Sunday, July 14, 2013

Officially Our Boys

Well, as many of you know we've been praying hard about the boys and whether it was the right decision to add them to our family and Thursday for no apparent reason I knew they were here to stay! Maybe it was a look, maybe it was the way they come running when they see me outside (well, some of the time) or maybe God just gave me the peace I needed, but I knew deep in my heart that they are our boys!

And so that made me think - what about those "three bags full" sitting in the house.  I can't ignore them any longer or before I know it there will be six bags full and that is not good. I've been looking at drum carders to process the fiber myself and so I headed to WC Mercantile, my favorite little wool shop, and spent Friday afternoon with Stephanie owner and a great knowledge source.  We looked at carders and the type of yarn and batts I want to make and I am excited.  I drove back to Navasoto Saturday and took a drop spindle class so I can brush up on drafting fiber in prep of an all day class next Saturday on Intro to a Wheel.  Found one I like, felt good to peddle and it's very modern looking and spins the big fat art yarn, but won't buy one until I've taken the class.  The store will let me borrow the wheel for the class!  Can't wait, I am so excited.

The following week I'll take a class with Diana North that makes the most beautiful batts and art yarn.  That class covers dying to spinning, so hopefully in a few weeks I will know what on earth I'm going to do with my three bags full and anxiously be waiting for next May and the next batch.

So I must say it's a good feeling to be settled in our decision and looking forward. The boys arrived 5 months ago, well, on the 16th.  They seem to like living here now and Bill and I both seem to enjoy them more every day.  Even Jack and the boys are become through the fence friends.  They love to sniff noses.

And so I close tonight relaxed and crazy about our boys!  It has rained for the first time in weeks and their area is under water, but  I've fed them and know they have the raised deck and the concrete to get on to stay drive if they want and if they want to lay out in the puddles - well that's ok too.  Guess I'm finally relaxed with livestock!  Now that's definitely a God thing!!!!

And might I say the rain in an answered prayer!   So I close with thank you God for the boys and thank you for the rain and all of the other many, many other blessings.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Near Catastrophe!

Last Friday night I was in California and Bill was at home alone with Jack and the Alpacas!  This week I was at home with him and we are thankful that the near catastrophe happened when we were both here.

Jack and I had been out in the back yard visiting with the pacas at the picket fence while dinner finished cooking.  The boys all came over and sniffed him through the fence and he had a blast.  We went in and the boys went back to grazing.  Dinner was ready and Bill went to the kitchen sink to wash his hands and suddenly said, "Bev, I think Lefty has his head caught in the fence!" I ran out the back door through two gates and got to the back of him.  Bill ran to the fence and tried to quiet him.  He had apparently tried to sniff a sunflower and had stretched his neck up and over the fence and when he came down his neck slid between the pickets!  He was trying to pull his head out by moving straight back and he was stuck!  Sammy and Pancho were watching him carefully and Lefty was beginning to panic!  As was I.  I ran up behind him pushed him toward the fence and lifted him up all at one time and his head popped up and out!  He was fine and I took them to the back and locked the gates.  Gave them some food and sat with them for awhile to be sure he was ok. My heart was pounding!  I may not understand why I have them, but I can tell you this showed me how much I love them!

It was a miracle that Bill saw him so soon after it happened and we thanked God all night and still are today!  We also got chicken wire today 12" wide and folded it over the top of the pickets so we don't have to think about this again, but it shows that things can happen so quickly!  And, we really need to look at all parts of the yard and fencing!  So scary, but so thankful that all is well.

I had expected to start writing about my incredible four days in Oregon at the Camelidynamics Clinic, but before I had a chance to think it all out - we had our scare - so next week I hope to start sharing the goodies I learned and some amazing pictures.  For tonight - I just share a picture of my boys and their current "tenant!"

Sleep well, more soon!
You can see how that long neck could slip into a picket space!  EEK!!!!

Cottontail been traveling all over the pasture - boys totally ignore!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Fiber - Finally Digging in to the Three Bags Full!

If you read or follow both of my blogs you will be seeing double!  This post fits the creative blog and the boys blog so I'm using it on both.  I've never done that, but as they say there's always a first time!
Starting fiber

The boys were sheared in April and I have three bags full of their blanket fiber, plus two smaller bags from their legs and neck.  I just love saying three bags full - makes me think of that sweet nursery rhyme,  Baa Baa Black Sheep have you any wool,  but I digress.   On the third day of classes in Bend we will learn to assist our shearer, to sort, clean,to card,  and even needle felt some of the fiber. I don't want to get there and say I have three bags full but I've never touched it except to sort and put in bags, so today was the day to put my hands on it.

Hand Carders
I pulled out some of the blanket fiber from Lefty's bag.  Pretty and white, but with lots of vegetative matter aka vm.  So I started by just pulling it a part with my hands, making it light and fluffy and pulling out little pieces of dried grass and twigs.

Next, I used my hand carders.  They also make hand crank ones and electric ones (very, very expensive), but, for once, I decided to see if I liked doing the fiber myself or would I choose to send it to a mill for processing before I jump up in cost. I had so much fun today and saw how slow this process would be - fine for a little, but I see a hand crank carder in my future!

Blanket left to card does not
include the legs or neck!
Roving - ready to spin or felt
Trash after carding
 It took about 10-20 passes with the carders to get out vm I wanted out and even with that there are a

 few specks, but for the most part it's clean.  When I was finished I had two small pieces of roving. This can now be used to spin directly from the roving or use for needle felting or other crafty things.   Pictures show how much I started with, how much vm came out of it, the carders and the finished product.  And it took about an hour or maybe more!  And then there's what I have left of Lefty's blanket and remember I have two more bags from the other boys, plus all of the legs and neck bags and so you see why there is a hand crank carder in my future!

The boys had lots of visitors this week and so more about that coming soon, with some fun pictures.  And I leave for Bend tomorrow!  Exciting time for me - haven't been away from home for 6 days in a long, long time!  I'll miss all of my boys and Bill will be doing alpaca duty while I'm gone!  The hottest week of the year!  Keep him in your prayers!


Monday, June 10, 2013

The Weekend and Preparing for Cameldynamics

Great weekend with the boys!  They have come a long ways since February 16th and, of course, so have I.  First and foremost, I no longer expect them to be a dog.  haha  Actually, that's kind of true - not that I wanted a big dog, but I did want them to come running and be so excited that I had given them a nice home.  And I must admit, they seem much happier now that I let them just be alpacas.

I have a rubber stamp that says "Be Yourself - You are Most Qualified for the Job!"  Point is that's not just for us, it's for our pets too!  It seems to be human nature to want to try and change those around us, including our dogs and cats and even alpacas!

The boys are even getting friendlier with first time visitors and a little food in a hand goes along way in making friends with an alpaca.  Seems like only yesterday that they finally ate out of my hand and then I had to stop because they got so impatient with each other that some spitting began!  Not at me, but at each other and well, it's easy to get in the way!  LOL   So, yes, a little chewed up green grass sometimes landed on me too!  Not my favorite thing, so I stopped the hand feeding.  Now I can do it again and they take turns for a small amount each and then go to their bowls for the rest.

Yesterday we had friends out with their little girl.  She's about six and cute as a button.  She met the boys for the first time and like always the boys were very curious about her.  They seem to be fascinated with children and they came right over to investigate her.  After she had spent some time around them and I told her all about them I put some food in her little hand and Sam came right over and ate it.  He's the most gentle with eating and it actually sort of tickles and she loved it!  I did not have my camera with me and so no picture until next time! :(

And now on to the subject at hand! I leave this Friday for Bend, Oregon!  I'm going out for alpaca handling classes!  I got an email from Marty, my soon to be instructor, on Saturday and she said, "Summer is here!"  And then what caught my attention was that it's now in the 40's at night rather than the 30's!  What??????  Well, glad I didn't just read the summer part and pack like summer here!  I would have been buying some winter (for me) clothes for sure.  So I pulled up the weather for Friday - Wednesday and found that the warmest day 74 and coolest night 36.  Needless to say jeans rather than shorts and jackets and sweaters are in order.  I am excited - from 90 something to 70 something with a 30-40 thrown in at night and no humidity - will I come back?  I just don't know - maybe in October!

The goal of the classes is to learn how to handle alpacas with respect for who/what they are and earn their trust.  We will see!  They already are much improved and follow me all around the pasture, and even have begun to let me touch them occasionally, but usually when my hand goes out they move away and I want/need to be able to halter and lead them without stress to them or me.  Actually as I write this I'm thinking - maybe this is all about a trip to Oregon for me!!  No really I want the boys to be used for homeschooler visits and maybe even be able to take them out to schools and at the least the vet and shearing without traumatizing them and me.  And so, off I go!  It will be fun and I will come back smarter and hopefully after some time they will let me and others give them a pet on the head and not be quite so afraid.

And, Bill, will be an experienced caretaker by the time I return!  He will be feeding, hosing and cleaning up after them for the duration - bet he will want me back before October.  Of course, he'll have Jack too - oh yeah, he'll come get me if I'm not on that plane Wednesday!!!!  He actually already helps with them all a lot and two of the days are weekend, so he'll be just fine and maybe even in the habit of cleaning up the pacapoo!  No that  won't happen, but a girl can dream.

Speaking of Jack I used him as a measuring stick for the weeping willow we planted two weeks ago.   Yes, it's that little twig right behind his head and yes it has leaves - just dont show well against the grass!  Planted three weeping willows this size and 20 hybrid willows down the side of the pasture that holds water! Supposed to grow really fast - many feet in one year - so we will see!

Squatter Update - only two hatched - I thought there were three, but no - just two and momma and papa aren't as happy when I'm in the area as they were - a little dive bombing took place the other day when I wanted a newer picture.  So I'm steering clear and letting them raise their family without my further interference.  They don't seem to mind the pacas walking back and forth - another case of animals/birds etc. knowing what's a predator and what's not.  Example: the boys don't care if a rabbit runs all around them, but don't let a cat come within 200 feet or an alarm is given!

Lots to do and I must get started doing it!  Later!

Friday, June 7, 2013


I started to title this renters, but they're not paying, so I changed it to squatters! What ever you call then, the boys have guests in their stable!  A most unlikely place for mockingbirds to build a nest, but a next they have built.

Several weeks ago when we needed to keep the boys dry and it decided to rain each day, we changed their living quarters.  We stretched a roll of wire fencing across the concrete that makes the covered area at the back of the barn.  Their stall is a step down from this area and has a dirt floor and raised area for a dry spot and can be closed off from the pasture.  We closed the gate and gave them the concrete and their stall the couple of nights before shearing.

We stretched the fence across as a temporary measure (or so we thought, but more about that later) and so we didn't cut the wire from the roll when we reached the end.  We just fastened it to a post and let it stand.

A week or so ago I saw twigs around the top of the fencing and pulled them off.  Then I looked down inside and saw a nest had been built.  It was empty!

Then I found it with four eggs!

And as of this picture we had two eggs and two babies!  Last night I looked and there were three chicks and one egg.  I haven't looked today and am trying to be careful so mom and dad take care of these babies.  Mockingbirds are known for being mean (protective) but they aren't bothering the boys who walk by and stand by the nest off and on all day and I'm out there quite a bit and they just sit on the fence down a few feet and watch me.

Last year they built a next in a basket on my back porch right under our kitchen window!  Not the smartest birds - but after flying off the next every time I walked up to the sink - they finally had four little guys hatch - so I'm hoping this year they have the same success.

My friend Becky saw the nest last Friday and was thrilled when I sent her a picture of chicks.  She suggested I might want to change the name of my blog, but I'm hoping they don't hang around that long.  We've become quite a wildlife yard though as we now have many small rabbits and one very big momma!  Thankfully I don't have a garden this year or my lettuce would be gone!  I don't have pictures of the rabbits - they're way too quick, but I'll keep trying because these babies are sooo cute!

Hosed Down!

It's getting hot in Texas!  I am happy to say that it stayed cooler this year than it has for the past few years, but those cool days are gone and the boys are thankful that they are sheared.  It is already growing out and I can only imagine how they will feel in September, but for now we will do all we can to keep them comfortable.

We have two primary ways of treating them to a cooler day and and night - one is a fan blowing all of the time and the other is hosing their legs and tummies!

We turned the fans on a couple of weeks ago during the day, but it's now on full time.  They go out to the pasture and graze and come back to the cool concrete to rest in front of the fan.  Sam is definitely the fan hog and so we will probably be adding still another one soon.

The spraying of their tummies and legs had me concerned, remember they don't always like what I do to them and so I emailed Laurence with my concerns.  His reply - just turn on the hose and aim at their legs - they may even remember it from last year!

A few days later we had 20 new trees (twigs) put in the ground.  We put along side of them to protect them from the pacas and I decided I should water them in really well.  I stretched three water hoses across the pasture and  turned them on.  Suddenly I knew there was someone (thing) behind me and there they stood!  I turned around and turned the hose on Sammy's legs - he reared up and then came down turning each side to side to be sure all legs got the water.  The other two were a little more shy, but came toward the hose.

Pancho cushes down the minute the water hits his legs and wants the water right under his stomach creating a cool puddle.  He's the one that loves puddles when it rains and Lefty goes back and forth from standing and cushing.  Funny boys.

As I stood there with the water hose Sammy put his mouth to the stream of water and began to drink. We have been doing this now for about a week and the other two are now drinking from the hose, too. Pancho just learned yesterday.  He's been watching the other two and finally gave it a try.  He stuck his nose in and shook the water off!  He did that several times, but finally got the hang of it and looked so proud of himself.

The funniest part is watching them discover that the water has been turned on.  They put their heads down and get in their fastest running position and run as fast as they can to be first in line.

Now the fun part will come soon as Bill is the one to take care of them for five days!  I leave a week from today for Bend, Oregon for alpaca handling training and "cool" weather.  Bill will open the gates to the big pasture each morning and give them their treats and "bath" each evening.  He will be glad when I get back home!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Skinny Boys

Get rid of us?????? What???
It's been so busy around alpaca land that I've not had a moment to post!  So much has happened and I'm going to try and cover most of it, but, of course, the "shearing" is the star!

When I left off last month I was working on taxes and just about ready to be rid of the boys!  They certainly haven't been what I expected, but they are my boys and I have learned to love them.  For those of you who follow my Bev Ann's Mixed Bag Blog you know that I have had some tough times with them in the last month.  More and more God shows me through these three guys what it's like to have trust and then have it gone in a flash and tried my patience more than I could ever have imagined, but in the grand scheme of life, it's been one big laugh!  What I've learned is that I
take way too many things way too seriously.  They are alpacas and they are going to stay alpacas and I'm finally OK with that.LOL One day it's love and the next maybe not so much, but we're working on it!

If Bill heard me say that he would laugh, because he knows that too can change in a flash!

The week before shearing I was working with the boys twice a day - they would come into the catch pen, I would put on their halter and lead and we would walk in circles.  Lefty and Sammy actually let me  pet them a little!  Pancho simply thought of ways he could dig in his heels and not walk.  He would finally walk as long as I held the food bowl out, but not because he wanted to.  He is a stubborn little guy.  As shearing day grew closer the goal was to keep them as dry and clean as possible.  That's when Pancho discovered the berry brambles along the back fence.  He rubbed himself in them and drug long sticks all over the field!  Yes, that makes for a great fleece!  I cleaned off the fence and he still found limbs who knows where, but he found them.  And then on the Saturday before shearing on Tuesday the rains came.  They have a nice area to stay dry and where was Pancho?  He was lying in the yard in a huge puddle with water rolling past him.  All three got wet, but nothing like Pancho!  So on Sunday Bill and I came up with a temporary fence across the concrete part of the back overhang!  We can now let them go up there and stay dry and clean limiting them to their stall and the new area! It worked as the storms on Sunday afternoon came and went and the boys were dry!  So on Tuesday morning they were dry, they were somewhat clean except Sammy who had eaten something that just didn't agree with his stomach!  Yes, Bill held him and, well, let's back up to Monday night!
Pancho in puddle!

Pancho all wet with brambles!

Lefty with his wet head!
Bill ask me what time I wanted to try and load them up. What time should we get up? We wanted to be at the ranch by a little before ten and so I said if we start around 8:30 that should be plenty of time.  Oh what was I thinking?  I was thinking I had those perfect alpacas, you know the ones who are so thankful to be mine that they will do anything I ask them to do and do it smiling!  Well, now let's move back to Tuesday morning.  I've got my clean jeans on and thankfully my rubber boots when we discover the mess called Sammy!  I call Laurence and find that I need to hose him off!  Oh and don't forget to try and keep the blanket dry!  The blanket is the main part of the fleece, the best part!  And so  I get their halters on and that didn't just happen, but I will spare you the details.  I lock two of them in their stall and Bill holds Sammy while I hose him off!  And what does every dog do when they are wet?  Well, so do Alpacas!!!!!  But he's as clean as I can get him (and I'm not) and we begin the walk to the trailer.  It has rained so much we couldn't pull the trailer to the back, so we begin the long walk down the side of the building.  Now, we're really only talking100 feet or so, bur we needed a lot of patience.  Lefty and Sammy walked with Bill and I had Pancho and a food bowl.  Why is there never a video camera around when we're doing something new with these boys!  We would have been a You Tube hit when we finally made it to the trailer and they came to a stop.  They don't want to step inside the trailer.  Finally I lifted Lefty in with Bill pushing him from behind.  But before we could celebrate he was back out!  Finally, after we literally stopped and prayed over the boys and what we needed done they were all in and we were on our way.  God is so faithful and oh by the way, it was ten o'clock!

Cushed down in trailer
We drove the hour there and arrived with the boys cushed down in the back, rested and ready to visit their old home!  From here on it was a piece of cake.  Amazingly Pancho's fleece was the cleanest and the nicest.   We met some great new alpaca owners and they boys actually enjoyed being at their old home.  And now they are skinny!  The process wasn't near what I expected (is it ever?) and the boys didn't seem to mind the shearing at all and seemed to enjoy being around some of their old herd mates.

I was very proud of my boys after I heard some of the others "screech' through the entire process.  No pain is involved, but you would have thought they were being killed!  As soon as it's over they jump up and go about life as though nothing has happened.  And, there was one that spit the entire time!  My boys were perfect!  Well, until we started to leave.  Once again Pancho dug in those heels and refused to move.  Laurence took the lead, told me Pancho had my number, and started walking toward the trailer and you guessed it, so did Pancho.  He walked with him like it was his favorite thing to do including jumping into the trailer, so yes, Pancho has my number!

Once, home they headed out into the pasture and we sighed a breath of relief. "Our" first shearing was over!  Notice the "our", this was much harder on me and Bill than the boys!  hahaha  We put away the halters and leads and looked out in the pasture to see Pancho lying on his side!  Out flat!  We had never seen this and panic set in.  I ran out and he jumped up and began to graze.  I relaxed and looked over to see him flat on his side!  More panic and a call to Laurence, but before we heard back Pancho was up and grazing.  We learned they like to sun themselves following shearing!  Oh, I will be so glad when we've had them long enough to not panic when we see them simply lie down,  or some other silly thing they might do that sends us into a tizzy!

The body/blanket fiber!
Top small bags are the legs and neck fiber
So the end result is that the boys are cool and I have three bagsfull of fleece.  Still haven't decided exactly what I'm going to do with it.  Will I send it off to a mill, clean and card it myself into roving?  I just don't know.

The next big adventure will be my trip to Oregon for training!  Just a month from now, so if we all can survive that long maybe our lives will improve! Fingers crossed!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Seven Weeks and Counting!

I can't believe how long it's been since I posted!  Time is flying by and yet sometimes it feels like it stands still.  They boys are creeping up on two months and I believe they finally believe this is home.

I hardly know where to start to catch up with all that has taken place in the alpaca world.  When I last left off I had just begun trying to get them where I could think about haltering them.  I had just received all of my tools and we were working in the catch pen.  Amazingly in just a week or so of working with them individually in the pen I was able to put their halters on them and began leading them a little bit.  I started with placing the halter in their feed bowl.  They would stick their nose through to get to the food.  At one point Sammy pulled his head out of bowl and halter was just hanging on nose (see two pictures) and it took a minute for him to shake it off. I'm sure when I go to my classes in Oregon in June I will learn that I wasn't doing it correctly, but at least we seem to be accepting each other's role and tolerating each other.

 The more I was with them, the more they seemed willing to let me touch their heads, we haven't headed to any other part of the body yet, but them we had to make some changes.

Sammy out for a bite of grass.
But let's back track just slightly.  Their small fenced pasture had lost it's green!  They had it down to nubs, so in order to encourage them to be led with halter and lead I took them out into the large pasture where the grass was very green and lots of it!  Sammy was the first to go out and he ate to his hearts content and then we would walk back in to the catch pen.  I would remove the halter and let him out and then work with one of the others.

Pancho out for his turn!
Now remember, they watch each other carefully.  So the entire time we were out and Sammy was eating, the other two were watching and trying to get to that grass.  Now I put their halter on add the lead and start out and they didn't want tot walk.  Finally Pancho figured it out and went out and ate, but Lefty wanted to part of it.

Then came the rain that flooded everything and changes in their stall and my catch pen and so we decided that we needed to let them out to eat, lead or not!  So on a Sunday afternoon, we released them to the big pasture and prayed they would come back in for pellets.  They did!  The next day I let them out again with just me at home and really prayed they would come back in for pellets and they did!  Now I go out open the gates, they go out and they come in on their own for water, shade and their dung pile!  They wander in and out like it's the natural thing to do, until evening and then they come in and I close and lock the gates, so they're in their smaller pasture and that seems to be just fine with them!  I honestly never imagined this could be so easy.

On the negative side, I haven't been working with them and their halters and must get back to that soon as we will be heading out on April 30 for shearing.  I don't know what to expect with shearing and don't really look forward to it, but we must do it or Texas heat would kill them and, of course, I am excited to see what their fiber is like.  Hope it's great, but time will tell.

I must say that this hasn't been an easy last three weeks.  Early after my last post I was ready to put them up for sale.  Their lack of trust of me and the frustration of working with them almost took it's toll.  Accepting that they are livestock and not domesticated animals has not been easy for me.  I've never had anything  but dogs and cats.  They are more like cats, but really not like either one.  It rains and they stand out in it or lie down in the mud and roll.  My mind says protect them!  Bring them  in, keep them dry.  They say let me be an alpaca!  My thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways are not your ways!  See any similarity there with us and God?

I have found many God lessons with these boys and they have assisted me in writing a recent devotion regarding trust in God (my part) and their trust in me!  I'm learning to say I trust you Lord and letting them go!  They are learning to trust me a little and draw a little closer!  But not unlike my walk with the Lord, they pull away and I wonder why, I'm sure just as He looks down at me and wonders why.  Makes no sense for either of us!

And so today, I sit here and watch them run in the pasture and it is a joyful run.  I watch them graze and thank God I have them, trusting that I will learn how to handle them and they will learn to trust me and we will live in harmony!  Believe me, no one wants that more than my sweet hubby who has been living with me on this roller coaster ride!

He surprised me with a new (old) trailer for them this week.  But more on trailers and fences later.  Got to get back to reality and get those pesky taxes done!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Racing Ahead With the Boys - One Step at a Time!

I will even stick my head through this hole for pellets!
I can't believe it's been almost two weeks since I last posted about the boys!  So much has happened since then both with me and the boys.

As I waited for the tools to arrive, I spent time reading and studying the new new ways to work with the boys.  The most important thing I think I've learned is that it's me that has to be trained and then they are simply handled properly.  It's a new concept to me, that all I want from them is to accept me as their handler and learn to do nothing.  I don't mean that they won't learn to do things, they will, but first they just need to stand still and do nothing!  And I have to breathe!

I continued to go out to the pasture and stall and give them their treats (alpaca pellets) when they come to me.  And now when they see me coming they almost run, well, actually Sammy does run to me.  He's the two year old and he has his own way of doing everything and is proving to be the most difficult to work with, but he's had two years of no handling, so I think that's to be expected.  I am seeing progress with him.

Lefty with his head between my arm and body to eat treats!
So all of my tools arrived on Friday, so I practiced using the catch rope on the bar stool and then on our carousel horse in the back yard.  I tried it on Bill too, but decided the horse is the best!  He probably likes that idea too; however, we will be using the rope on each other to learn how to "not" hold and to help learn balance without force.  (He doesn't know this yet, but he will help)

Monday I headed out to see what I could do.  I would love to say I headed out with confidence that I would accomplish great things, but I was actually not expecting much, if anything.  They still pulled away if they even thought I was reaching out to them.  But, Marty said in her book that you can't build trust just hanging out with them.  You must work with them, they must learn to trust you as you do things with them and expect them to respond, so there I was ready to get one in the catch pen.

Well, I got three in the catch pen.  It was the first time they had seen that the pen could be cut in half and it didn't seem to bother them, but now I had to get two out.  Amazingly, using my wand I was able to herd two out and was left with just Lefty.  I began running the wand down the back of his neck and across his body as he stood and looked out the gate at the other two.  Sammy and Pancho were right outside looking in and I'm sure wondering when I was going to throw my arms around Lefty's neck and hold him in a death grip, but that never happened.  I moved around with him in a non-threatening way and as I offered him so food I began to touch the top of his head.  When he pulled away, I stopped!  He would walk away and then come right back and I increased the touching.  There are some massage techniques and I began to use them on his head.  So there it was  - he came up, I touched, he walked away and when about 15 minutes were up, I released him.

My first thought was and now I need to get another one in, but guess what?  It appears that they had watched closely and saw that Lefty was getting food inside the pen and they were not!  And so Pancho came rushing in!  I worked with him and he wasn't quite as agreeable as Lefty, but it was a good session and then there was Sammy!  When it was his turn he burst into the pen!  He wanted his share of the goodies, but he really didn't want to do anything to get them!  He paced, he didn't want the wand near him, he wanted treats, but he didn't want me to touch him in any way.  Now remember he's our two year old, so he's gone twice as long without human touch, so I'm really not surprised by his attitude and worked with as much as I could and ended the day.

I was pleased and excited because I had hope!

Lefty letting me rub his head for a snack!
Tuesday I worked with them once in the morning and again in the afternoon.  Both Lefty and Pancho let me touch them more and more and Lefty actually seemed to enjoy the massaging on his head and neck. Sammy really didn't want it at all!  I remembered reading somewhere that you could take the bowl of food, hold it to your back with your arm forming a circle and see if they will place their head through the circle!  And he did!!!!!  First he looked at the bowl and my arm and then slowly moved forward and stuck his head through.  Think about this, now his neck was surrounded by body and arm. He didn't stay long, but he came right back and so this is how I've worked with him on Tuesday.

Sammy being this close to me is just amazing!  
Yesterday there were two more sessions and everyone is doing better.  Well, almost!  In the morning I had a hard time getting them out of the pen and leaving just one and so I worked with Lefty with everyone in the pen and then finally was down to one Sammy.  Again we worked with the circle and he began to let me touch the top of his head for a few seconds before he moved away.  Each time I tried it was a little longer.  And then I let him out and tried to get Pancho in.  All three wanted to come in and I finally took the bowl out and did the circle with Pancho outside of the pen and guess what he stuck his head right through the circle!  Then I just led him into the pen and we had our time together.  He was much better.  The second session was after Bill got home and he was able to snap a couple of pictures.  He was amazed as I worked with them!  Pancho was first and didn't get his picture taken, but here are the other two!  What I need to take is a picture of Pancho looking through the gate watching the Lefty get food!  I really believe they're learning from each other!

I am so excited!  When I let them back out they don't take off they just hang around me .  I really do see hope, but I'm taking it slow.  We are taking this one step at a time!  Next week I will try the catch rope, but if they're not ready, I will slow back down.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Week 2 - Really, Only Week TWO!

I am in pen - trying not scare them as I leave!
Week two began with some serious changes!  We let them back out into the pasture and left the big gate to the stall open.  We opened it - they wandered out and right back in and then out for grazing.  It was good to see that they didn't rush out like they were getting out of jail.

Later that afternoon I went out shook their food can and they came right to me.  I let them eat out of my hand a few bites and stopped.  They wandered back out to the pasture.  In my last post I shared that I had made up my mind there had to be a better way and waited for my two books on handling to arrive from Camelidynamics, well I actually ordered them from Amazon, but they were written by Marty Bennett who founded Camelidynamics.

While I waited I continued to visit them during the day and evening and give them a little food each time they came into the stall/pen.  They came in readily, sometimes running!  The first couple of nights I felt better to close them in for the night, but by Tuesday I just let them stay out all night and that's what they continued doing for the rest of the week.  There's a motion light and a couple of nights they have triggered it as they did some running around in the pen, but other than that it stays dark and they seem to be happy and safe.  And I continue to try and breathe!  Letting them be alpacas and not trying to treat them like a household pet!

The books arrived on Thursday and I began to read!  By Thursday night I was almost blind and very confused.  I saw that Camelidynamics had a Guild and so I joined on Friday and was able to express my concerns about learning how to handle them on the forum.  Marty Bennett responded not only on the forum but sent me a wonderful, encouraging email and suggested I might want to attend one of the training clinics.  And so, I leave Texas for Oregon on June 14 and spend five glorious days there, four of which will be hands on training for me!  You see their theory is you don't train the alpaca, you train the handler!  And in the meantime I ordered some tools that I think will help me learn from the books how to be a loving, trustworthy handler and the clinic will be the refinement.

So, now there's hope!  With Donna and Laurence and now Marty and the Guild members, I will have the help and encouragement I need to learn how to handle them in a way that will allow them to be alpacas, but, alpacas that can be used in social situations.

Those of you who know me well, know that God is present in every thing in my life and this is no exception.  In my concern and frustration, I prayed so hard over these three guys. I prayed for wisdom to learn how to handle them and for them to find peace and trust in their new home and God has answered with new skills to learn and old and new friends to help me and them along the way.

 My friend Lawsona with a big horse!
Praising God my alpacas are small!
Wednesday I stopped by a friends house that has draft horses.  This is my friend with the zebras and longhorns that I post pictures of so often on Facebook, but I had never been to her house.  I drive by, I take tons of pictures of her animals, we see each other at events and she always tells me to stop in, but I don't. But Wednesday I knew the Lord said turn in to her driveway, she will give you wisdom and she did!  These horses make my alpacas look like puppies, but I knew Lawsona would have encouraging words and her advice was to just relax and spend time with them.  Grab a book and a small chair and sit in the pasture with them.  Study them and stay relaxed.  Just be!

That's how she trained an "untrainable" horse!  She got to know him  and he got to know her and trust was the result.  And so I went home and began to just hang with them and I know they appreciate that I just want to be with them, to get to know them and as my new friend Marty says to let them know that I just may speak alpaca!  Not with words, but with the understanding of what they need, the fears that they have and the desire to not force myself into their space.

Already not grabbing at them this week has paid off.  They come right up to me, sniff me and when I move they don't run.  They may back a step away, but not running away.  They follow me all over the pasture as I do work, staying close enough to watch my every action and seem to be interested in every duty I have.  In the barn with much less room, I try to move away and not at them and they no longer seem to mind my being so close.  I'm trying to stay out of their personal space and I'm surprised to see how often they move up close to me, even if for just a moment. The hardest part is not reaching out to touch them, but I'm learning and they seem to notice the change!

So week two ended on a high note!  One filled with encouragement, peace and hope!  What more can we ask for that!  God is good, ALL the time!