Sweet Harmony Farm blog
Originally posted 7/22/14 .....................
As you may already know, last December we had alpaca ladies join our farm.
We had spent months trying to figure out how we could inexpensively build a new barn and pasture area for them. We talked to other farms who house both males and females for tips on how to keep them separated, the hardest task of all. Knowing well that farming is much more difficult during the winter, we devised a plan of how to get them shoveled out relatively easily so that we’d be able to get them water and hay.
In the end, the quickest, easiest, and most efficient method was just to divvy up the barn by moving one of the gates to block off the pens next to the tack room, run a line of fencing from the back corner of the barn to the back pasture fenceline, and then run fencing down the paddock with 2 handmade gates on either end. Done.
The girls, or rather The Ladies as Dan calls them, have the smaller side next to the tack room. The boys have the rest of the barn, the bigger side. It’s not that much bigger! I swear it was much cozier this winter for them. With a smaller space and a few more alpacas, all that extra body heat must have helped.
As it turns out, after the initial Meet and Greet, the boys just couldn’t care less about having girls on the other side! They are always, always, much more interested in me bringing them hay than who’s on ‘the other side.’
Wow!! It's so good to be back! I was having some computer problems with my ole computer ~ yes, yes, ahem, it's running XP ~ and was unable to do admin functions here on my own website! But thanks to my brother, who convinced me and helped me to do some updates for another reason, voila!!! I'm here!! Thanks Mark!!
All has been well here over the summer and I plan to be back soon with fun stories from our little alpaca farm. :)
Sometimes, despite your best efforts and intentions, things just don’t go as planned. Spring arrived, and Shiloh was not able to regain the use of her back legs. Loving animals means your heart gets broken when they cannot be the beautiful creatures they were intended to be. More sadness came to our farm in mid-April, as the decision was made that it was best to let Shiloh and her wonderful spirit leave our world.
We had created a setup in the pen with a sling and pulleys so that we could sling Shiloh up with the least amount of stress to her, as well as to us. She really didn’t like being in the sling. She always much preferred that Dan lift her by her hind end and balance her on his leg while he sat on the small hay feeder. From there she could stand up using her front legs and see all around the barn, see ‘her girls’ and sometimes she’d even put weight on her back legs. Dan and I would massage her back and hips and massage her back legs and feet, trying hard to get the blood circulating. Then we’d gently work each leg, bending it and straightening it, forward and back and out to the side. Dan would even take that rear leg and pull it forward so that Shiloh could scratch her chest, like a real alpaca. :)
Shiloh actually liked us doing all this massage. When we’d arrive at the barn she’d get a really excited look on her face when she saw Dan and would try hard to get herself up, her front end anyway. When she saw us get the sling ready, she’d get an ‘OH NO!’ look to her. With Shiloh in the sling we could work her legs a little easier and she could move around a teensy bit. Anything to get her muscles working. I did reiki on her every day. We gave her homeopathic remedies for healing and pain relief, banamine for pain and swelling, MSM to build muscle, crushed B12 tablets to regenerate her nerves, and of course alpaca pellets as a treat. We kept her in the pen with lots of straw and a warm coat, and put up an extra tarp to keep the cold and wind off of her. We did this all winter long, every day.
In return, she gave us happy looks, a never-give-up attitude, and a very loving spirit. She will never be forgotten.
RIP my friend.
I really don’t need to explain to anyone that it’s been a brutally cold winter this season. Temps have often been near zero and with the wind it’s well below zero. The tips of my fingers go numb within a minute or less of scooping up frozen beans. It’s a nauseating feeling. I run into the tack room to get out of the wind, take off my gloves, and shake my hands wildly to get the feeling back. If I’m on the boys’ side, I usually run to Guinness or Arlo to put my fingers into their fleeces. This time of year the alpacas’ fleece is usually about 3+ inches long and it’s toasty warm down by their skin. Guinness will usually grunt and look up at me quickly, surprised by the sudden cold. I wish they’d stay still long enough for my fingertips to get as warm as their skin, but usually it’s just long enough to get the feeling back.
On the plus side, we haven’t had as much snow as we’ve usually had the past several winters. On those odd days where the wind is calm, the sun is out, and it’s over 20 degrees, I am able to open up the ‘big door’ for the boys. They love it! It’s so dark in the barn with all the tarps up along the front opening. Plus, it gives me another way to get into and out of the barn to scoop all the paca poo.
Over on the girls’ side it’s a bit different. We’ve been keeping the tarped gate closed and their ‘big door’ closed most of the time, trying to keep poor Shiloh warm. Shiloh stays cushed in the pen, on piles of warm straw, and wears a lovely coat. She can wiggle around fairly well using her front legs but doesn’t leave the pen on her own.
Shiloh came to us somewhat mobile. She’d been injured back in October at the farm she’d been living at and went down, and then spent a week recuperating at the vet. For the next month she needed assistance getting up and overall seemed to be improving. When she first arrived here at the beginning of December, she just needed a boost to get up but could do a wobbly walk. After several days, Shiloh was getting up on her own! We were thrilled and thought she was basically recovered. NOT. The intense cold came on suddenly and within days she needed a boost to get up again, and just as quickly needed help just to stand. And then, she couldn’t even stand. Her front legs work just fine, but her back legs do not. It is incredibly sad for us to see her so helpless.
Shiloh is considered a ‘down’ alpaca. In the mornings and mid-day, I massage and rub her legs as best as I can to get some feeling into them. I do reiki on the part of her lower spine where her actual injury appears to be. Her wonderful owners have provided her with all kinds of homeopathic remedies, vitamins, banamine [a livestock medicine to reduce pain and inflammation], etc. In the evening, Dan lifts her by her hips and she stands. He sits on the hay feeder with her hips in his lap and her back legs somewhat dangle. We then rub and massage and stretch out her legs and feet trying to work the muscles.
Shiloh is one very co-operative alpaca. It is amazing how she just lets us ‘do what we have to do’ with really no complaints. She has the best disposition of any alpaca ever! The downfall is this: she is a rather large-framed alpaca. She is not fat, in fact even after all this she still body scores very well, but she is much too heavy for us to lift her easily; in fact I cannot lift her at all if she isn’t assisting and quickly trying to stand on her own. This makes therapy rather difficult and is certainly slowing down her healing process.
It’s time for us to make a sling. Dan has put something together and we did a successful test run with a hay bale last night. It will still require both of us to get her into the sling and lift her. Once she’s in the sling and Dan doesn’t have to hold her up, we will both be able to work her legs much better. Her muscle tone in those weak back legs will improve. She will soon be able to start standing on all 4 legs with the sling helping her to keep her balance. And then, she will be able to run again on her own. That’s the plan, anyway.
We refer to Shiloh’s condition as an injury, but it’s actually the affects of the dreaded meningeal worm.
Happy New Year Everyone!!! Bright Blessings for a happy, healthy, and prosperous year!
Thank you all for reading our little blog. We very much appreciate it.
Our little farm has grown to 20 alpacas. This little fact now begs the question: are we nuts??
In mid-November we brought home 2 more boys in need of a farm, Soloman and Sam. Soloman is an all-black alpaca with a wild and curly topknot and the longest eyelashes I’ve ever seen on an alpaca. He is also rather good-natured and doesn’t mind at all when I hug him, usually. He is papa to several of our boys: Cavalier, North, Eragon, and Copper. Sam is a light fawn alpaca, another really nice boy, and a bit high-strung and nervous. He is papa to still very shy Adagio.
Our girls are home!!! Our girls have always boarded elsewhere, and at the beginning of this month, they’re finally home. Dreamer is my older girl, full of spunk for her teeny size, with lovely light fawn fleece. She never lets anyone get in her way and is most likely to spit. She is mama to Guinness, Bo, and Arlo. Then there’s Alana, who is very tall, with the loveliest medium rose-grey fleece. I first saw her when she was a cria and knew I had to have her. Even now, in the right sunshine, her fleece has a pinky glow. I wish it would spin up that way! She is mama to Coty, Henry, and Copper.
Our girls came home with a couple of friends. First there’s Christina, who is a medium brown gal, and mama to Desi. Christina seems to be the lookout for the girls and often sounds the alarm call, especially when she sees Stella. Their other friend is Shiloh, who probably has the best disposition of any alpaca, ever! She has a dark brown blanket of fleece across her back, and the rest of her is white and brown splashes of color. This little gal’s unique coloring stands out in any crowd. She wears a red coat all the time because she hasn’t been feeling well [more on that in another post]. Christina and Shiloh are very well loved by their owners, who enjoy spoiling their alpacas as much as we do.
Dreamer looks incredibly small compared to the other 3 gals, who are all rather tall.
Dan refers to the four of them as ‘The Ladies.’
At first the girls were very nervous of their new surroundings. They were definitely unsure of what to make of me and Dan. The good thing is that they have lived together for years and are very bonded. The four stay together and move together as a group, as a herd should. I’d come walking into the paddock announcing ‘hello girls!’ and they’d all run into the barn and out their big door. They’d stop and turn to stare at me wide-eyed wondering, who is this new 2-legger who’s always singing our names? And what’s with that little dog? The boys have always greeted me at the gate with kisses so to have alpacas actually run away from me was rather upsetting.
Thankfully, they only took a few days to get used to me. At first I used the universal language of alpacas: I offered them hay. I slowly held out hay from my hand towards their noses. They all stared. Dreamer, very obviously the alpha, was the first to take a teeny step towards me and sniff the hay. Then she had a bite. Yeah! The others then felt safe and ate hay from my hands too, even very shy Alana. It took me little effort to offer them minerals from the feed bowl, and then the cup. I’ve been greeting each of them by name, staring right into their eyes. I call their names from the back door of the house. That has gotten them running out of the barn to look! Now I can scratch all of them on their beautiful, long necks. They stay in the barn while I work around them and ask to drink water from the bucket before I walk it over to the boys’ side.
The girls also quickly adapted to our routine of being in the barn at least twice a day to put out hay and fresh water, and to rake up all the paca poo. All of a sudden it seems like we’re raking up an extreme amount of poo, a never ending amount of paca poo. There seems to be poo everywhere, on the boys’ side that is. The Ladies are very, very neat, never pooing inside their barn, and only creating one, sometimes a small second, poo area.
Hey boys, are you paying attention??? Of course not; boys will be boys.
Dan and I spent all summer and early fall deciding on how best to divvy up the pasture and barn safely for the girls’ arrival. We built gates, and more gates, dug holes for fence posts, and put up the fencing. We built ourselves a Fort Knox system to ensure that the boys can’t wander over to the girls’ side, or vice-versa.
There is some humor to all this work. The boys sniffed at the girls upon their arrival with the usual gusto. They ran up and down the fence line trying to acquaint themselves with the new alpacas on the other side. After a few days, that was it.
The boys are much more interested in me bringing them hay than in the girls on the other side of the fence. Silly boys.
We had an unfortunate incident amongst the boys about a week or so after Soloman and Sam arrived, and Sam is no longer here on our farm. We wish him well. On our farm now, including our beloved Julio, are twenty.
once again, it's time for our annual song ...................
On the twelfth day of Stitch-mas, my true love gave to me:
Twelve knitters knitting
Eleven cones a’ winding
Ten orders shipping
Nine rugs a’ hooking
Eight yarns a’ dying
Seven needles felting
Six sample cards
Five spinning wheels!!!
Four pounds of fiber
Three nuno scarves
Two socks on one needle
And a yarn store that understands me
Merry Christmas Everyone!!!
Oh my. The past few weeks, we have been experiencing the best autumn weather, ever!!
The dew is usually dried off the grass by late morning. I’ve been wheeling down a bale of hay around noontime. Everyday, several alpaca noses greet me at the gate while I wheel the bale in and follow me excitedly as I plunk it down alongside the paddock fencing. The boys love to cush around the bale and mindlessly munch in the sun all afternoon. In the evening I pick up what’s left and put it into their feeders, fluffing it up as much as I can. By then they’re usually pronking about in the pasture.
Changes have been coming to our little farm. Our little farm is growing, growing.
Several weeks ago, I blogged that our adorable little CopperMoon had come home. He arrived with his little shy friend Adagio, which we are calling Daji, and another friend, Falcon. Copper and Daji are average sized alpacas and a bit cautious of their new surroundings. Falcon is a smaller sized alpaca, calm and quiet, but he definitely can take care of himself. The usual meet-and-greet over the fence with our herd went well. We let the newcomers into the small blocked off area to the side of the barn so they could further acclimate themselves. After a couple hours, we opened up the gates.
That was a mistake. Within minutes a horrifying scene emerged while Desi, Coty, and North all insisted on asserting their dominance all at once over the 3 new arrivals, namely shy little Daji. Dan and I managed to separate the 3 offenders rather quickly. I scolded them and lectured them on manners. I know that others will laugh and tell me that this is normal behavior for livestock. I still see it as a nightmare scenario.
I knew my lecture would do no good. Dan and I sectioned off the barn and secured a small pasture area. I knew we had a problem that wouldn’t right itself on its own. We phoned our vet immediately. Luckily she was able to come to our farm a few days later. On a beautiful sunny morning, my 3 ‘big boys’ were gelded. All is calm and quiet again on our little farm, well, for the most part.
We now refer to Desi, Coty, and North as ‘The Sisters.’ :)
In a few weeks our girls, Dreamer (momma to Guinness, Bo and Arlo) and Alana, (momma to Coty, Henry, and Copper) will be home! More fun on our little farm is sure to happen.