Sweet Harmony Farm

  (Deerfield, New Hampshire)
Simple joys of the alpaca life ...........
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The Ladies

As you may already know, last December we had alpaca ladies join our farm. 

We had spent months trying to figure out how we could inexpensively build a new barn and pasture area for them.  We talked to other farms who house both males and females for tips on how to keep them separated the hardest task of all.  Knowing well that farming is much more difficult during the winter, we devised a plan of how to get them shoveled out relatively easily so that we’d be able to get them water and hay. 

In the end, the quickest, easiest, and most efficient method was just to divvy up the barn by moving one of the gates to block off the pens next to the tack room, run a line of fencing from the back corner of the barn to the back pasture fenceline, and then run fencing down the paddock with 2 handmade gates on either end.  Done.

The girls, or rather The Ladies as Dan calls them, have the smaller side next to the tack room.  The boys have the rest of the barn, the bigger side.  It’s not that much bigger!  I swear it was much cozier this winter for them.  With a smaller space and a few more alpacas, all that extra body heat must have helped. 

As it turns out, after the initial Meet and Greet, the boys just couldn’t care less about having girls on the other side!  They are always, always, much more interested in me bringing them hay than who’s on ‘the other side.’  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

The Sling - Part 2

Sometimes, despite your best efforts and intentions, things just don’t go as planned. Spring arrived, and Shiloh was not able to regain the use of her back legs. Loving animals means your heart gets broken when they cannot be the beautiful creatures they were intended to be. More sadness came to our farm in mid-April, as the decision was made that it was best to let Shiloh and her wonderful spirit leave our world.  

Shiloh April2014

We had created a setup in the pen with a sling and pulleys so that we could sling Shiloh up with the least amount of stress to her, as well as to us. She really didn’t like being in the sling. She always much preferred that Dan lift her by her hind end and balance her on his leg while he sat on the small hay feeder. From there she could stand up using her front legs and see all around the barn, see ‘her girls’ and sometimes she’d even put weight on her back legs. Dan and I would massage her back and hips and massage her back legs and feet, trying hard to get the blood circulating. Then we’d gently work each leg, bending it and straightening it, forward and back and out to the side. Dan would even take that rear leg and pull it forward so that Shiloh could scratch her chest, like a real alpaca. :)  

Shiloh Apr2014

Shiloh actually liked us doing all this massage. When we’d arrive at the barn she’d get a really excited look on her face when she saw Dan and would try hard to get herself up, her front end anyway. When she saw us get the sling ready, she’d get an ‘OH NO!’ look to her. With Shiloh in the sling we could work her legs a little easier and she could move around a teensy bit. Anything to get her muscles working. I did reiki on her every day. We gave her homeopathic remedies for healing and pain relief, banamine for pain and swelling, MSM to build muscle, crushed B12 tablets to regenerate her nerves, and of course alpaca pellets as a treat. We kept her in the pen with lots of straw and a warm coat, and put up an extra tarp to keep the cold and wind off of her. We did this all winter long, every day.  

In return, she gave us happy looks, a never-give-up attitude, and a very loving spirit. She will never be forgotten.  

RIP my friend.

Dan and Shiloh Apr2014

Dan and Shiloh April2014

 
 

The Sling - Part 1

I really don’t need to explain to anyone that it’s been a brutally cold winter this season. Temps have often been near zero and with the wind it’s well below zero. The tips of my fingers go numb within a minute or less of scooping up frozen beans. It’s a nauseating feeling. I run into the tack room to get out of the wind, take off my gloves, and shake my hands wildly to get the feeling back. If I’m on the boys’ side, I usually run to Guinness or Arlo to put my fingers into their fleeces. This time of year the alpacas’ fleece is usually about 3+ inches long and it’s toasty warm down by their skin. Guinness will usually grunt and look up at me quickly, surprised by the sudden cold. I wish they’d stay still long enough for my fingertips to get as warm as their skin, but usually it’s just long enough to get the feeling back.  

On the plus side, we haven’t had as much snow as we’ve usually had the past several winters. On those odd days where the wind is calm, the sun is out, and it’s over 20 degrees, I am able to open up the ‘big door’ for the boys. They love it! It’s so dark in the barn with all the tarps up along the front opening. Plus, it gives me another way to get into and out of the barn to scoop all the paca poo.    

Over on the girls’ side it’s a bit different. We’ve been keeping the tarped gate closed and their ‘big door’ closed most of the time, trying to keep poor Shiloh warm. Shiloh stays cushed in the pen, on piles of warm straw, and wears a lovely coat. She can wiggle around fairly well using her front legs but doesn’t leave the pen on her own.    

Shiloh came to us somewhat mobile. She’d been injured back in October at the farm she’d been living at and went down, and then spent a week recuperating at the vet. For the next month she needed assistance getting up and overall seemed to be improving. When she first arrived here at the beginning of December, she just needed a boost to get up but could do a wobbly walk. After several days, Shiloh was getting up on her own! We were thrilled and thought she was basically recovered. NOT. The intense cold came on suddenly and within days she needed a boost to get up again, and just as quickly needed help just to stand. And then, she couldn’t even stand. Her front legs work just fine, but her back legs do not. It is incredibly sad for us to see her so helpless.  

Shiloh is considered a ‘down’ alpaca. In the mornings and mid-day, I massage and rub her legs as best as I can to get some feeling into them. I do reiki on the part of her lower spine where her actual injury appears to be. Her wonderful owners have provided her with all kinds of homeopathic remedies, vitamins, banamine [a livestock medicine to reduce pain and inflammation], etc. In the evening, Dan lifts her by her hips and she stands. He sits on the hay feeder with her hips in his lap and her back legs somewhat dangle. We then rub and massage and stretch out her legs and feet trying to work the muscles.  

Shiloh is one very co-operative alpaca. It is amazing how she just lets us ‘do what we have to do’ with really no complaints. She has the best disposition of any alpaca ever! The downfall is this: she is a rather large-framed alpaca. She is not fat, in fact even after all this she still body scores very well, but she is much too heavy for us to lift her easily; in fact I cannot lift her at all if she isn’t assisting and quickly trying to stand on her own. This makes therapy rather difficult and is certainly slowing down her healing process.  

It’s time for us to make a sling. Dan has put something together and we did a successful test run with a hay bale last night. It will still require both of us to get her into the sling and lift her. Once she’s in the sling and Dan doesn’t have to hold her up, we will both be able to work her legs much better.   Her muscle tone in those weak back legs will improve. She will soon be able to start standing on all 4 legs with the sling helping her to keep her balance. And then, she will be able to run again on her own.   That’s the plan, anyway.  

We refer to Shiloh’s condition as an injury, but it’s actually the affects of the dreaded meningeal worm.

 
 

Twenty

Our little farm has grown to 20 alpacas.  This little fact now begs the question:  are we nuts??

In mid-November we brought home 2 more boys in need of a farm, Soloman and Sam.  Soloman is an all-black alpaca with a wild and curly topknot and the longest eyelashes I’ve ever seen on an alpaca.  He is also rather good-natured and doesn’t mind at all when I hug him, usually.  He is papa to several of our boys: Cavalier, North, Eragon, and Copper.   Sam is a light fawn alpaca, another really nice boy, and a bit high-strung and nervous.  He is papa to still very shy Adagio.

Our girls are home!!!  Our girls have always boarded elsewhere, and at the beginning of this month, they’re finally home.  Dreamer is my older girl, full of spunk for her teeny size, with lovely light fawn fleece.  She never lets anyone get in her way and is most likely to spit.  She is mama to Guinness, Bo, and Arlo.  Then there’s Alana, who is very tall, with the loveliest medium rose-grey fleece.  I first saw her when she was a cria and knew I had to have her.  Even now, in the right sunshine, her fleece has a pinky glow.  I wish it would spin up that way!  She is mama to Coty, Henry, and Copper. 

Our girls came home with a couple of friends.  First there’s Christina, who is a medium brown gal, and mama to Desi.  Christina seems to be the lookout for the girls and often sounds the alarm call, especially when she sees Stella.  Their other friend is Shiloh, who probably has the best disposition of any alpaca, ever!  She has a dark brown blanket of fleece across her back, and the rest of her is white and brown splashes of color.  This little gal’s unique coloring stands out in any crowd.  She wears a red coat all the time because she hasn’t been feeling well [more on that in another post].  Christina and Shiloh are very well loved by their owners, who enjoy spoiling their alpacas as much as we do.

Dreamer looks incredibly small compared to the other 3 gals, who are all rather tall.

Dan refers to the four of them as ‘The Ladies.’

At first the girls were very nervous of their new surroundings.  They were definitely unsure of what to make of me and Dan.  The good thing is that they have lived together for years and are very bonded.  The four stay together and move together as a group, as a herd should.  I’d come walking into the paddock announcing ‘hello girls!’ and they’d all run into the barn and out their big door.  They’d stop and turn to stare at me wide-eyed wondering, who is this new 2-legger who’s always singing our names?  And what’s with that little dog?  The boys have always greeted me at the gate with kisses so to have alpacas actually run away from me was rather upsetting. 

Thankfully, they only took a few days to get used to me.   At first I used the universal language of alpacas:  I offered them hay.  I slowly held out hay from my hand towards their noses.  They all stared.  Dreamer, very obviously the alpha, was the first to take a teeny step towards me and sniff the hay.  Then she had a bite.  Yeah!  The others then felt safe and ate hay from my hands too, even very shy Alana.  It took me little effort to offer them minerals from the feed bowl, and then the cup.  I’ve been greeting each of them by name, staring right into their eyes.  I call their names from the back door of the house.  That has gotten them running out of the barn to look!  Now I can scratch all of them on their beautiful, long necks.  They stay in the barn while I work around them and ask to drink water from the bucket before I walk it over to the boys’ side.     

The girls also quickly adapted to our routine of being in the barn at least twice a day to put out hay and fresh water, and to rake up all the paca poo.  All of a sudden it seems like we’re raking up an extreme amount of poo, a never ending amount of paca poo.   There seems to be poo everywhere, on the boys’ side that is.  The Ladies are very, very neat, never pooing inside their barn, and only creating one, sometimes a small second, poo area.

Hey boys, are you paying attention???  Of course not; boys will be boys.

Dan and I spent all summer and early fall deciding on how best to divvy up the pasture and barn safely for the girls’ arrival.  We built gates, and more gates, dug holes for fence posts, and put up the fencing.  We built ourselves a Fort Knox system to ensure that the boys can’t wander over to the girls’ side, or vice-versa.

There is some humor to all this work.  The boys sniffed at the girls upon their arrival with the usual gusto.  They ran up and down the fence line trying to acquaint themselves with the new alpacas on the other side.  After a few days, that was it.

The boys are much more interested in me bringing them hay than in the girls on the other side of the fence.  Silly boys.

We had an unfortunate incident amongst the boys about a week or so after Soloman and Sam arrived, and Sam is no longer here on our farm.  We wish him well.  On our farm now, including our beloved Julio, are twenty.

 
 

Changes

Oh my.  The past few weeks, we have been experiencing the best autumn weather, ever!! 

The dew is usually dried off the grass by late morning.  I’ve been wheeling down a bale of hay around noontime.  Everyday, several alpaca noses greet me at the gate while I wheel the bale in and follow me excitedly as I plunk it down alongside the paddock fencing.  The boys love to cush around the bale and mindlessly munch in the sun all afternoon.  In the evening I pick up what’s left and put it into their feeders, fluffing it up as much as I can.  By then they’re usually pronking about in the pasture.

Daji,Copper,Falcon Aug2013

Changes have been coming to our little farm.  Our little farm is growing, growing. 

Several weeks ago, I blogged that our adorable little CopperMoon had come home.  He arrived with his little shy friend Adagio, which we are calling Daji, and another friend, Falcon.  Copper and Daji are average sized alpacas and a bit cautious of their new surroundings.  Falcon is a smaller sized alpaca, calm and quiet, but he definitely can take care of himself.  The usual meet-and-greet over the fence with our herd went well.  We let the newcomers into the small blocked off area to the side of the barn so they could further acclimate themselves.  After a couple hours, we opened up the gates.

That was a mistake.  Within minutes a horrifying scene emerged while Desi, Coty, and North all insisted on asserting their dominance all at once over the 3 new arrivals, namely shy little Daji.  Dan and I managed to separate the 3 offenders rather quickly.  I scolded them and lectured them on manners.  I know that others will laugh and tell me that this is normal behavior for livestock.  I still see it as a nightmare scenario.

I knew my lecture would do no good.  Dan and I sectioned off the barn and secured a small pasture area.  I knew we had a problem that wouldn’t right itself on its own.  We phoned our vet immediately.  Luckily she was able to come to our farm a few days later.  On a beautiful sunny morning, my 3 ‘big boys’ were gelded.  All is calm and quiet again on our little farm, well, for the most part.

We now refer to Desi, Coty, and North as ‘The Sisters.’    :) 

In a few weeks our girls, Dreamer (momma to Guinness, Bo and Arlo) and Alana, (momma to Coty, Henry, and Copper) will be home!  More fun on our little farm is sure to happen.

 
 

Copper is home!

Do you all remember when our little Copper Moon was born?

CopperMoon b-day May2011

Well here he is now!

CopperMoon Aug2013

 

 
 

For Lisa and Val

The camera is working again!  Definitely operator error folks, so we'll just leave it at that.  :)

In honor of the camera finally working, the first picture is for you, Lisa!  Here in front is Desi in full fleece, just before shearing this year:

Desi full fleece May2013 

And the second picture is for you Val!  This is adorable little EarthWind&Fire, whom Dan and I call Earthling, in full fleece:

Earthling May 2013

And for all of you, here are all of our fiber friends!  The first picture is missing Guinness; he was probably just out of camera range.  The second picture is missing Bo.  Bo was probably in the barn.  Bo loves his barn.  Yes, our beloved Julio is in both pictures.  Enjoy everyone!

Alpaca friends full fleece May 2013

alpacas in full fleece 2013

 
 

The Alarm Call

Things are still strangely quiet on our little farm.  I just can’t explain it but it all seems so oddly quiet.  The alpacas have their occasional moments of rough housing and it’s odd not to see Julio step up.  Sometimes Guinness intervenes.  He’s a little guy though so this doesn’t always happen.  I tell him he’s a very good boy and give him a hug.    

There is still no clear alpha but I think it’s Cavalier.  He obviously doesn’t mind the rough housing ruckus.  He’ll just stand there and watch while he eats hay or grazes, if he even watches at all.   If he’s cushed he’ll just continue to chew his cud and ignore what’s happening.  Maybe it isn’t such a big deal to him or any of the alpacas.  Maybe I’m just overreacting.  Most of the time it’s as it’s always been, very quiet out there. 

I’ve been asking Cav, whom I often call Big Bear, if he’s the alpha now.  He doesn’t respond.  But when I say ‘hey A-Man!’ he looks me right in the eye in surprise as if to ask ‘What, Who, Me??’  His expression makes me smile and laugh.  Finally I’m laughing again.

The other night we heard the strangest noise outside.   Were raccoons fighting?  We had no idea.  We heard the strange noise again and tried listening for other noises.  Nothing.   Dan said ‘I think the alpacas are alarming!’  Alpacas make a loud, high pitched noise when they feel threatened.  They do not make this noise often.  This could not be good. 

We quickly turned on the outside lights to the barn.  We saw that all the boys were in the paddock, standing perfectly still with their necks straight up.  All of them were staring at the main gate.   They had stopped alarming now that the light was on.  The only alpaca who had ever sounded the alarm was Julio and he hadn’t done that in a very long time.  The hair was standing up on the back of my neck.

We couldn’t see or hear coyotes, nor dogs, nor a bear.  The alpacas will curiously follow wild turkeys along the fence line but turkeys are not out late at night.  When deer or the occasional moose come through the alpacas couldn’t care less.  Dan took the flashlight and cautiously walked out towards the gate.

And there, in front of the gate, waddling by without a care in the world was a porcupine.  Oh geez!  My wimpy alpacas alarmed at a silly little porcupine. 

Who sounded the alarm?  Usually it’s the alpha/guard but we didn’t see who alarmed and we haven’t got a clue.  

Ahhh, the Who’s The New Alpha Game continues on.             

 
 

Quietness

It’s been a long month since Julio left us.  Thank you all for your compassion and kind words.  Dan and I and the alpacas have all been getting into the new routine, the new normal.  

The alpacas have been very quiet.  They’re certainly not loud animals but they have seemed strangely quiet around me.  I’ve watched them to see who the new alpha will be.  Sometimes at night, for the first several days, we would hear fighting out in the pasture as the herd goes about the task to re-organize itself.  With very little fanfare, I’d say it’s Cavalier, who we call Bear, who is the new leader.  He’s the strong, silent type, with a very watchful eye.  Guinness of course will help out.  Nobody ever bothers Cavalier nor Guinness.

I’ve also been quiet.  I quietly go through the daily routines in the barn, scooping poo, re-filling water buckets, fluffing and putting out fresh hay, and opening or closing the big barn door and windows depending on the weather.  The alpacas all quietly mill around me as I work.  Slowly I’m getting back to my usual chit-chat with them.

A few days after Julio’s passing, I was doing a headcount.  I counted and counted, walked around to the back of the barn a few times to double and triple check, re-counted in the barn, and kept coming up with 11 alpacas.  I was almost in a panic when I realized ...... when I remembered why there wasn’t 12.  I collapsed onto the hay bale feeder in tears.  A few paca noses sniffed at my head and face; I wish I knew who it was.

The alpacas mourned too.  I’d often find Guinness cushed in the straw, exactly where his buddy had been cushed.  He’s always let me scratch and hug him and seems to enjoy it more now.  I can generally scratch and hug any of my alpacas, yes some more than others, but lately all of them are letting me scratch them without a fuss.  There’s solace in that.  They would hang out quietly around the barn and paddock and wouldn’t go near the other pasture for at least a week.  All except Guinness.  He’d come over to the spot where the dirt is still fresh and cush for a while near his friend.

My garden is close by to the fence line where Julio rests.  As I’ve been planting and watering seedlings the alpacas have slowly come back to that pasture to see what I’m doing and to keep me company while I work.  The other morning several of them were already grazing nearby.  As I approached the garden, Coty and Henry came right up to the fence and greeted me with upright ears.  Slowly the others did too.  Good morning boys!  After sniffing me, Guinness walked over to the dirt patch and cushed, and rolled.  Coty saw him and joined him, then Henry.  The three of them banged into each other and kept rolling.  Then the others all pig-piled and joined in, cushing and rolling and bumping into each other.  Bo ran over from the barn to cush and roll too.  The alpacas all seemed to be having so much fun.  Huge clouds of dust emerged.  After a few minutes they all jumped up, shook off the dust, and ran off to find some nice grass to eat.  All except Guinness.  He stayed cushed for awhile, near his friend.

 
 

Best Buddies

One thing about alpacas, and usually all animals, is that they make me laugh every day.  You just never know what silly thing they will do, silly to us humans but I’m sure just normal activity for them.

I went out to the barn last night for my usual evening check.  It was dusk and most of the boys were quietly cushed outside in the paddock, relaxed, and chewing their cud.  The snow has been melting, melting, melting in the sun this past week.  It’s been windy here too, so the ground was pretty solid and no longer muddy.  The stars were out.  I’m sure the alpacas appreciate being able to sleep outside under the night sky rather than still being cooped up in the barn as they have been.

I said my usual ‘Hello Boys’ as I came in through the gate, doing a headcount to myself.  10 alpacas.  Hhmmm, the other 2 should be in the barn.

I walked into the barn and turned on the light.  And there they were.  The two best buddies, BFF’s, my 2 geldings, Julio and Guinness were together.  Lately I’ve noticed them cushed together a lot. 

But last night, there they were at the poo pile together, bum to bum, tail to tail, doing their business together, at the exact same time.  What are the odds of that happening?  I laughed and laughed and laughed.  They both looked at me like ‘What’s so funny?’ followed by ‘Where’s the hay?’ 

This morning I'm still amazed they didn't pee on each other's legs.

 
 

Mud Season 2013

This past winter has been cold and somewhat snowy.  For the past 2 weeks, it’s been snowing every day!  Sometimes just several inches of snow, a couple times an actual snowstorm of 12 +/- inches, and most days just what’s referred to as snow squalls leaving us a good dusting.  The dustings are nice.  It makes all the yuckiness look so clean, like fresh vanilla frosting spread out over a just baked cake.

The alpacas have hardly left the barn.  They don’t really enjoy standing or cushing in cold, wet snow.  Sometimes one or two of them will come out and look around and ponder what to do, what to do, for a few minutes.  Sometimes I’ll see one or two eating snow.  Usually a few are just cushed in the little doorway, the rest cushed behind the tarps.  The northwest corner of the barn has been blown bare of snow by the winds and most mornings Cavalier, aka Big Bear, will be cushed out there on the frozen dirt.  He always seems to enjoy the solitude more than the others do.

Yesterday spring seems to have suddenly arrived!  The sky is perfectly blue, barely a breeze, and the beautiful sun is so warm on my face.  Reflecting off the snow, the sun almost blinds me.  The sun is melting the huge piles snow.  Snow is melting off the roof, pouring down like in a rainstorm, and there are large, deep muddy puddles all up and down our dirt driveway and our little road to the barn. 

I walk down to the barn through mud, standing water, and crunchy snow, carefully pulling the 2-wheeler behind me which holds today’s bale of hay.  I’m trying hard not to splash dirty water onto the bale.  The pacas hear me at the gate.  One by one they file out of the barn,  casually walking up to the fenceline where the snow is still fairly clean, knowing that I’ll lay down the 2-wheeler there.  The fresh bale of hay is an easy distraction.  Without them in the barn, I can clean up in there quickly.

The paddock area is a disgusting mess, as it usually is during mud season.  The snow is melting, melting, melting.  There’s so much snow remaining that there’s no place for it to go as it melts.  The large puddles in the paddock are looking like a small pond.  And this pond is a dark, muddy, poop-filled, poopy-water type pond.  Yuck is not the word for it!  It’s really not a pretty sight.  I’m just so glad that we graded the paddock well enough that the water no longer ends up in the barn.  Apparently we’ll need to do more grading this summer.  Spring is approaching so for now I’ll have to patiently wait as the ground thaws a little bit more each day and absorbs all this water. 

I was standing in the barn today, looking over into the paddock at the poo-pond and listening to the alpacas quietly chewing hay.  I stood there pondering farm life.  Farming really gets you in tune with the changes of the seasons, adapting to the weather cycles, and very much aware of the habits of birds, insects, and wild animals that share your little place on this planet.  Farming really makes you connected to the Earth.  Being connected to the Earth is a good thing, another simple joy. 

So I stood there, looking around at my muddy paddock, listening to melting snow pour off the barn roof, and watched my alpacas with very dirty knees and legs eating hay.  And I thought:  hhmmm, anyone considering starting a farm and saw this type of mess would most likely think twice about it, and run!             

 
 

12-21-12 and The World is Still Here!

And that makes me happy! 

The alpacas are spending the day in their barn, due to the strong wind-and-rain storm we're receiving.  I can see them all cushed in front of the doorways, watching Mother Nature's wrath of wind blow the rain and branches all around.  The wind is coming from the 'back of the barn' direction so we didn't need to tarp up the gates and close them in.  The wind sounds like a train and I'm leery of trees uprooting and falling down.

It's also the Winter Solstice today.  The days will start getting longer again, yeah!!  More sunshine is always a good thing.

Happy Winter Solstice Everyone!

 
 

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 ......

 
 

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!

 
 

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!   

 
 
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