One weekend, two events

While Stephen was in Auckland, I was tasked with managing our very first public appearance as Alpacas Rampant, at the Lifestyle Farmers Field Days in Otaki: lots of stalls aimed at people with small rural blocks, not unlike ourselves. People who might just be interested in buying some of our lovely young boys (and doesn’t that sound dodgy?).

We’d spent the previous week getting stuff ready: me wrangling printers for business cards, stud info sheets, and banners; Stephen painting and assembling the khana for the alpaca pen (“khana” being sort of collapsible trellis, a smaller version of the walls for our ger/yurt).

Kerry and Jenny volunteered to help me out on the day. Friday night, I scrambled to get a barebones version of the website up an running (looks bad to hand out business cards with an address that doesn’t go anywhere) while they and Beth & Geoff played Robo Rally. K&J stayed overnight, so we could all be ready to go at stupid-o’clock Saturday morning.

My victory conditions for the day:
– get the six boys we were planning to take up there loaded safely
– get the ute started
– get up there and set up on time
– not get drenched and miserable and hypothermic in the crap weather
– get packed up and home safely
Bonus: maybe chat to some people and hand out business cards and stuff

All were achieved, with the unexpected plus that the weather turned out to be actually sunny and warm, and the additional bonus of maybe finding an inexpensive carder to send some of our fleeces to. Jenny and Kerry were muy fabulous — Jenny always managed to be the extra pair of hands wherever the extra pair of hands was needed, and Kerry has been doing ‘paca stuff with us for so long that she could run the stand herself if I had to go to the loo. W00t! There was a bit of a glitch when I got the ute stuck going up the driveway when we finally got home, but with Jenny and Kerry telling me which way to steer, we managed to get it unstuck *and* I did a hill-start and got it up into the sideyard instead of having to back all the way down the drive at leave it at the bottom for Stephen to deal with. Go me. Go us!

And the final surprise for the evening: one of the agisted girls had her cria while we were gone. Go her for getting it done without us (not that they usually need us fretting over them, mind).

Note, re: the new website. I’ve tested this out in Firefox and IE6. If you have the time to kick the tires in another browser, let me know how it goes. I had to teach myself CSS to get it going, and I’m still working out some kinks. :^p

Conference, a dry time in a moist city

This weekend was the annual alpaca association conference up in Auckland, at which I was an invited guest. The guest thing is a great racket where they pay for my transport and board, all I have to do is give some talks, and chair some discussions! Easy!
The conference was pretty good. Some of the talks were quite educational (especially Jane Vaughn talking about Embryo Transfer in Australia, which as really taken off and lots of ET babies are being born). There were also some good talks on marketing, branding and business-development. All very useful, and I plan to apply some of those lessons to our own operation.

The conference was also a great networking opportunity, so I happily schmoozed.

The hotel/conference center was, however, really dry. The AC system constanlty pumped around the de-humidified air, and it was living in an airplane for 3 days. So not surprisingly I have dry sinuses, and sore throat, and now find myself fighting off some illness.

Sadly while I was up there we had yet another alpaca death. Manticore, Cindy’s cria, crashed and died on Sunday, giving Tam a harrowing day. PM on Monday showed it was peritonitis- infection of the gut and abdominal cavity. Had probably been chronic for months. We had noticed he was a bit thin and lagged occasionally, but he would also run and pronk with the other cria, and seem normal.  Lots of second-guessing. Alpaca are too damn stoic, and it makes diagnosis too damn hard. I got home from the conference in time to help Tam and bury him. Really hoping the rain of shoes is done, ’cause it is tiring waiting for yet another to drop.

I can has birthday?

Stephen threw a surprise birthday party for me, the sneaky weasel. Y’all have heard me moan previously about how it feels weird to have my birthday in the cold rainy autumn instead of bright sunny spring. I’ve made occasional noises about maybe celebrating it in Novemeber instead, but really, I just haven’t gotten up the motivation to organize anything for a few years now.

So Stephen organized on my behalf.

And I didn’t guess, either. In fact, I didn’t even guess when the first people started showing up (“Oh,” I thought to myself. “Stephen must have told folks to come over for videos or something without telling me.” …a much more likely scenario than the “We just happened to be in the neighborhood. With food” that would have been Geoff & Beth’s story (note: Geoff and Beth live on the almost complete other side of town )).

He apparently told everyone that the theme was to be “Spring, and Shiny Things”, so not only did thirty of my bestest friends show up (and it seems like every single one of them brought a different cake — that must have been the secret psychic sub-theme), but I got all sort of pretty shiny and/or floral presents. Flowers (real and “eternal”), pretty scarves, books, seriously yummy chocolate, *two* new knives — an eating knife for SCA feasts and an antique Balinese kris — wacky Japanese tchatchki, five different hairsticks… it was an avalanche of loot. Oh, and one of the cakes was topped with the most mindboggling animatronic pyrotechnic musical candle thing, which I assume Alan must have scored on his last trip to Hong Kong. Plus, there was some home brewed beer leftover from Crown.

I’m not one to go all mushy, especially in a blog post, but it made me feel all warm and happy. Thanks, everybody.

Crows and libraries

Two unrelated things I felt like posting about.

One, as you all probably know, crows are smart. If you read BoingBoing, you’ll probably have heard about the guy that built a vending machine for crows. Here’s a video of the ten minute little talk he gave about it. Some of the anecdotes in the comments below are nifty, too. The part that I find compelling, though, is the on-the-face-of-it quite simple notion that you don’t have to domesticate a species, or even really communicate with it very well, to work with it productively.

Two, I’m looking for more authors to read (preferably ones my local library has. In the process of searching, I stumbled across Gnooks. It’s an adaptive learning widget that shows you authors that other people who like the authors you like also like. (I’ll give you a second or two to parse that). There are similar tools for music and movies. You can either type in a single name, in which case it will spit out a little cloud of “you might also like” names (with the closer ones supposedly being more likely matches to your tastes), or you can type in three names and it will pop up a single suggestion. At this point, you can tell it if you agree, if you think it’s completely off base, or if you’ve never read its suggested author. That’s how it learns.

I typed in “Robin Hobb”, “Bernard Cornwell”, and “Richard Adams” (in part just to be difficult). It suggested Sharon Penman, an author of thick historical fictions. The Central Library had some of her stuff, so I got out The Sunne in Splendour, a War of the Roses era piece featuring Edward the IV, Richard the III, etc. It’s a bit dry so far — I blame Richard Adams — but we’ll see how it goes.

Fighting! Feasting! Kidnapping! Rescue!

It was another, average dull weekend here in Wellington. Except for the crown tournament, of course. This has been the albatross hanging about the necks of the Shire for the last few months as they prepared furiously for the big event, and it went very well.

At the event Tam and I met this American couple now living in Australia. In the “small world” department Siobhan was from York PA (which I have visited many times in the past), and her best friend lives in Wilmington DE! Small world indeed! Her partner, Siridean (pronounced “Sheriden” — these are their SCA names), ended up winning the tourney the next day, so he will be the next king of Lochac (Australia/New Zealand).

The Kidnapping occured after the event. Siridean and Siobhan dropped by to see the alpaca. They were just getting ready to leave when Vanessa arrived the with horse truck (we provide crash spaces for both people and equines, which is really convenient). At the top curve of the driveway the back wheels came off the concrete, and promply slipped backwards in the mud (it has been raining quite a bit the last 2 weeks) and into the drain. Stuck! Against the bank! And of course that blocked the ramp, so we had two horses stuck on board too.

Seeing how the truck was completely blocking the drive, we now had the Crown Prince and his Princess captive! Held up by the calvary no less!

We tried pulling them out with our neighbor Steve’s old powerpul Land Cruiser, to no avail. Eventually we managed to get Stuart, and with his mighty big tractor [a Sami –T.] we pulled them clear! Huzzah! The horses were fine after their hours standing at an angle, and the rest of us could start de-stressing about the whole thing. Oh yeah, Siridean and Siobhan could get away too, which was good as they had a rental car to return!

Walking for smiles

It seems the last few weeks (months?) everything alpaca-related I have done has involved trauma, sadness, and death. I really needed some fun. Today seemed like a good day. The builders were not here, and the constant grey weather was finally breaking out into brilliant sunshine. So I walked out into the paddock, stuck a halter on Nazani, and loaded her on the ute.

Two and a half hours later, we were done. We walked up and down main street in Tawa. People stopped their cars to look and chat. People came out of shops to pet her. The garbage truck stopped so the madly-grinning driver could get a better look. Everywhere we went, Nazani brought people unexpected happiness. It was nice to see so many people walking away with giant s**t-eating grins on their faces! We even got roped into a little kindergarden visit by a teacher, as the parents were taking away their kids about 15 came up and looked/patted her.

And Nazani was brilliant. Occasionally spooked by big noisy trucks, and a bit wary when the little children got too fast or too loud, but otherwise calm and collected. I think she was getting more confident as we went.

At one point, while walking down the street, a man with a giant cardboard box full of fruit just walked up and shoved it all under her nose while asking “is she hungry?” Nazani has only once ever had some apple, and that was just 3 days ago. But she clearly must have liked it, as she chomped down on one of the apples in the box. Yum! I didn ‘t know alpaca could so efficiently demolish an intact apple, as we have only ever given cores before.

We also popped into the community center so she could have her photo taken for the next town newletter.

Everyone, including Nazani, had a grand time.  This sort of experience and training is great, I really hope we can train her into becoming a top-notch PR animal, capable of rest home and school visits. That would be fun.

Squid + Burlesque = ???

Thursday was fun. In the evening we first attended a regular Science Talk at Te Papa, led by Steve O’Shea to give us his sleep-deprived rambling descriptions of the squid dissection and what they had learned, followed by questions from the audience. The whole squid-team was there, so sometimes questions got answered by different experts. Very fun. I think the organizers were very surprised by the size and enthusiasm of the audience.

Afterwards we headed over to the Paramount theater for the yearly “Heavenly Burlesque” show. There was a variety of entertainments on offer. The MC was a competent stage magician, and his patter throughout the show was quite amusing. There was a fan dance, a couple of spastic modern dances, a weird 50’s-housewife-geek-show which involved nails and screwdrivers in the sinus cavities, and there were the acrobats. The most striking were two very strong men who did a variety of rope and trapeze acts. They were very good, and funny comedians too!

The only down side was that the show started at 9:30, so we were not home until midnight. My biological clock is still playing catch up!

Oh, and in the required alpaca-related-news, one of Bruce’s girls (Cotton) unpacked Friday morning. A little white girl (which makes 3-for3 girls for him, lucky guy!) Friday was a lovely day- until the afternoon when the clouds rolled in, the southerly started to howl, and the temperature plunged. So all of Bruce’s animals spent the night in the shed (so we could sleep, knowing the baby was safe, dry and warm). To prevent Cotton from being remated we are moving her in with our girls tomorrow (as this is a bad time of year to be dropping cria). We will put her back in with Zeus to be mated in the Spring.