Monday, December 27, 2010

A Winter's Sunset

Our ranch name Sundown Alpaca Ranch, LLC was named by us because of the view from the Alpaca pens and pastures. We get to see spectacular sunsets year round while doing our evening chores. Here is one from yesterday that my husband took a picture with his phone, as I didn't have my digital camera with me.

We are very fortunate to be surrounded by mother nature's beauty.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


Gary and I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas.

Furio playing Santa Claus.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Yummy - It's Grain Time

I have been so busy getting ready for the holidays, that I haven't posted on the blog. I have been knitting last minute gifts, shopping, getting out last minute Xmas cards and attending Xmas parties.  While we are so busy with the holidays, we still have the Alpacas to take care of.  In the winter time we hay them, but we also give them (year round) a special grain formulated for the Alpacas. It provides them with the minerals and vitamins that they require.  If you have happy, healthy alpacas, they will produce a very nice fiber blanket. Yes, stress in the Alpacas can cause the fiber to "break" and the fiber to be shorter and coarser.  So we like to keep our Alpacas healthy.  Below are pictures of Gary graining the girls. You will notice in the pictures that they play follow the leader, especially in the snow.  They don't like to walk in the deep snow, so they follow the trail that has been broken in the snow by us.

The Girls greeting us at the gate

Fame loves to be first!

They follow Gary to the feeders.

Gary putting grain in the feeders.

Our male cria eating his grain.

We grain the girls, crias and yearlings twice a day.  The males we only grain once a day.  They all love their grain. After all it is Alpaca candy!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

It's a Blizzard Outside

Well, I hate to sound like a weather person giving a weather report everytime I write for the blog, but living this lifestyle is also about dealing with mother nature.  We are in the midst of a blizzard today and it is supposed to last until Monday morning.  We had to plow our way to the animals this morning to do the chores.
We have about 8 inches of new snow on the ground now, with more to come according to the weather report.  The alpacas were all in the shelters this am, except for Cyrano & Gizmo, as they were outside eating under the tree where we also put hay for the guys.

Here is Lou (the bad boy) who is still in time out. His temporary shelter is our horse trailer that we use for the alpacas.

And here is a picture of the girls with a few rumps full of snow.

And  the guys, waiting for us to bring them their hay.

As you can see the alpacas take the storm in stride. They stay nice and warm with their fiber. We provide them with shelter, food and water.  Life is good for the Alpacas.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Brrrr...It's cold outside, but the chores go on...

Well, it is snowing and 27 degrees outside, while the wind blows from the NW at 16 - 20 mph.  It's time to wear layers of clothes to keep warm, while doing the daily chores.  Today we finished moving animals around for the the winter weather. We have to heat all of the animal's water tanks to keep them from freezing, so we always do some moving of the alpacas, dogs and now goats.  We also have a very bad Alpaca named Lou. He has become aggressive with all of the other "boys", so we had to put him in time out. (his own pen temporarily).  The picture below is my husband Gary scooping Lou's "alpaca beans" into the tractor bucket.

We compost all of the alpaca beans, hay/straw and our household compost. So that means once a week I drive the tractor out to the compost piles and dump the bucket.

Yes that is me, all layered up in winter clothes to keep warm on the tractor. I'm wearing my "extreme alpaca ski mask" that I made from one of my cria's fleece to keep my face from freezing while riding the tractor. It is so soft and keeps me nice and warm.

And here is one of the compost piles that I just dumped the contents of the tractor bucket .  My husband works all of this into our garden in the spring time.

And here are some of the girls today, all toasty and comfortable. This is their type of weather and they love it. That is why they have all of that nice fiber to stay warm. I now know just how warm their fleece keeps them. I sometimes break out in a sweat wearing the ski mask that I made, while doing chores in the cold wind.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Goats on an Alpaca Ranch?

I just realized that I have not introduced you to our dairy goats.  

Bailey Nigerian/Pygmy Buck.

This is Trixie and she is a nigerian/pygmy dwarf goat.

Blue a Toggenburg Buck

Eva a Toggenburg

Sierra an Alpine Doe

We drink their milk, make yogurt, cheese and soap.  We also can use their milk for the crias (baby alpacas) if ever needed.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

So what do you do with Alpacas?

I do get questions from people as to why we raise Alpacas and what do you do with them?  Do you eat them?  No, we don't eat them. We raise them for their wonderful fiber.  We process all of our Alpaca fiber into roving and other finished products. I spin, knit, felt and weave so I make most everything.  I have a store that I sell our Alpaca products and other locally produced fiber farm products.  I have been recently working on orders for handspun yarn for a couple of ladies that are knitting very special presents for Xmas. 
I also like to dye my white alpaca fiber and blend into batts using my drum carder.  Here are a couple of examples...

For those that have been following my blog, you will remember that I had a contest last month. One of the winners named Valerie received her prize of the roving pictured below.  She has a picture on her blog  Fiberewetopia of the yarn that she has spun from the roving.  It is beautiful.

So as you can see there is a lot of things that we can do with Alpacas!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Alpacas in the Mist

One thing about taking care of our Alpacas, is that you have to go outside in all types of weather, no matter how good or bad it is.  I enjoy being outdoors, as I love the beauty of nature.  We live close to Lake Huron  and this past week we had some unseasonably warm days for November.  The mornings were cool, so with the Lake Huron waters still being warmer than the air, it created some foggy mornings.

The sun peeking through trying to burn off the fog.

It was very peaceful this morning while doing the morning chores.  A wonderful way to start the day.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Life on the Ranch can be full of surprises both good & bad!

Daily life on the ranch does not always go as planned. Today is Saturday and my husband will usually do the morning chores alone as I needed to head to town to open our store named the

I saw Gary heading back to our house with both of our two Maremma guard dogs trailing behind him.  He came into the house and yelled "I'm going to need your help, Pan has quills in his mouth."  I said "No, not again!"  Our dogs protect the Alpacas from those critters also. A couple of years ago, there was one that had gotten into the Alpaca girl's pen.  All 3 dogs had so many quills, that we ended up having to take them into the vet. The vet tranquillized them in order to get them out of the back of their mouths.  Again, this spring we had another very large porcupine hanging around the outside of the pastures which Pan & Meadow decided that they needed to take care of.  We were able to pull those quills out ourselves. Here is a picture of Pan this morning with some quills sticking out. Most of the quills are inside of his mouth stuck in his gums and the roof of his mouth.

Needless to say it was not an easy chore, as he does not like us pulling them out of him. He is a large dog (over 120 lbs) and he is hard for us to hold him still. We thought for sure that we would have to take him into the vet again, but after an hour of work, we were finally able to get them all out. Of course I was late getting into town to open the store, but it was worth it, knowing that our fearless Pan was okay. It is just another day on the ranch!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Winner is...Drum Roll Please

Thanks for all of you that joined as followers of this blog. I had announced that anyone that joined as a follower during the month of October would be entered into a drawing.

My husband drew 3 names from this basket. 

And the 3 winners are...

Clap, Clap, Clap, WooHoo, Yea!!

Please contact me at this email
I need your personal information in order to ship out your prize.

Friday, October 29, 2010

I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your shelter down!

  Wow, what a wind storm we had in N. Michigan on Tuesday & Wednesday.  I know it wasn't as bad here as other states where tornados had spawned from this huge storm, but needless to say, it was the worst wind storm that I can remember.  They clocked wind gusts Wednesday on the Mackinaw Bridge at 83 mph. We had lost electricity for a few hours. We are again very lucky as some of our neighbors are still without power as of this post today.
  Here are some pics of a portable shelter that my husband built this year.  He skids this around behind the tractor, to move it to different pastures. This way we can rotate pastures with the Alpacas and they can have some shelter from rain and/or sun.  He had attached it to the tree in hopes of keeping it from blowing away, during the storm.

As you can see from the pictures, technically it didn't blow away, it just blew down!

We also had lost a wall in our straw bale chicken coop. My husband had built this coop about 4 years ago. It has withstood blizzards during past winters. Here are some pictures of it after we tried putting it back together (during the storm).


Well, we do have some work to do this weekend.
But we are very happy that no animals or us were hurt during the storm.  We are very thankful for that.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Let's get weighed!

Well it has been over a week since I've posted. I have been very busy here on the ranch and running errands for our youngest daughter's wedding coming up this Saturday, Oct. 23rd. 

A week ago, we weighed our girls, trimmed their nails and did some worming shots.  It is all part of the maintenance of the herd.  Weighing them gives us an idea if they are maintaining healthy weights. Some of the mammas lose weight from nursing, so we like to make sure we keep them at a healthy weight. We also do a preventive worming in the fall.  We need to do the guys next (after the wedding of course).  I have posted a few pictures of the catch pen and Enya getting weighed. I can't take pictures while we are doing nails and shots. So you will just have to imagine that.  We use our catch pen to work on them. It was another beautiful sunny fall day.  
Catch Pen & Scale

Enya weighed

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Chickens and more chickens, oh my!

We have about 60 to 70 chickens on the ranch. Why so many?  They help us with keeping the fly population down during the summer fly season.  They also eat the slugs in the pastures. The ranch is on the watershed to the Ocqueoc River. So when the pastures are wet, we can have slugs.  The slugs can carry a worm larve that if ingested by the Alpacas can cause neurological problems or even death in the Alpaca.  So having the chickens helps us with our worming protocol on the ranch.  The chickens are allowed to free range and the eggs taste wonderful. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Visitors at the Ranch

Saturday, some ladies from the Spinning Guild Spinners Flock paid a visit to Sundown Alpaca Ranch. 
Gary, I and the Alpacas enjoyed having them visit us.
The following are pics of some of the Alpacas that they were able to visit with. If you have a school group or any other group that would like to come out and visit, please contact me and we can arrange a date.

Fame & Fortune

Yearling Girls

Lou Costello

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Beautiful Fall Morning on the Ranch

Here are some pics of the views from our ranch this morning. I took these while doing the chores.  Fall is so beautiful.  It really inspires me to work on my fiber arts.  Enjoy...

The girls

Some of the boys

Some other boys

The Girls