Summer has arrived and is flying by much too fast! We have been busy irrigating the fields, building fence, planting the garden, and working on the hydroponics. The kids are out of school and enjoying the time to play and work with the animals. Winnie was thrilled when Annabelle's baby was born on March 31st, and even more excited that it is a heifer. She named her Isabelle, and has been working with her on a halter already. We had a second calf, a bull, out of another one of our cows, Starlette, in the middle of April. Two more are due any day now. The kids have been training the alpacas for the county fair in August, and even Gus is planning to go to the show this year! The cherry trees are heavy with fruit, having survived the nail-biting frost season. The apricots weren't so lucky this year. The garden plants are planted, and the hydroponics set up is just about ready. I'll have to have Jeff fill you in on that one! We got two new yaks to add to our herd, a big royal(black and white) bull named Ogie, and a fuzzy black heifer named Lucy. They came from the little town of Norwood, about 2 hours away. We are really going to try to get the yak meat market going over here, and hope to have a couple outlets to sell the meat in the Aspen area. We will be going to the Cedaredge Farmer's Market with it as time permits also. It has been busy around here as usual, but always fun!
With a cold front and snow predicted, we had a mad rush of winter prep. All the water tanks had heaters installed, all the hoses emptied and stored, and hay arranged. The lucky alpacas got to move down to the tree field with Buck, and the yaks will stay in a top pen for a bit longer before being put back on their summer pasture. We loaded up 5 yaks for a buyer out of Durango, so now we only have 9 to feed for the winter. We were more streamlined and prepared in our tasks this year, I guess we are finally getting in a groove! We also moved two of the cows and one steer to a grassy pasture to board for a few months. It is a busy time, but with winter looming it will soon limit our outdoor maintenance. Ski season cometh!
Sunday, May 6th, was shearing day for all the alpacas in our neck of the woods. We gathered at Akuna Matada Alpacas in Hotchkiss (great friends of ours), and got to work. The shearer and his helper came from Australia and did a great job. Everyone who showed up had a job. The alpacas are cleaned up(sort-of) by a quick brushing to get most of the hay off of them. Then they are led to a mat and hind feet looped by ropes going one direction, front feet pulled the other to stretch them out on the ground. They are surprisingly calm once on the ground. Then the shearer gets to work. The "blanket" is the nicest fiber and comes from the back and sides of the animal. That is shorn and wrapped up in a large plastic bag. Then the other parts get shaved and that fiber collected and bagged as well. While the alpaca is down, feet are trimmed, teeth trimmed if they need it, vaccines given, and then they are all done! We did about 30 animals before lunch, and the shearers were off to another location after lunch! The kids helped and enjoyed the event. They will use some of the fiber for their 4-H projects. And on the way home we stopped off at another friends' place and picked up two more alpacas that Grand Mesa Alpacas donated for the 4-H kids to show. Such an exciting day!
Susie (and sometimes Jeff) Hirsch, parents, vets, small scale ranchers, and regular people, who must have a sense of humor to survive!