Monday, October 31, 2011

Meet Luxor

I'd like you to meet Luxor.  His registered name is Bolivian Luxor and he is the original herdsire here at Misty Haven Alpacas, since the fall of 2002.  Luxor had been imported into Canada from the U.S. in 1997 as foundation stock for the Canadian registry.  We purchased Luxor from a farm in Saskatchewan along with four females.  We knew his was a special alpaca from the start. 

He is handsome here in this winter picture from 2003.  Luxor always loved the ladies.  Whenever we needed him for service, all we had to do was whistle out the male's barn door and hold up the halter.  He'd come running, and you would swear that as he pranced past the girl's fenceline, he'd nod his head in their direction, give a wink and ask "Which one of you is feeling LUCKY today?"

We started this alpaca gig with no experience and no fellow breeders nearby.  But Luxor turned out to be a reliable breeder who didn't need any human advice or veterinary intervention to do his job.

He also had an abundant, thick coat and long staple length, and passed his nice conformation to the cria he sired.

Luxor was and is a tricky one when we are trying to trim his tonails or get him onto the shearing table.  He knows how to very quickly hit the floor and tuck all four feet under him so that you can't grab them.  We've learned to adapt and he has learned to trust us.

When he was a young stud, he was very aggressive with the other males.  At times, we had to separate him from the other male alpacas.  He was the dominant male and definitely did not want to give up his barn priviledges.

As the younger herdsires came to the farm,  Luxor did eventually lose his standing.  He served as the "spit-checker" for a year or so.  A "spit-checker" is put with a female who is expected to be pregnant.  If she is pregnant, she spits at him and runs away.  It took Luxor a little while, but he did figure out what the deal was.  He got so that he would walk into the barn, take one look at "her", give us a look that said "If you think I'm going in there with that crazy -----, you got another thing comin'" and turn back to the door.  So, we knew the female was pregnant.

At some point, we thought maybe he had just lost the urge to try (and you could understand how), so we called another young stud in as a double-check after Luxor had refused to tease the female.  I swear, as he was heading out of the male's door and the young eager stud was racing in with his tail up....I heard Luxor snicker and whisper to him "Go for it buddy, she WANTS you!!!"  Meanwhile, the big female was aiming gobs of green regurgitated grass directly at the incoming young fool.

The picture above was taken just last week. Luxor will be 15 years old this coming February. He chooses to spend much of his time in the back pasture, either alone or with the old gelding llama. He has his favorite shady stand of trees where he has his own sandy dustbath wore down. He wants no part in the wrestling and competing with the younger males.
His fleece is now pretty coarse. As he has aged, he's had warts show up on his ears and under his coat. Some mornings I have to walk out to the back pasture and call for him as he hasn't showed up at the barn. When he sees me, he will start to walk back to the barn, doing a pretty good Tim Conway impersonation. My friend Marj says that he just does that because he knows I'll wait 10 minutes for him to make his way to me.
The textbooks say that alpacas live to be 18-20 years in North America with proper care and nutrition. I personally question whether there have been enough statistics captured to make that statement. In South America, where alpacas originate, they are usually culled before their natural lifespan. I do know that the past few years, Luxor has maintained his weight and does not seem plagued with dental issues that is often the case with older alpacas. As I have said, I have noticed him moving slower this year but generally, I think Luxor still has a good life on the farm. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Choose to Hope

"Once you choose hope, anything's possible." ~Christopher Reeve

Never....give up.  Never...give in.

Keep believing, even when others say you shouldn't.

P.S. If you think this message is for you...that's exactly who I wrote it for.

Monday, October 10, 2011


It's been the most beautiful Thanksgiving weekend here in Ontario. 

Saturday morning was 25C and sunny.  I had a booth at the last Saturday farmer's market in North Bay.  I was looking forward to the nice weather for my outside booth, instead of huddling against a wet, cold, wind like usual.  Usually, my warm woolie goods don't sell as much in the warm, sunny weather, but for some reason, I had a super sales day.

Having a booth at the market is often a hit and miss for sales.  Some friends wonder why I would bother lugging my car full of goods, tent and tables, along with my sleepy teenager to the market for 4 hours of promotion in all kinds of interesting weather on a Saturday morning.  Sometimes I've wondered myself.  However, I always feel great after the market.  I talk to wonderful people, some are local, some are tourists from all over.  Many have an interest in the animals that I raise and the process of making fleece into yarn.   Most are appreciative of quality handcrafted goods.  Some are die-hard fibre art addicts like myself.  I always have great conversations there.  I've been involved on an occasional basis for 3 years now, and I've come to know many of the other vendors.  We are a committed group that know that our offerings of locally grown food,  quality handcrafted products and a great shopping experience bring value to our community.

 I have saved my seeds from my squash, lettuce, beans and tomatoes this year.  Packaged and labelled, they will go into the drawer for next year.  You may notice in the farm shot above that the middle small pasture has been tilled.  Part of that pasture will become a vegetable garden next year.  We will take the lessons learned from our little garden and expand next spring.

Saturday afternoon we went to the lake, cooked steaks on the open fire, then watched the stars over the lake into evening.  We slept with the windows open to a warm breeze.  In the morning, I took my coffee to the lake to watch the sun come over the hill and take the mist from the lake.  The lake was like glass reflecting the forest of autumn colours.  (Yes, you guessed it, I forgot to bring my camera.)  It was an incredibly beautiful scene, made even more special knowing how unusual weather this was for mid-October in Northern Ontario.

Somebody got massacred on the picnic table yesterday at home.

I spent part of today dyeing some beautiful colours while the turkey cooked.

I have much to be thankful for.

Monday, October 3, 2011

October Stay-cation

One thing our family does really well is work.  Declaring a "day off" is difficult.  As the "mom" of the household, I declared Sunday morning that we were going to have a much-needed "fun day".

With so much to do around here, it's hard not to commit to an hour or two of labour before taking the rest.  If it hadn't been for a broken ax handle, we would have put in an hour of chopping and piling our winter wood before hitting the road.

It's seems funny to say that on our day off from the farm, we drove to an agri-tourism destination called Leisure Farm.   The farm is a popular day-trip around our parts, although mostly for families with small children.  Our tall, teenage daughter still loves it though.  It was a beautiful, sunny October day.

This pig was hilarious.  He had his own pile of reject pumpkins that he was pigging out on.  Most times, he had his whole head stuck inside a pumpkin, and would then emerge with an orange-pulpy face.

There were about eight turkeys this size, trying to snooze in the sun by the parking lot.  It never lasted long, because some young children would invariably wake them up so that they could chase them through the parking lot.

The farm had wagon rides, a corn maze, a playground, a kids craft room, a marshmallow roast, and a kiddies haunted house.  You could also buy pumpkin, apples, lunch and baked goods.

This year, I reluctantly paid $14 for my daughter and I to go through a haunted house.  The sign said that you had to be at least 12 years old, so I thought it might not be too corny.  Well, my daughter and I had a very good scare.  My hats off to the young people that put it together, it was very professional.  There was always something touching you in the dark and the scenes that you came upon were very realistic and scary.  I probably have a bruise on my arm from my daughter clutching me so hard.  We screamed a lot in the dark and then laughed a lot when we got outside.  It was worth my money.

Here is a picture of my multi-tasking last week.

Judith McKenzie's "A Spinner's Toolbox" made is easy for me to get through peeling 10 lbs of carrots.  I had a hard time making time to finish watching that video, so having to sit to peel carrots was a good excuse to multi-task.

This video is a must watch for anyone who spins without the benefit of a good workshop or lessons.  I've been spinning yarn for about six years, and I cannot beleive that there were so many basic things that I did not know!  She covers worsted, semi-worsted, woolen, semi-woolen, slub and boucle styles.   I'm anxious to do some slub and boucle yarns as my next spinning projects.  I highly recommend this video to any spinners.