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19 March 2013 – More snow! Alder and Acer look a little bedraggled with their wet topknots.
Usually they go into their shelter at the first sign of bad weather but they remained out in yesterday’s snow.
Yesterday started off raw and damp - and with snow in the forecast - Ella did not want to leave the barn. She remained cushed down in her corner of the stall all morning. I left the alpaca girls in as I knew that if they went out, Ella would go out with them, and I did not want her going out if she was cold.
In the early afternoon I fixed a large bowl of alfalfa for her. I keep bagged alfalfa on hand for those times when she seems to need a little extra boost. She rose to her feet and I turned out the girls.
While Ella readily followed them up to the pasture, she cushed down which indicated to me that she was cold, and when the first snowflake fell, Ella headed back to the barn, leaving the alpacas out in the field. I had left plenty of hay in the stall for her and she soon went inside to stay.
This morning, I was happy to see that she was up and on her feet when I entered the barn. But after eating her senior feed and a little more alfalfa, she cushed down in her corner – seemingly settled in for a while.
At her age slowing down is inevitably but I do hate to see it.
6 March 2013 – While there is much to like about our mid-Atlantic weather – four distinct seasons for one – we do have occasional episodes of intense weather. In the summer there will be day after day of unremitting heat and in the winter, day after day of below-freezing weather. Sometimes, while not excessive in temperature, the season simply goes on for too long. As with the days of summer, these days of winter are simply to be plowed through and endured. This was the view from my sunroom this morning.
The animals I am most concerned about are Ella, Acer and Alder. At 21, Ella is considered an aged llama. While I keep a close eye on her for signs of discomfort, and am quick to slip her a little extra of her special senior feed, I do worry about how she will manage the cold. Ella, as wise as always, has worked her own winter routine and looks out for herself. If she sees me anywhere near the barn, she will quietly slip away from the herd and come into the barn where she knows I am always quick to give her a handout.
In the late afternoon, the alpacas are accustomed to coming in around sundown for their evening feeding. Ella will come in a few minutes early in order to position herself for the night. She quickly eats her grain, then takes her place at the far end of the hay feeder, in the corner, next to the wall.
This is to reserve her place for the night. She sleeps in this corner, in the warmest part of the barn, where I have piled the straw bedding extra deep for her. Soon after eating a bit of hay, Ella kushes down into her place and this is where I will find her many hours later in the morning.
The remainder of the barn animals appear comfortable enough. We have the girls’ porch enclosed for the winter with panels of heavy plastic. This keeps out the prevailing winds and when the sun is out absorbs heat in the area. The other side of the barn has a southern exposure – the winter sun hits that side and warms it nicely.
Acer and Alder live away from the barn, up on a hill with a small 8 x 8 hut for shelter. Their hut is relatively cozy as it is partially insulated and just large enough for the two of them to sleep in. The main concern for them is seeing that they drink enough water. They need to drink a good amount in order to prevent kidney stones which can cause serious problems in male alpacas. As they do not have electricity to their shed, we must heat water twice a day to carry up to their shelter. When the temperatures are especially low, we take twice as much hot water up.
But, seeing the colors of the winter sunrise as I take the dogs on their morning walk, I have inspiration for my next batch of hand dyed yarn and I remind myself that all seasons have their joys as well as their challenges.
May you have a joyous holiday season and may the coming year bring you every happiness.
15 December 2012 - My knitters group met earlier this week. We meet once a month, gathering first for a pot luck lunch. We come from a variety of backgrounds and knitting experiences and our lunch menu is usually as varied as the group is. We always have a couple of salads and desserts – we eat healthy but do like our deserts. The other dishes are usually always vegetarian – a nod from the group to the dietary preferences of some of the members. I usually end up taking away more recipes than patterns from this monthly gathering.
After lunch we gather into a circle and settle into our projects. While most of the group chose to knit, there are those who work on other needlecraft projects – even mending and other light sewing. One of the members reads aloud a chapter from Zen and the Art of Knitting by Bernadette Murphy. We have been slowly making our way through this book – a chapter a month – with some time off when the book became temporarily misplaced! In this book, which I highly recommend, the author explores ways in which knitting brings calmness and peace into our lives. Listening to the reading while we knit is indeed a calming experience.
After the chapter of the month is read, our conversation resumes. I enjoy the comfort of this group. A member of one of my other fiber groups recently stated “I hate being in a group of cackling women!” This group does not cackle. We discuss a variety of topics and the conversation is respectful as we quietly click away with our knitting needles.
Sometimes just sitting quietly, enjoying being in the fellowship of others is enough – there is no sense of needing to join into the conversation in order to feel a part of this group of women who are united in our love of knitting.
Too soon, our time together is over – we gather up our supplies, say our goodbyes, and make our way off to the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives.
And I reflect upon how fortunate I am to have this circle of friendship in my life. And how fortunate I am to have discovered the Zen of knitting.
12 December 2012 - Cosmo is a bully. This unpleasant personality appears to be a family trait. His Mom Barbi, while sweet and accommodating with two-leggeds, is a real shrew towards the other girls. She fancies herself the Queen Bee of the barn and is always getting into spats – or should I saw “splats” as most often these tiffs end with splats of spit here and there.
Cosmo’s half sister Briza, like her Mom, can be nice when she wants to. She is always the first to come to the fence when a visitor is present and people are impressed by her friendliness. However, herd health is difficult at best with Briza. She hates having her toe nails clipped and we usually end up wearing some spit by the time we get to the last toe nail.
I am always trying to get Petey to stand up to Cosmo. I know, let them work it out among themselves – but Petey is such a sweetheart and I hate it when Cosmo is nasty towards him. Petey is gradually becoming more aggressive towards Cosmo and I was so happy to see that this morning, Petey and Jack had positioned themselves in front of the hay feeder in such a way that Cosmo could not get access to it. Cosmo looked totally bewildered. He is using to being the one that blocks the others’ access and now that the tables were turned, he did not know how to handle the situation.
When I checked back later, Cosmo was standing with the others at the hay feeder. But he was not eating. He had residuals of spit in his mouth so he had had bullied his way in.
When alpacas spit, it leaves a nasty taste in their mouths. You can always tell if an alpaca has recently been spitting as he will have his mouth hanging open to air it out and he will be reluctant to eat due to the foul taste.
So, poor Cosmo made his way to the hay rack but was not able to enjoy his breakfast until he aired out his mouth. Jack and Petey had obviously not been involved in spitting back at Cosmo as they were happily munching away while Cosmo stood at his place at the hay rack trying to air out his mouth before the others ate all the hay.
30 November 2012 – Our llama Ella, at 21, is a wise old girl.
This morning when I turned out the girls, they all went flying up the lane to their pasture. Right up the center of the lane where all the grass is worn down, where there is mud due to the recent snow, and piles of evidence of the horse having walked through earlier. They were slipping and sliding and splashing mud all over their lower legs and bellies.
Ella took her time. She stayed close to the fence line where there is still a thick bed of grass. She slowly made her way up the lane, watching where she placed her feet. She arrived at the pasture later than the alpaca girls – but just a short time later – and she arrived with clean feet, clean legs and a clean belly.
There is more than one moral to this tale!!
27 November 2012 - There is nothing like the first snow to make us realize that winter is fast coming on. Autumn has passed in a blur of fiber festivals and craft shows as I work hard to keep up with my fiber arts inventory. With two more shows to go (out of 14 this year) the end is in sight.
I have not written about the alpacas in a while. They are all doing well and appear healthy and in good shape going into winter. We worked hard on our pastures all summer so the alpacas should have decent grazing for a while yet.
We continue on a hiatus from breeding so we miss having crias around – it is such a joy to see them experience their first snow. However, due to the uncertainty of the alpaca breeding industry as a result of the economic downturns of the past few years, it makes financial sense for our farm to focus on the fiber aspects of the industry at this time. As I am on track to meet my financial goals for the year in regard to income from fiber, this has proved to be a prudent decision.
For the first time since we have owned her, M-O-Lee made it through the summer without some sort of gastric upset. Each summer, until this past one, M-O-Lee would have episodes of abdominal pain that became more severe each year. We were never sure what caused this, but have ruled out clover which would be the most obvious culprit.
M-O-Lee and Barbi continue with their frequent tiffs. When Barbi first came to our farm, she did not show any deference to M-O-Lee , the Barn Princess, and M-O-Lee has never gotten over it. Due to over-seeding in one of the pastures, access to the girls’ grazing areas is now through a narrow lane created by cattle panels. Going out to pasture is not problem. However, coming in at nightfall, Barbi and M-O-Lee each jockey to get to the head of the line.. As they go into the narrow lane, the lead alpaca (either Barbi or M-O-Lee) will stop dead in her tracks, blocking the path for the remainder of the girls. This causes quite a ruckus as the girls are anxious to go into the barn for their evening feed. Barbi and M-O-Lee start spitting at each other and the disruption goes right down the line until I barge through the logjam of alpacas and break it all up.
Recently Barbi pulled a new one. M-O-Lee was alone in a stall finishing up her AM feed. Barbi laid down on the porch across the entrance to the stall so that M-O-Lee could not get out. Poor Emmy was confused at first as this was a new trick on the part of Barbi. But she lifted her head, gave a little “air spit” and marched right over Barbi.
And so it goes
29 August 2012 – We certainly cannot say that these tomatoes are the fruits of our labor. They are the fruits of our compost pile – growing up and thriving on their own. We belong to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) where we get organic produce. I recently read that this coop uses only non-hybrid tomato seeds and our compost pile – which is a jungle of tomato plants – is testimony to that. Our tomatoes cannot be considered organic as the alpacas, which furnish the manure for our compost pile, receive an Ivomec shot monthly. This would invalidate any claim to being organic.
Our younger boys are happy with the results of Tom’s labor.
This is their new field shelter. I really like the design with the two windows which allows for air flow --- and the alpacas like to look out of them
The new shelter is in one of our back pastures which is used for day grazing. Each day when the boys are first turned out, Jack immediately goes into the shed. He looks out of each window. I have noticed that each of our two llamas likes to be at the highest point of whichever pasture they are in. From his perch in his new shelter, Jack can certainly have a good view of his domain. I enjoy watching Jack go through this little ritual each day.
Much of our labor this summer has gone into our pastures. As we do not want to use chemicals on our alpaca pastures, we mow every 7-10 days to keep the weeds from going to seed. It is also important to not let the grass go to seed which would cause it to stop growing. This routine is paying off and I am very pleased with the condition of our fields.
I have also been busy this summer preparing for the fall fiber festivals and craft shows. After some experimentation, I am getting the results I want from over dying fawn fiber.
This is from Alder’s medium fawn fleece, dyed a dark rust color. With the scarf, I used the same color for the weft and a gradient of the color for the warp which creates a variegated look. This has been fun to plan out and do and I look forward to trying this with other colors.
This weekend, September 1 & 2, I will be at the Heart of Lancaster Arts & Craft Show. This will be held at Root’s Market, 705 Graystone Rd., Manheim, PA.
This is a juried show with 200 exhibitors. There is free admission and free parking. Over 50 artisans will be demonstrating their crafts at their booths. I will be demonstrating spinning. Hours are 10 AM to 4 PM each day.
The following weekend, September 8 & 9, I will be at the Endless Mountain Fiber Festival. This is held at the Harford Fairgrounds in Harford, PA. This location is just a few miles off I-81 and makes for a great day trip for the fiber enthusiast. The hours are 10 AM to 5 PM on Saturday and 10 AM til 4 PM on Sunday. This is a great event and one that I really look forward to.
11 June 2012 – I have been asked to post my schedule of craft shows – so here is what I have confirmed so far:
June 17-18 – Summerfaire Arts & Craft Festival
New Kingstown Firehouse Grounds ~ 277 North Locust Point Rd., New Kingstown, PA
September 1-2 – Heart of Lancaster County Arts and Crafts Show
Root’s Market ~ 705 Graystone Rd., Manheim, PA
September 8-9 – Pennsylvania Endless Mountains Fiber Festival
Harford Fairgrounds ~ Harford, PA
September 29 ~ Harvest of the Arts
Carlisle, PA ~ Downtown area
October 13 ~ Oktoberfest & Crafts Fair
Army Heritage & Education Center ~ Carlisle, PA
October 27 ~ Willow Mill Fall Festival
Willow Mill Park ~ Mechanicsburg, PA
November 10 ~ Ashcombe's Farm & Greenhouse Holiday Open House
906 Grantham Rd. ~ Mechanicsburg, PA
November 17-18 ~ SAFONA Fiber Festival
Liberty Fire Hall ~ New Holland, PA
November 24 ~ Holiday Artisans Craft Show
Carlisle Expo Center ~ 100 K Street, Carlisle PA
December 1 – Christkindlesmarkt – Holiday Crafts Bazaar
Army Heritage & Education Center ~ 950 Army Heritage Rd., Carlisle, PA
December 8 ~ Gettysburg High School Holiday Market
1130 Old Harrisburg Rd. ~ Gettysburg, PA
I will write more about these events as the time draws closer and will also update as I add additional shows.
Summerfaire will be this weekend. This is a new, juried show and in addition to the crafts which are limited to items handcrafted in the US, there will be activities for children as well as a wide range of food available. We are taking some of the alpacas to this show.
I will also be taking a shawl – knit from Belle’s fiber. This is a close-up of the lace pattern
It is incredible soft and bright. When I look at Belle rolling in the dust, or covered with bits of hay and other debris, I have to remember how well she cleans up.
27 April 2012 - Every spring our male llama Jack has a major trauma. His fuzzy buddies disappear and two pencil-necks take their place. Not only does Jack not recognize his alpaca pals, but Cosmo and Petey do not recognize each other. They apparently look very strange to each other and the alpacas seem confused by Jack’s reaction to them.
Usually the alpaca boys sleep in their stall – Cosmo near the inside gate, Petey in the middle of the stall, and Jack across the outside door. The past couple of nights, since shearing, Jack has slept in the lane.
Petey has slept on the porch.
And Cosmo has commandeered the stall.
Finally, this morning Jack got up his nerve and marched right past the boys, into the stall and planted himself in front of the hay feeder.
Then Petey timidly crept in and helped himself to the grain in Jack’s feeding pan.
Cosmo was throwing air spits around but the others pretty much ignored him.
In another couple of days, they will be close buds again but I always wonder whether Jack eventually recognizes them – or does he see them as new companions which he has finally accepted? The girls have no problem with their post-shearing appearance. A few sniffs and they recognize one another. The boys make no effort to sniff each other out and so the drama has to play out over a few days.