Jen Pietsch
Orcas Island, WA

I love spending time outdoors, gardening, running and raising my fleeced friends!
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Friday, April 25, 2008

postheadericon Alpacapalooza 2008: Part 2

Pulling into Krystal Acres farm on San Juan Island, one cannot help but feel relaxed. I was thankful for that as I set off to meet Kris and Albert Olson, who had kindly offered to guide me through the excitement and nerves of my first show weekend.

As I parked the van, the first thing I saw was a larger than life picture of blue-ribbon winning “Houdini” (currently bred to one of our girls) on the side of what had to have been the largest livestock trailer I had ever seen. The look on my face must have been priceless. There I was standing in dirty farm clothes parked within a pristine white storybook barn staring at a picture of a giant white alpaca.

“So what do you think of the circus wagon?” came a disembodied voice behind me, “It’s a little over the top huh? We came back from our trip and there it was larger than we expected. You must be Jennifer, I’m Kris; Albert and I are so glad you are here.”

At that moment I knew the weekend was off to a good start.

Janet and I were invited for lunch at the Olson’s home, after which Janet left to return to our Orcas farm. I went to check in at the nearby bed and breakfast and agreed to return for a family dinner that evening.

6:30 am Thursday morning and it was time to load the trailer. We got everyone and every animal in and off to Puyallup with Kris and Albert in their truck pulling the trailer with eleven animals followed by me in the rent a car.

Upon arriving in Puyallup, we were required to wait for veterinary clearance in order to enter the show grounds. The next two or so hours were spent with Kris and Albert introducing me to many people in the alpaca world of the northwestern United States. I have never met a more diverse set of people in all of my days. Rich, poor, young, old, mainstream and less mainstream -- you name it -- they have a love for the breed.

We finally had our health inspection and micro-chip check. It was time to set up our stalls, eat dinner and get some well needed rest for show day.

postheadericon Alpacapalooza 2008: Part 1

I am not sure what this says about me as a parent, but I have never been away from my children for more than a few days at a time. Sure -- they have gone to camp one at a time for various periods -- but that was them going away, not me!

My flight to the show left O’Hare early Saturday to Seattle. No problems. Got my car and hit the road to the ferry and farm. Everything looked different than it did last time I was here. This time I was going home and not just visiting. I stopped to visit another farm to investigate breeding possibilities on the way up. It was an eye opening experience and the owner was generous with her time.

I caught the ferry and called Janet to let her know I was on my way. The ferry ride seemed to take forever and fly by all at the same time. I drove to our home with a keen eye toward trying to become familiar with every twist and turn of the road. It was dark.

Spring Days, Teaching Ways

I woke up to a cloudy, cold day. There was much to be learned by me and the alpacas, Manhattan and Brooklyn, before our weekend excursion to Puyallup and Alpacapalooza 2008! We got everyone fed, Janet and I, the chickens and the alpacas, and then set to work.

Janet was my patient guide about how much to feed, when and how. She shared her unique insights into the personalities of each animal, and they all have personalities. We worked with the show girls -- me included -- on haltering, walking, showing teeth etc…

The weather was relentless the first couple of days -- snow one moment, rain and sun the next. Welcome to spring in the islands; I have never drunk so much hot tea! In between all of this I visited schools, hardware stores and banks getting ready for the big move.

Plan to Succeed

For three days Janet and I puzzled about how to load the girls into the van for transport to San Juan Island and Krystal Acres, the farm of Kris and Albert Olson. The van has no ramp and the girls were not going to just jump in of their own free will.

Up until a couple of days prior they weren’t going to go in and out of the barn without a fight. Alpacas, being prey animals, don’t take well to change or the unusual.

We devised a plan where we would back the van up to the wall behind the house to create a ramp of sorts, cover the rough areas, and lead the girls in, forcefully if necessary. We needed to catch the ferry early Wednesday morning. Thursday night we got everything all set with the van and double checked the ferry schedule. Fail to plan, plan to fail. We had a plan.

And They're Off!

For all my worries, the girls went in fairly easily and it was my turn to drive with them to the ferry with Ms. Janet driving the rental car.

All alone in the van, my feelings reminded me a little of taking my children home from the hospital for the first time: it’s a strange feeling and you just can’t believe they just let you take them! The whole way to the ferry I drove like a little old lady and spoke to the girls in the back -- who were honestly a little upset about the whole thing.

We landed on San Juan without a hitch and Janet prepared to hand me off to the Olson’s, who were to kindly shepherd me though my first Alpacapalooza.

* * * *

“Peace, Love and Livestock”… “Snow, Rain and Sun”
Alpacapalooza 2008!
Tuesday, April 22, 2008

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

postheadericon Alpacapalooza 2008 Ribbon Winner!

Congratulations to our beautiful crimpy girl Brooklyn, our fourth place ribbon winner at this year's Alpacapalooza. Three days of "peace, love and livestock" -- indeed!

Thank you so much to Albert & Kris for making me feel welcome while showing me the ropes, and to Janet for all her prep work and this terrific picture of little Brooky too! A full show report in four parts to come next!