Oh what an absolutely beautiful day today! The sun has been shining and not a cloud in the sky. The sky is so blue, blue, blue making this weeks’ additional 1 foot+ snowfall look so white, white, white. Best of all it’s been just above freezing this afternoon, about 34 degrees, and the snow is really melting, running down off the roof like a stream. It feels like Spring!
We thought it would be a good idea this weekend to clear out a lot of the snow from around the barn and the house in preparation for the upcoming rainstorm headed our way on Monday. It’s supposed to be a little warmer with ‘significant’ rainfall. We want to be sure the rain and melting snow are directed away from the barn and pasture and our cabin. A warm and rainy Spring in New Hampshire, and especially Spring-like weather in January, could easily mean flooding due to all that fast melting snow. The weather people are probably doing the usual ‘doom and gloom’ forecast, but this is our first experience with our little alpaca farm and rain with melting snow and we just don’t want to take any chances.
Our tractor has been good to us for working on our pastures. We’ve moved rocks and roots and stumps, and leveled the loam for seeding it. We’ve dug swales and made berms for drainage. Now we have come to realize that it is an invaluable tool for moving snow! Having the bucket in the front and the blade in the back allows us to move snow much, much more quickly than using just a snowblower would. Watching Dan play (oops I really mean work) with the tractor today, I am so happy we purchased it while setting up our farm. We’re using it more now in the winter than we did in the summer.
Dan cleared out the entire paddock (again) and made long paths through the pasture (again) for the alpacas to pronk. And pronk they did! They romped around the tractor. They all ran up and down the paths. Coty wrestled with Arlo for the first time! Bo managed to find green grass in the paths to graze on. Guinness did his signature ‘rolling’ in front of the tractor. When he finally walked away, Arlo laid down and rolled too. Copycat! And such a cute copycat he is. We’re so happy that he’s finally grown enough to ‘play with the big boys.’ It was great to see them out in the sun after days and days of staying in the barn with snowstorm after snowstorm. When they tired of pronking, they all went into the barn for a good hay fest on the fresh hay I’d just put out to distract them so Dan could work. Julio instead stood near the hayfeeder, eyes glued on Dan working. The path out of the paddock leads over to the main swale through the pasture, so runoff is directed right to it. There’s a bit of an indent in the snow where the swale runs down the pasture to the back fence. We’ve created huge snowbanks in the front corner where the fences from the 2 pastures meet and the swale begins.
When Dan was done with the paddock, he cleared an area alongside the tack room end of the barn. This will now direct runoff from the path to the barn, past the tackroom and over to a narrow swale under the snow. This swale runs on a diagonal away from the back of the barn, under the fencing, and into the woods.
Phew! We’ve had so much snow already that we’re running out of room to put more. Wouldn’t it be nice if we’re done with snowstorms for this winter!!
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.
Our alpacas will start coming home to our farm soon, and now is when we realize that oops! There is so much more to do. But like any farm, or business, there is always ‘more to do’ or ‘something that needs getting done.’ All farms are a continual ‘work in process,’ and ours certainly will be no exception.
I suppose there will always be a new gate or gadget needed, an extra water bucket here, move the grain feeders there, that sort of thing. Running through all the major things we’ve done .......We’ve cleared land and improved the pastures with, oh my, lots of drainage. We’ve built the small barn with an awning. We’ve installed the hydrant for water from our well. We’ve put up fencing and adjusted gates and sealed off the low areas where rainwater has washed out underneath, allowing small critters such as the red fox access. We’ve seeded the pasture with pasture grass mix and excitedly watched as it started to grow, albeit in large splotches! Our first pieces of alpaca equipment is appropriately enough a poop scooper and large 2-wheeled wheelbarrow. Our hay feeder is on order. We’ve secured a hay source and grain/feed source. We’ve decided how to divvy up the barn stalls and which directions to put the gates and panels. We’ve purchased that very well used but sturdy horse trailer. We’ve prayed for clear, cool days and sunny skies.
So now we sit back and say, the alpacas will be here in a few short days, and we’re not ready! We have waited for this moment for almost 2 years so how could we possibly not be ready? We’ll need some grain feeders and oh yes grain, something to store the grain in, water buckets, the wire type tape to block off the area behind the barn where it’s still a bit mucky, and that tape to block off the stall where we’ll store some hay, oh yes ~ hay!, panels to divide the stalls, a scale, one of those awning things with metal supports to store our tractor in as we need the barn space for the alpacas now, where to put the pile of poop, and also............... I’m sure after they arrive, we’ll constantly be saying ‘gee we really need to get a .......’ Until then, we can improvise. Dan is very good at improvising, or as he says ‘mousing it.’
We are life long animal lovers and in that sense we are not nervous about the alpacas’ arrival. Even though we’ve never owned livestock, we are comforted by the fact that there are several alpaca farms with kind alpaca owners within a 30-45 minute drive, our vet is walking distance away, and of course Pam is always available for our multitudes of questions. Thanks Pam! Your patience and kindness to your animals, and now ours, is cherished.
All the work that Dan has done to help with drainage seems to be paying off. We are continuing to have excessive rain, but as time goes by, more and more of the pasture area is usable, i.e., you can walk without sinking halfway to your knees! Our little ‘farm road,’ which is the road that’s been created from the driveway down to the pasture is now relatively solid, despite all the rain, as is also the yard area around it. The main gate to our pasture, near the barn, stays dry as well. Parts of this pasture and the swale itself still get quite mucky and slippery, but they too are drying out sooner and sooner.
So with this relative good luck, this past weekend we decided to seed the pasture. There are shoots of green grass sprouting up here and there, but we need to speed up this process pronto. Dan lightly rototilled on one side of the swale, and lightly tilled with the york rake on the other side of the swale. This is to test which method will seed faster! We’ve never been much into building lawns; we’ve always prefer to just rototill up the grass and plant more perennials. So it’s rather ironic for us to be out there with our teeny little lawn seed spreader, walking back and forth spreading seed. Much alpaca information will say that brome grass is best. We decided on a simple ‘horse pasture blend’ of grasses. This blend was closer to the native grasses that grow here naturally. Once the pasture is well grassed, we plan to regularly overseed with brome grass in spring and/or fall. After we seeded, that night we found ourselves in the unlikely position of actually hoping for a light rain! And it did rain, lightly, just perfectly! We then spread out mulch hay to protect the seed from hot sun and keep the moisture in. There is also a perfect forecast for the next several days: sunny, warm but not hot, dry air, and no rain.
An added benefit to the mulch hay is that there are plenty of grass seeds in it. One tack supplier we recently spoke with said that all she did was spread out mulch hay – no seed – and her pasture came in beautifully! We have our fingers crossed for the same good luck.
At around 3:00 pm, it happened ............... the sun came out!
Oh Glorious Sunshine!
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!!!!
Late last summer we had a local logger and his crew clear about 3 acres of woods and brushy overgrowth. It was done ‘rough grade’ as Dan wanted to do the finish work himself. What a wonderful job they did! There were many, many large rocks that they carefully placed on the property lines creating a boulder style stone wall. The stumps were all buried alongside the rocks so as to be outside and around the pasture area, a farm road of sorts. It looked fabulous and then, the rains came! First a tropical storm bringing about 5 inches, and several smaller storms, and anyone who lives in New England remembers the rain and resulting ice storm in early December! All that rainfall saturated our new pasture, with ‘sink to your knees mud,’ washing out a lot of the topsoil, creating ruts and little streams, and rendering it impossible to work in it. Clearly we had a drainage problem, unknown to us before due to the thick woods. Disappointed, we knew we had to wait until spring for things to dry out before the alpacas could come home.
And dry out it did! We’ve had a pleasantly sunny and warm spring. Another local contractor has come by a few times giving us ideas on how to divert runoff and rain. We’ve seen swales before but never knew the correct term. Dan is in his glory on the tractor, digging and moving dirt and making one heck of a swale diagonally down the pasture. He’s also been making several diagonal berms down the ‘farm road’ from our driveway to the barn gate and alongside the fencing. 'Berm' is our new favorite word. We have huge piles of dirt now in the pasture, beautiful dark brown dirt! After we sift it, and add in a little compost, this loam will be wonderful for gardening perennials. Now to continue on picking up rocks and roots and york raking the whole area smooth.......And the rocks... oh my! There are more huge boulder-sized rocks, all the way down to baseball sized and pebbles. Dan will be busy making decorative stone walls for years.
We’ve been told that actually all that rain was a very good thing(!) It helps to pack down the freshly disturbed land so the grass can grow. The grass will then hold everything together. So far, this does seem to be happening! There are plenty of green shoots sprouting up all over. We are very happy and grateful for that. And soon the alpacas will be here, grazing and pronking....................