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 ........
Today's post is written by my friend Val of Crown Point Alpacas. Thanks Val!
There in the field was a little treasure. Adorning the green, green grass of spring, was this beautiful bright blue birds' nest. It had fallen from its lofty throne, sometime during the winter months when the last of the winds blew the last leaf off the bare branches, leaving only silhouettes of trees. I thought about that little nest as I picked it up. It was so beautiful. It had been carefully and thoughtfully constructed by a master at the art of recycling! The main part of this blue nest was an old tarp that had been covering some wood. This little bird had used the blue tarp as her main weaving material. And then there was a fishing string found from a nearby brook. And then I saw the ribbon; it was the ribbon from a child’s balloon. I imagined that perhaps it was a child who'd had a special day. The balloon had floated away as the child watched, soothed by loved ones with gentle words, and a hug that the balloon would find a happy home.
Little did they know that the ribbon would weave a home, safe from winds and storms and give a family a chance to soar. As I held this tiny little nest in my hands, I then looked into the nest, and there inside the nest was a thickly felted layer of alpaca fleece! Soft, and felted to perfection! I imagined how the nest was at first lined with fluffy fiber which swaddled the tiny eggs, and kept the little bird warm while she warmed her eggs. Then as the eggs hatched and the tiny little bird feet started to pitter and patter when mama brought them their food, they felted the nest! Teeny, tiny baby bird feet felting away!! This little nest had been a wonderful home, protected them from harm and kept them warm and safe till they were ready to fly.
This nest is a lot like our lives; we weave it together. Our relationships, some like the old tarp, some the fishing string, some the ribbons, and our families, they are like the felt. We keep them close to us. Sometimes things change, sometimes our lives take turns, but the stuff we are made of, and what we choose to weave into our lives, gives us all the chance to “soar.”
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.
It is December in New Hampshire and today it is sunny and 65 degrees! If you’re from another part of the country ......... yes this is very much unseasonably warm!
Here we are preparing for winter, in fact on Saturday we’re supposed to get snow, but today, I feel like gardening.
We really don’t mind our home being surrounded by green, growing grass but we also don’t follow the American obsession with perfect looking, golf course style lawns. We mow, albeit not regularly, rake when necessary, but that’s about it. I’ve read that American households use way, way, too much fertilizer and pesticides on their lawns, much more by square foot than is used in commercial agriculture. This creates a ‘chemically dependent’ lawn, the runoff pollutes groundwater, the pollution kills beneficial bugs and birds and other species ....... and the horrid cycle continues.
Dan and I, we welcome the natural world and its micro-ecosystems. Nature does know best; why mess with it? We don’t want Stella rolling on pesticide laden grass, nor do we want to walk on it. We welcome the dandelions and clover and other weeds, and we don’t fret over yellow grass due to grubs. The grubs feed the robins, blue jays, woodpeckers and other birds, which in turn eat bugs that would invade our gardens. The skunks also eat the grubs and frankly I’d prefer they not hang around because of the alpacas! But oh well.
So folks, dig up your lawns! Plant a garden! I realize we’re all starting winter, but here’s a couple of links for you all to start planning gardens for next year:
We’ve finally had another stretch of hot, sunny days so it feels like summer. I’ve actually had to water the vegetable garden for the first time since I planted it. Our mid-summer flower gardens are blooming with many brightly-colored hybrid daylilies, purple coneflowers, black-eyed susans, liatris, and hostas. All the nearby fields are filled with bloomers too, goldenrod and queen’s anne lace, wild black-eyed susans, ragweed, and many others of which I haven’t got a clue. In the late-day summer sun, our yard and pastures are teeming with hundreds of beautiful dragonflies. Walking by the nearby fields there are clouds of them, hovering and swooping, their presence so magical and uplifting. Sometimes one will land on us while we’re floating in the canoe or in the gardens. We love to sit and admire them close up, such a fascinating little bug.
We love to see the dragonflies and have planted many of the flowers that attract them. Dragonflies are harmless to people and animals, and because they eat so many mosquitoes it only makes sense to have plantings that attract them. These same plants also attract many insect-eating birds too, another bonus. And when it comes to eating mosquitoes, we don’t argue with the bats that show up at night either! Attracting dragonflies and birds (and bats), not having standing water, and fans in the barn are our top choices for keeping mosquitoes, flies, and other disease-spreading insects away from the alpacas. We know there will always be some bugs, and sometimes plenty of them, in our humid climate, so every little bit helps.
(Don’t worry........ this is not an Alfred Hitchcock type entry!)
A fun thing about living here is all the birds! Ever since we’ve moved here, we’ve been focused on creating our pasture. We did move several hundred perennials over here from our former home, but otherwise have not done too much to attract birds. And they are plentiful! We’re enjoying all the usual backyard birds: robins, chickadees, goldfinches, cardinals, hummingbirds, juncos, house finches, sparrows, blue jays, mourning doves, downy and hairy woodpeckers, etc. We’re surprised and excited to see the others that have showed up: indigo buntings, Baltimore orioles, scarlet tanagers, evening grosbeaks and rose breasted grosbeaks, bluebirds, northern flicker woodpeckers, pileated woodpeckers, catbirds, bobolinks, and more. They have me running to my Peterson’s field guide so that I can identify them, when they stay in one place long enough for me to do that.
Even funner than just seeing all the birds is that some just love to nest on the criss-crosses of the log ends. So far it has just been the robins doing that, and one mourning dove pair did once too. It’s ‘normal’ for us now to walk by certain corners of the house as quietly as possible so as not to disturb momma robin and it’s great to just stand quietly and look at the 3 or 4 beaks peeking out of the nests. And, now, we even have a bird friend nesting in the rafters of our little barn! We haven’t identified her yet, probably some kind of finch, although the 4 little heads looks like juncos.
There are always tons of birds around throughout the day, singing their beautiful songs and chit-chatting. Sometimes they do all get quite squawky and we start looking frantically for the most likely cause – a hawk.
Don’t get me wrong; we absolutely love hawks. They are also gorgeous birds and we are always amazed to watch them fly and soar. BUT, we get protective over the little bird nests! We just have to stand nearby and the hawk will fly away once it notices us. The hawks have to eat, but not our baby birds!
Our fencing is the 5 foot, woven wire no-climb type, with pressure treated pounded posting. These posts are perfect for setting nesting boxes and bat houses on, which we will start doing as time allows. Oh, have I mentioned the bats? ................
Here in the Northeast it has been raining for the past week and it seems like it’s getting to be time for us to build the ark. I’ve been reading a rather funny thread on alpacanation about all rain we’ve been getting here in New Hampshire, Maine, and the entire Northeast. I say funny only because I just thought it was a funny topic to start a thread on. But, here in the Northeast excessive rain is certainly a real concern for us alpaca farmers. The rain brings out the slugs, gross little creatures, which bring along the meningeal worm, hosted by our cute wildlife, the white-tailed deer. M-worm is of particular concern for alpaca farmers as it is a deadly disease, and here in the Northeast we routinely de-worm as part of our prevention program. (Note to self: get chickens, sooner rather than later.) And of course, any of us with new pastures from recently disturbed soil, as well as anyone with clay soil, is having additional problems with mud, mud, and yes, more mud!!
Not to mention all that standing puddle water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes and all the yucky diseases they carry.
So times like these make me appreciate the dry Southwest more and more, and like I already mentioned, make me start thinking about building that ark.
Or perhaps at least I should remind myself of the good things about rain........ The most obvious benefit is it waters, usually evenly, our lawns and gardens. In a previous post I mentioned that I had planted seeds and transplants for our little vegetable garden. I’ve only had to water once, the day I planted! Most of the seeds are sprouting, but by now, they could certainly use some sun! ............ A related benefit is that I don’t have to be out there watering morning and night, and subsequently feeding the mosquitoes while I stand there.......... Another benefit is that is replenishes our wells.......Rain runoff from our roofs fills up our rain barrels, to water the gardens............ The birds have plenty to drink naturally, rather than me filling up birdbaths. Water attracts birds to your yards, and birds eat many, many, bugs; no need for pesticides! ....... And as my friend Deb says, "At least we're not shoveling it!"
But we’ve had many, many inches of rain and we’re more than ready for sunshine! Those of you who practice yoga, please join me daily in spirit for a Salute to the Sun!!!!