Saturday, October 5, 2013

Setting up Shop

My shop/office/workspace has been evolving for the past 3 years.  It started as a hay barn with a good roof, but not much else.  It's grown into a 24x24 building where I work on my fiber and manage the dog training business


Visitors who come to the farm are often interested in what happens to the fiber after it comes off the alpaca after shearing each year.  I'm able to show them the process from raw fleece to yarn in my workspace.  Right now, we're processing everything on-site:  washing, picking, carding and spinning into yarn.

A couple of weeks ago, a very talented young lady, Jessica Johnston, came to visit to learn more about fiber work.  She's a professional knitter and is going to make some things from the yarn I've spun.

In the shop right now is one of her creations - not made from my yarn, but from organic cotton.  It's a lovely cap-sleeve sweater that would fit size small to medium.   There are more details in the Etsy listing.  I'm so amazed at what talented knitters can do.  I'm lucky to be able to make a scarf without dropping stitches and having things come out lopsided.

We welcome visitors by appointment to the farm and the shop.  We enjoy having home-schoolers and other small groups of kids and adults to learn about the animals and the fiber process.  We can tailor each tour to your group's interest.  Contact us to arrange a visit. 
Check out our website at for more information.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


A couple of years ago, we added some girls to our herd and last fall we decided it was time to try for some babies. Female alpacas carry their babies (crias) for an average of 355 days. We learned (too late) that fall babies are born earlier than spring babies, probably because of the heat. And, boy, did we have heat this summer.

Lucy, our 11 year old, gave birth on September 1 - one of the hottest days of the year, it seemed. The baby girl had a hard time breathing and struggled for every breath. She wasn't able to suckle and nurse. We suspect that she was born a few weeks too early and her lungs weren't fully developed. She put up a good fight for 4 days. We milked Lucy every hour and fed the baby by syringe and eye dropper. She was a beautiful copper-colored baby and we all grew very attached to her. Our first-born died on September 5.

It was a heartbreaking loss. We were exhausted from not getting enough sleep each night. We got angry with each other for both giving up hope and having too much hope. We were disappointed the vet didn't have any good answers. Her lungs sounded "horrible" he said, and the drugs gave her only a brief respite. We struggled with the fact that this baby was not a "pet", but livestock. Livestock bred for profit. As business owners, how much could we, or would we, invest in saving her life, if she could even BE saved? It turned out to be a moot point. She wasn't meant to survive. She was just wasn't prepared to live in this world.

We vowed to be better prepared and ready for the next birth. We ordered the bible on alpaca birthing and gathered our supplies.

We didn't have much time to read the book. On Friday, September 13, our grey girl, Star, gave birth to a beautiful grey baby boy. This cria is so different than our first. He's very strong. At birth, his teeth were already coming in and he had fully developed toenails - 2 things the first baby never had.

Star is a first time mom and she's a nervous animal, even without a newborn. She's very worried about her baby and checks out everything we're doing with him. Thankfully, they have bonded well and he's nursing regularly. He's gained at least a pound in his first few days here. He's running around the enclosure, exercising those long legs leaping and bounding about.

We don't have a name for him yet.  Some sort of tie-in with Friday the 13th would be neat or a connection to his mama "Star".  Feel free to comment with suggestions!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Back to Business

We're back! I feel like we've been on hiatus for the past year or so. Leaving the corporate world 2 years ago was my dream come true. I'd have time to build my dog training business, take care of the farm, get my house in order, and have time to spin my ever-growing supply of alpaca fleece.

The only thing that's truly been accomplished during that time was growing the dog business, for which I'm very grateful. My house is more a mess than ever, the guys have been taking care of the farm, and my spinning wheel was gathering dust.

In addition to that, our application for an agricultural land use exemption, which would have reduced our property taxes, was denied. Although this wasn't the main reason we keep alpacas, it's a huge cost saver at tax time. Texas doesn't have a state income tax. They get homeowners instead with a huge property tax, compounded by the city and local school system. The denial of the ag exemption was pretty discouraging and we were ready to disperse most of the herd to save money.

In a last ditch effort, we went through the appeal process in front of a local review board. We presented our case and to our surprise, we won! We are the only property on our road to have an ag exemption.

Along with that good news, I've found a wonderful person to help out around the office and farm. The combination of these 2 things has really energized me to start focusing on the potential of the farm business. We are moving fleece through the process of cleaning, carding and preparing for either spinning or making other products for sale. I've re-opened the Etsy shop and have alpaca items for sale here at the office when visitors come for tours.  Here are just a few of the things we've been working on:

Dryer balls

Roving for spinning or felting

Nesting fleece for birds
If you have a Cub scout pack, homeschool group, or just want to bring the family out to see the critters, drop us an email!  We'll get you scheduled and hope for cool weather.