Francis Farms/Alpaca Corner - John, Mary & Sally Francis

Diary of John Francis – Alpaca Corner – Week 4, April 18-24

Monday, April 18th    

Dear Diary……Today is the start of week three reporting my whereabouts and thoughts.  I trust it has been interesting reading and the thoughts not too provoking.  This is the week that we will be preparing the farm stead for shearing the 18 alpacas.  It will be a busy week as there will be a lot to do so there will not be any problems arise that will slow down the shearers.      We (Mary, Sally & John) started to get the barn ready for the big day which is next Monday – April 25.  We always bed the barn with either sand or sawdust especially those areas that are dirty and wet.  Straw is then spread over the entire pen. For shearing day all we want is bare concrete void of any bedding.  The alpacas, like some other animals, always do their “business” where one alpaca has started the pile.  That procedure does make our job of cleaning up each day a bit easier.  Alpacas like to roll over.  When they roll they tend to pick up debris in their fiber and that is a “no-no” in the alpaca world.  If it is nice weather and they are outside most of the day, the barn stays clean and we do not need to clean which makes the chores go much more quickly.  Oh yes, the loader tractor is still “missing in action” (tire) and we had to clean today with our trusty two wheeled wheel barrow.  Only got about one third of the barn cleaned today.

Tuesday, April 19th    

It stormed last night!!  The TV weather folk were really in their prime most of the night reporting the storms that came through.  I did get up and dressed in preparation of needing to leave the premises but thankfully we were spared.  During this week of preparation the girls also have been asking people that we know and who are interested and able to help us the day of shearing.  We need several ladies to help with the fiber just as soon as it is sheared from the animal.   Two or three extra men are needed to help get the animals into pens and then to the shearer’s station.  Alpacas are shorn differently than sheep.  Sheep are usually set down on their rear with the shearer hovering over them and shearing the wool off starting at the head and working down.  Alpacas are shorn in two fashions.  One method is done by using a table that flips from a standing position up to a lying position.  Ours are shorn on the floor lying on rubber mats to protect the animal and the shearer’s knees.  They are held down by block and tackle by a rope fastened to each ankle.  He starts shearing their middle working on the “up” side of the animal and then turning the animal over and getting the other side.  While doing this he has a “helper” holding the head and making the alpaca more comfortable.  Most alpacas seem to like this while others may squeal constantly.

Wednesday,  April 20th    

Today was a traveling day!  The alpacas were out of feed.  We feed them a pelted feed that is made in Georgia and our nearest dealer is located in Springfield, Ohio.  It is produced in a facility that does not use any additives in any of its feed that will harm an alpaca.  Several years ago many hundreds of alpacas and some horses died from a manufactured feed that was deadly to alpacas.  Sally and I made the trip to get 11 bags of feed.  It was almost an all day adventure.     Alpacas are native to South America.  They are found in Peru, Bolivia and Chile living in the high regions of those countries.  They are a new species of animal to the United States since they have just been imported since 1984.  In 1998 our national alpaca association stopped registering any imported alpaca in order to control the alpaca numbers in America.  If one can control the numbers then one can control the prices.  It is the old “supply and demand” theory which we are familiar.  Recently the highest priced alpaca (male) sold at auction for $675,000.00.  The new owner just sold a one half interest in the animal for an undisclosed price and is offering a limited number of breedings for $10,000.00 each.  This is an elite animal and his price is based on his conformation and fleece.

Thursday,  April 21st     

Today was a good day.  No rain and sunny the entire day.  Even though it was wet from all the rain I was able to mow the Alpaca Corner grass.  I like to keep things mowed and trimmed because there is so much traffic on Cincinnati-Brookville Road and we know about “first impressions”.  Also my tractor tire came in.  The store had mounted it and I tried to put the assembly on the tractor but I needed about four more hands to get all parts lined up ready for the six bolts.  I gave up and came home bringing the wheel with me.  If you don’t succeed, try, try again!  (It may take two men and a boy to install).    We ran out of hay and now the alpacas are just eating grass.  It is going to rain Friday, Saturday and Sunday and we must keep them inside the barn in order to keep them dry to shear.  The alpacas eat grass in the pasture and their favorite is orchard grass.  I ordered a bag of orchard grass seed today and when it comes in (two weeks) I will “over seed” the pasture.  If they can’t get out to eat, then we need to feed hay for about three days.  Sally and I went to Harrison and stopped at TSC for shavings and at Minges Feed Store for five bales of hay.  It is usually best to buy hay from a neighbor but when time is of the essence, one goes where it is available.  

Friday, April 22, 2011    

Once again we had showers all day today.  We are getting nervous as to how we are going to keep 18 alpacas dry with all of this rain that is predicted for the next three days.  (Saturday, Sunday and Monday).  Mary and Sally went to the grocery store to get supplies of food.  The shearer and his helpers are usually shearing during the lunch hour and we always provide them with a meal before they leave to travel to Indiana to shear at the next farm.  Michael Banks our shearer called in the late afternoon to tell us when he will be at our farm.  He said he would be here around 9:30 am to 10:00 am.  I had told our helpers that my guess would be he would be here at 11:00 am so now I need to call them back with a corrected hour.

Saturday, April 23, 2011    

Sally and I worked at the barn most of the morning preparing the pens for Monday.  We left Mary home making a double batch of cookies.  She prepares a bag of snacks for the men to take with them.  At least they do not go away hungry from Alpaca Corner.  Tomorrow is Easter and it will be an early morning with a sunrise service followed by an Easter breakfast.  The sunrise service was to be held at the New London Cemetery but due to the soft conditions of the grass it will be held in the church sanctuary at 6:30 am.

Sunday, April 24, 2011    

Easter services were great and the church attendance was much better than usual (161).  We invited a couple of friends and had a mid afternoon meal at the Houston Woods lodge dinning room.  Very good food!!  We spent the late afternoon and evening getting the alpacas into their special pens for the night.  Tomorrow is the big day.  Happy Easter to all……….!

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