Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Next stop, Wonderland

My sister-in-law once suggested that we see the quirky, romantic, and sometimes plodding comedy, Next Stop Wonderland, because it reminded her of how Mike and I almost met on several occasions. Thankfully our paths did indeed coincide, and our lives combined. Now we live in this place that has turned into a winter wonderland, I am reminded of that title (refers to a Boston subway end-of-a-line stop).

As I type this, I'm gazing out at snow falling in the dusky daylight onto our pasture. Most of Sunday's 8 inches had melted today, but now it's being replenished. Like delighted children, Mike and I have been out tromping in white stuff for the last 3 days, investigating the strength of gutters and roofs on the out buildings, clearing sodden branches so they don't break, and just playing. This is the first time either of us have lived in this much snow!

Yesterday I made snow ice cream (milk, sugar, vanilla + fresh snow!), and on our outing we constructed snow creatures.

Of course that included a snow alpaca!

And took a walk up the [cleared] road to see the views from there.

At sunset, the sky was awash with pastel tints, even more colorful in contrast to the pristine landscape...

at home in Wonderland.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

our newest Treasure

We proudly welcome Casanova's Tesoro d'Aragon as the newest member of our alpaca herd, born January 17, 2008. He and his mom, Windancer, will come in March to the home we have been preparing for them.

When he arrived, we were somewhat daunted to hear that it was a boy, the 10th male in a row born to us. The common theory is that if the cria is a girl, among her attributes is that she will be a good 'oven' for the next generation. Only the highest quality males (top 5%) are herdsires, so 'lesser' males are generally relegated to fiber animals or companion animals. But this was our best breeding (grandsire Yupanqui x sire Snowmass Casanova), and we anticipated great results. We are not disappointed!

Tesoro ('treasure') is our chosen name for him. From his photos and the exclamations of other alpaca breeders who have seen him, Tesoro's fleece is exceptional: curly and crimpy and dense right to the skin, comparable to his half-brother, Canzelle's Swahili, who is now a multi-show ring champion. The ranch manager says it's their best fleece ever. (Tesoro is even attired in a royal purple cria coat.)

So we are hopeful that this boy will grow into a fine herdsire. Male alpacas mature at 2.5 to 3 years of age, then there's the 11.5 months to wait for the offspring to arrive. Looking ahead to 4 or 5 years, he is our treasure.

Friday, January 18, 2008

musings toward a new year

All of my plans to document the readying of the barn and fencing for our alpaca herd have gotten lost in the actual doing. Rarely now do I sit and journalize the details of decision-making and tasks, yet it always seems to be in the back of my mind, wanting to share the process.

Mike rode the Goldwing up in October, while I was safe and warm inside the packed van. He only encountered rain for an hour and a half of the long trip. Remaining is the flattie sailboat (Geary 18) to trailer up, and that's the last of our vehicles.

We spent three weeks here in October, and delighted in the beauty of autumn in Eugene. What a perfect time to select trees according to their showy fall colors! So we went to Duckworth Tree Farm selected three brandywine maples, and ash, and some evergreens, to obscure the view to a neighbor's steel workshed. We extended our visit for a week while waiting for furniture from my family home in Texas to be delivered. And the 10 acres of hay pasture was fertilized and planted. Now for it to grow!

On our first weekend, my children and families were able to visit. We celebrated with a turkey grilled on our new Weber, and a family photo taken by the picket fence ~ an early Thanksgiving!

In early December we officially moved here in time for the holidays. After prepping our home of 31 years for sale, we left it behind and made the 16-hour trip all in one day. This time Mike drove the van, packed to the gills, and I chauffeured Onyx (14-yr-old cat) and Kelly (9-yr-old dog) in the folded down rear space of the Volkswagen.

Kelly has taken to the farm fine. She loves to romp and run in the pastures whenever we are all walking outside. She and Mike have created a game by running all the way around the house to meet each other on the other side.

Onyx loved her traveling box so much (a small U-Haul box with wide slits cut into the sides, and lined with alpaca fleece) that we have put it near a heat vent in the living room, and she sleeps there whenever she's not upstairs, holding down the covers on our bed. Like the rest of us, she has gained weight and seems much healthier since she has been here, although it is an adjustment for her to be an indoors cat. When the sun is out, Onyx searches out the bright spots in the dining room floor for her morning ablutions.

Watching hay grow.

On Christmas Day we took the dog for a long walk and decorated our living tree. Then we baked a chicken dinner and shared it with our neighbor, Elissa. We looked forward to visitors the first week in January, to have a belated celebration with them. And it snowed the following day...

We scurried to unpack boxes that had been in storage for most of the year, delighting to discover old friends among books and knicknacks. When family arrived from Tyler, TX, and Seattle on Dec 31, we had made the place livable (and sleepable!) and holiday festive.

Six of the nine of us had knitting projects going, so over the course of the days, we'd sit and chat and knit or work puzzles or cook in various groups. The kids greatly enjoyed playing in the finished attic rooms, and having a picnic in the top floor of the barn while most of the grown-ups went wine-tasting. The weather wasn't especially cooperative for out of doors enjoyment, but our time together was warm and fun.

Moving from southern California to central Oregon in the midst of winter definitely has it's own challenges. We have been here for 6 weeks, and only a few days have been not cloudy. On the first fully sunny day (44°), Mike and I bundled up in multiple jackets and took a motorcycle ride to visit a new friend's farm. Every third vehicle on the road was either a motorcycle or a bicyclist, enjoying the shiny afternoon.

I have been missing my critters, so just visiting Margo's 2 alpacas and angora goats was a great delight. Earlier in the week, we were at Elissa's when she brought in her flock of 6 sheep and 5 mini donkeys. That was a treat, too. It seems I have easily shaken off my life of technology in favor of time spent caring for livestock and a simpler way of life.

Yesterday we had a new cria born at the Carpinteria, CA, farm where we agist (board) some of our alpacas. This is the first time I have not been available to go greet the new little life! Windancer is a great mom and very attentive to him. Always hoping for a female, this birth made our 10th boy in a row. We are awaiting photos from kind friends, so we can choose his name.

back view from Dillard road

Meanwhile, our 100+ year old barn is looking magnificent, under the fine workmanship of our treasured carpenter, Lee. He has strengthened the weaknesses, reused old gates and materials in alternate places, created new pen enclosures, and more.

This sliding gate fits into the side of the pen when open.

There is a wonderful reclamation center here in Eugene called Bring, where contractors and remodelers bring their usable leftovers for others to purchase at reasonable prices. ( love their tagline: Planet Improvement Center.) Lee has found many old windows there that allow more daylight into the dark barn, or so I can peer into pens in an adjacent section. He even visited another alpaca ranch to see how they have things set up, how their mangers are made, etc.

The adjoining sheds are for the boys, segregating the older from the weanlings, and creating a storage area. They look so very Americana.

Now I am preparing to order supplies for the animals, so we can begin to bring them to join us. We will start with some of the boys, so I can "practice" on them and gain confidence in the daily routine. We look forward to welcoming Orion, Dakota, and Sundancer here, and possibly a few others. Then the expectant moms will come when the weather is slightly warmer and the passes in I-5 are snow-less. A nippy 18° is forecasted for Sunday night!

Gradually we are transitioning from town to rural life, from technology to livestock as our primary focus. But since the herd is not here yet, and it is generally cold and wet outdoors, much of our days are spent sorting and filing, and often doing computer tasks and online research. But whenever I weary of sitting and staring at the screen, I grab a jacket and my mud boots and take the dog out for a romp in the pastures. I relish the fact that this is our land, that we are the caretakers and managers of it, entrusted with it for a time. We are very blessed!

* * * * *
As I looked through photos to include with this posting, there are others that I had intended to share over the past few months. So I present them here with a string with light commentary so you can see some of the progression of the work and fun in this place:

Blackberries welcomed us in August
and they were delightful on cereal.

Several Italian plum trees grace our driveway. We plan to add other fruit and nut trees for a personal orchard.

Sunrise in late summer,

and half an hour later, same view.

Dewdrop diamonds strung on spiderwebs.

The pasture is planted
and we grew a rainbow!