Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A traumatic visit to St. Nicholas

This year was Sephiroth's first Christmas (he turned 10 months old on Christmas Eve) and since we do not have any children, he is like our child. We tried to have an exciting first Christmas for him. We all built a snowman together, he went with us to pick out a Christmas tree, he helped decorate the Christmas tree, he got a stocking filled with gifts and he even got to visit Santa Clause.

Our local Chow Hound pet store was hosting a pet day where you could bring pets in to get their picture with Santa Clause and get microchipped which was sponsored by a local animal shelter. I thought this would be a great event to take Seph to since he needs a microchip and he hasn't been out much to socialize since going to the dog beach this summer. This fun activity turned out to be a disaster and I think my dog is traumatized and will never go near a man with a flowing white beard again! First of all, we got to Chow Hound and there were about a million dogs there with their people. We weaved through the store in search of St. Nick and finally located him at the back of the store. The whole way there, Seph was pulling left and right trying to sniff every dog in sight. I think he needs more practice on the leash. The dog weighs over 110 lbs so far and the linoleum floors in that place were slippery so I felt like I was water skiing behind him through the store. As we made our way towards the end of the line, a six foot tall hound dog walked towards us waving and doing goofy things with his paws. It was the Chow Hound mascot. I could not find a picture of him to put on the blog, but he looked something like this...
Only he wore a Chow Hound Shirt and was way creepier! I don't think Seph had any idea what to think about this human size stuffed animal that was waving at him and seemed to be taunting him with his paw gestures. The fur stood up on the back of Seph's neck and shoulders and he started barking at this intimidating hound. At this point, everyone in the store is looking, as Seph has about the loudest deepest bark a dog can have. The plush hound attempted a truce by throwing dog biscuits at Seph and retreating to a safe distance.

We finally made it to end of the line that wound around the store to see Santa. In front of us was a basset hound with a U of M sweater on and droopy eyes with his weener dog sidekick who was wearing a Christmas sweater. Seph kept eying the weener dog..I think he thought he looked like a Snausage wrapped up in Christmas paper. Behind us was a white fluffy dog wearing an elf hat in the arms of its person. Behind them, was a young couple with a cute black puppy...Seph tried sniffing him, but the girl not so discreetly told her significant other to pull there puppy away from our monster. Poor Seph...he is too big and curious for his own good. While waiting in line, which was roped off with those velvet rope things, people continually walked by with their dogs and wanted to pet Seph which caused me to wined around and and dodge the velvet rope and poles like a crazy pole dancer. We finally got up to Santa, who by the way was very sweaty and looked like he didn't even like animals. It reminded me of the scene from a Christmas Story when Ralphie gets up to see Santa and his mind goes blank and everyone is loud and obnoxious. Seph took one look at the sweaty Santa and attempted to run the other way. We tried to bribe him with treats and toys but he wanted nothing to do with the perspiring Saint. There were lots of people in line and the situation was getting stressful. I had hoped to send the picture out in our Christmas cards and for an instant I thought that traumatizing my dog may not be worth it. Finally the photographer and his helper, who both seemed frustrated, dragged Seph close enough for Santa to get a death grip on his collar and straddle him between his sweaty legs. The photographer snapped a few pictures as the helper called Seph's name and waved loud squeaky toys and treats in the air. Despite the helpers desperate circus performer attempts to excite Seph, he continued to put his ears back and his tail between his legs. The photographer snapped a few pictures, and although none of them turned out how I hoped, I could no longer let Santa and his crazy elves torture Seph. I picked the best one out and here is what it looked like...
Needless to say, I did not use it for our Christmas cards. I don't think this pictures is flattering to either Sephiroth or Santa. Santa's strained, sweaty smile (if you can call it that) was forced at best and Sephiroth looks like he just got done running a marathon and is about to have a heart attack! Notice Seph's tail pathetically tucked between his sad. After the traumatic photo session, we picked up our picture which came in a cute frame pictured below and a doggie goody bag.
I thought the craziest part was over, but the adventure was just getting started. We then proceeded to find the microchipping booth as the fluffy white dog in the elf hat was posing perfectly with Santa behind us. We wound through the crowd of dogs and people and I tried my best to stay away from the six foot hound to avoid another scene. We finally made it to the front of the store to the microchipping booth. Both the ladies who were doing the microchipping were very nice and one of them even had a great dane. She said she was used to a strong dog and offered to hold Seph's leash while I filled out the necessary paperwork and paid. This was a wonderful reprieve for my hands and arms which were sore from holding onto Seph while he was being overstimulated by dogs and people and sweaty Santas, and mammoth hound dogs. The volunteers went to give Seph the microchip between his shoulder blades (I don't know if you have ever seen a microchip needle, but it is about the biggest needle you can think of...It reminds me more of a swizzel stick or coffee straw).
As the needed pierced his skin, he jumped causing the needle to go in a little farther than necessary. I could see a little blood on Seph's grey coat. The volunteers apologized and said that it might bleed a little, which is normal. It wasn't until they began to blot the blood with a paper towel until I realized how much he was actually bleeding. His grey fur hid the gush of blood and it took 3 paper towel squares to blot it all up. Poor Seph...the trip I had planned to be so much fun, was getting more and more miserable by the second. Luckily they did get the microchip in on that try and did not need to redo it. It is also lucky that he is a big dog and can afford to lose that much blood. We quickly purchased some dog food and treats and left the store. Finally, we were out of that 3 ring circus...but just when I thought nothing worse could happen, we ran into a friend and her dog in the parking lot. As we tried to hug and greet each other in a tangle of fur and leashes, a SUV drove up and honked at us to get out of the way (the holidays are a lovely time, when people are the most giving and gracious...I just love it!). Well anyway, the horn seemed to scare Seph and he went runingn across the slushy wet parking lot as I flew behind him waving and saying goodbye to our friend and her golden retriever. I started to get worried when Seph would not slow down and I was having a hard time stopping him or keeping up with him. Finally my mom who was pushing the cart in front of us grabbed me as I flew by yelling and our weight together stopped Seph.
So this is the end of the traumatic visit to St. Nicholas. I had such high hopes of making it a special Christmas event for Seph. Unfortunately he came out being terrified of fat sweaty men in red suits, life sized stuffed animals, needles the size of crowbars, and honking SUVs. Maybe next year we will just stay home when Santa Clause is coming to town.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays from Ashton Stone Alpaca Farm

We have been hit by snowstorm after snowstorm here in West Michigan over the last few weeks. I heard it described on the radio as a parade of storms and we just got hit with the 4th float! We have tons of snow and very little sunshine. I sometimes try to remember what a bright sunny day looks like. We have resorted to carving trails out of the 4 foot snow drifts for the alpacas to get some exercise during the day when the weather is favorable. The nights have been cold and chilly so everyone gets locked in the barn for the night with lots of straw. Anyway, it is almost Christmas and the animals of Ashton Stone Farms wanted to wish you happy holidays!

Have a Holly "Jolly" Christmas from Jolly Roger in his adorable tophat!
Enjoy the snow from Sephiroth and Frosty!

Bhaahhh Humbug from Ellie the barn cat (she is not amused).

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, filled with furry ferrets to give St. Nicholas a scare.

Baby rosco is checking out the nativity (I think the wise men are nervous).

Silver and Gold, Silver and Gold, Silver and Gold Decorartions!

Deck the halls with boughs of Holly from Appalachia (2007)!

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree

Seph has only eaten 8 bulbs off the tree this year!

Merry Christmas from Ashton Stone Alpacas and all the critters!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Alpaca Agistment

We are currently boarding, also known as agisting, a female alpaca and her female cria. They are from CR Alpacas in Ohio. They have been with us for about 2 months now. The female's name is Nike and her cria's name is Sasha. When Nike and Sasha first came to our farm, the other girls took awhile to warm up to them. The poor new girls were spit on for a few days, but our now like part of the herd. They often do the spitting at our alpacas that are lower on the totem pole now. Nike was brought to our farm to be bred with our herdsire Smokey. Alpacas have a high rate of fetal absorption in the first 90 days of pregnancy and especially in the first 30 days. Approximately 25% of pregnancies will be reabsorbed in this 90 day period. Therefore, Nike and Sasha are staying with us until Nike is at least 50 days bred before she is transported back to her home farm in Ohio. She is currently acting like she is pregnant (running from, kicking at, and spitting at Smokey whenever he is near her). We will have her ultrasounded by our vet to confirm that she is pregnant before she returns to Ohio. Here are some pictures of Nike and Sasha.

Above is a picture of Nike and Sasha cuddling.
Above is a picture of Sasha nursing.

Above is a picture of Nike. I believe she was named Nike because of the Nike like swoosh on her face.

Pictured above is Sasha(left) and our Jolly Roger(right). Jolly Roger was the only cria born on our farm this past year (remember what I mentioned about the high fetal absorption rate?...we had 3 pregnant alpacas the fall of 2007 and 2 of them reabsorbed their pregnancies over the winter). Anyway, it has been nice having Sasha around to play with Jolly Roger. Crias love to play. They run around the field pronking, frolicking, jumping, and neck-wrestling. The older alpacas do not seem to appreciate the adorable horseplay, and will spit on the babies when they try to playfully jump on them. Sasha and Jolly Roger have been excellent playmates as they are the same age. I only catch them spitting on each other and biting each other once in a while.

Pictured above, Jolly Roger is chasing Sasha, but don't be fooled, she usually beats on him pretty good too.

Pictured above, they both have their ears down and are glaring at me as I take their picture.

Sasha and Jolly Roger often take naps together as their mom's graze.

Above, Sasha, Jolly Roger, and Apple are all running around playing together. Apple is the next youngest alpaca in our herd (she was born fall of 2007) so she still acts like a cria once in awhile if Sasha and Jolly Roger can convince her to kick her heels up.

Above is one of my favorite pictures. Don't ask me how I happened to snap the picture at just the right moment. Many alpaca farms build mounds in their pastures because alpacas love to play on them for some strange reason. We were lucky and happend to have a small mound already where we wanted to put one of our pastures. I snapped the pic after rotating pastures (to let the grass grow and cut down on parasites); I just let them all into the new pasture and they went crazy. Alpacas are very curious and even our older girls joined in the horseplay this day. In the picture, Jolly Roger is trying to fly off the mound while his mom and Sasha try to avoid his landing.

Having Nike and Sasha on our farm has been a delight. Jolly Roger made a new friend and Smokey got a couple dates. We will miss them both when they go home to Ohio. We are excited to see what Nike and Smokey's cria will look like when it is born fall of 2008!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Tour of our Farm

We bought our farm in January of 2008. I have always wanted to live in and renovate an old farm house. We found our dream home, a 112 year old farm house on 10.5 acres in Grant, MI last fall. It is perfect for alpacas. It needs a lot of work, but only cosmetic. The foundation is holding up well for such an old house. The barns are all in good shape. Here are a few pictures of the farm we took fall of 2007 when we first discovered it for sale. Above is a picture of the house. I love all the old oak and pine trees in the yard!

Here are some pictures of the barns before we put our fences for the alpacas up.
This is a barn that used to be a horse barn (you can see the horse weather vane on top...we will have to replace it with an alpaca weather vane some day). We have since stained the barn.

Here is the inside of the barn before we moved in and made some changes for the alpacas. We enlarged one of the stalls to make room for multiple alpacas.The barn has 4 huge windows that you can sort of see in this picture. I love how much light it lets in!
Here is a picture of the barn from behind before we put pastures here.

These are some pictures of the hay barn and garage/workshop/grain loft.

Above is a picture of the hay barn and garage from behind before we put pastures in here. We have since painted the hay barn all red. I love how it looks with the tin roof.

Above is a picture of the hay barn after we painted it red. It has a large hay loft above. Below is a shelter for Smokey. It also has a dog kennel attached to it with an indoor run as you can see.

Above is a picture of the garage. Above is an old grain loft. Right now we are storing fiber in it. Noah has dreams or turning it into a "Man Cave" someday! Below the loft is a garage and heated workshop for all of Noah's tools and toys.

Above is one of my most favorite features about the farm. We would like to either move the windmill or cut the tree down someday so it is more visible. We would also like to paint it. Old Windmills must be hard to come buy as we have had several people offer to buy our windmill from us since we have lived here.

Above is a picture of Seph looking out into our hay field. The barn you see in the distance is our closest neighbor to the right. It belongs to a farmer that owns and farms all the land on each side of us. He actually harvested our hay for us this year for our alpacas. He took the first cut for his cows and we got the second cut for our alpacas. It was too dry this year for any more cuts.

Above is another picture of our hay field with Seph frolicking through it. We may turn it into more pastures and add another barn here someday.

Above is a picture of our Seph by our pond. It is the best pic I could find of our pond. It is a good will be great for ice skating in the winter. Our neighbor told us that it is about 20 ft deep! So far, we haven't seen any fish in it, but lots of frogs!

So that is a tour of our farm soon. We look forward to making lots of changes inside and out in the future!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sephiroth Arrives on our Farm

The last post was getting too long, so I decided to split it into two posts. We brought Sephiroth home to our farm when he was 9 weeks old. Here are some pictures since he came home to live with us.
Seph and our friend's Husky puppy. They are both 9 weeks old.

10 weeks old. My dad nicknamed him Hellboy because of his massive "fists"

11 weeks old playing in one of the alpaca pastures. His ears are taped up to help them stand up straight.

15 weeks old

17 weeks old and eating a stick.

Seph at the Dog Beach at Lake Michigan in Muskegon, Michigan. He is 5 months old.

I hear most Danes don't like water (5 months old).

Trying to sun bathe (5 months old).

7 months old laying in front of our hay barn.

8 months old enjoying the fall colors on our farm.

Our Handsome boy, Sephiroth.