baby alpacas

Making a Parka for an Alpaca

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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!

Look how pink his ears and nose are!

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 guess I didn’t take many pictures of the construction of the first coat, but here it is all finished, waiting for the little one to be born! My mom supplied the light blue fabric and wide velcro — thanks Mom!
Making the second coat: The pattern piece overlaid on fuzzy cloth.
To add an insulating layer, I hand-carded alpaca fibre and made it into mini-batts which I laid out inside the coat, overlapping a little.
I machine quilted the coat and added a windproof layer — the dark blue fabric (thanks again, Mom). It puckered quite a bit, but at least the alpaca fleece layer would be anchored well.
I underestimated how big Pigpen was getting, so it didn’t even fit him! I had to make the coat bigger… or the straps longer!

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!

I think he likes it!

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.

The proud mama, not long after Pigpen was born! (He had just stood up!) Yes, that’s a washcloth on his back. I had to run back in the house for his 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.

Here is the coat laid out on the floor. The batts are different colours because it is fibre from different alpacas!

Using full-size batts was far better than hand-carded fibre, and I only anchored it every 3-4 inches.

I quilted the coat by hand with thread, tying small knots. I seem to love projects that take a lot of time!

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!

An alpaca in a parka!

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!

Welcome Rupert!! Our New Cria

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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! 😛

Welcome Pigpen! Our New Cria

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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! 😀

Alex the Alpaca

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Hi all,

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!

He is a real cutie! In this photo, he is only hours old (still looking a little stunned at how bright and noisy the world is)!

He knew right away where the milk was!

He would drink and rest, drink and rest that first day! We decided to name him Alex. I don’t know why — he just seemed like one!

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!

The boys are doing well, too! We have some tall grass on our land, and they sometimes to eat it or hide in it!

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.

Where Does the Time Go?

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MarleyTime flies by so quickly! Sorry I haven’t been blogging. I have been writing a lot, but I’ve been working on my next books instead of blogging.
So let me tell you what’s new and what hasn’t changed! We are still loving being on the farm. The work doesn’t feel like work; it feels like I get to play outside, making improvements or doing things for the well-being of our animals. We have 4 alpacas now, but instead of a baby from Uki as we were expecting, we got another yearling female from our friends at the nearby alpaca farm. We needed a buddy for Daisy when she was being weaned, so she wouldn’t be alone, and that’s when we got Marley. She’s toffee-brown and always smiling! When it was time to give her back, we realized we were pretty attached to her. So, we asked if we could keep her and they said yes! Yay!

But as often happens in life, this happy occasion followed a time of sorrow. Only 10 days after Uki had her baby, Allie, the baby died unexpectedly. We don’t know what was wrong with Allie or why she died. We simply found her very weak one morning and she passed away shortly after. It was so sad! We cried and cried! Allie and UkiThe worst part was thinking about taking her body away to bury her — would her momma understand, or would she blame us forever for taking her baby away? Argh, I tortured myself with this for a few hours, but there was no delaying her burial. Of course, Uki spit at us, but she seemed to have figured out Allie was dead and so she did not blame us (at least she did not seem to hold a grudge). It was a hard time for us, to say the least.

A month later or so, we came home to find my dad’s horse, Sassy, in distress in the bush. Splash, her faithful sidekick (who doesn’t kick, thankfully!) came and found me and led me to where Sassy was laying. We took a blanket out to her, and a tarp to keep the rain off, and through much cajoling and coaxing, we managed to get her to walk to the barn. Whew! Now she could dry out, warm up, have some water and recover! Allie and familyShe had scrapes and bruises on both sides of her head, and unfortunately, she did not recover from them. She died overnight and again, we were faced with the task of burying one of our farm family members. Sigh. We love Sassy. What a great horse she was! My dad rode her lots over the years and he misses her too. (Sassy is the brown horse in the photo below.)
We still have Splash and I make sure I don’t underestimate her intelligence any more. She’s one smart horse! We just have to decide now how to take care of her better — get her a companion, or send her to spend the winter with her previous herdmates.
Splash, Sassy and Fozzie

imageSince it’s starting to get colder out and we got a pile of snow the other day, we decided it was time to move the chickens from the outdoor “chicken tractor” or mobile home that I’d made — a coop with no floor, which we move along the grass every few days (photo at right) — to their winter kiekelbood. It has a heat lamp and a nice roost for them, so I’m sure they are happy about it. When I was getting it ready for them, Wade, the male kitten from last summer, went in there, caught a mouse in 5 seconds flat and started crunching it down! Yikes! I guess he likes mouse on the menu!
We still have lots of cats. Although we went a month without seeing the two more adventurous ones, Xena and Gabrielle, they came back yesterday! Xena had gobs of snow in her fur, so it looks like she had come a ways, maybe across the field, to come home! It was SO very nice to see them. Wade and Beautiful, the other two kittens, are buds and tend to stay around home. If I’m out working on a fence or whatever, they are often nearby.
I’ve really been noticing how smart our animals are, and that has inspired one of the books I’m working on. It’s all about intelligence. Intelligence is everywhere, in different forms for different animals. Even when people do things that seem “dumb,” they aren’t. They just have a motivation we don’t understand, or something deep-seated or subconscious is going on.
Other projects completed and accomplishments I’m rather proud of: We hooked up chains to a well-built calf shelter and dragged it a ways so that it could serve as an alpaca shelter in a corral. Then, we had to fix the corral fence. I hooked up the post-pounder, pounded 3 posts one evening after work, and nailed boards on another day. After a few other minor repairs, the corral is ready for… more alpacas! We are going to get two males so that Fozzie has some buddies. (Fozzie is the black alpaca in the photo above.) He’s separated from the girls most of the time, you know. Darn hormones! 🙂
We have quite a few rickety fences, and I used to feel overwhelmed about it all, but I have found that I really enjoy pounding posts! It’s very therapeutic. I fixed a particularly problematic fence post last week. It held the hinges for a gate that we use all the time, and the post had rotted off at the base. So the gate was very wobbly and it took a certain technique to open or close it. I started by freeing the post from the fence wires, and then unscrewed the hinges from the post. I got a new post — a nice, straight one! — and drilled holes in it to install the hinges. That was a several-step process and I’ll spare you the details! Once it was ready, I pounded it in a foot over from the old hole and reinstalled the gate! Success!
Other successes — we sold our house in High Level! Finally. It was on the market for 2 years! It is such a relief to sell it. This frees up mental space, money and the hassles having tenants. We are so grateful to our real estate agent!
So then we had a little money to play with! I found a natural gas pick up truck for sale, so on our way for vacation (which was long overdue), we went to Calgary and bought it. Since there’s a refueling station right beside my work, it’s very convenient. I’ll have to blog about this more, perhaps… it’s a pretty unique vehicle!
For our holidays, we went to BC to visit friends. We stopped in Calgary and crashed a good friend’s thanksgiving dinner, then went to Golden. We stayed there one night, unexpectedly, because the highway was closed. The next day, we saw friends in Armstrong who run a greenhouse, and the next, we connected with a friend in Vernon. So good to see him — we are kindred spirits! Then, we spent a couple of days in Kelowna visiting other friends and doing a few touristy things, including the Myra Canyon Trestle Trail. Loved that! We have my family to thank for making the holiday possible! One of my cousins, her husband and daughter did our chores for us, along with my parents — two times per day! But we knew our animals would be well-cared-for, which is so important.
When we got back, we had a minor crisis when our sewer tank was filling too quickly and we could not figure out where the water was coming from. We realized that it was ground water leaking in (like a small underground river!) because the water table is way too high this year, and there seems to be a small hole in the wall of the tank. So, I rented a pump, hauled it out behind the dugout and set it all up to pump into a creek which leads to the second dugout. Now, the water level in the main dugout is much lower and therefore the water table should drop too. Repairs will follow; hopefully it will all go smoothly.
That’s the fun of living on a farm! In the city, you never have to think about where your sewage goes! But you also have neighbours, sirens, traffic and such to deal with. We really do have space, quiet and nature all around us. Not to mention our animal friends to keep us company!
This winter, I’m going to keep working on my latest books. Rather than publish one large book and try to stitch several themes into one, I decided to write several small books on different topics. The first one is done, and I’m working on the second one and getting lots of ideas for the third! It’s been really fun writing again. I kind of had to put it on hold while I was training for my new job. The first three books will be (working titles):
– It All Belongs: The Law of Attraction and How the Universe Works
– Animal, Vegetable and Mineral: Intelligence is Everywhere
– Illness and Wellness: Attitudes That Make the Difference
So stay tuned for more on the new books when they are finished! Take care, everyone. Do something you enjoy today. Tell someone you love them. Smile at strangers! Be kind to yourself.

Alpaca Lovin’

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We had a little excitement the other day — hell, we had an alpaca porn show! It started when I went out after sundown to close the barn for Uki and Daisy (the momma and baby — and baby alpacas are called crias), and I thought I saw something black in the barn with them… sure enough, it was Fozzie! He had somehow gotten out of his corral and was in the barn with the two females! Little bugger! Well, little did I know, the “buggering” was just beginning!

I had to get him out again and try to wrangle him back into his corral. All the alpaca books (and breeders I’ve talked to) say that you need to keep the male out for about 2 weeks after a cria is born. So, I opened the gate to his corral and went back to try and separate him from the girls and all three got out of the barn. Hrmf. Well, no sooner were they out when Fozzie started trying to get on Uki. She did what any female alpaca in her position would do, I guess: she laid down on the ground and let him. They don’t do the wild deed stanging up, like horses or cows — they lay down. And I think I know why.

alpaca cave artIt takes forever! I had read in the alpaca book that it can last as long as 20 minutes, but I’m sure this was more like 45. Little bugger again, I said to myself! So, Daisy (the cria) and I just hung out, with the twilight fading and Fozzie sidling up and up and up onto Uki, and making the most crazy and amazing sounds! “Orgling” it’s called. It’s so strange someone had to make up a word to describe it! It’s like “oh baby, oh baby” in alpaca. Mixed in with strange gasping sounds. Apparently, it’s the combination of orgling and the male grasping the sides of the female with his front legs that makes the female ovulate. So, I think it worked! Way to go, buddy!

It was too dark to take a picture — plus, I didn’t want to leave Daisy unguarded in case any coyotes were around — so, I hope you enjoy this cave-art drawing (by me) of what it looked like. For 45 minutes. (There really should be more cave art in the world, don’t you think?)

The next day, I found the exact spot Fozzie must have jumped over the fence, little bugger. There was fresh broken wood, and Fozzie with a “what’s up?” look on his face kept visiting the spot. (I fixed it right away.)

Fozzie where he jumped

Now, we’ll know if it worked in a few more days when I let Fozzie back in again to visit Uki. If she spits at him and won’t lay down for him, it means she is pregnant. Isn’t it cool that she knows? I have never heard of an animal like that.

So, there you have it. Porn on the farm. Sex in the corral. Doin’ it, alpaca-style!

Oy, what a life I lead! 🙂

Daisy photobomb
Daisy, only a few days old
(Thank you, Patricia, for the photo!)