Friday, December 19, 2008

Our New Family

It's been about two weeks since the rest of our herd arrived from New York. This photo was taken on their first morning together. Since then a lot of things have changed. The two young males, Duende (3rd fron the left) and Gabriel (standing with his mother), have been separated from the herd for weaning purposes. The first day or two were really miserable for them (and us). They kept trying every gate...over, around, under or over. They didn't care. I had to close the dutch door in the barn because Gabriel tried climbing over it. But things have gotten a little less tense. They still moan a little bit, but it's not quite so pitiful.

The girls have been busy deciding who's boss. So far it seems that Flirtation (5th from left) has taken the matriarch position, although she's not the oldest. Cassandra (the shy brown one) who is going on 9, is about 3 years older. The barking dogs next door seemed to bring out her "protector" instincts right away. She's been toe to toe right at the fence with the dog, making moves like a cutting horse, staying right in step with the dog. The other girls stand behind her and watch. The dog doesn't know what to think.

The weather has been horrible for the most part ever since they have arrived. Cold, wet, rainy, muddy, mucky, slippery, slimey. When it wasn't quite so cold, everyone just laid out in the weather, getting completely soaked. But when the sun would come back out, they fluffed out again right away. Today it's been snowing, sleeting and freezing rain. Most everyone has stayed close to the barn all day. The boys have ventured out a bit, but the girls have just decided to wait it out.

Right now, we're just hoping for a few dry days so we can enjoy our "Alpaca Lifestyle".

Sunday, November 30, 2008

New Arrivals

It's been a busy Thanksgiving here. In addition to the normal T'giving cooking frenzy (kudos to the online turkey brine recipe), we were busy planning the last push to finish the fencing and prepare for the arrival of two alpacas.

Here we have the grand arrival. The fawn alpaca is Leah, who we purchased a year ago. The white one is Sonya, who is an alpaca we've admired for awhile and was fortunate enough to be able to purchase. Sonya is expecting her first cria in April.

Here I am with Max just after the girls left the trailer.

What would this momentous occasion be without a "family" photo?

Even better...our hardworking fence guys finished installing over 2000 feet of alpaca fencing. No way we could have even attempted that project and complete it in the span of time these guys did. And it looks great.

We even got the tree up! Earliest we have ever gotten our tree up. Thanks to Mom who spent Thanksgiving with us and recruited the boys to tree-duty.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Fencing Continues

By now our back yard is beginning to look like a religious cult compound, or at the very least the County Prison. All of the internal fencing and exterior containent fencig is done on our new addition, which takes up about 2/3 of our back yard. It will definietely cut down on the mowing time.

Our intrepid fence crew has worked through snow and freezing temperatures to keep the job moving. They definitely came with the right tools and experience to get the job done right. In retrospect, I must have been crazy to think that I could have tackled this kind of job.

Although, I haven't been lying around waiting for it to all come together. I saw this type of wall and feeder during our visits to other farms. The rough oak 2 x 6's were left in the barn from the original construction. By laying down a 4 x 4 on the ground, cut and fitted snug between the post and the wall, I just had to cut small strips and screw them in to the post and wall. The I just cut and stacked the boards to make the divider for the stalls. If I need to, I can take it back down in a matter of minutes.

I had also seen the feeders made from PVC pipe. Just taking 6" pipe and cutting it in half, I had two feeders in a matter of minutes. I still have to make plugs for the end, so the critters won't shove the food out the ends.

Gates, and more gates... I've been putting about 6 new ones in to separate and manage all the new areas. As the fences were going in, it ecame more clear that I needed even more. All the new fences have wire mesh to prevent Crias crawling through the bars. I just need to make sure that they can't get under the gates.

A few days before Thanksgiving, we got our first snow. Around here we got only about an inch, but farther north, they had 4". The crew just kept on working. I hope this isn't a sign of a hard winter coming.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hay there...

Now we're talking "Alpaca Lifestyle" folks...

I never would have thought that a big time on a Monday morning would be standing around with a bunch of Mennonite and Amish farmers in the freezing cold at a hay auction.

With the impending arrival of our new "family", we thought it best to find a good source of hay for the winter. We're still trying to figure out how much, what kind, etc., but this was a good exercise in all of that. It seems farmers from all around bring in a load of various types and sizes of bales and look to get a good buyer, just like any auction. You get to compare the various loads for weight and type of mixture. Jo's much better at this, having been a "horse girl" in her youth, so I was just going along trying to pick something up. So it seems they auction off the hay by the ton, not the bale, since all the bales are different sizes. Very confusing, especially trying to keep up with the auctioneer. But it was entertaining, and set us off to look for someone local now that we have a feeling for the going prices. And then we have to figure how much our hay bin will actually hold. I think there's some math ahead of us on this.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Warm, Rainy, then Cold, Weekend

We've had major rain, so our "real" fence crew will hopefully be coming this week to finish the job. Standing in are the Farmer and Son, who are replacing some post & rail fence for the garden. This will also get wire along the bottom to keep the rabbits out. We may also go to a hay auction to see how that works tomorrow morning. On the animal front it looks like we may be close to finding some friends for our alpaca, Leah, who is boarded at Almosta Ranch. Many discussions going on at "Casa Smith/Griffith"...who's the best fit, what's a fair value, are we crazy, etc., etc. No pics or details yet as the deal is not sealed. You'll have to wait!

Many things for wannabe farmers to learn to navigate!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Day of Rest

Not exactly. Sometimes Sundays are good for catching up, and doing things you kinda wanted to do but could not fit into the foreseeable future. For Dylan and me, it was cleaning up the main living area of the house. Cat hair, dirt, grass, more dirt and more cat hair.

For Max, it was continuing the gardening project. I only wish my dad were still around, because he'd be loving this. The only grandson with a remote interest in gardening. What is interesting is that there are several wannabe "farmers" who attend school with my son. One has convinced his parents to allow him to have chickens. One has "farm envy" of the one with the chickens. And there is my son, future gardener and alpaca wrangler.

For the Farmer, it was running the tractor around the back end of the pasture to sweep up the leaves from several trees bordering the fence line. One is a maple and one has yet to be identified. Several species of trees go through chemical changes in the leaves which can kill an alpaca. We need to figure out which ones they are. In the meantime, we'll just take care of the problem this way.

And for a job well done, there's nothing like artificially colored and flavored vitamin water and cheese sandwiches. When you think about it, one probably shouldn't eat anything that is fluorescent....But they are so good.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Or is that "Holey"... The project began last Saturday. John & Co. came out and started dotting our backyard with fenceposts which eventually will house the beginning of our herd. He didn't hit rock, which is a very good thing. Here is one of the main pasture lines running down the side of the property (leaving room to drive down to the barn).

Here is the magic skid loader drilling holes for the garden fence.

Here the team installs post & rail by the driveway. This is part of the garden fence (has nothing to do with the alpaca pasture.)

Here are the fence posts being installed along the new front pasture.

Before the posts went looked like this.

Our sons, Max and Dylan, did the backfilling. Yesterday, my new favorite store, Tractor Supply, delivered some, but not all, of the fence and gates. We are still short 200 feet of fence and 1 gate. I don't understand why it takes 2 weeks to get fence and gates, but you are pretty much at their mercy.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Fence Project Begins

Two cans of orange marking paint, a chunk of money dropped at Tractor Supply and Green Hills Lumber later, we are ready for John and his helper to begin setting posts. This part of the fence project will be to fence in a larger portion of the backyard. More pasture, less mowing. They will arrive tomorrow to hopefully get all of the posts in the ground and the corner posts set in cement.

Today, we had someone from Maidencreek Appliance come and make us a dryer vent in the laundry room. This house didn't come with a dryer vent. Anyhow, we are now set with that. We also thought we lost the cat this morning. Ever since we have moved here, he has been trying to get out. He is not an outside cat and has no survival skills. I think he'd be a goner in a matter of minutes. After sending me around the block to make sure he hadn't become a casualty, the Farmer called to say he turned up hiding in a closet.

Longing to go outside.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Herd Health @ the Alpaca Cottage

This afternoon was yet another learning experience with our good alpaca friends, Tammy and John Orischak and their daughter, Emily. Here's Tammy getting one of her alpacas on the scale to check weight.
The "girls" awaiting their "Health and Beauty" day, where they get their shots and toenails trimmed.
Here's Tammy and John...Still smiling after putting up with us..."The Fresh Air Kids".
Emily and McGyver...All smiles!

And the Work Begins

Today is one of the first days we've been able to see through the clutter of moving and concentrate on the reality that this is where I'll probably be until my sons take me to the nursing home:)

A quick recap: We closed on this place Aug. 5, put our current house on the market and sold it in one week. Yes, we were one of the lucky ones. We closed on our old place Oct. 20. So now, we can begin planning for our herd and getting things ready.

Here is "The Farmer" getting ready to install the big beautiful hex signs he got me for my birthday. Yes, some gals want jewelry; I want fence and alpacas.

Here is the horse sign meeting its demise after being unscrewed from the side of the barn.

Below are the boys with Hex sign #1. This one is for "Fertility"...The alpacas' "fertility" that is.

Here the Farmer installs Hex Sign #1.

Then, it was on with Hex sign #2. This is for "Prosperity"...which all of us hope for these days!

This afternoon one of our good alpaca friends, Tammy and her husband (and fence installer), John, have invited us to their "herd health" day. That way we can learn some more about taking care of the monthly shots.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

It's a Good Day to Die (or get in a huge amount of debt)

At 8AM this morning we applied for the mortgage for the "farm". If we last till the end of the mortgage, I will be 80. I'm guessing something else will happen before then, but in the meantime we'll have accomplished a goal to 1) live with our alpacas; 2) bring our own business back to our home; 3) try to live more in harmony with the earth. Naw, we're not Birkenstock wearing hippy throwbacks, but we are looking forward to having a garden, some chickens, and of course the alpacas.

The mortgage man, Dave, was helpful and efficient. He also had an interesting collection of political memorabilia in his office that was pretty entertaining. Wow, a mortgage and an opportunity to view an unusual collection which included this little metal clicky thing that said "Click for Dick" (Nixon). Way too funny. The mortgage should be through in about a week. We close August 5 and move in after the 15th.

Tomorrow, we have a carpet guy coming to recarpet the house. The carpet was getting worn 14 years ago, but hey it had a few more years in it, right? We cleared out everything from the three bedrooms, the remains of which are everywhere. We tried to get a POD, but the Pod-people said they could not get down our driveway. I think they were chicken to try. We've had every other kind of truck down here, certainly an 8x10 POD could come down. Oh well. We reshuffled stuff in the garage and moved stuff in there, thereby saving $400 on the POD. Alls well that ends well, I guess.

I had started skirting Leah's fleece and had to bag it up to do later. There's just no way I'll finish with everything else that's going on. I learned to spin (still learning), and ordered a wheel which is backordered for at least another month. I love to spin. I figure it's part of the process. I started sewing with commercial cloth, then learned to hand dye. Now I'm learning to spin fiber. I figure the next step is to plant a cotton crop. I keep telling Len that he needs to is incredibly relaxing.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


It seems like years since we first started this quest. It only seems that way, because it really has been. Finaleah...both the name of our first Alpaca, and the feeling that we are "finally" moving in a positive direction. Since our purchase of our first Cria in September of 2007, Jo has been scouring the on-line real estate listings looking for the perfect farm for us. Now, in June of 2008, we have sealed a deal to move just four miles down the road to a 4-acre horse farm. We've driven by countless properties, toured 6-8 or so, and made another offer on another broken down farm just a mile away. That one fell through...the sellers were going through a divorce. In the end, I'm really glad. It had no barn, no fence and needed a lot of TLC to fix over 100 years of problems.
Our search was complicated by several other factors: school district (one son going into the 12th grade and another with special needs), and a strategic location to move our "other" business back home( video production specializing in TV commercials and corporate communications). Now that we've found that perfect intersection of attributes, we're faced with moving a business and a home, plus putting our existing home on the market. It's mind-numbing.

Our first pictures of Take2 Alpacas:

Of all the features of the property, the barn was definitely what sealed the deal for us. Who would have thought...a middle-aged, out-of-shape, couch potato would take on something so all-encompassing? As my wife and I both say to each other...what else would we do?

I guess we'll see.