Monday, October 26, 2009
Alpacas are generally "easy-keepers". They don't require very much in the way of gear. What we have found is that the gear you need to keep your farm tidy is mostly in the way of self protection and preservation (which at my age becomes more and more important), and cleaning implements you may already have.
This is the Walmart $3.99 Shrub Rake. My husband got 2 of these for Christmas last year from me. Some men get sweaters and neckties, Len gets Shrub Rakes or Poop Rakes as they're known by alpaca owners. These things do the job. They are as close to perfect as you can get to accomplish the daily manure removal.
The Poop Scoop...this is an item I've not been able to find except at Alpaca Shows. It is a plastic dust bin that sells for under $20. The combination of the Walmart Shrub Rake and one of these bad boys makes the scooping quick, convenient and effective. In the background is a wheelbarrow that we already had that has a persistent tire leak.
PVC Pipe...A miraculous invention. Cut it in half lengthwise and you get a feeding trough...or dig a ditch in front of the barn, stick it in the ground and you have a gutter to redirect rain runoff.
Gloves...Do not skimp here. These gloves came from Tractor Supply. They were around $23 dollars. I have never in my life paid $23 for a pair of work gloves. It felt insane at the time. Here's the hitch...I have never regretted paying the $23 for the gloves. They fit and they feel good. You'll thank yourself if you buy a good pair of work gloves.
Gates...Someone told us early on that you never have enough gates. They were right. We put in two more gates than we thought we needed. I wish I had put in an additional two mid-span between the pastures.
A good travel mug...Thanks to one of our TV commercial clients, Dr. Borja at the Spine & Wellness Center ( http://www.spineandwellness.org/ ),I've been using this coffee mug for years. Do I take it to the barn to feed and scoop poop? Yup. Isn't that unsanitary? Yup.
Barn Coat...Some women get jewelry. Alpaca women crave barn coats. This one came from Cabelas; a surprise Christmas gift from Len. Waterproof shell with a sweatshirt hoodie thing lining. Knit wrist cuffs. One great coat.
Boots....Don't skimp on gloves and don't skimp on boots. These are "Muck" brand boots. I think they are the "Garden" model. These came from Weavers Store in Fivepointville (truly a shopping Mecca http://www.weaverstoreinc.com/ ). They cost in the neighborhood of $60...yikes. When you're tromping around in the snow and mud, you'll be glad to have nice dry feet. A tip: buy a size larger than you need. That way, you can practically "jump" into them, and removal is so much easier.
That's it for now. I will try to be a little more consistent in posting our alpaca adventures.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
It's more like 8 bags full. Besides the new arrivals each year, this is where your breeding decisions, feeding and supplement programs, and farm facilities all come together...on the fleece table. For the past three days, we have been washing and drying Flirtation and her son Gabriel's fleeces. It is a labor intensive process...First, you must skirt the fleece. This means laying the fleece out and picking out hay, dirt clops, guard hair, and any other yucky stuff that you see. Then the fleece gets washed 3 times in small batches in garment bags. Then the wet fleece is placed back on the skirting table to air dry. What you see here is Gabriel's fleece, washed and mostly dry.
Wednesday night the fleeces will get put through the picker...a medieval-looking torture device that rakes the fleece through 600 razor sharp spikes. This prepares it to be carded on an electric drum carder that we share with two other farms. You can also hand card the fleece at this point as well to prepare it for spinning.
Our plan is to create an Oedipus yarn (mom and son's fleeces mixed), and then solar dye it in our yet to be created solar dye boxes.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Hilltop has strict health procedures for incoming alpacas. All of the animals had to be vet checked, blood tested, and fecal tested for fitness to stay at their farm. It's good practice for everyone...protects their animals and ours, too!
Here are the girls checking out their new digs. They'll be gone a little over a month, and then we'll go pick them up.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Thursday, June 4, 2009
After taking her back to the barn for weighing and clean up, she showed signs of being pre-mature. She was very sleepy and unstable for a long time. It took her over four hours before she would stand and nurse.
Two days later, now she's very perky and gaining back weight she lost on her first day in a very typical fashion. Now with two Crias in maternity, we haven't had time to give her a name yet.
"Chief" has been off the supplimental bottle since Sunday, but his weight has been like a Yo-Yo. Trouble is, "Izzy" our 7-week old likes to run him all over the field every time he gets out. And Sonya, his mom, is very nervous and protective. If he tries to nurse while other animals around, she is constantly moving, trying to keep them away from him. He can't get any quality time nursing when everyone is together, so we still have them isolated for most of the day, now coming up on three weeks. I can see the dynamics changing already with the addition of the newest girl. This morning, Chief was pushing her around the pen like she was a toy to play with. Now Izzy has stepped back a bit, even though she's older. Hmmm...
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Well... if the answer were only that easy. It actually took me two days to find out. Actually, it's all about handling Alpacas in a way that is supposed to create a more cooperative relationship.
First, as shown here, we got to see what it feels like to have a halter on your head. Kinda kinky, I must say...
Then there were blow up dolls...Alpaca heads. We used them to get an idea of how to use catch ropes and halters.
There was plenty of individualized tutoring. Getting the hands in the right place can make all the difference.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Who says you can't keep cool on a hot day? Even though our girls shed their winter coat last week, they were not ready for the first 90 degree day. So when we broke out the water sprinkler, they were just like a bunch of kids.
On the other hand, our two boys who are still in their winter coats weren't so keen on the idea. So we just had to corner them in the pen and give them a quick hose down. I hope this isn't a preview of what our summer's going to be like. We may have to get their own wading pool before it's over.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
I looked out of the window at about 11:40 AM and Cassandra (whose due date was 4/19, or 4/20, or 4/25, or 5/06 depending upon which cria birth calculator you used) was looking...well...funny.
Of course, we couldn't find the binoculars which had been sitting on my desk for the past 2 weeks, so Max, Len and I made our way out into the pasture to be witness to a textbook alpaca delivery. Cassandra showed these newbie farmers how it was done. Ten minutes later we were carrying a 17 pound female baby back to the barn to be dried off and placed in a nice clean stall with mom.
It's been quite a full day, but one with great joy, as Cassandra and little Isabella are doing great!
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
The girls know what to do during the snow...just stay under cover and munch hay.
The Farmer decided to snow blow a path, so everyone could get out and walk around. Then getting them to get up and move around took some coaxing.
Of course, then they totally passed up their grazing patches we had so carefully cleared...and headed for wide open spaces.
But then they finally got it and settled in for a snack.
Why, there's grass under the snow! What a concept!
Friday, January 9, 2009
They found that if they climb to the top of the mulch/poop pile, they could see the girls. They did not jump off, but we were concerned that the temptation might be too much. So off to Home Depot to find some kind of temporary fencing that would be easy to get in and out of until we can figure out a better solution...or not.
It turns out that plastic snow fence comes in an attractive green color as well as orange. So $25 later, the Farmer installs our fix.
An example of "function" over "form".