Rick and Terry Simpson
HC 79 Box 52-E
Romney, WV 26757
(304) 822-3494

February 10, 2002

I know I said I would add more history in December, but it turned out that we didn't get our alpacas gelded then as we had planned to. In fact, it's taken us all this time just to find a vet who would do it!

We finally had to purchase the veterinary manual for our local vet. After he'd read some of it, he felt a lot more confident that he could do the job. Apparently his primary problem was the dosage of sedative or anaesthesia to give to the alpacas. In any event, he's scheduled to come out here and geld all three of them on February 15th at 1:00 pm. We've got so much planned for that date! We're going to check the lads' nails again, trim some of their topknots off so they can see again, give them a shot of dectomax, and take care of their teeth. Kimball has one tooth that is a good half inch longer than the rest of them, and he has stopped gaining weight. He still weighs the same 90 lbs he weighed back in November!

But the really exciting news for today is that this weekend, we finally got some soil for one of our fields - we're going to have a real pasture, if we ever get enough rain for the seeds to germinate!

Rick wanted to put down some topsoil so we could grow some grass for the guys. Last summer, we had almost no grass for them because our mountain doesn't grow it - there's no soil. So he contacted a guy who had a road-side sign saying "Topsoil for sale" and asked him to come look at the lot and tell us what it would cost to cover it all in topsoil.

The topsoil guy, Steve, came out here some two weeks ago, and he and Rick negotiated what seems to me to be a really good deal. Someone would come with a big caterpillar bulldozer and remove as many of the stumps as he could. Then someone would come and scatter 10 lbs of seed over our 1/2 acre lot. Then someone would spread 40 tons of topsoil over the seed and scatter another 10 lbs of seed over the soil. Then someone would scatter 75 bales of hay over the soil to hold it in place during any rainstorms so the soil would stay put until the grass grew a strong enough root structure to hold the soil in place itself. The reason for using hay instead of straw is that some of the hay seeds would germinate and we'd have hay in the pasture as well as pasture grass.

The work actually began on Thursday. The guy with the bulldozer, P.J., couldn't pull out all the stumps because Rick had cut them too close to the ground for his blade to grab them or because they were too close to a fence. He had to dig all the way around the stumps, cut off all their roots, and only then could he lift the stump out. It took him all day, and still there are lots of stumps he couldn't remove. Rick will have to remove them by hand, and he won't be able to get the root structure as easily P.J. did.

Then on Friday, Steve brought out 40 tons of soil, and P.J. spread it around about 2" deep as far as it would go. Well, it went about half-way. So he told us we'd need another 40 tons, which I wouldn't okay without consulting Rick, because the soil costs #22.00 a ton, and that's a lot of money to pay for dirt! heheh!! But Rick agreed with me that we really had to do it, so on Saturday, P.J. brought over the other 40 tons and spread it. Then he scattered another 10 lbs of pasture grass seed over the top of it. While he was doing that, Steve was bringing up 75 bales of very good quality hay - better than the hay we had been buying for the pacas!

Steve and P.J. spread the hay generously all over the field, and we had about 10 bales left over, which Steve put into the shed. He didn't put it behind the barrier, though - he stacked it in front of the barrier, so that in order to protect it, we'll have to move it, open the gate, and then move it again. A lot of work, that!

So now there's a possiblity that we'll have some real pasture for our 'pacas! If we ever get any rain, that is. We just haven't had any rain to speak of in almost a year. A shower now and then, but rarely more than an inch in a whole month.

The total cost of getting our stumps removed, the land evened out, and the seeded soil put down is a bit over $2300.00.

Oh! I almost forgot! We've found someone to come out here and shear the alpacas for us! His name is Isaac Lewis, and he sheared the Ciszewski's alpacas one year. They weren't able to get hold of him to shear for them last year... which is why we ended up helping them - but as soon as they get back from vacation, I'll let them know how to get hold of Isaac, and maybe - just maybe - he'll be able to help them this year. We were going to share with them the cost of a shearing table, but it costs about $2500 - and we can't do that quite yet. We have to get a camper shell or a trailer so we can transport our pacas to the vet. We don't want to have to drive down to Luray or Huddleston again!

February 15, 2002

Well, we did it. We gelded all three of our guys today. Kimball was the toughest... he would not go down after he was sedated and then anaesthetized. It took two addtional shots of anaesthetic to get him to kush so we could roll him onto his side and let the vet get to work. The vet also pared down one of Kimball's teeth - the one that was about 1/4 of an inch or more longer than the other three. No sign at all of fighting teeth erupting. The vet was delighted to be able to "practice medicine" on our "practice 'pacas." We're very pleased with him... he is willing to admit that he knows little or nothing about camelids... but it's nice to know that after today, he knows a little more than he did yesterday!

Forrester, of course, kicked up a fuss about being sedated, but went down after the sedative and was kushed when he received his anaesthetic. But he never went unconscious the way Kimball and Kirk finally did.

Rick says he wants to buy a black female weanling to take the place of the female cria we lost this year. I don't know, though, how much he's willing to pay. I put an ad in the Alpaca Market egroup, and got back two replies that look rather promising. Interestingly enough, I got a lot of responses from people selling older females and females of colors other than black! My ad specifically requested true black female weanling! I also emailed the Forstners at Magical Farms, from whom we bought our geldings. This was a hard call. I don't know whether they'd care or not, but I didn't want to insult anyone by not asking them, and yet I didn't want to insult them by asking if they have a female in our price range. They might think their females are of too high quality to sell for what we can afford.... but then, they may think that since they sold us our geldings at such a favorable price, we should buy our breeding stock from them, too. I just don't know, so I wrote to them. Better be sorry for something I do than for something I don't do!

February 17, 2002

We found her! Her name is Molly, and she'll be ready to wean in 7 weeks! I found her by writing to the Alpaca Market Email forum and telling the folks there that I was looking for a true-black huacaya female weanling. I also wrote to every farm within 3 or 4 hours of us in MD, PA, and VA. Spent a lot of time looking at the wonderful photos folks sent, and playing with our budget to see what we could afford. The price was finally settled at well below market price because the seller is interested in an all-white herd and she got an all-black cria! So we're excited about this! She'll be weaned at the end of May, so we'll be able to bring her home in early June!

More later...

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