Jen Pietsch
Orcas Island, WA

I love spending time outdoors, gardening, running and raising my fleeced friends!
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Thursday, November 6, 2008

postheadericon 2009 Cria Calendar

Right on the heels of our busy show schedule we are anticipating a whole bunch of babies here on the farm. I guess our big summer vacation is off the books!

May 29th

Due on this busy day is Pacific Moon’s Brooklyn (below, right), her service sire, the beautiful Midnight Magic Houdini (below, left) is from Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm on San Juan Island. We are sure that by pairing these two ribbon winners together we will produce a winning cria. Brooklyn is a first time mother.

Our sweet Pacific Moon’s Minnie (below, right) is also due that same day with a cria from our very own NWA, Ltd Chaucer (below, left). We expect this combination to produce a very dense, blindingly white cria. Minnie and Chaucer both sheered more than any other animal last spring, an amazing feat considering neither one is by any measure the largest animal on the farm. Minnie is a first time mother

Wait there is more, May 29th is going to be a busy day. Our watchful Trina (below, right) is due also on the same day with a cria out of our boy Pacific Moon’s Phoebus (below, left). Phoebus is himself an Alpacapalooza ribbon winner and a real handsome boy with a gorgeous helmet head topknot. This will be Phoebus’ first cria and we look forward to seeing what he will do for us. Trina is the experienced mother of Tinkerbelle, and Carmen.

June 11th

Due on this day is Pacific Moon’s Manhattan (left). Mattie, as we call her, is also due with a cria from Krystal Acres’ Midnight Magic Houdini. We have confident hopes for a dense and crimpy cria. This is Manhattan’s first cria.

Pacific Moon's Tinkerbelle, (left) another first time mom, is due on June 11th with a cria from the handsome Krystal Acres Kryptonite’s Triton (see below, left). This should be a dynamite combination. We think that this cria will be a beautiful fawn color.

July 5th

We are expecting a Yankee Doodle baby for Crescent Moon’s Ember (left) with our very own Chaucer. This combination has worked for us in the past giving us our delightful Channel who will show this spring. We are crossing our fingers for another crimpy, conformationally balanced cria.

August 19th

Pacific Moon’s Minnie’s mother, NWA Ltd Mickey (below) is due with a cria from the dashing Krystal Acres Kryptonite’s Triton (way below, left). This will be a cria to watch. Mickey and Triton should combine to give us a super dense fawn cria with great conformation.

September 3rd

Our last cria of the year will be from our girl Wanda (below, right). Sensitive Wanda was also bred to Krystal Acres Kryptonite’s Triton (below, left). Their highly anticipated cria should be lean and leggy with a great head just like it’s parents.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

postheadericon Showtime!

Busy, busy, busy here on the farm. We are really looking forward to 2009. I will outline a few dates we are anticipating. On with the show this is it! Orcas Moon Alpacas will be attending 3 shows in the spring. You will be able to meet and greet Pacific Moon’s Valentino, Orcas Moon’s Channel, and our newest arrival Orcas Moon’s Autumn Diva.

A few notes on alpaca show terminology follow.


There are two types of shows, halter and fleece. A halter show judges the conformation and fleece of the individual animal. There are two comparative judging criteria options for the individual halter show. The judging options for comparative judging are 50/50 basis fleece and conformation -or- 60/40 basis fleece and conformation.


Fleece show procedures are different. The AOBA (Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association) Fleece Judging System is an absolute system judged anonymously. The shorn fleeces are judged by comparing them to an ideal fleece, which is expressed by a perfect score of 100 on the AOBA Suri or Huacaya Fleece scorecard. The scorecard is divided into sections, with each section describing a particular fleece characteristic and the maximum number of points allocated for the ideal of that characteristic. A fleece is evaluated for each characteristic and the maximum number of points assigned according to how close it comes to the ideal. The scores from all sections are added and the highest absolute score is the winner in the class.


In addition to an alpaca show type, shows are assigned levels depending on how many animals or fleeces will be shown. The greater the number of animals the higher the shows level number.

Now with the terms out of the way here Orcas Moon’s spring show schedule to date. We will only be showing in the halter division.

o Alpacapalooza (Level 5) April 3-5 Puyallup, Washington

This was a great level five show last year, a little cold and rainy but we walked away with a ribbon.

o Northwest Alpaca Showcase (Level 4) April 25-26 Pasco, Washington

o Columbia Alpaca Breeders Association (Level 4) May 9-10 Portland, Oregon

We truly hope to see you at any and all of our shows. Stop by and say hello. Meet the animals and enjoy the lifestyle. If you feel like scooping a little poop, I’ll even let you do that too! ;-)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

postheadericon Tinkerbelle

My astute children reminded me that when writing about our chickens that I neglected to include Tinkerbelle. This oversight is understandable as Tinkerbelle is an alpaca. Sweet, compassionate, Tinkerbelle watches and hums to the chickens daily. She, like our new mom Carmen, is from the same very vocal family.

Tinkerbelle is very interested in their goings on. The chickens have had very limited interaction with their guardian alpaca. The Colonel and his harem occasionally stray into the pasture but are usually terrified by the alpaca, especially curious Tinkerbelle.

All of us here on the farm wish the chickens would come over and pay her the attention she deserves. So here is Tinkerbelle. (Please excuse the Amish hair style, I left Jeff in charge on sheering day. He misunderstood my direction about leaving cheek fiber and left the herd looking like bobble heads.)

Smile Tinkerbelle!

This is the corner where Tinkerbelle
looks after her friends.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

postheadericon Autumn Diva - Update

Just a couple of photos of our new cria, she is now 1 month old. Thank you Kris and Albert Olson of Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm for the great breeding! Look how she has grown!

postheadericon Our Hens - The "New" Girls

This is the rest of the hen story. This post will focus on our new girls. The three new hens are all from an Araucana enthusiast Anne of Willow Hill Araucana Farm in Bellingham, Washington. Anne was kind enough to entrust us with "Quetzal", "Survivor" and "Polly". These girls came with their names, except for Polly, who was previously known as "No Name".

Anne maintains a website built to celebrate and promote the Rumpless, Tufted Modern Araucana chicken. To check out more of Anne’s birds click here. (Believe me it's worth the click!)

"Survivor" is a 1-year-old White Splash Araucana hen. She was a winter hatchling. The story goes that one snowy, frigid day in January, she and 3 of her siblings got lost in the snow. When Anne found them, she was the only one left alive. Survivor is a prolific layer. We just love her, she is, however, the most difficult to get back into the coop in the late afternoon. She is very fond of my son Kahana.

"Polly Pullet" a.k.a. "No Name" is a 6-month old Silver/Black Mottled Araucana hen. She is part rumpless (has several downward-pointing tail feathers in the back). When we welcomed Polly to our farm she was a pullet -- a non-laying female. Since her arrival she has graduated to a hen. She is a great layer leaving an egg a day, even with the days getting shorter. Polly has nice willow legs (the proper color for most varieties of Araucana). Polly is the fastest girl we have. She can really run.

"Quetzal" is a 3-1/2 year old Black-Breasted-Red Araucana hen. Quetzal is amazing and loves to cuddle with her human friends. She is a beautiful girl with gorgeous ear tufts. Her beak is very slightly crooked and needs to be trimmed with a nail clipper every once in a while. The matriarch of the bunch of our new girls, she has a calm disposition, but likes to boss the others around!

Here are a couple of photos of our coop, as adapted for our misty Northwest winters!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

postheadericon Our Hens - The "Old" Girls

Well, now that you have read about "The Colonel", let’s talk about his girls. Our hens fall into two categories, the new and the old. This designation has absolutely nothing to do with the age of the girls, but everything to do with the time when we acquired them.

The four old hens came with the farm, although finer hens we couldn't have chosen. The new girls are ones we brought home with us from a special trip to the mainland. FYI, the names didn't come with the birds, they were chosen by my children. This post focuses on the old girls.

"Zig" and "Zag" are two of the old girls. They are Barred Rocks who lay the most beautiful brown eggs. There is only one person in the house who can tell them apart: my son Kahana. He can even look just at the eggs and tell you which one laid it. I think maybe we need to get him into more hobbies. Currently Zig (or maybe it's Zag) is the Colonel’s mi amore.

"Martha", and we are not talking about Martha Stewart here, is a Buff Orpington just like The Colonel. Martha is a sweet girl who lays soft brown eggs. She is gentle and will gladly eat out of your hand. Over the past couple of months we had thought and hoped that Martha was broody (i.e. sitting on the eggs until hatching) -- but eventually she gets up and leaves them. Maybe she will reconsider in the spring. Interestingly, the eggs don’t all have to be her own. She is just as happy to sit on whose ever eggs are in the nest box.

"Henny Penny" is so much more than one can imagine. She is a nervous Nelly who seems always to be worried about something. Henny is usually our visitors’ favorite because of her unique appearance and curious ways. She is a Golden Bearded Polish who lays smooth white eggs. Polish are a crested breed, which means that they have a top hat of sorts. We are not sure, but think that this elaborate headdress affects her vision and balance. Henny seems to run into things when she gets excited. Another reason she is a farm favorite is her flying ability.

Our home is situated on a hill and the coop is on the lower slope. When we call the girls over for a treat, Henny uses the slope as a runway and flies on down. This is truly a glorious sight, we have even caught her on the barn roof.

I have included photos below of our girls. For more information on the breeds and just because it is a fun site here is a link to a hatchery that we like.

(Left to Right) Martha, Henny Penny,
The Colonel, Zig or maybe Zag
Monday, October 13, 2008

postheadericon The Colonel

Fall is really here. We've had a couple of days of frost in the past week. The girls greet me in the morning with billowy breath. It is so calm here, our baby was born, everyone who is going to be bred is bred, and halter training is underway.

In this post I thought I'd introduce you to a few of the other creatures we share our farm with. One of the most colorful of which is our rooster, The Colonel. The Colonel is a huge Buff Orpington who takes his job of protecting his harem very seriously. There is not a delivery person or contractor on the island who doesn’t have a healthy respect for our golden feathered boy.

After one of my husband Jeff’s last run ins with him, I took matters into my own hands and decided to make him a little less dangerous by trimming/removing his spurs. For those unfamiliar with roosters, Mother Nature designed them to be able to fight by giving them spurs down behind their feet. These are very useful not just for defending against other roosters but well meaning men, women and children. Below are photos of our spur removal process. (Just to let you know, removing these did not make him friendlier.)

Notice the size of those spurs!

Only one of us is having fun.

The Colonel didn't want to watch

Off and running with his girls,
no worse for wear.

So how you may ask did we 'remove' said spurs? Here is a link to the Youtube video that will show you how to do this at home. Click Here.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008

postheadericon Our First Cria!

Orcas Moon’s Autumn Diva arrived at 10:30 am last Sunday morning! I’ll start at the beginning.

I went for a run at first light, came back home and fed the herd, then headed back inside to see if I could wrangle a breakfast date at the ferry dock with my husband. While he was getting ready to go, I went to check the girls one more time before leaving (mama Carmen's due-date was the following day).

My oldest son, Garett, came with me and he noticed immediately that something was up -- Carmen wasn’t eating and was humming loudly while cushing in her stall. The not eating part is VERY uncharacteristic of her. I am not implying that Carmen is a glutton, but she never really misses a meal! The humming part well, she is from a very vocal family… no joke her whole family is a bunch of hummers.

We both looked at each other and thought "this is it…!" I was excited and terrified at the same time. Get the book; get the cria kit; cameras; cell phone; husband and the rest of the family. The children were truly over the moon -- no pun intended! Not only was there to be a new baby cria, but it was a Sunday morning: no Church!!!

Carmen must have read "the book," because it really couldn’t have been more textbook perfect. Carmen was in active labor for less than an hour. The baby was up and walking around in less than an hour after that and nursing shortly thereafter. What an amazing day!

We have included a slideshow link below to better tell the whole story of the little Autumn's birth, enjoy.

[Click Here for Slideshow!]

Oh her name...! Well she was born on the eve of the autumnal equinox, and - of course - her mother Carmen is an opera star!

postheadericon Orcas Moon's Autumn Diva

For Immediate Release:

Orcas Moon Alpacas heralded in the fall with its own new addition – “Orcas Moon’s Autumn Diva.” The entire farm helped “Carmen,” the newborn’s mother, welcome the beautiful, 15-pound, brown baby girl alpaca (known as a “cria”) early last Sunday morning, September 21, 2008. Within an hour of birth, little Autumn was up on all fours to meet the rest of the herd, now 16 strong.

Autumn is the farm’s first cria since the Pietsch family assumed operations earlier this year. Orcas Moon Alpacas is located on Dolphin Bay Road between the ferry and Eastsound. They specialize in breeding Huacaya-type alpaca for their warm, hypoallergenic and lightweight fleece.

Mother “Carmen” with Cria “Autumn Diva”

# # # #

Contact Information:
Jennifer Pietsch
Orcas Moon Alpacas
329 Dolphin Bay Road
Eastsound, WA 98245
(must dial 360)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

postheadericon Unique Considerations: Pasture Planning 2

With my girls return home and the arrival of Triton, I have had to rearrange many of our animals. Good pasture layout promotes efficient grazing and simplified herd management. It requires a good deal of planning: it doesn’t just happen. Every piece of land is unique and will create its own demands when it comes to laying out your pasture. Here are some considerations:

  • Terrain - Is your location hilly or flat? Do you have water features, ponds or other natural features that will require special attention? Is part of your pasture low-lying such that it may collect water during the wet times of the year?
  • Vegetation - Is there brush or forest?
  • Climate - How might your local weather patterns impact pasture regrowth?
  • Irrigation- Are you able to irrigate your pasture to lengthen your forage growing season?

Upon moving to our farm, much of the fencing and layout was already completed for us. The preexisting fencing is diagrammed below in blue. For our purposes this layout was fantastic. We essentially had three pastures available to use with a center runway and catch pen for medical exams and the like.

The red outlines represent "run-in" shelters. The run-ins are three-sided shelters with an open front for severe weather protection. The upper and lower pasture on the left of the diagram use a shared run-in with a center divider, which is situated to avoid the brunt of the winter weather here in the pacific northwest. The smaller old pasture has its own run-in, and was the farm's original pasture.

All three of the pastures connect to a center "runway." This allows for easy herding into the catch pen below. The gates allow us to easily restrict and control animal movements when needed.

The area in green is the pasture we added this summer. We spent months trying to figure out the most practical and cost effective way to fence our new pastures. We wanted to be able to provide the herd with more pasture and a greater area to roam and graze while maintaining the ease of animal management designed into the original pasture plan. The new fields would also allow rotation, giving the flexibility to permit fields to regrow and heal from communal "bathroom" staining.

The red area in the diagram above represents our barn. It has two stalls serving as run-ins that connect into our new pasture. This eliminated the need to build additional run-ins (at added expense) and allowed us to have the animals closer to our home (better supervision and increased enjoyment), and lastly saved the work of hauling the food, hay and supplies to a different location on a daily basis (time and energy savings).

We have set up an additional catch pen in one of the small fenced in areas adjoining the barn. The animals and I are still getting used to using this one and still find it easier to use the old catch pen for medical exams, haltering, toenail trimming etc... We will all adjust.

One shortcoming of the new pasture is the lack of a center runway. Ideally the runway would continue from the old pasture directly into the new pasture. This is a feature that was left out as a budgetary constraint. We will in the future to add this runway and have planned it into our new pastures. Note the aligned gates continuing through the new pastures.

To summarize, good layout design maximizes your existing pasture space. This is particularly important with small farms that one does not want overgrazed. The use of interior fence lines, multiple gates and runways facilitates the easy movement of animals from barn to pasture, and from pasture to pasture.

Next Steps

We were lucky that our original pasture was laid out so efficiently for us from the get go. It gave us a great jumping off point to continue new pasture development. If you are starting from scratch I suggest taking time to do some homework, look at other farms, and ask questions about how they decided to arrange their pastures, what has worked for them, and what has not worked as well.

There are alpaca farms nationwide ( that welcome visitors and would be more than happy to share their insights on this important part of the business.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

postheadericon Home Coming

Welcome home Manhattan, Brooklyn and Tinkerbelle!

Three of my girls are back from breeding at Krystal Acres' farm on San Juan Island… and they brought a friend with them, beautiful Triton! Triton is a breeding male who will be spending a little time here with some of our other girls. I am so happy to have everyone home again, pregnant and grazing where I can see them and enjoy their quiet ways.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

postheadericon Happy Girl

Monday, August 11, 2008

postheadericon Wide Open Spaces: Pasture Planning 1

As you can see from our farm visitor map (below and to the left), we have been overwhelmingly lucky to have lots of company here on the farm. Now with a slight summer lull I am back on-track with some blogging.

Since our arrival, it has been a priority to improve our pasture situation. Having adequate and properly laid out pasture space improves and maintains not only herd health, but also eases farm management and maintenance (i.e. saves my labor!). A first consideration is how many alpacas you expect to have on your farm.

Animal Density

Many of the resources and breeders I have researched and spoken with suggest that one can house 5-10 animals per acre. In my opinion, ten animals is not a reasonable expectation unless you live in an area where your forage is very fast growing, have enough pastures to rotate frequently, and have an adequate means to irrigate to ensure forage regrowth.

Rotational grazing poses additional work and upfront expense to the farm owner. Not only is it time consuming to constantly move your animals, but it is also expensive to put in. Rotational grazing requires the use of interior fence lines and multiple gates to allow you to move the herd from one pasture to another so the previous pasture can be allowed to grow without grazing. A more reasonable estimate may be on the low end at five alpaca per acre, and even this may be too many if you live in an area that the forage doesn’t grow year round due to either winter weather, or summer heat and dryness.


How many separate pastures does one need? Most say least two -- one pasture for males - and - one for females. However, we have been doing breedings on our farm for next season, and I can attest to the need for at least three. I have found that having at least one pasture (or at a bare minimum a runway) between the sexes alleviates squabbles between the breeding males vying for attention from the females. It also provides space for said breedings and any needed animal care work. An additional two pastures would be ideal to separate out the male and female weanlings so they do not have to compete with the adults for food and rotational fields are available for pasture maintenance and forage regrowth

Having just put in additional fences for my farm, I still have upfront costs strongly on my mind! One solution we have found to temporarily remedy this challenge is to use portable fencing to break up larger pastures into smaller units which can be used for rotation or weanling separation.

Keep in mind that catch pens are also necessary for breeding, herd health, and training. I will include and entry in the near future about what layout we have found to work for us and share layouts that I have observed at other farms.

Stay tuned for more articles on this subject coming up!

Overgrazed & Trodden Original Pastures Below

Sturdy Cross Fencing Built to Last

The Ladies Get their First Look Around

Isn't the Grass
Always Greener Boys?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

postheadericon Under the Orcas Moon

Pendragon & Valentino Grazing on a Summer's Eve.

Monday, July 21, 2008

postheadericon Just Plain 'Farmer'?

Maybe we should drop the "at heart" part? Jen has been hard at work in our 20'x 30' garden plot. When we arrived it was full of three-foot tall grass -- now here's the real deal, and I don't just mean the garden!