Friday, October 30, 2009

Ugh....No More Rain!

The weather has been very crazy here is Michigan for the last year. We had a miserably cold winter last year. Then spring finally arrived and never seemed to go away. The summer was unseasonably cool and rainy. The alpacas didn't seem to mind the moderate temps, which hovered in the 70's for most of the summer. Now mother nature has decided to skip fall all together and jump right into winter. This fall has been 15 degrees cooler on average daily than the normal temperatures and it seems like we have had non-stop rain. This week Wednesday, the temps actually got into the 60's and it was sunny. It felt so glorious to have the sun beating down on my face. The alpacas seemed to enjoy it too as they were all laying out on their sides sun bathing when I got home from work. Our respite didn't last long as Thursday brought torrential rain showers and grey skies. Luckily I got the camera out and snapped some pictures of the alpacas and farm on Wednesday when all the beautiful leaves were still clinging to the trees because the whipping wind has stripped them all bare already and as I sit here and look out my window, I see a dismal pallete of grey and brown.

I heard on the weather report this morning that Grand Rapids got 2 1/2 inches of rain overnight. As I stepped out the door this morning to head out to the barn, I noticed our pond was overflowing much like it does in the spring when all the snow melts. I made my way through the rain to the barn to feed the alpacas, barn cat, chickens and ducks (the only ones who really seem to enjoy the rain). I have started feeding the alpacas their grain in the barn lately because our catch pen where they normally eat is a muddy swamp. I avoid crossing it at all cost for fear of loosing a boot in the soupy mud. While some of the older and wiser alpacas will sleep in the barn when it is raining, most of them prefer to lay outside. They all looked like drowned rats this morning. When haucayas get wet, they stay dry on the inside of their blanket near their skin (which keeps them warm), but the outside gets drenched and hangs more the suri fiber is wet looking locks. They also make horribly pathetic faces. They put their ears back and look at you with huge sad eyes as water drips off their noses. I noticed that they all had red, orange, and yellow leaves plastered to their sides and necks from the wind and rain. Our little true black girl Rosco looked like she was a beautiful fall leaf collections with brightly colored leaves pinned all over her gorgeous black fiber. Poor d'Artagnan had a goldish-green leaf pasted to his forehead, right between his eyes like a star. I encourage them to take refuge in the barn by putting their hay box in, but some just prefer to stand out in the rain. You can lead an alpaca to a dry barn, but you can't make him take shelter I suppose (unless I lock them in, which they really don't enjoy). Oh well.

Fortunately, we are renovating our barn to make more room for the alpacas during the winter. Our barn was originally designed for horses, with four separate dirt floor horse stalls that have doors that enter our catch pen. We have decided to take out a few walls and combine 3 of the stalls to make one large walled in area. We are currently using the forth stall as a storage area, but will be able to use it as a maternity stall or weanling stall in the future if we need to. In addition to making the area larger, tomorrow morning we are having cement poured. Having a cement floor in the alpaca area will make for much easier clean up, especially in the winter. Normally in the winter, when things thaw out (which usually happens every few weeks here in Michigan), the indoor dirt floor turns into a mushy, muddy, poopy, hay/straw filled mess that is hard to clean without digging big holes to muck out the stall. Sometimes it would get so messy and flooded, we would have to move the girls to the hay barn until it dried up or froze again. We hope to avoid this mess with the new cement floor. Noah is also angling the floor slightly so water, rain and pee runs out towards the catch pen. Luckily, he had to take a lot of dirt out of the barn to make the floor smooth and level for the cement and he was able to put that dirt in our catch pen to make the ground a little higher and less lake-like. I hate to say it, but I would almost rather have snow than this wet sloppy rain. more rain!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Autumn at Ashton Stone Alpacas

Here are the few pictures that I was able to snap on Wednesday on our farm before the torrential rain and gusty wind blew in and stripped all the trees bare. I love the fall season, especially on the farm!

Happy Halloween!!!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Lola's Broken Leg

We have been so busy lately with our jobs, alpaca events, running our farm, splitting and stacking wood, family and all our pets that I haven't had much extra time to blog. I meant to blog about Lola's broken leg weeks ago, but never found the time. Six weeks ago, the Sunday before Labor Day, we were on our way to my mom's house with Roz and Lola for a family pool party. We stopped at another relative's house to take care of their golden retriever, chickens and barn cats because they were on vacation. Roz loves playing with their golden and they were scampering about as I filled buckets with water and Noah fed the chickens. Lola was only 9 weeks old at the time and 23 lbs. We had had her less than 2 weeks. She was sitting in the yard, watching the other dogs play. Roz ran in the front yard and I called her as I hauled buckets of water to the chicken coop. It all happened in slow motion, but I was unable to do anything. Rozalyn came flying around the house, ran past me and charged up the hill in which Lola was sitting on top of. At first glance, it just looked like Roz ran right past Lola, possibly brushing her as she flew by. Unfortunately, Lola's cries told us otherwise. Lola did not tumble over, but she was standing holding her back leg up and crying the most painful puppy cry I have ever heard. Noah and I both rushed to Lola and checked her out. Danes are prone to clumsiness and often hit their head, legs, butt and feet on everything. Our danes have always been dramatic too, so they cry when they get hurt until you baby them and give them hugs and kisses. We attempted to comfort Lola, but she was obviously in a lot of pain. I was very stressed as Roz and the golden were still running circles around us playing and little Lola was screaming and we could not make her stop. We rushed her and Roz home (which luckily was only minutes away). Noah laid with Lola on the bed and I called our vet. The only way we could stop Lola from crying was to hold her very very still and support her back leg. Since it was a Sunday morning before a holiday, no vets would be open for 2 days. Luckily our vet's emergency service picked up and they had the on-call vet call me back. Unfortunately, I played phone tag with the on-call vet a few times because our lovely cell phones don't get very good service on our farm. I attempted to explain to the vet what had happened. The only thing Noah and I could figure was that Roz must have stepped on Lola's foot or leg and possibly caused a break or dislocation. Roz was close to 70 lbs at the time and I suppose she could do a lot of damage if she did step on her. The vet said if she was just gimping around, she would tell us to give her some aspirin and bring her in on Tuesday. She said that she should see a vet right away if she couldn't move without crying. She said that we could bring her in to her, but she couldn't do x-rays without other staff. She recommended we bring her to an emergency vet in Grand Rapids. She said that if it was a dislocation, it needed to be seen right away because the longer a joint is dislocated, the more difficult it is to put back in place. She said a bone break could go a few days without being treated and would still heal properly.

So we bundled Lola up in a towel, cancelled our pool party plans, and drove to the emergency vets office in Grand Rapids dreading the cost of what it would be to keep our little girl healthy. Although I was really happy with the facilities of the emergency vets office, I was not as impressed with the staff. The vet tech seemed insensitive and clueless. The vet was very nice, but splinted Lola's leg horribly. The vet checked her over and determined that it was probably a break and definitely not a dislocation. She had us put Lola on the floor so she could asses her movement. It was horrible to see Lola limping around screaming and looking up at us with the saddest eyes I have ever seen. The vet said that puppies are just really dramatic, but I had my doubts. Our little girl appeared to be in loads of pain. On further examination, the vet thought that she had a break in her foot. She suggested we have them splint it and take her to our regular vet on Tuesday for x-rays, which would save us several hundred dollars, since it was much more to do it at the emergency hospital. So, they splinted up her leg and gave us some pain meds. Here is what Lola looked like with the splint. She still cried and could not walk around. Isn't she so sad looking!

When Noah took Lola to our vet (West Michigan Veterinary Services) on Tuesday morning, the vet could tell immediately that it was not her foot that was broken, but her leg higher up. X-rays confirmed his suspicion. Lola had a compound fracture and 3 hairline fractures in her leg. He said that we were all lucky that the compound fracture did not come through the skin. The vet was frustrated with the emergency vet's treatment because the splint that they put on stopped where the break began, which explains Lola's pain and crying the rest of the weekend. He said that they will no longer be referring there as they had had other complaints. They splinted her leg properly and sent us to Great Lakes Veterinary Surgical Center because she is a large breed puppy and would need a specialist to ensure her leg healed properly and did not affect her growth. Our only other option was to take her to Michigan State for surgery. Here is what she looked like with her new splint. She dragged this one around like a wooden leg and didn't even cry. I am sure the pain meds and anti-inflammatory helped too.

Great Lakes Veterinary Surgical Center got her in for surgery the next day. I was so worried because she is just a puppy and danes are sensitive to anesthetic. When Noah brought Lola in, the secretary said "it must be dane day!" I was relieved to know that the surgeon was already in surgery with a dane who had a broken hip. Noah really liked the vet at Great Lakes Veterinary Surgical Center and the vet seemed to enjoy the challenge of working on danes. I waited on pins and needles all day for the call to let us know that Lola was okay. At 3pm, Lola was awake from surgery and eating and drinking. The vet installed (for lack of a better term) a metal plate and 6 screws that will stay in her for life. Luckily, the break was between the growth plates, so it shouldn't affect her growth negatively. She also had a whole bunch of staples put in to sew her up which she had removed 2 weeks later and a cast, much like the second splint, which she had removed a week later. She would also be on meds for the next 2 weeks. The most difficult part about her healing process was keeping her from running around and keeping her cast dry. She is a very active puppy and she was supposed to have minimal activity for at least 4 weeks. It was quite the chore to keep her from running and jumping. Shortly after her surgery, we began taping her ears up as well to help them stand after having them cropped several weeks earlier. Lola looked like she had been in a bad accident and looked all banged up.

It has now been 6 weeks since Lola broke her leg. Lola is 15 weeks old now and close to, if not more than 50 lbs. She is catching up to Roz who is a little over 100 lbs. She is running, jumping, climbing stairs and only walks with a slight hop in her step now. The only remnants of her surgery is that the fur on her broken leg is slightly shorter than the rest of her fur because they shaved her leg for the surgery. In another 2 weeks, we can start taking Lola out for longer walks. After $2300 to repair her and a lot of heart ache, I am hoping she grows up to be a strong and healthy girl. Here are some pictures of her at 12 1/2 weeks old. I need to take some more recent pictures of our little girl.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Smokey's Busy Year

Our herdsire Smokey had a busy breeding year. If all the girls hold their pregnancies, Smokey will have 10 new cria on the ground next year. We will only have 2 Smokey babies born to our females next year and the other 8 will be to females of other farms which is exciting. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has used Smokey's breeding service in their own breeding programs this year. Thank you to

Fallen Timber Alpacas
Oak Haven Alpacas, LLC
Windspun Alpacas
Topknot Alpaca Farm, LLC
Capitola Alpacas
Via Verde Farm, LLC

We are so excited to see what your girls and Smokey produce next year!

Smokey had a great year this year and put 3 cria on the ground at our farm, d'Artagnan (LRG) out of a white dam, Jolie Rouge (DB, possibly IND or DRG) out of a beige dam, and Little Miss Rosco (TB) out of a MSG dam. So far, I think Jolie is most like her proud papa in conformation and fiber characteristics.

Ashton Stones Peruvian d'Artagnan

Ashton Stones Jolie Rouge

Ashton Stones Little Miss Rosco

I just got word from C R Alpacas in Ohio that Smokey's last cria of the year was born. His name is CR Peruvian Black Adidas. He is bay black out of a true black dam and smaller in size. Unfortunately, he has gopher ears, a heritable trait where the ear is short and rounded. The breeder assured us that this runs on the the dam's side, not Smokey's. Here are some pictures of the new little guy. Even though he is only pet quality because of his ears, he is absolutely adorable!