Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Frogs, Fish and Fun Stuff

Spring has blessed us with jungles full of weeds!  We've discovered that 30% vinegar applied to plants makes them wilt and die really quickly!  Recommendations include cutting the weeds first, then spraying.  And it really doesn't take much!  A little spray and 2 hours later you begin to see the fruit of your labor!  That beats Round Up all to death (pun intended).  

So, let the weed whacking begin!   Farmer Don has been out cutting down thistles and echinacea and fox tails for days!  On one of his breaks he paused by a tree and found this cute fellow doing his best impersonation of a leaf.  I hear them all the time, but have never seen one before, have you?


I think I mentioned that I had an appointment the other day with the SoCal Fibershed and a new friend named Lesley Roberts.  We did a presentation via ZOOM on how the concept of Fibershed fits into a more responsible, local clothing economy (which seems like an even better idea with current international snafu's).  "Soil to Skin: What's in my clothes?" It was a hoot!  Lesley did her presentation from home, and the other rancher and I did ours with a phone, wandering around the ranch.  There are a few places where the video dropped out, but over all it was really fun.
I'm including the link so that you can join us for our presentation if you are interested.  My part comes near the middle.  Enjoy!


Don wanted me to be sure to include a picture of his relaxing, colorful salt water aquarium.  Tracy and I asked why.   The answer? Because.  So here you go! (do you see the star fish and the Clown fish?)


I still have 5 young males who are under a year old who are looking for a home this spring.  They are adorable and well trained.  They've recently been sheared and have had their immunizations.  If you are looking for some little buddies for your yard or your herd or your fiber projects, these guys would be ideal.  Take a look here, and then follow the picture link to their webpage.  Call or email me if you see something you like. πŸ˜‰







Have a good week, until next time.

Cindy Harris ~ Alpacas at Windy Hill ~ Somis, CA 93066 ~ 805-907-5162 ~


Thursday, April 23, 2020

Unusual times, unusual opportunities...

These are Unusual Times, have you noticed?  Sometimes Unusual Times bring Unusual Opportunities....

My 1st Unusual Opportunity happened when a new friend called me this morning.  She is a nurse on a week's break, and she wanted to add some adult male alpacas to her life so she has positive things at home to help her relax and take her mind off of the hospital.  How many of you know that hanging out with alpacas can help lower your blood pressure?  Many of us benefit from that aspect of alpaca ownership. 😁  

What is unusual about this call was that she wanted adult male alpacas, and I happened to have 4 that needed a home!

Here is her first sweet boy-- a rescue llama who needs a few buddies and a good shearer (who is coming in a few days).

Tomorrow she will be adding 4 of my sweet boys to her herd.  You should have seen them when I put them together for the first time this morning.  They all just sniffed each other and then went about their business.  So sweet.  I'm so happy they will have such a special life.  I know they will be loved and cared for.  This makes me so happy.


My 2nd Unusual Opportunity this week was also fun.  I got to be an online panel member with the Southern California Fibershed for the Fashion Revolution discussing "What's In My Clothes?"  Desert Churros also presented.  The really fun part was being able to walk around the ranch and introduce people to my alpacas, show them some fleece I was skirting, and talk about how Earth Friendly and Sustainable alpacas and their fleece are....all on Earth Day!  There were people on the call from all over the country.

For more information, contact:
Fashion Revolution, Nicholas Brown 
Southern California Fibershed, Lesley Roberts:
Desert Churros, Katherine Tucker: @desertchurros


My 3rd Unusual Opportunity this week was a call I got from the mom of a 4th grader.  She called to see if she could order an Alpaca Zoom for a 4th grade class!  I had recently posted this service on my website as well as my Facebook page.  My daughter in Portland OR saw it and forwarded it to her friends and co-workers.  One of her co-workers posted it, and one of her friends called me.

Don't you LOVE Social Media??

The mom who called paid me  via PayPal, and I am now waiting for the teacher to call me so we can design this alpaca visit to her class.  I already have the lesson plan in my head (4th grade teacher?  That's my middle name!).

If we pulled off a Family Zoom with wiggly grandchildren, I am confident I can host an Alpaca Zoom.

And by the way.... if you or someone you know would like to have an Alpaca Zoom for a class, a party, a business meeting... Just send me an email. We will make it a good one!  

Cindy Harris~ Alpacas at Windy Hill~ Somis, CA

Monday, April 20, 2020

Every day on the ranch is like a week!

 A ranch with 260 alpacas has a lot going on all the time.  Sometimes every day feels like a week!

After shearing and dividing all the fleeces by owner, we put the ones that belonged to our boarders on shelves in the warm room in the barn.  It’s the only place where we can close fairly secure doors and have it be safe from pesky creatures (like rats and sneaky dogs).  By the way, if some of those fleeces are yours, please call about coming to get them.  :-)

After shearing we washed all the halters.  And the walls.  And lots of rags.  Their real colors came back after having been masked in a coating of green slime.

A couple of our retired girls recently left to go to their cushy new home in nearby Simi Valley.  They have tons of fresh green stuff to graze during the day and a cozy enclosure in the evening to munch and sleep safely. They follow their new mom around like puppy dogs.  It’s a match made in heaven.

New gopher mounds erupt daily on the ranch.  We have been pretty free of them all winter, but they have made their annual debut with lots of fanfare.  Klick (AKA “Rat Patrol”) is on the job!  He can dig faster than any other dog I have ever seen.  He’s also really fast!  His little girlfriend Kallie is starting to learn the ropes.  The floppy rabbit toy is no longer just something to chew on.  Now it gets convincingly shaken every time she picks it up.  She’s a going to be a force to be reckoned with.

Our little “squirrel dogs” are much more active now that they weather is warmer, too.  They came to us several years ago now from a rescue that wasn’t able to socialize them as pets, although they had tried everything.  Coming out of a rescue litter of 120 terriers in someone’s back yard, these 2 just never warmed up to people.  Rather than put them down, Pearla and Dallas came to live on the ranch.  Pearla will take a treat from my hand now, but Dallas still stands a long way off.  They are happy little guys, though.  After all, what more does a terrier need than a Territory, a Job, and an endless supply of creatures to chase?

Everywhere I look now there are blossoms!  The plum tree is blossoming, the peach tree just finished, and the zucchini plants are showing off with big yellow flowers.  I think you could feed the world with a few zucchini plants!  I’m also growing some tomatoes, lettuce, spaghetti squash, and blueberries this year.  2 rat terriers and an Aussie in my yard is giving me confidence that we might derive some benefit from the garden without interference from the local thieves—squirrels, gophers, rabbits… you name it.

BTW…I found this varmint hopping through the yard a few days ago.  It appears the Easter Bunny felt the need to take precautions in delivering so many baskets…

Our little show string is enjoying the new grass in their pasture.  We’re letting a few of them grow through the summer this year—something I haven’t tried in several years.  But these fleeces are so pretty I just couldn’t shear them this time.  I’m still have hope that AOA will declare that suris should be shorn every year like huacayas in order to show, but it hasn’t happened yet.  We’ll see how it goes.  

We’ve got our fingers crossed that there will be a couple of alpaca shows this fall. :-) 

Friday, April 10, 2020

The Post-Shearing Cold Snap

Every year, right after shearing, we get a cold snap.  Of course, it's not a cold snap like most of the country gets.  It's a California Cold Snap.  That means that temperatures might plummet to 45ΒΊ F at night and stay in the 50's during the day.  BBBbbbrrrrrrr.....!  This year, it also rained for 3 days, so everybody got wet.  Oh NO!

A couple of the little guys shivered where we could see them, so they got coats.  Everybody else seems completely unconcerned.  It's not that they are pansy Calfornia alpacas-- it's that they are in the care of all of us California Weather Wimps who project our discomfort onto the alpacas.  It's similar to your mother.  Remember?  You had to wear a sweater when she got cold.  Alas.  Our mothers live on! LOL

The good news is the grass seed we planted before the rain started is coming up!  Hurray for Farmer Don and his new orange rototiller.  The next task is to rehab the sprinklers so that we can KEEP the grass after the rain stops.   One of the prices we pay for living in Paradise, I guess.

The yearling girls are anxious to talk to anyone who wants to stop by.  Remember when you were 14?  These girls are going to get bred this summer. I had hoped to show a couple of them, but the shows fell prey to  the stay in place orders, so now they just get to meet the boys a little sooner, maybe.

The little girls are just curious about everything!  When I walk by with Klick and Kallie, they all rush to the fence to see what's going on.  The dogs couldn't care less--after all, they don't look like gophers or squirrels.  It's a fun time to shoot pictures of the girls, though. They look so cute on their tippy toes with their ears up.

The blue sky is actually peeking through today after 4 days of rain.  They said there would be snow last night down to 6000 feet in the surrounding mountains.  I hope we get to see it before it melts.  Being surrounded by mountain ranges and rolling hills is such a beautiful west coast benefit.

We are doing an experiment this summer. We haven't left any juvenile suris in full fleece for 10 years, but this group is so pretty and didn't get to show, so we're going to try it. We can always belly-shear if it gets too hot for them.  It turns out that our average temps here are generally lower than the Portland area, and we don't have the humidity that they do.
Just like all of'll be an experiment.  We've got the hoses ready to squirt legs and bellies.

Here is Ivan being curious about the dogs as I walked by.  He has had such heavy bangs that it's a whole new world now that they are trimmed!

Admiral and his 3 buddies seem to be under the impression that they look as majestic as they once did.  I don't have the heart to tell them that they look like giant Easter Bunnies now. They're so cute, aren't they?

Some of the yearling boys came up close for portraits.  Thor even gave me a profile shot.  They all got their bangs trimmed, so they can see each other better.  Consequently, there is a little more neck wrestling and chasing going on because they can actually see each other!

Danny Boy is posing almost all the time.  Now that he can see, I guess he figures everyone wants to see HIM.  He might be right.  I reinforced that behavior by taking his picture.  In another year or so, all the girls will probably want to see him too!

Every day it gets closer to birthing and breeding season around here.  June isn't very far away.  It's time to start planning for births, and planning breedings.  I can't wait to see crias from a couple of our new herd sires from last year!

Happy Easter, everyone!  We had chicks hatched today.

Here is a card I drew for my granddaughters.  (Yes, I did draw sheep this time instead of alpacas, but they are cute too.)

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Naked Alpacas! EEEEEKKKKKK!!!!!

Shearing Days 2020
Well, what do you know? Shearers are considered essential workers in agriculture!  
And we are so glad!!  We got to shear perfectly on time, thanks to BioSecure Alpaca Shearing.  John's crew showed up on Thursday night and we dug in first thing Friday.  We finished 242 alpacas in 2 1/2 days with the help of lights in the barn and a hard-working skeleton crew.

Some of us wore masks and gloves, some of us didn't, and most of us are still working the fiber dust out of our sinuses.  In the midst of it all, somehow all the alpacas all got sheared.

In our process, we bring all the alpacas to the barn pens via a funnel system that Don sets up the day before with portable panels.  One by one the 24 pastures get herded to the barn pens where we halter them, and clean them up.  Here is a picture of Kindle looking beautiful, waiting her turn.

In the early morning dew, some of these fleeces look particularly lustrous when they get cleaned up.  By doing the work of getting rid of as much vegetable matter as possible in this phase, it simplifies the skirting process later, and paves the way for some shiny fleeces for show or processing. 

The shearing team is great about getting the alpacas to the mat. Most of them come in on a halter fairly easily, but when someone is "singing" on the next mat, the little ones wonder what on earth is about to befall them!  Here, Kyle just scooped up this cria and carried him to the mat.

Once the alpaca is in the hobbles and stretched out on the mat there is sometimes a moment or two to stand back and admire the current fleece for the last time on the alpaca.  You can see that this white alpaca (Bracito's Fromage) is holding onto a great deal of luster, even though his fleece is in "pasture condition".  It was a beautiful, heavy, shiny fleece once it was off. 

We have 2 mats running at the same time. There are 4 guys on the crew-- 2 do the main shearing, and 2 do the clean up and the extras, like shots.  Our alpacas get their annual Coven 8 immunization at shearing every year, and due to new discoveries about the importance of vitamin D, we also give a shot of Vitamin AD.  We spray inside their ears for ear ticks using Catron, treat them with a pour on fly repellent, and lice prevention before they go back out.  If their incisors or fighting teeth need trimming, this is the ideal moment to take care of that.  

We fix their name tags to be readable if the writing has rubbed off, and they get their toenails trimmed.  It's a real once-over.  It also gives us the opportunity to look at them critically for any little lesions or potential skin problems we can prevent.

We try to "noodle" as many fleeces as we possibly can during this process.  "Noodling" is a processionals of using a piece of paper or plastic that lays down next to the alpaca's blanket fleece just before it is shorn.  As the blanket fleece comes off, it goes onto the sheet of paper/plastic in the approximate order that it was on the body.  We then roll it up into a "noodle" and put it in the bag with the 2nds and 3rds.  When it's time to skirt the fleece, it's easy to unroll it and see where the edges of the blanket are so we can remove any coarser fiber and prepare it easily for show or processing.  The coarser fibers go into another category. Each category has its uses so that we get as much production possible out of every fleece.

WOW! Look at that luster!!

Here is Faline in the scale chute.  We also weigh everybody and record it as they come off the mat. That way the whole herd gets weighed once a year and recorded in the data base, Alpaca Ease.

By the looks of the wall, you can see that not everyone is pleased to be weighed...  I don't blame them!

After shearing each group, we herd them back to their pasture and bring in the next one.  On the way home, they gleefully run, buck, kick and pronk, so glad to be free of the pen, the fleece, and the whole process.  It's so much fun to see them so joyful!

Thanks for joining our shearing adventures!  Here is a picture I drew of us quarantining at home.  It actually doesn't look too different from every other day out here.

We hope to see you all soon!