I have a reprieve today from the not-so-fun task of adding hay to the barn. Starting in late October or early November, there's not enough nutrition left in the pastures for the animals to graze, so we begin to throw hay. I am very lucky to have plenty of acerage for summer grazing. I am also very lucky to have a wonderful next-door-neighbor with a large haying operation. Earlier this month, Eric delivered a wagon of about 150 bales. Another 50 were due this weekend, but we've postponed it due to the rain. I unloaded and stacked the first load in the barn myself, taking a full morning to do it. It is a rewarding task, but you do end up with scratches and chaff down your shirt. There's also the surprise of the occasional live snake that crawls out of a bale.
I used to help Eric's father hay about 5 to 10 days for many summers and enjoyed the work. Fields and pastures in this part of the state are anything but level so standing on a hay wagon, grabbing and stacking bales...
The first cria arrived last week. When we first started to breed alpaca, when Julia was still a young child, we decided that all the animals born here should be named after Presidents and First Ladies. The exercise required that she do a little bit of research and tell us something special about the name. Every summer when we're expecting cria, Julia develops a list of her favorite names. We have all parties represented -- Democrats, Republicans, and even a few Whigs. We don't stick to gender conventions, either. We have a female Madison, for example.
Our newest cria is Taft and his mom, Rachel, is a wonderful and attentive animal. Taft was 18 pounds at birth and has continued to put on weight.
We've had a bit of excitement of a larger sort. A local cattle farmer houses keeps some of his beef critters at our next door neighbor's farm. A few of the cattle broke through the fences and ended up in my rhubarb patch. No bull; there was a bull.
While we wait for our baby alpacas, Julia and I are tending to a flock of chicks. Our brooder is a hot pink plastic kiddie pool and it's in our garage. A heat lamp hangs from the rafters and a frame with plastic hardware cloth, placed over the pool, keeps the chicks in and the cats out. The day that the chickens arrived (5 layers, 15 broilers, and 1 free exotic), I went to a local feed store to get starter grain. I brought home 5 unsold buff orpingtons because I couldn't bare to leave them there. When I arrived home, Julia told me: "Mom, you will never be a crazy cat lady when you get old. You'll be a crazy chicken lady." I'm down with that.
You may call me a crazy chicken lady, but with egg prices as high as they are due to the chicken deaths related to a bird flu epidemic in the mid-west, raising a home flock isn't really all that daft. The chickens eat scraps of food, devour grubs, and provide eggs that are tastey and pretty. And, I'm surprisingly fond of the s...
It only took me 11 years, but I finally have the website for Columbine Hill Alpaca Farm up and running. After sharing it with my harshest critics, my husband and child, I've asked my friends on Facebook for feedback
The feedback was great and helpfully constructive. One friend told me that she wanted to know more about the animals. Another asked why one would knit with alpaca fiber. A third friend said that she liked its simplicity and I agree that websites with TMI are just no fun to navigate. I figured a blog might help supply that sort of detail while keeping the website simple.
I will vow to try to keep this interesting and useful, and not too much like one of those Holiday Newsletters that highlights only the good things.
This is, after all, a farm. Things break, die, leak, rust, and do not go as planned. And that's just referring to me.
This is an old picture from a fall day, but given this spring's temperatures, it isn't all that out of place!