Monday, August 16, 2010

Oak Grove Alpacas Moves to Aiken

We say a sad goodbye to our home and friends in Michigan

It has been a long time since I have posted a blog entry. My reasons for this are quite understandable. Since my last post in March I have graduated from college, began searching for a job, and have relocated to Aiken, South Carolina. Back in March my husband learned that he was being transferred to South Carolina on August
16Th. For a regular household, this was a difficult move to make in such a short time. To move a farm with 2 kids, 2 dogs, 3 cats, and 27 alpacas it was an enormous task.

Our first challenge was to find a home in South Carolina. We quickly discovered that it was going to be very difficult to sell a house in Michigan in the current economy. We also discovered that Aiken, SC is polo country with many million dollar ranches in the area. This meant that we were faced with selling our home in Michigan at a very low price and purchasing a farm in Aiken at a much higher price. At the beginning of July we still hadn't found a solution to this problem. Luckily, my clever husband put an ad in the local paper searching for pasture land. This lead us to a wonderful 12 acre property in Vaucluse, SC.

Our new home in Aiken, SC

Vaucluse is a very fitting place for an alpaca farm and fiber arts studio. It is a former textile mill town. The only establishments in the town are a post office, the abandoned mill, and 2 churches. Surrounding these are tiny houses built buy the mill for workers. Most of these homes have been well maintained, making the village a quaint community.

Finding a place to live was just the beginning of our moving challenges. Although the property we selected was a former ranch with a barn, many improvements had to be made to make the farm habitable for our alpacas. In July we had workers replacing the barbed wire fence with 2 x 4 fencing, adding power to the barns and out buildings, adding hydrants and automatic waterers, and constructing an additional run-in shelter for one group of alpacas. To complicate matters, I had to manage all of this from 800 miles away in Michigan. I am happy to report that all projects were successfully completed before our move date!

In addition, finding a mover and an alpaca transporter was also not so easy. Moving companies do not usually move farms. The typical Mayflower moving truck that you see going down the road can hold about the contents of about 3 normal houses. We managed to completely fill the truck with the contents of our house and farm! Moving also entailed a complex plan for transporting the various animals at the farm. We needed to hire a transporter who could safely transport 27 alpacas in the August heat. The vet had a big job to do ensuring that all of the alpacas had the proper health tests to be allowed into the State of South Carolina. The cats and chickens all needed carriers to safely ride in (tip- your local animal shelter has lots of extra pet carriers).

We finally began our journey on August 3rd. The moving truck arrived and loaded all of our belongings, including a custom made chicken coop (shown getting loaded on the truck above). On the 4Th of August the kids, myself, my mother, and the 2 dogs left in 2 cars to make our way to South Carolina. My husband, Victor, stayed behind to load the alpacas, cats, and chickens.

(Our dogs at the Holiday Inn - This was quite an adventure for them!)

On August 4Th he and Eddie our transporter spent an entire morning loading the various animals into trailers and carriers. I am thankful that I was not present for this job! They started at 7 AM and were finally on the road by 1 PM. To minimize the stress on the animals, they traveled without stopping and arrived at the new farm at 3:30 AM the following day.
Unloading 27 alpacas into unfamiliar pastures at 3:30 AM is not an easy task! We managed to get everyone in the proper pastures and only let 5 escape due to an open gate! Luckily they only wandered across the garden area to be near another pen of alpacas. A little grain encouraged them to go back into their own pasture.

I am happy to report that everyone is settling in to the farm nicely. The alpacas are enjoying their new pasture land, the chickens love the dirt floor in the new barn, the cats barn have not run away, and the kids have started their new school. I have even begun putting my looms back together and plan to begin a few projects soon! Although the summer has been exhausting, we are very happy at our new farm!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Auroville - an intriguing place near Pondicherry

On our visit to Pondicherry we went to a town called Auroville. This community began in 1968 by people inspired by the teachings of Sri Aurobindo. The city is home to about 2000 people from about 45 nations. One of the big focuses of this town is making the world a greener place. Citizens are busy creating many interesting inventions that can conserve our natural resources and recycle items that we already have. Although we were only allowed to see the areas of the town that visitors are allowed into, we enjoyed our visit and left wanting to learn a bit more about the community.

In addition to conservation projects, memebers of the community make beautiful artwork! Clothing, handmade paper jewelery, musical insturments, and many other items are made by the community. The jewelery below caught my eye. It is made from recycled newspaper. After the tsunami hit Pondicherry, this project was started to help women of the town begin a new life.

Another amazing sight that we encountered on our visit was a banyon tree. This tree was so amazing that it deserves a blog post of its own. I will share the details later.

Here are photos of the Wellpaper Jewelery that I purchased:

A closeup of the necklace I bought

More of the necklace

Braided hoop earrings

The entire set!

This is a video about the ladies who create these items and a bit about how they are produced.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Infosys Tour - Bangalore, India

Below are links to a few photos and videos that I took on our tour of Infosys, Bangalore. It was very interesting to learn about the company.

Here is a link to the photos I took on the tour.



Tuesday, October 6, 2009

October Wedding

As a designer, many fun projects have a way of finding me. Last month was no exception. While sitting at my booth at the Michigan Llamafest I encountered a nice lady who was going from booth to booth matching color swatches to yarn. A short conversation revealed she was planning her daughter's wedding, which was to be held outside, in Michigan, in October. She wanted to have shawls made for the bride and the 3 bridesmaids. Knowing that I could probably get the project done within her timeframe, I volunteered my services.

As luck would have it, I had two yarns in my studio that matched her color scheme perfectly! I had had one of the yarns around for a couple of years because I was not sure what to do with it. I am learning that eventually every yarn will find its perfect project. For my red skeins, this was it. They had found their special purpose!

One month later, I am finished with the shawls. Below are a few photos of the results!

A photo of all 4 shawls (sort of difficult to see because they kind of match my dining room)

Close-up of the bridesmaids shawls (I have learned that a paint chip is an excellent tool for matching colors)

The bride's shawl - alpaca and silk that I brought back from my India trip. It is very, very soft!

The loom being threaded for the bride's shawl

In the beginning, all shawls start out looking like this!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Michigan International Alpacafest

This weekend Oak Grove Alpacas will be attending the Michigan International Alpacafest in Flint, Michigan. We will be showing OGA Marie, OGA Peruvian Aquinas and OGA Peruvian Dash. Our daughter, Annelise, will take our beloved Cee Cee into the performance class for the first time. They are sure to win a blue ribbon!

Please visit us at the show! For details go to

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Stew for a Chilly Summer day

Today it is in the 60's in Michigan. Someone mentioned that it was a good day to make chilli, which got me to thinking about what kind of stew or chilli I could concoct. All week long my nice friends have been bringing me veggies from their gardens so I decided to come up with a recipe using the items I had in the house. This recipe was based on a vegetarian squash stew but I customized it to work with the veggies I had on hand. Give it a try!

Turkey Squash Stew
By: Michelle Waling

COOK TIME: 1 Hr 30 Min

1 pound ground turkey
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large white onion, diced
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons chili powder
4 cloves crushed garlic
1 tablespoon cumin seeds, toasted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 large tomatoes - peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
1 medium summer squash, peeled and diced
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 cup chickpeas, cooked or canned
1 cup water
salt and pepper to taste

In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat olive oil and saute the onion for a few minutes. Add turkey and sauté until cooked. Add the cinnamon and chili powder and continue to saute for another 2 minutes. Mix in the garlic and cumin seeds, saute for 2 minutes more before adding lemon juice and the tomatoes. Mix thoroughly so the stew doesn't get too chunky.
Stir the squash, chickpeas and water into the stew. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let the stew simmer for 1 hour, or until squash is tender. Stirring occasionally throughout the cooking hour, and add more water if necessary. The finished stew should have a nice, thick stewy texture.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

August at the Ranch

OGA Luxor

Now that August is at an end it is time to get ready for the fall alpaca season. I am busy making a few shawls and jackets. I am also spinning alpaca yarn for a custom order. The resulting sweater should be very pretty. I have so much to do and so little time!

Meanwhile the alpacas, chickens cats and dogs are all enjoying the nice Michigan summer weather.

Strato's Special D'Vincent

Getting out of the heat for a bit!

Roosters Showing Off

And finally the spoiled dogs are hangin out in the house:

Facebook Your Photos - Axel & Mac

Enjoy the last days of summer - it will be winter again before we know it!