Tuesday, October 19, 2010

October Happenings

Rowdy is graciously allowing Ginger to be this week's cover-girl.  Notice how nicely she blends in with the fallen leaves. 

As of today, Sam has been gone for 8 days.  Every other year, he and his brother, Tim, head out to Colorado to go elk hunting.  They load up our big 4-wheel drive pick up and take off.  They drive straight through, about 24 hours, to Rifle Colorado where they exit I-70, spend the night and head up onto a mountain the next morning.  They go with the same group of local guys and I'm not exactly sure of where they go, but it is north of I-70, not far from Steamboat Springs.  Sam says the worst part of the trip is once they put the chains on the truck and leave the road to head about a mile and half up the mountain.  He does not like this part as the "road" is very rough and steep and has a drop off on one side.  This last part takes 2 to 3 hours.  Then they set up camp and have male bonding time for the next 5 or 6 days and hopefully get to shoot an elk.  He and Tim are on their way home today and unfortunately neither one got an elk this year.  First time for that.  I will be very glad to see Sam tomorrow when he gets home.  I miss him and it has been a rough week since he left.  I have been handling the farm and the business and of course there have been problems at the shelter to deal with.

Right before Sam left, we went out into our woods and spent some time marking Maple trees.  This is the easiest time of year to do so since they have beautiful yellow leaves which are easy to spot.  I think we marked 30 or so trees with blue tape.  This will give us plenty of options when tapping time comes in February.  We only had 10 taps this year and we produced 2 gallons of syrup.  We plan to set 25 to 30 taps next year and many of the trees will support more than one tap. 

In September in western Ohio there is a fiber festival called A Wool Gathering.  I have attended it in the past just for fun and to shop.  It is held at Young's Dairy, a dairy farm which makes yummy ice cream.  It is a nice festival, growing in popularity every year.  My friend Tari and I have decided to go together and have a booth at this festival next year and have sent in our entry form.  Their vendor spaces sell out every year, usually by December, they told me, so I wanted to get it in early.  Tari lives in Monroe County also.  She and her husband, Dave, have a small farm where they raise sheep and dairy goats and have chickens and put in a huge garden every year.  Tari has border collies and she trains them to herd her sheep.  She helped me learn to spin when I first met her 10 years ago.  Tari and I actually grew up in the same county in western Ohio at about the same time and we both moved here in the late 1990's  from Indiana.  So our lives have kind of paralleled each other but we never met until 2000.  We enjoy getting together to spin and talk about dogs and fiber and knitting.  We decided since we were doing a booth together that we needed a name that reflected our Appalachian foothills location.  We came up with Ridge and Hollow Fiber Folk.  So, we have almost an entire year to spin and dye and weave and shear and knit to get ready for this festival. It will be MUCH larger than the one I went to in WV last month!

It's October, so that means it is breeding season on our farm.  Alpacas have an average gestation of 11 1/2 months.  They are also induced ovulators and can be bred any time of year.  We choose to breed for late spring and early fall crias.  So the goal is to have everyone bred by mid-June for spring and by mid-November for fall crias.  We do what we call pen-breeding here.  That means that I bring a male into the main barn and place him in a pen with a chosen female and leave them together for breeding.  Since alpacas are induced ovulators, they do not go into heat like many other mammals do.  Instead, a follicle will ripen on the female's ovary and when it gets to a certain size, it will be ready to produce an egg.  If the female is placed with a male when this follicle is ready, her hormones will tell her to be receptive to the male's advances and she will sit or "kush" for the male to breed her.  The male and female will then breed in this position.  The act of breeding causes hormone changes in the female, resulting in the follicle on the ovary releasing an egg.  If the female is not bred during this time, the follicle will just recede and another will start to form and the whole thing will happen again in about 2 weeks.  Now you may notice in the photo that Peg does not look too excited about the whole process.  The males will breed the females anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes and the whole time they are breeding, they are "orgling" which is a sound I have never heard another animal make.  Imagine if you gargled and hummed at the same time.  That's sort of what it sounds like.  And some can be very loud!  You may also notice another female sitting patiently waiting her turn.  Hormones are very powerful!

So, now the female and male have bred.  In about 1 week, I need to check and see if indeed the female did ovulate.  In order to do this, I need to bring the male back to the barn.  Ovulation causes the female to start to produce progesterone, a hormone which maintains pregnancy.  Hormones again.  If the female is producing progesterone, she will be non-receptive to the male.  That is a nice way of saying she wants absolutely nothing to do with him.  Usually to get her point across she runs away from him and kicks at him and spits at him.  This is what I am looking for at this point.  This is called "behavior-testing".  Now I must wade in and separate amorous male from spitting kicking female before someone gets hurt.  Big fun, but this is the reaction I want.  But it's not over yet.  Fast forward another week.  Time to put the 2 together again for behavior-testing.  It is possible that a female will ovulate and yet the egg will not get fertilized.  In that case, 12 to 14 days after the initial breeding, the female is no longer  producing progesterone (no pregnancy) and she will once again be receptive to the male.  In this case, the whole process starts again.  If the female "spits off" (technical terminology) at 14 days, she is likely pregnant.  I generally continue to behavior-test about once a week for 30 days and then I may choose to have the vet out for ultrasounding.  So, that's kind of a crash course in alpaca breeding.  I do a lot of laundry this time of year : )

I am about to start warping my loom for my first rugs!  Here is the loom with my couted out warp ready to start.  Hopefully the next time you see a photo of this loom it will be all warped up!

I also finished my cabled sweater!  I have decided to enter it in the Fiber Arts competition at the alpaca show I am attending in Springfield Ohio in a couple weeks. 

And here are the purple mittens I wrote about last week.  They will be for sale at the Member Market at the same show.

1 comment:

  1. Cathy - It's soooo god to "get back home" and catch up with you. I miss you!