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.