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Posted 2/10/2016 9:57am by Mona.

It's February.  It's New Hampshire.  We've had, thankfully, a rather warm and fairly snowless winter.  For a few days last week we could even see the grass.  Thursday morning the boys were out in their big pasture pretending to graze and pronking about.

However, on Friday, I was typing while I watched it snow, snow, snow outside.  Oh well!  It snowed again on Monday.  So much for an early spring courtesy of The Groundhog.  Because of the warmish weather, we only have a few tarps up.  That's been nice for the pacas because there is sun coming into the barn, and fresh air by cross-ventilation.  We've even been able to keep the 'big door' open on the boys' side most days.  Needless to say, they enjoy running in one doorway into the barn and zooming out the other.  Silly, silly boys.

I feel so bad for our 3 girls.  We've had to keep the girls' side door closed because we don't want to chance an unexpected cria born in the pasture in the snow.  BUT, it's been over a year now since the break-out at Pam's farm so the chances of a cria now are very slim.  It was really warm last week so I did open up the girls' big door during the day.  At first, they had no idea of their good luck.  I had to call to them 'yoo-hoo Ladies, time to run out and stretch your legs!'  I only had to call them once.  :)  Trixie was first, gave me a 'yeeha!' expression, then trotted on by me with Ashoo and LadyDi (Danae) close behind.  They all ran down to the end of their pasture to check things out.  Not much grass in mid-winter so they were back in the barn soon to munch on their hay instead.

So on Friday and Monday with the snowstorms I had a traditional winter in New England day, sipping tea, putting wood on the fire, shoveling, and weaving.  :)

Hope your winter days are going well too!

Posted 5/17/2015 8:01am by Mona.

Thank you all for your kind notes, comments, and emails regarding the unfortunate loss of our lovely Alana.  I am very grateful to all of you.  :)

Spring has arrived.  The snow has melted, melted, melted, and the mud, mud, mud arrived too.  A wonderful week of sunny weather with actual springtime temperatures significantly dried up the mud.  Grass is growing and turning green.  We're slowly removing the winter tarps off the front of the barn and have opened up 'the big doors' on the sides of the awning, letting in spring's very welcome warm sunshine.  Songbirds have returned, singing their beautiful songs of love.  A cute little flycatcher is nesting above the light in the barn.  Dan has put the birdhouses back up along the fence line for the bluebirds.

Over the winter, the freezing cold heaves up the ground which heaves up the fenceposts which mis-aligns the gates.  Now that it has warmed up, the ground recedes back and once again the gates are mis-aligned.  Dan's winter and springtime chore is to move the latches up or down, usually more than once, so that the gates will shut easily.

The alpacas are all in "full fleece" now and are looking their cutest!

A few weeks ago, Candy from Eye Candy Alpacas/Wit's End Alpacas came by for a visit and to bring the pacas a gift ....... a bale of Chaffhaye.  Chaffhaye is basically chopped and fermented alfalfa hay.  It is excellent for ruminant animals and horses too.  The bale is in a thick plastic, somewhat shrink-wrapped, 50 pound bag.I opened the bag in our little tack room.  Our tack room now smells like sauerkraut.  :). Good thing I like sauerkraut.

The alpacas’ reaction to the chaffhaye was priceless.  I put a handful in Trixie's bowl and she wanted nothing to do with it.  She just sniffed once and walked away.

I stuffed an empty container of electrolytes to offer it to the boys.  Alpacas are curious yet cautious creatures especially when it comes to new food.  North was the first to approach me and check it out.  He stood just far enough away to stretch out his neck and give a good long sniff and..... instantly JUMPED back, all 4 feet off the ground, sneezing and wide-eyed.  He gave me this look of 'what the hell is that?'. One after another they slowly came over to me and they all reacted like North had.  I wish I'd had a video camera filming their reaction because it was absolutely hysterical to watch.  :).   They really made me laugh.  I really need to laugh again.

I cleaned out the catch tray on their stand up feeder and spread out the chaffhaye, then stood back and watched.  A few curious noses slowly walked up, long necks outstretched, in total sniff mode.  The first to sample the chaffhaye and deem it yummy to eat?  Desi, of course.  I spread some more out along both shelves of that feeder and along the top of the hay in the bale feeder in the barn.  Yes the barn now smells like sauerkraut.

When I returned in the evening, Trixie's bowl and the boy's feeders were licked clean.  Yup, they love the stuff!  Now to find more .......

Tags: alpacas, barn
Posted 2/12/2015 1:24pm by Mona.

I think our blog could use some happy thoughts! 

Today I thought I'd write randomly about our alpacas' many different personalities.We are sure having a very snowy February!  Hope you all are staying safe while clearing snow and ice from your driveways and barns.

The two girls we have left, Alana and 'Trixie', are totally bonded and inseparable. Trixie definitely is more dominant, although both alarm when needed.  Their new trick is to watch me clean the barn and to get my attention, they'll start rolling.  They alternately roll and then stare at me, pleased with themselves.  This continues until I laugh, stop what I'm doing, and give them pellets as a treat.  :). Sometimes, they'll stand at their hay bin and stare at me with their most pathetic face until I give in.  Sometimes Trixie will follow me right into the tack room.

Alana is our shyest alpaca but she will now eat from my hand.  She is very tall and can easily 'gazelle' right over the hay bin from a standing still position. Her beautiful rose-grey fleece looks pink in the sun.  When I first saw her, I knew I had to have her.

Dan was scratching Trixie's neck and she sniffed his hand.  When she realized he did not have any pellets, she spit in his face.

Henry..... oh Henry ......I wheel over the poo barrow after I finish up on the girls' side and Henry comes right over, sticks his head in there, and takes a good long sniff.  Eeewwwww!  I have to chase him out several times before he finally stops.  When I have to catch him, he rests his head along my shoulder.

Henry is our Barn Clown and is usually up to something.  :)

Sol loves to watch me and follow me in the barn.  While I'm bent over fluffing hay in the bin or checking to see how much water is in the buckets, he'll put his head on my shoulder.  Julio used to do this also.  Sol has earned a special place in my heart.  He came here with some sort of injury to his hips (?) and has trouble walking and is still quite thin, so we're always checking in on him.  He is dominant towards the others regarding hay and feed yet very well mannered around we humans.  He lets me hug him too.

Arlo has the sweetest alpaca face, like he's always smiling.  When he chews his cud, his little round face looks like a cherub singing.  He is sweet, sweet, sweet.  To me, he will always look like a cria.  I often call him my Little Man.  He really does not like his feet touched at all and will cush quickly when we try to trim toenails.  Arlo and Bo's toenails seem to grow the fastest.

Daji is so shy still that when I put out hay, he comes to me first, I'll pull out a handful from the feeder, and I hold out the handful for him to munch on.  Then he'll step in closer and try to eat from the feeder with the others.  He is easily pushed out by the others.  He is also very sweet.  He does not like to be caught by us humans and whimpers.

Desi will usually let both Dan and I give him a hug and does not mind humans at all.  Desi will alarm when he senses danger, so we've deemed him our Guard Alpaca.  He is a big alpaca and super strong.  When he eats pellets from our hands, he is so enthusiastic he almost bites our hands.

After 5 years of living here, Coty will finally eat from our hands, sometimes.  Coty is our tallest alpaca, very calm yet shy like his momma Alana, and struts beautifully when he walks.  His fleece is my favorite.

Copper loves to talk in an adorable high-pitch squeal, often.  He talks quite a bit while at the hay feeders.  Copper is also quite the clown, much like his big brother Henry.  Copper and Henry are quite the pair together, instigating humorous trouble.

Earth also loves to talk and is still our most talkative alpaca.  Sometimes it is a loud squeal, but usually it's a long, drawn out, deep humming.  I tell him he sounds like a sheep.  He is very sweet and gives me kisses every day.  He will also tug at my jacket when trying to get my attention.  He chews hay very slowly and I love to watch his little mouth.

Bo loves the barn so much that he is almost always the last to leave and the first to return.  Bo is allergic to the many flying insects.  He looks pathetic during the summer since he scratches the fleece right off his face around his eyes.  Poor Bo. This summer I will try something homeopathic for him.  And Bo loves to have his picture taken!  When he sees me with the camera, he stands still and poses.  I love spinning his fleece.

Falcon is a very quiet alpaca.  He is always observing whatever is going on, quietly, and bothers no one.  He prefers to cush in the back corners of the barn where the straw is.  But when we bring out pellets,watch out!  He is right there, nosing his way in, making sure he gets some.

North is another big, calm alpaca, with lots of lovely, maroonish fleece.  The fleece on his neck is almost as long as the fleece on his back.  He loves to be scratched behind the ears and down his neck.  He eats hay from my arms as I load it into the outside feeder.  He follows Dan around on the tractor while he's moving snow in the paddock, jumping and pronking.

Speaking of moving snow, we really miss Guinness right now in the depths of winter.  He used to get so excited when Dan brought in the tractor.  He'd lay down in front of the bucket and roll and roll and roll.  None of the other pacas will do that.  He seemed to prefer us humans to his alpaca friends.  lol.  I also really miss his momma Dreamer and all her sass and spunk.  She'd spit on a moment's notice in her alpha way, but also welcomed my neck scratches and hugs.

Bear came to us with a bit of a shoulder injury.  With our fairly flat pasture, much different than the farm he was living on, he was running within a week.  He tries hard to be Alpha, head of the herd.  He has a dominant personality and isn't afraid to let the others know it.  He has lovely silvery-black fleece.  His voice has a growling sound to it, which is how we nicknamed him Bear. 

Cowboy is a very sweet little guy with lots of thick, soft, medium fawn-brownish fleece so we call him Peanut.  He's very quiet and bothers no one like his papa Falcon.  He doesn't mind us scratching and touching him, but is surprisingly strong if we try to catch him for shots or shearing, etc. 

Eragon, aaahh  Eragon.  He is a nice boy and likes to pal around with Henry. He sometimes joins Henry in his sniffing the poo barrow shenanigans.  His face and curly topknot even look a lot like Henry's.  You'd think they were brothers but they are not related at all.  He is usually quiet but will shyly eat from my hand. Dan kind of refers to him as 'the forgotten alpaca' since he doesn't have any paca personality traits that stand out nor is he ever sick.  He's a good boy!  His very dark rose-grey fleece looks fabulous in the sun.

I hope you all enjoyed the tour of our pacas' personalities!  Next time I'll talk fleece colors.  :)

 

Tags: alpacas, barn
Posted 10/11/2014 7:51pm by Mona.

Originally posted 7/22/14 .....................

As you may already know, last December we had alpaca ladies join our farm.  

Dreamer, Trixie, and Alana, June2014

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.’  

Posted 2/3/2014 10:58am by Mona.

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.

Posted 12/30/2013 2:18pm by Mona.

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.

Posted 10/9/2013 1:56pm by Mona.

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.

Daji,Copper,Falcon Aug2013

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.

Posted 9/6/2013 3:27pm by Mona.

Do you all remember when our little Copper Moon was born?

CopperMoon b-day May2011

Well here he is now!

CopperMoon Aug2013

 

Tags: alpacas, barn
Posted 8/2/2013 10:22am by Mona.

The camera is working again!  Definitely operator error folks, so we'll just leave it at that.  :)

In honor of the camera finally working, the first picture is for you, Lisa!  Here in front is Desi in full fleece, just before shearing this year:

Desi full fleece May2013 

And the second picture is for you Val!  This is adorable little EarthWind&Fire, whom Dan and I call Earthling, in full fleece:

Earthling May 2013

And for all of you, here are all of our fiber friends!  The first picture is missing Guinness; he was probably just out of camera range.  The second picture is missing Bo.  Bo was probably in the barn.  Bo loves his barn.  Yes, our beloved Julio is in both pictures.  Enjoy everyone!

Alpaca friends full fleece May 2013

alpacas in full fleece 2013

 

Posted 7/26/2013 9:15am by Mona.

Things are still strangely quiet on our little farm.  I just can’t explain it but it all seems so oddly quiet.  The alpacas have their occasional moments of rough housing and it’s odd not to see Julio step up.  Sometimes Guinness intervenes.  He’s a little guy though so this doesn’t always happen.  I tell him he’s a very good boy and give him a hug.    

There is still no clear alpha but I think it’s Cavalier.  He obviously doesn’t mind the rough housing ruckus.  He’ll just stand there and watch while he eats hay or grazes, if he even watches at all.   If he’s cushed he’ll just continue to chew his cud and ignore what’s happening.  Maybe it isn’t such a big deal to him or any of the alpacas.  Maybe I’m just overreacting.  Most of the time it’s as it’s always been, very quiet out there. 

I’ve been asking Cav, whom I often call Big Bear, if he’s the alpha now.  He doesn’t respond.  But when I say ‘hey A-Man!’ he looks me right in the eye in surprise as if to ask ‘What, Who, Me??’  His expression makes me smile and laugh.  Finally I’m laughing again.

The other night we heard the strangest noise outside.   Were raccoons fighting?  We had no idea.  We heard the strange noise again and tried listening for other noises.  Nothing.   Dan said ‘I think the alpacas are alarming!’  Alpacas make a loud, high pitched noise when they feel threatened.  They do not make this noise often.  This could not be good. 

We quickly turned on the outside lights to the barn.  We saw that all the boys were in the paddock, standing perfectly still with their necks straight up.  All of them were staring at the main gate.   They had stopped alarming now that the light was on.  The only alpaca who had ever sounded the alarm was Julio and he hadn’t done that in a very long time.  The hair was standing up on the back of my neck.

We couldn’t see or hear coyotes, nor dogs, nor a bear.  The alpacas will curiously follow wild turkeys along the fence line but turkeys are not out late at night.  When deer or the occasional moose come through the alpacas couldn’t care less.  Dan took the flashlight and cautiously walked out towards the gate.

And there, in front of the gate, waddling by without a care in the world was a porcupine.  Oh geez!  My wimpy alpacas alarmed at a silly little porcupine. 

Who sounded the alarm?  Usually it’s the alpha/guard but we didn’t see who alarmed and we haven’t got a clue.  

Ahhh, the Who’s The New Alpha Game continues on.             

Tags: alpacas, barn
Posted 6/25/2013 8:43am by Mona.

It’s been a long month since Julio left us.  Thank you all for your compassion and kind words.  Dan and I and the alpacas have all been getting into the new routine, the new normal.  

The alpacas have been very quiet.  They’re certainly not loud animals but they have seemed strangely quiet around me.  I’ve watched them to see who the new alpha will be.  Sometimes at night, for the first several days, we would hear fighting out in the pasture as the herd goes about the task to re-organize itself.  With very little fanfare, I’d say it’s Cavalier, who we call Bear, who is the new leader.  He’s the strong, silent type, with a very watchful eye.  Guinness of course will help out.  Nobody ever bothers Cavalier nor Guinness.

I’ve also been quiet.  I quietly go through the daily routines in the barn, scooping poo, re-filling water buckets, fluffing and putting out fresh hay, and opening or closing the big barn door and windows depending on the weather.  The alpacas all quietly mill around me as I work.  Slowly I’m getting back to my usual chit-chat with them.

A few days after Julio’s passing, I was doing a headcount.  I counted and counted, walked around to the back of the barn a few times to double and triple check, re-counted in the barn, and kept coming up with 11 alpacas.  I was almost in a panic when I realized ...... when I remembered why there wasn’t 12.  I collapsed onto the hay bale feeder in tears.  A few paca noses sniffed at my head and face; I wish I knew who it was.

The alpacas mourned too.  I’d often find Guinness cushed in the straw, exactly where his buddy had been cushed.  He’s always let me scratch and hug him and seems to enjoy it more now.  I can generally scratch and hug any of my alpacas, yes some more than others, but lately all of them are letting me scratch them without a fuss.  There’s solace in that.  They would hang out quietly around the barn and paddock and wouldn’t go near the other pasture for at least a week.  All except Guinness.  He’d come over to the spot where the dirt is still fresh and cush for a while near his friend.

My garden is close by to the fence line where Julio rests.  As I’ve been planting and watering seedlings the alpacas have slowly come back to that pasture to see what I’m doing and to keep me company while I work.  The other morning several of them were already grazing nearby.  As I approached the garden, Coty and Henry came right up to the fence and greeted me with upright ears.  Slowly the others did too.  Good morning boys!  After sniffing me, Guinness walked over to the dirt patch and cushed, and rolled.  Coty saw him and joined him, then Henry.  The three of them banged into each other and kept rolling.  Then the others all pig-piled and joined in, cushing and rolling and bumping into each other.  Bo ran over from the barn to cush and roll too.  The alpacas all seemed to be having so much fun.  Huge clouds of dust emerged.  After a few minutes they all jumped up, shook off the dust, and ran off to find some nice grass to eat.  All except Guinness.  He stayed cushed for awhile, near his friend.        

Posted 5/18/2013 4:33pm by Mona.

It’s springtime!  And with fibered animals that means it’s shearing season. 

Professional shearers do extensive traveling this time of year.  They’re ‘on the road’ for a few months, driving from farm to farm setting up their mats, blades, and equipment, shearing the animals, cleaning up and re-packing their equipment, and off they go to the next farm.  Usually they’ll shear at more than one farm per day, and usually late into the night.  This is hard, grueling, dirty work, certainly not for anyone who is lacking in energy or cannot function on a few hours’ sleep.  There is no time for inefficiency.  The animals must be shorn before the hot weather sets in for their health and safety.  We farmers all stress over setting up for shearing day, the weather conditions prior to and on the day of shearing, getting enough helpers, and having enough supplies and snacks on hand.  In reality though, our job is absolutely nothing compared to what the shearers’ job is. 

Let’s hear it for our shearers!!  Whhoooo  -  hoooooooo!!!  Thank you all so much.    

Our boys were sheared Tuesday.  All went well as it normally does at least as far as we humans are concerned.  Of course the alpacas don’t like shearing day and are stressing more than we are.  For several days before shearing I close them into the barn at night and let them out late morning.  Otherwise they’ll roll in the early morning dew, get wet and grind in wet dirt into their fleeces.  Cannot have wet fleeces for shearing day!   Then on the morning of shearing Dan and I corral them into the 2 corner stalls.  That’s when the incessant fussing begins, their eyes widen and don’t blink, and their ears are folded back in obvious concern, wondering what the heck is going on.  When Jay arrives you can see their concern instantly change to that fearful look of ‘oh no!’   I try to shear them by color which went right as planned this year!  Thankfully I only have one real spitter, Bo, and since he is white, he also goes last.  As each one is sheared we let them out of the barn and yup ~ they run right out to the pasture!!  They’ll run off to meet up with their buddies and spend the next few hours sniffing each other all over, trying to figure out who each other is.  It’s pretty funny to watch.  Besides, they all look like aliens when they’re first sheared!  Their wide alpaca eyes really stand out on their little shorn faces.

That night I was concerned that they would be cold having no fleece and with the temperature dropping down to freezing.   We had returned well after dark from helping out at Val’s and I went right to the barn.  Bo and Desi were cushed in the barn and Julio and Cowboy were cushed in the paddock, all chewing their cud contentedly.  I walked to the corner of the barn and squinted into the dark pasture, trying to see the others and do my usual headcount.  It’s actually harder to see brown alpacas in the dark than black ones.  That’s when I realized the other 8 were running around, chasing each other in the dark, playing.  I sing-songed a ‘hello boys’ greeting and they paused momentarily to watch me.  Then Bo, Desi, Cowboy, and Julio, one by one, got up and sauntered out to the pasture to join their herdmates.  They all started to run together in a large circle, in an oval, in a line, and back to a circle.  Their path widened effortlessly.  They ran non-stop for quite a while.  There was no sound in the clear night sky except for the quiet thump-thump of the alpacas running.  I leaned against the barn watching them, listening to the rhythmic sounds of their little padded feet tapping the ground as they ran by me.  I swear 48 feet were all hitting the ground at the exact same time.  And 48 feet were all in the air at the exact same time.  They weren’t just running and playing.  They were pronking.  That’s what happy alpacas do; they pronk.    Pronking alpacas make me smile.

Posted 4/4/2013 11:01am by Mona.

One thing about alpacas, and usually all animals, is that they make me laugh every day.  You just never know what silly thing they will do, silly to us humans but I’m sure just normal activity for them.

I went out to the barn last night for my usual evening check.  It was dusk and most of the boys were quietly cushed outside in the paddock, relaxed, and chewing their cud.  The snow has been melting, melting, melting in the sun this past week.  It’s been windy here too, so the ground was pretty solid and no longer muddy.  The stars were out.  I’m sure the alpacas appreciate being able to sleep outside under the night sky rather than still being cooped up in the barn as they have been.

I said my usual ‘Hello Boys’ as I came in through the gate, doing a headcount to myself.  10 alpacas.  Hhmmm, the other 2 should be in the barn.

I walked into the barn and turned on the light.  And there they were.  The two best buddies, BFF’s, my 2 geldings, Julio and Guinness were together.  Lately I’ve noticed them cushed together a lot. 

But last night, there they were at the poo pile together, bum to bum, tail to tail, doing their business together, at the exact same time.  What are the odds of that happening?  I laughed and laughed and laughed.  They both looked at me like ‘What’s so funny?’ followed by ‘Where’s the hay?’ 

This morning I’m still amazed they didn’t pee on each other’s legs.

Posted 3/15/2013 10:54am by Mona.

This past winter has been cold and somewhat snowy.  For the past 2 weeks, it’s been snowing every day!  Sometimes just several inches of snow, a couple times an actual snowstorm of 12 +/- inches, and most days just what’s referred to as snow squalls leaving us a good dusting.  The dustings are nice.  It makes all the yuckiness look so clean, like fresh vanilla frosting spread out over a just baked cake.

The alpacas have hardly left the barn.  They don’t really enjoy standing or cushing in cold, wet snow.  Sometimes one or two of them will come out and look around and ponder what to do, what to do, for a few minutes.  Sometimes I’ll see one or two eating snow.  Usually a few are just cushed in the little doorway, the rest cushed behind the tarps.  The northwest corner of the barn has been blown bare of snow by the winds and most mornings Cavalier, aka Big Bear, will be cushed out there on the frozen dirt.  He always seems to enjoy the solitude more than the others do.

Yesterday spring seems to have suddenly arrived!  The sky is perfectly blue, barely a breeze, and the beautiful sun is so warm on my face.  Reflecting off the snow, the sun almost blinds me.  The sun is melting the huge piles snow.  Snow is melting off the roof, pouring down like in a rainstorm, and there are large, deep muddy puddles all up and down our dirt driveway and our little road to the barn. 

I walk down to the barn through mud, standing water, and crunchy snow, carefully pulling the 2-wheeler behind me which holds today’s bale of hay.  I’m trying hard not to splash dirty water onto the bale.  The pacas hear me at the gate.  One by one they file out of the barn,  casually walking up to the fenceline where the snow is still fairly clean, knowing that I’ll lay down the 2-wheeler there.  The fresh bale of hay is an easy distraction.  Without them in the barn, I can clean up in there quickly.

The paddock area is a disgusting mess, as it usually is during mud season.  The snow is melting, melting, melting.  There’s so much snow remaining that there’s no place for it to go as it melts.  The large puddles in the paddock are looking like a small pond.  And this pond is a dark, muddy, poop-filled, poopy-water type pond.  Yuck is not the word for it!  It’s really not a pretty sight.  I’m just so glad that we graded the paddock well enough that the water no longer ends up in the barn.  Apparently we’ll need to do more grading this summer.  Spring is approaching so for now I’ll have to patiently wait as the ground thaws a little bit more each day and absorbs all this water. 

I was standing in the barn today, looking over into the paddock at the poo-pond and listening to the alpacas quietly chewing hay.  I stood there pondering farm life.  Farming really gets you in tune with the changes of the seasons, adapting to the weather cycles, and very much aware of the habits of birds, insects, and wild animals that share your little place on this planet.  Farming really makes you connected to the Earth.  Being connected to the Earth is a good thing, another simple joy. 

So I stood there, looking around at my muddy paddock, listening to melting snow pour off the barn roof, and watched my alpacas with very dirty knees and legs eating hay.  And I thought:  hhmmm, anyone considering starting a farm and saw this type of mess would most likely think twice about it, and run!             

Tags: alpacas, barn
Posted 12/21/2012 12:21pm by Mona.

And that makes me happy! 

The alpacas are spending the day in their barn, due to the strong wind-and-rain storm we're receiving.  I can see them all cushed in front of the doorways, watching Mother Nature's wrath of wind blow the rain and branches all around.  The wind is coming from the 'back of the barn' direction so we didn't need to tarp up the gates and close them in.  The wind sounds like a train and I'm leery of trees uprooting and falling down.

It's also the Winter Solstice today.  The days will start getting longer again, yeah!!  More sunshine is always a good thing.

Happy Winter Solstice Everyone!

Tags: alpacas, barn
Posted 8/17/2012 12:13pm by Mona.

As I sit here typing this, I swear I can hear a bugle in the distance playing ‘Taps’ ..................

the ole red wheelbarrow

Well, last evening it finally happened.  Our old, very, very old wheelbarrow, carried its last ever pile o’ alpaca poo over to The Big Poo Pile. 

It’s been a very loyal wheel barrow, trustworthy, always faithfully serving its purpose.  For years its purpose was the usual gardening and landscaping tasks.  It also helped move rocks to build stone walls as well as move many countless cords of firewood.  When the alpacas arrived it took over as Chief Poop Mover, rolling effortlessly from the barn.  And our trusty wheelbarrow took ever so long to rust out completely.  But once that rust started it was the beginning of the end.  We’ve repaired its broken handles and flat tires over the years, but rust keeps on doing its thing until the metal cracks and then there’s a teeny hole.  That teeny hole slowly [or quickly as the case may be] grew and grew until the ‘poo fell through.’  There just ‘ain’t much bucket’ left, which means it’s time for Wheel Barrow Retirement.

In other words, it’s actually time for this ole wheelbarrow to go to the dump.

Dan has had this trusty wheelbarrow for 29 years.  He’s actually kind of sad to see it go.  Yes, Sara and Emily, it’s the Chester Wheelbarrow!

In the distance, the sound of a bugle playing ‘Taps’ continues ......

Tags: alpacas, barn
Posted 7/6/2012 11:34am by Mona.

Ahhhh........ summertime.........  The grass is green as are the leaves.  The days are long, hot, and sticky followed by a hopefully cooler night.  Thunderstorms pop up occasionally to water the earth and cool the air.  The garden is sprouting with green beans and beets and carrots and budding tomatoes and zucchini.  The scent of basil and oregano are in the air as I water.  The daylilies are blooming.  Birds and butterflies abound.  Robins nest on our home’s log corners, finches nest in the bushes, barn swallows nest in the barn, killdeer nest in the pasture, bluebirds nest in the birdhouses along the pasture fence, and the hawk makes a daily appearance swooping over the pasture.  Stella spends the entire day outside, lounging about in the shade.  She sometimes takes herself for a casual walk around the fence perimeter, all the time keeping an eye out for a chipmunk to chase.  I sit quietly outside soaking up the sunshine while I spin, weave, or knit, facing the alpacas grazing in the pasture. 

Wild critters large and small quietly pass through our property at night.  The other day my neighbor mentioned that a raccoon had gotten into his coop, again, and decimated his poultry flock, and that a bear had destroyed his beehive.  :(  Whether you have a teeny homestead or a large one, farming is not always easy or fun; Nature works on her own schedule.

Coyotes and deer still abound.  We’ve been fortunate.  The deer have not decimated the garden yet and the coyotes have never, ever bothered the alpacas.  They do that well enough amongst themselves!  10 intact male alpacas on a hot summer day can get easily bored or irritated with each other ~ I’m guessing that’s it ~ and suddenly have to provide themselves with their own entertainment by chasing each other down .......... which means I’m having to run out to the barn to break up the ‘fight.’  ‘They say’ it’s a normal thing, a hierarchy thing, and to let the boys work it out amongst themselves but I have a hard time standing by idly when a smaller one is screeching. 

And usually they do work it out amongst themselves but when it carries on and on, there I am, running.  And stumbling as I run.  Yes folks.  12 years of ballet as a kid and I can still manage to trip over my own feet on a daily basis.

At least it’s summertime.  All I have to do is jump into my little barn shoes ........

Posted 2/27/2012 3:20pm by Mona.

This winter continues to be warm and weird.  Most nights are still well below freezing but the days are still rather mild for New Hampshire.   We’ve hardly received any snow.   It’s the middle of February and we can see the grass and weeds.  Of course everything is brown and rather dreary looking, rather than bright green and colorful.  We’ve been joking that the winter of 2011 – 2012 has been one very long mud season.

fresh bale of hay

The alpacas are loving this weather.  Usually in the winter they prefer to be snuggled into the barn in the deep straw, behind the front wall of tarps.  All that hanging out in the barn makes them cranky and usually I find fresh spit on someone’s neck in the morning.  This winter most of the alpacas usually sleep outside, cushed under the stars, chewing their cud and looking very content.  During the day, they romp our frozen yet muddy pastures, playing and wrestling with each other.  Some days that wrestling quickly turns into an all out tussle match and Stella and I run outside to try to break it up.  Stella runs out barking and usually it subsides before I make it out to the barn. 

Needless to say, fresh spit abounds.   :)  

To keep myself occupied this winter, I’ve been playing with my bags and bags of alpaca fleeces.  Opening each bag, I know immediately which one of my alpacas formerly wore the fleece inside. :)  I smile, thinking of them running through the pasture or greeting me in the barn with alpaca sniffs and kisses.  I can feel their spirit running through my body and into my heart and embracing my soul.  I am so attached to each and every one of them.  I could never sell any of them.   It’s hard for me to even think of selling their fleece!  As I work with their fleeces ~ sorting, skirting, washing, combing, spinning ~ I smile even more.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  There is joy in working with an animal’s fiber that you’ve raised yourself. 

Posted 1/12/2012 2:34pm by Mona.

This morning I headed down to the barn like I normally do.  So strange, this winter.  It’s been warm, many days into the high 40’s.  Aside from the freak October snowstorm, we really haven’t gotten any snow.  The ground is generally hard from being frozen overnight with not enough daylight to really thaw it out, unless we’d had some rain.  But even so, not that much rain either.  So weird, but since we’ve had several years of record-breaking snowfall filled winter, hey, I’m not complaining about this one.  :)

When I wake up some of the alpacas are cushed in the paddock, still sleeping.  It’s been so warm that we haven’t even had to tarp over the upper half of the barn.  We did put the tarps on the gates, but unless it’s windy, most nights we haven’t even had to shut them.  Those nights, the boys are all cushed together in the deep straw, staying close to each other for warmth.  There’s no snow, so as the sun rises the boys stroll out to the pasture and nibble on the stubby grasses. 

A few of the alpacas were cushed out in the paddock.  We’d put down some old hay and straw near the entrance fence, and Julio and Bo were cushed there, chewing their cud.  I said hello to Bo as I walked by him to check out Julio.  His lump has not gotten any better since we started the antibiotics.  In fact it’s been looking worse, like he ate a golf ball and is holding it along his lower jaw.  He’s been eating, spitting, and acting like his spunky, normal self though!  We suspect he may be purposely stuffing hay there, to get more sympathy from us, so we’ll give him more pellets as treats.  Julio, my Drama Queen.  He knows I’m a softie.

Lately, we’ve been finding small holes dug, in the pen, up against the tack room wall.  Dan and I fill them back in with stonedust and I’ve even put large rocks over them.  A few days later another hole will appear, next to the rock.  Damn!  Over the weekend we thought we’d be clever and put the hose down the hole and turned on the water.  The water poured out from under the back of the barn, and nothing else.  Yeah.

I turned on the lights to the barn and walked into the pen.  Yeah, no new holes!  I stepped on the straw, just to double check against the back wall.  Out of the corner of my eye, from behind the straw bale, something small with a long tail darted by along the wall and instantly disappeared into the teeny space next to the rock.

Right on cue, I screeched, loudly.  EEwwww, yuuuuuuuuck!!

And also right on cue, I heard the alpacas all run across the paddock in a group.   

For some reason when I express the urge to screech, I also simultaneously seem to close my eyes and stamp my feet.   When I re-opened my eyes and turned around, the boys had walked back and were all standing there in front of the pen, wide-eyed, staring at me.  All except Coty, who apparently is no longer bothered by my outbursts.  He was still cushed by the outside hay feeder chewing his cud, never missing a beat.  I choked out an apology.  ‘Sorry boys, but you know those things gross me out.’ 

Earth walked over and gave my nose a long sniff ~ alpaca kisses.  Ahh, much better.

p.s. This happened a couple days ago and apparently I’ve jinxed myself.  Today, it’s snowing!  But ......... no new holes in the pen!

Tags: alpacas, barn
Posted 11/6/2011 2:15pm by Mona.

Needless to say, last weekend we received well over a foot of snow and lost power for several days.............

Our shearer had come by early Saturday morning to help us trim the alpacas’ toenails.  Dan held them and Jay trimmed.  Thank goodness for Jay, because our little herd would not be so accommodating if it were only Dan and me.  The dark and ominous clouds rolled in rather quickly.   After Jay left, we scrambled to get things ready while it was still daylight ~ close up the big barn door on the awning, shut the windows, put up tarps over the gate, find the straw amongst the many bales of hay in the garage, spread straw out in the barn, overstuff the hay feeders with hay, fill up the water buckets, bring in wood and more wood for our woodstove, then off to find a gas station to fill up the gas cans for the generator.  It wasn’t too long after the storm started that the power went out. 

So now I need to update my last post by saying this storm was the most snow I’ve ever seen in October in my lifetime.  And it’s the only time that Halloween Trick or Treating had to be postponed due to a snowstorm..... LOL.

The sun came out Sunday morning and we spent all day shoveling snow, plowing snow, and trying to find our woodpile buried under the snow covered tarps.  Dan plowed a path for the alpacas in the pasture and they spent the afternoon running laps in the brisk air and sunshine.  Silly alpacas.  They’re so easy to please.  :)  As is Stella, who is just as happy to romp through the snow as she is to roll in the grass.  :) 

This week we’ve been blessed by sunshine and more sunshine and the snow is melting, melting, melting.  It’s finally gone in the pasture and lo and behold, there’s green grass growing again.  The boys can still graze and cush outside of the barn, so maybe the early snow is a good thing?  NOT!  There’s still quite a bit of snow around the house and yard as it’s rather shaded from all the trees, but at least the mud is drying up. 

Posted 10/28/2011 2:03pm by Mona.

Late yesterday afternoon, I thought that Mother Nature was playing a trick on us.  The cold rain that had been falling all day quickly turned to heavy, wet snowflakes.  Our beautiful maple trees, leaves still ablaze with autumn reds and oranges, were quickly transformed to white.  New England is certainly well-known for its unpredictable weather, but in my lifetime I don't think I've ever seen [this much] snow in October.

maple tree covered with early autumn snow

We really weren't expecting snow.  We scrambled to close up the barn the best we could by shutting the big awning door and all the windows.  Luckily, there was no wind and the temperature hovered just below 30 degrees.  The alpacas stayed cushed inside overnight, and were out first thing in the morning, as soon as the sun started shining and had melted enough snow to show the green grass in the pasture. 

barn in the morning after early autumn snow

trailer after early autumn snow

Mother Nature, we're still enjoying the fall weather.  It's just way too early for snow!

Posted 10/24/2011 7:13am by Mona.

Mornings in the barn usually start off like this:

EarthWindandFire's nose

:):):)

Enjoy your day everyone!

 

 

 

Tags: alpacas, barn
Posted 10/1/2011 12:30pm by Mona.

Julio and Desi eating hay together

I love it when everyone is getting along. :)

Tags: alpacas, barn
Posted 9/29/2011 8:58am by Mona.

Any guesses who?

We’ve had an interesting week on our farm.  After having fresh, green, second cut hay delivered a week before we had planned, the alpacas have refused to go out to graze.  Instead they’ve been hanging around the barn and paddock, chomping on hay and all but licking the hay bins clean.  Hey guys, I’m so happy you’re enjoying the hay, but we’ve got to make it last through winter!

Last week we added a new member to our herd, a solidly built, thick top-notted, white-fleeced boy named Desidario, Desi for short.  He’s a Triumph son so he has 3 half- brothers here on our farm which he met for the first time:  Bo, Coty, and Arlo.  These 3, along with Guinness and Julio, greeted him with the usual sniff fest over the paddock fencing.  As expected, all went well so we took off his halter and he willingly walked into the paddock, and as expected got a very thorough, all-body sniff fest.  Then whoosh ~ all the boys ran off into the pasture for a pronk fest greeting run in the evening light, joined by the rest of the herd.  What a wonderful sight to see the newbie getting accepted so easily! 

And just as quickly, we realized what was happening........ Coty thought Desi was a girl alpaca.  ‘Coty!  No! He’s a boy!’  I always wonder what the neighbors are thinking when they hear me hollering that.  When alpacas are thundering past you it really isn’t advisable to step out in front of them!  So we had to just stand up against the barn and watch.  We did manage to separate everyone shortly after that, and then there they all were, eating hay as if nothing had happened, including a new alpaca joining the herd.

If it were only that simple...........

Whenever I enter the paddock area and barn I greet the alpacas all by name, and I am constantly talking.  I want the alpacas to know my voice.  I also slowly lean forward and look them right in the eye, close to their face while talking quietly.  This is usually intimidating for an alpaca at first, but over time it has built trust.  They get to sniff the top of my head and know that I am a ‘safe’ human, their caretaker.  If they allow me, I will do a quick neck scratch.  Bonding with animals is such a wonderful feeling, and a simple joy.

Desi is new to my routine so in true alpaca style, is a bit apprehensive.  So being new, he watches me intently as I go about my routine of greeting everyone, scooping the poo, fluffing hay and filling water buckets, and talking, always talking.  Desi is a very mild mannered alpaca, and surprisingly calm around humans.  On only my second trip out, Desi greeted me at the paddock gate, sniffing my head and face while I cheerfully said hello and offered neck scratches. 

That’s when both of us got hit in the head with spit.

Julio.  My personality-plus, headstrong, and apparently very jealous alpha alpaca had been watching.  I stepped toward him to let him know that wasn’t very nice, and he walked right past me, following Desi into the barn, spitting at him the entire time.  Such has been my week.  Whenever I enter the barn, Julio starts following Desi and for no apparent reason, spits at him.  Why is that?  After a few days of pondering this, the only thing that came to mind was that Julio is jealous.  Well that certainly would explain a lot of Julio’s behavior.  A silly thought though, isn’t it?  An alpaca is jealous for a human’s attention!

So now when I walk down to the barn and at the gate I call out Julio’s name.  When I enter the paddock, again I greet Julio by name first.  As I continue to greet the others, I say hello to Julio again, and again.  I make sure he knows I’m paying attention to him. 

Surprise! No spitting!   

Posted 8/31/2011 10:56am by Mona.

I am happy to say our little farm is very fortunate and weathered tropical storm Irene just fine.  The winds did bring down some branches as well as some older trees at the back of our property.  A few power lines were down on our street, but amazingly no flooding occurred in the local area.   On our farm, all the rains flowed down our swales and berms orderly.  Our sump filled up quickly but also quickly drained back out.  Power was restored last evening.  We were only out for 3 days and had the blessings of a working generator. I have never been so excited to do laundry.

The weather has been just perfect since the storm left New England, sunny and dry air.  I am soooooo grateful that there are no frozen pipes to worry about, no repairs to make, no snow to shovel, and no ice on the roads.   

To prepare for the storm we had tightened down the kwanza hut and woodshed, filled up the generator and gotten more gas for it.  In the event that the generator wouldn’t work, our town allows farmers to get water for livestock from the outside spicket at the town office building.  How good is that?  We closed up the awning doors of the barn, shut the barn windows, dragged the large hay feeder into the barn, and tarped up the gates, leaving the usual 2 gates open.  We knew the alpacas wouldn’t venture out during the storm, but it’s important that they don’t feel closed in. 

The alpacas spent most of the time cushed in the openings watching the storm, calmly chewing their cud.  They ate hay without so much as a fuss at their herdmates.  Clearly I was more stressed about them than they were!  Sunday afternoon, with the winds still blowing strongly but only a gentle rain, my usually wimpy alpacas all went out to graze.  When we saw that we knew the worst was over and that all was well.    

Posted 8/4/2011 11:35am by Mona.

On these hot summer days, Dan sometimes drags out the kiddie pool for the alpacas.  First he'll hose down their legs and bellies.  Then he'll fill up the pool a little bit.  The past 2 summers, the boys weren't all that interested in the pool.  This summer, with many more alpacas in the herd, some routines have been a bit different.

Julio, as usual, is the first to check out a new situation:

the alpacas checking out the pool

Cavalier quickly joined him while the others looked on.

alpacas in the pool

And Cavalier is the first one to go swimming!

Cavalier in the pool

Hope you are all finding ways to stay cool!

Tags: alpacas, barn
Posted 7/24/2011 11:47am by Mona.

Guinness

Guinness scared the daylights out of me the other day.

It has been sooooooooo hot!  I realize it’s July, and that we’d had a very long winter, but temps hovering around 100 are just a bit much!

We’ve been hosing down the alpacas every day in an effort to be sure they do not overheat.  I’ve been refilling the water buckets several times a day.  The alpacas like the cool water on a hot day, just like we humans do.  We’ve kept the fans running at high speed 24/7 and an alpaca or two or three is usually cushed in front of at least one of the fans.  Fortunately, even with this very humid heat spell, there has always been a decent breeze.

The boys generally like to run out in the mornings to graze.   I’m thankful that there is always something for them to find to munch on.  There are plenty of clumps of tall grasses here and there, as they just don’t eat everything.  The pasture on the barn side is pretty well eaten down, but there are still plenty of choices on the other side, just no shade, and that’s where they usually are lately when they go out to graze.

I went out mid-morning to do my usual barn chores.  I fluffed the hay and said good morning to my companions who were lounging about in the shade of the barn ~ Julio, Bo, Coty, and Arlo.  I emptied and re-filled the water buckets.  I absently looked out at the gang grazing out in the far pasture.  I walked out behind the barn and looked around.  That’s when I realized, I am only counting 10 alpacas.  We have 11 boys here on our little farm.

My heart dropped.  I felt like I had been punched in the gut.  I ran down the little hill out of the paddock and onto the alpacas’ dirt pile by the pasture fence line.  ‘Hey boys!’ I called out loudly, waving my arms.  6 alpaca heads popped up from grazing ~ North, Earth, Henry, Peanut (aka Cowboy), Cavalier, and Eragon.  But not Guinness.

I started waving my arms and frantically called out for Guinness.  From my slightly higher vantage point, I had a good view of the entire pasture.  The boys all watched me curiously, very intently; being on top of their dirt mound secured me as alpha.  ‘C’mon guys, where’s Guinness?’  All my hollering, and I still could not see him.  By now, North had come over to me and was eyeing me, talking to me in alpaca language.  I asked him to show me where Guinness was.  He started to walk down the little path they’d made in the tall grass over to the far pasture.

I followed North and kept frantically looking through the grass.  North began grazing near the pasture fence line.  The others watched me for a moment and resumed grazing.  I walked across the pasture over to the far gate, and still, no sign of Guinness.  All the gates were securely latched, but we don’t lock them.  He was nowhere to be found.  I got the chills.  Could someone have come in and stolen my Guinness? 

I started to head back towards the pasture fencing, not sure of what to do first.  And then, to my horror, in the one clump of remaining tall grasses at the back end of the barn side pasture, in this awful heat, there was a dark brown lump.

‘GUINNESS!!!!!’  I kept screaming his name in a panic while I ran up to the pasture gate.  Oh no, this really couldn’t be happening.  As I ran through the pasture gate and back down the barn side pasture towards him, Guinness suddenly lifted up his head.  Huge sigh of relief!!!  I greeted him with a so very happy to see you neck scratch, restraining my urge to hug him, and he greeted me with his usual Guinness snort.  Apparently I’d woken him up from a good nap.

I laughed and he jumped up.  He was watching his herd mates.  The 4 in the barn were now at the top of the hill by the paddock, watching, and the 6 from the other pasture had run over to the gate and were also watching.  I walked with Guinness back towards the barn and then he ran towards his herd. 

As we approached the hill, the other 10 all came running towards us.  The herd pronked around us in a big circle.   Guinness quickly joined them, and for a few blissful moments I just stood there smiling with happy tears, watching my happy alpaca herd pronking around me in a circle. 

It’s very rare for a human to be given such a happy alpaca dance. 

Posted 6/30/2011 8:46am by Mona.

In the front part of our pasture, right by the tack room end of the barn, there is growing a rather odd looking weed.  The soil is very poor there, pretty much all clay, so not too much grass has grown, and there are always plenty of small rocks.  The alpacas come up here occasionally and do find something to eat, but they've never touched this weed.  So I'm guessing they know it's either bitter tasting and/or poisonous to them.  Guesses anyone?

Name that weed!

Yes, folks, I realize the picture is sideways!  It was the best way to get the entire plant in the picture.  It's about to flower some little yellow flowers.  This plant really is pretty but I need to pull it out soon before it goes to seed, just in case it really shouldn't be in an alpaca pasture.  And yes, that's grass you see around it.  This is right near an area that the alpacas have designated a(nother) poop pile.  Now that I think of it, perhaps it was some sort of seed in their hay; maybe that's how it's gotten here.  It's the only  one we've seen around our entire property.

If you know what it could be, please comment to let me know!  I'll be very grateful!  Thanks everyone!

Posted 6/20/2011 1:11pm by Mona.

Yesterday our little alpaca herd grew again, as 2 more alpaca boys joined us here on our farm.  Val came by and dropped off Cavalier and Eragon.  Both are considered modern gray in color, with Cavalier being a dark silver grey and Eragon a dark rose grey.  At quick glance, well, they look black!  But we fiber people get carried away with now what exactly is that color?  It’ll be nice colors to blend with the other colors we already have.  Cavalier is clearly taller than Eragon, and luckily for Dan, Eragon has a very telltale white spot on the front of his neck.

 

Eragon and Cavalier, the meet and greet

The meet and greet inspired a lot of expected sniffing over the paddock fence.  No spitting, no drama.  Val took off the harnesses and we let them into the barn and paddock area.  There was more sniffing and checking each other out, and still no spitting nor drama.  They didn’t do a pasture pronk, which I’m guessing is because it’s a little warm outside.  Instead they just milled around, picking at the hay and occasionally sniffing each other again, while the 3 of us humans stood talking, waiting for something to happen.  Nothing, just quietness.  The boys all cushed after we left.

Julio was being rather aloof, but he did give me that ‘what did you do’ look again.

Later in the darkness, we could see the shadows of the entire herd out in the pasture, quietly grazing together under the stars.  All except for Bo, who was cushed up in the barn, watching the herd contently while he chewed his cud.  From the house, we heard absolutely no noises at all.  It was a very simple integration of new alpacas into our herd.

Posted 5/24/2011 11:45am by Mona.

Camera snaffu is finally corrected!  [aka, I'm not all that fast at figuring out computer stuff]

Here's a small pictorial from our Spring Cleaning Day.

Dan digging out the alpacas' poo pile area

Adding limestone to reduce odors

Adding fresh stonedust

Dan, raking and leveling fresh stonedust

how to distract alpacas (fresh hay of course!)

Poo Pile composting in progress [yes that's actually snow in there on May 8th!]:

poo pile composting in progress

And a year's worth of alpaca poo transforms to this fabulous dirt pile:

finished poo pile

Posted 5/9/2011 8:07am by Mona.

(slight camera snaffu ~ pictures to follow)

Spring cleaning on an alpaca farm is when we clean out the barn and paddock areas in preparation for shearing day.  We want the barn as clean as possible (well, it is a barn after all) so that the alpacas’ fleece stay as clean as possible.  Shearing Day is a fiber farmer’s Harvest Day, and it’s very important to us to get the most out of our harvest. 

Dan has spent the previous week or so raking out each pen of the straw bedding that has accumulated over the winter.  This used bedding is added to the ever-growing-poop-pile to compost down into lovely dirt.  Eventually we will be spreading out this compost onto the pastures, fertilizing our heavy clay soil, creating rich, nutrient-filled soil, and then beautiful grass will grow.   

It’s great to dream.

Our first priority was to get the alpacas OUT of the barn and out of the way.  So we dragged the 2 hay bale feeders out and stuffed them with fresh hay.  I made a point of parading through the barn with a fresh bale and the boys all followed me outside like I was the pied piper. 

We’ve spent this afternoon digging out the poop areas in the barn.  The alpacas have 3 defined, communal poop spots in their barn.  After we dug out the area, we’d sprinkle quite a bit of limestone down which helps to neutralize the smell.  Then Dan brought in a tractor-bucket full of fresh stonedust to fill in the spot.  We’d rake it out till it was somewhat level, I’d step all over to mush it down, and then we’d dump some more stonedust and rake again, until the spot was firm and all the limestone was well covered.

Of course just bringing the tractor into the paddock excites the alpacas to no end!  We had to work around them carefully.  They all followed Dan riding in on the tractor and when the tractor stopped, they rolled and rolled in front of and all around the tractor.  We were trying to work quickly because the sunny sky had clouded over.  The last thing we need are wet, muddy alpacas on shearing day.  Whether it’s snow, dirt, stonedust, or mud, alpacas just love to roll when they’re happy, and they get really happy when the tractor arrives.  So we just paused to watch and enjoy them. 

Watching happy alpacas rolling is a simply joy.

It had started to rain softly so as soon as we were done we had to hustle them back into the barn, this time with Dan shaking a bowl of pellets.  That was quick!  I closed all the gates behind our fleece-y friends.  Dan made sure each eager nose got a few mouthfuls and then got back on the tractor.  I took down one more of the tarps; just one is left.  I emptied and refilled the water buckets and the alpacas just stood there staring at me, and mindlessly stared outside the gates at Dan working in the paddock.  They hummed and hummed, loudly, not too happy with us to be locked into the barn.  Sorry boys!  All your fleeces need to be dry, dry, dry for shearing day. 

Dan then raked out the paddock of the rest of the mashed down, wet straw with the york rake on the tractor.  He filled up the bucket and dumped it all into The Big Poop Pile.

He figured he’d turn the poop piles while he was there.  The older pile is now looking like the glorious dirt we’re hoping for.  It’s a deep dark brown and full of earth worms.  Yeah!

The newer pile was steaming off heat on one side!  Hoorah!  And the other side ........... the other side still had some snow in it! 

Posted 4/23/2011 11:27am by Mona.

We woke up this morning to the Winter That Just Won’t End.

April 23 snow

Good thing I didn’t plant anything yesterday on Earth Day.

Posted 3/31/2011 12:45pm by Mona.

The past few weeks have been mostly sunny days.  Most of the snow is gone.  Evenings are still below freezing so the ground is wet yet somewhat solid. 

The alpacas have been running around the pasture, so happy not to be cooped up in the barn.  The chase each other and pronk about in big circles.  They cush out in the fields and take naps, usually in an adorable huddle.  Sometimes late at night we’ve seen them sleeping out in the paddock in the moonlight under the starry nighttime sky.  They’re even grazing.  I have absolutely no idea what they could be grazing on.  There’s only brownish grasses left over from last fall.  It’s been way too cold and still early in the spring for grass to sprout, but they’re finding something yummy. 

When I walk into the paddock to start chores they come running!  They all greet me with muddy knees and feet and sniff my nose and head.  They’re a bit less cranky at feeding time.  Once done, they all run out of the barn and begin pronking about the pasture again.  I love to watch them, all in full fleece and about as cute as alpacas can be.

I have no idea how to tell them tonight that we’re getting 14 inches of snow tomorrow, on April Fool’s Day.  Really.     

Posted 3/11/2011 11:23am by Mona.

It was foggy and drizzly when we walked down to the barn last night.  No stars were out.  The path to the barn is mud and large puddles.  The snow banks are really going down but there’s still plenty of snow.  The paddock is mud, mud, and more mud, with puddles everywhere in the shape of cute little alpaca feet.  With the rain and the snow melting it’s hard to tell the mud from the alpaca poo especially at night.  At least it’s not iced over; spring is on its way.  Thankfully the new gutter is doing its job to keep the barn dry.

The alpacas were fairly quiet even after I turned on the barn lights.  I fluffed up the hay feeders and brought out another bale and they promptly starting eating.  Dan scooped what little poo there was in the barn and got started on the paddock.  I emptied and re-filled one of the water buckets and put in the apple electrolytes the boys love.  Then I went over to the other water bucket and unplugged it to empty it too.  I noticed that something much larger than a piece of straw was floating in the bucket.

Q:  What is worse than finding a very large mouse running through your barn?

A:  Finding a very large mouse floating belly up in the water bucket!

I started to shake.  I looked in the bucket again and oh yeah, it wasn’t straw.  I shook some more and put the bucket down on the ground.  I didn’t exactly scream, but instead let out a very long and loud, very girlie-ish squeal. 

The alpacas ran out of the barn.

So there I am again, a usually-sensible-forty-something-woman trying hard to keep my composure.  Instead I was squealing, speechless, and almost cried.  Dan stomped over to me.  ‘What, what is it?  Speak!’  So I told him.  He walked over to the bucket and looked in.  As he was leaving the barn to go dump out the bucket, he reminded me that this was a farm and that I need to get used to these things.

Really?

When he came back he assured me that it was only a small mouse, not a very large mouse.  He always knows the right thing to say!

Tags: alpacas, barn
Posted 3/9/2011 9:19am by Mona.

Barn with melting snow

There is a fifth season that is never mentioned scientifically, but it’s definitely talked about extensively here in New England.  It’s Mud season.  Mud season is that transition time during the melting snows of late winter and the not yet totally thawed ground of early spring.  Complicate that with heavy rainfall and Mother Nature creates a very messy, muddy situation.

Dan and I joke around a lot about how our pasture and surrounding yard looks like a ‘weird science experiment’ with all the swales and berms we’ve made to create proper drainage.  With the arrival of mud season which sometimes brings nearby flooding, we’re always eager to see if our experiments have worked.  We need to be certain that the alpacas are safe.  Alpacas are a sure-footed animal, yet deep mud while they’re pronking and not expecting it could easily break a leg or foot. 

So far, so good.

Over the weekend Dan put up a gutter along the front roof of the barn.  Melting snow with nowhere to go (ground is still not thawed) was slowly flowing back into the barn, creating a small pond near the opening, right where one of the alpacas’ poo piles is.  Can you say ‘oh yuck?’  Of course the boys were hesitant to even walk around it.  We would rake over some straw bedding to help absorb and re-direct the water.  This does work but it takes several hours and we’d much prefer the straw is used for the alpacas’ bedding, to stay warm and dry.  It only took about an hour to hook up the gutter and it had started to rain.  Yes, Sara and Emily, your dad was looking quite fashionable in his ‘hat-from-a-grocery-store-bag.’  His hair stayed dry! 

And the barn has stayed dry now too!

Tags: alpacas, barn
Posted 2/17/2011 11:08am by Mona.

For several days now, we haven’t had any snow.  Some days are still rather cold, but things have been warming up a little bit.  And sunshine!  Even on cold and windy days the sun is melting snow.  Water is pouring down off the roofs and turning the driveway and pathway to the barn to mud.  It refreezes overnight to a thick sheet of ice, and now we inch our way carefully walking down to the barn.  The paddock has become a yucky-mud and ice-poopy mess of late winter thawing.  I’m not sure if I’ll ever get used to that!  Over fields of white snow, the sun can be blinding for a few moments, but most certainly a welcome sight.  Oh please, Mother Nature, send Springtime soon.

Since the arrival of Henry and Cowboy in December, it brings our total number of alpacas here to nine.  And lugging hot tap water for 9 alpacas is quite a bit more work than for just 5 alpacas, so we decided to hang up 2 five gallon heated water buckets.  At first I wouldn’t; I was terrified of fire but have since learned they are very safe.   Now the alpacas have warm water all the time, and we don’t have to worry about their water freezing.  The funny thing is, the boys will drink one bucket until it’s dry, and hardly touch the other one!  Silly alpacas.

With all this sunshine, the alpacas have been coming out of the barn more and more.  At first they’ll be squinting, look around, and casually stroll across the paddock, and down the little path into the pasture.  They’ll stroll around a bit, sometimes play a bit, and sometimes cush in the sun and nap.  Almost always the first one to venture out is Julio, or North or Coty, and lots of times it’s Henry.  Henry is always accompanied by Earth.  They’re buddies and are inseparable.   Once one or two are out, the other seven follow. 

Yeah, now I can look out my window and see my little herd of alpaca boys.  And what do they do when they come out?  They eat snow.  They’ve never done this before.  Yet now that there are heated water buckets with nice warm water that never freezes, they’re eating snow.  They’re all lined up in the paddock and down the path, eating snow like they’re grazing on grass.  Every last one of them.

Silly, silly alpacas.

Posted 2/3/2011 8:09am by Mona.

I woke up this morning at daybreak and noticed that it was snowing.  I’m not sure if I should end that statement with again or still.  Dan was out on the tractor for almost 5 hours yesterday, clearing and widening our driveway and the path down to the barn, clearing the paddock and making paths in the pasture, and clearing snow from around the trailer where the hay is stored and our tarp-and-pallet woodshed.  The snowbanks along our driveway and along our street are at least as tall as me or higher; I am 5 feet 4 inches tall. 

Dan clearing snow

Barn covered in snow

Snow up to front porch and windows

our mailbox, shoveled out

Yup, the alpacas will hardly leave the barn.  Yup, Stella gets stuck when she runs in the snow.  Yup, snow is up to the porch and just under the window.  Yup, we have to dig out the mailbox. 

Yup, I don’t think we’ll see grass again until July.

This year’s winter is definitely for the record books!

Posted 1/21/2011 7:25pm by Mona.

Alpacas most definitely have their own little personalities.  Some may be quite timid with people, some may be much more vocal than their herdmates, some are more dominant over issues such as hay or spaces in the barn, and some tend to be very quiet and submissive, and so on. 

One thing about a males only farm is that they can be very, very silly more often than not.  Their only job is to grow fabulous fiber.  And boys just love to play!

Silly, silly alpacas are a simple joy.

Last night the boys were still cranky.  Another day of snow and cold wind, and they’re just tired of being in the barn cooped up with each other.  They can go out, but generally don’t.  If they do wander out, it’s not for very long.  Dan will need to plow out paths for them again this weekend.  It’ll be cold again, but thankfully sunny.

Snow started up again overnight so I didn’t venture out to the barn till it stopped around noontime.  Let’s hear it for heated water buckets!  As I walked up to the barn pushing the wheelbarrow, I could see everyone cushed quietly inside on their thick layer of straw.  At least no one’s spitting was my first thought.  I greeted them with my usual sing-song-y, cheerful ‘Hello boys!’ and turned on the lights.  I usually quietly do a head count when I first come out and for some reason I started counting out loud.  ‘1, 2, 3, ......... 7, 8, 9!’  I was still speaking in that sing-song-y voice.

The boys were all eyeing me very intently.  Ears started to go up.  Julio was the first to stand, then North, then the others.  As each stood up, I said ‘Oh good boy! There’s 1!  Oh good boy! There’s 2! .........’  Within seconds all 9 alpacas were standing, all with ears straight up, huge eyes following me.  No one had moved from their spot, but apparently they were finding me entertaining.

It’s not very often a human can have the undivided attention of their alpacas, especially all at the same time.

So I continued sing-song-ing. ‘Yeah, all the alpacas are up!  Yeah!’  I even jumped and down and clapped a few times.  Yes folks, there I was, a 40-something woman, in my barn jumping up and down, clapping my hands, and cheering ‘yeah!’  9 alpaca heads bobbed up and down as I did.  9 sets of alpaca ears were standing up straight.  9 sets of alpaca eyes were watching me.  9 alpacas made me burst out laughing in joy.

9 alpacas were probably thinking ‘Silly, silly, human!’

Tags: alpacas, barn
Posted 1/17/2011 10:15am by Mona.

Although, perhaps with the alpacas we should refer to this as ‘Barn Fever.’   It’s the dead of winter, lots of snow on the ground, the days are barely above zero, and any slight breeze is simply bone-chilling.  Usually people just remain inside their homes, snuggled up near woodstoves and curled up on the couch with blankets, sipping tea and hot chocolate and knitting away. 

After a while, we all go crazy being inside so much and just feel a need to get out.  Sometimes Dan and I will slip on the snowshoes and walk around the pasture and into the woods.  Stella runs along beside us, leaping through the snow.  If the roads are clear and down to pavement, then we’ll just take a little walk.  Activity always helps to warm us up.

Alpacas in the paddock

The alpacas don’t care for the deep snow and have been staying in the barn, cushed on their straw bedding and munching away at hay.  The tarps keep most of the wind out but it’s so dark in there even during the day.  I keep reminding them to come outside, get some fresh air and sunshine, but they just look at me with an ‘are you kidding me?’ look.  Dan cleared out the paddock after Wednesday’s snowstorm, but still they’ve hardly come out.  Being inside the barn so much is making them really cranky.  I find fresh spit on the posts and barn walls whenever I go in. 

But Dan on the tractor gets them out!  The boys will all greet him at the gate as he rides in.  Yesterday Dan plowed paths for them around the pasture, and the boys just loved it.   They’d follow behind him as he plowed, pronking and all but dancing.  They ran and ran, as one beautiful herd of alpacas.  Such a sight!  As they come up to the barn, you can hear the pounding of their feet like a small train coming in.  They stand in the paddock for a minute catching their breaths.  Then one of them will walk quickly down the little hill and look over their shoulder as if to say ‘C’mon guys!’ and suddenly all of them are running, around the paths and sometimes into the snow, leaping and pronking and chasing each other, having a great time.

the alpacas love our tractor

alpacas following Dan on the tractor

alpacas running in the snow

Posted 12/26/2010 7:15pm by Mona.

Looks like 2010 is going to end with quite the bang up here in New Hampshire.  We usually refer to these huge snowstorms as ‘Nor’easters’ but the weathermen are all calling it a blizzard, probably because of the strong winds.  They keep ‘upping’ the forecast and this evening it now looks like we’ll get 14 – 21 inches of snow by the time the storm is over tomorrow evening.  No matter what you call it, that’s a lot of snow for one storm.

Barn, all ready for the storm

Alpacas cozying up for the storm

Alpacas don’t like to be closed in, and we’d never sleep knowing they didn’t have a way to ‘get out’ should something happen to the barn.  But all this wind will definitely blow snow into our open barn, so this afternoon we spent a few hours with tarps, scraps of plywood, a staple gun, and a cordless screwdriver.  First Dan dragged in their outside hay feeder and then we set out to block the openings of the barn.  We covered over three of them and half of the fourth one, leaving about a 6 foot wide opening.  We wanted it wide enough so that if something startled them, they could all run out pretty much at once.  Their small hay feeder is positioned right in front of this opening, so we moved that against the side of the pen wall.  We spread out a bale of fresh straw in this protected section of 4 pens, put out 2 buckets of hot tap water, filled and fluffed the 3 hay feeders, told them to stay cushed together for warmth, and be nice to each other.  I doubt any of them will venture outside tonight!  It’s awfully dark in there now so we’ve left the back porch light on as a bit of a nightlight for them.

Stay safe, my alpaca friends. 

Tags: alpacas, barn
Posted 12/7/2010 11:10am by Mona.

We’ve been transitioning to our winter routine.  We can’t leave the house until we’re ‘loaded up’:  winter muck boots, heavy coats and gloves, hat/headband, and lots of layers.  Barn chores take much longer this time of year.  We’re trying to remember what we did last year for snow removal around the gates, what worked and didn’t work so well.  We’re so not ready for snow just yet.  We’re lucky that so far it’s just been cold and windy.  What little snow we’ve had is gone within a day or two.

It seems as if the alpacas have grown their own winter coats overnight.  Suddenly they’re all so very fluffy looking.  Those fluffy cheeks are beginning to look like teddy bear faces.  We’ve been putting down straw for them to bed down on but in the morning light we see that they’re all cushed outside!  Apparently they’re a lot warmer than we are. 

There’s hardly anything left to graze on in the pastures so we’re starting to go through more hay.  That’s normal this time of year.  I try to keep all the feeders really full and well fluffed.  We’ve been feeding them a little more pellets in the evenings too.  The boys never say no to extra pellets.

The past several days it hasn’t even reached 32 degrees so the water buckets are frozen over mornings and evenings.  So it’s back to hauling down gallons and gallons of hot tap water!  Arlo used to always greet me last winter but now it’s North.  Once he realized I’m bringing down morning and evening ‘tea,’ he runs right up to me.  I can barely get the buckets down on the floor of the barn and he’s drinking and drinking .......... he’ll drink a whole gallon of warm water at once.  Silly alpaca.

The other thing with cold weather returning is that it’s harder to rake up the alpaca poo.  I wait till mid morning to do this, hoping that with the sun up over the barn, the beans won’t be frozen to the ground so much.  When you try using the rake to scoop frozen-to-the-ground-beans, the beans develop a life of their own and sail across the paddock.  So now it’s ice pick time.  The ice pick breaks up the frozen beans easier, but it also makes it easier for the beans to sail faster and more unpredictably.  Ever have this conversation with a co-worker?  “Well I had to get out the ice pick to shovel manure this morning and whoa!  The beans went straight up!  Only had a half dozen or so in my hair.  Thank god my mouth wasn’t open.”  I don’t recommend it.  Unless they have livestock, they just won’t understand.  They’ll look absolutely horrified, possibly more so than when describing how your favorite alpaca spit in your hair.

Alpacas’ cute personalities and fabulous fiber (!) outweigh all these ..... these ..... winter oddities.

I wouldn’t trade my alpacas for any other livestock in the world!

Posted 12/2/2010 11:03am by Mona.

I went out to the barn this morning to do my usual morning chores.  It’s sunny today after a day of foggy, wind swept rain, and all the alpacas were out in the pasture.  North and Earth came into the barn while I was scooping alpaca poo.  I pushed the wheelbarrow out to the Big Pile to dump it and when I came back into the paddock the rest of the alpacas ran up too.  I greeted them all by name as I usually do.

Coty was standing near the outside hay bin.  I casually asked him how his wound was doing this morning and walked into the barn to begin refilling the hay bins.   Here I am fluffing hay when Coty sauntered in, bleeding all over again!  Yikes!  Quickly I went into ‘vet’ mode and shut the barn panel, herded Coty and North into the pen, turned on the inside barn lights, and got paper towels to clean him up again.  He must have rubbed his head on something and pulled off the scab.  At least it wasn’t a new wound!  He winced strongly when I first applied pressure against his gash, such tender ears alpacas have, and then stood calmly while I waited there for the blood to stop.  North was a good companion and didn’t leave his side.  Earth fussed from just outside the pen door.

I did a quick couple of wipes down Coty’s neck.  It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as the other night and I know that this blood on top of his fleece will eventually wash off on its own.  I let him and North out of the pen and opened up the barn again.  Bo and Arlo came in quickly to check out the new hay.  I finished adding and fluffing hay to the other bins and re-filled water buckets.

And that’s when I realized that Coty had managed to bleed on just about everyone else.

Welcome to our farm!  We have a small herd of red-spotted alpacas!

Posted 11/30/2010 11:21am by Mona.

Coty’s mama is our beautiful Alana.  When I first saw Alana she was still a cria, and I knew I had to have her.  She has stunning rose-grey/fawn fleece that in the sunlight has a pinkish hue and is oh so soft to the touch.  Now as an adult alpaca she is very tall and statuesque and still has that stunning fleece.  Coty is a male version of her, his fleece a shade or two lighter and more a fawn color.  That fleece is heaven on your hands and against your cheek.  He is a little shy and apprehensive around humans, but stands quietly for you when held.  Around the other alpacas he is always gentle and rarely spits.  At two years old he is a very tall alpaca and all but struts when he walks.  Personally, I’d love a pasture full of Cotys. 

Last night, Coty sent me into a panic. 

We went out to the barn as we usually do in the evenings to feed the boys.  Dan has wired the outside lights of the barn so that we can also turn them on from inside the house.  As we walked into the paddock ............ you know how you ‘just know’ that something isn’t right?  The boys were all quietly standing around or eating hay.  Bo slowly approached us and as he walked past the light we noticed a little spot of blood on his side.  ‘Hhhmmm ........ thought he was all done teething’ I mused out loud.   I started scanning the rest of the boys in the shadowed paddock.  Coty started to come towards us.  My normally very quiet and calm husband exclaimed ‘LOOK at Coty!’  There under the light, the left side of Coty’s head and down his neck was just covered in blood.  ‘Coty, my Coty!’ I screeched.   It is hunting season and the worst possible scenario ran through my head.  I went into the tack room to turn on all the barn lights.  Of course now Coty looked much worse.   

I ran back to the house to get rags and warm water and the phone to call the vet.  Here’s my soapbox to have a phone in the barn with the vet’s phone number right there.  When I got back Dan had all 7 alpacas enclosed in the barn, with Coty, Arlo, and Julio in the pen.  We scooted Julio out.  Dan had inspected Coty and determined ~ thank God ~ that it was not a gunshot wound.  More likely, one of the alpacas had bit his ear and yanked out fleece along with some skin.  Which alpaca would have done that?  Hello Guinness.  It must have just happened because the blood was so fresh; none of it had dried.  Dan held him.  Coty rested his chin on the pen wall while I gently washed off his neck and side of his face with the wet rag.  Blood was basically on top of his fleece and some of it was starting to clot.  I slowly made my way over to his ear and that’s when he winced.  Poor Coty!!  Oh that must have hurt.  I held the rag with gentle pressure on his ear to stop the bleeding.  Coty was a real trooper and just stood there.  Sometime he’d rock his chin on the pen wall a bit but he never fussed.  Bo was very concerned and stood closely right on the other side of the pen wall watching and watching the entire time.  Whenever I’d turn around to wet the rag again, Bo would nose Coty and Coty would nose Bo right back.  How sweet!

After getting Coty all cleaned up we went on with our usual evening routine of refilling the hay bins and water buckets, and feeding alpaca pellets.  It was very quiet in the barn, no fussing or fighting at all. 

Tags: alpacas, barn
Posted 11/25/2010 12:51pm by Mona.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  I love that whole ‘harvest time’ theme.  The smell of the turkey and all those veggies cooking make the house smell oh so good.  And pie!  Lots and lots of pie! 

We are grateful for the many blessings in our lives.  As alpaca farmers sometimes these blessings are unusual things.  For instance, this morning I am grateful that Guinness didn’t spit into my hair!  When I’m in the barn, if one of the alpacas is going to be spitting, 90% of the time, it’ll be Guinness.  He’s usually defending some freshly fluffed hay, which he thinks is all for him.  Usually his cohort in spitting crime is Julio, but sometimes it’s one of the other alpacas.  They will usually turn their head when Guinness starts to fuss, then Guinness will spit at them and fuss some more, and if I’m not fast enough .........eeewww!  Spit spray will end up in my hair.  And other mornings, Guinness just quietly chews hay side by side his fellow herd mates.

This morning I am grateful for my clean hair!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! 

Tags: alpacas, barn
Posted 11/12/2010 1:19pm by Mona.

It’s good to see Julio being his usual self.  By his usual self, I mean spitting with Guinness over hay, threatening to spit at Bo, Coty, Arlo, and the new boys over hay, being the first to finish eating at dinnertime thereby trying to steal the others’ feed, and some mild body-slamming of the others to push them out of the way ~ just because.  And perhaps a kick if we humans are too close to his back legs.  Not that any of these traits are particularly endearing, but they are who Julio is.  It’s autumn now, cold and windy with shorter days, and he’s also resumed acting as the guard, first to check out any possibility of danger.  He is back to being our alpha!

Julio with Arlo looking on

At the beginning of summer we’d noticed him acting a bit ‘off.’  He’d stand around a lot, or cush more than usual, he’d eat his pellets slowly and sometimes not finish them, nibble at hay rather than enthusiastically chew, and ignore Guinness at the hay bins.  An alpaca that doesn’t ‘stay with the herd’ is one that is probably ill.  Then we noticed he had a small lump on one jaw.   Over a few weeks the swelling would go up and down and back up and sometimes poor Julio would even drool.  I kept in contact with our wonderful vet, Amy.  Once we noticed that he was clearly thinner, she came right out.  Our poor Julio appeared to have either a tooth or jaw abscess!  She drew up 5 injections of an antibiotic for us to give to him over 10 days.

Amy gave Julio the first shot with ease, giving us instructions on how to do an intra-muscular injection, something we haven’t done before.   Yikes!  Two days later Julio must have been feeling better.  He also must have sensed our apprehension and thought it would be a fun game to play ‘keep away from the humans.’  At dinnertime we would entice him into the pen to eat with Arlo and then we’d corner him to do his shot.  We’d catch him, but he didn’t want to stay caught!  Julio is a tall alpaca and very strong and he’d push forward against me almost knocking me down.  Dan could hold him longer than I could, but Julio would literally take him ‘for a ride’ around the pen with Dan hanging on.  I wish I’d had a video camera for that scene!  He’d kick at us and try to climb up the pen walls to get out.  Stressing him is not good, so we’d give up after about 20 minutes and just let him out to rejoin the herd in the pasture. 

Julio needed his shots.  Several days of trying went unsuccessfully, each time with Julio taking Dan for a ride in the pen.  By Saturday we were frantic.   Val came right over!  Having had alpacas for years, and having over 70 alpacas on her farm, Val is a natural. She came into the pen with us and Julio just watched.  She talked to Julio in her calm, soothing voice.  She scratched his ears and neck and showed him the needle.  Our little hoodlum just stood there.  She very gently held him.  She then instructed Dan on where to stand and exactly what motions to do with his hands.  Dan administered the injection, and Julio never even flinched.  All this couldn’t even have taken 2 minutes.

The remaining 3 injections, we caught Julio, I held him, Dan gave him the injection, then DONE.  No drama!

Yup, that’s our man Julio, the Drama Queen.

Tags: alpacas, barn
Posted 10/31/2010 11:32pm by Mona.

North and Earth in Val's van

Our little guy Henry and new friend Cowboy have not been very eager to take that ‘leap of faith’ and hop into Val’s van.  So today, only North and Earth came home to our little farm.  They were both hesitant to get out of the van, but with just a gentle pull to the leash, a quick hop out they did.  They both walked on their leashes very proudly down our little farm road to the barn.

North jumping out of Val's van

Yesterday Dan had put up some hog panels from the corner of the barn out to the fence line, creating a small pen enclosure in case our 5 boys here were a little too rambunctious towards the newcomers.   Val and her daughter Annie walked North and Earth to just inside the gate.  It’s best to introduce new alpacas to the herd over a fence.  Julio, Guinness, Bo, Coty, and Arlo were all cushed in the far pasture.  Arlo noticed the new arrivals first and suddenly all 5 came running like bats out of hell!  Julio was the first to arrive of course, and instantly all 7 boys were sniffing each other excitedly over our little temporary fencing in the paddock area.  There was no fighting or snorting of any kind.  After a couple minutes Val decided all appeared well, Dan unhooked the gates, and we brought the new boys in.  They were quite nervous at that point so Val just unhooked the leads and took off the halters.  We all watched and waited.

The Meet and Greet

Arlo greets Earth and North

Instantly, all the boys began to run!  In one big group they ran right to the back of the pasture.  Julio went through the gate and decided to watch things from the other side of the fence.  North and Earth sniffed and sniffed the trees, the grass, the fencing, just as my original 5 had when they arrived last year.  Bo, Coty, and Arlo sniffed and sniffed North and Earth!  Everyone sniffed Julio through the fence.  Guinness stayed back a bit, then lay on top of the dirt pile and watched from afar.

Coty has always been the most curious and today was no exception.  North is just about his (huge) size, so Coty’s been following North.   An instant bonding happened.  They chased each other and neck wrestled, occasionally bumping into the others to join in on the chase.  I think Bo looked relieved that Coty is no longer chasing him!  North even nipped at Julio’s heels!  Julio looked so surprised and ran and ran, with the whole gang following.  Then sometimes Julio would stop and stand in the pasture and just stare at me as if to ask “What did you do?”   Within minutes he was cushed again; he could care less!  Then Guinness joined him.  The new boys are also loving pasture to graze on, even if it’s not the longer, greener grasses of summer.  Earth is a few months younger than Arlo, and Arlo looks pleased to have both a new playmate, and someone just a bit smaller than him.  Dan and I are relieved that all the boys are getting along.  And Val is so happy to see them all running and playing, as if they’d been the same herd forever.

Ahhhh............alpacas running together ................. a simple joy.

Posted 10/21/2010 8:58am by Mona.

Next weekend, our little farm will be growing.  Our cria from last year, Henry (Hank), will be coming home to our farm to live!  We thought it best to bring home his buddy, so another little guy named Earth, Wind, and Fire (Earth for short) is coming home too.  Since the male weanlings are all penned together, Val wants to be sure her remaining alpacas are happy as well, so she is bringing along 2 more buddies:  North Wind (North) and Cowboy.  Four alpacas are joining our five here, bringing our little herd to nine alpacas.  Nine!  It's not so little anymore.  Counting our 2 gals, Dreamer and Alana, who live at Val's, we have 11, and next year's crias will make 13. 

So I'm getting sentimental and started looking through pictures stored on the camera.  I found many wonderful shots.  Hope you all enjoy these 2, both taken right before shearing days this past spring.

Just before shearing, 2010

Dan with Henry, right before shearing, May 2010

 

Posted 9/13/2010 9:44pm by Mona.

Spring arrived early this year, followed by an early starting and very hot and humid summer.  We are so very grateful that after several years it’s also been a very dry summer.  Continuing this new trend, it now appears that autumn is arriving early.  That’s fine with us.  We love the cooler days and crisp nights, with the daytime colors of the trees slowly turning to brilliant shades of orange, red, and yellow.  The grass seems to start growing again and turns a deep green.  Against this backdrop is a perfectly bright blue sky.

Wildlife abounds this time of year.  Wildlife is always abounding when you live near a large state park as we do, but we seem to notice them more when the cool weather starts.  Furry and feathered friends are beginning their annual gathering up of their food storage for winter and pass through our property daily.  A local family of red fox took up residence under our woodshed for a couple weeks.  We haven’t seen them in a while; I imagine they grew tired of Stella chasing them out of the yard.  We see the hawks circling the yard again over the treetops, and today I heard at least 3 flocks of Canadian geese fly by overhead.  Soon the bats will be gone.  Acorns and pine cones are starting to fall from the trees, keeping all the squirrels and chipmunks busy.

Lately the alpacas have been amused by a family of wild turkeys that travel through the yard in the mornings.  The turkeys hobble along the path just outside the fencing, hop onto the stone wall along the back of pasture and walk along it, then off into the woods.  The alpacas will at first all stand up straight, ears straight up, necks outstretched.  Then staying close together, they all but tiptoe over to the fence and then will follow the turkeys along the inside of the fence line, never making a sound.  The turkeys do not appear bothered by the sheer size of the alpacas and continue their casual pace.  I sip my coffee and smile.

In the evenings we try to keep a closer eye on Stella, but while we’re in the barn that’s not always too easy.  I was arranging feed bowls one evening and had all 5 alpacas blocking the tack room door, eyes fixated on me intently.  For no particular reason, Coty, who tends to be our most curious alpaca, walked away.  Coty has grown so much this year and is now also our tallest alpaca.  He doesn’t walk; he struts.  He strutted casually around to the back of the barn.  Finding this odd, Dan followed him.  What could be more interesting than getting fed?  In the darkness I suddenly heard Dan holler sharply ‘Stella ~ come!’  Before I could ask why, I could smell why!  Luckily the skunk had bad aim because our little Stella doesn’t smell too badly.

And thankfully none of the alpacas were skunked!

Posted 8/31/2010 8:25am by Mona.

Dan has been working most of the summer to build a lovely set of stone walls just opposite the paddock and barn.  Our land from our back yard to the barn slopes downward gently and it’s along this line that he has been creating a(nother) place for me to garden in.  The top portion is flat and we’ve discovered it is a great place to make a little patio and set up a picnic table set to sit and watch the alpacas.  For now, we’ve placed a folding mat and some chairs from our camping days onto the freshly leveled dirt at the top of the new wall, and sip coffee.  The alpacas don’t seem to mind us watching them and go about their quiet ways.

Brunch with a barn view

Posted 8/21/2010 8:19am by Mona.

Some mornings when I go into the barn to check on our alpacas, I start wondering ‘what goes on in here at night?’  Their fan is pushed over onto its back blowing air up to the ceiling, the hay bale feeder (i.e. heavy) is pushed several inches over sideways, the outside feeder is also pushed sideways, there’s water on the floor under the buckets, there’s fresh spit on a wall or post or someone’s neck, a post for the temporary fence is bent over, the poop-shovel-and-rake is knocked down, and their communal poop piles are well, not so communal.  In the summertime we usually have all the windows in the house open and our bedroom balcony door also faces the barn; you’d think we’d hear if a ruckus was going on.  Yet apparently they’ve made up because all the alpacas are cushed together!

Tags: alpacas, barn
Posted 8/11/2010 8:40am by Mona.

Coty and Arlo playing

Another wonderful thing about having male alpacas, especially the younger ones, is they play a lot!  They chase each other, climb all over each other, roll around together, nibble each other’s ears and toes, and other general good-natured wrestling.  It’s always fun to watch, another simple joy of alpaca life.  They usually play in the pasture but sometimes in the paddock or barn.  Like most other alpaca activities, it’s pretty darn quiet out there.

alpacas playing in the barn

As they mature this playtime occasionally turns into a bit of actual fighting.  We’ve had our lovely little herd here for just about a year now and up until recently it’s all play.  Julio and Guinness, our geldings, are both 7 this year and watch the goings-on between Bo, Coty, and Arlo in bored amusement, if they watch at all.  Bo is a year older than Arlo and Coty and is now starting to define his place in the herd.  His intentions are usually directed at Coty, who is one very tall alpaca.  I’ll hear the scuffling and heavy breathing associated with playing and go to the window to watch.  Suddenly, it gets serious with loud squawking and grunts and serious rough-housing, complete with pushing and shoving and real biting.  Then, in true alpaca form, some serious spit starts to fly.

Oh my god, my alpacas are fighting!  I holler out the window “Hey boys ~ play nice!”  They’re alpacas and therefore ignore the crazy, hollering human.  I run outside with Stella underfoot, put on my barn boots, and in my hurry usually trip over Stella or my own feet (happens every time!).  As I’m running down the path to the barn I continue to call out to them “Bo ..... Coty ..... No fighting!  Stop that!”  By the time I get to the fence they’ve usually stopped.  I go in anyway to give them a stern stare and remind them that this is a nice farm; we only play nice here.  Thankfully I’ve never had to physically pry them apart and the fighting has only happened a few times.  Coty will look at me like “what did I do?” and casually start eating grass or hay.  Bo will stand there with his lower lip down, drooling green slime and unable to move his mouth for a few minutes; it’s the camelid reaction to spitting.   It’s not pretty.  I remind him that he could be eating hay too if he just stopped being mean to Coty, and that he looks silly and undignified with his lower lip hanging down like that.

Other alpaca people have told me not to interfere, that it’s normal behavior and the boys need to work it out amongst themselves.  And there I am running outside at the first sound of a possible fight hoping to nip it in the bud.  Oh well!

Posted 8/3/2010 8:59am by Mona.

It’s August, and those lazy, hazy days of summer are upon us.  Humidity and afternoon showers and thundershowers are here.  Considering the past few years, I feel a bit odd saying this ..........we could use some rain!  Not a lot, but the gentle showers we’ve been getting are refreshing and most of the rain is happening overnight, creating a picturesque early morning fog.  Things are starting to green up again in the pastures and all the boys are out grazing in the cooler mornings and evenings.  The hot afternoons are what we now call ‘siesta time’ where the boys cush in the barn and paddock areas in the shade and take long naps.

We set up our farm so that we could see into the barn and pastures from the back windows of our house.  It’s such a beautiful and peaceful sight for us, watching our gentle alpacas graze the fields as the seasons change.

This is the view from our kitchen on this foggy morning:

foggy view from the kitchen

And this is what we see when we stand on the balcony off our second floor bedroom.  The fog clears up quickly as the sun comes up. 

foggy view from the balcony

Look at the beautiful stone wall Dan has been building near the fence line!  Our veggie garden is just to the left of this picture.  It’s still hard to imagine that this new stone wall and all the pasture area, and most of the side yard up from the barn, was covered in thick woods just 2 years ago. 

Posted 7/20/2010 12:00pm by Mona.

Some days, during the quiet times of farm life, we like to reflect on the wonderful things and the simple joys that have happened and continue to happen to us.  We sit back with a big smile and thank God and the Universe for all of our abundance.

Being thankful is a simple joy.  Being thankful is good karma. 

Rainbows over our farm

To some, we seem to have so much; to others, we seem to have so little.  To us, we are just grateful, and continue dreaming of a wonderful future full of simple joys and that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Posted 7/11/2010 11:40am by Mona.

the alpacas cushed near the fan

This is the usual scene in the barn in the evenings when we arrive to do chores.  The tack room door is in the upper right corner of this picture, and the fan is to the right of the door, just a few feet away.  And there's the gang all cushed in front of the fan!  The fan not only helps to cool them down, but it also keeps away those nasty mosquitoes and horseflies, making their lives much more comfortable.  Happy alpacas = healthy alpacas.

Tags: alpacas, barn
Posted 6/29/2010 11:12am by Mona.

We’re really late this year planting the garden.  Usually I like to have everything planted right after Memorial Day weekend, but this year we’ve moved the garden to the back yard, near the corner of the pasture fencing, and behind the old shed that was here when we bought the property.  A garden near the garden shed sounds logical!  And now the hose will reach every part of the garden easily, and I can see it from the house.  Dan built 4 more 4 X 12 garden boxes, and we’ve moved 3 of the 4 from the old garden in the side yard.  The last box has some rogue lettuces and scallions that sprang up on their own (I love when that happens!), my huge garlic chive plant, and my really, really, huge oregano plant.  I’m waiting for the lettuces to bolt and the scallions to be ready to be picked, and then I’ll figure out how to best move the oregano plant and then we’ll move that last raised bed.  The oregano plant is more like an oregano bush, and I want it to continue to do well.

We filled up the new boxes with compost from the local nursery, and I’ve been busy planting and planting.  I’m hoping that because I’ve planted a few weeks late, and during the week of the summer solstice, that the bugs will be few and far between this growing season.  Dan put in several stakes around this new garden area, and tied white plastic trash bags to them.  This is my neighbor's trick to keep away the deer; hopefully it will work for us too!   What a beautiful week we’ve had, these longest days of the year, warm and breezy and perfect for planting.

Dan, setting up the new garden

Now I have 8 large raised bed boxes, arranged somewhat in a square, with a four foot path going down the middle both ways, sort of like 4 small squares with 2 raised beds in each.  I wanted the paths to be wide enough to accommodate the garden cart.  The north side of the garden is the side closest to the pasture fence, and Dan will probably build me a long, narrow garden box, and eventually I’ll grow vining veggies there, like sweet peas or maybe pole beans, with some morning glories mixed in.  Around my veggie plants I’ve always planted marigolds and petunias, both for bug control as well as color.  Bright red tomatoes are great, but we won’t see them until late August!

The little garden shed that is here was surprisingly painted purple (!).  It’s in need of some repair, mostly to the roof, but basically serves its purpose.  Dan even thinks he may be able to build a small chicken coop right off the back.  Fresh eggs!

The barn from the new garden

The best part is that I’m really close to the alpacas now.  Coty and Arlo love to graze together at this far end of the pasture.  I can see right into the barn and watch the others cushed in front the fan, my ‘vampire’ alpacas that they are on these hot days.  I call out to them easily, and they all look up at the sound of my voice.  They watch me curiously, as I work in the garden, Stella sleeping in the cool grass under the maple tree nearby.  

Posted 5/24/2010 10:52am by Mona.

The other night Dan and I went out to the barn, excitedly chatting about the day’s events.  As we entered the barn, the alpacas all ran up from the pasture, knowing full well that it’s dinner time.  I opened up the tack room door and reached inside to turn on the lights.  As I turned around, Arlo was walking into the pen.  And out of the corner of my eye I saw a rather large mouse, a very large mouse, crawl up and over the pen wall and run back down.

I screamed so loud that I’m sure our neighbors up in Canada heard me.

I’ve always been a lover of all animals.  But to be totally honest, rodents just aren’t at the top of my list.  This is especially true with rodents that could be categorized as very large mice.  I’m usually a sensible 40-something woman, but at the sudden unexpected sight of a very large mouse I lost all control, screamed bloody murder, and shut myself into the tack room.

Dan is normally calm, but my screeching really irks him.  I was all but hyperventilating trying to explain to him what I saw.  He kept reassuring me that it was indeed just a very large mouse, harmless, it’s gone, so it’s OK to come out, and please stop screaming.  Good idea, as my throat was now hoarse.  I slowly opened the tack room door and stepped out.  Dan looked rather annoyed.  The alpacas hadn’t moved and were staring at me with that ‘Where’s our dinner?’ look.  Even the barn swallow that’s been living in our barn hadn’t left its nest.  I had only scared away the very large mouse.

Now in the evening Dan always enters the barn first, waving the flashlight around all the edges, tells me the coast is clear, and turns on the lights.  I peer in slowly checking all the edges myself, before I come in.  For several days there were no new signs until one morning when there was a very large hole dug against the tack room wall, right next to the water spicket, which seemingly went under the tack room into the abyss.  I was good and didn’t scream, but had to run back up to the house to get Dan to inspect it.  He thought I was panicking again and reluctantly agreed to come out; then he saw the size of the hole.  He quietly said, ‘Hhhmmmm, I guess you did see a very large mouse the other night.  I’ll get the traps.’  He returned with mouse traps large enough to catch a small squirrel.  I figured it was best not to ask why.  He set both on either side of the tack room and now we wait.  It’s been several days and no signs yet that the very large mouse has returned.

A barn cat is looking better and better, after the barn swallow is done nesting.

I’ll keep all of you posted, loudly I’m sure.

Warning:  Pardon me for stating the obvious, but please be sure your alpacas or any of your livestock cannot access mouse traps!!  And please, no poisons!!!

Alpacas are curious and they certainly will inspect a mouse trap.  One trap is set in the pen which is attached to the tack room, and we’ve secured the pen door shut.  The other is set under the tack room from outside, with rocks around the opening and I pulled out the few blades of grass nearby.  This side of the tack room is also in the area that had been sectioned off.

Posted 5/20/2010 11:04am by Mona.

It’s springtime so it’s time to work on the pastures again.  Dan had done such a good job last summer, york raking up the ground to smooth it out for us to plant grass seed.  They say the best seed for alpacas is orchard grass, but we planted a horse pasture mix which includes orchard grass and many other grasses.  Alpacas are browsers while they graze, and isn’t variety the spice of life?

The grasses did come up again this spring and after a long winter of just hay, the alpacas are loving it.  Pastures are continual maintenance, and the healthier the pastures, then the healthier the alpacas.  First things first, we separated the east side of the pasture in half with a zig-zag.   We used some temporary sheep fencing, those plastic poles, and 2 strands of wide electrical tape.  There’s no need to electrify the fence as it is just temporary, to divvy up the pasture for resting and re-seeding.  We’ve also used this fencing near the main gate, separating off an area of about 10 x 20 feet, as added assurance when we enter and exit that no alpacas will suddenly decide to wander off.  It’s worked just fine.  Until now!

Last weekend it wasn’t very windy and with on again, off again showers it was perfect for adding lime.   Dan spread about 40 pounds of lime onto that separated, little pasture area.  I’m sure we could probably use a ton more on our clay soil.  Lime is great.  It helps to alkalize the soil, the first step in growing good soil and healthy grass.   In another week or two, we will re-seed, and keep the alpacas off until the new grass is in and several inches tall.  Already the grass on that side is greener.  Alpacas generally respect fencing but two things will get them to find a way to the other side:  open females, and greener grass.

Arlo is still small for his age, but he’s a brazen little dude and all personality.  One day doing barn chores I realized that he wasn’t with the herd.  A quick look around, and there he was, just on the other side of the temporary fencing.  I couldn’t figure out how he got over there.  The fencing hooks up to the barn wall with handles so I undid the handles and walked over to him.  He kept grazing.  I put my hands on him and coaxed him gently, ‘C’mon Arlo.  Let’s go back with your brothers.’  He wouldn’t budge!  I continued to coax him and with every couple of steps, he’d take another bite of grass.  We were only a few feet away from the fence line but it took me almost 5 minutes to get him back!

Coaxing Arlo out of the fenced-in side is now a daily ritual.  Although now, instead of staying up by the barn, he obstinately goes right into the middle part of the pasture.  And he’s a spunky little guy!  He does the same thing with Dan, takes a few steps, takes a bite, takes a few steps, takes a bite, and then he scoots under the lower tape, doing the limbo.  So that’s how he’s getting in!  We’ll have to put up a third strand of fencing or the new grass won’t stand a chance.        

Posted 5/3/2010 9:00am by Mona.

This past Thursday was our first shearing day here on our little farm.  We have agisted our alpacas for about 2 years so we are familiar with the whole shearing process, and our shearer has sheared our alpacas in the past, but everything is different when it’s being done on your farm for the first time!  This is still our first year having the alpacas here, so everything is a new experience.

Pam was here (thanks Pam!) to assist and also to sort the fleeces, and another nearby alpaca farmer volunteered to help and stopped by too.  Thanks Janet!

Bo and Coty April 2010

Everything went surprisingly well.  On Monday the weather forecast was calling for rain for a few days, so late that night we had to lock the alpacas into the barn.  With a run in shed, that means putting up tarps!  Dan had just finished making a gate which we’d thankfully hung up on Sunday; now we had a way to enter and exit the barn easily.  So one stall had the gate and the other three had tarps.  Even though my 5 boys had 6 stalls and are wimpy about rain, they really dislike being locked in the barn for days!  I got spit on more than once (thanks Guinness).  But my reward for green slime on my face and in my hair was dry animals on shearing day.  Dry, clean fleece is imperative for shearing a usable product.

I had enticed the boys into the pen with pellets before everyone arrived.  Funny how they fall for this every time!  They were all humming quite loudly watching us while we set up mats and extension cords, bags for gathering and separating the fleeces, and flattened cardboard boxes to kneel on. 

We decided to shear our boys from darkest to lightest in color, because our fussiest boys are the darkest.  Our shearer is extraordinarily kind to the alpacas; we wouldn’t have it any other way.  Still, I’m sure the alpacas are a bit frightened even though it’s ‘all over with’ quickly.  Julio, being bay black, was the first.  Our tough alpha male screeched like the dickens the entire time!  When he was done we scooted him out to the pasture, where he stood up on the dirt pile near the fence to watch his herd mates.  Guinness, then Coty, then Arlo, were next and all accepted their fate quietly, albeit reluctantly.  Bo Jangles was last, and we went through several rags cleaning up his mouth from all the spit. 

Bo & Coty after shearing April 2010

Arlo after shearing April 2010

The alpacas sniffed each other for hours afterwards, as if they were all different alpacas.  And they stayed out in the far pasture all day.  It was a sunny, cool day with a strong wind and I know they were cold.  When they saw us in the evening they did come running in to the barn without being called.  They all ate their pellets in record time, and dashed off back into the pasture.  Yikes boys!  We weren’t going to lock you up in the barn again!  A few minutes later, in the dusk and growing darkness, all the boys began to pronk around the pasture, led by little Arlo.  It was a glorious sight.

My fluffy, teddy bear-like alpacas now look like Dr. Seuss characters, or aliens!

Posted 4/30/2010 9:57pm by Mona .

Well this is certainly not my nor Dan's favorite picture of ourselves, but look at Bo Jangles!  Doesn't he look fantastic!

Mona & Dan with Bo Jangles, April 2010

I would have loved to have presented a 'before' picture, but as you can imagine Bo Jangles was not exactly in the mood for posing after hearing his fellow herdmates screeching.  I'm surprised he willingly stood for this one.  As soon as Dan released him, he ran out of the barn to join his buddies in the pasture.

I'll post about our experience during our first shearing day soon.

 

 

 

Posted 4/26/2010 7:01am by Mona Kennedy.

Curious Alpacas

 Sometimes, a picture says it all!

 

Tags: alpacas, barn
Posted 4/7/2010 9:07pm by Mona .

I would love to have all summer days just like today - mid 80’s with lots of sun and a gloriously strong warm breeze.  Stella has been chasing butterflies, running like a puppy on too-long legs.  When she gets hot she finds a cool spot in the dirt under my car or in the grassy shade from the trailer.  Daffodils and forsythias are blooming.   I can see the daylilies all popping up, their tips a deep green.  Birds are everywhere this time of year, singing cheerfully while they gather up supplies to build nests.   This morning I could hear the familiar rubbing noises on the outside of the logs here in the den.  That noise is a mama robin, building a nest on the criss-crossed corner of our log cabin, in the shade of a large maple tree.  Lately we’ve been seeing a smaller bird flying in and out of the barn also carrying grass and such in its beak.  This type of bird built a nest in the barn last year, up in the ceiling peak near the light.  It built a smaller nest in the next light to watch over its babies’ nest, and it would often perch on the fence nearest the barn to watch Dan and me.  It’s not really gray yet not really green either, but never stays still long enough for us to get a good look.  Anyone have any idea what type of bird it could be?

I wouldn’t be concerned normally about the alpacas on a very warm day like today but they are still in full fleece.  Shearing Day isn’t for another few weeks.  They must be roasting in those wool coats!  My feet were definitely toasty today in my Muck boots (time to get those purple clogs!)  I checked in on them again at noontime and everyone looked the same as any other day so that’s good.  I put out another bucket of cold water from the well pump for them.  Not that I really think 5 non-breeding male alpacas would drink 10 gallons of water in an afternoon, but I felt better!  I was going to put ice cubes in the water too but then I know I’d be concerned that they would swallow an ice cube whole and choke, thanks to my wild imagination, so an extra bucket of water it is.

The boys are still not too sure about their new bale feeder, except for Guinness, always except for Guinness, aka ‘Grumpy’ on our little farm.  He’s never shy when it comes to being fed!  Guinness will gladly munch and munch from the hay feeder, and fuss loudly and sometimes spit when another one of the boys comes over to eat too.  Even Julio walked away today, too hot to fuss back.   Eventually Guinness will walk away too; then the others will approach.  The bale in this new feeder is going down, down, down, so I know it’s not just Guinness eating from it, even if it seems that way sometimes.  This new feeder is in the barn under the awning in the shade, so I’m happy to see them eating hay in the shade while the afternoon is so warm.

Posted 3/25/2010 2:26pm by Mona Kennedy.

For morning chores, I usually don’t go out to the barn until at least mid to late morning.  From all the rooms in the back of the house, we can see straight out into the barn and pastures.   I can clearly see the hay feeder and can easily tell how full or not full it is.  Now that the snow is melted, the alpacas usually spend the early morning as the sun is rising wandering about the pastures, casually grazing on whatever is starting to sprout.  We don’t have any pregnant females or newborn crias to worry about.  Nor do any of our boys have any ongoing health issue.  The nights have been above freezing so I know the water bucket is not frozen.  Since we just have ‘non-working’ males here on our farm, I can usually drink my coffee and do my computer work before heading out to the barn for morning chores. 

The first thing I do when I head out is check the water bucket, empty it and re-fill it with the water pump in the barn.  I only bring down jugs of hot tap water in the evenings now.   The boys were all cushed here and there and Arlo as always got right up to greet me.  As I walked across the barn over the straw to the middle post where the bucket is, something looked strange to me.  Very strange.  Julio was cushed by the wheelbarrow, chewing his cud, watching me.  Ditto with Guinness over by the hay feeder.  Well that wasn’t strange; that’s normal of them.  I literally turned around slowly in a circle, looking around, very confused, trying to figure out what it was that was different.

Then it hit me.  AHA!!!  For the very first time since the alpacas have come home to our farm, 7 whole months ago, overnight nobody had pooped in the barn!    It was a pleasant surprise indeed.

“Oh what good, good boys!”  I kept on telling them, while I changed the water in the bucket and filled up the hay feeder.  I took a quick look out into the pasture and saw a beautiful green haze of grass sprouting up.  I walked back into the barn where everyone was loudly munching hay and said again “Oh what good, good boys!”  And Guinness promptly walked over to the middle stall, and un-surprised me.

Posted 3/22/2010 10:40am by Mona Kennedy.

Like most people, Saturday mornings are usually reserved for household errands, such as going to the bank, post office, grocery shopping, and a dump run.  Now every month or so, we fill our Saturday with farm errands as well.  On those mornings we sometimes also say ‘well, what the hay!’ and go out for breakfast as well.

Farm errands generally involve going to our local feed store and simply picking up a bag of alpaca pellets.  Sometimes we’re also running low on other necessities like electrolytes for their water or minerals, and sometimes we’re in need of another pair of gloves or tube of a de-wormer.  I always eye the boot selection.  Usually, though, we like to just walk around and check things out and talk with the wonderful owners.  This couple loves animals and is always interested in what our alpacas are up to.  We happily oblige and try not to babble on incessantly.  With every conversation we’ve had with them, we learn a little something. 

From there we head out to another fairly local feed store to pick up straw, when our local feed store is sold out.  This store has the same, but different, stuff stocked and is also a hardware store (gotta love small New Hampshire towns!) so we poke around there too.  This particular store is also really into feeding outdoor birds and I’ve always enjoyed looking at all the different feeders on display, located right next to bags of dog food.   When our prior dog had gotten older and developed sensitivities, this particular brand of dog food was the only one that would make her feel better.  I always think of my beloved Critter when we come in here.  Soon they will have starter chicks and ducks hatching, set up in metal boxes like tall structures with lights, resembling stacked trays and grow lights for starting seedling plants.  I know that’s the way it’s supposed to be done but it has always looked so odd to me.  They usually have a good selection of dog toys and treats so we always pick up a little something for Stella too, who is usually waiting patiently in the truck.

Some Saturdays we also need to pick up hay.  Our little tack room probably could not store a year’s worth of hay so we pick up hay every month or two.  We also need space in our tack room for the metal trash cans which store the alpaca pellets, wall room to hang halters and leads and the feed bins, and the small ‘work table’ in the corner.  We put these things along one half of the tack room and the 30 or so hay bales along the other.  The rest of any hay we purchase is stored in our garage and we wheel it down with a dolly as needed.  We put the few bales of straw we purchase in the corner of the pen, although lately the alpacas have discovered that rolling in an opened bale of straw is lots of fun!

Posted 3/3/2010 10:48pm by Mona Kennedy.

Last Thursday, New Hampshire, and most of New England and New York were hit with yet another seriously strong storm.  The weather forecasters talked about it for days; you’d think the apocalypse was coming.  They’ve been pretty wrong quite a bit lately so I didn’t think too much of it.  In the afternoon the heavy rains and wind started up, the back of our cabin started to leak in odd places, and I knew that this time their forecast was correct.

In the past 3 years since we’ve started our farm, Deerfield and the surrounding towns have been hit with record rains, flooding conditions, collapsed roads, record snowfall, a tornado, a severe ice storm causing extensive statewide damage, power outages lasting weeks, a phone outage (due to flooding) lasting a month, etc. etc.  This last windstorm once again caused extensive property damage, downed power lines and trees, flooding, impassable roads, and power and phone outages for days.  This is getting all too familiar.

The power went out late Thursday night.  The winds were so loud we couldn’t sleep, the strongest winds coming about 1:00 a.m. Friday.  We were curled up on the couch all night in front of the woodstove, bleary eyed.  We heard the most god-awful noises but with no power we couldn’t turn the outside lights on and it wasn’t safe to go outside.  At first light, around 6:00 a.m. I ran out back and started calling out to the alpacas, who were all huddled behind the tarps we put up.  Within seconds they all came running out looking excited to hear my voice!  All were fine and the barn appeared intact.  We did have minor roof damage to the house, branches down all around, and trees down in the woods.  And, oh yes, no power nor phone, again.  The Governor declared a state of emergency, and told us to plan for an extended outage, again.

It’s easy to become despondent and anxiety ridden, and I was on the borderline.    As Dan and I drove around looking for somewhere to get water for the alpacas and saw all the damage around town, we quickly changed our spirits to all that we were and are thankful and grateful for.  We continue to keep thinking about all that we are grateful for.  Gratitude keeps us focused on the important things.  In the big scheme of things, nothing really bad happened to us.  We are just fine.  We have neighbors and friends and co-workers who were not as lucky as us. 

We are so happy and grateful that we were not injured, nor were any of our animals, we are grateful that our house and barn and fencing were not really damaged and that no trees fell on them, we are grateful that no windows broke, we are grateful that we had supplies and daylight to repair the roof quickly, we are grateful that our cars and trailer and tractor were also not damaged, we are grateful that the house stopped leaking (it stopped raining), we are grateful that no power lines fell on our property, we are grateful that the sump came within three inches of the top (i.e. it did not overflow!) and that the cellar stayed dry, we are grateful that we have a friend who offered us water for the alpacas, we are grateful we live in a town that has water available for livestock in emergencies (how great is that!), we are grateful that we’ve always enjoyed heating our home with a woodstove, we are grateful that the right situations fell into place and an electrician was able to come out to wire the house properly for a generator, we are grateful that we finally got said generator running, and we are grateful that the phone and internet service were up within 3 and half days. We are very grateful that we were out of power for only 48 hours this time. 

We will always get a good laugh at how the power came back on less than 5 minutes after we got the generator running!  Now that we have a properly installed generator for such emergencies, we’ll probably never lose power again! 

We are grateful in advance for that.   

Posted 9/3/2009 11:49am by Mona Kennedy.

Hello!  We've recently updated our website to include pages on our barn/pastures/fencing, guard animals, and quotes.  We hope you'll find our information helpful.

More recipes coming in the next few days!

Quote for Today

Never let the odds keep you from doing
what you know in your heart
you were meant to do. 

Coming soon!
Our new fiber store on Local Harvest!

 

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