Thursday, December 19, 2013

An Alpaca Scarf

Spun from Dreamcatcher's Fleece
Factoring in the manhours spent picking out seeds and bits of hay, carding, spinning, and crocheting, I'd say this scarf cost about $200. haha  I hope I get faster and more efficient with this new hobby.

When people asked me what I was going to make out of the alpaca fleece I received last May (with my alpacas) I answered: yarn. Because really, turning a fleece into yarn by hand is an old craft that takes skill, knowledge, and time. I didn't have all of those things when I started. I'm still working on attaining them. But like anything worth doing, I think the experience of learning this will be worth the effort. Spinning and crocheting are very unstressful to me. This is a hobby I enjoy.

There's really not a pattern to this scarf and I will admit it's not super beautiful or fancy in any way. It's just a simple, single-crochet scarf with no dye and probably has imperfections. The yarn itself being a first try at alpaca yarn, is imperfect. It has many thicknesses and in some places is frizzy, in other places super skinny and tight.

It's taught me to hold the roving gently as it gets pulled through on the spinning wheel. It's taught me not to spin too thickly or too tightly. It has re-taught me something important: patience. I suppose spinning yarn is like life. Don't hold on to things too tightly. Don't get in a hurry. Pay attention to the little details because they will affect the outcome of the final product.

Yeah. That was phiosophical and deep. All I really want to say is: OMG! LOOK! I MADE A SCARF OUT OF ALPACA FLEECE! YAY! IT ONLY TOOK ME SEVEN MONTHS TO LEARN TO MAKE YARN!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

2013 Reflections and Warnings for Future Hobby Farmers

Another year has come and nearly gone and we still don't have a house on the land we originally purchased to move to 'the country'. Turning the land into a hobby farm because we were unable to build has been a many faceted learning experience. We have tried to see what will work and what does not work and are constantly reevaluating 'the plan'. There never really was a' plan' which I have learned was the first of many mistakes. So, if you want to farm in any way shape or form, you should make a plan before you begin. A good, strong, detailed plan. And be aware that your plan will change anyways. But you should have a starting point.

City folk won't have the basic knowledge years of farming creates, knowledge that gets passed down through generations, so we must learn from books or by doing. Especially if there is no one nearby that can share farming knowledge.

Animal Changes
My goal has always been to strive for sustainable farming. Buying in feed for animals is not sustainable or cost effective in the long run. For many reasons, we have decided to downsize on animals and focus on plants. While we will still retain a limited number of livestock for pets, milk and manure, I no longer want to raise meat animals. To do so in a method that makes sense, we would need pasture and the land and the limited Tucson rainfall does not naturally support that kind of growth.

Shifting focus to intensive vegetable gardening has brought about raised beds and deep raised beds, more intensive composting, and a whole other massive sized garden. Pasture seed has been scattered anywhere and everywhere else it could possibly sprout and I await spring with bated breath and high hopes. Not for the first time. There will most likely not be enough pasture to support the limited livestock, but I am crossing my fingers still.

I have looked back over this blog to the beginning of this adventure and found that the saying "Chickens are the gateway drug to other farm animals" to be very true. Of course, my first chicken was a feral pigeon...but that's another story. This whole crazy idea started with a few backyard chickens. You have been warned.

Farm animals are unique in that most people keep them because they serve a purpose, or many purposes. In evaluating the most useful farm animal, I vote for the noble goat. A goat can clear unwanted vegetation, trim trees and small branches, give fresh milk which can be made into cheese, yogurt and soap, provide meat in the form of her offspring, carry small burdens, entertain, comfort, and will accept hugs as well as give them in her own goatly way. Goats are also cute and can learn basic verbal commands. You have been warned again.

Most often overlooked by those who raise animals for meat is the animal's intelligence. I have seen people who have no respect for the animals--especially when they want to eat them. Throughout this farming adventure, I have seen time and again that animals deserve a kind hand and compassionate treatment whether they are destined for the dinner table or not. They deserve respect. I hope that those I sold have found a place where they are treated with the same respect and kindness I showed them.

I don't recommend cows but I'll keep mine, thank you very much. They are gigantic beasts and get excited easily. Their steering and brakes don't work all that great when they're happily skipping and running toward a person. They can be stubborn and their sheer strength makes that an obstacle when they need basic care. But as my vet, Doc Mary, once said, "Cows are fun." They can be hulking, ginormous, earth thundering fun. True.

Sheep are too flighty and skittish for me. I loved my Muffy most of all because she was old and covered with wool and she loved to eat and would let me pet her. She was a challenge. She taught me to spin and want a spinning wheel. She was my gateway drug to alpacas. But sheep are not for me.

Ducks came because my oldest son has always liked ducks. He was the only one who mourned when they moved away. Ducks are a high maintenance bird, especially in the desert. They make big, nice eggs great for baking, but ducks too, are not for me.

I miss the geese, but I am the only one who does. Geese are not for my family. They are however, excellent watchdogs, weeders and makers of huge eggs. If I had a large pond and a larger acreage and my family all lost their hearing, I would totally have two geese again. I prefer geese over chickens, but it's obvious by now I am a little touched in the head.

The alpacas make the best yarn. They were not tame when they came to us, but they're getting there. Because they are fairly exotic here, their care can be a challenge if something odd comes up. But I like them. They don't have to die to make a product. They're peaceful and quiet. Best of all their pellet shaped poops are all made in one communal pile for easy cleanup. People who don't clean up after farm animals can't appreciate that last statement to its fullest.

So we have downsized to alpacas, cows and a few goats. Cows have goats beat on milk production and manure production although goat manure is far superior and easier to manage. What can I say. I love the goats and the goats love me, ever so much more than the cows or alpacas ever will. Cows and alpacas tolerate me. They could care less whether I tend them or not. They find me annoying. Goats like to hang out with me. Cows and alpacas hang out only if I have food. Then they go away because they don't think I'm that cool.

Milk Changes
Selling raw milk is, quite honestly, a pain. I milk by hand. I drink my animals' milk raw. I'm happy with that. I like to make cheese sometimes and soap sometimes. There are many regulations regarding the sale of raw milk that I don't really want to mess with. So, I generally don't sell milk. And I'm okay with that. A person really can't appreciate milk until she has to milk her goat or cow every day, morning and night, without fail. I would be the one crying over spilled milk because my Popeye muscles were made from milking day in, day out for the past couple years. I love milking. It's a time to sit and focus on nothing at all but the task at hand. It gives my mind a break. There is something timeless about it that connects a person to the past. I'm happy just milking for what my family needs or maybe our friend Koulis since he likes to play and make cheese and yogurt, but that's the extent of my milking prowess.

Egg Changes
The only laying fowl we have retained are the flock of chickens. They make eggs for us and the restaurant. If we manage to have surplus, friends and family might get some, but these hens are slowing on their production and one day, I'd like to just have three hens again. Three was enough. Since all the kids are in 4H poultry, it may be a while before that happens.

I am hopeful that 2014 will bring about better things for everyone, that our economy will recover and people will get back on their feet. Driving past so many closed businesses in Tucson is still gut-wrenching. The mortgage losses and foreclosures--devastating.

So, I don't have a house in the country, but I have years of useful knowldege, fond memories, painful memories, the memories of really good food and time well spent doing hard work, the kind of hard work done just for fun, not for profit. Markou Ranch is a hobby farm, not a business. It is in existence because when I was five years old, I wanted to be a farmer when I grew up. Each experience has taught me something, good or bad, that I will carry forward, and one day I hope I find that special house in the country to come home to, whether it is on this little plot of land or not.

2013 Photos in Review

Calf scales, not just for calves...

Nothing like a warm fire on a cold night.
Tomatoes in November. Mmm.
Donation to the Community Food Bank provided by the sale of a goat.
Some neighbors don't like a crazy goatlady...
Pumpkins prevailed in the Three Sisters Garden!
Goodbye to Ms. Cow, Barbie, Espresso, Starlight, Starburst, Stardust, Paprika, Violette, Salt, and Vicky. Last run of the goats before a major downsize.
Goodbye ducks.

Hello Raised Beds and Big Eggplants!
Thanks for helping, Mom!

Super useful and compact hay shed for the alpacas.
My spinning wheel with alpaca yarn in the making.
Piper having breakfast.

Yearly Kingsnake Visit.

First Potato Harvest

Goodbye Geese.

Exploring New Methods to Feed the Flock.


Bye-Bye Bah-bahs!

Our sheep have moved on to greener pastures or icy freezers as the case may be.

They were a huge learning experience for us. Blackbelly sheep are a wild breed, hard on inexperienced handlers, and flighty. While I will miss the beauty of them, it's safer for me not to be tending them anymore.

Even keeping wool sheep was something I decided against after processing the wool by hand and seeing how much more difficult it is compared to alpaca.

Sheep - 0, Alpacas 1, ftw win!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Pie Post

The Three Sisters Garden was a huge success squash-wise. The corn didn't do much and there are still stalks of it trying to grow in the first row. The beans--none harvested to date. However, they are hanging on in that first row among the corn and yes, squash. Pretty sure that last group of plantings is yellow squash although it could very well be stubborn zucchini. To date, half of the Three Sisters garden has been seeded with cole crops: Broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts. I also tossed in a few winter banana squash seeds, you know, cause I need more squash like I need a hole in my head!

The other half is still being built. Rows of manure and bad straw, laden with soil are resting beneath tarps and waiting/composting for spring planting. I have plans to re-fence this garden since the existing fence was a roll of low, used field fence I found at the back of the property. But not to worry. I have lots of old but in better shape fence to carry out this task. (More on why that is so later.)

Anyways, what to do with all those pumpkins...


1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
4 large eggs
3 cups pumpkin (boiled, skinned, mashed, strained)
1 cup goat milk

2 unbaked pie shells

Mix everything in a bowl untill well blended. Pour half into each pie shell and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in pie center comes out clean. Chill and then eat.

You will notice that fresh pumpkin that is boiled for pies comes out a lighter color than canned. I've often wondered why. My theory is that they grind up the skins into the canned version which would explain the definite orange-ness of it (or maybe it's food coloring?). Skinless is decidely dark yellow. From past pumpkin experiments I've decided that the skins are too gross and rubbery to go into recipes and are much better off given to the chickens.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Get Lucky

As posted previously, we would like to phaze out the Blackbelly sheep. We have sent all the previous lambs off to the U of A Meat Science Department and have only the mommies and daddy remaining. This is a great starter flock for anyone interested in the American Blackbelly breed of sheep. They are a hair sheep, meaning they don't get wooly or require shearing or tail docking. They put on a thick undercoat which is shed after winter. A hardy breed of sheep, they are well adapted to the warm climate and are beautiful. Their meat is lean and does not have the strong flavor that wool sheep tend to possess.

These were our starter sheep and three of them are relatively friendly. The ram can be petted over the fence and all will come to eat from your hand if you have some cracked corn as a treat.

If you are interested in acquiring this small herd (1 ram and 4 ewes, likely bred) please contact me via email at traci_markou (a) to set up a day/time to meet.

UPDATE: Lucky has moved on to greener pastures. At the time of this posting, we still have four Blackbelly ewes and three mixed breed ewes available. Please contact me if you are interested in purchasing them.

2nd UPDATE: All the sheep have moved on. Sugar, DoeDoe and Ginger have gone to live at a petting zoo!

Lucky after a good brushing and pen cleaning.

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Visit from the Department of Environmental Quality

Mom at the rear of the Three Sisters Garden
So, this morning Mom and I were moving the remaining Christmas trees closer to the hay sheds when a man pulled up in a huge Ford truck. He had come down our little narrow road rather slowly, stopped in the pull around, come back, and then came up our drive. I figured maybe he was lost. So I went up to the gate and said, "Are you lost?"

He checked the address and said no, that he was in right place. He handed me his card and introduced himself. He was from the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality and they'd had a complaint that I was "spreading manure all over the place" and that it smelled bad. "What do you do with your manure?"

I said "We compost it."

"That's good. We don't want all that in the landfills." He then looked over a ways toward the Three Sisters Garden and pointed out the rows. "I think I see it there," he said.

To which I replied, "Yes, that's a garden. We build raised beds, lay down the manure then cover it with straw and compost it."

He nodded. Then he kindly suggested that the rows be covered by tarps to enable them to compost faster and assured me that I would pleased with the results. I said that sounded like a good idea and that I had plenty of tarps already and would do just that.

He said he usually gets complaints like this about horses. I told him I don't have any horses, only a couple of cows and mostly goats and sheep. He nodded and told me a story about a pygmy goat he used to have and made me laugh.

The guy was very nice and helpful.

I leaned in and asked him if he smelled any bad smells coming from my property. I was concerned that maybe it reeked there and because I came there every day, maybe my sniffer couldn't catch it. He took in a deep sniff and said, "No. You know, goat poop doesn't smell bad. Male goats do, though."

I nodded. It's true. All those rumors about raunchy male goats during rutting season. They have musk glands and pee on themselves to attract the ladies (of their own kind). They smell like the worst possible imaginable body odor during rutting season. And yes, it IS rutting season right now.

He asked me if I knew which neighbor complained. My other neighbor had come over previously to warn me, so I did know. I pointed out the neighbors I knew and how I knew them and pointed to the accused neighbor's lot and said it was probably them since I've never met them. I heard a complaint from another neighbor about the same neighbors complaining that my sheep were too loud in the past.

I felt like I was in big trouble. Maybe they were going to take away all my animals. Maybe I was doing this all wrong. I was a little bit afraid because quite honestly, I love my critters and I love being able to be outdoors in the sunlight and fresh country air.

Then he totally shocked me and said, "If people don't want to be around farm animals, they shouldn't live in the county."

Thank you, Mr. Environmental Investigator. You made my day.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Alpaca House Tenant Improvements on Schedule

The fluffy boys at the front of the property are getting some much awaited improvements to their home. In a past post, you will see that I built them a hideous pallet shelter with three sides and a nice metal roof to keep off the rain.

I've been waiting for some freeish plywood from our restaurant that was used to board up the windows while we were rennovating. And finally, those boards were available!

Mom is visiting from Florida and as pictured is helping spoil and care for the critters. Our projects this year during her stay is to try and finish up as many unfinsihed/mostly finished projects as we can. I'd also like to tidy up the ranch as it tends to get messy after a while. We seem to be starting at the front of the property and maybe we'll just work our way back.

Here are the boards when they were up on the restaurant face. They came off and on often while the workers were busy building up the bricks and planter, framing and stuccoing.

Yesterday my husband called to tell me to come and get the boards because all the new windows were finally in place. Mom and I headed down then and collected the goodies. There were more boards than I expected. Some have odd cuts in them, and we had to remove the old screws.

This morning we brought the old rechargable screwdriver and started to work. I only expected to get one of the big boards on, but we managed to get 5 up. Only one left to do. We're likely going to place a bracer across the front top as well. But that will have to wait until the batteries are charged again.

Here's our progress so far:

Absent Bellow

Doc Mary was scheduled to visit Karma September 25, 2013 because my cow had bellowed 20 days prior. And lo and behold, she was bellowing the morning of the 25th as well. She was apparently NOT pregnant. I had called Doc Mary's receptionist and gave her the message that my cow appeared to be in heat, and if she could get a hold of Doc Mary and ask her to bring her tank of Jersey semen, that would be great. But I had no message back and wondered if it would happen. It was late to be breeding her as I don't like milking in the stifling heat of summer.

I did my morning chores and called a lady we know who also keeps milk cows out in Sahuarita. Doc Mary had told me prior that they had a bull there and maybe if the AI didn't work, I should consider renting a bull to get the job done. They indeed, had a bull on site. A mini Jersey, polled and apparently good at jumping to reach the taller ladies. I acquired the bull owner's information and called her for good measure in case it came to all that.

By afternoon chores Doc Mary was there and she had gotten my message. I apologize for my lack of pictures. I was too busy bribing my affectionate cow to get her into the stanchion. The doc checked inside and confirmed that things were ripe and ready for planting season. I assisted by keeping my cow's hip in position so she didn't sway to one side or the other. Then the straw of Jersey juice was stuck in and the trigger pulled.

Karma's ear tag 'fell out' too while Doc was there. She made sure I cleaned the bad looking area up real good and put betadine on it. It's healed up now, just a little patchy as Karma likes to rub that ear on the trees a lot.

The next bellow date was October 15th. There was silence in the cow pen and it has been decidely quiet since then. So...I think she has a half mini Jersey bun in the oven. I hope it hangs on and stays put. If so, look for a calf June 2014. Cross your fingers for a girl.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

To Be or Not To Be...Preggers?

She was bellowing this morning. By my calculations, her heat cycle would be about September 12 if she is not preggers. So I called her girlfriend Doc Mary to come out and check Karma's parts to discover if she's knocked up or just moody and loud. She'll let me know when she's able to make a date.

In other news, if Karma's not preggers, Doc Mary may know someone who has a virile bull. We'd have to contact them and see if he's into spoiled brat little Jerseys...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Three Sisters

The Three Sisters Garden of the Iroquois is made up of corn, beans, and squash. Our pasture area never grew to fruition and so it is being transformed into a massive site for composting and gardening. The first planted row is a Three Sisters Garden.

As our animals' pens are cleaned, their manure is set in thick rows in the pasture area so that it can decompose and become fertile soil. The goats produce the best manure as they are picky eaters and tend to leave behind the bits of alfalfa they don't care for. Their leavings are a nice balance of poop and dried plant material, perfect for composting.

A dip along the center of the wide rows is made. The seeds are set in and covered lightly. Using old soaker hose covered with straw has already proven a simple and effective way to irrigate. The seedlings have shown themselves today:

Alpaca Shelter

This ugly but functional house was built from 12 wooden pallets, some 2x4s and corrugated metal roofing. The pallets are bolted and screwed together for added strength. It is about 8x8 feet inside and provides good rain shelter for the fluffy boys. The best part of all: they actually USE IT! The alpacas shelter inside or on either side of this new house, depending on where the sun is in the sky. On a real hot day, the shade in there feels pretty good. When it cools off some, I'll be adding siding and my favorite barn red paint.

My design is slightly based on the one here:  I didn't cut my pallets at an angle though, as electricity is limited to a generator at the ranch, and I don't like to mess with it much. My version was built with a battery powered screwdriver/drill. My roof has less of an angle and is mounted on the 2x4s which were set at a slight pitch atop the pallets.

This project took me about a week to finish as I can only work on it when the weather is tolerable and for as long as my drill had a charge. Two people could probably finish this, if they have electricity, in a day.

To Raise or Not to Raise?

Summer was harsh on the Gigantic Garden. The extreme heat, well over 100 degrees most days, and the lack of a strong, humid monsoon really took a toll on production. We had a few handfuls of cherry tomatoes, a decent crop of potatoes, maybe 7 zucchinis and 5 cucumbers. That's about it if you don't count the pretty sunflowers. Our young trees are straining to survive and all this with daily watering.

I've always believed there is no better water for a garden than rainwater. The evidence is clear after a nice downpour, when the plants stand at attention and act like that's the first real drink they've had in weeks.

We've always had raised beds in the garden, beginning with thin rows, then wider rows, but I built a prototype raised bed with rubber fence slats to see if the extra depth of loamy soil will help roots develop better and soil be retained and moist more so than a wide row on the ground.

I'll decide in a few weeks if I want more of these contraptions (which are very easy to build).

Today it was planted with peas, spinach, lettuce and green oinions. There is an existing fruit tree and surviving potato plant already in the bed.

Bellowing Update

Since her first date, Ms. Karma has not bellowed.
The consensus is that she's knocked up. Good job, Doc Mary!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

First Date Update

Karma's first date didn't go as planned. Doc Mary showed up. Ms. Karma made her way (albeit a bit suspicious) into the milk stall and I managed to get her mother's halter on her and lead her the rest of the way into the headgate. Cookie, her ever faithful friend, had to be coaxed out of the milking stall.

With the bribe of hay and sweet feed, Karma was positioned to meet her first boyfriend.

After a pelvic exam, Doc Mary confirmed that indeed, our little heifer was in heat. Karma is very obvious about being in heat. She bellows all day long and wants nothing more than something to pet her and rub her and whisper sweet nothings in her ear. She also jumped up on Cookie's back to let us know what she wanted done.

Doc Mary went to retrieve Karma's boyfriend, but returned to say there was a problem. Oh no! It seems the frozen miniature Jersey straw burst in the tank, spilling all over the bottom. Um ew. Karma was left with no date or...the second choice of a handsome straw of Dexter semen.

After some deliberation, we opted for the Dexter. We believe our previous steer (Baby Cow) was a Dexter. It's an Irish breed of cattle known for being small and also dual purpose (meat or milk). Doc Mary has both miniature Jerseys and Dexters at her place. She did say that Karma is a small Jersey and breeding her to a standard size bull was not a good idea.

The decision made, she went in from the upper hole to feel around and be sure when she was going in from the lower hole, that she had things in the right spot. Karma seemed pleased with this attention, which was a little weird, to say the least, but I guess she can't be too choosey as there are no bulls nearby to pick from.

Doc Mary found the right spot, pulled the trigger, and that was that.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

First Date

Karma eyeing me.

Karma has a date tomorrow. Her first date ever, and it's with a mini Jersey bull. Well, sorta. More accurately, Karma has a date tomorrow with Doc Mary's gloved hand and a straw of mini Jersey bull semen. She has been leery of the milking stall ever since the tattoo, ear tag, shot ordeal. So (pictured) I'm trying to convince her that the milking stall isn't always where bad things happen to sweet milk cows. It's a place where she can find alfalfa, bermuda, sweet feed, and mesquite bean pods before we quickly close the gate and the headlock and well... you get the idea. There a several reasons we don't want a bull to borrow or keep. Bulls are strong and when there's a lady cow in heat, they want to get to her. Like male goats in rut, they will push a person aside or plow through whatever is keeping them from their lady-love. I don't want a bull. I have enough trouble with my sweet milk cow getting her way because she's so big and strong and spoiled. We're trying AI this first time and opted for mini Jersey because that was what was available and because a smaller cow is a good thing. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

What's Happening in the Heat?

Sunflower in the Garden
The end of the school year is always a big adjustment around here. With the kids sleeping in and me being able to stay up late, the timing gets all out of whack. Not to mention the blistering hot heat of summer in Tucson.

I've found some ways to get around the heat, if I be good and stay on a schedule. First off, the farm chores still need to be done. A lot of people see pictures of the farm critters and think how nice it must be to have them. Milk goats need to be milked twice a day without fail. The critters need to be fed and watered twice a day. There are not-so-fun maintenance tasks like hoof trims, castration, pen cleaning, egg collecting and composting, but my point is, you still have to do all those things even when it's 100 degrees outside.

At first we all stayed up to ungodly hours and then slept in to go do chores around 11am. If you live in Tucson, you know that's insane. It's just too hot. By the time chores were done we were heading out at high noon, covered with sweat and melting in the heat.

So I now get up at the old school time of 7am and often head out to the ranch alone. While it's easier to get all the chores done with everyone, the truth is, I don't handle the heat well. I turn red and get dizzy. Plus, I like to hang around and do extra chores that don't get done when the whole family comes and wants to get in and out fast.

Pumpkin, our wooly ram. He's not very orange anymore.
Check out the nice metal feeder!

Chores like sweeping the pens and moving the poo to planting areas. There's something satisfying about a nicely swept sheep pen. Plus, after learning to spin wool, I now understand why alpaca is better than sheep fiber. Sheep lay down to rest anywhere--even in their own poo! Ew!

That means wool is skanky nasty stinky messy poopy stuff out here in Tucson where pasture just won't happen without some good monsoon rains. (Please rain.) So I hurry through the morning chores and then try to squeeze in the extra stuff.

To help with keeping pens cleaned and also to cut down on hay waste (my sheep never waste hay--they will eat it even if it falls in poop--gag) I purchased two metal feeders with drop pans. Goats are not as frugal as the sheep and will not eat stuff once it falls on the ground and gets nasty, so they got one too.

Freshly swept sheep pen.
There is always something that needs to be done. On the list is fence repair and lots of it. The goats are hard on fences and much of theirs needs to be reattached to the t-posts and more t-posts need to be pounded in for reinforcement.

I'd like to do some minor rearranging in the goat pen for ease of cleaning and to have additional areas for seperating animals when need be.

I still need to build two more rooster pens. This requires the aid of the child who begged for their lives when it was rooster eating time. He's not as motivated to build them each houses as he was to save them from being dinner. Plus, keeping a rooster in with the hens is nice and all, but he's a very efficient rooster and his constant attentions are making the hens go bald. He needs to be moved out.

Darius playing dead.
The alpacas, who are fattening up nicely and like to play dead to scare the heck out of me, probably need a better shelter in case mosoon rains really do come. (Please rain?) And they probably will move further back into the property. They get stared at a lot. I don't mind so much, but it's kind of weird when strangers pull up, stop their car, get out and come to the fence and start snapping pictures.

As I have gotten older, I am valuing my private time more than before. I don't necessarily want strangers to stop and hang out at my farm--the one place I go to find some peace of mind and get back in touch with nature. Plus, maybe the alpacas don't want people staring at them when they have to go potty. Poor guys.

The other trick is to come out after the sun goes down to do the evening chores. This works very well as long as everyone has a flashlight to navigate with. Some extra chores can get done at night too, but unless there's a full moon, it's not as easy to see what's getting done.

My husband and I think maybe we should be vampire farmers. Sleeping all day, staying up all night? Yeah. I could make that work.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Last Two Boys

Bronson and Buckles, the large two white boys, arrived at the ranch on May 11. Mrs. Cokely delivered them and they made the trip in the back of her van! When we had gone to meet the alpacas on shearing day, I had gotten into that same van with her daughter only to turn around and see a couple of alpacas back there, resting and waiting for their driver to take them back home. People's ingenuity never ceases to amaze me.

Bronson has a small wound on his face that was discovered at shearing, so I have to catch him and keep it clean. I also put on fly ointment so the nasty buggers will leave it alone. It seems to be healing up nicely. Buckles has a vision problem in his left eye. He holds his head to the side (which really makes look inquisitive) and he eats and gets along just fine otherwise. When hand feeding, we help him out by holding his treats right up to his mouth because he has trouble seeing exactly where they are.

The alpacas seem less intimidated by small children, less so by me when I'm seated rather than standing. Pictured above is Farmer G handing out goodies. They like their goat pellets, and are becoming assertive about making sure they get their fair share.

They're always dissapointed when the treats run out for the day. The boys have been letting us touch them, mainly enjoying neck pets. They're still a bit skittish, so we give them plenty of room if they want to move away.