Friday, December 30, 2011

Pictures to Share

Mike teaching in Chongquin

                                                      Our beautiful "little" Christmas tree.

Family and Christmas

The Christmas Holiday always makes me think of family. I really envy my sister, Chris, because all 4 of her children and all 5 of her grandchildren could be with her this Christmas. This is such a precious thing and special time. I would have loved to be there but got to see them all through Facetime - Ipad to Ipad. I carried mine around to show them my tree, my husband Len, son Matt, daughter-in-law Gwen, and our collective pets.  They carried my nephew, Dan's, Ipad person to person so we could talk to everyone.  What fun!  Everyone looked so great and I wished I could give them hugs all around.

Matt and Gwen were the only ones who could come to our house this year.  But what fun we had! They made Christmas dinner as a special treat for us.  Matt did the barn chores - morning and night - every day to give his dad a break. My husband Len gave us all a scare with chest pains that luckily turned out to be "spasms of the carteroid coronary artery" and NOT a heart attack (thank goodness, Thank You Jesus!).  He was at Yale-New Haven Hospital only one night and we got to bring him home Christmas Eve. We then launched into fun. We opened presents, watched movies, watched football (of course), and ate some great dishes prepared by Gwen. Her recipes are awesome.

Gwen and Matt are wedding photographers and took some engagement photos for a wonderful couple who lives nearby us. They came over to see our alpacas and had a great time.  Matt and Gwen couldn't stay for New Year's because they are photographing a wedding New Year's Eve (

Our youngest, Michael, is in Chongquin, China, teaching English.  We connected with him on Skype - sound and picture was clear although he is 7500 miles away!  It was so great to see and talk to him after almost a whole year.  We met his sweetheart, Kathy, on Skype, which was also great fun.  She is adorable and speaks good English.  She doesn't think so, but when she just talks English without thinking about it, she sounds great.  Mike showed us around his apartment in China. He has a cute little lighted Christmas tree.  Mike told us about a very funny tradition in China. On Christmas Eve, everyone goes around town hitting people with inflated plastic hammers!!

Our oldest son, Sam, talked to us on the phone.  He has a terrible cold, so his wife, Virose, and our granddaughter, Samantha, had to go to church without him. He keeps asking us to move to Georgia to be near him and because the cost of living is so much lower than Connecticut. I (Bobbie) am retiring now, but Len still has at least 2 more years.  In a few years we will be able to move closer to family, hopefully to a bigger farm.

All in all, Summer Brook Valley Farm had a wonderful Christmas.  I forgot to go to the barn at midnight on Christmas Eve to hear the animals talk.  Oh well...Maybe next year.  I think back on Christmases past, including the wonderful ones I had as a child, and the wonderful ones when our children were little and my mother was still alive. I miss my mother and grandmother so much at this time of year.  I know that Len misses his folks too.  We talked to his 3 brothers - 2 by phone and 1 on Skype.  The funny thing was that the pictures were clearer coming from China than from Toronto, Canada where Robert lives.  We all are praying for Kathleen who was seriously hurt falling down the stairs at home.  David is at her bedside at the hospital each day (in Utah).  We rejoice at the news that Steve is in remission! Our family like all families had our ups and downs this past year. We are a loving family and have great hopes and dreams for 2012.  We hope that All Your Dreams come True for the New Year. Remember to Love, Laugh, Share, and Forgive.  Happy New Year from Summer Brook Valley Farm.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Our Westie to the Rescue - Again

In October, 2010, I wrote about how our West Highland terrier, Jack saved the day by herding alpacas who had gotten loose back into the barn.  Well, this past Saturday, our largest llama, Gumby, opened a gate and let himself and several male alpacas out.  It was a real circus trying to round up the animals because they all decided to go in different directions.  Little by little we were able to get the alpacas back inside the fenced field, but Gumby was a real challenge.  He chased here, there, and everywhere, visiting neighbors' yards twice.  We were ready to give up when Len shouted, "let out Jack!" What a great idea.  I let Jack out immediately and he seemed to know just what to do.  He ran around to the back of the house directly to Gumby.  Try to picture in your mind a 20 pound small dog going up against a 275 pound, six foot llama.  Gumby scared me when he first stomped with his big front foot directly towards Jack.  Jack backed up and then Gumby bent down and nosed Jack.  Jack licked Gumby's nose. From then on, Gumby followed Jack - right down the lane to the barn! Phew. Jack came to the rescue again.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

More On Genealogy

I haven't posted in a while because I have been sick on and off.  During this time when I basically could only sit, I have been doing more work on my family tree.  I find it to be a lot of fun.  My grandfather, Burroughs Strickland, was an avid genealogist and I guess I get it from him.

My favorite show on TV is "Who Do You Think Your Are?" and this week's show was about Ashley Judd who found out that one of her great-grandfathers was William Brewster who came to America on the Mayflower. After watching the show, I naturally went to my family tree to work on it and got the shock of my life! I was checking through the Strickland line (my mother was Donna Strickland Rodden, Mayor of Albion, NY for 13 years) and the name Brewster caught my eye.  Jonah Strickland (1714-1798) was married to Patience DeWolf (1722-1806). Patience DeWolf's parents were Matthew DeWolf and Patience BREWSTER.  "Hmmm", I said to myself, excitedly, "Could she be related to the famous William?" So I worked on that branch of the family.

Patience Brewster's parents were William Brewster (1669 - 1728) and Patience Reed. The dates for this William and this Patience were all wrong to be the Mayflower Brewsters because the Mayflower voyage was in 1620, but I was still excited. I went on to find that the 1669 William's parents were Benjamin Brewster (1633-1710 ) and Ann Addis. Ok, still no link to the William in 1620. Benjamin's parents were Jonathan Brewster (1593 - 1650) and Lucretia Oldham. I am thinking now that the Brewster's in my family line is a different branch from Mayflower Brewster.

Undeterred, I keep hunting and found out that Jonathan Brewster's parents were William Brewster (1566-1644) and Mary Wentworth! All kinds of historical records started appearing, including "Signers of the Mayflower Compact", "Genealogies of the Mayflower families", and "The Mayflower Reader Record". Sure enough, William Brewster who came to America on the Mayflower is my 10th great grandfather.  I was really shocked. I had just learned all about him on TV and I share him as an ancester with the actress, Ashley Judd! Jonathan did not come over with his father but joined the family in November 1621, arriving at Plymouth on the ship Fortune.

I had heard from my grandfather that a family member came over on the Mayflower, and now I know it is true. So a message to my sister - Your 10th great grandfather came over on the Mayflower. A note to my sons, nieces, and nephews - Your 11th great grandfather came over on the Mayflower. Phew, what an exciting day. If you missed this week's "Who do you think you" episode, go to Hulu and you can see it there for free.
Pictures: Elder William Brewster, Younger William Brewster, painting of the Mayflower


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Fiber Animals

All alpaca farms have fiber animals or animals that are not used in the breeding program. They are sold are very low cost in comparison to the breeding and show animals.  These animals are valuable because of their soft fiber that can be used by their owners in a variety of hobbies  - spinning, knitting, weaving, and felting. They are a source of rich manure for compost, gardening, and agricultural purposes. 

Some people entering the alpaca business world for the first time are buying only fiber animals! Why? Because they want to harvest soft beautiful fiber and sell that.  They are not interested in breeding and delivering babies. They are able to start their farms with relatively low cost because the alpacas are not expensive and the animals they want to buy are relatively easy to fine in their local area. They are able to build up a large herd quickly and have lots of fiber to sell. When a fiber boy is gelded, his fleece becomes remarkably softer because there are no longer hormones in his system that make fiber coarser.  Of course, in the alpaca world, their fiber was already very soft before they were gelded.  It just gets softer. 

Alpacas are a hearty livestock and generally need much fewer vet visits than other livestock.  They have a longer lifespan than other livestock - 20 - 25 years.  Most importantly, they are "green" in that they are gentle on the earth and provide many (22 distinctive) colors that are all natural.

Examples of fiber boys are ones we have here at Summer Brook Valley Farm. They are beautiful animals, plus they all have gentle, loving natures.

Matteo is a handsome son of Greybeard’s Molokai and grandson of Greybeard. His dame, AAR Honey Crystal is a Kabellero daughter.  Matteo has excellent fiber coverage and a beautiful dense fleece.  His brother is a handsome and proud herdsire on our farm, and Matteo will be one too by next summer. Matteo has a gentle disposition and easy manner. ARI registered.

Estevan is a dark reddish brown with excellent fiber coverage and a dense fleece. He is a Thelonius son and his mother, Summer Brook Arabella, was Reserved Champion at the New England Coastal Classic two years ago. Arabella is an SA Peruvian Normandy daughter and Estevan has inherited the beautiful fiber qualities of his mother and grandfather.  

Midnight is the shiny true black son of Moore Brook Astarte.  He has a beautiful soft and bright fleece. Midnight is a sweet and friendly alpaca.

EWF BERTO – Burgundy Brown, Gelding 
Berto is a gelded boy whose fleece is very soft and beautiful.  He  is incredibly protective of his herd and is as effective as a  guard llama.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

William Tundermann Playing Zither with a Zither Band

I have been spending a lot of time working on our family genealogy of late and found out many interesting things about my family and my husband's family.  It's neat when you join because they find information and pictures. For example I found this old newspaper article online. It is JULY 1974. Len's dad, William Ernst Tundermann is the 2nd person in the front aisle of zithers. Dad always loved to entertain the family with his zither and get us to sing old songs together. One of his zithers is in the Ellis Island Museum!

Yearling Like to Eat Together

I couldn't resist taking a picture of 4 yearlings eating together.  I fence them off together so that they are not stressed out by competing with the adults who spit at them and push them around in order to hog all the grain. The four of them have to be in exactly the same order each day.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ella Ventures Out in the Snow

It's another day of snow.  It's a light but steady snow. The alpacas have stayed "indoors" in the barn most of the winter, and they venture out when its sunny.  However, today, many have come out into the steady snow.  All of sudden, out ran Ella, following her older sister, Allegra.  She ran up and down the narrow shoveled lane. She suddenly ran back into the farm, but quickly came running out the other side of the barn, surprising her mother!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ella, Our Winter Surprise

It is a beautiful sunny day and Ella, our 2 day old curly fawn cria, went out side with her mom and other alpacas.  Chrissy, Honey's 6 month old cria, followed Ella wherever she went and tried to keep her to herself - even to the point of trying to separate Ella from her mom.  Ella was a little overwhelmed by the attention, but took it in good stride.
Ella is beside her mother here, and Chrissy who is all white is right behind Ella.
From front to back, you can see Midnight (5 mo old black cria), Lee-Lee (left), Ella (right), Chrissy (behind Ella), Arabella, and Chocolat (use the french pronounciation) (6 mo old cria of Arabella). The snow is so heavy and hard from 2 ice storms that we have only been able to shovel narrow lanes.

Friday, February 4, 2011


I (Bobbie) work in an elementary school as a school psychologist. My first appointment of the day was two wonderful little boys. Naturally, I shared my exciting news about the birth of a cria the night before. The boys asked many questions about the new baby and about alpacas in general. Suddenly, one boy said, "It's my turn to do share in class today.  Can I use your story as my share?"  I was surprised and honored by this request.  The answer was of course Yes.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Big "little surprise" In the Barn

Len came home  this Thursday evening late because he had a meeting at work.  It was about 10 p.m. and he went down to set up more heat lamps because it is supposed to go down to -5 tonight.  He got to the barn and could not believe his eyes - there was a newborn cria walking around! He ran back to the house to tell me and we went down together.  We finished drying off the baby with a hair dryer and set up an nice area for mom (Lee-Lee) and new cria to bond in.  It is a girl with the exact coloring of Lee-Lee. It is a strong, feisty baby and was walking beautifully when we found her.  She started nursing well with no help.  We put 3 cria coats on her and put her under two heat lamps.  Also, we cut the toes out of some old socks and covered her legs...this worked well. We are both in a state of shock because we are not sure how this happened.  Lee-Lee is a very very shy animal that we now co-own with Serena Granbery. We had held off mating her until we knew if someone was going to buy her who wanted to do their own mating. That did not materialize and Lee-Lee was very obviously miserable not having a new cria by her side like all the rest of the girls.  Well, I guess, somehow, she solved that problem.  What a surprise! We still cannot believe it.  We will be checking on them through the night to be sure that the cria is warm enough and nursing regularly. Wow, Lee-Lee...what a time to decide to have a cria, in the middle of the worst winter we have had in years!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Kingdom of Cambodia

You are probably wondering why I bring up Cambodia on our alpaca website. One of our 3 sons is adopted from Cambodia.  He is a survivor of the holocaust perpetrated by the Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. We are so proud of him because he has rebuilt his life, getting a good education, getting a good job and starting a family of his own. At times, he is understandably homesick for Cambodia.  Len and I hope to go with him to visit his homeland.  The tourism websites say that “There’s a magic about Cambodia that casts a spell on many who visit this charming yet confounding kingdom.” ( 

Cambodia is still a very, very poor country but is trying to revive its tourism business. Siem Reap, the cultural home of the Khmer people, is revitalized, is Cambodia's fastest growing city and serves as a small charming gateway town to the world famous heritage site of the Angkor temples.  It has several modern hotels and B&B’s. Within the city of Siem Reap there is the Angkor National Museum, one of King Sihanouk palaces and many shrines and pagodas. I also has an Old French Quarter, with its Chinese-inspired architecture, the Tonle Sap lake bird sanctuary, rice paddies, traditional Apsara dance performances, and the Old Market's craft shops and silk farms.

Angkor Wat, just outside Siem Reap, is the world’s largest religious building and considered the Seventh Wonder of the World. Wats means Buddhist temples. The Angkor Archeological Park is a huge place, having more than 40 major temples within the park, and many others outside it.  Every wall of Angkor Wat is covered with bas-relief and decorations, including Aspara dancers, gods, demons, soldiers, kings, and more. There is a long causeway to the main temple with reflecting pools on either side.

Angkor Wat is THE  temple to visit in Cambodia, but Angkor Tom is a large temple complex near Angkor Wat. The Angkor Thom complex has an area that is much larger than the Angkor Wat complex, but unlike Angkor Wat, it houses several small temples instead of just one. The name translates to "Great Angkor" or "Great City” (Angkor = great, Thom = city). I am particularly looking forward to seeing the Elephant Terrace.

Between Angkor Wat and the south gate of Angkor Thom is the Phnom Bakheng Temple or "Strong Hill" Temple, one of the earliest mountain temple in Angkor. Elephants take you from the bottom to the top of Phnom Bakheng Mountain. I want to do this too!

Also just outside Siem Reap is Tonlé Sap, the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia. The area is home to many ethnic Vietnamese and numerous Cham (Muslim) communities, living in floating villages around the lake.

I’m ready, Sam, let’s go!

Cocoa Charges

I took the dogs (Daisy, a lab, and Jack, a Westie) to the barn while I did barn chores.  The pacas are a little used to the dogs, but still wary. At first the girls plus the 2 minature baby doll sheep ran out the other side of the barn. The paca boys didn't even pay attention to the dogs so eventually the girls and sheep came back inside the barn. Cocoa (her nickname is bulldozer because she pushes hard to get to whatever she wants) took exception to the dogs. She lowered her head and charged the 2 dogs! The dogs just stood there confused. Cocoa's version of charging is hopping forward...bounce, bounce! She also made a funny little grunt.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


The phone rang at 5:30 a.m. and sure enough, we have another snow day off from school. I suspect tomorrow will be off too because of the size of this storm.  I couldn't do back to sleep so I turned on the computer to check out email, Facebook and ebay. I got to Facebook and what did I find?!? Our son in China was on chat.  I held my breath and wrote,"Are your there?"  Sure enough he was and we had a great conversation. He had been in Xian only a day and a half, not giving him enough time to see the famous Terracotta Warriors. Now he is in Zhengzhou and will be there for the Chinese New Year.  Zhengzhou is the capital of Northern China’s Henan Province, and has a long and interesting history. Located in the center of the province, it borders Luoyang to the west, the Yellow River to the north, and Kaifang to the east. It is one of the 8 ancient capitals of China and this region was the center of Chinese civilization for centuries. Zhengzhou is an old and beautiful city with wide roads lined with tall trees towering over quaint shops. It was 7:30 p.m. my son's time and he was getting ready to go out to eat dinner. Later this week he'll start touring around to see the birthplace of Kung Fu (the Shaolin Temple-also an important Buddhist shrine),  Henan Museum, Zhengzhou Museum and maybe the new zoo and botanical gardens. Other famous attractions of Zhengzhou include the Song Mountain (Song Shan, now is a World Geopark recognised by UNESCO), the Yellow River and the birth place of Huangdi (recognized as the ancestor of Chinese people). Tai Chi started in Henan Province too, and our son should see people practicing it in the parks.  I can just imagine it all in my mind. For once, I wasn't upset with being awake at 5:30 in the morning.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Winter Woes at the Farm

Winter storms have dumped about 71" of snow in Connecticut in January, and dealing with it has been a monumental problem at the farm. Reaching the barn has meant shoveling and re-shoveling a path through snow knee-high or deeper.  Clearing the driveway to the barn has been impossible, which means bags of grain and bales of straw must be dragged to the barn on sleds. Complicating matters, Len fell on January 21st carrying a bale of straw down wooden steps and broke a rib or two. Laid up for the better part of a week, he's on the mend and has been slowly able to take on a little of the farm chores and ongoing clearing of the layers of accumulated snow. Unfortunately, more winter storms are forecast for later this week.

Mike off to China!

On January 4th Mike left for a 14 month teaching assignment in Chongquing China.  He will be teaching English at the Aston School.  Although he was not scheduled to start teaching until January 12th, he was "thrown into the deep water" as he put it within days of his arrival.  His emails have been very effusive about his early experience of Chinese culture in Chongquing, the food, and friendly encounters with locals and attempts to communicate.  In a word, he "loves China!"