Saturday, May 28, 2016

New Mexico May 2016 Westward Ho! 12 Puerta del Sol Alpaca Farm Sorocco NM

We left Valley of Fires for Socorro after lunch and although the road never really changed the scenery did a bit.  Traveling these roads can get monotonous but staying off the interstates not only gives us better views but in general the road surface is far in many cases.

David, the owner of Puerta del Sol Alpaca Farm told me that he would be home from school by 3:30 and when we pulled in to the yard next to the house and barn at 3:15 we expected him soon.  Unfortunately (for him-we were fine wandering around and walking the pets) as a teacher he was required to stay for a meeting until 4:30.  

The view from our MoHo

As I sat waiting for Don to disconnect the tow hitch this Gambel's quail beat a hasty retreat into the bushes

When he arrived we realized that the car we'd seen was his mother's and she had been over with the alpacas caring for the first born cria of the season. A cria is a baby alpaca.  He immediately invited us into the pen to meet the herd and the cria and began teaching us about the difference between alpaca types- Huacaya (pronounced wah CAH yah) and Suri.  Huacaya alpacas produce the dense, soft fiber that is a bit like sheep wool whereas suri is very silky with long fibers. We also learned not to look an alpaca straight in the eye (which is actually true of many species) and that the herd can have a dominant female who will protect the others.  The non-breeding females are in one area, the pregnant females in another (they gestate for 11 months) and the males in another.  


Since that day's cria was the first this year (they are born in the spring and usually during the day between 10a and 2p) she was an object of curiosity for the other mothers-to-be.  Her mother, Fiona, was attentive but was emitting tiny little cries that David said they do after birth, likely because they are still hurting a bit.  All was going well until David noticed that the cria's umbilicus was still quite wet and long.  He called the vet who said to keep an eye on it and suggested an injection of penicillin prophylactically.  Well, David has never given an injection and he did not know where to I volunteered.  I never thought my nursing skills would be called back into play for a newborn alpaca but there it was...ya never know!  I gave the cria an injection in the neck, feeling its soft fur and having a watchful eye kept n me by Fiona and when we went into the house to look at the wool she was fine, gamboling around on her still wobbly legs and Fiona trying to catch some rest when she would lie down.  We could easily understand how David fell in love with these inquisitive, adorable, smart animals with incredible hearing.

the cria was lying down when we arrived

but awakened and sat next to Fiona

he tried standing

and steadying himself while Mom received company

then rested again against Mom

while David was on the phone with the vet the cria fed

but as she'd been all afternoon, was the object of curiosity from other mothers to be,

as well as the boys on the other side of the fence

One of the courtesies members of Harvest Hosts are expected to perform is a small purchase of good in return for the free stay.  So, we went in to look at what was available and I was able to get 2 bars of soap wrapped beautifully in wool spun from the Puerta del Sol alpacas.  David gave me a ridiculously low price in return for my having helped and we were very grateful.  We all talked for awhile longer and as we were leaving I noticed a pan of brownies on the counter.  David said it had been teacher appreciation week at school and he'd eaten more dozens of baked goods than he could count and asked us to please take them.  I protested-weakly, I admit, I LOVE brownies-but we left with the entire pan full which I cut into squares, froze and ate with as much control as I could. And yes, I shared with Don.

We retired to the MoHo and David said he'd be leaving early the next morning so we never found out how the little cria did but everything was quiet as we pulled out the following morning and I like to believe everything was fine.

And so on to Albuquerque where we'd be boondocking again, this time on a city easement road next to Camping World where our annual "check up" would be done. 

New Mexico May 2016 Westward Ho! 11 Valley of Fires Recreation Area Carrissozo NM

We had to get to Albuquerque by May 10 to have the annual service done on the MoHo so we had a day and a night to get there.  We left Lincoln mid-morning and were headed for Socorro and an alpaca farm we'd found through the excellent Harvest Hosts program. (We'd stayed at farms in PA last year and really want to take more advantage of it.) I had called ahead and the owner is also a school teacher.  He said he'd be home at 3:30 pm but invited us to arrive "any time and just park."  Since we were only going there for the night and had the day we decided to stop off at Valley of Fires Recreation Area on the way.  We made our way down the hills and then back up them losing only about 300 ft/ 91m.  The Sacramento Mountain range was to our left in the distance as we drove along with Nogal Peak on the left and Carrizo Peak to the right.

Down, around, and up was the route

In 1972 I visited Hawaii with friends and saw an active volcano, new lava and even had an epic hike over the Aa* flow in the boiling hot sun but this flow, at 5000 years old, is actually one of the newest ones outside Hawaii. The flow came from an eruption from Little Black Peak, just over 40 miles away and is located in the Tularosa Valley outside Carrissozo. It covers 125 sq miles/323748514 m^2 in between 4-6 mi/ 6.5-9.6 km long.  The two types of lava,  Aa* (sharp and pocked) and Pahoehoe* (smooth and looks sort of like really large cow pies)are both there, although Pahoehoe dominates as are flowers and trees and wildlife.  5000 years may be new but it's long enough for things to have grown. (* the names of lava, which are Hawaiian are used universally.)  Although new in geologic terms the area has had 5000 years for flora and fauna to develop and they are plentiful.  Since we were there in the heat of the day we didn't see any wildlife (they are smarter than we, they stay in the shade and rest) but the flora was all around us.

Lava stretching out as far as the eye can see

Desert Hibiscus

Paper Daisy

Soaptree Yucca

Pahoehoe lava


Prickly pear cactus growing on A'a lava

New Mexico Thistle

a branch of a smoke tree in bloom

Desert honeysuckle

Wild Heliotrope

Cream Cup

Don sitting in front of a dead Juniper Tree
Juniper has a number of uses-in this case the dead tree provides perch and cover for birds but it can be used for making basket frames, digging sticks, in construction as well as fuel. The Sandia Pueblo used it as a medicine by using the bark to make a bath to relieve the itch of spider bites; the Cochiti Pueblo used the powder in the bark for ear aches and the San Idelfonso Pueblo mothers crushed and shredded the bark to make absorbent packing around their babies bottoms. To this day the smoke from burning juniper branches is used in Pueblo homes to treat colds as well as incense.  The berries can be eaten and for many years were a famine food for may of the Pueblo Indians;  sprig tea is drunk by women in labor or just after the child is born; and Juniper mistletoe-a small yellow parasitic plant frequently seen on juniper has been used to treat baldness, diarrhea and stomach aches.

The path/trail through the area leads around to give a good view of everything so we spent an hour and a half exploring and then went back to the MoHo, parked above in the winds, made lunch and hit the road again.

The MoHo sits guard while the animals get their rest...again.