Tuesday, December 1, 2015

New Alpaca Product Collection for 2015

One Stop Shopping for all of your friends and family that everyone will love - socks, hats, blankets, and other gifts.
A dry foot is a comfortable foot.
Searching for a thick, comfortable, warm sock?  We now offer a soft, durable, casual alpaca sock created from 60% Baby Alpaca for unbelievable comfort and warmth, and 40% Acrylic for easy care.  Strong, odor-resistant and machine wash and dry, these socks are silky soft and feel terrific on your feet throughout the day and night.
Look forward to wearing your socks all day.  They will work as hard as you do.
Want a comfortable, all day sock?  Cozy and comfortable, women love these with boots or clogs. No sweaty or sticky feel ALL DAY. We now offer a soft, durable, over the calf alpaca sock created from 40% Baby Alpaca for unbelievable comfort and warmth.


Have Cold Feet?  Want to Feel Better?

Great for those who do not want a restrictive feel around their lower legs, especially for diabetics, Neuropathy and Rheumatoid arthritis. A warm and exceptionally soft sock with less restrictive ribbing around the ankle to help promote blood flow circulation. Unlike our Mid-Calf and Tall Therapeutic Styles, this design stays low on the leg with a 4" ankle rise - enough to keep you warm, but does not restrict.
Designed for:         
  • Cold Feet
  • Neuropathy
  • Large Calves
  • Sensitive Skin
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Diabetes


Look forward to stepping into your winter boots and shoes with  warm, natural alpaca fiber inserts.
Warm felt insoles are amazing for all outdoor activities, including – skiing, hiking, hunting, fishing, snowmobiling.

 Turn up the heat no matter the temperature.

Of course, we have all of our other great products available as well.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

How to have an Alpaca Farm Visit that everyone - including you - enjoys

One of the most interesting parts of my job is to host farm visits for those wanting a one-on-one experience with alpacas.  After 11 years of having a little bit of everyone – from potential alpaca buyers and classrooms to nursing homes and pre-vet students – I have a general checklist I find helpful when getting ready for a day of newcomers on the farm.

  1. Trust your surroundings.  Is your farm moderately picked up so that you won’t be embarrassed that general equipment is lying around your farm? Let alone anyone getting hurt.  Our dogs LOVE to be creative on what they can chew on – and seem to race how quickly each other can destroy boxes…halters…rake handles…  I suggest a quick pick up around the area to have a clean, safe environment to enter with your sometimes not-so-farm-savvy city-folk guests.
  2. What is the purpose the visit – for you and for them?  Don’t bother giving them the pitch of how wonderful alpacas are to raise if it’s a grandmother with grandchildren just looking for an outdoor afternoon together.   If it’s a school visit, we usually send an information sheet ahead of time for the teacher to briefly go over alpacas, where they came from and how their fleece is utilized.  In a school setting, kids are relatively focused on the abstract idea of an alpaca.  Once they are on the farm, comprehension of all useful facts seems to plummet.  We have tractors to climb on, dogs to pet and alpacas to feed.  An alpaca’s South American origins are of little value to a third grader at this point.   What we usually do is bring either the buyer inside our house or the kids / business group in our front lawn and give about 10-15 minutes of information about the alpacas before they see any of the animals.  We talk about when they have babies, shearing, the greatness of alpaca fiber.  This way, many questions will be asked and answered ONCE instead of multiple times by many people.

  3. Which brings me to my next topic – information.  If you ask 10 alpaca farmers the same question, you will get 20 different answers.  If you are new to the business, research the best you can the most Frequently Asked Questions.  Tell them about your experiences. Let people know if you do not have the answer, but you will follow up.  This is a great excuse to re-contact the visitors in a couple of days and follow up as potential customers in the future.
  4. What is your timeframe?  Our farm visits usually wrap up in 45-50 minutes.  What do you want to do with your guests?  Feed the alpacas?  Catch them and be hands on?  Look at fleece? See products?  Have an idea of what you would like to go over before they get to your door.
  5. Kid appropriate – what is the age range of the kids that will be attending?   What is their background?  Some schools are all about the birds and the bees and others do not want to cover that topic at all.  On occasion, some our ladies and gents get a little frisky on each side of the fence.  Separate them before hand if you do not want to talk about breeding.
  6. Is your bathroom ready for mass usage?  Over the 11 years, probably a thousand different people have been in my downstairs bathroom.  Clean it before and after.  Just saying…
  7. Remind guests to dress appropriately for the weather and the farm.  In Montana, muck boots can be a fashion statement.  Those from a big city may think otherwise.  I have offered boots to many visitors that were wearing patent leather shoes, as they readily absorb odor.  This is a nice courtesy to this person as well as everyone they are driving / flying with that is not that impressed with a continued alpaca smell.
  8. Spitting – our alpacas are well adapted to people.  But if we have 80 alpacas vying for little hands with feed in them, there could be some crossfire.  You may want to warn your visitors as you deem appropriate the likelihood of this green phenomenon. 
  9. Are you going to be hands-on?  We usually catch an alpaca or two to touch, check out the teeth and toes and just to be close.  Do you have an alpaca ready for this?  You may want to do some intensive work in the days leading up to the farm visit if this is part of the tour.  And, have the alpaca(s) already caught instead of chasing it in the pasture.
  10. Dogs.  We have guard dogs.  They are big, loving and can be intimidating.  Our Turkish Anatolians are highly socialized with kids as well as adults.  However, some guard dogs
    may be more protective than you would like during a farm visit.  I would address this with the person setting up the appointment and if there is an issue with a dog – or a visitor is afraid of dogs, then keep the dog out of the way so it is not a distraction or a potential issue.
  11. Make sure they have contact information to know how they can get a hold of you – or your products – in the future.  We have cards we give out at the end of the tour to ensure they know our website and the stores we sell at.
  12. Insurance.  Alpacas are sweet, cute and friendly.  Who could they hurt? A strategically placed kick can really sting, as can tripping in a hole, falling down a staircase, cutting a hand on a pitchfork or toenail clippers.  Talk to your insurance agent and make sure you are covered for farm visits.

Farm visits are a great way to show people how and why you have alpacas in your life.  They are unique and most of the world will never see one, let alone feed and pet this furry beast.  Prepare for your visit and your happy guests will remind you why you love your alpacas. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Farm Open House - 2,300 people at my house in 2 days

For our eighth year in a row, we held our Open House as a community event.  This year, we needed to push back our usually Last Weekend of September date to go to my sister-in-law's wedding in San Francisco.

Naturally the usual weekend was warm and sunny, about 70F.  By the time the next weekend rolled around for our event, it was cold and drizzly, making the barn a safe haven from the teasing winter elements.

Would people still come?  Who knows.  We hoped for the best.  I'm not sure if I would have ventured out in the cold to walk in a pasture. But they did - in hoards - to a total of 2,300+ people scooping their single allotted amount of alpaca feed at the gate and coming to greet the alpacas.

881 people on Saturday, the other 1,500 visitors on Sunday.

The alpacas were fantastic.  Those who wanted the treats and attention hung around the gate, going from person to person to nibble food and then move on.  Those that were not as enthusiastic about the influx of people stayed further out.

Farm days is fun, full of questions and details and a lot of co-ordination.  We look forward to more stories on the farm and enjoy a brief hiatus from the usual Autumn days.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Alpaca Requirements - A Supply Checklist for Raising Alpacas

I love alpacas!  Many people love alpacas.  But what supplies / requirements are there to keep alpacas happy?  This checklist is going to vary depending on where you live, your weather and farm set-up, but these are some basic items and would take a look prior to having your alpacas on your farm:

Barn Requirements -  For the most part, alpacas like to be out and about, not cooped up in a barn.  These animals do not need a big, fancy barn, but do need at least a 3 sided shelter to get out of the wind and rain.  That could be a lean-to or something less conventional they can enter that will protect them from harsh elements.

Good fencing - field fencing with lots of gates

Hay and Feed -  Alpacas cannot process poor quality hay that is readily consumed by cows and horses.  They need about 10-12% protein to help sustain most alpacas.  We use 2nd cutting grass alfalfa for our year round feed.

Call around before you need a veterinarian and see who has experience / is interested in working on alpacas.  Even in our Montana ranching area, vets willing to work on alpacas are few and far between.  Call and establish a relationship with them once you decide on getting alpacas.

There are a variety of items that we have received from the Useful Lama Items store and Quality Llama Products that are worth looking at.  Those that have a ranch store nearby may be able to get a couple of these items, but they are often comparable in price online and have worked well for us.  (*Please note, we are in no way affiliated with these companies...nor do we receive a referral fee.  It just nice to know where you can find one-stop-shopping for your alpacas.

Useful Lama and Alpaca Items

Quality Llama Products

Amish Fixed or X-Style Halters - We get the adult alpaca size, and they usually fit our 5-6 month olds to our largest males heads.  No need for different size halters.

Feed Buckets (Pans), Metal Scoop, 5 gallon bucket - can use any kinds, not just what this store offers.

Wheel barrow and/ or sled - removing manure and putting out feed

Insulated Alpaca Coats - some combination of extra small, small, and medium - very helpful, especially if the cria is born in the morning or on a cold day, even in the Summer

Alpaca Neonatal Care book - Highly suggested!

Imported BBN Shears - Not immediately essential, but will be needed in the future.  You can pick these up at Murdochs.  We use them to trim top nots and tidy up the facial hair.  Do not go for a lower quality shearer, or you will be frustrated many times over when you are clipping your alpaca.

Toenail Trimmer and Holster -  Needed for trimming toes every couple of months.  When you pick up the alpacas, be sure the seller goes over how to trim their toes.

Cria Kit - This is essential kit.  You can order one, with a coat, or assemble everything individually listed.  Buying it in one stop is convenient and helps you be prepared for all the crias to come.

Thermometer - You can get these anywhere. Wal-Mart has them for $3.  Get a soft-tip thermometer. One comes in the cria kit.

Pritchard Nipple - for nursing a baby - Can be picked up at Murdochs as well.  One comes with the cria kit.  Necessary in case the baby isn't immediatey drinking within 24 hours.

Cria Coat - Comes with the cria kit.  Its nice to have at least 1 on hand.

If you are going to register you alpacas, you need to contact the Alpaca Registery and become affiliated with them.  You will need an ARI account # from the Alpaca Registry.  www.alpacainfo.com

Alpaca Salt -  This one has become a little trick for us.  We have used a brand from Purina as well as Stillwater Minerals.  Shipping is expensive though.

Teeth trimming - yes, your alpacas teeth will always grow if they are not aligned right with the pallet.  If your alpacas have bucky teeth in their future, we suggest using the Alpaca Tooth-O-Matic.  Not cheap, but we have used ours for 13 years - and counting.

Shearing - Hire someone!  They have everything needed to shave your alpacas.

Of course, there is always, more, but these are on the top of my list for monthly, if not daily, uses.

Here is another Top 10 List you might want to look at

Thursday, July 23, 2015

We are finally on Etsy

While I do try to keep up with technology and social Media, there are SO MANY social sites to mingle on - Google Plus, Facebook, Wanelo, Pinterest and of course Etsy.  So, now I am finally jumping out of the first few years of this millennium and working on catching up with myself.

Come and see some of our new and continuously fabulous products.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Into The Woods - Tobacco Root Mountains of Montana

Summers in Montana are so short. Most of us plow through the cold season for the reward of a Rocky Mountain Summer – the smell of lilacs and cut grass, amazingly sunny blue skies and outdoor adventures.

Years ago in our high school and college days, my sister Jessica and I used to camp quite a bit throughout the various mountain ranges around Bozeman, Montana.  We would hike in, set up an on-a-budget camp with a tarp and old backpack and enjoy a couple of days in the woods.

Nearly 20 years later, we decided to venture out again.  But this time, we were going to bring her 2 eight-year-olds and a six-year-old kids.  A slight but fun twist.

Since was early in June, many higher mountain areas are still snow packed, so our options were slightly limited – we wanted a 2-3 day hike, not too steep, scenery is optional.  A friend suggested the Tobacco Root Mountains.  We negotiated and rescheduled our calendars and finally committed to several days into the woods.
Emma and Jessica walking

We packed – and packed – and were finally in the car ready to roll.  After an hour and a half drive with a “progressively worsening” road, we made it to the trailhead.  The sign stated “Louise Lake: 3 miles”.  But, then 3 miles part was scratched out and “14 miles” was written in.  We were already committed to the trail, so we decided to go for it and see where it took us.  If it was getting to be too long, we would just stop and camp. 

Lake Louise, Tobacco Mountains
Usually, we are quite efficient and light campers.  However, 2 adults were carrying enough for 5 people to eat for 3 days, 4 sleeping bags and one TWO MAN tent (there are photos to prove that we all fit!).  With each pack over 60 pounds, we headed up the trail, crossing creeks and winding our way through the woods.  At 3.5 miles, we started to get nervous.  We needed to detour off of the trail because it was snow covered.  This trail is primarily switchbacks on the side of a mountain in steep terrain, so there were no opportunities to set up camp.  At 4 miles we were getting not sure what to do.  The twins ran head and around each corner would get excited, but the trail would continue on. 

Then, at 4.5 miles Gracie screamed that she saw the lake.  Her brother Bryce took off to make sure it was true.  Jessica and I were at a breaking point with our backs, but we slowly made it. 

What an amazing reward for all of our walking and working up the hill.  The setting of Lake Louise is amazing.

Our campsite was ready to go, with not a single person seen on the trail or at the lake.  We settled in the cirque with the massive, 10,353 Middle Mountain to the south.  The fire was started, tent put up and it started to rain. There were bursts of rain here and there, but our fire persisted through it.  We had seen bear warning signs on the way up, and we hung a rope to tie up our food.  The first night we heard crackling and splashing in the lake, near the tent, but the critter never came closer.

The next day we awoke with sunrise, stoking the fire, drying out our sleeping bags and picking up the camp.  Eventually, we decided to go for a walk around the lake.  Much of the perimeter is made up of landslides, so we jumped rocks and negotiated boulders, working our way around pine trees and post-holing though snow. On the opposite side of our camp, we stopped for lunch and enjoyed the alternate view of this crystal-clear lake.  We continued on, exploring the sides of the mountain until we finally reached our base once more.  It was 11:30 am.  Uh oh…now what? 

Time is a funny thing when you are not hooked up to wi-fi, cell service or your calendar of events that need to be completed each and every day.  Bryce fished for lake trout; we made up a couple of games, read a book and just relaxed.  All of the kids- who live in the city but definitely know how to self-entertain – said it was a great time.  Not one of the three had a single complaint or whined during any of the 3 days we were on the mountain.  We munched and ate our way through much of the days and had a pea size hail storm we avoided under the trees.  The kids made inventions and games and we just enjoyed downtime from the real world and ourselves.
Yes, all 5 of us slept in a 2 man tent (although slept is a relative term)

Finally, it was time to go. We sang songs on the walkie-talkies and knew we had a far too infrequent experience of getting away for a while.  Hopefully it will not take another 20 years to have such a great time again.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Traveling to Dubai and Oman

A few days before Christmas, a friend asked if I would like to join her on her upcoming trip to Dubai and Oman.  Admittedly, I could not find them on a map at the time, but said "Yes!".  Any vacation would be a great vacation and I was ready after 10 solid years of working hard. 

Over the next few months, I read books, watched YouTube and hesitantly listened to the news about the Middle East.  I was nervous - traditions, customs, safety.  What about the wars and unrest and kidnapping?  I spokes with Paulette repeatedly and she explained once again that the unrest was in specific parts of the Middle East regarding certain political and tribal turmoil.  She emphasized that if I had any hesitation, I could bow out.  No - I was going.  She didn't want to be kidnapped any more than me, so I packed my bags, prepared my will (seriously) and boarded the plane.

Twenty-eight hours later, I walked into the evening's 90 F weather and looked up to tall buildings, bright lights and a whole new world...but not that far off - I could see the familiar fast foods of McDonalds, Baskin Robins and Tim Hortons.  There was even an Ace Hardware and Ika a few miles from our hotel.  

But the atmosphere was different.  It was calm.  People smiled.  

Dubia is a city of over 4 million people and growing fast.  Just a few years ago, it held 75% of all of the world's cranes, building and multiplying as quickly as possible.  Ex-pats from all of the world rush in for new jobs, education, opportunities at all levels, from doctors to ditch diggers.  

I spent 10 days in Dubia - it is based on newness, bright and shiny things. To the contrary, when we went to Oman for 10 days, it is focused on traditions and tranquility and vast open lands.  Do not get me wrong, everyone had iPhones with WiFi and even the most remote villages have electricity.  But they seem to be taking a slower pace, cautiously moving forward in letting the external influences of globalization take over.  In 1970, there were 2 schools and 10 miles of paved roads in the entire country.  Now, men and women are encouraged to be educated in universities and knowledge of the world as a whole is growing.  The most striking aspect of Oman to me were the people - welcoming, nonjudgmental and having travelled to many other countries themselves but glad to be home.  For 5 of the days we stayed with a family with 5 children, allowing me the opportunity to see firsthand how this and several other "typical" families function day to day.  The children are loved and appreciated.  We sat on the floor and ate in a group setting.  We took walks in the evening to look at the stars and explored a new world unknown to many.  

I took over 500 photos on this trip with a long story to go with each one of them. But, for all of our sakes, I narrowed down the photos as much as possible and have abbreviated statements for the background of each.

Burj Khalifa - It is the tallest building in the world at a half mile high.
Looking out at Dubia from the 148th floor of the Burj Khalifa Tower.

At a shopping mall.  The green, by the way, says Starbucks.  I only know this because it is written in English on the other side of the coffee stand.  Everything is written in English as well as Arabic, so it was very easy to get around the city.  Almost every adult and child over the age of 9-10 is fluent in English as well as their native language.

The souks (markets) were interesting - with anything and everything you could possible want - jewelry, housewares, food, rugs, kitchen appliances.

Dresses and Clothing

Lots of potions and cure-alls in the Spice Souk - I saw Camel Urine for your hair,  cactus extract and literally "Snake Oil".

One of my favorites is the spice souk - the smells, the colors

We treated ourselves to brunch at the Burj Al Arab - a 7 star hotel with everything and anything.  The stayed for 3 hours and enjoyed mountains of amazing food and views.

The atrium of the Burj Al Arab.  The hotel has 8,000 sq. meters of gold.  All that yellow - its gold.

Looking up in the atrium to the balconies.

Easter time celebration lunch in the restaurant.

View from my seat during lunch over Dubia.

Yep - Gold elevators...

We visited the Grand Mosque in Oman.  A beautiful area in the city.

The mosque can hold up to 22,000 people.
The middle chandelier is one of the largest Swarovski crystal chandeliers in the world.

Oman is rugged, rocky, and vast.  We would look out over mountains of and canyons of stone and in one small area there would be an oasis (wadi) of palm trees, fruits and grass.

Cooling off after a hot hike

And yes there were camels.  Lots of them.  I loved every one of them.  I was able to ride Sharem, who was much less impressed with me than I was with him.  No petting, no kissing and if he had had his way...no riding...

After the ride, camels are hobbled with rope so while he is allowed to roam free to find food, he does not travel too far away and comes home each evening for water and rest.

A hobbled camel on the side of the road.  His friend was not hobbled, as he has learned to go home each night on his own.

At a turtle reserve we woke up at 4 am to get onto the beach to see the turtles laying their eggs. This female was just finishing burying her eggs when we found her and headed to the sea several minutes later.  She will return again in 3 years.  We also saw 7  new hatchling babies heading to the ocean for their first swim.

Roughing it in my camel hair tent at 1000 nights camp 40 km into the desert.  This was one of my favorite places to stay - quiet, relaxing, in the desert.

An Omani mausoleum (livingroom) in a home.  Most people will sit on the floor / cushions and food is set where the rugs / hats are on the floor.

One morning, we woke up at 5 am to take a several hours walk along the side of a mountain to an old village.  The shale rock had been picked and tiered to grow gardens for food.  It is now abandoned.

Tombs estimated to be 5000 years old.

Oman has been a coveted area for millenniums because of its natural resources and strategic location on the Arabian Peninsula.  Thus, there are many forts - 1,800 in fact throughout the country built over the ages.

Surprisingly, one of my favorite aspects of our travels were the goats.  They are everywhere - in the streets, the trees, the desert.  I sat down once for a break and the word spread fast that I had an orange. One brave girl gave me a kiss on the cheek.  Obviously, I was not their first tourist.

So that is my 10 minute summary on a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  The trip opened my eyes to many new things - my lack of knowledge on this part of the world and how people can be so happy living a different, yet strangely similar, life than me.