Our second pasture is completely fenced in now.
We've been dreaming of this for five years, and in just a couple of days - it's finished!
Our new pasture abuts our main pasture, which means we can transition the alpacas from one field to the other pretty easily.
Because one side of our main pasture fence divides the two areas. We replaced that span of fence with a new one.
It was old, rusty, and wonky -- it zig-zagged across the field to take advantage of trees that were used as gateposts, which we addressed by installing new gateposts and replacing the rusty old gate with a new one.
That fence is now a straight line and the entire area is enclosed to keep predators out and the alpacas safe.
the old fence zig-zagged across the field & used 2 trees for gateposts
The new fence has straight lines, new gates we can actually use and offers lots of new space
While the fence itself is done, the second pasture is not complete....yet!
The felled trees need to be cleaned up; the area needs landscaping, and seed needs to be planted.
But that didn't stop us from introducing the alpacas to the new area.
While Autumn hasn't officially started, we've been lining up our fall schedule to bring our farm-made and Peruvian products to you!
Find us this month at these locations for a wide selection of alpaca scarves, socks, hats, dryer balls, pet toys, and more!
East Kingston Farmer's Market
East Kingston Public Library
47 Maplevale Road, East Kingston, NH
Sunday, September 18
10:00 am - 2:00 pm
VFW's Charity Ride for Unmet Needs Program
Seacoast Harley Davidson
17 Lafayette Road, Hampton, NH
Saturday, September 24
9:00 am - 12:00 pm
Farm tours continue through Fall
Before long, the leaves will start to turn color and the alpacas' coats continue to grow thicker. It's a great time to meet these majestic animals against one of nature's beautiful backdrops.
Schedule your farm tour here
We have been working on a second pasture for a few years.
Always picking away at the area we designated that would eventually give our alpacas another area to graze in.
Because our field has been sufficient for the girls, it was not something we had to do, but knew it would be beneficial one day.
But Baxter and Ace are now making it a reality.
We hired a company that will install the pasture fence this week and prompted us to prepare the area.
We've been walking the fence line and removing all unnecessary brush and debris to make the job easier for the crew.
Weed trees are coming down, rocks are being removed, ground leveling and grading are in process.
There is much more to be done once the fencing is complete: more land grooming, fertilizer, and pasture grass need to be sown.
This project was initiated from the coming need to separate the boys so that they are not cohabitating with the females when they are mature.
But Baxter and Ace won't be moving into this space for several months.
I can't imagine the two boys being by themselves now anyway. They are still quite young and need their moms.
When the time comes to move the boys into their own space, they will be ready to be on their own with room to run around, wrestle, and graze in -- Baxter and Ace will have their own bachelor pad.
This will benefit future generations too.
With more cria potentially arriving next year, if there are more boys born, Baxter and Ace will be able to assist with weaning and teach young male alpacas how to grow up into mature herdsires and be ready to move on to other farms.
alpaca fiber is back from the mill
Time with alpacas is time well spent
We opened our farm to visitors for the first time this year, and it's been a wonderful experience for all (including the alpacas).
Many of you knew about us already through social media, some were recommended to visit, and others just happen to find us on the internet.
Here is a collection of some of the smiling faces that the alpacas generated, and more visits are already scheduled for the fall.
If you have been meaning to schedule your farm tour or want to schedule a return visit, simply click here
We are delighted to have Sparrow & Stormy back from “sleep away camp”.
After three weeks at Libertas Farm visiting their "boyfriends", we brought them home Saturday night, and now "The band is back together".
If you missed their welcoming reception, or just want to watch it again, you can see it here
Whenever any of the alpacas are away from home, we never know how the herd is going to react when they return. They all know that when we back the big gray van up to the embankment in our field, it has something to do with them. Maybe it's hay, maybe it's a new friend, or in this case, the two girls returned from summer camp.
We knew that Amity would be happy to see Sparrow because they are bonded half-sisters, but we didn’t expect both Amity and then Summer to jump into the van!! That was a surprising and sweet demonstration of their happiness. The alpacas don't normally volunteer to jump inside a vehicle!
Melody also jumped around with excitement at the sight of Sparrow & Stormy’s return; this made us smile and laugh too. Amity, Sparrow, & Melody have been together all their lives, so to see how happy they were to be reunited like this was a joy to witness.
The reason behind Stormy & Sparrow's visit to another farm is that we want to have more cria next year and begin to offer alpacas available for sale. Whether buyers are experienced with alpacas or not, and whether buyers prefer show quality or pet quality, our goal is to find happy and loving homes for the animals.
Got a question about this blog post? Send us an email.
We're happy to talk with you.
alpaca fiber that is... I surely don't!
Until I started raising alpacas, I never thought much about where my yarn came from or how much I would love working with it.
Years ago, I taught myself how to crochet using the most economical yarn to learn with: acrylic.
Now that we have our own herd of alpacas, a manufactured synthetic product seems like sacrilege, but synthetic yarn has its value. It comes in a variety of weights, textures, and colors, is durable, washable, and very forgiving to work with; but I'll never forget the first time I purchased alpaca yarn.
I bought two skeins of forest green and mustard yellow twisted together in a tweed design to make a blanket for my sister.
At the time I didn't know what I was buying. I had heard the term "alpaca" before but didn't take the time to understand what an alpaca was or its fiber properties.
I just knew the skeins were squishy and incredibly soft to the touch -- softer than any other yarn I had felt before and I could tell it was something special. The blanket came out beautifully and I was hooked.
Jump ahead 15 years and here we are, raising our own alpacas and making my own yarn.
I know other farmers feel pleased with the products their livestock, produce, but I discovered that it is also very personal for me.
How I feel about my herd's fiber and finished products is similar to the feeling you get when your child brings home their art project from school - in love with what they created -- and proud too.
Turning alpaca fiber into yarn & dryer balls
When shearing is done, what do I do with all that fiber??
Bags of freshly collected alpaca fiber ready to be cleaned
The first step is cleaning all that raw fiber.
The main part of an alpacas fleece comes from around their midsection and it is called the blanket. It is the area that has the highest quality fiber.
Each shorn blanket is laid out on a skirting table so that I can evaluate it for consistent staple length, and remove any vegetable matter, dirt, and small clumps of fiber that are too small to use (called "second cuts").
I also remove the guard hair (coarse fiber) that surrounds the perimeter of the blanket -- this helps prevent an itchy/scratchy end product.
As I clean their coats, I can already imagine the final result...
... and it makes you want to hug it!
Next, I take the fiber that won't become yarn (this comes from the neck, head, legs, and tail called "seconds and thirds") and do a similar process: I sort by staple length, remove vegetable matter, and dispose of any unusable bits.
Tia's seconds and thirds
Once all the fiber is cleaned, I label each bag with its contents by name and grade (1st, 2nds/3rds) and what I want made (yarn, roving and/or batting). I compress as much air out of the bags as possible, and pack it all into a box (or two) & ship it to the fiber mill.
A few months later, when my order comes back, I make personalized tags for all my yarn, so you know who's yarn is who's when you're knitting, crocheting, or weaving into a hat, scarf, sweater, blanket, etc.
The seconds & thirds will come back to me as roving or batting that I will shape and felt into dryer balls by hand so you never have to use commercial dryer sheets ever again.
So, this is how I get my daily dose of fiber!
I love all the beautiful and useful products alpaca fiber lets me create.
That was the question we asked ourselves when we brought home our first alpacas.
I'm sure you've asked yourself the same question when you brought home your first pet or even your first child.
No matter how much you prepared for their arrival, it's still a shock of reality that you just brought something home that will change your life forever.
When we made arrangements to bring our first two alpacas home, we did as much preparation in advance as we could:
It wasn't until we brought our first two alpacas home (Tauri & Fiona in December 2014) that we realized there were still many shortcomings that we didn't know we had.
In hindsight, these issues seemed monumental at the time, because we were new to keeping alpacas and didn't know the answers - and that's okay! It is absolutely okay to not know because how will anyone know unless they develop experience.
Over time, there were changes we wanted to make on our farm and figured out the best solutions for us:
These are a few basics from our experience to think about if you are wondering if you could have alpacas. Every farm will have its own unique circumstances and challenges. Here are a few other things to consider:
How many alpacas should you get?
If you're wondering whether alpacas might be right for you, consider scheduling an alpaca 101 farm tour with us to get an in-person understanding of what's involved in an alpaca's day-to-day care. You can also schedule a "meet the alpacas" farm tour or simply shop our farm store.
As April flows into May, we are still in that period of weather transition.
You know the window I'm talking about where it's cold in the morning, warm during the day, and cold again at night.
It's also the time of year on our farm that we're waiting for the grass in the pasture to grow tall enough so the alpacas can be released from their winter pen for grazing.
We can feel the anticipation building as the field slowly turns from brown to a lush shade of green. The alpacas wait at the fence... Is it ready yet? How about now? or Now? Can we go? Now? Now?
We did actually let the alpacas out early for a day last weekend -- shhh! Don't tell anyone.
We cycle our alpacas in and out of the pasture twice a year. They have free reign to graze from mid-late May through October before we close the pasture for rest and recovery until spring returns.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Spring and summer are ahead to be fully enjoyed before we start thinking of fall arrangements again.
Shearing Day is Coming!
June 6 is just a few weeks away and the alpacas will be so happy to be free of their winter coats.
People marvel over how skinny the alpacas look after shearing. It still surprises us every year! As the alpacas' fiber grows slowly throughout the year, it maintains the contours of their bodies and makes us think their skin is just below the surface when it's actually 2-4" deeper.
We have a couple of volunteers joining us on shearing day to help with fiber collection; they are interested in learning more about alpaca farming and are super-excited about participating in this annual event.
I'll give them an overview of what their jobs will be, the purpose of their work, and assist them with collecting fiber from the first alpaca being shorn. Thereafter, they should be able to operate on their own with minimal assistance from me.
Sorting alpaca fiber
Alpaca fiber is sorted into three categories: Prime (also known as 'blanket' or 'firsts'), Seconds and Thirds ( we combine seconds and thirds into one collection).
Prime- this is the area of the nicest and softest fiber that alpacas grow that is used for yarn and apparel.
Seconds & Thirds - these fibers are more coarse to the touch than Prime depending on where on the body they came from, and are used for rug yarn, roving for felting, dryer balls, and bird nest fluff.
Fiber from the neck and head areas are still quite soft, but fiber from the legs will be shorter and feel coarser.
Once all the fiber is collected, bagged, and tagged (by alpaca name and type), it will be set aside until I am ready to begin skirting (cleaning) in preparation for the fiber to go to the fiber mill where it is processed into yarn and roving.
Speaking of yarn and roving, I sent a large order of black and brown alpaca fiber that I bought last summer to the fiber mill for processing and it should be arriving soon as yarn and roving - yay!
When the shipment arrives, you can have "first dibs" on yarn and dryer balls, if you're interested.
We've been waiting a long time for Baxter to arrive, and it's still a little surreal that he is here! He is the very first cria (baby alpaca) to be born on our farm.
We know you enjoy watching his activities and antics as much as we do! He is so much fun to have around and he can't wait to have a friend close to his age to play with (he can't seem to get his aunties to race around the paddock with him.
He'll have a new playmate soon since we are expecting our second cria in early June with Amity. Being the 1st cria for us, the night of Baxter's arrival was both exciting and nerve-wracking, yet it turned out to be a textbook perfect birth. Based on that experience, it gives us a baseline for when our next cria arrives. Our hope is that Amity's cria delivers as easily as Summer's did.
Alpacas generally don't have birthing issues, but that doesn't mean things cannot go wrong. The birth itself could be difficult, the cria could be breech, etc., but the key is to prepare for anything and hope you need as little intervention as possible. Here are some of the things we have ready and waiting:
There are also certain actions that need to happen within the first 24 hours for cria to start off life successfully:
One of the most challenging things to do when all you want is to pick up that cute new baby alpaca, is to be as hands-off as possible. This way, mother and baby bond with each other instead of you. You may have to step in briefly since alpacas don't lick their cria once they're born. I found it necessary to dry Baxter off and keep him warm with a hairdryer since he was born on a chilly April day.
Amity is due in a little over a month with our next cria, so the temperature should be less of an issue. We are ready and looking forward to his/her arrival. Baxter will not have long to wait for his playmate to arrive.
Subject: Alpaca Show (and Tell)
What is an alpaca show? In the simplest terms, it’s similar to a dog show where an alpaca’s features and characteristics are evaluated by a certified judge and ranked against their peers in the same class.
I went to the North American Alpaca Show (NAAS) & Northeast Alpaca Show (NEAS) in Springfield, MA to learn about the show’s process so without the added pressure of competing. One alpaca owner I spoke with said attending just to learn was a smart approach rather than “baptism by fire” in the show ring.
You do not have to be an alpaca owner or competitor to attend an alpaca show. You can attend as a spectator or contact the organizer and volunteer to help (they LOVE volunteers) or contact a farm and ask if they would like assistance at the event (as I did). I met a woman at the event, Julia, who wants to own alpacas one day and learns all she can while volunteering at the show. One year she spent time in the ring accompanying the judge and captured all the notes given by the judge - talk about an inside track!
The show consists of a half-day for arrival/check-in, followed by one or two days of competition (depending on the number of entrants).
Registration and check-in are relatively low-key. Trucks and trailers arrive throughout the afternoon. Health papers are submitted, microchips are scanned, and then the alpacas are led to their assigned pens and settle in with fresh hay and water while fans hum to keep them comfortable. Owners connect with long-time colleagues, make new connections, and admire (and size up) each other’s herds. This is a very friendly community that enjoys talking and sharing information about their animals and operations.
The next morning the organizers host an exhibitor meeting outlining the day's events and schedule, introduced the judges, and encouraged everyone to be supportive of their fellow competitors - if someone looks like they're struggling, step up and offer to help.
The rest of the day is spent with judges occupying their own show rings for NAAS and NEAS who conduct halter shows. These judges examine all the animals in each color and class (juvenile, yearling, two-year olds, etc.,) and look for particular conformity in the alpaca’s body (legs, gait, head, etc.) and uniformity, density, fineness, in their fleece by examining three areas (middle of the back, above the shoulder, and the flank). Based on what they see amongst the entrants, the judges will consider the qualities of the entrants and determine the rankings of the animals before them and award ribbons accordingly (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.) -- but it doesn't end there. When all the color class competitions (white, brown, darks, and grays) are completed, all the first and second place winners of each class category by color are invited back to the ring for championship judging against their peers. As above, each is examined for its appearance and fleece qualities and two winners are chosen: Champion (1st place) and Reserve (2nd place). Of all the entrants who have competed, these two have risen to the top as having the best qualities of all the entrants in their color class.
But wait, there's more! After all the competitions in the various color classes are completed, all the Champions in all the color classes return to the ring to be judged and select a "Judges Choice" (comparable to best in show).
I learned the above not only by attending but also by being invited to be a "handler" for an alpaca who was there to compete (his name is Archer). Archer is a member of Alpacas of New Hampshire at Sleeping Monk Farm, and his owner asked me if I would like to bring Archer into the show ring. After viewing a few of the judging events, I felt that, yes, I could do that with Archer. My responsibilities were not complicated, but first, I needed to get along with Archer. If he didn't like me, then why would he want to spend 15-20 minutes with me in the show ring? I went to his pen and introduced myself to him as I clipped the lead to his halter. I spoke with him as we walked across the arena and let him know what we were going to do; after all, it was his first time in the show ring too. All we needed to do was walk across the show ring when instructed, stand where we were told to stand, and stand still while Archer's fleece is being examined. Overall, it's simple enough, unless you have an alpaca who isn't willing to do any of that. Archer was agreeable to walking with me and standing with me throughout the judging process. Archer was so agreeable that he was comfortable with standing right next to me while my arm was around his shoulders like you would with a best friend. In the moment, I felt like he was my best friend. He did wiggle a few times while the judges parted his coat to take a close examination, and also while they briefly grabbed his testicles (I don't blame him one bit for that!). After the judges completed their initial evaluation of Archer and the other competitors, the judge asked us handlers to have our alpacas stand in profile and then face forward so they could be visually evaluated for their overall body conformation. After more consideration, the judge might reexamine an alpaca's coat and then make notes on a scorecard. He would then ask each competitor to step forward in order of our award ranking (1st, 2nd, 3rd place, etc.) and hand out award ribbons congratulating each handler/alpaca for their placement. The judge would then take a moment and summarize to the competitors and audience the reasons behind his decision starting with first place and why that particular alpaca's qualities qualified for their award and reviewed each subsequent alpaca accordingly. Archer and I competed in two halter competitions and placed second and third respectively. For our first time in the ring, I was pleased with our results and so was Archer's owner.
And if that isn't enough to keep you busy, while the above is going on, there is a "walking fleece" show happening in a third ring. Each alpaca can compete in its color class for fleece assessment only. Unlike the halter now, the judging is purely based on fleece qualities and scored accordingly. These qualities are given scores on a scorecard and -- you guessed it -- the best score wins. Archer and I entered that competition, and he took fifth place in his class.
Overall, it was a great experience and a lot of fun. I met a lot of nice people who were kind and generous with their time and information about their farms. I'm glad I went without the anxiety of needing to compete with my own alpacas. It broke the ice for me, and now I feel more comfortable knowing what's expected at these events so that I can bring members of my own herd to enter the show ring.
Here is a short video of my experience:
Granite State Alpacas
Alpaca farm news from Joe, Sandy and the herd