Saturday, March 30, 2013

Compost ~ free to a good home

It is that time of year to put in a garden.  To all my gardening friends, please come take some!

We have several years worth of compost waiting to be put to use.  Much of this is composted to the point of rich black dirt:

We do not have a tractor and I do not have time to package up this rich compost for sale.  So, anyone who wants may come and take all they want.  We have pitch forks and shovels and some bags, but you could also bring a 5 gallon bucket or packaging of your choice. 

Friday, March 29, 2013


I have been working on some yarn.

From fiber in the bag:

I weigh it:

And spin it into yarn:

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring is in the Air

Our temps have been lower than normal and we still have snow covering the ground in some spots.  Usually by this time of year that is clearing away and spring clean up is done.  This year spring clean up has only just begun.

For our farm I do my best to clean up the shelters and paddocks everyday.  This helps the animals have a cleaner area to be in and reduces problems with parasites.  However, if we have a snowstorm or if things are frozen to the ground, I don't clean that up.  There was a time I hacked away regardless of the weather but I found I did more damage by doing that.  Then when it did thaw the parts I hacked out where lower and filled with water and as you can imagine it created a muddy bad mess.

So what I do now it clean up what I can everyday, and on those days there is a bit of a thaw, I can clean up all that has unthawed.

I did run into a problem this year in that the paddocks cleaned of snow, but my trail to the compost pile was under snow:

As miserable as it is to pull a sled on dirt, it is just as miserable to get the wheel barrow stuck in snow.  One day I had to abandon this chore, stuck in the snow with no where to go.

My tools:

Ready for the trek to the compost pile:

Compost pile (I know it looks small but that is because about 80% of it is under snow, there's tons of various levels of compost here, much of it rich black dirt):

On a typical day I can fit everything in one trip to the compost pile. On a thawing spring day I have done anywhere from 3 to 8 trips to the compost pile!  Now that is a work out!!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Farm Friends

Our farm cats have done well this winter.  They have been on rodent patrol and while I rarely see their victims, I am sure they are getting quite a few.  We do feed them a good barn cat dry cat food, in additional to their natural farm diet.

Here is Buddy:

And the two brothers hanging out together (Phantom and Buddy):

I was worried about how Spot would manage the winter.  He's getting older and dogs his size don't typically live that long.  They also tend to have issues with arthritis as they age.  Spot is still getting around great, but I can see his age in his face:

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Enemy Lines

Adding sheep to the farm has been an adjustment for the sheep and the alpacas.  I don't think the sheep have ever seen alpacas and I don't think our alpacas have ever seen sheep.

What I didn't expect was that days later the alpacas would still be scared of the sheep!

It took us days to get Miss Kitty even this close to the fence line of the sheep:

The sheep have no fear of being on their fence line closest to the alpacas.  They line up there frequently, watching the alpacas and saying "bahh".

So, the alpacas are scared and the sheep are not.  The ironic thing is that the alpacas could hurt the sheep, the sheep really couldn't do much to an alpacas.  Alpacas kick with a punch, they can spit, and run and stomp (and being they are taller than sheep they could stomp sheep).  Sheep don't do any of those things.  The kids and I laugh about a sheep trying to kick an alpaca.  It's not a fair match.

We've decided that what is actually going on is that sheep are pretty simple animals.  They live their day walking around together and go with the flow for the most part.  They "bahh" at the alpacas and don't even know to be scared of them.  The alpacas are so used to being vulnerable animals that they just assume the sheep are dangerous (and to their credit, how do they know the sheep aren't a pack of dogs?  From a distance they look a lot like Spot our farm dog.  And if they have never seen sheep, how could they know).  It appears the alpacas are smart enough to be scared but not smart enough to realize they don't need to be.

It's ok that the alpacas are leery of the sheep. I can understand it to a degree.  But what was a big issue is that it messed up feeding the alpacas.   My grain routine was completely put to a halt because Miss Kitty wouldn't go into her pen for grain time (it was too close to the sheep).  And even more concerning none of the alpacas would go into their shelter for water, it was too close to the fence line with the sheep.  If alpacas do not drink enough their digestive system can get impacted and that is awful for them (could lead to death).  Within a day of the sheep coming we noticed the water issue so I put out extra water buckets where the alpacas were hanging out.  But unfortunately winter returned and the only outlets for the heated buckets are in the shelter that the alpacas refuse to go near.  Then I had to bring out warm water to them frequently.  Alpacas will also eat snow for fluids, but that really isn't the answer.

So the kids and I decided it was time to get over this already.   We herded all the alpacas from that pasture area into the paddock on the fence line with the sheep.  The alpacas were not happy, but I was sure to bring them treats once we got them in there.  I don't know if this will solve the problem but the next morning I was able to get Miss Kitty in there to eat her grain:

You can see her watching them with suspect.  I have a feeling there will be more to this story.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Winter continues

We received about three inches of snow overnight.  I have to say, while I think snow is pretty, it's pretty in December NOT March. I know it won't last long, but I need to see the sun. I need to see daffodils.

Spot doesn't look too happy about the snow either:

The alpacas, on the other hand, don't seem to mind:

Even the little ones take the snow in stride.  Here is Night, all snuggled in and letting the snow fall around him:

The spot next to him where you can see the ground bedding, that's where his mom laid overnight.  This is often how we find the dams (moms) and cria (babies) during snow storms.  While they have a shelter, they choose not to go in there.  Instead the dams and cria lay together over the bedding outside and snuggle in.

Rose could care less about the snow, like usual she wants to be the center of attention:

Monday, March 18, 2013

More Sheep Pictures

Our goal with sheep is to focus on dairy ~ sheep's milk, artisinal sheep's milk cheese (Pecorino Romano, Feta, and Ricotta) and soap.

This is the ram of the group:

Sunday, March 17, 2013

More adventures

Our newest adventure:


These are hair sheep, which are different than wool sheep.  Wool sheep are typically raised for wool, breeding, milk and/or meat.  Hair sheep do not have wool that you harvest, they are raised for breeding, milk and meat.  Their hair is not harvested, but falls off naturally each spring.  We decided we have enough fiber on this farm with alpacas that we really did not need to add wool to our alpaca fiber.  But we wanted to diversify animals.   Sheep work well in that they are similar to alpacas by using many of the same materials and husbandry.

We have five bred ewes and one ram.  The ram is the one on the far left in this picture:

They have such cute faces!  I especially like the one with black around her eyes and ears.

The ewes are supposed to all be bred and are due any day now.  So we are officially on lamb watch.

It was funny when they arrived on Saturday, once we finally got the sheep into their paddock, the sheep all lined up on the fence closest to the alpacas and stared at them.  The alpacas, on the other hand, ran to the furthest fence line away from the sheep and stared at them!  Even by this morning the alpacas did not want go anywhere near the fence line closest to the sheep.  Alpacas are smart but vulnerable animals and they are always thinking about safety.  I don't blame them for being cautious.  In time they will learn these sheep are harmless to them.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Zack vs. the tree

Between having a farm and kids, life is never boring or dull.

We have been helping out caring for alpacas at another farm.  While we are there Zack often likes to climb up in one of the trees:

He is generally afraid of heights so he never goes far, but this tree has a nice bend in the trunk where he can sit.  He'll scoot up there and announce he climbs trees.

It was all good until this past Tuesday.  The kids had a half day of school so I picked them up and headed over to the farm for chores.  Zack was off playing when I hear shouting about Zack being stuck.  I start to walk over there and I can hear Zack screaming and wailing.  Zack is a high strung kid anyway, add on any thing new or difficult and he freaks out.  He was having a huge freak out melt down.

I get to him and can see he is breathing, no obvious blood and I felt up his leg and did not feel it was broken.  There was no immediate emergency.  I first set out to calm the guy down. He was so freaked out he couldn't focus.  Finally got him calmed down when thankfully another adult who lives in the house there came out to help.  We thought about calling the fire department but I wanted to first see if we could free him ourselves. 

Zack's leg was caught in this crevice:

He had his entire leg wedged in there in just a way he couldn't move. 

It didn't help that he was dressed in snow pants and boots and all his winter gear.

I told him that if he could get into the position, he could get out, we just had to reverse his moves.  He said he slide down into that position so we had to slide him up out of it.  It took two adults to pull and push him up but we finally freed him.

This ends Zack's career as a tree climber :)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Best of the US Alpaca Show = great show!

We attended The Best of the US Alpaca Show for the 5th time this weekend.  We have attended this show since it began in the spring of 2009.  I cannot say enough about how smoothly run this show was!  We have found the competition to be incredible, and of course it's always neat to meet up with other alpaca farmers.  For some of our alpacas friends, this is the only time we see them all year.

We had a great time, and two of our animals came in 1st place:

Gabriel Star of RobAsia, our 2 year old true black male
Rainbow Mountain Duchess, our 1 year old dark brown female

We received some good and helpful feedback on our other animals.

This spring we are only attending 2 spring shows, so we are already half way done.  Our next show is the last weekend in April in Madison, Wisconsin.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Who's Who?

We have 8 alpacas at the show with us this weekend.

We have Gabe & Gabe:

Seems confusing but both these boys are named Gabriel.  We didn't name either of them, they each came to us with that name.  The black boy is Gabriel Star of Robasia and he is a 2 year old black male.  The beige boy behind him is TSC Gabriel.  He is a beige male who will be 4 years old this summer.  We don't usually take older males to a show (they can get rowdy with all the cute girls around), but we thought both these boys deserve a chance to show what they can do at their age in the show ring.

Our two hucaya girls are Princess (AKA Duchess):

and Lady Bing:

That wraps it up for the huacaya alpacas we have with us.  But we have 4 suris too.

This is Max (black) and Patty (beige):

Patty has been at our farm for a few months and Max a few weeks. 

We add two more Suri alpacas to our herd and we just met them at the show this weekend. 


and Take 5:

Both these suri girls are yearlings who have never been shorn.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Show Set Up

On Friday once we arrived at The Best of the US Alpaca Show, we needed to set up our stalls.

We arrived and pulled our truck and trailer in with many other farms who were arriving:

We prefer to get our pens set up before bringing the alpacas in.   When we arrive, the pen rails are there, and bags of cardboard chips:

There are many different ways to set up an alpaca pen.  Some people just use the chips, some use a stall mat, and some use both.  We have done it different ways, this time we bought extra chips for a solid layer of chips (the big purpose of these is to soak up urine - I know, gross!  But it helps to know the reason behind things):

Then we put stall mats on top of the cardboard chips:

Our newer mats have cute little alpacas on them:

Then we bring in the alpacas:

I didn't take a picture of it but our first stop with the alpacas was the vet check in.  We take our CVI (certified vet certificate) that we got from our vet last week certifying that these alpacas are healthy to travel to the vet at the show.  The vet at the show double checks everyone's microchip to make sure we have the alpaca that we say we have.  The vet checks over each alpaca for any issues and then lets them go to their pens.

We also went through color check.  This is where they verify that the color / sex / age that we registered the alpaca for is true.  This is to ensure they show in the right class (by color, sex and age).  This year we had no tricky colors, everyone checked in with the color we thought they were (it's trickier than it looks sometimes).

Then we brought them to their pens:

We set up fans for our huacaya alpacas (no fans on the suris - it messes their locks).   We put hay and water in each pen.

We also put up our farm signs and banners (I forgot to get a picture when we were all done). 

It doesn't look like much but it's a long and busy day (after a long long truck ride).

Tomorrow I will get up a post with pictures of each of the 8 alpacas we took to the show.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Product on the go

J drove the truck with trailer to the  Best of the Us Alpaca Show while I knit up this head band:

I started a second head band and I'm 95% done with that one too.  Some of the ride back home could be in the dark depending when we leave on Sunday, so I'm not sure how much knitting I will get done, but I hope to finished it during this trip.

Rose's Yarn

The past couple of weeks I worked on an order of two balls of yarn spun from our own Rose.

Here it is when it was one strand on my spinning wheel:

Here is it hanging dry after plying:

And here is what the yarn looks like up close:

I sure hope the person who bought this loves this unique treasured home spun yarn and all it's character :)

I added these skeins to my spin meter and I have spun over 1000 yards so far this year.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Show time!!

This weekend is our first spring alpaca show.   We will be showing 8 alpacas at The Best of the US Alpaca Show, in Columbus, Ohio.

Also at this show is an American Fiber Fair and Craft Show .

I wish I had time to bring my spinning wheel and join in the crafting fun!!  We will be busy showing 8 alpacas.  I will have some products at the show, and I plan to knit during our travel to the show.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Alpaca Colors

This is the current color chart:

I wrote a blog post about it a couple years ago (you can link to that here).

This is an older version of the color chart:

 I don't know what caused them to change the color chart and I don't know when that exactly took place.  But I do know the purpose of the chart is to put it up to the alpaca's fiber to see what color alpaca you have.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Grosser than gross?

You know how kids try to top one another and they do the "grosser than gross" contest to see what is the grossest?

Well, my Friday was grosser than gross. 

We had thawing temps which meant the snow and ice was melting.  However, the ground is still frozen, so the melting snow and ice couldn't go anywhere.  It meant the alpaca's pasture is still snow covered, the paddock area has frozen ground, snow, ice, and water with slush.   I do clean up their poop each day, except when it snows a lot that day or it is really frozen out, but some of that poop is hiding under the snow and ice.  As the snow and ice melts, that formerly frozen poop is uncovered.  We call this = poop soup.  It's gross.

As we get a thaw I clean and clean some more.  It's very important to have their areas clean.  This is the best way to prevent parasites, but also just for their own comfort (and more so my own comfort). I like a clean paddock.

Zack and I set out for farm chores and all was going fine (despite the poop soup, we were managing).  We have an alpaca show coming up next weekend, so we wanted to work a little more with the juvis on the halter.  I was cleaning paddocks while Zack went to haltering.  He had a bit of a difficult time with Patty, so I stepped in.  Patty swung me around, and there was ice and smack - I was flat on my back in poop soup!!!!  Now that is grosser than gross!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Beautiful Rose

One of my favorite alpacas is our own Rose.  She is friendly and sweet, and she is the most beautiful color of light rose grey.

Here she is in her glory:

Her fiber:

I flicked the fiber up into a cloud to spin:

A strand of yarn spun:

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