond the main yard. The alpacas (right now, it’s 5 of the boys) have access to the main yard during the day, which is all fenced to keep them in. Near the house and driveway, there is an area that is not fenced so when we drive on the yard, we aren’t going to be dodging alpacas right away. I’ll call this the “house yard.” To get onto the main yard from the house yard, we have to drive through the main gate.
Resuming my story: coming back from the field, I drove through one gate onto the main yard, past the boys who were lounging in the back, and then drove through the main gate that would let me into the house yard. Since I thought it wouldn’t take me long to unload the trailer, AND the alpacas were way off in the back part of the yard, I left the main gate open. Big mistake.
Once I finished unloading the dirt around the house, perhaps 5-7 minutes later, I hopped on the riding lawn mower and headed for the gate. I immediately saw the boys coming through the gate into the house yard! I sped up and shouted at them but all 5 boys came through the gate anyway! Don’t they know what a woman shouting from a riding lawn mower means!?!?
So here I was, the only one at home, with FIVE alpacas to chase back into the main yard BY MYSELF! Oh man. I ran around with my arms spread wide (that’s how we “round up” alpacas) trying to get them back through the gate. They split into 5 different directions, ran around where the raspberry bushes are, over by the car, and down the driveway! I sprinted down to the end of the driveway to chase them away from the road. I was so afraid they might wander onto the road and get hit by some truck driving by!
Somehow, I got Fozzie and Pigpen back through the main gate onto the main yard, so I closed the gate. They stood right there, of course, to watch me run around, trying to round up the others. But how could I get the rest of the boys back onto the main yard with the gate closed? If I opened it, Fozzie and Pigpen would just run back onto the house yard! Such buggers! So I opened a man-gate (just a bit wider than a person) that is closer to the house and continued trying to push the 3 remaining boys in that direction. They would scatter sometimes, as I chased them, and go into the secret garden past the strawberries. There’s a maple tree in the way, that they ran around too. At one point, two of them were near the metal gate and I thought if only it was open, they would go through. So ran over there, chased Fozzie and Pigpen away and opened that gate. Pigpen made his way over to the open man-gate and went back into the house yard! But, Ziggy and Frankie went through the metal gate, and I managed to manoever — half-chasing, pointing to the open gate, urging them on! — Alex and Pigpen through the main gate too.
Whew. That’s when I realized I was sweating like crazy. But I got it done.
I did not think I could do it. One person can’t chase 5 independent-thinking alpacas! I was madly formulating strategies: I thought I might have to halter them individually and drag them through, but it is NOT easy to catch and halter them; I have never done it solo, and doing it out in the open? Forget about it. I thought about flagging down the next person to drive by to be a human fence, just to keep them from running into the secret garden and raspberry area. I thought about calling a neighbour to help. My husband was at the garage with our truck, so he could not get back to help. I thought I might be late for work, with all this chasing! Thank goodness, they seemed to sense my urgency at the end and they finally went where they needed to go. After I was done, I put the riding lawn mower and told them boys that if that area was fenced, I would let them stay there and someday I would do that.
I am so grateful that none of the boys actually went on the road and got hit by traffic. I am so grateful that Fozzie and Pigpen went back easily. I am so grateful that the other boys eventually cooperated too. I got my sprinting workout for today — a bonus on my regular FarmFit program! It was an alpaca rodeo with a good outcome.
Take care everyone! I hope that you can go through today with some lightness and joy and perhaps imagining me running around, chasing ‘pacas as they scattered everywhere helped!
I thought it was high time for some new photos of the alpacas and their antics!
Rupert is growing quite well, and he is officially 2 months old now! Here’s a cute one from when he was only a few days old, wearing a coat. I put it on him when there was rain in the forecast and I knew his momma would want to graze outside. He didn’t wear the coat for very many days and when it got sunny again, I took it off him — probably the day I took this photo!
What a guy! This is Pigpen’s coat because he really needed it last winter!
I will never tire of little cria! 🙂
And here’s a more recent photo… Doesn’t he look bigger and older? And BLONDER!
Have you seen Fozzie and his gang, hanging around the pool on a hot summer day?
And then other times, they just graze! It is actually pretty hard to get a photo of them all together, because they love to spread out all over the yard.
And for those who are wondering, haying is generally going well! We did lots of loose hay and then put the baler in service, after some adjustments, and made some small bales. So far, so good! We have just cut some more and if the forecast holds true, we should be able to make some more bales.
Take care, everyone! Hope you are getting enough time outdoors these days!
We have a new cria!
Last July, Ziggy had a few minutes with Daisy and look who got born 11-and-a-half months later!! When the shearer was here, he noticed that Daisy was pregnant and expecting soon (there are ways to tell!) so I checked my little farm notebook and sure enough — Daisy was expecting ANY DAY!! Two days after shearing, little Rupert came into our world.
Although he is the 6th alpaca to be born on the farm, this is the first time we got to watch it happen! All the other times, we were not home when the little ones were born. This time, I was checking Daisy every hour and we got to see it ALL! IT WAS AMAZING!!
Rupert was trying to get up within a minute of being born, and he seemed very energetic! After many tries — his balance was so off and his legs were so wobbly! — he stood up! Within a short time, he found his mama’s milk — something we are always nervous about — and he nursed. He rested some too but seemed to be perfectly healthy and vibrant. My heart smiles!
We are so pleased with how he and Daisy are doing! She is a good mama and he seems to be thriving! You might want to follow me on Instagram at Teresas_alpaca_cam on Instagram where I try to post photos as often as I can! Of course, usually when the ‘pacas are being extra-cute, I don’t have my phone or camera with me! 😛
I’ve been hoarding all my alpaca fleeces, but I’ve decided it’s time to sell some! This fibre is a spinner’s dream. It is great quality and I will skirt it for you (shake the dust out and pick out most second cuts and vegetable matter). They generally have 3” staple lengths or so (see photo with ruler).
Boeing, our big white guy has excellent fibre (he won second in a contest) with lots of crimp. It’s a very dense fleece and pure white once cleaned, so you can dye it any colour! 🙂 He has a big fleece and a long staple length. Asking $25/pound.
Ziggy is a little guy but he also won second place in a fibre competition. His fibre is a beautiful cinnamon brown, excellent quality and spinning it might impart some of Ziggy’s zen attitude to you! Asking $20/pound (generally about 2 pounds per fleece).
Frankie is Ziggy’s boy (also cinnamon brown) and they are very hard to tell apart! Right now we only have 2 of his fleeces (because he only 2 yrs old)! His fleece is also excellent quality and nice and soft, and we’re willing to part with one. $20/pound.
Daisy is a lovely light fawn colour and she has grown some beautiful fleeces. I gave one to a friend and she spun it and weaved it into a gorgeous tapestry! It’s soft and has a good staple length, and it’s light enough, you could probably dye it other colours. $20/pound.
Miss Uki is Daisy’s mama and we have no idea how old she is! She was one of our original alpacas, so we have several of her light fawn fleeces! Sometimes, the staple length and quality suffers a little due to her being pregnant or nursing. She’s had 4 cria for us in 5 years (she’s a good mama)! $15/pound.
If you would like it cleaned, contact us to discuss a price. If you would like it carded, we could talk about a price for that, too! We also have quite a bit of second-grade fibre (mainly from their necks) that can be used for pillow stuffing (in batts), or needle felting. It is not really suitable for spinning. It certainly is not as soft or fine, and it has some guard hairs in it from the chest area (visible in Marley’s photo). Contact me to discuss getting some of this second-grade fibre.
Please leave a comment or email me if you are interested in buying some Fozzie, Boeing, Ziggy, Frankie, Alex, Daisy, Uki or Marley!
Most baby alpacas, or cria as they are called, are born in summer, but last fall we went on a holiday and our farm-sitter accidentally left a gate unlatched one day, and so one of our female alpacas get pregnant. Eleven-and-a-half months later, we waited with great anticipation for this little guy to be born! 😀 Here he is, less than a half hour old!
He was born at 4 pm and temperature was zero degrees Celcius, with a slight breeze! What a time to be born! I had come home and saw Miss Uki acting a little strange and by the time I went to the house, had a quick bite to eat and got back out again, he was born!
He was all wet and started shivering, so I went to the house and got some clean cloths to dry him off. I put a facecloth on his back temporarily to keep him warm!
Even though he is our 5th cria, it’s the first time I’ve been there right after birth. His instinct to nurse was immediate. It’s amazing! He was making sucking faces and looking up. He was shivering so I helped him stand up. He started looking around for where he could get something to eat. They have the instinct to look for somewhere dark, and out in a sunny field, their momma’s underside is the only dark place. So he started looking there! I stood back and watched but he didn’t seem to be really finding her teats and latching on.
I decided I should try to help, but every time I got close, his momma would turn and face me and if I got too close, she’d spit at me! She’s so protective! The other two girls, Daisy and Marley, were coming in to check him out too, and Miss Uki spit on them too. They were interfering with the little guy’s ability to nurse, since Miss Uki kept moving & spitting!! So I tried to separate them out, but it’s pretty hard for one person to move two alpacas who have no desire to be separated from their friends!!
I decided that at least I could move the cria over to the barn to get out of the breeze. Of course, everyone followed! Isn’t he adorable?
I had done some research and prepared for this day by putting extra straw in the barn and making him a little coat. I found the rough shape of a pattern online and the measurements from a store that sells cria coats. I had some thick polyester fleece, some thin quilted fabric, and my mom gave me some fabric to use as the windproof, water-repellent outer layer. I put the coat on a small heater to warm it up. He perked up so much after we put it on him!
The first couple of hours are so critical for a new one to get a good drink from his momma. Her milk has essential nutrients and immune factors that the cria needs. Miss Uki is an ornery alpaca, and VERY protective, so every time I tried to point him in the right direction to get some milk, she would turn and face me and spit. I tried repeatedly but I realized I might not be helping! So, I had to let him find it on his own. I was pretty nervous since last year, our cria Frankie could not find his momma’s milk and we ended up bottle feeding him for 7 weeks! Yikes, that’s a lot of work! And he was not as vibrant as he would have been if he’d been nursing. So, this cria born in fall REALLY needed his momma’s milk for all the energy to stay warm and grow!
Luckily, as long as I stayed far enough away, Miss Uki stood still and eventually it looked like the little fella found the milk! His head was at a good angle… he seemed to be suckling… he was under there a long time… he is nursing! Yay!
That first night it went down to -12 C! I got up at 1 am to check on him, to make sure he wasn’t shivering or getting hypothermia. He was pretty warm, and since I disturbed the alpacas and Miss Uki stood up, the little guy went straight to her for a drink! Double yay!
On day two, he had lots of energy, and after a few days, he even started tasting grass!
We always wait a few days before we give a cria a name. He is pure white like his papa, Boeing, and on his second day in the world, he was already finding ways to get dirty, like his papa! So we named him Pigpen, after the character in the Charlie Brown cartoons who was always a mess!
Boeing was very interested in how his offspring was doing. I’ve never seen a papa as interested as this. He often stands by the gate or fence closest to wherever the girls are.
It’s been over a month, and now we have lots of snow. Pigpen outgrew his first coat so I made him another one! I used alpaca fibre I have on hand, sheared from his momma, to insulate the coat. 😊
I just can’t believe how hardy and amazing crias are. He is exploring the world, running around and tasting new things. The cold does not seem to bother him so far. On day 2, we gave him a pink neckwarmer to help prevent heat loss. He’s so spunky, still tries to get away when we have to adjust his coat. He leaped all over when we gave him the new coat yesterday! But he also still comes nose-to-nose with me every day, and gives me a sniff. We even have a game we play where he follows/chases me, then he runs away. Then I turn around and chase him, not that I could catch him!! Then I run away, as fast as my ankle will allow (I sprained it this summer). And so on for 4 or 5 times. It is, undoubtedly, the highlight of my day! 😄
Thanks for reading! I will be blogging more now that winter is here, and I’ll let you know how Pigpen does! 😀
Shearing day is always an exciting day on the farm! It only comes once a year, and by the time it comes, the alpacas are super-fluffy and I feel like they are looking forward to it!
In the photo above, Daisy and Marley are definitely wondering what’s up, since we never close them in the barn using that half-door.
The shearers are a 2-person man-woman team that we’ve used for a couple of years. They called while we were having breakfast to ask if they could come earlier — in half an hour instead of at 11:00 am! Ack! So we were a little rushed getting ready for them to arrive, but it actually went really smoothly. I had bought more harnesses so that we had one for everyone, and that helped too.
Most of the alpacas walked really well on their harnesses/leashes, which is amazing considering we really don’t practice with them. Alex was born last year, so it was his first time on a harness, being led and being sheared. He did the usual bucking around, but he walked okay. He did NOT like getting sheared — he cried the whole time. Poor little guy! He did seem pretty happy afterwards, however!
It was really nice to be able to see Alex’s eyes! He’s been so fuzzy, we haven’t been able to see them! The sun must seem really bright to them after having such long bangs.
I was worried that Alex was a bit small for a yearling, but the shearer said that he looks normal, or even a little big, to her! So that’s good. (Remember when he was born? What a cutie!) It could just be because he and Boeing are friends, and Boe is a big fella.
After shearing was done, everyone was tired and hungry (and happy… trust me, I can tell).
Don’t you just love how the shearers leave little legwarmers? It helps protect their legs from mosquito bites, and keeps them warm in winter.
They have to be sheared in summer so they have enough time to grow a coat before winter. Mid-June is a bit late, actually, but I’m sure these guys will be okay. They produce a LOT of fibre!
For months, I’ve been saying, “look how fluffy you are! You’re getting so BIG!” and now I am saying “look how skinny you are!”
After shearing is the only time I can see their bodies, and know if they are underweight, overweight, or just right. They all look good, except maybe Miss Uki (she looks a little skinny).
Daisy got to wear her harness a little longer than everyone else. When she was done, we just unclipped the leash and she ran away! So we had to catch her a while later and take the harness off. Luckily, alpacas can still eat and drink while wearing one. You an see her in the distance behind Fozzie below:
The reason the shearers came early was because at their first stop, the sheep were all wet! So, to give them a chance to dry, they came and did our alpacas first. Apparently, shearing wet sheep is akin to hell bent over! The boys were a little damp, so I spread the fibre out in the sun to dry. Doesn’t it look glorious? Boeing’s fleece is white, Ziggy cinnamon brown, Fozzie brown/black,and Alex dark brown with sun-bleached tips. 🙂
Alex’s fleece had a lot of straw in it, so I spent a while picking it out. It is SOOOO soft. Best time ever!
And hey, a good friend of mine featured Daisy’s first cut fleece in a video! You can watch it here:
I’ve actually been working on processing the fibre lately! There are 3 steps before I can start knitting it: de-dusting it, carding, then spinning. I could also wash it, but it isn’t absolutely necessary as long as I get the dust out. I have a mesh table that I fluff it on. My grandma gave me her drum carder and spinning wheel and I spent a day carding the fibre at home and then another day with her while she taught me how to spin. I was SO terrible at it, but apparently, that’s normal for beginners. There is no such thing as beginner’s luck in spinning! She kept teasing me, saying I was making a rope! It was way too thick. But I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it.
That’s all for now, everyone! Take care!
Here are a couple more “before” pictures to enjoy!
What a year it has been! There are so many highlights I want to share with you!
The day we got Ziggy and Boeing! I can’t believe that was less than a year ago. I feel like we’ve had them forever!
We got our well fixed back in spring, on the first warm day! It was a big event, and we were so grateful when it was done and the pump wasn’t spraying water all over the inside of the pump shack any more. Darren made a fancy thermostat to control the heater in the pump shack, so it will never get below zero in there again. And we can check the temp any time, because he also made a wifi temperature sensor.
Shearing day! It’s always a big event. I got spit on by Uki, and my arm was GREEN and STINKY until I washed it. After 5 minutes.
Total Solar Eclipse – We had such an awesome trip to Idaho to see the total solar eclipse! 🙂
Cambodia – In November, I went to Cambodia for 8 days to visit a friend and be a tourist. It was amazing. I really should blog about it!
Music – I continue to play in a band once a month at the Centre for Spiritual Living, which I love. Singing and playing is so fulfilling for me, and I’ve been getting a bit more bold in my song choices. My keyboard playing is getting better too! I love it, and I play with such great people. I really feel blessed.
Writing and Publishing – I’ve been writing like a fiend this year! Just not blogging (sorry about that)! 🙂 I finished writing 4 tiny books, and just this month, I’ve finished all the layout and publishing tasks to self-publish 3 of them with lulu.com! I still need to finish the 4th one. This is another thing that I absolutely love doing! It’s so fun and fulfilling, and I can’t wait to get my books out to the world! 🙂
I feel like I’ve had such a great year! I was grateful much of the time, and was able to help some friends going through tough times and not get carried away by their grief or anger. I took a couple of self-development classes this year; I learned how to do Heart Math and I do it all the time. It’s such a helpful tool for regulating one’s emotions and creating more resiliency. In the second class, I learned more about Ernest Holmes and all that he stood for. It was also an excellent class and I enjoyed every minute of the reading and the class discussions.
I wish everyone such a happy, amazing, phenomenal 2018. May you grow in love and be surrounded by joy, peace, creative activities, and time for all the things you enjoy.
I can’t believe what a busy summer it has been! Our Miss Uki had her baby WEEKS ago, and I haven’t had a chance to blog about it!
Alpacas are so cute when the lay flat-out! They all do it from time to time — except Miss Uki. She is the momma and she doesn’t seem to rest that much!
And, of course, on a hot day, Fozzie is still loves to go in the pool!
Fozzie is Alex’s papa, and we are starting to see that perhaps personality is passed on, too! Alex LOVES to run now (since he was a day old!) and he will even pester Daisy, his older sister, to play with him. He bumps into her, interrupting her grazing, to try and get her to run with him. He is such a funny guy! Just like his papa.
I’ll try post more photos soon, but who knows!? Life is busy. Today we leave for the US to watch the eclipse on Monday! I am so excited — I can’t wait.
Hello all! Friday was an exciting day for us as we finally got our 2 new alpacas! We’ve been wanting some new males to keep Fozzie company, since he can’t be with the girls. So, we talked to our friends with alpacas and they held onto two of their young males for us! I’m sure you’ll agree they are super-cute.
It was getting dark when we got the new alpacas on Friday night, so these photos were all taken Saturday morning. I plan to keep the new alpacas separate for a little while — my reasoning is that Fozzie should get to know his new friends over the fence before letting them all be together. Since they are all intact males, there is a small chance they will fight — but that depends on personality and crowding. These guys have lots of room, so they should be alright. Saturday morning, we gave the girls and Fozzie their kibble first and then opened Fozzie’s gate. He finished his kibble and then went outside as he always does. He noticed the new guys right away and came over. He looked at them from a little ways back — he was stuck behind a huge pile of snow I had shoveled a few days before — but he found his way to the fence and began sniffing the new fellas.
It looks like they are all going to get along great! Ziggy was definitely a bit more curious about Fozzie than Boeing was. Boeing is pretty chill — he’s like a Zen master.
We also got a big load of hay on Friday. A few of the bales were lower quality and/or falling apart, so we piled them outside, to be used first. Well, the girls noticed them and had a feast. What lucky alpacas!
This is a ways from where the male alpacas are — Daisy is looking towards the dogs. It is constant dog play at our place, and sometimes the dogs bumble across the ground and the girls have to get out of their way!
I still don’t have a good picture of Jenny! She’s always moving! But I do have this one.