Saturday, November 22, 2008

Time for Fall breedings to begin

Now that the weather has gotten cooler it is time for our Fall alpaca breedings to begin. Alpacas are pregnant for 11-12 months with most landing on the 11 1/2 month period. We plan our breedings so the last three months of the pregnancy are not during our hottest summer months here in NC. When alpacas are exposed to high temperatures during that critical time the rate of stillborn or premature cria drastically rises.

So, today one of our alpaca farming neighbors, David and Pat St. Laurent of Rolling Meadow Farm, brought over one of their breeding males, Prince Charming, to breed with one of our open females, Eloise. Prince Charming is a son of PPPeruvian Accoyo Mr. President. Mr. President was one of Magical Farms top males before selling him at auction in 2002. Eloise has been bred to light colored males for both of her previous cria and has produced color both times so we are hopeful that this pair will produce a colorful cria as well.

I have a whole year to dream about it...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Knitting Update

I have been knitting most evenings while watching a movie with the kids. It is so relaxing to sit in my overstuffed leather chair across from the fire knitting away the time.

So far I have completed one Christmas present (not pictured) and McKayla's mittens and hat as well. McKayla's mittens and hat were knitted and then fulled (often called felted but when a knitted/woven/crochet fabric is felted it is correctly called fulling not felting). I love the processes of knitting an item and then watching the magic happen as it is transformed into something so textually different.

Here you can see the before. They are large and floppy and you can clearly see all the stitches.

As compared to the after fulling version. They are 2/3 to 1/2 the size they started out as. The fabric is now stiffer and will hold it's shape when molded. The stitches are no longer distinguishable from each other as they have meshed to make a solid fabric. This makes them very warm and somewhat waterproof.

If you missed the post with the link to this pattern you can find it here...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Odd jobs done.

As warm as yesterday was... today was cold. Even with the chilly temps Neil got a few odds and ends done around the farm today.

One of the many things I wanted to make easier for this coming winter was watering the livestock. In the heat of the summer I don't mind walking around with the garden hose filling watering troughs but when the temps are below freezing it is no fun any more. So, on Friday when I was at Southern States picking up the weeks livestock feed I also purchased a 70 gallon stock tank for the cows water. This morning Neil put it behind the barn where I wanted it to go. We got the automatic watering device hooked up to it and instantly the curious cows came over to see what it was all about. I was a little nervous that the tank might be too tall for them to comfortably drink out of... being miniature cows and all... but they demonstrated right away that it was no problem at all. One step closer to water independence!

The other odd thing Neil got done today was to install the cat door in the house. I have been leaving the door from our bedroom to the deck open most days the past few weeks so the cats could come and go. With temps often below 50 degrees during the day it is now too cold to be doing that. Neil got the kitty door in and I showed Jet how it worked. I figure he will be the first to figure it all out and Fringe will have to learn from him. Meanwhile, no more cold breezes in the bedroom!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Personality Uptown 2008

Personality Uptown is the annual showcase event for our small rural area. The two-day festival is normally held early in September but this year due to hurricane Hana it was postponed until November. It opened last night with rides and a street dance but it was pouring rain here at the house with threats of thunderstorms into today. I was pleased when I awoke this morning to sunny skies and warm winds.

Neil and I took the kids over to see what there was to see. It was a nice small fair with live music, dancing, craft booths, fair food and a dozen or so carnival rides. The first thing we all did was get on the Ferris wheel. The Ferris wheel has always been one of my favorite rides but I have never before gotten the kids to ride with me on it. This year it was their idea to all go so I was excited.

Evan and I sat together (which made taking his picture difficult).

McKayla and Daddy sat together directly opposite of Evan and I.

After the Ferris wheel ride we walked around and let the kids go on some of the kid oriented "rides" like the super slide, bounce obstacle course and the fun house.

As good as the fair food smelled it was a bit pricey for all of us so we ended up eating at a sit down pizza place for a late lunch. We got to sit at a booth next to the windows so we were able to look out and watch the rides which was fun too.

Just before heading out we stopped and listened to the live country music and the kids "danced" and ran around on the wooden dance floor they had set up. It was so wonderful to watch the kids let the music take them and move their bodies without any fear of being watched by the crowd. If only we all felt so free and uninhibited!

Monday, November 10, 2008

More hay today

I got a call first thing this morning from one of my hay contacts. She wanted to let me know that they got a load of prime 2nd cut Orchard/Timothy Grass hay in and did I want 150 bales of it? They could deliver in just a few hours...

So, by noon, a trailer hauling 150 bales of hay came pulling into the yard. We weren't quite prepared to have hay delivered today. Neil was working on the brakes on the Suburban and the old semi-trailer that we store our hay wasn't cleared out enough to hold 150 new bales. But, we managed (I say "we" but really it was "they" as I am unable to toss hay in my current pregnant condition) to get 137 bales in the trailer and the remaining 13 went into the barn.

As long as we don't have a bitter bitter cold winter we should be all set on our hay requirements now. Can't tell you what a good feeling that is!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Sometimes a girl just needs a moment by herself.

This past week I have been on a search for our winter's supply of hay for the animals. Our alpacas and goats get one type of hay while our cows get another. I managed to located some nice leaf fescue hay in rolled bales from a gentleman just 8 miles north of us in Virginia. We took our trailer up this afternoon and picked up five bales. He is going to hold another five bales for us since we don't have a lot of storage here for them.

While he was loading up the bales McKayla found a quiet place to be alone for a bit. She looked so small in the wheel well of that big ol' tractor but she also looked mighty comfortable too!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Pictures from today...

View of the pastures from the deck.
Evan and McKayla with new goat kids (3 days old).

Alpacas Finley and Sidney grazing.

Evan and McKayla during a hike in the woods up on the old pig shelter.

Nigerian Dwarf goat: Gabby. Isn't she pretty?

McKayla relaxes on the deck with one of our new cats, Jet.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

My stash grows...

I am so happy today! I had ordered a bunch of yarns so I could start knitting on a few Christmas gifts and make the kids some felted mittens for the winter. Well, my package stuffed full of wonderful yarns came today... yeah! Unfortunately, I can't show a picture of my new stash or tell you completely what I am making since most of it is earmarked for gifts. But, there is some fun stuff in there that I am looking forward to working up in the next weeks.

The pattern for the kids felted mittens (and matching hat for McKayla)comes from a free online pattern by Sallie Melville, auhor of "The Purl Stitch". You can find the pattern "Felted Mitts & Hat" here in PDF format.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

New Kids Update

I was out to the barn early this morning to check on our two new goat kids. I was pleased to find them both up and nursing. It looks like Mary Jane is being a really good first time mom too. I will keep them separate from the rest of the goats for a few more days to make sure they are well bonded and gaining weight well. This picture shows them a bit later in the day but still not yet 24 hours old.

She doesn't look very happy in this picture but really McKayla was thrilled that she could finally hold the new baby goats. She would carry them around all day if I let her.

And finally, here is one miserable dog! Poor Emie, one of our two Anatolian Shepard LGDs, wants nothing more then to be closer to the babies as well. She did not leave her post all day.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Welcome the New Kids on the Block

No... not the Boy Band from the late 80's.

We arrived back home after our day in town right at dusk. I knew I needed to head straight to the barn to get chores done as I was losing light fast. I pulled the Suburban down to the barn to use the headlights for more light. What did I see as I pulled up?

Emie, our LGD, intently licking the back side of our Nigerian Dwarf goat Mary Jane. I knew instantly that Mary Jane must be kidding (as in giving birth - NOT being humorous). I got out of the Suburban and confirmed that there was a wet dark mass on the ground. I sent Evan up to the house to get some towels. In the barn I got dinner for both LGDs and got a reluctant Emie to leave Mary Jane and go into the catch pen I always feed the dogs in for their meals.

I then turned my attention to Mary Jane. This was her first kidding but she seemed to have handled it well. By the time I got to her the second kid was on the ground but still attached by the umbilicus. I checked the airways of both kids and cleaned off any remaining membranes from their nose and mouth. I picked both little slippery kids up and moved them to an empty catch pen in the barn. I had to come back for Mary Jane as she didn't follow and seemed bit confused. By that time Evan arrived with the towels and I rubbed the kids down to get them as dry as I could. In the process I checked and both were little bucklings; one black with white on his head and the other mostly white with buckskin spots. McKayla of course wanted to hold them both but I told her that it was important that we leave them alone so Mary Jane could bond with them. So, they watched from the outside of the catch pen as I worked on the remainder of the evening chores. By the time I was done both goat kids had gotten up on their shaky legs and started looking for a teat and their first meal.

I had to drag the human kids back up to the house so I could put away groceries and make dinner. I had to promise we would come back down to the barn later and check on them.

About an hour later we returned to the barn to find the black one curled up sleeping and the whiter one nursing vigorously. We watched for a bit more and I felt comfortable leaving them for the night. It will be fun to see them all dry and in daylight in the morning.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

After our cold weather spell last week the temps are back in the mid 70's again. I have a hard time staying inside when it is so nice out. So, I spent some time cleaning up the yard. We had a few over sized boxes that needed to get broken down and put in the Suburban to take to recycling on our trip into town tomorrow. There were some broken toys and the small wading pool had cracks in it so it had to go. Some of the pool items needed to be gathered up and put away for the season (we drained the pool the beginning of October). Other items needed to be moved off the deck and down to the work shed. Not a lot of effort made a big difference in the yard.

Took a break for a light lunch which the kids and I ate out on the deck it was so nice. The kids and I then took the tractor into our woods and brought out three tractor bucket fulls of cut fire wood. Neil had cut to length a bunch of down trees to burn but ended up leaving them where they fell do to lack of time. We gathered some up, brought it up to the house and got it all split and stacked under the deck. It will be enough for a few weeks at least. I will keep working on the fire wood project on the nice days and try to stay ahead of what I burn.

Oh, and since the weather was so nice I had the door off the deck open all day so the cats could come out and explore if they wanted too. Jet, the large and braver of the two, came out for quite a while and wandered about. He was quick to dart back inside if anything startled him though. Fringe I never saw outside but he might have come out when we were down in the woods.

Just a nice day to be outside working today.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Chicken Little

I was doing my normal chores in the barn this morning when I heard the muffled sound of a baby chick. I knew I had two ducks setting on eggs by the hay bales in the barn so I went over to investigate. I lifted the first duck and there tucked in beside 6 duck eggs was a single chicken chick. Muscovy duck eggs incubate for 35 days while chicken eggs only take 21 days so I knew that mother duck was going to be stuck on her remaining eggs for another 14 days. The little chicken chick could not stay under mother duck all that time.

I removed the chick and with a lack of a better place to put it (it is getting too cool in the chicken coop at night for a single chick with no mother) I set up a box in the house for it. It will have to stay here in the house until it is old enough to regulate it's own temperature and can move out to the barn. A put the box in the bathroom to keep it safe from our new cats. I don't want them to get a taste for young chickens!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

After carving the pumpkins yesterday I saved the seeds to be roasted. I ran out of time last night so this afternoon I roasted them up so the kids and I could snack on them. Traditionally, I have only roasted and salted them (which is yummy) but this year I thought I would do something a bit different. I made a candied version that the kids much preferred:

Candied Pumpkin Seeds
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, rinsed and dried
4 tablespoons white sugar, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F (120 degrees C). Spread pumpkin seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until dry and toasted. Larger seeds may take longer.

In a clean bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons of white sugar, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Set aside. Heat the butter and remaining sugar in a large skillet over medium-high heat until sugar is melted. Add the pumpkin seeds and stir about 45 seconds. Pour seeds into the bowl with the spiced sugar and stir until coated. Allow to cool before serving. Store in an airtight container at room temperature (if they last that long).

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pumpkin Carving

Fall has truly set in here (as much as Fall is in NC). The weather has been getting cooler and cooler the past few weeks. I have been donning a fleece jacket when out doing chores even. Inside the house has been maintaining a comfortable temp up until a few days ago when it started getting cool enough that I had to start wearing my slippers around the house and wearing long sleeve shirts more often then not.

We don't use our central heat. The house is set up for propane but we don't even keep a tank here. Instead we have a wood stove that heats the house. With the front hall project still unfinished we had stacks of boxes in front of the wood stove. Today I decided I needed to fire it up for the season. I moved all the "stuff" from the front of the wood stove, cleaned out the old ashes and wiped all the dust off from it. It was so nice to get that first fire started. It didn't take long to chase away the cool damp air in the house. This evening we are nice and toasty.

After the house started to warm back up the kids and I set about carving our Halloween pumpkins. I cut the lids into them and the kids did all the seed scraping by themselves. Evan, at 6 years old, carved out his own scary monster design. McKayla, at only 4 years old, carved out the eyes and nose and drew on a mouth that I then cut out for her. She then drew on whiskers to create her dog pumpkin. I went pretty simple this year and carved out a kitty cat face. We all had a fun time!

Evan with his scary monster pumpkin.

McKayla with her doggy pumpkin (before whiskers).

Monster, Mommy's Kitty Cat Pumpkin and Doggy.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Just a little snip...

We took our two new cats, Fringe and Jet, to the vets today to get their neutering done. The surgeries were included in the adoption fee we just needed to get them scheduled and done. All went well and they are home again this evening sleeping off the remainder of the anesthesia.

I will continue to keep them inside the house for the remainder of the week to heal up completely. This weekend I will give them some time outside to explore. I plan to have them as indoor/outdoor cats and hopefully that will keep them safer.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My big announcement...

I guess it is about time that I spilled the beans to my blogging readers (are you really out there?).

I am happy to announce that we will be adding a new member to our family! Today I am officially 29 weeks pregnant with our third child. It will be a little girl... and no we don't have a name yet. All is going well so far. My doctor is planning on performing a c-section (my third) at 39 weeks so I can now count the weeks left on my fingers! For those not good at math that means sometime the first week of January!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

New Cats

Every since we lost our little grey cat Sweet Pea in July I have been missing having a cat around the farm. They are wonderful entertainment plus they have the very important job of keeping the rodent population under control. With Sweet Pea gone and cooler weather set upon us I have noticed more signs of mice in the barns and even on our front porch. It was time to repopulate with some new felines!

The kids and I drove over to the Animal Protection Society of Caswell County in Yanceyville, NC. It is about on hour's drive but it was the closest animal shelter I could find to us. I had previewed the cats they had available online the night before so I had an idea of the ones I was interested in. On the drive over I told the kids that we were NOT going to be getting a young kitten and that we were only getting two cats.

If you have never been to a shelter and seen the rows and rows of pets waiting to be adopted it is a heartbreaking sight. I looked over the cats and quickly passed by cages of kittens (kittens get adopted fairly quickly and I needed mousers). I found the individual cats I had seen online and dismissed a few as not being a good fit for us. McKayla fell in love with two black cats housed together and Evan wanted to bring home a red tabby kitten but I kept being drawn to two young brown tabby males. There was nothing particularly special about them in appearance but they both continued to reach out for me pulling me to them.

I did a few more passes around the rooms and had a hard time leaving a few others behind but I finally settled on the two tabby boys, Fringe (6 months old) and Jet (8 months old). They were not siblings but to the untrained eye could have been twins.

When I was filling out the paperwork for adoption the coordinator told me that she was so happy that I was taking these two boys. They both had been at the shelter for over two months and with room running short they may not have been available for much longer (this is not a no-kill shelter). I am so pleased that Fringe and Jet asked me to take them home. Now just to figure out how to tell them apart. :)

and Fringe

Monday, October 13, 2008

Final day of fun...

Today was my mom's last day of her visit. She flew out this afternoon. But we packed in a full day of fun.

First we stopped at Snip-Its in Raleigh to have McKayla's hair cut short. Except for a trim that Daddy did last month to remove the worst of her split ends McKayla had never had the length of her hair cut since birth and she is now over 4 years old! It has been a chore for some time combing the Rastafarian look from the back of her head. It was time for it to go. She ending up with an adorable wedge cut where the front was at her chin line and the back was layered up shorter still. It was adorable and McKayla loved it!

After the hair cut we traveled just a few miles to Ganyard Hill Farm where they have a wonderful agritourism setup. You can pick pumpkins, walk through a corn maze, take a hay ride, pick cotton, etc.. We had a fun time and we were all hot and tired by the time we left.

We had just enough time for a quick bite to eat before getting mom to the airport for her journey home again.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Roosters... what are they good for?

Eating! And with nine young roosters from this springs hatch it was time to start the process of butchering them. I managed to get two of them done today and they are now resting in the fridge for 48 hours before I cook them up and store the shredded meat in the freezer to use in those busy day dinners.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Grammie comes to visit.

We drove down to the Raleigh/Durham airport tonight to pick up my mom. She flew down from Maine to spend a few days here at the farm visiting her grandchildren. It should be a fun visit.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Cows on the loose... again!

Sometimes it is a blessing that I am a night owl.

It was 11:15pm last night when I started walking around the house turning off lights and locking up. When in the kitchen I happened to look out the window over the sink and was surprised by the sight of Cherry Blossom, one of our Irish Dexter cows, grazing on the freshly mowed lawn in front of the house. I had an immediate feeling of dread!

So, after slipping on my boots I headed outside to see what was going on. I walked right up to her and took her by the halter (this is the exact reason I do two things with the cows 1. they always wear halters and 2. I routinely give them treats when they come up to me so they never run from me). Only after I had my hand on her halter did I happen to notice the other large dark objects moving around closer to the road... all the cows were out having a midnight snack. The great thing about me having Cherry Blossom in hand is that she is the boss cow of the herd. As she and I walked down to the barn I could hear the cows behind me running to catch up with us. I was expecting the gate in the barn to be open as their way of escape but it was closed up tight. In fact our donkey Inora was on the other side quite unhappy that she was left behind. I secured CB in the cow stall and could see our bull Chuck coming in the barn door and Riona, our other cow, stick her head in behind him. I grabbed a few leaves of hay and enticed Chuck into the stall with Riona coming behind him and Nick, Riona's 10 month old bull calf, fast behind her.

With all four back in the stall happily munching on hay I walked around the barn (in the dark as I didn't think to grab a flashlight on the way out of the house) to check the gate by the goat barn. Unfortunately, that gate was secure too! That really only left the electric fence as the weak link in the fence. Back up to the barn to get the electric fence tester then back out behind the barn (still in the dark) to check the fence voltage... it had none! We run our fence off of a solar panel with a battery backup. Normally the system works great as the solar panel keeps the fence running during the day and charges the battery and then the fence in charged by the battery at night. It is a system that for the most part works on its own and I don't think about it at all. So, at almost midnight I had to figure out what to do for tonight. At first I thought I would just move them to another of our four pastures, it didn't take long to think that through and realise it wouldn't work for reasons different for each pasture.

I needed to get this fence up and working again. I went back up to the house to get a flashlight so I could see what I was doing. First I tried our backup battery with no results. I ended up taking the vehicle booster pack out of the Suburan and hooking it up directly to the fence charger. Immediately I heard the familiar snapping noise of a fully charged fence. Tired, I headed back up to the house and just hopped the cows would still be in the fence come morning.

So, thanks to my night owl status I managed to fix a bad situation... gosh knows where they would have been by this morning if I hadn't noticed them last night.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Everything is green

I spent most of the afternoon mowing the front lawns today. Neil was home from work today as he had a Dr's appointment this morning in Durham. After he returned home he got the weed whacker out and trimmed up around the house flower beds. Once all done everything looks so nice. This Fall is so dramatically different from last year. Everything is green and lush this year while last year with our severe drought it was all dried up and brown. It is so pleasant around the farm this time of year. I love to sit out on the deck in the late afternoons soaking in the view.

Neil was industrious after the yard work was done and continued work in the front hall/closets by installing the new can lights. He hopes to get it all dry walled this coming weekend.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Fun day at the NC Zooilogical Park

We got an early start today and drove the 2 hours to Asheboro, NC to spend the day at the NC Zoo with good friends that drove up from SC. What a fun day viewing amazing animals and watching the kids play together. There were several memorable moments but I think that top of the list would have to be the end of our visit watching the polar bear. He jumped into the water while we were at the underwater viewing area. He totally played up the crowd. We stayed and watched for over twenty minutes before the kids were ready to move on... but the adults would have stayed until the polar bear was done.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

More turkey poults hatched

Neil had noticed a few weeks ago that one of the turkey hens was setting on a nest of eggs near the shed. This morning I saw that hen was strutting among the taller grass out behind the barn. When I caught up to her I could see two little puff balls following behind her. I had my usual mental struggle of should I leave them alone or to restrict their movement by putting them in the brooder where they would be safe. Today the brooder won out. I put mother turkey and the two poults in the brooder and also moved in the two little chicken chicks that were almost two weeks old (yet the same size as the newly hatched turkeys).

This, hopefully, gives us three turkeys for the holidays.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Hanna has past

Well, we started getting the high winds and heavy rain from Hurricane Hanna yesterday afternoon. When the rain finally let up around 10am this morning we had received somewhere around 5 inches of rainfall.

I headed down to the barn as the rain was letting up to get morning chores done. I was curious how about the condition of the barn. It sets in a low spot on our property so a lot of the water gets funneled down to it when it rains. If it is a gentle rain it has time to flow around the barn but with the heavy rains of last night I expected the floor of the barn to be damp inside. I was not disappointed... about half of the floor was damp (no standing water, at least not by the time I got there).

All the animals looked like they made through unscathed. I did notice however that Eloise, our black alpaca, was out in the pasture while the rest of the girls were up in the barn. I could see that Eloise's cria was also out in the pasture and was running about. But something wasn't right. I walked out to the gate and realised that the little guy was on the OTHER SIDE of the pasture fence. He was actually in the adjoining alpaca pasture and desperate to get back to his mom. I immediately went out the other pasture and rounded him up. He was soaking wet to the skin and as I scooped him up to carry him all the way around the fence line I became soaking wet too. He didn't much like being carried but he was very happy to be reunited with his mom. He went right to nursing and I could see that Eloise's udder was fully engorged... they must have been separated for most of the night! I am still not sure how he managed to get himself over, under or through the fence and on the worst of nights too!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

New chicks

I discovered two new chicks under my perpetually setting hen this morning. They are cute little fluff balls... one yellow and one black.

Since this hen sets on eggs up high in the nest boxes I always remove the chicks and put them into one of the brooders to keep them from falling out of the box. They seem to do well on their own this way so all turns out well.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Labor Day - a day to relax

In celebration of Labor Day today. I packed up a picnic lunch (grilled jumbo shrimp wrapped in bacon, grilled corn on the cob, grilled pork country style ribs, apple cole slaw and a watermelon, yummy) and Neil hooked up the boat and we all headed to Lake Kerr for the day.

It was a bit breezy when we got there but the sun was shining. Neil took the kids down to the lake for a swim while I cooked lunch on the grill. After lunch as we were cleaning up the skies became dark, the wind picked up and soon it was raining cats and dogs. Luckily we had set up under one of the wooden picnic enclosures and were able to stay dry while watching the rain and doing a bit of coloring. Evan also did a bit of playing in the rain as you can see here...

The rain did finally pass and soon everyone had returned to the lake. A group near to us was preparing gear to go parasailing right from the beach below us. That was fun to watch. Neil took the kids swimming again and they had lots of fun. Unfortunately, we lost too much time to the rain and never got the boat out on the lake ourselves. I wanted to get home before dark to get evening chores done. But still, we had an enjoyable and relaxing day at the lake.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

One thing off the "To Do List"

As with all small farms our To Do List is never ending it seems. But there are some jobs on it that are so miserable to even think about that they just keep getting pushed down the list. Today was our day to get one such job off our list.

In early Spring of 2007 Neil removed hundreds of feet of 5 wire electric fencing wire so we could install our new six foot woven wire fence for the alpacas. The wire was still fine to use but we had no immediate need for it so we left it lying on the lawn to roll up another day. (At this time we were not living on the farm yet and were only here on weekends. We couldn't use our limited time here to roll up the wire when there was so much more still to be done.) Then of course as things go we didn't get around to rolling up the wire and the grass under it needed to get mowed so the wire was pulled up into a tighter area so most of the lawn could be mowed at least. After a few months of that I got tired of the tall grass along the front of the pasture that is visible from the road so I hooked it onto the backhoe of the tractor and towed it down to the future garage platform so it wouldn't be on grass anymore. There it has sat for another 4-5 months untouched.

But yesterday, Neil decided something must be done with it finally. He spent several hours yesterday afternoon and most of today untangling the five wires from each other and rolling them up on a spool for later use. What a hot, miserable, tiring job that was. One we are very happy to finally have off our To Do List!

Oh, and Neil pointed out that one of the turkey hens was setting on a nest of eggs over by the tool shed again. I went to check her out and she seems safely tucked in among the items stored there. Hopefully, we will have more turkey chicks in a few weeks.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Stuck alpaca.

Went out to do evening chores tonight a bit later then usual... it was already past dusk and darkness was quickly coming upon me.

When I went out to feed the alpacas in the far pastures I noticed our breeding male Novio cushed by the fence that separates him for the other males. He seemed comfortable so I called to him to come up to the shed to eat. After feeding the girls and the other males Novio still had not come up the the shed... which was unusual for him. It was now dark enough that I could no longer even see him along the fence line. I got everything else settled in the shed for the night and then the kids and I walked up the fence line to check on Novio.

He was still calmly cushed by the fence. As I approached him he did not get up so I knew something must be wrong. In the dark I ran my hand up his neck and quickly discovered what the matter was. Novio had woven his head and neck through the woven wire fence. He didn't struggle at all while I tried to figure things out. I didn't want to cut the fence (but would have if need be) to get him out. Novio let me scrunch down his ears and stretch the wire over his nose to get him loose from the fence. He was so good about it.

As soon as he was loose he run straight to the shed so all was fine. Evan ran up the shed as well to give Novio some dinner. But I figured he was more thirsty then anything else.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Yeah... new turkeys!

As I was getting ready this morning to go out to do chores the kids had already headed out to play outside. A few minutes later McKayla comes running in the house to tell me that the turkey eggs had hatched into turkey babies!

Wow! I had only discovered that the turkeys were setting on eggs in the blackberry bushes less then two weeks ago now. When I went out three of the turkey hens were over by the kids playground. The kids had taken some bricks and made a circle nest and filled it with hay. One of the hens was squatted over the nest and I could see several little poults sticking out for under her. As cute as that was, I was not willing to loose these poults like I had the few that were hatched out this past spring. I needed to move them and the hen into one of the brooder pens in the chicken coop.

I had my Wulsummer hens and rooster in one of the pens and I first needed to move them out to the hoop house instead. Once everyone was shifted around I collected the poults... there were five... and put them in the brooder. Then I got the hen and they all quickly settled into there new home.

Neil was home today as we had an appointment in Durham this afternoon. While I finished up morning chores, he took the weed whacker and cleared out from under the electric fence (it was turned off) all around the pastures. He then went back with the tractor and mowed around outside of the pastures to keep the weeds down. The tall weeds can short out the fence and make it so it doesn't work as efficiently on the animals. It looked really nice when he finished up.

We had just enough time to clean ourselves up and take the over an hour drive to the city for our appointment.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Happy Birthday or is that Happy Birth Day?

Today is Neil's birthday! "Happy Birthday" hun! Since it is a Thursday and Neil is off working we will be celebrating his birthday this coming weekend instead. We always look forward to some relaxing family time on the weekends but when there is something to celebrate we try to do something extra special.

Another bit of excitement and something to celebrate occurred today as well...

Our black alpaca, Eloise, gave birth to a handsome male cria this afternoon! They are spending some time together in a stall in the barn for a few days to bond. I do this not so much because I feel it is necessary for the cria but to keep the dam safe from Emmie, our female LGD (livestock guardian dog). Emmie loves new babies so much that she will try to keep the mothers away from them in an effort to "keep them safe".

Our last cria was born without me there and Emmie snapped at the dam, Gritona, and ripped her lower eye lid. I ended up taking her to the vet's office to have stitches put in to repair it. So, now I isolate the expectant mothers about two weeks before their due dates anytime I am not around to avoid any further drama.

Anyway, our new little boy is a wonderful rich color. What color is that? I am not really sure yet. He might be a medium brown or a dark rose grey. Once he is out in the sun in a few days I will be able to evaluate it better. His sire, Kanaka, has thrown many rose grey cria this year so it is a fair possibility that could be his true color.

Here are some shots of him several hours after birth. He is up and standing and all dried off.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I'm back, hopefully...

One of my regular egg customers (and now friend) told me today when she stopped by for her eggs that she stumbled across this blog and really enjoyed reading it. She noticed that I hadn't had an entry since the beginning of May and wondered why.

Why? That is a good question. Let's just say that is has been a very busy summer and more then a bit stressful. The first month I found that I just didn't have the time in my day to do any blogging. Then it just fell out of my normal routine so I stopped thinking about what I would blog about. After about 6-8 weeks of no blogging I started feeling a bit guilty about stopping. When things worthy of noting happened around here I would think "I really need to post that on the blog tonight." but still I would never get around to actually doing it. So, I am now determined to get back to my former habit of blogging at least 3-4 times a week.

Meanwhile, just to recap a few major highlights over the past few months:

We have had lots of ducklings and chicks born. We have sold many of them but still have many that will need to be butchered in the coming weeks.

We had a cria born to our alpaca Gritona on May 22nd. He is a light fawn that we named Seamus (sounds like Shamus). He is a very bold young male so we have had little contact with him as he wants to "play" and this would lead to disrespecting of humans and possible agression in the future. We have left his correcting to his mother and herd mates.

Neil and I got a good bit of cross fencing up and created two new alpaca pastures. In one we put the males Peter, Sidney and Finley. Into the other went the male Novio along with the females GeeGee, Abby, Celtie and Joy. Moving the pacas to new pastures has greatly improved the condition of the grass. I still am mowing the pastures to prevent the thistle from growing up but the pastures are so much better then last year. I can only hope that they will improve every year. Our Nigerian dwarf goats gave birth for the first time. Pepper had a single doeling that we will be keeping. We named her Mary Jane.

Gabby had twin bucklings that we sold to a neighboring alpaca farmer so I know that will be well cared for.

I have been milking Gabby (I let Pepper raise Mary Jane herself) and have made some fresh goat cheese, a batch of Feta that is still in the brining stage and some whey ricotta.

The wild blackberries around that property ripened and we made a batch of Blackberry jelly with them.

And finally, and sadly, our cat Sweet Pea that I brought home from the feed store last Fall went missing the first week of July. I have owned a lot of cats in my life and I have to say she was one of my favorites. I wish I knew what became of her; car, fox, coyote, stray dog? I miss her every morning as I go down to the barn to do chores and she is not following behind me or riding on my shoulder. The farm is not the same anymore.

Friday, May 02, 2008

And gosling makes three.

I was happy to see this morning that our new gosling was safe and sound. Our goose and gander are very good and VERY protective parents. They seem quite pleased with their new charge. I am happy that at least one of their eggs produced for them... otherwise it would have been a lot of work for naught.

Just so you can all see that my fear of the gosling becoming a tasty snack for one of our LGD was/is not unfounded...

This is Emmie our Anatolian Shepard LGD. She has been following behind the goose family quite interested in the new gosling. If she gets any closer the gander displays and goes after her. Hopefully, their guard will not falter and we can watch the gosling grow up.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Our American Chinchilla rabbit doe, Purslane, has been doing a great job of raising up this latest litter of 10 kits. Today they are 19 days old. Sadly, this morning I found one of the kits dead. It was out of the nest box (as was another kit) and I have to assume it died of cold exposure overnight as no other signs of trauma could be seen. I would have figured that at this stage it would have been fine out of the nest box (I mean really, it is May 1st in NC) .

I tipped the nest box on its side so the kits can leave the box but still huddle together for warmth easily. Plus, with the box on its side, Purslane is able to get up and away from the kits for a needed rest once in a while too. I was sure I was past the point of concern over fatalities but I guess you never know.

We had some other accountable losses today too.

While down by the goat barn this afternoon I noticed that our goose was not in the nest box on her eggs. She often leaves her nest once a day to get a drink and connect with our gander who goes wild when she returns to him. But, since she wasn't currently in the box I took advantage and went and peaked inside to see if I could see the goslings that I spotted two days ago.

At first peak I just saw a nest of eggs but with some digging around I found one dead gosling in the back corner. There were two duck eggs in there so I moved them under the duck in the neighboring nest box. I also found a turkey egg in there. That left six goose eggs. One of the eggs had pipped out quite a bit but it didn't make it. The remaining five eggs felt heavy and not "sloshy" so I wasn't sure what to do with them. It has been two days since I first noticed a gosling in the box but it may have been longer as it was under the goose where I couldn't see it. I made the decision to crack a "pipped" size hole in one to see what was going on inside. What I found was an almost fully developed dead gosling. It had not yet pulled in its yolk sac so it died just days before pipping out. I opened the other 4 only to find more partially developed embryos. So, with that I cleaned out the box and lined it with fresh straw.

It was just about then that the goose reappeared honking at me for being close to her nest. And there, waddling behind her, was a single gosling. She stuck her head in the nest box in search of her eggs and after finding none she settled down in front of the boxes and snuggled her lone gosling under her wing. She wouldn't be able to return to the box anyway as the gosling would never be able to climb up into it.

I worry about such a little thing wandering around the pasture as it would be a perfect snack size morsel for our livestock guardian dogs, but if anyone could keep it safe from the dogs it would be a pair of geese.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

More fencing

I am pleased that Neil and I got the major run of cross fencing finished this weekend. The job included installing the last of the angled cross braces on the end posts, installing two 12' gates and run about another 100 feet of woven wire fencing. But we now have an additional pasture in which to purposefully separate our livestock! Yeah!

We also got a great start on installing the woven wire on the section of fence line that will split this new pasture we just formed into two pastures. There is only about another 150-200 of fencing on that run and a single four foot gate to install and I will have two pastures in which to put the animals.

The last bit of work we did for today was to get a watering system set up in the new pastures. In the large trash/junk pile out in the woods that we inherited with the farm has been an upside down cast iron tub. I wasn't sure what condition it was in but I had in mind to move it up to the pastures as a water trough. We got the tractor down to the pile and using chains moved it up to the shed to evaluate it. This was not the "loins foot" type but a newer style that would fit like a modern tub today. That meant that three sides were exposed and only one side had a face to it. But, besides being baby blue in color it was in perfect condition still. Not a chip on it. Neil installed a new drain for me so it would hold water again and I could easily drain in out to keep it clean. Once that was done we took it out to the pasture and set it up on some bricks to level it and keep the drain off the ground. For now I will have to fill it a few times a week from a 50 gallon drum that fits in the bucket of the tractor. In future we hope to get a gravity feed system worked out.

With the fence done and water available the new pasture is now ready for some livestock. That will happen tomorrow.

Friday, April 25, 2008

What a beautiful day we had today. Temps in the low 80's, sunny skies with big puffy clouds floating overhead while we worked outside.

I finished mowing the lawn, planted my seed potatoes, mulched the asparagus beds, mucked out the alpaca barn, put weed block down around more of the raised garden beds and just enjoyed being outside.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Just a few updates

Well, just an update on a few things around the farm.

Purslane's (one of our American Chinchilla rabbits) litter of ten kits has been doing great so far! Today they are 10 days old. They are so big now, eyes open and looking like little miniature rabbits. They are starting to act like popcorn kernels and vaulting straight up into the air. As warm as it has been I am still nervous that they will vault out of the nest box overnight and get chilled and die (that happened to Purslane's first litter at 9 days old). Hopefully I will have some rabbits for sale in a month or so.

The remaining 13 chicks that hatched out in the incubator are still doing well. Yesterday I took them out of the brooder box and put them in with the chicks in the brooder pen that were hatched out under my Orpington hen over a week ago. I wasn't sure if the older chicks would pick on the little ones but so far everyone seems happy. One of the older chicks has a wry beak where the top and bottom beak do not align properly. It will need to be culled but for now it is growing well. If it continues to keep up with the others I will cull it at 10-16 weeks old.

The ducklings are growing quickly. I love the little ducks... they are so cute. Sadly, there are two ducklings that will also have to be culled. One has a malformed neck. The neck comes out of the body at about a 90 degree angle from front so it looks like there is an "S" curve in his neck. Otherwise it seems fine. The other duckling to be culled also has a wry beak. If they do well growing out they will be culled about 16 weeks old. The Pekin duckling we got at Southern States is twice the size of our Muscovy duckings. I don't know his age so it may be that it is just a week or so older. But it sticks out like a soar thumb being so big and yellow. McKayla loves it though and holds it whenever she can.

I am now pretty sure that both my Nigerian Dwarf does are pregnant from our new buck Gottaway. If so we will have kids sometime in July.

My tomato and pepper seedlings are growing strong. I may have to re-pot some of the tomatoes into larger pots before transplanting them into the garden. The garden... sigh... I don't know what to do about that. I need to figure out an attractive way to keep the poultry out of my raised boxes. Last year they were too young to come out to the garden but this year it has become a favorite place to scratch and dust bath. I can't plant anything in them until I get this figured out.

Finally, another one of the turkey hens is MIA today. I sure hope that they are setting on nests because if something is eating them at this rate I wouldn't have any turkeys by the end of the week.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Missing turkey hen

Our turkey count here on the farm is one tom and four hens. They all stick together like glue and it is very rare that you see one out of eyesite from the others.

Today I noticed that there are only three hens about. I looked around to see if I could locate her in the barn or the cow pasture but with no luck. So, I figure one of two things happened to her:

1) She got snatched by a fox or coyote during the night.
2) She is sitting on a nest of eggs hidden somewhere on the farm.

Since there are no signs of anything tramatic happening overnight I am really hoping for the latter. I guess I will only find out after another 28 days when any eggs would have hatched out. Maybe she was upset with me stealing her egg everyday. I would love to see her appear with a string of poults walking behind her.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Time for turkey... eggs that is.

Well, with the mild success of hatching eggs in the incubator I decided to set some turkey eggs in it today. I had been collecting turkey eggs for over a week now (usually two a day) with the thought that I would incubate them since none of my four turkey hens seem to care at all about setting on them. I hope to have at least 50% hatch rate as I have several people on my turkey poult waiting list and several other people wanting to be on my Thanksgiving turkey list.

If it works I hope to set several more batches of turkey eggs this spring/summer as well.

We had farm visitors today that stopped by to see the alpacas. I always enjoy talking alpacas and showing off the farm.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Fence progression.

Finally, we had a weekend with no rain so we could continue work on our new pasture cross-fencing. Yesterday, we finished drilling the holes and setting the posts. Today, we got about 300 feet of woven wire stretched and installed. I know it doesn't sound like much but it involved a lot of splicing. Neil was able to get the "end rolls" free from the fencing company working at his job site right now. The rolls are only between 50-75 feet long. It defiantly made for longer labor time to install but without this fencing we wouldn't have been able to cross-fence at all this year so we don't really mind.

We would have finished one whole run but we were driven out of the pasture in the late afternoon by a sudden thunderstorm. So, now we will have to wait until next weekend to finish up and move some of our alpacas around.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Shearing Day

Good as their word the shearer's arrived at 7:30am ready to roll. A half an hour to set up their equipment and explain the procedure and we were bringing in our first alpaca by 8am.

We got all 18 animals done by 11am... just three hours. That is 6 animals an hour or only 10 minutes each to get them in, shorn and out. Not too shabby for a crew that had limited shearing experience.

Once we were done we all packed up and headed down to David Rosin's farm. It didn't take long to finish up at David's and before we knew it our shearing day was over. I had been so anxious about how it was all going to happen and it was hard to believe that it was done for another year.

Neil and I learned a lot throughout the day and hopefully we will remember and bring some of that knowledge to next year's shearing day!

When we returned home late that afternoon we were greeted by a strange noise coming from the bedroom. For a second I couldn't figure out what it could be and then it dawned on me... it was the noise of a chick. I had purchased a small still air egg incubator a few weeks ago and had set some eggs in it to see if I could get some to hatch out. I admit I have been so busy with other things that I haven't paid much attention to the incubator... only checking every few days to see if the temperature was OK and adding water. I couldn't even remember what day I actually set the eggs in it.

I peaked inside and I had two chicks hatched out and three more that were pipping out! I moved the incubator to the kitchen where it would be easier to keep an eye on them. I was amazed that my lackadaisical attempt at hatching eggs actually produced life! I look forward to morning to see if any further are hatched out.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Final prep for shearing

I spent the day doing the last of the tasks I needed to get done before tomorrow's shearing day. I straightened up the barn a bit more, making room for the snack table and a work surface for tagging the fleeces. Then I mowed the lawn to make the farm look neat and tidy.

In the afternoon Neil's mother arrived to whisk Evan and McKayla off for a few days of fun. It was wonderful for her to travel up from SC to be with the kids so we could concentrate on the shearing. They plan on staying in a hotel, swimming, getting room service and visiting a children's museum while away. They should be back on Friday afternoon.

Just as the kid's were leaving David Rosin, of Day Dawn Alpacas, pulled into the farm towing his trailer. He was followed by David St. Laurent, of Rolling Meadows Farm. David R. was transporting four of David S.'s alpacas from David S.'s farm just North of us in Virgilina, VA. We pulled the trailer up near the barn and gave water and hay to them. They will spend the night in the trailer before getting shorn in the morning.

While they were here I enlisted the help of the Davids to get one of our males, Sidney, in from the big pasture. He likes to graze out with the cows so it is a little more difficult to get him into the barn when we need to. A long length of rope held between the three of us quickly and easily moved him up into the barn. Once in the barn I secured him in a stall for the night with some hay and water. I was glad to have that done so we didn't need to worry about it in the morning as the shearers are to be here at 7:30am to get started.

Both David's will be here tomorrow to help with shearing our 13 alpacas and one llama and David S.'s 4 alpacas. We will then all travel down to David R.'s farm on the South side of Roxboro to shear his 11 alpacas. It should be a full day!

I finished up my day by cooking up some breakfast goodies for the morning: Banana Nut Bread Muffins and Homemade Biscuits and Sausage. Along with some doughnuts and juice it should keep everyone energized through the morning.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Broody Birds

I snapped a few photos today of our Embden goose and one of our chocolate rippled Muscovy ducks that have been setting on eggs for a few weeks now. They both laid their eggs in the nice nest box that Neil built for me a few months ago. None of the birds used the box for the longest time and I think Neil was doubting the need to build it. I think it was just something new to their environment and it took a bit for them to get used to it and trust it was a safe place to brood their young.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Herd Health Day

Today was our herd health day for our alpacas. Once a month we get our hands on each of our alpacas and check body condition scores, trim nails, give Ivomectin injections and any other vaccines or medical treatments needed.

Since I don't make a habit of reaching out to touch or pet our alpacas I look forward to this day so I can get my hands on these super soft creatures! It is also the best time to remove any foreign material from their fleeces. And today that was a major part of our time since this coming Thursday is our annual shearing day so I wanted to remove as much veggie matter from deep in the fleeces as possible. As usual we had very few problems and everything went very smoothly.

In the rabbit hutch our doe Purslane kindled a litter of 10 kits this morning! This is her third kindling but unfortunately she lost both of her previous litters due to cold weather. I am holding my breath that all goes well with this litter.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Call of Nature

Wasn't I surprised this morning when I went to feed the rabbits to find that our doe Chamomile was in with our buck Sasaparilla! A few months ago when Sas had figured out how to wiggle into Cams cage Neil reinforced the connections between the vertical and horizontal wire mesh sides. So, how could I now find both rabbits together?

I looked along all the seams and they all seemed tight still. After being puzzled for a few more minutes it finally dawned on me how she got over... The new kindling box that Neil built has a small horizontal platform on top (about 5x11 inches). Cam must have stood up on that platform and reached up to the top of the wire mesh, which is about 14 inches or so above the height of the platform and smushed and wiggled herself through the unreinforced ceiling junction into Sas's cage.

She must have REALLY wanted to get over there to be with the buck. Oh well, I was planning on putting them together soon anyway. Maybe she knows more then me!

*Note: we did not build these cages. They were here when we moved to the farm. We really want to build new rabbit hutches but that may not be a project for this year.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

An odd duck.

We had to go to Southern States to get some feed today and when we arrived we discovered that their "Spring Chick Days" was going on. You got a free chick with every purchase of chick starter. Well, that is one of the items I needed to pick up so we got to pick out a free chick to take home with us.

We chose to get another duckling. They had White Peking or Mallard ducklings to choose from. The kids and I picked a Peking since we didn't have any white ducks. McKayla named it "Eggy". We brought Eggy home and he/she settled right in with our new Muscovy ducklings born yesterday.

Evan with Eggy.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Our first ducklings are here!

Back at the beginning of March two of our Muscovy ducks (our blue hen I call Cinder and one of the self-blues I call Angel) laid their eggs in the hollow base of an old oak tree in the cow pasture just a few feet outside of the poultry run. So, for a few weeks now I have been peaking into the tree every morning and asking "Any babies in there yet?" and there never is... that is until this morning!

This time when I looked in on the ducks I saw a small little head sticking out from under Angel. I was so excited to finally have a baby duck around. My next thought was that I needed to move everybody out of the tree right away because if the duckling(s) wandered out of the tree they would be fair game as a snack for our Livestock Guardian Dogs.

I got a bucket out of the barn and put some hay in the bottom and headed back to the tree. I scooted Angel off to the side and found 5 hatched ducklings and one egg that was mostly pipped out. I put them in the bucket along with some of the unhatched eggs. I moved them into an empty brooder in the chicken coop. Back at the tree I reached under Cinder and found two more ducklings and a bunch more eggs. I moved them and both Cinder and Angel into the brooder. By the end of the day we had 19 ducklings hatch out. They are so very cute!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Rain, Rain, Go Away

After almost a week straight of rain today it cleared off and was warm again. By the afternoon the grass had dried out enough that I was able to mow the lawn for the first time of the season. It is amazing to me how different (and neat and tidy) the farm looks when the grass is mowed down. I like to mow with the tractor as for the most part I have a great view of the pastures and all the animals we have.

Today was particularly fun as the animals were also very thrilled that the rain was gone and the sun was out. The four cows and our mini donkey were just straight out running around the pasture, skipping and twisting all the way. The alpacas were out grazing as a herd what little grass has started to grow in their pasture too.

Just a pleasent day after such a cold wet gloomy week.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Final chick count

Well, I had two more chicks hatch out last night to bring our chick count to seven. Six of them are light colored and only one is dark.

McKayla with chick.

I sold a dozen eggs today.