Sweet Harmony Farm

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

 
 

Purple

A few months back, I wrote about my wonderful, winter-worthy muck boots for doing barn chores.  They’re still wonderful, but mighty hot now for this time of year.  It’s time to get a different pair of boots for summer.  I’m still wearing the Muck Boots brand, but now I have lightweight purple clogs!

Purple Clogs

Purple!  My favorite color. And much, much cooler on the feet.

 
 

A Warm Spring Day

I would love to have all summer days just like yesterday - mid 80’s with lots of sun and a gloriously strong warm breeze.  Stella has been chasing butterflies, running like a puppy on too-long legs.  When she gets hot she finds a cool spot in the dirt under my car or in the grassy shade from the trailer.  Daffodils and forsythias are blooming.   I can see the daylilies all popping up, their tips a deep green.  Birds are everywhere this time of year, singing cheerfully while they gather up supplies to build nests.   This morning I could hear the familiar rubbing noises on the outside of the logs here in the den.  That noise is a mama robin, building a nest on the criss-crossed corner of our log cabin, in the shade of a large maple tree.  Lately we’ve been seeing a smaller bird flying in and out of the barn also carrying grass and such in its beak.  This type of bird built a nest in the barn last year, up in the ceiling peak near the light.  It built a smaller nest in the next light to watch over its babies’ nest, and it would often perch on the fence nearest the barn to watch Dan and me.  It’s not really gray yet not really green either, but never stays still long enough for us to get a good look.  Anyone have any idea what type of bird it could be?

I wouldn’t be concerned normally about the alpacas on a very warm day like yesterday but they are still in full fleece.  Shearing Day isn’t for another few weeks.  They must be roasting in those wool coats!  My feet were definitely toasty in my Muck boots (time to get those purple clogs!)  I checked in on them again at noontime and everyone looked the same as any other day so that’s good.  I put out another bucket of cold water from the well pump for them.  Not that I really think 5 non-breeding male alpacas would drink 10 gallons of water in an afternoon, but I felt better!  I was going to put ice cubes in the water too but then I know I’d be concerned that they would swallow an ice cube whole and choke, thanks to my wild imagination, so an extra bucket of water it is.

The boys are still not too sure about their new bale feeder, except for Guinness, always except for Guinness, aka ‘Grumpy’ on our little farm.  He’s never shy when it comes to being fed!  Guinness will gladly munch and munch from the hay feeder, and fuss loudly and sometimes spit when another one of the boys comes over to eat too.  Even Julio walked away today, too hot to fuss back.   Eventually Guinness will walk away too; then the others will approach.  The bale in this new feeder is going down, down, down, so I know it’s not just Guinness eating from it, even if it seems that way sometimes.  This new feeder is in the barn under the awning in the shade, so I was happy to see them eating hay in the shade while the afternoon was so warm.

 
 

Hay Bale Feeder

One of the many fun things with having a farm is that you get to utilize those hobbies of yours.  For Dan, my very crafty husband, he gets to use all of his woodworking tools and skills.  He just made this beautiful hay feeder for the alpacas which holds an entire bale of hay!  The feeder sits along the ground so the alpacas are able to eat their hay as they naturally do, right at ground level.  No one is pulling hay out overhead, so no hay will fall into beautiful alpaca topknots belonging to the shorter creatures, i.e. Arlo.  The top frame is made up of smooth wooden dowels so no alpaca noses will be injured.  The frame rests on the bale and drops down with the bale as the alpacas eat.  The doweled frame keeps the hay in the feeder; otherwise my fleeced friends would at times be able to pull out a large section of a flake and race around the barn.  Don’t laugh ~ sometimes as I’m carrying a couple flakes of hay the boys will come up and eat from the flake, and yes they’ve taken it away and ran!  Silly, silly alpacas, they’re always finding a way to make us laugh.

hay bale feeder

Of course introducing the new feeder is a different story.  Alpacas are very curious creatures, and rather cautious about anything new.  To their horror, we wheeled away their bright yellow wheelbarrow.  They eyed us intently.  And then we walked in the new feeder.  They eyed us intently still, but no one moved.  Even after we ceremoniously brought over an entire bale of hay and plunked it in, no one moved.  I pulled up some hay through the dowels to entice them.  Nothing.  We stepped back towards the tack room, and waited.  We watched and waited while they stretched their necks, sniffing loudly, and we watched and waited some more.  Finally, a brave alpaca soul approached.  And who was the first alpaca, the bravest alpaca, to try it out?  Guinness of course!

 
 

Farm Errands

Like most people, Saturday mornings are usually reserved for household errands, such as going to the bank, post office, grocery shopping, and a dump run. Now every month or so, we fill our Saturday with farm errands as well. On those mornings we sometimes also say ‘well, what the hay!’ and go out for breakfast as well.

Farm errands generally involve going to our local feed store and simply picking up a bag of alpaca pellets. Sometimes we’re also running low on other necessities like electrolytes for their water or minerals, and sometimes we’re in need of another pair of gloves or tube of a de-wormer. I always eye the boot selection. Usually, though, we like to just walk around and check things out and talk with the wonderful owners. This couple loves animals and is always interested in what our alpacas are up to. We happily oblige and try not to babble on incessantly. With every conversation we’ve had with them, we learn a little something.

From there we head out to another fairly local feed store to pick up straw, when our local feed store is sold out. This store has the same, but different, stuff stocked and is also a hardware store (gotta love small New Hampshire towns!) so we poke around there too. This particular store is also really into feeding outdoor birds and I’ve always enjoyed looking at all the different feeders on display, located right next to bags of dog food. When our prior dog had gotten older and developed sensitivities, this particular brand of dog food was the only one that would make her feel better. I always think of my beloved Critter when we come in here. Soon they will have starter chicks and ducks hatching, set up in metal boxes like tall structures with lights, resembling stacked trays and grow lights for starting seedling plants. I know that’s the way it’s supposed to be done but it has always looked so odd to me. They usually have a good selection of dog toys and treats so we always pick up a little something for Stella too, who is usually waiting patiently in the truck.

Some Saturdays we also need to pick up hay. Our little tack room probably could not store a year’s worth of hay so we pick up hay every month or two. We also need space in our tack room for the metal trash cans which store the alpaca pellets, wall room to hang halters and leads and the feed bins, and the small ‘work table’ in the corner. We put these things along one half of the tack room and the 30 or so hay bales along the other. The rest of any hay we purchase is stored in our garage and we wheel it down with a dolly as needed. We put the few bales of straw we purchase in the corner of the pen, although lately the alpacas have discovered that rolling in an opened bale of straw is lots of fun!

 
 

Ode to My Boots

I just love to go barefoot.  In the warm weather, the sun on my toes and the feel of grass or beach sand beneath my feet is such a relaxing sensation.  I’ve always hated to have anything on my feet except for wool socks in the winter when I’m in the house and my feet are cold.  I only put slippers on to run down cellar or going onto the porch for wood.  When I come into the house, whatever is on my feet I quickly kick off.  Dan even has a family friend who does go barefoot in the winter, even outside!  (Hi Jeff)  My mom often reminds me of the Easter day when I was 2 years old and cried all day.  That evening when she took off my new little shoes, my feet were covered in blisters, and I stopped crying.  I imagine I’ve hated wearing shoes since then.

I do have to have something on my feet to drive or walk or get around so in the warm weather you’ll usually find me in something like Teva sandals or Birkenstocks.  I can easily take them off before I start driving.  If I’m hiking in the woods I will wear proper hiking boots to protect my feet.  I wear the hiking boots for getting around in the winter too.  And somewhere I do have men’s type work boots for safety when we cut and stack wood, move rocks, and other yard chores.  And now we have livestock, so another boot beckons.  It just wouldn’t be healthy for me to be barefoot in the barn and pastures!  Dan on the other hand, has no shoe issues and always prefers to wear something on his feet.

So what’s a barefoot loving girl to do?  She wears boots from a company appropriately named The Muck Boot Company!  We are lucky enough that the feed store here in town carries them.  We were looking for a boot that would keep our feet warm while doing barn chores in the snow and wind and we tried on their ‘Artic’ boot style.  Oh my!  The sole is quite cushy but also has arch support and while walking around the store, my feet were actually comfortable!  They come up almost to my knees which keep out deep snow, but they also fold down so I can easily tuck my pants in, and then roll them back up.  How great is that!  They are rated to keep your feet warm to 40 degrees below zero.  And may I dare say, my feet have never been cold while I’m out in the barn!

During those weeks of below zero temperatures and fierce winds, all I could think of was Elaine on a Seinfeld episode when she was writing for Peterman’s catalog:  “Thank goodness I was wearing my Muck Boot company’s Artic zone boots!”

Last weekend at the feed store Dan was showing me some clog style boots for spring and summer.  Lucy, the owner, quickly opened the catalog to show me that they also come in purple.  Purple!  How can I resist a boot that comes in my favorite color!  Come summer folks, you will probably find me about the farm not barefoot, but in my purple clog-style farm boots.

 
 

They're here!

I got up bright and early yesterday at 5:30 a.m., nuked up some coffee and starting checking email, the weather, and the news.  Suddenly, poof!  The power went out.  A bright and sunny summer morning, no wonder the power went out; this is rural New Hampshire after all.  Dan was listening to the radio (back up battery) and apparently a squirrel had gotten into a substation and ............ which knocked out power for several towns!  While I feel terribly for the squirrel, we found it to be a rather amusing story, and what a way to start our day, the day ‘the alpacas come home.’

The dragonflies were at it again yesterday morning, flying around the yard and pasture gracefully.  We’ve been playing phone tag with our neighbor for a few days now.  Our first order of business wass to swing over and pick up some hay.  Our beautiful new wooden feeder will be ready in a few days, so for now, our yellow muck-wheelbarrow, new and still clean, will serve as the hay feeder.  It makes for some interesting pictures!  Their grain and minerals were on order and due in some time Thursday, so we  ran to the feed store later on in the afternoon.

Our little crew arrived at lunchtime with Pam beaming ear to ear.  Yeah, she loves our place!  The boys were a little confused getting out of the trailer but we easily got them into the barn.  We put out water and hay, and they all drank and started munching away.  We stood and watched them for a while, while they investigated their new barn and pasture.  They’re even enjoying what little grass we’ve got growing.  All in all, it seemed to be a simple, stress-free transfer for them.  What a wonderful way to start our transition to alpaca farming.

Welcome home, Julio, Guinness, Bo Jangles, Coty, and Arlo!

 
 

Last minute preparations ..............

Our alpacas will start coming home to our farm soon, and now is when we realize that oops!  There is so much more to do.  But like any farm, or business, there is always ‘more to do’ or ‘something that needs getting done.’   All farms are a continual ‘work in process,’ and ours certainly will be no exception.

I suppose there will always be a new gate or gadget needed, an extra water bucket here, move the grain feeders there, that sort of thing.  Running through all the major things we’ve done .......We’ve cleared land and improved the pastures with, oh my, lots of drainage.  We’ve built the small barn with an awning.  We’ve installed the hydrant for water from our well.  We’ve put up fencing and adjusted gates and sealed off the low areas where rainwater has washed out underneath, allowing small critters such as the red fox access.   We’ve seeded the pasture with pasture grass mix and excitedly watched as it started to grow, albeit in large splotches!  Our first piece of alpaca equipment is appropriately enough a poop scooper and large 2-wheeled wheelbarrow.  Our hay feeder is on order.  We’ve secured a hay source and grain/feed source.  We’ve decided how to divvy up the barn stalls and which directions to put the gates and panels. We’ve purchased that very well used but sturdy horse trailer. We’ve prayed for clear, cool days and sunny skies.

So now we sit back and say, the alpacas will be here in a few short days, and we’re not ready!  We have waited for this moment for almost 2 years so how could we possibly not be ready?   We’ll need some grain feeders and oh yes grain, something to store the grain in, water buckets, the wire type tape to block off the area behind the barn where it’s still a bit mucky, and that tape to block off the stall where we’ll store some hay, oh yes ~ hay!, panels to divide the stalls, a scale, one of those awning things with metal supports to store our tractor in as we need the barn space for the alpacas now, where to put the pile of poop, and also...............  I’m sure after they arrive, we’ll constantly be saying ‘gee we really need to get a .......’  Until then, we can improvise.  Dan is very good at improvising, or as he says ‘mousing it.’

We are life long animal lovers and in that sense we are not nervous about the alpacas’ arrival.  Even though we’ve never owned livestock, we are comforted by the fact that there are several alpaca farms with kind alpaca owners within a 30-45 minute drive, our vet is walking distance away, and of course Pam is always available for our multitudes of questions.  Thanks Pam!  Your patience and kindness to your animals, and now ours, is cherished. 

 
 
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