Diary of John Francis – Alpaca Corner – Week 5, April 25-30

Monday, April 25th     

Today was a “large day” in the lives of alpaca farming.  It was called  “ Shearing Day”.  Michael Banks sheared the alpacas again this year. He has been shearing for us for seven years.  Michael’s home is in New Zealand and he works an alpaca shearing circuit in the U.S. each spring.  His base of operations is in Colorado and he and two young American men crisscross the states for a month shearing only alpacas and some llamas. In two weeks he will be heading for Wales and England to shear there.  After shearing 14 alpacas at a farm near Middletown, the crew arrived at Alpaca Corner at 9:45 am and was ready to shear the first alpaca (Chief) at 10:00 am.  It takes a lot of help to keep up with the three shearers who are very efficient at their job. The three of us (Mary, Sally and John) plus six other neighbors and friends came to help and lend us a hand.  Three of the men caught the alpacas and were “on the ready” to get the next animal to the shearer’s station at the exact moment the first one was ready to leave the station.  It was excused from the barn and was free to go out to pasture. Just before getting the animal to its feet, Mary was there giving the animal a shot for worms.  Two of the ladies bagged the fleece that was sheared from the back and sides (called the blanket) just as it rolled off the alpaca.  Other ladies were there to gather the fiber from the legs and neck as it came off picking this fiber off the floor.  When the alpaca was released, then all of the ladies were busy sweeping the rubber mats and even vacuuming the area to get all of the fiber up before contaminating the next animal’s fleece. They start with the lightest (color) of alpaca and work toward the darkest so that the fiber color doesn’t get mixed in with a color that will not be compatible.  After the shearing was completed a lunch was served in the farm office building.  I told the group as they finished that “they were invited to the office building as the maid had prepared lunch for them”.  (That brought a hearty laugh).  Mary and Sally frowned at me.  After all of the helpers had gone for the day, we brought the plastic bags filled with the new fiber to the office.  We also had to put all of the panels back in place in the barn before we could leave for the day.  It was one “large day”.

Tuesday, April 26th    

Today was my birthday!!!  Since we all worked so hard yesterday, I took a day of rest.  Usually it is my job on shearing day, to clip the toenails of the alpacas that need to be shortened.  However, yesterday the crew brought an extra man along who clipped toe nails as well as to grind down the front teeth of those animals that  needed their teeth to be shortened (Only three).  It seems that each year it is harder for me to get down on the floor and clip toenails. (And an extra birthday doesn’t help).      I did get up enough energy to take some Strawberry Festival signs to the signery.  Our town’s big festival is to take place on June 11th and the date needed to be changed on the roadside signs.  I also picked up the Morgan Township Bicentennial banner that was ready for my pickup.  It looked wonderful and I was extremely pleased.  They used an old postcard of 1910 and enlarged it digitally to a 3 X 8 sized banner.  The village will probably keep this banner on display for this year and then it will be kept at the new 1858 Morgan Township museum that is in Okeana.  My daughters took me out for a birthday meal to the Sherman House in Batesville, Indiana.  The food is always good there!!!

Wednesday, April 27th        

Sally and I did the chores this morning.  The alpacas look so different without their heavy fleece.  Actually it is difficult for us to identify all of them with a quick glance.  We have to study them and compare before we are ready to name them one by one.  They seem to be so happy and a lot cooler with this warmer weather that is coming in.I needed some help getting the banner up in a prominate spot.  It needed to be close to the highway and where the cars would be going at a slower rate of speed so that it would be readable.  Mary and Sally helped with the task and it may work where we placed it or the village fathers may have us move it??

Thursday, April 28th     

Today it was sunny most of the day.  We have used a number of different of types of bedding materials trying to find something that will readily absorb the liquid and eliminate the odor found in a barn.  We clean out the barn’s pens twice per day and are now using wood shavings and straw.  We have tried using a prepared sand with the straw but the sand is costing more per bag than the feed we are buying. Our concern about selecting the best bedding is that we don’t want the fleece to pick up foreign materials that will hamper the fleece’s future value.  If one sells raw fiber (just off the animal) it is sold by the ounce.  Sheep’s wool is sold by the pound which is one difference between alpaca fiber and wool.  There are many small mini mills in the U.S. but no large mill.  The large mills are found in Peru since they have an unlimited supply of alpaca fiber in South America.  Most all of the clothing items that Mary and Sally purchase for retail is manufactured there. 

Friday, April 29th     

I mowed grass but it was so wet that I made tracks (big tracks) that I had to stop mowing.  I will try tomorrow.  We are just about of hay but one of our neighbors stopped in the Periwinkle House and said he could spare about 20 bales.  That will hold us over until some new hay is baled.  But, it must stop raining before any baling is done.  This is a very unusual year because of all of this rain.  Last year we had all of our corn planted in April.  I wonder how this will be affecting the prices of corn, wheat and soybeans.  If farmers can’t plant corn for another month the late corn will affect the yield which in turn will affect the corn price.  (Less bushels, mean higher price.)   How soon do I forward contract?

Saturday, April 30th     

The Last Day of the Month.  (Can you believe it?) I mowed grass most of the day and it was a lot drier than yesterday.  It has been fun reporting to you what happened, “Down On The Farm” for this past month.  Just in case you would like to make a comment or have a question for someone, you may    e-mail —–     [email protected]       or you may write to us at Alpaca Corner, Box 43, Shandon, OH    45063.    

I have mentioned some of the alpacas by name but others I have omitted.  They all want to be remembered so I will say Good Bye for them: Males…     Denali, Frodo, Gwilym, Oliver, Chief Andiamo, and Wigbert. Females..   Bella, Amelie, Morgan, Jitterbug, Siena, St. Catherine, Magnolia Blush and TussahYearlings..       Males…  Riggs Williams   (one boy)    Females..Eliza, Isabella, Carrara. And a “LARGE” Good Bye from Mary, Sally and John  too !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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