(slight camera snaffu ~ pictures to follow)
Spring cleaning on an alpaca farm is when we clean out the barn and paddock areas in preparation for shearing day. We want the barn as clean as possible (well, it is a barn after all) so that the alpacas’ fleece stay as clean as possible. Shearing Day is a fiber farmer’s Harvest Day, and it’s very important to us to get the most out of our harvest.
Dan has spent the previous week or so raking out each pen of the straw bedding that has accumulated over the winter. This used bedding is added to the ever- growing-poop-pile to compost down into lovely dirt. Eventually we will be spreading out this compost onto the pastures, fertilizing our heavy clay soil, creating rich, nutrient-filled soil, and then beautiful grass will grow.
It’s great to dream.
Our first priority was to get the alpacas OUT of the barn and out of the way. So we dragged the 2 hay bale feeders out and stuffed them with fresh hay. I made a point of parading through the barn with a fresh bale and the boys all followed me outside like I was the pied piper.
We’ve spent this afternoon digging out the poop areas in the barn. The alpacas have 3 defined, communal poop spots in their barn. After we dug out the area, we’d sprinkle quite a bit of limestone down which helps to neutralize the smell. Then Dan brought in a tractor-bucket full of fresh stonedust to fill in the spot. We’d rake it out till it was somewhat level, I’d step all over to mush it down, and then we’d dump some more stonedust and rake again, until the spot was firm and all the limestone was well covered.
Of course just bringing the tractor into the paddock excites the alpacas to no end! We had to work around them carefully. They all followed Dan riding in on the tractor and when the tractor stopped, they rolled and rolled in front of and all around the tractor. We were trying to work quickly because the sunny sky had clouded over. The last thing we need are wet, muddy alpacas on shearing day. Whether it’s snow, dirt, stonedust, or mud, alpacas just love to roll when they’re happy, and they get really happy when the tractor arrives. So we just paused to watch and enjoy them.
Watching happy alpacas rolling is a simply joy.
It had started to rain softly so as soon as we were done we had to hustle them back into the barn, this time with Dan shaking a bowl of pellets. That was quick! I closed all the gates behind our fleece-y friends. Dan made sure each eager nose got a few mouthfuls and then got back on the tractor. I took down one more of the tarps; just one is left. I emptied and refilled the water buckets and the alpacas just stood there staring at me, and mindlessly stared outside the gates at Dan working in the paddock. They hummed and hummed, loudly, not too happy with us to be locked into the barn. Sorry boys! All your fleeces need to be dry, dry, dry for shearing day.
Dan then raked out the paddock of the rest of the mashed down, wet straw with the york rake on the tractor. He filled up the bucket and dumped it all into The Big Poop Pile.
He figured he’d turn the poop piles while he was there. The older pile is now looking like the glorious dirt we’re hoping for. It’s a deep dark brown and full of earth worms. Yeah!
The newer pile was steaming off heat on one side! Hoorah! And the other side ........... the other side still had some snow in it!