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!