The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

River Ramblings South


January 29, 2020

Here on the river, it is always a benefit to get through January with decent weather; this year has been exceptionally nice, we are enjoying it. With the thawing and water running, then freezing, we have to deal with icy situations, still certainly better than the deep snows of 2018!

Life is much more enjoyable when Mother Nature is being kind; we can do some catch up on remodeling projects that weren't finished when we planned. We continue the daily chores of feeding, keeping the waters flowing, grinding grain, and filling feeders. Some critter was eating the chickens ground grain inside the chicken house, tipping over the tank and raising havoc, Ron learned what it was when shutting up the chicken house one evening, a mule deer charged out the door! We could have had it locked in the chicken house; I am sure none of the flock would have been happy! The deer get so friendly in the winter months; they are rough on our yard, fruit trees, and bushes. It becomes a nuisance.

One of my favorite animals on the ranch is our alpacas; they stay close to our buildings but are not destructive like deer or goats. Their hooves have toenails attached to a split padded hoof that is not nearly as hard on the soil and vegetation as most cloven hooves. They are easy keepers, living on minimal hay, grass, or weeds. We grain them as a treat to keep them friendly and easy to corral. Thankfully they do not eat trees, bushes, or garden produce. They can run through the melon fields, and you can't tell they were there. They are friendly to all our family, but they know a stranger immediately. They will chase dogs or coyotes if they feel agitated or in danger, they stomp and sometimes will spit. I once was in the line of fire when two female alpacas were fighting over a cria, or baby alpaca. Splat it hit me in the shoulder, it is the slimmest, most disgusting liquid, it has a vile, pungent, gross smell! It does not just wipe off. It requires a thorough washing of anything it touches, and thankfully it doesn't happen often! That was the first and only time it happened to me. Now when they fight, I get out of the area!

I have had people ask, "Why do you want alpacas?" My first and original plan was to get enough fleece from my herd to make an alpaca coat. I wore a friend's coat to a cold, wet football game a few years ago, and it was the warmest and driest I had been in that situation. The fleece is lightweight, warm, hypoallergenic, and water repellant. I loved it and wanted one of my own! Alpaca socks are also very popular for skiers, hunters, hikers, and most outdoor enthusiasts. The fiber is soft, warm, and comfortable to wear; it does not have the itching and issues of sheep wool. Our alpacas have beautiful fleece. We have customers who buy it to make yarn or use it for their projects they make or create. I have an alpaca cape, our family wears alpaca socks, and I am still working on my dream coat. The best part of having alpacas is they make me laugh whenever I am around them, and they are extremely cute, fluffy, and soft. Hopefully, we will have a few crias this spring.

We have an alpaca shearer and his crew, two daughters, who come to our ranch once a year to shear the fleece, help us grade and sort it, and clip the alpaca's toes and teeth. It is quite an interesting process; they are efficient and professional, as they also shear thousands of alpacas in Australia as their primary business. They know all the tricks of the trade. It is always fun to watch the alpacas through this process. Some are very docile and happy, and others put on their grumpy face; my daughter, Raynee and I, relate them to human actions. We enjoy their unique personalities and their behavior in the herd or individually. When you feel the need to see an alpaca herd join us, it's worth the laughter!


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