Monday, July 30, 2007

Rain, wonderful rain!

I have been hoping for a good rain for almost two weeks now it seems. Everything is very dry and the grass has been having a hard time keeping up with the alpacas in their pasture. Three days ago we had a huge thunder and lightning storm... but no rain. Then on Saturday it got real overcast and the wind kicked up and Neil was sure it was going to rain... but no rain.

Finally, last night just past midnight, I heard the rain on the metal roof. What a joyous sound! I laid awake for a while listening to it and imagining the grass sighing relief. When I got up this morning the ground was still wet so it must have rained a good part of the night. All the animals were out munching on the wet grass in the pastures. I was a good sight.

I waited to see if it would dry off before making a plan for the day. It stayed moist all morning and then after lunch it started to rain again! I nice solid steady rain for an hour or so. Rain can be such a wonderful thing when you have been without it for a period of time.

Anyway, I'm glad I didn't start painting on the barn again today... we stayed snuggled inside the house playing games (and me cleaning up).

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Red Barn

Well, I am very tired tonight so I am only going to post that I got the front of the barn painted today! It looks great but it does need a second coat to get good coverage. Not sure if I will get to paint more over the weekend since Neil and I will be working on other projects.

Next week, once I get it all painted up nice, I will take some photos. For now, I am off to bed!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A day off to play.

My original plan was to continue painting today. Plans don't always go as they should... and that can be a good thing.

After chores this morning Evan asked if we could go somewhere today to ride his scooter. At first I told him I needed to paint the barn today but after thinking about it for a few minutes I decided the barn could wait until tomorrow. So, we packed up the scooter and the Kettler tricycle and headed into town to go play at the playground/park. The kids had a great time and met a new friend. We stayed until almost three in the afternoon before heading home finally.

When we got home and I asked the kids what they wanted for dinner McKayla piped up with PIZZA! What a great idea! So, into the bread machine with the pizza dough while we relaxed and rehydrated from our day outside in NC heat. Once the dough was done the kids helped to make their own pizzas with sauce and cheese. They turned out very yummy!

I ended up doing chores later then usual since I was inside cooking pizza durring my ususal time. But, with the kids inside watching Dirty Jobs and munching on pizza it was nice to be outside by myself just after dusk. The cows and donkeys were racing around the pasture in the cool evening air and the chickens had already put themselves to bed.

It was a very good day... even though it's not what I planned.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Holey Cow!

Today was not a good way to wake up! My eyes cracked open this morning around 7:30am. As usual, I looked out the bedroom window to see if any of the alpacas were mingling around near the barn as I like to watch them for a few minutes as I wake up. This morning though, I look out and what do I see? Riona, one of our cows, standing in the turn out area of the alpacas! This was not good! If the cows had broken one of the fences to get in with the girl alpacas then our male alpacas could easily follow them through as well.

As I jumped out of bed to throw some clothes on I had visions of our young madian alpacas having been bred by one of our boys (they are old enough now but it is the wrong time of year and they have dates with some top quaility studs in November). I ran out to the pasture to access the damage. The first thing I noticed was that our two LGD where way up in the corner of the pasture away from all the animals. Odd. I sighed relief when all I could see was the three cows in the alpaca pasture. Both male alpacas and the donkeys were still in the other pasture where they belonged. The cows, upon seeing me came walking up to the barn to get their morning grain. So, it was pretty easy to lure them back into their pasture. The dogs on the other hand, happy to see me and get the cows out of their pasture, snuck out of the pasture over to the fence near chicken coop to chase the birds. Thank goodness they are food motivated as just a sound of food in their bowls will bring them running. Once everyone was were they belonged, and not seeing any obvious holes in the fences up near the barn, I started to walk the perimeter of the alpaca pasture. There is where I found the section of fence the cows had crushed down to get into the pasture. It was some of the temporary woven wire fencing we had put up in an area that we intend to put a gate in the future. Back up at the barn I gathered some wire, the fencing tool and a bit of left over woven wire fence to make the patch. It took about 10 minutes to secure the fence. I had to work fast as the cows had already come down to see what I was doing and once cows know of a weak spot they will continue to test it. Crazy cows!

I am back in the house eating breakfast now and will be headed out in a minute to finish the rest of my morning chores.

The rest of my day went like this...

I have been collecting tomatos out of my garden for a few days now. They have done OK for my first year here... they have given us plenty to eat fresh and the romas are coming in strong now but I think next year should be better now that I know more about gardening here.

Anyway, I had collected about ten pounds of tomatoes, mostly Hybrid Romas and Amish Paste Tomatos but also a few Cherokee Purple and a half dozen or so of Homestead Tomatos as well. I needed to do something with them so I cooked up a tasty batch of mushroom spagetti sauce with them this morning. I didn't have any canning jar seals in the house so I put them in frezer bags instead. Wish I had the seals though as I love to stand back and look at homegrown produce put up in freshly canned jars... it warms my heart! Trust me jar seals will be on my next shopping list!

Once the sause was done the kids and I headed outside to see what mischief we could get into. I don't know why but I was inspired to get the barn painted red by this weekend! I big job but I felt up for it. Neil still has one short side of the barn that he hasn't had time to frame in and install the sideing on yet and mentally that has been holding me up from painting the rest of the barn. But, with Alpaca Farm Day looming ever closer (September 29th and 30th) I felt like I needed to get something going on the barn. So, this afternoon I primed the whole back side of the barn and the chicken coop side. There is a 15 foot section over the rabbit hutches that I was unable to reach which really bumbed me out as it looks so good otherwise. Since the project got started late the priming is all I got done today but I would like to get the whole barn (minus what I can't reach) painted red by Friday. Then this weekend I will see if either Neil will paint the rest or if he can figure out some staging for me so I can finish it up as Neil really doesn't like to paint. Since the front of the barn was already primed grey it doesn't look any different to those driving by but to me it looks great!

Tonight I am tuckered out from my day!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Farm work day.

Since Neil works hard all week at his job I try not to work him all weekend around the farm too. We try to work one day and relax the other but sometimes that doesn't work out. We have too many partially finished projects done that all center around the barn and the pastures that we worked all day today too.

We put up some cattle panels that had been left here by the pervious owners from the barn stretching along the woven wire fence of the chicken run. At the end of that run we installed a 14 foot gate (that we also found lying on the ground at the back of our pasture) so we could get the tractor in and out of the cow pasture without having to take down the electric every time. Then using the fence post on the non-hinge side of the 14 foot fence we installed a 4 foot walk through gate at a 90 degree angle. From that 4 foot gate we ran 4 foot woven wire to the front of the goat barn and from the other side of the goat barn Neil ran five strands of electric to connect with the electric that runs around the cow pasture. So, with our new perimeter secure we took down the T-posts and woven wire that was temporarly running from the barn to the cow pasture. This gave the animals a lot more room up near the barn and gave us much better and easier access to the pasture and back of the barn (which we never had before). The area that was created by doing this will later be divided into three catch pen areas leading to three different stalls inside the barn. One for the female alpacas, one for the male alpacas and the third for the cows and donkeys. But that will be for another weekend...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A trip to Neil's job site.

Yes, it is Saturday, but Neil needed to go to the work site for a little while to help Jason, the Field Engineer that he is training under, to level one of the work tables that they mix their concrete test forms on. According to some National Guideline that I can't remember the table must be level when doing these tests.

Anyway, after morning chores all of us packed into Neil's work truck (it has an extended cab) and headed off to Greensboro, NC about an hour and half from home. Once there, Neil went to discuss the project with Jason and Steven (Jason's assistant) while we waited in the bed of the truck. Due to strict company rules we where unable to walk around the site and for good reason as there were so many things that could have harmed us on site. So, the kids and I waited in the truck. It was finally determined that they needed to go to Home Depot for supplies and as it was near lunch we all (Jason and Steven included) went to Red Lobster to eat first.

After lunch and the trip to Home Depot the table leveling project went pretty quickly. Once done, Neil got the chance to drive us around the site describing to me and kids what all the different machines did and the process needed to lay down a concrete roadbed. Then we got to drive on the road, which was kind of fun having a clean, flat, open road that no one else was allowed to drive on. :)

Then we headed home. It was still pretty early when we got home so we tried to get a few things done here at the farm. We expanded the chicken run to almost double it's size and moved the chicken hoop house that the turkeys had been living in around to the back of the barn but still inside the chicken run area. This made that side of the barn look so much better! Then I cleaned out the chicken coop bedding and the nest boxes (which I had never done on the initial cleaning of the coop) and spread the old bedding outside in the run. Clean pine shavings went into the coop and straw into the nest boxes. The birds (chickens, ducks and turkeys) were very happy to have so much clean space. This will need to be our last temporary fix to the chicken coop. The birds are so big now we are going to have to build the seven-foot tall wood framed walls before long.

It was finally time to do chores and head in for the night. Oh, tonight was the first day we went to once a day feedings for the goats as they turned 9 weeks old yesterday. They were not happy about going to bed without any milk first.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Turkey clip.

Neil got done early today and since it was still light out he helped me with a project I needed a second person for. Clipping the turkey's wing feathers. The turkeys have been locked up in the mobile poultry house since the LGD puppy incident where we lost two of our turkeys after they flew over the 6 foot fence into the alpaca pasture. Well, the turkeys have been growing fast and are getting far too big to stay cooped up in the little pen. So, I hoped that clipping a wing would keep them grounded enough that it was safe to let them out with the rest of the birds again.

Evan and I rounded up the birds one by one. I sat on a stool with the turkey on my lap and extended the left wing. I held my hand over the last third of the actual wing tip (the fleshy part) to protect it from accidently getting cut. Then Neil cut the first 8-10 flight feathers off of that wing. Then the turkey was free to go. It only took about ten minutes and most of that time was in catching the birds. I was glad to have it done finally and I am sure the turkeys are happier now that they have some more room to strut around.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Yogurt Update...

Just a quick post on the yogurt I made yesterday...

It was yummy! The consistency was good as was the flavor (we like it a little on the tart side). But both Neil and I agreed it needed just a little more sweetness to it. I had only added in a 1/3 of a cup of sugar for the whole batch. I will up it to 1/2 cup next time. So, overall a big success!

Oh, and today I made homemade granola bars at Evan's request. Those came out ok... I think I need to keep looking for a better recipe though.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Making Yogurt

My biggest "new" project today was making homemade yogurt! Making yogurt has been something I have been wanting to do since we moved here... but I thought I would be getting milk from our cow by now. But she hasn't been that cooperative and we haven't had the time to build a proper milking stantion yet. So no fresh milk from the farm yet...

Anyway, the kids and I were in the grocery store this morning and as usual they wanted to get some yogurt. I dislike the "kid friendly" yogurt they carry with all the sugar and artificial colors and sweeteners. So, in doing some price checking on store yogurt and the organic milk I usually buy it finally dawned on me that buying milk to make yogurt at home was still far less expensive than purchasing yogurt. It also has the added benefit that I know exactly how it was made and what is in it.

Once back at home I dug out the yogurt maker (still in the box) and the box of dehydrated yogurt culture that I had purchased a few months ago. I followed the directions that came with the machine... heat the milk, let it cool, mix in the culture, add the sweetener and flavoring if desired. It was pretty easy... but being the first time I have made it took longer then I think it will in the future.

Since I used organic milk, organic sugar and organic strawberry preserves we now have organic homemade strawberry yogurt doing it's thing on the counter! Once it has cultered long enough I will put it in the fridge tonight and try it out in the morning.

Evening Update: I was cleaning the kitchen up late tonight and while doing the dishes I looked up and saw this little guy looking back at me! Sitting right on the window ledge the little tree frog was eating the bugs that were being attracted to the light of the kitchen window.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Alpaca Delivery... and Llama!

Today was the day I have been waiting for for months now! The four alpacas (Gritona, Celia, Sir Sidney and Touch O'Gold) we had out in Califonia were delivered to a Georgia farm yesterday. I then had friend and fellow alpaca farmer Randall Gooding from Emmett Acres in South Carolina go to pick them up. While in that neck of the woods Randall swung into Alabama to pick up Nefi our llama through the South East Llama Rescue organization. Then on the way up to our farm Randall did another favor and stopped in at Abbondanza Alpacas where three other of our alpacas (Fiore, Noodle and Finley) were agisting.

So, about 9am this morning Randall pulled in with seven alpacas and a llama! Needless to say it was like Christmas morning for me! I was so excited so see them all.

When Nefi, the llama, was unloaded I was surprised how large she was compaired to the alpacas. She is a sweetheart though and I look forward to working with he. It would be fun to train her to pack or maybe even to pull a cart!

Here is Nefi the Llama.

Here are Celia (dark brown) her dam Gritona (dark fawn) and Touch O'Gold (beige).

These are the girls from CA.

Here are Fiore (beige), Noodle (light fawn) and her 8 month old boy Finley (white).

They all look the same color due to that SC red clay they like to roll in.

Finaly, here is Sir Sidney, an adult male (medium fawn).

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

More mowing... and more mowing....

I spent most of my day mowing the pasture. Finished up the area I was mowing on Saturday, then mowed another totally unmowed section toward the middle of the pasture, then mowed the cows favorite section behind the female alpacas pasture (this had been mowed a few times now and is looking really good finally which is probably why it is the cows favorite area), then mowed the male alpaca pasture, then the tiny section up by the barn and finally the female alpaca pasture! While in the girls pasture I had to move the limbs from the large oak tree that we fell earlier in the spring. We haven't had time to finish sawing it up and chip all the limbs so it has just been sitting in the pasture were it fell. I have been mowing around it up until now but it sure was starting to look scraggly. I moved all the limbs from one side of the big tree to the other so I could at least mow along one side of the tree that could be seen from the road to clean up the look of the pasture a bit. All in all it was probably 3 acres of mowing I got done.

The difficult part is getting the tractor into and out of each of the different pastures without letting the animals mingle. When Neil is here it is fairly straight forward but when it is just me I need to get creative in how I open gates and then leave it open long enough for me to drive the tractor through, then jump off and close the gate again. The LDGs can be with both alpacas (male and female) but they can't be with the geese yet which are in the male alpaca pasture. The male and female alpacas can't mingle, as the two girls are two young to breed yet. Peter, our male alpaca can't be in with the donkeys as he chases them relentlessly. It is an exercise in timing and patience. But it got done!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

All work and no play... not.

Neil and I were woken up early this morning by Berk barking non-stop. I lifted my head to look out the window at him to see what direction he was barking in. He was barking into the barn... at the geese! Neil had gotten home late last night with the two new embden geese. They were in our large wire dog kennel so Neil and I lifted them into the barn still in the kennel, put some hay and water in with them and left them for the night. Well, this morning Berk and Emmie discovered them and were not happy about having strange large birds in their barn. I trudged out of bed to go silence Berk before the neighbors started to complain. I moved the kennel closer to the fence so Berk and Emmie could get a good look at them. The geese put on a good show and didn't back down at all. They stayed there several hours until the dogs started to ignore them and went to lie down. Then I moved the geese into the male alpaca pasture which shares a fence line with the dogs so the geese could stretch their legs and get something to eat. The dogs got all excited again but it didn't take as long to get them to settle down this time. I sure hope getting these geese help with our poultry killing LGDs.

Speaking of poultry the first of our young roosters crowed today. Or at least he tried his best. It was the Hill Roamer rooster we had gotten with the goats. I am looking forward to hearing more of them crowing soon.

We had a full day working out in the barn today trying to get things finished so we can rearrange some of the animals to make room for the 7 alpacas and our rescue llama that will all be arriving a week from today!

Neil finished framing in the backside of the barn and got the siding up as well. I managed to get another acre of the pasture mowed while helping Neil as much as I could. Once the back wall of the barn was done we needed to reinstall the automatic waterer that the cows and donkeys are currently using since we put a wall where it formally was. But, I got to move it to it's permanent home on the other side of the 20x24 run in area that will soon belong to the female alpacas. The cows and donkeys are getting demoted to a smaller run in area on the other side of the barn. Finally, with most of the siding installed on the walls the cows no longer need to walk around and over the siding piled in the barn.

We finished up in time to get all cleaned up and headed into town. Neil took us to the movies to see Ratatouille by Pixar. It was only the second movie that the kids had seen in a theater and they did great! I was surprised the kids didn't fall asleep during the film as it was a two-hour movie and we had gone to a later show that didn't start until 9:35pm. But no, they both watched the entire movie through to the end. It was a good movie... as usual Pixar did not disappoint! For those Pixar fans out there you will LOVE the "short" at the beginning of the film.... so funny!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The pups strike again!


Went out to feed the animals this evening and discovered new feathers in with the pups! What very little remained I could tell it was one of the feather footed Light Brahma cockerels. I was so mad but of course it was too late to scold the pups. I just tossed down their food and left when I normally would have stayed with them and scratch their heads after they finished eating but I was too upset with them tonight. At least it was a cockerel I was planning on butchering anyway and not a hen! Now I am wondering if I have lost other birds to the pups and don't know it. Have you ever tried to count almost 60 chickens wandering around a yard? If 2-3 were missing I really won't notice.

The geese will be here tomorrow night... meanwhile I find myself researching basket muzzles online! A drastic step I hope I don't have to take.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Independance Day!

We didn't do much for the 4th of July this year. Seven more of our alpacas are due to arrive around July 15th from California and South Carolina so we have lots of work to do before they get here. Neil had the day off from work today so we took advantage of that to start cleaning out the barn. We didn't have room in the house for the last trailer load of boxes from our move from SC to NC this spring. That whole trailer load has been sitting in the middle the barn. I have walked around that pile many times a day in the past two months, but today we finally moved it! Some of the boxes got put in our temporary work shop but most of the boxes needed to come into the house. Sigh... we now have boxes stacked in the kitchen again, and in the living room, and in the hall to the bedroom and even out on the porch! Neil looked at the bright side and said, "Hey, at least when this is all put away we are done with boxes!". But I think it will be months before I can find homes for all this stuff!

Anyway, with the barn floor cleared we plan to set the rest of the gate posts inside the barn this weekend. Then Neil will get as much of the barn framed up and closed in as he can. We need to do a little rearrangingof the animals to make room for the new alpacas. We should be busy this weekend!

By the time Neil was done moving boxes it was near 8pm and he was hot and tired. We opted not to go into town to see fireworks and just spend the evening relaxing. I had planned a dinner to help make it feel like a holiday and it sure turned out great! We had marinated steaks on the grill, grilled corn on the cob (in the husks) with a spicy horseradish butter spread and baked onions with rosemary and cream. The baked onions were a new recipe I tried and they were oh so good! So easy to make and so tasty... you have to try these!

Onions Baked with Rosemary and Cream

6 medium yellow onions, with peel
2 cups chicken stock
extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped (I used dried)
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
Slice about 1/4 inch off of the tops and bottoms of the onions. Cut in half crosswise leaving the skin on, and arrange cut side up in a shallow baking dish. Pour the chicken stock over and around the onion halves, then drizzle with olive oil. Season liberally with salt, pepper and rosemary.

Bake uncovered for 1 hour in the preheated oven, or until onion is easily pierced with a knife and liquid has reduced by 1/2. Remove the dish from the oven, and pour the cream over the onions. Return to the oven, and continue to bake uncovered until the pan juices have thickened slightly and onions are browned, up to 30 minutes.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Tips for the LGDs...

Well, I heard back from our anatolian pups breeder about the turkey killings... here is what she said:

When teaching LGDs to work with poultry it is very important that the pups be put with the birds while the pups are still small enough to be pushed around a bit by the birds and therefore allow the birds to establish their role as dominant. Since we're already past that age, we'll have to go to plan two. You can pick from the following or try them all.

1. Get a large goose with an ill temper and put one pup at a time with it. Let the goose teach the pup to respect birds. Then do it with the other pup. Problems could be that the respect might not transfer to smaller birds.

2. Put the birds inside a pen that is inside the alpaca pasture so the dogs are all around them but can't get at them. The idea is that the dogs will eventually grow bored with the birds and pay them no attention. This will take a long time.

3. Get an electronic collar and use it when the dogs go after the birds. This can be very effective if done properly, but your timing is paramount. Make sure you can "read" your dog and know when he is thinking of grabbing the bird. That is the time to correct him. If he happens to look away at something else and you correct him he will associate the correction with whatever was on his mind at the time of the correction. If ou don't feel comfortable doing this get a professional trainer to handle the correction for you. Set up the event and then remove the dogs and birds from each other until you set it up again with the trainer.

So, with this insight here is our plan: we were already doing number two in that the birds were free ranging on the outside of the pasture near the pups. The pups never seemed excited about the birds, never barked or paced the fence so I thought #2 was going ok. I am leery about continuing that but I don't have much of an option right now so I guess I will. Next, I have tracked down some adult Embden geese in Lexington, NC. Embden are one of the largest breed of geese and the current owner says they should hold their own with the dogs... we will see. Neil will be picking them up on Friday July 6th on his way home from work. If the dogs still play/attack the geese we will move to using an electric collar and possibly a basket muzzle (so they can still drink and pant) when around the geese until they learn some respect. I am hoping by that time our turkeys will be grown up enough that they will be able to hold their own against the pups too.

Pair of Embden Geese

Gosh, I really didn't want to go through all this but the timing wasn't right to have the poultry when the pups were little so we will do what we can. Meanwhile, we are adding animal species number TEN to our little farm by adding the geese! At least the geese can live 100% off of pasture. They do not need extra feed unless they are breeding. So it won't cost anything to have them around.