Thursday, September 27, 2012

This is why I ask my kids to put their dishes in the dish washer right when they are finished….   
  There has been a rooster in the barn with a piece of string wrapped around his leg for over a week, and I have not been able to catch him to take it off.  Today I caught the rooster.  First I tried to pull the string off, but it was really tight, I looked for something in the barn to cut it with but couldn’t find anything small enough so I had to bring him up to the house to cut it off.  First I tried some scissors but the string was so I tight I couldn’t get under it to cut it.  Finnaly I used a steak knife, I could get that little point under the string without cutting him, they have scaly legs you know so this is harder than you know, to cut it off.   Poor rooster has been shackled for over a week!  Freedom!
  I took the Rooster back to the barn and finished up my chores, the dog had a vet appointment, and I went to the grocery, usual day.  By the time I got home I was very hungry so I popped a potato in the micro wave while I put away the groceries.  Lucky for me there was a knife lying their on the counter so I pierced the potato and popped it in. perfect just finished the groceries, and lunch is ready.  Ahhhh.

Oh, crap, now I know why that knife was laying there,   I hope that counts as my bird flu shot because I am sure I am building some immunity now!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Busy Busy, something always going on down on the farm, the house chickens, Hubert, Hobbles and the gang moved to the barn last week.  They were put in a dog crate for protection, while they got used to the barn environment, but they were so small they could just go out between the wires.  

My hope is that their little mustard seed size brains are working over time they will run in there when a raccoon,  fox, cat or whom ever comes along to eat them.   So far so good!  We still have all the house chicks dispite being rendered homeless by none other than their own mother.
  She has hatched a new batch of eggs and decided that cage was ideal for her new chicks so she chased out Hobble’s gang and moved her family in.  Seven more chicks, ok, now we have problems, we had about 5 free ranging chickens and rooster, and they keep the flies down, and eat “stuff” out of the poo piles keeping alpacas healthy.  However, they poop A LOT!   Now we have population explosion, 14 new chicks!  Time for some family planning (and white chicken chili). 
 And after this cluster f***  I am thinking the alpacas could listen in on this one too!  

 I am way behind on new cria announcements, Both Amie and Camille have had their cria, and Amie had a boy and Camille an absolutely beautiful, and very rare, silver grey little girl!   Now the big debate is what to name them,  Margaret who has been halter training these babies all summer has them all names,  There is Lil Dude, (Lil Luster’s black male cria) Beans, (Modella’s black female cria named after a neighbor because it was born on her bday),  Marvin, (Beyonce’s black male cria) Poison Ivy, Lulu, Timmy (Amie’s new cria) and Paige, Camille’s female, (named because she was born on Paige’s birthday). 

Zach also has them named:  Barack Obama, (aka Lil Dude) George w. Bush (aka Timmy) Jimmy Carter (aka Marvin)  Condoleezza Rice (aka Lulu) Sarah Palin (aka Paige).  He want's to go with the election year theme.  Must admit I like it, Last years cria are all rappers, and rock stars. 
 We shall see!

Friday, July 27, 2012

  Already a week has gone by since my last blog! 

 Farm life can get busy, not to mention four kids!  But of course what fun would one be with out the other.  My youngest daughter is very determined to get our cria (baby alpacas) trained right from the start this summer.  Everyday, usually before her breakfast she heads to the barn to halter train and get the cria comfortable with being touched.  After all, everyone wants to touch that wonderful fiber, but alpacas are not that crazy about being touched.  Also, it’s much easier to hold the lead line of a bucking, jumping, kicking, 30 pound cria than a 90 pound weanling

  My favorite classes to watch at an alpaca show are the performance classes; Jr, and sub. Jr obstacle classes, as well as performance and P.R.   What?  That means kids and even younger (sub Jr.) kids walking their alpacas thru an obstacle course.  Usually, jumps, limbo, steps, teeter totter, backing up, and perhaps loading into a trailer.  The obstacles get even harder in the performance class and then P.R. (public relation) where you and your alpaca have to perform well with people touching and sitting near by.

  I have tried to video some of these sessions, but of course the cria never do well when I have the camera out.  Even though the shows are fun to see, what goes on before the show is even funnier!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

   So Hubert and Hobbles are doing very well with their new siblings,  even though Hubert is only slightly larger than the new chicks, she tries to spread her tiny wings and huddle the others under her.  Such a sweet gesture!  And she never had a mom!    I have been getting many questions about the residents here at Riverstone,  hopefully this will help:

How do chickens sleep?  On their bellys
Who do they go to with questions? some one older and wiser
What do they do for fun?  Bungee Jump!    


What does a great hunter look like? this.
What does fat cat do all day? not much

             Where do herd dogs sleep?  In leather chairs.

Monday, July 16, 2012

I had some exciting news about Hubert and Hobbles, but unfortunately it did not last.  Sunday morning as I was rushing to get chores done, so I could take our youngest off to camp for the week, when I "herd" the tell tail chirps that Bucket Chicken’s eggs had hatched.  Bucket Chicken (not to be confused with Bucket of Chicken) got her name because she lays her eggs in a bucket hanging on the wall.  B.C. had 8 eggs and 6 of them had hatched.
 Now, the chicken here at Riverstone are free range,  mostly just working to keep the fly population at bay and keep the poo piles free of what ever might dwell there.  Some are friendlier than others, some are down right mean, and Bucket Chicken falls in the later category.  Mostly no one will go near her to check for her eggs, but today was not the day to be shy.  Chicks that hatch in the barn don’t have a very good survival rate.  Close to 0% in fact.  So we try to bring a few in (like Hubert and Hobbles) every now and again to get a few survivors.  Although, that’s story for another day,  the house has not proven to be much safer.
 I thought it might be nice to let Bucket Chicken raise her brood in the safety of the house so she was moved in with Hubert and Hobbles, with her 6 chicks.  First she was very nice and let Hubert and Hobbles move right in with her clan,  but by evening she had excommunicated them and sent them off to a corner cowering.  Well this will never due, Hubert and Hobbles were here first, so, you guessed it.  Bucket Chicken was put out.  Still good news for Hubert and Hobbles, they now have 6 siblings to cuddle and play with and the look very happy.  Safety in numbers; it’s so comforting!  Don't worry Bucket Chicken is back on fly controll.

 In other news, Rihanna had her cria Sunday while we were away checking in our camper. This tiny cria weighing, just 12 pounds, and slightly premature, was found in the poo pile, I guess I was not the only one a bit surprised.  Her little legs are not very straight and her ears don’t stand up on their own, but all things considered she is doing well and will spend her first few days in a small pen so she doesn’t loose her mama or spend too much energy following the herd.  By Monday evening she was jumping and playing in her pen so I gave her and mama a few hours in the pasture, but she will be locked in again for the night. 
A cria that small could be coyote, or even fox food.

   Namaste the grey cat had a chipmunk in the laundry room today, I hope he ate it and didn’t let it go.  Fat cat displayed an entirely new talent, he is an artist.  He hacked up dragon fly and made a perfect picture of a fish. Who knew?  

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

While I was busy blogging about chicks yesterday morning, Amaryllis was busy having her cria. Lucky for me Margaret, my number one farm hand had gone down to the barn early to check on Lil Dude, at just the right time to help Amaryllis out.  She had a Black male alpaca, I think is name is Tuesday Marvin, for lack of imagination on my part.

  Today’s barn chores present a new challenge, some one is sick. With 30 alpacas in the barn it is difficult to figure out whom.   So how do I know someone is sick?    Well, alpacas, being such easy keepers all poop in the same spot, so the biggest part of morning barn chores is to clean all these communal piles. I throw the beans in the gator, bag a few up from my “Madam Manure poop sales” and dump the gator in the woods, where it becomes great compost. Then fill the water buckets, feed and hay and I am done until evening.  However, today on almost ever pile I cleaned, (one in the barn, one behind the barn, and one in the barn yard) some one had left a very watery mess.  
 Many things go thru my mind, first and foremost, who is it?  I put grain in the feed bins, lined up along the walls of the barn and then it’s real easy to go down the line and lift each tail as they are busy with breakfast.   I only got kicked twice!  So far so good.   But no dirty butts, darn. All the babies look fine…   I have to get to the “bottom” of this, what if it is something contagious?  What if a baby gets sick?  They could dehydrate very quickly.  Collecting a sample for my vet to check would be helpful, but this is like collecting dirty water from the ground, not going to work.  So here you are reading a blog about diarrhea,(nothing better to do huh?) and here’s the really hard part, I will have to go down and lie in my hammock in the shade in the pasture until I catch the culprit.  See farming is really hard work!   Spent three days in the hammock last week waiting for babies, and then missed one, and now this!   

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

So with all the other excitement going on here at the farm you’re probably all wondering how Hubert and Hobbles are getting along.   I am very happy to report that Hobbles no longer needs his legs tied to stand on his own,  and can even hop as fast as Hubert
  They have officially entered the ugly chickling stages where the cute little fluffy stuff is falling out and short little feathers are forming.  This leaves the look of a permanent bad hair day.     Since our last house chickens were tragically eaten at this stage by an intruder wearing a mask I am not sure how long this awkward stage will last
    Fat cat sleeps on top of their cage witch I thought was rather sweet but it seems to make them nervous.  Hobbles has been discussing his troubled childhood with a good listener, and Hubert is picking on him less now that he can walk better.   Its unbelievable how much these two tiny birds can eat!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Yes the moment we have all been waiting for, (365 days waiting!)   Lil Luster had her cria Friday about 1:00.    It is a black male, so far we are calling him Lil Dude, but I am hoping those of you reading the blog can give us a better name.   It was over 100 degrees and very humid.  Poor girl.  During early labor she cushed in the kiddy pool, but once I saw the nose I had to get her out, the cria starts gasping for air as soon as the nose emerges.  So then I stood with a hose keeping her cool, or holding a towel up over my head to shade her.   Thank less job this mid- wife thing!  no body worried about me during all this! 

Proper birth should see a nose,  then shortly after two feet,  most the time the legs will come out up to about the knee and then the head,  after the head comes out,  some times you have to wait a bit for anything else to happen,  because she needs to dilate a bit more to get the shoulders out.  Once the shoulders are out pretty much the whole cria just slides out head first on the ground.  I like to catch them on a towel so they are not all covered in dirt right off the bat,  but catching 20 pounds of wet slimy wiggly cria is no easy feat!.

Once out I first check to see if you have a boy or a girl, and is it breathing? Next I stick your finger in its mouth to see if there is suck reflex, and then make a quick assessment of over all heath.    If the weather is cooler I towel dry it, even blow dry if it’s cold, but with Fridays heat, the towels were used to keep the sweat out of my eyes.   There is a very thin kind of bag on the cria, it dries quick and pretty much just falls off but you want to be sure it’s not wrapped around the foot or nose.  once dry it will shrink up and get very tight!
Chickens love to eat this bag.  Yum, string cheese! 

Now you pretty much stand back and let mama bond and cria get to its feet. Mama still has to pass the placenta, a big blue blob that fed the cria while he was growing. The hope is the cria will be standing on his own and nursing in about an hour. 
 A lot of people like to stay away from the cria let it bond with mama, I like to touch the cria all over, ears, feet mouth, and belly.  We often put a halter on it the day it is born.   My 11 year old daughter does all the training and it’s much easier to train a 20 pound cria, who has no idea he’s suppose to be afraid of people than waiting until they are six months and 80 pounds and not at all trusting of two legged creatures.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Pool party!

Hot Hot Hot!  100 degrees 4 out of 7 days this week.  Heat like this is dangerous both to humans and animals.  Imagine wearing a fur coat in this weather.  Alpaca fiber is amazing; it is lighter than wool, but warmer, because it has a hollow shaft that holds your body heat. Suri alpaca fiber is unique in that it is almost as soft as silk because it has the lowest scale height of any natural fiber. (Except silk witch has no scale).
  What is scale height?  You have seen the shampoo commercials where they say the shampoo will help damaged hair and they show the little scales along the strand of hair claiming the shampoo will tame the frizzes.  That’s scale.  If you measure how high this scale sticks up from the shaft this is scale height.  We call it prickle factor, you know how itchy some things can be against you skin, it’s these scales.  Suri alpaca has the lowest scale height, even if the micron is lower  (how big around the individual hair is) in other fiber animals. Australian sheep breeders have gotten the micron down to as low as 10 or 11!  Wow, that’s amazing, these bales of wool are auctions off for big $$$ however there is nothing they can do about scale height, scale height is the itch.
  So if you’re an alpaca with this amazing fiber, how do you keep cool in this weather? It is much cooler in the Andes Mountains where they come from.  So here in Ohio where it is HOT and HUMID in summer, it is hard work to keep them cool.  Heat stress could kill an animal; babies and older animals are more at risk.  I use lots of fans, and swimming pools, my alpacas love being hosed off, and soaking in the cool water, then they head straight for the fan… ahhhh    

Monday, July 2, 2012

All most a week since operation chick rescue and I am happy to report both Hubert and Hobbles are doing well.  Hubert is slightly larger than Hobbles, and still picks on him, but Hobbles can now support his weight with his own two legs.  He still looks like an Olympic speed skater when he walks, and usually at least one of his legs is splayed straight out when he is at rest. (I’m sexy and I know it).  Why is it these little abnormalities or weaknesses make us so much more enduring?  

In other farm news, Namaste the cat has brought me two snakes and a mouse so far this week, Fat cat Scotty has only managed to score a large moth.  It’s hard to hunt when your belly drags the ground.  I have the cat food on top of the dryer for two reasons,  one, to keep the dog out of it,  two, because if Scotty is to fat to jump up on the dryer, this is a perfect diet plan.  But alas our house is full of enablers, my daughter got him a step stool and my husband lifts him up when ever he cries.  We love your big belly Scotty; I am just concerned you will not be able to out run the fox.

Down in the Barn I am still awaiting creation, alpaca babies are called cria, thus the birth is called “cria” tion.    Lil is past her due date and about as big as a barn, it appears her milk is coming in.  She has been in a rather foul mood all week, spiting at anyone who gets anywhere near her personal space, which has become very large even for alpaca standards.   Still the cria seem to find pleasure in running up behind her and ramming into her behind.  I think the object of this game is to avoid being spit on.   The cria are all green this morning, I think Lil has won this round.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

This morning when I got to the barn the alpacas were all gathered around their hay pool   ( I put hay in a baby swimming pool,  alpacas are grazers,  eating grass from the ground,  so hay needs to be kept low so they are in the natural feeding position and don’t choke).

  No one was eating,  then I herd faint chirping coming from the hay.  And one of the chickens was frantically running around the pool.    Digging around I found one little chick all fluffy and yellow with a brown strip down his back and little black mask around his eyes.   I rescued him,  putting him in my pocket, but I hear more chirping from the hay.   A little more digging and I find a broken shell and a very wet,  newly hatched chick struggling to right himself.     I think the egg has rolled from the rafters and fallen in the hay,  I don’t think it was time for Hobbles to hatch yet.

 Both chicks moved into the kitchen in the hamster cage with a heat lamp,  Hubert,  the first chick I found is doing great,  Hobbles,  the second chick can not support his weight with his legs,  they just slid out from under him like he is doing the splits.   I tried tying a piece of yarn around his legs to help him keep them under himself but then he fell on his face.  This is called hobbling,  and is done with many shapes and sizes of live stock if they are weak at birth.   Hubert knows he is weak and picks on him.  The cats love to sit on top of the cage and dream of chicken salad for lunch.  Hubert is very noisy,  he does not like cracked corn,  he likes Doritos.   Hobbles likes cheerios.
   More on Hubert and hobbles to come…. 

I told  my pen pal  in California about the alpacas and she tells me she raises butterflies.  She has to get them little bales of hay, (milkweed?)  or whatever it is the butterflies eat and make sure they have water and their other needs are met.  Just like alpacas.   This leads me to a lot of questions;
    Do you selectively breed the butterflies for better butterfly traits such as color, fiber, conformation, reproductive abilities?    Alpacas do.
    When the babies arrive do you have to dip their belly button in novascan to prevent infection?  Alpacas do
    Do they need assistance in the birthing process?  Alpacas usually don’t but once in a while,  usually its not to hard.
    Do you have to strip the waxy plugs from the mama butterflies teets for ease of milking?  It helps with alpacas,  but they can get it on their own too.
    How many teets do they have?  Alpacas have four.
    How long do they remain with the mama?  Alpacas babies nurse for 6 to 8 months.
    What is the gestation period?  Alpacas gestation is 11 ½ months

Do you halter train them?   I like to halter train my cria from the day they are born,  some people wait till they are weening from their moms
Do they have butterfly shows?  Alpaca shows are lots of fun and there are lots of them all over the country.
Here is her response:

 problems of you have to pick up lost babies? How do you feed them when you run of hay and there is none in town? Must you bring a spot light outside so that they have enough warmth to complete the spinning of their cacoon  or trying to come out. Must you build temporary shelters for the same purpose...(large canvas sheets for just one caterpillar so she can pupate), do they destroy all the plants that you buy for $25 each? Must you save them from the street as they wander aimlessly searching for a good spot? Must you wait to prune your garden until they emerge and fly away? Do the mothers stay around..or just drop their kids off and expect you to raise them (the later)? Do you find that their bodies have been replaced with wasps? Are they born handicapped and can't fly? Does the Dad ever check in or drop by for lunch (no),   ha contest...butterfly herds are so simple...

Would you rather raise butterflys or alpacas?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Shearing day!  It’s what we wait for all year, harvesting all that fiber, my favorite part is seeing the young ones shorn for the first time.  Sometimes their true colors don’t come out until they are shorn.  You get to see how beautiful the fiber is because its never dirty way down at the skin, so as it comes off you see clean shinny (luster) fiber and you remember why alpacas are so special.  Only the Gods could wear it in ancient Andean tradition.
  Then again, I dread this day.  Each alpaca is lead to the matt one at a time,  there are laid out on their side and ropes tied to their feet,  they get stretched out tight so the shearer doesn’t cut them.  Some of them spit thru the whole process.  For this we put a sock on their mouth.   They look like heffalumps.  One of mine pees every time I do this, and you certainly don’t want the fiber to get wet.  Uggh!   They also get their toenails cut, and get their vaccinations.  Not a lot of fun for the alpaca.  Fiber is flying!  The blanket, or prime fleece (the part around their middle) is put in one bag then their neck and hip and shoulder in another.  The leg fiber I let blow into the wind for animals to use as nesting, but some people save this too.  Alpaca is so soft its all useable
   Its very funny to watch as you release them,  some times their herd mates don’t recognize them,  some times babies don’t recognize their mom, or vise versa.  Get away from me child, you’re not mine!  Oh, sorry I guess you are…. Bhaaaaa!  Look how skinny your little neck is! Didn’t recognize you with out clothes!
  By the time this is over I am exhausted, every muscle is sore and I am blowing fiber boogies out of my nose and coughing up fur balls.  I have been kicked, spit at and knock on my can more than once.   I can not wait for a long long soak in the tub.
    And now the fiber!  Which will go to shows?  What shall I list on Etsy?  What will I spin, or dye, or felt?   Or sell or save…..  Thanks alpacas.  

Sunday, February 26, 2012

This week I would like to talk about some of the other important animals to the alpaca farm.  Like barn cats, barn cats have an important job of keeping the rodent population down.  Not all cats make good barn cats and when you get a good one they are worth their weight in gold.  I have Snickers, a beautiful tortoise cat who hunts like a panther.  She leaves me mice daily, and I reward her with love and treat.
  Not all cats are cut out to be barn cats,  like Scotty,  his belly is so big it nearly drags the ground,  he prefers to lie around in the house than get dirty in the barn.  He did try his hand at hunting the other day.  He brought me his first mouse.   I had to congratulate him, despite the fact that the mouse he “caught” was attached to a mouse trap.  Oh well, nice try Scotty.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

    Winter on the farm usually means frozen toes, and frozen poop. It is never a problem to clean it up, because you can’t clean it up if it’s frozen to the ground. But, this winter has been horrible, nothing is frozen…we have had nothing but rain from August thru December. We have  flooded pastures, mud, and have no way to get hay down the big hill to the barn. Did I mention the mud? I am so sick of mud! It should be frozen in January. We should be sledding down the hill with alpaca cria pronging behind.(Cria are what we call baby alpacas, up to about six months when they become weenies,  weaning from their moms, and then yearling) Instead there is no snow yet this year and alpaca cria are all trying to get their feet out of the MUD! 
    Enough of my farm problems,  last weekend I took the 4 kids up north (Northern Michigan) for a break, 12 hours in the car, 18 hours of skiing, and about 15 hours of sleep.  We left Thursday after school, and about 2 hours into the drive, we hit a snow storm. There were cars sliding off the road everywhere, someone spun out right in front of us...but we survived all the sliding cars, and got there safely, a little later than anticipated, 7 hour, but safely.  The next three days were dawn to dusk skiing, cheesburgers and Subways. Happy and tired, we found the drive home much easier..only 5 hours.
   You may wonder how could we leave all of those animals?  Well, farmers are a generous lot. The farmer I buy my hay from was kind enough to stop over and feed the animals. He fed them lots more hay than I give them, but then he’s the one selling the hay! I am also lucky enough to have another  neighbor that watched the 8 puppies for me, as well as mama dog, our herding dog Teddy, and two or three barn cats who seem to have wormed their way in the house.   They are not easy to care for. They puppies are already 9 pounds each at just 4 weeks old. They are not only growing quickly and getting big, but also, yes, you guessed it lots of poop everywhere.  So if you think you are having a crappy day, then you should come visit me at the farm, and learn the true meaning of that phrase. I can give you a whole new meaning to a CRAPPY day!   Got to go, the cat box needs cleaned.