Sweet Harmony Farm blog
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.
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.
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!
My heart both aches and yet rejoices. I have heard that by the end of today, all of the remaining llamas at the Montana Large Animal Sanctuary will have been evacuated. (In fact, all of the animals will have been evacuated.) Today was the deadline given for the rescue workers on site to leave the property. The llamas are en route to, or have arrived at, their foster home destinations for proper care and feeding, rehabilitation and training, and eventual re-homing to forever homes. There is even a group leaving in a critical care trailer with one of the workers, Gayle, who has so eloquently described this very sad journey of an animal sanctuary that was everything but sanctuary.
I have been there in spirit and prayer, hearing the screams of the llamas in my head for a few months now. I am not strong enough a person to be there in person, to witness this scene of unimaginable tragedy. I cannot express my gratitude enough for those people involved in rescue, this rescue in particular, this, the largest animal rescue in our country’s history.
The really hard part begins now. The wonderful people who have taken in the llamas for foster care are working so hard to restore these animals to health, and to give back to them a sense of trust for their human caretakers.
Once again, I list a few websites if you are able to donate to the care of these llamas. Please note on your paypal donation or check ‘Montana Rescue.’
Thank you all for reading. ~ 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!’
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.
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 situation regarding the llamas in Montana is dire. Llamas are dying daily. There are 2 rescue groups working together, Northeast Llama Rescue and Southeast Llama rescue, to get a group of 70 - 90 llamas out and into facilities in Indiana, Missouri, and New York, for assessment, re-hab, and re-homing. Funds are needed immediately to pay the cost of transportation to these facilities.
Please visit the rescue groups' websites and make a donation via paypal to help the Montana Llama rescue emergency.
Or if sending a check via snail mail:
167 Llama Lane
Middleburgh, NY 12122
678 Mill Creek Rd
Luray, Virginia 22835
Please keep these animals and the rescue workers in your prayers.
Thank you for reading.
I had a wonderful end to last year / start to the New Year on Friday morning ~ I went to Sallie’s Fen Fibers to pick up another batch of my yarn! I had this yarn done in a twist. There’s a ply of white yarn, courtesy of Bo Jangles, and a ply of medium fawn yarn, courtesy of Coty and his mama Alana. It’s a perfect rag-wool style yarn! I think I’ll just call it ‘The Twist.’ Funny, Bo and Coty are always wrangling, wrestling, playing ‘Twister’ with each other, so a twist yarn from their fleeces is just perfect. There was actually more fawn than white (yeah!) so I also have a small cone of just fawn.
Yummmm........ Yes, yes, pictures will come.
Wishing you all a joyous, peaceful, healthful, and prosperous New Year!
(most of today’s post is a re-print of last year’s post)
I love New Year’s and the hope for new beginnings that it brings. On New Year’s Eve Dan and I like to sit back and reflect on our past year and create our goals for the New Year. Our reflections start with the good, i.e. all the goals we did accomplish or are completing, and then on to the setbacks. But instead of dwelling on any bad experiences that we may have had, we talk about what we’ve learned from those experiences so that it may help us in the future. And then we laugh and talk about what we are looking forward to, jot down ideas, and from there our new goals are formed.
It’s the end of the year. Every end is a new beginning.
With the alpacas physically here it is much easier for us to visualize the direction our farm is headed. I’m sure all farms sit back every year and say ‘Hhmmm, what needs to be fixed? What do we need to buy this year? What could we improve?’ Necessity and the budget usually dictate what will come first. If the alpacas could speak, I’m sure they’d like us to keep working on a better pasture, free of rocks and roots, and filled with lush, green grass!
We’ve had a wonderful 2010. 2011 can only be better.
Here’s to wonderful new beginnings!
Wishing you all a joyous, healthy, peaceful, and prosperous New Year!
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.
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.