Sweet Harmony Farm blog
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!
We had a really, really nice summer here in our little corner of the US. Most days I was able to enjoy utilizing my outside Fiber Studio.
This is my outside Fiber Studio:
I, sitting in my backyard in my trusty little beach chair, with Stella snoozing nearby, have been spending the summer weaving, crocheting, spinning, felting, knitting, flicking, and washing and sorting fleece while watching the alpacas serenely graze. Sometimes they stop to curiously watch the passing wildlife or roll in the sand pile. They are very peaceful days filled with warm sunshine on my shoulders and soft grass under my feet.
The rains and snow and sunshine feed the soil which grows the grasses that in turn feed the alpacas who in turn grow the fleece that eventually can clothe people. What a sensation to watch this transformation happening over a year’s time. As the alpacas go about their daily job of, well, being alpacas, I stand back and just imagine what their fleeces turned into yarn will look like and what I can make with that yarn. My alpacas' different colors along with their individual personalities inspire me. Periodically I also stand in the barn and thank the alpacas for growing their lovely fleeces for me. They stare at me blankly then sniff at me for a treat.
There is something magical, meditative perhaps, most definitely purposeful, to caring for animals daily and then creating something to wear from their fleece, with your own hands. I spend a whole year watching the fleece grow as I care for the alpacas, by hand. In the spring the alpacas are shorn, by hand, and the fleece is carefully separated and then sorted by grade, by hand. Then the fleece is washed, by hand, dried in the sun, and by hand still, processed into a roving of sorts to be made into felt, by hand, or spun into yarn, by hand, and then crafted into a wearable, useable item, by hand.
Then you put this scarf or cowl or hat or shawl or sock or mitten or whatnot you've made yourself onto you and you just feel good. It’s a warming and peaceful sensation like summer sunshine on your skin after a long and snowy winter. I close my eyes and smile with gratitude for the alpaca that gave me this gift of soft, warm, comforting fleece to wear, who is living in my barn.
There are no words to describe it. Pure joy perhaps? It’s similar to the feeling of anticipation you get when you plant your garden and watch it grow, then pick the veggies from your own garden, and finally sit down to eat and oooh, it tastes so good.
Knowing where your food ~ and what’s really in it ~ comes from is very important. And joyful. And knowing where your clothing ~ and the fiber in it ~ comes from is equally important. And equally joyful. And it’s from own backyard, made with my own hands and soul.
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.
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:
Cavalier quickly joined him while the others looked on.
And Cavalier is the first one to go swimming!
Hope you are all finding ways to stay cool!
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.
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?
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!
On Sunday we went over to Val's to visit our female alpacas, Alana and Dreamer, and our newest little cria, Copper Moon. The female herd was mostly in the barn or just outside, cushed amongst the shade of the trees. Alana is a very attentive and protective momma, and will not allow the humans near her little one. When she saw us, she didn't run away, but very deliberately walked Copper to the next pasture.
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.
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.
And already our little cria weighs 30 pounds! Look at that smile on his little face!
p.s. thanks to Val for this fabulous picture!
This morning the Universe shined on us. Just as if she’d read the manual, our beautiful Alana once again had a textbook perfect delivery. And once again, that healthy little cria is a very strong baby boy cria! Yeah, another boy!
Val called us this morning to tell us that Alana was looking oddly uncomfortable, and that we’d probably have a cria today. When Val went back out to check on Alana, already there was 'nose and toes'! Minutes later our little boy cria was here on Earth and very alert. And within 15 minutes of his birth, this strong little boy was standing up and nursing! By the time we arrived, he had walked with his momma out into the back pasture. Oh my, what long legs this teeny creature has! His fleece was still damp in places, and we were having quite a time figuring out what color that soft fleece is. But even though it wasn’t sunny, that fleece was shining. His fleece is shiny, with an almost reddish tone, like a new copper penny...............
Welcome, Copper Moon!