Sunday, August 2, 2020

Oh, life on the farm is kinda laid back...

We are waiting for babies.  Every day they sit in the OB pasture and chew their cud and laugh at us.  I'm glad they find that funny!  

I just want to see what is on the inside.  I've always wished that female alpacas came with a little window on their sides so we could peek in and see what they are growing!  Wouldn't that be fun?  One of the girls was cushed behind the feeder.  That's usually a sign that she is hiding something. Some of them try to be so sneaky!  I hate to tell you how many times I've gone home for  lunch and found a new baby running around the pasture when I get back an hour later!


One mama who had her cria recently is Ellie's Patches.  Patches gave her black for the 2nd time bred to gray Crawford.  You just never know what variety of chocolate is going to come out of the box, LOL.  This time it's a beautiful black boy name Pascal (Ellie, a former math teacher, always names her crias for mathematicians ).  

Speaking of which-- does anyone need a math tutor?  Ellie would love to help with elementary school through upper level high school math. 😁  Just email me. I'll get the message to her.

Gilberto is such a great helper!  He cleans the pastures for us, fills all the hay feeders, and runs the sprinklers whenever he is here.  Outta  Sight decided he was an ok guy, too.

I finally got to the end of the cucumbers!  I have pickles coming out my ears.  Now I will have to start pickling zucchini.  Does anyone have a favorite recipe for pickled zucchini?

  We also have a bumper crop of tomatoes from 3 plants.  I see tomato sauce in my immediate future.  I'll also have some cherry tomatoes to take on my road trip this week.

Jana Smith, our wonderful friend and gifted veterinarian of 20 years is retiring.  She has had health issues for several years and has reluctantly decided it's time to move to Albuquerque, NM to live near her sister.   We will miss Dr. Jana terribly, but she has promised to be available by phone and Zoom when we need her expertise.  I am driving her to her new home tomorrow-- ROAD TRIP!!  I'll be back on Thursday, Lord willin' and the creek don't rise.  In the meantime, Don, Tracy and Ellie will be holding down the fort.

We have not been left in the lurch, however.  Just in the knick of time, God brought us Dr. Nenn!  Katie Nenneker, AKA Dr. Nenn, has been in the area for a few years now, working for West Coast Equine and Conejo Valley Vet.  Just 3 months ago she decided to start her own practice, and does a wide range of large animals, including ALPACAS!!!  We feel very fortunate to have Dr. Nenn on board.  She has already been out to the ranch a few times for various tasks, and promises to be available for vet calls in the future.  You should see her TRUCK!  Her husband, a fire fighter, helped her design it.  It even has a refrigerator and its own water and electricity!!
You can find her listed on her website:

As Dr. Nenn was leaving the other day, Farmer Don found an exhausted humming bird on the ground.  The two of them revived it so it could fly away.  Be careful out there, little buddy!

Our new friends and clients, Steve and Nicole, came out the other day and brought their girls.  Some of our yearling female alpacas are beginning to long for a relationship.... and Annie Oakley decided that the girls were just right for a hug.  Steve shot this great picture and said I could post it.  Isn't it sweet?

Chloe wants you to remember that I am offering a Free 1-Hour Consultation for anyone exploring the in's and out's of alpaca ownership.  Just email or call me and we'll set up a time to come talk.  All the social unrest recently has caused several people to ask how alpacas can help them move to a more rural life.  We have lots of ideas!  Call or email soon.  20 years of experience can give you quite a jumpstart in starting your alpaca business. 😊
Cindy Harris - 805-907-5162 -

You are personally invited to come and bring a friend or 2 to the 
Fiber Play Day at Windy Hill
August 15, 9 am to 3 pm.
Bring your favorite fiber toys to play with us, or come to find some new ones.
There will be several fiber arts demonstrations  available, as well as materials to purchase and even some mini lessons available.
Bring your lunch, your own drinks, and a hat.  
We will hang out under the trees and have a relaxing and fun day.
$10 per person.  Children are fine with your own supervision.
No pets please.

Alpacas at Windy Hill ~ 7660 Bradley Rd. Somis CA 93066 
Cindy Harris ~
805-907-5162 ~

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Building Blocks

Once in awhile there is a cria born who looks like it should have wings and a halo.  Meet Noah by Neon Lights.  He is an Angel Baby from the word go.  Glistening white, Torbio curls all over, and the perfect face.  He made my week!

After almost 2 weeks of no babies we've had several crias in the last 10 days.  All colors and styles.  Crias are the "building blocks" of our breeding program.  We hope to build on their genetics in future generations. 😀

Tracy went out to see how Sea Gull was doing in her labor.  The head and legs were already out, so she paused to receive a kiss from Gully.  This is a normal time for labor to take a pause before mom goes back into hard labor to deliver the shoulders and rib cage.  Some moms are so relieved to get a break in the contractions that they go back to the feeder for a snack.  Gullie was no exception.

Some alpaca mamas really get into kissing their babies, and then transfer that to human helpers.  I'm told they are really transferring rumen-- stomach contents--to the baby, but it's really cute to see moms kissing their tiny babies.  Our new vet, Dr. Nenn, brought her able-bodied assistant out last week to help with a couple of chores, and Lilac kissed her too.  💗

One of our wonderful volunteer families joined us this week.  Their alpaca is named Thor, and he has beautiful shiny brown fleece.  Here you see him returning a hug with Linnea.  He's a real sweetie, just like his mommy.  And his owners.

After acquiring my new bike, it was pointed out to me that I am no longer young and could fall.... so I got a bike helmet.  I promise to go slowly most of the time, and be very, very careful.

Last winter was not our heaviest winter recently, but for some reason all of our flowering trees ad bushed are going crazy with blossoms this summer.  Not that I'm complaining.  It makes the ranch look beautiful and colorful.  We're all very grateful.

While driving through Camarillo I happened by a local park where I saw something colorful on a tree trunk.  I actually parked and went into the park to get a better view.  Look what I found!  This tree has officially been "yarn bombed"!  Isn't it fun?  Some anonymous person(s) did a lovely job!

Speaking of building blocks, one organization that has done a great job over the years of training young men to be men and giving them life skills, is the Boy Scouts (pardon my old-fashioned name for them).  A few months ago Jonathan approached me about doing his Eagle Scout Project out here at the ranch.  We talked about quite a few ideas and finally settled on raised planter boxes.

When the alpaca mamas reach the last few weeks of their gestation we give them herbs that help them produce milk.  Like most things, the cost of buying those herbs adds up, so we thought we would try growing our own.  The beds are raised because we have an OVER-POPULATION of pesky squirrels that eat everything in sight.    The tops of the beds are even made safer with a chicken-wire dome.

Jonathan and his dad and troop designed the boxes and figured out how to construct the cage on top so it can be tipped back when we want to work in them.  They are built of redwood to withstand the weather, and placed on pavers for footing so they won't sink in the mud.  It took a whole day Saturday and part of Sunday to get everything finished, but they look terrific!  I can't wait to get them planted!

The ravens often have the last word on any given day out here.  They are pests, and hover near the barn hoping to talk Zeke and Molly out of their dog food.    Here is one of our fine feathered friends finishing off something he sneaked when I wasn't looking-- a placenta!  I didn't catch him until he had had his fill.  The only thing he left was the umbilical tube.  They are such thieves and robbers.  This was one time they actually did me a favor by cleaning up.

Have an outstanding week!  More later!

PS:  Remember that we are having a 
Fiber Play Day on August 15 
and you are invited!
9 am to 3 pm-- Open House style
$10 per person
Bring your own lunch/snacks/drinks.
Bring your favorite fiber toys to play with.  
Many of us will have extra supplies if you want to try something new.
It will be a really fun day.  We hope you can come.
Bring some old yarn you don't want anymore and we can yarn bomb a tree!

Cindy Harris ~ Alpacas at Windy Hill 
7660 Bradley Rd. Somis CA 93066 ~ 805-907-5162

Monday, July 20, 2020

Relaxing by the OB Pasture

The summer goes on and the fleece keeps a'growin'!  I love watching them.    They think they are really something.  The other day they all got in the sprinklers and gave themselves a bath.  LOL

Meet John and Kelly Laurenzi, the newest members of the Windy Hill Alpaca Owners Club.  They purchased AWH Who's My Daddy Now? and are planning to raise beautiful suris.  They will join us at shows--as soon as we're allowed to go-- and will be learning the ropes  so they can have their own ranch someday--maybe in Tennessee, John's home state.  Say Hi when you see them around the ranch. Kelly plans to be here a lot.  They are Farm House Comforts Alpacas.

Neon Lights was smiling for me yesterday. He said he wanted to be in the blog, so here he is. 😊
Neon Lights has several crias coming this summer.   His first one, Ivory, is my favorite girl so far.  She has amazing luster and is twisting multiple locks together at 5 weeks.  Can't wait to see how she grows up!

Kallie likes to sit with me by the OB pasture while I work on the computer.  She sleeps and then catches flies.  She's actually very proficient at it.  Here is one of her attempts.

This is Tracy's week to have babies.  Deborah had a dark brown boy named Drax out of Deborah.  His daddy is medium silver gray Crawford.  What a surprise to get this color out of beige and gray!

Today we had another surprise.  Sandy Beaches had her baby girl, Pebbles on the Beach.  But look at THIS color!!  Daddy is Kiss of the King, a beige male.
Alpaca colors really are a box of chocolates!

Getting around at the ranch  takes a little doing sometimes.  No matter how many vehicles there are, they will almost always be missing when I need to get over to the barn.  Funny how that happens....
So this little electric assist bike is my new best friend!  I haven't ridden a bike for about 25 years, but this one is worth getting to know.  It's a power-assist bike that will help me over the uphill stretches.  It can go really fast, but I like to meander.  I think my elevated heart rate when I get off of it is probably more due to terror than exertion, but we're getting used to each other.  Eventually I anticipate actually enjoying it... and getting some exercise.  My helmet is coming from Amazon. Honest

Saturday, August 15, The Windy Hill Alpaca Owner's Club is sponsoring a FIBER PLAY DAY, and YOU ARE INVITED!  

It'll be very casual.  There won't be any set agenda.  Just bring your favorite fiber toys and we'll all play together for the day.
9 am to 3 pm.  Bring your own lunch   
It's $10 for admission, our boarders are free.

Those of us who have a particular skill or fiber art will be setting up stations to demonstrate, teach mini lessons, and sell kits.  If there is something in particular you would like to learn, you may be able to give it a try that day, or sign up for future lessons!
Doesn't that sound like fun?
Grab a friend (and your mask if that makes you more comfortable) and come on out!  You'll also have a chance to see all the new babies in person.  After reading this blog, you may even feel like you know some of them already. 😊

4 ounces of Baby Huacaya Roving ready to spin

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Tumbling Along Like A Load of Fiber

(I just loved this image someone posted on the 4th of July and had to share!)

Let's start out this week by recognizing an amazing crew of volunteers and helpers 
here at Windy Hill.  
Lindsey, who not only helps on the ranch but had these great shirts made;
Gilberto, our great friend and helper, who brings us avocados and so many smiles;
And MacKenzie who is home, due to Covid, from college 
and has become one of our right arms around here.
Thanks, you guys, for making Windy Hill a better place with your laughs, smiles, and good will.  
We love you!

I was looking for something different to make this week.  I mean, dill pickles are yummy and everything, but I needed a bit more of a challenge.  I searched the great online cookbook and found a recipe that sounded good.   Sweet Pickle Relish!  I love it in my tuna mix and egg salad, and decided having a few jars around would be a good idea.  

Let me tell you-- it's a lot more work than making pickles!  I cut and chopped and Ninja'd cucumbers, red bell peppers and red onions.  Then they had to stand in an ice water bath for 2 hours, so out to the ranch I went to do some chores.  When I got back 3 hours later, the ice was all melted, but I decided to march forward anyway.
Next I made the pickling solution--brine-- and cooked it.  I drained and squeezed the pickle mixture dry, added it to the sugary brine  (WHY does "brine" always make me think of "My Darlin' Clementine"??) and cooked it for 10 more minutes.  Thank goodness for my wide-mouth jam funnel because it was tricky to get into the jar!  Then I closed the jars with rings and seals and put them in the hot water bath for 15 minutes.  Whew!
Here's the link to the recipe if you want to try it.  
It's good, and will be better I think after it stands for a bit.

Alpacas are very fond of dust baths.  
They will find the ONLY dirt patch in a pasture and roll in it enthusiastically, as if there were a contest to see who can get the dustiest!
This is a problem when you have full fleece suris whose luster you want to display at some future show.  So I looked for the grassiest pastures we have and claimed them for the show kids.  Now I water them religiously lest they find a gopher mound they can coax into being a dust pit.  
Keep your fingers crossed!
I sure hope, by the way, that we get to take them to a show somewhere in the next year. We just got word that our fall California show is Grass Valley has been cancelled.  I'm holding out some weak hope for the other fall shows we could get to, but am mostly resigned to spring now.

In between watering pastures, birthing babies, writing blogs, and sleeping, I am prepping some fleece to go to the mill.  I have some fleeces that will become yarn, some that will go to Liz Valkamp in Missouri to be sold, and a whole lot of mismatched 2nds and 3rds that I plan to turn into felt sheets and rug yarn.

This is our tumbler, built for us by our friends Tom and Kathy DeWitt.  How fun it is watching the fleece tumble as it spins, and seeing all the dirt, fleece dust, and debris fly out of it!  It makes it so much easier to get clean once it goes in the washer.

If anyone wants alpaca yarn, by the way, we've got it!  Suri and huacaya, natural colors and dyes.  Let me know if you want to come see some.  :-)

Some people buy alpacas the minute they see them, and others take awhile.  Christina has been a good friend of the ranch for 8 years, and finally is starting to talk about owning alpacas!  She brought her friend Francisco by on Saturday to see the new crias.  All the babies loved him!

Indi is one of the pregnant girls who is now officially "overdue".  I asked her when she was going to have her baby, and this silly smirk is all I got from her!
"Wouldn't you like to know!", she shot back at me.
Well, that's ok. At least she didn't spit.

Have a great week!  
Remember, if you want to explore owning alpacas, let us know.  I am still offering a 
on how to get started with alpacas.
Any takers?

We just worked with Open Herd to do a re-build on our website using their great new software!  
If you haven't seen the new site, please take a look and tell me what you think.  If you can suggest improvements or things I didn't think of, I'd be grateful to hear!

Cindy Harris ~ Alpacas at Windy Hill ~ (805) 907-5162 ~

Saturday, July 4, 2020

In A Pickle?

My cucumbers are producing like gangbusters!  Everyday, it seems, I fill my sink with new ones.  I mean, how many cucumbers can a girl eat??

Soooooo…. I’ve started making pickles!  What fun it is to see the jars stack up.  Dill pickles, sweet pickles.  There’s something so satisfying about filling jars with goodies to eat later when the season is long since gone.

Here it is, 4th of July again.  I think of pickles and picnics and barbecues.  I remember my father and uncle gleefully setting off fireworks in the back yard when I was little, and being afraid of sparklers and big booms.  And it seems to me now that our world is in a bit of a pickle, with big booms and earthquakes and rumors and plagues. 

In times like these, I am so thankful to be on the ranch.  Somebody posted a meme to Facebook  that went something like this: "If a world-wide plague happens and you find that your life doesn't change, you must be in the right place."   I think they have a point!

The peaches have all decided to get ripe at the same time.  I discovered an easy way to peel them, though.  I used a slotted spoon and dunked them in boiling water for a minute or two. The skins just slid off like nobody's business and made nice neat slices.

This was the week to send in my fleeces for the AOA Fleece Show.  It was wonderful to spend time going through my 5 fleeces and skirting them for the show.  I have learned not to obsess on skirting.  Now I discard the coarser fiber around the "skirt" of the fleece that represents the lower edge of the blanket, then pick as much vegetable matter out of it as possible.  The last step is to roll the fleece back up in the same paper or plastic that it came in so the judge can see the logical layout of the alpaca's body when they runroll it.  It makes it easier for them to judge when they can see where the neck and the tail used to be.

This fleece is Kalino's 3rd fleece.  We've started breeding Kalina this year.  Based on his show and fleece records, he should sire some really nice crias for next summer.

On Wednesday Dr. Patty Temple came to see us.  Dr. Patty is my chiropractor, and she also works on animals.  She is very adept at diagnosing the spinal and muscle problems the alpacas have.  She has been out many times over the years for various alpacas.  This time she came to see Archimedes,a 2-year old suri who has a pickle in his hip that we couldn't completely resolve.  Since Dr. Patty treated him, Archimedes has been walking better and eating better.  He looks brighter every day.  She will be back to see him once more this weekend. Lucky guy!

Walking across the ranch today I noticed that Meadowlark was standing off by herself and appeared to be restless, maybe caught on the fence.  When I got there I discovered the reason why-- she had pushed her head through the fence to reach what appeared to be a bowl full of fresh grass.   What a pickle! Alas, it turned out just to be the same grass sticking through the whole in the bottom of the bowl.  What's that about the grass being greener on the other side of the fence?I helped her out of her pickle finding her way back through the fence...and removing the "bowl".

Wake Up Little Suzie went to her new home yesterday.  We will miss her and all of her escape-artist-antics.  I never knew where Suzie would be on any given morning.  She had her own route through all the fences at the end of the north pastures.  It's amazing that she never got herself into a pickle!She knew the sound of the pellet vehicle and would always be first in line--in any pasture!  I know she will enjoy her new home.  The daughter of the family who came to pick her up said she likes Suzie best--better than any of the other alpacas.  💓

We at Alpacas at Windy Hill wish you a fantastic 4th of July!  If you need a little R&R in the coming weeks, give us a call.  We can all hum along with the alpacas together.

In the meantime, here is a video I just had to pass along today.  Hopefully this beautiful song will bring a tear to your eye, too.