Sweet Harmony Farm

  (Deerfield, New Hampshire)
Simple joys of the alpaca life ...........
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The Ultimate Fleece-washing Adventure

My usual routine for washing fleece has been to:  pick open the fleece by hand, pull out any large bits of VM [that’s vegetable matter for you non-fiber folks, i.e. bits of hay, straw, seedheads, grass, weeds, etc.], shake that handful, stuff said handful into a sweater-sized mesh laundry bag, repeat, repeat again and again, until the laundry bag appears ‘full enough’ which is probably about 3 or 4 ounces at most.  Then I step outside and shake the laundry bag again.  Now mind you, while originally sorting/skirting the fleece, which I only do outside, I have shaken the living daylights out of the fleece while it’s on the sorting table.  Huge clouds of dust billow out like smoke signals and I jump out of the way until it disperses.  The next day my throat and sinuses are on fire but hey, the fleece in the bag is much cleaner.

And why all the shaking of the fleece?  Because alpacas love to roll in the dirt.  They roll in the dirt piles that we silly humans create for them, they roll in the bare earth spots under trees, and they roll in the barn in the stonedust.  When they roll, you can watch really huge clouds of dust billow out from around them.  Needless to say, I don’t bother to ‘dust’ the barn.  Because alpacas have no lanolin like sheep do, the dust doesn’t adhere to their fleece so a lot of it can just be shaken out prior to washing it.   Or so you’d think.

So, I’ve been washing these mesh laundry bags of a few ounces of alpaca fleece in a large painter’s tub in the bathtub.  Washing fleece is really a matter of soaking it in hot, soapy water, removing the bag, dumping out the water, re-filling the tub with hot water and then soaking the bag in plain water to rinse the fleece.  Depending on how dirty the fleece is, you may need more than one soapy and one plain water soak; usually 2 of each will suffice.  You can’t agitate it or else the fleece will felt into a big blob and be unusable.  All you do is soak it.  As you can imagine, washing fleece just a few ounces at a time has been taking me forever and a day to do.

So encouraged by friends on Ravelry [thanks Maple! thanks Connie!], I decided to take the plunge and wash a pound in the kitchen sink.  Similar process, just more fleece at a time.   But before I even tried that, I instead ventured into the Ultimate Fleece-Washing Adventure:  washing alpaca fleece in my washing machine, an older top-loading model.

I decided on Arlo’s blanket fleece.  It’s white, with an easy-to-see dirt line, so it will be very easy to follow the cleaning process.  Besides, Arlo is such a cute little guy.  :)  After sifting through the bag to prepare it, I put it on the scale: exactly 3 pounds.  I filled the washing machine with hot water on the lowest setting, liberally squirted in the dish soap, and then gently stuffed all 3 pounds [silently telling myself:  You Go Girl!]  into the water until it was all submerged.  Mistake # 1:  probably not enough water.  This just means it will need another soapy soak, which I would have done anyway.

After about 25 minutes, I flipped the dial to spin, said a quick prayer, closed the lid, and waited for the machine to do its thing.  Mistake #2:  definitely too much dish soap.  And how did I know?  Soap bubbles were popping out of the drain pipe and dripping down onto the floor.  Oops.

When the machine was done spinning, I opened the lid.  All the fleece was attached to the sides of the machine.  It was attached so well that I think if there hadn’t been 3 pounds worth, I probably could have pulled it all out in one circular piece.  It came out in a few pieces, which I gently separated into more sections, and placed into the bucket.  There was sand at the bottom of the machine, but in reality not all that much, and easily cleaned out with a wet paper towel.  Now, wet, white, alpaca fleece looks kind of yellow-ish and so much dirtier than when it’s dry!  At least I already knew this so no panicking ensued. 

I re-filled the washing machine with more hot water, this time on the medium setting, and much less dish soap.  While it was filling, I started pulling out bits of VM that seem to all mysteriously appear in wet fleece.  When the machine was done filling, I gently pulled the fleece apart in smaller sections as it went into the machine, also pulling apart locks that obviously still had dirt.  Alpaca fiber floats!  When I was done re-loading fleece, I gently pushed it all back under the water.  

When this second load was done, it was all stuck to the sides of the machine again but not as tightly as the first time.  It easily came out in sections as I pulled it out.  This time it was noticeably cleaner.  Wiped down the machine again [not as much sand this time], re-filled the machine for a third time with just a quick squirt of dish soap, added the fleece, submerged again, spun it out again, pulled out the fleece again, wiped down the machine again, etc.

Now it’s time for the rinsing.  After filling up the machine for a fourth time, I added about a cup of vinegar.  Vinegar re-sets the ph of the fiber so the fiber is not dry and also helps to make it sparkly clean.   Added the fleece, spun it out, etc.  Then I did one more plain water rinse just to be sure.

I put all the clean, wet but not dripping, fleece into the painter’s bucket and went upstairs to spread it out to dry.  Mistake #3:  not anticipating that 3 pounds of fleece would take up substantially more room to dry than a mere 4 ounce laundry bag full.  Oops again.  Well, where there’s a will, there’s a way!  Half of it is drying on oven racks, the rest on the old screen I usually use, all spread out across our ridiculously huge bathroom.  I’ll pick apart the fleece and flip it around as it dries.  It was spun out in the washing machine so it’s not dripping wet, so should be all dry and looking very white in about 24 hours.

3 pounds down, a gazillion more to go ................

 
 

The New Wheelbarrow!

And here it is! 

the new wheelbarrow 

This is our farm’s new wheelbarrow, aka the Chief Poop Mover.  I am happy to say it was purchased at a local family-run store, not from a big-box store.  We do our best to make all our purchases locally.

We’re still getting used to the new wheelbarrow.  It’s a heavier and deeper design than our last one so dumping the poo in the Big Pile O’ Poo requires a bit more upper body strength and aim.   Oh well.  We could all use a little more upper body strength, right??

 
 

Ode to the Red Wheel Barrow

As I sit here typing this, I swear I can hear a bugle in the distance playing ‘Taps’ ..................

the ole red wheelbarrow

Well, last evening it finally happened.  Our old, very, very old wheelbarrow, carried its last ever pile o’ alpaca poo over to The Big Poo Pile. 

It’s been a very loyal wheel barrow, trustworthy, always faithfully serving its purpose.  For years its purpose was the usual gardening and landscaping tasks.  It also helped move rocks to build stone walls as well as move many countless cords of firewood.  When the alpacas arrived it took over as Chief Poop Mover, rolling effortlessly from the barn.  And our trusty wheelbarrow took ever so long to rust out completely.  But once that rust started it was the beginning of the end.  We’ve repaired its broken handles and flat tires over the years, but rust keeps on doing its thing until the metal cracks and then there’s a teeny hole.  That teeny hole slowly [or quickly as the case may be] grew and grew until the ‘poo fell through.’  There just ‘ain’t much bucket’ left, which means it’s time for Wheel Barrow Retirement.

In other words, it’s actually time for this ole wheelbarrow to go to the dump.

Dan has had this trusty wheelbarrow for 29 years.  He’s actually kind of sad to see it go.  Yes, Sara and Emily, it’s the Chester Wheelbarrow!

In the distance, the sound of a bugle playing ‘Taps’ continues ......

 
 

In the Good Ole Summertime

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 ........

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

February

This winter continues to be warm and weird.  Most nights are still well below freezing but the days are still rather mild for New Hampshire.   We’ve hardly received any snow.   It’s the middle of February and we can see the grass and weeds.  Of course everything is brown and rather dreary looking, rather than bright green and colorful.  We’ve been joking that the winter of 2011 – 2012 has been one very long mud season.

fresh bale of hay

The alpacas are loving this weather.  Usually in the winter they prefer to be snuggled into the barn in the deep straw, behind the front wall of tarps.  All that hanging out in the barn makes them cranky and usually I find fresh spit on someone’s neck in the morning.  This winter most of the alpacas usually sleep outside, cushed under the stars, chewing their cud and looking very content.  During the day, they romp our frozen yet muddy pastures, playing and wrestling with each other.  Some days that wrestling quickly turns into an all out tussle match and Stella and I run outside to try to break it up.  Stella runs out barking and usually it subsides before I make it out to the barn. 

Needless to say, fresh spit abounds.   :)  

To keep myself occupied this winter, I’ve been playing with my bags and bags of alpaca fleeces.  Opening each bag, I know immediately which one of my alpacas formerly wore the fleece inside. :)  I smile, thinking of them running through the pasture or greeting me in the barn with alpaca sniffs and kisses.  I can feel their spirit running through my body and into my heart and embracing my soul.  I am so attached to each and every one of them.  I could never sell any of them.   It’s hard for me to even think of selling their fleece!  As I work with their fleeces ~ sorting, skirting, washing, combing, spinning ~ I smile even more.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  There is joy in working with an animal’s fiber that you’ve raised yourself.

 
 

Just Another Day on the Farm

This morning I headed down to the barn like I normally do.  So strange, this winter.  It’s been warm, many days into the high 40’s.  Aside from the freak October snowstorm, we really haven’t gotten any snow.  The ground is generally hard from being frozen overnight with not enough daylight to really thaw it out, unless we’d had some rain.  But even so, not that much rain either.  So weird, but since we’ve had several years of record-breaking snowfall filled winter, hey, I’m not complaining about this one.  :)

When I wake up some of the alpacas are cushed in the paddock, still sleeping.  It’s been so warm that we haven’t even had to tarp over the upper half of the barn.  We did put the tarps on the gates, but unless it’s windy, most nights we haven’t even had to shut them.  Those nights, the boys are all cushed together in the deep straw, staying close to each other for warmth.  There’s no snow, so as the sun rises the boys stroll out to the pasture and nibble on the stubby grasses. 

A few of the alpacas were cushed out in the paddock.  We’d put down some old hay and straw near the entrance fence, and Julio and Bo were cushed there, chewing their cud.  I said hello to Bo as I walked by him to check out Julio.  His lump has not gotten any better since we started the antibiotics.  In fact it’s been looking worse, like he ate a golf ball and is holding it along his lower jaw.  He’s been eating, spitting, and acting like his spunky, normal self though!  We suspect he may be purposely stuffing hay there, to get more sympathy from us, so we’ll give him more pellets as treats.  Julio, my Drama Queen.  He knows I’m a softie.

Lately, we’ve been finding small holes dug, in the pen, up against the tack room wall.  Dan and I fill them back in with stonedust and I’ve even put large rocks over them.  A few days later another hole will appear, next to the rock.  Damn!  Over the weekend we thought we’d be clever and put the hose down the hole and turned on the water.  The water poured out from under the back of the barn, and nothing else.  Yeah.

I turned on the lights to the barn and walked into the pen.  Yeah, no new holes!  I stepped on the straw, just to double check against the back wall.  Out of the corner of my eye, from behind the straw bale, something small with a long tail darted by along the wall and instantly disappeared into the teeny space next to the rock.

Right on cue, I screeched, loudly.  EEwwww, yuuuuuuuuck!!

And also right on cue, I heard the alpacas all run across the paddock in a group.   

For some reason when I express the urge to screech, I also simultaneously seem to close my eyes and stamp my feet.   When I re-opened my eyes and turned around, the boys had walked back and were all standing there in front of the pen, wide-eyed, staring at me.  All except Coty, who apparently is no longer bothered by my outbursts.  He was still cushed by the outside hay feeder chewing his cud, never missing a beat.  I choked out an apology.  ‘Sorry boys, but you know those things gross me out.’ 

Earth walked over and gave my nose a long sniff ~ alpaca kisses.  Ahh, much better.

p.s. This happened a couple days ago and apparently I’ve jinxed myself.  Today, it’s snowing!  But ......... no new holes in the pen!

 
 

New Year's Eve - 2011

It’s New Year’s Eve!

Well 2011 isn’t ending so wonderfully.  Julio’s jaw abscess has returned, thankfully not too badly, and this week I’ve had a sore throat/earache thing going on which is leaving me totally exhausted.  Perhaps Julio and I are just having sympathy pangs for each other?  Animals are so in tuned to their caretakers and alpacas are no exception.

On New Year’s Eve I am always excited to look forward to the new beginnings of a new year.  I blogged about that last year.

So today I’m just reflecting about this past year.  2011 has been a wonderful year!  My big goal was to teach myself to process fleece myself and yup, I succeeded.  I learned how to sort the fleece [yes, yes, actually that was at the end of 2010], and how to wash it, flick it, comb it, card it, and my favorite ~ spin it!  I can spin on both a spindle and a spinning wheel!

Here’s my new spinning wheel, an Ashford Country Spinner:

my new spinning wheel!

And here are the first 2 skeins I spun ~ the blue one is Border LeicesterX  wool with a little alpaca, and the red one is Border LeicesterX wool with a little mohair:

first 2 handspun skeins from my wheel

I love, love, love, bulky, funky, art yarns and my heavy Turkish spindle and the Country Spinner are both perfect for this.  These bulky yarns are perfect for weaving on my frame looms. 

I hope you all had a wonderful 2011.

Here’s to 2012!  May you have an even more wonderful year!

Thank you all for reading our little blog!  It means a lot to us.

Bright Blessings to all of you!!

Mona   

 
 

Merry Christmas 2011

Merry Christmas Everyone!!

christmas snowmen on table

 
 

Hay ~ It's What's For Dinner

When Dan or I bring down a bale of hay on the 2-wheeler, we usually hardly make it into the paddock past the gate and this happens:

Hay ~ it's what's for dinner

Hope you all had a fabulous Thanksgiving weekend!

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Back Online

Needless to say, last weekend we received well over a foot of snow and lost power for several days.............

Our shearer had come by early Saturday morning to help us trim the alpacas’ toenails.  Dan held them and Jay trimmed.  Thank goodness for Jay, because our little herd would not be so accommodating if it were only Dan and me.  The dark and ominous clouds rolled in rather quickly.   After Jay left, we scrambled to get things ready while it was still daylight ~ close up the big barn door on the awning, shut the windows, put up tarps over the gate, find the straw amongst the many bales of hay in the garage, spread straw out in the barn, overstuff the hay feeders with hay, fill up the water buckets, bring in wood and more wood for our woodstove, then off to find a gas station to fill up the gas cans for the generator.  It wasn’t too long after the storm started that the power went out. 

So now I need to update my last post by saying this storm was the most snow I’ve ever seen in October in my lifetime.  And it’s the only time that Halloween Trick or Treating had to be postponed due to a snowstorm..... LOL.

The sun came out Sunday morning and we spent all day shoveling snow, plowing snow, and trying to find our woodpile buried under the snow covered tarps.  Dan plowed a path for the alpacas in the pasture and they spent the afternoon running laps in the brisk air and sunshine.  Silly alpacas.  They’re so easy to please.  :)  As is Stella, who is just as happy to romp through the snow as she is to roll in the grass.  :) 

This week we’ve been blessed by sunshine and more sunshine and the snow is melting, melting, melting.  It’s finally gone in the pasture and lo and behold, there’s green grass growing again.  The boys can still graze and cush outside of the barn, so maybe the early snow is a good thing?  NOT!  There’s still quite a bit of snow around the house and yard as it’s rather shaded from all the trees, but at least the mud is drying up. 

 
 

Early Autumn Snow

Late yesterday afternoon, I thought that Mother Nature was playing a trick on us.  The cold rain that had been falling all day quickly turned to heavy, wet snowflakes.  Our beautiful maple trees, leaves still ablaze with autumn reds and oranges, were quickly transformed to white.  New England is certainly well-known for its unpredictable weather, but in my lifetime I don't think I've ever seen [this much] snow in October.

maple tree covered with early autumn snow

We really weren't expecting snow.  We scrambled to close up the barn the best we could by shutting the big awning door and all the windows.  Luckily, there was no wind and the temperature hovered just below 30 degrees.  The alpacas stayed cushed inside overnight, and were out first thing in the morning, as soon as the sun started shining and had melted enough snow to show the green grass in the pasture. 

barn in the morning after early autumn snow

trailer after early autumn snow

Mother Nature, we're still enjoying the fall weather.  It's just way too early for snow!

 
 

Alpaca Kisses

Mornings in the barn usually start off like this:

EarthWindandFire's nose

:):):)

Enjoy your day everyone!

 
 

Peace and quiet ..........

Julio and Desi eating hay together

I love it when everyone is getting along. :)

 
 

The Jealous Alpaca

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!   

 
 

Creating with Alpaca Fiber

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:

my outdoor fiber studio

weaving while watching the alpacas graze

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.

 
 

Irene

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.    

 
 

Gone Swimming .................

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:

the alpacas checking out the pool

Cavalier quickly joined him while the others looked on.

alpacas in the pool

And Cavalier is the first one to go swimming!

Cavalier in the pool

Hope you are all finding ways to stay cool!

 
 

Guinness and the Alpaca Dance

Guinness

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. 

 
 

Name that weed!

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?

Name that weed!

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!

 
 

Peaceful Walk

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.

Alana and Copper, 1 month old

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