Thursday, July 29, 2010

High Summer on the Farm!

Even up at the pond there is sometimes a line for the outhouse..........

But Rowdy wonders why Sam didn't make it a 

Summer is keeping us busy.  We have been doing "weed-control" on the pastures, which is also known as mowing them, since the alpacas are choosy about what they will eat.  Pastures usually need to be mowed 2 or 3 times a year to keep the undesirable vegetation at bay.

I also made a 480 mile round trip earlier this week to pick up female alpacas at farms where they were being bred.  In one day I saw Canton, Akron, Cleveland, Youngstown, Pittsburgh and Stuebenville.  Rowdy, my devoted companion and ride-along-dog accompanied me on my travels.

The pond has been a big hit.  We had lots of family and friends out the last couple of weeks using our guest house and playing in the pond.  A friend of my brother's who visits us every year on Labor Day sent us a big trampoline float for the pond.  Very fun!  It was a hit with my niece and nephews and their friends who were here last weekend.


As the photos a the top of this post show, we now have an outhouse at the pond, which has enough room in it to also act as a changing room for those who are modest.  And the picnic pavilion is also finished.  It was so nice to sit up there with my sister-in-law and her friend last weekend and watch the 5 kids wear themselves out in the water!  All we needed was a waiter to bring us Pina Coladas!

And what, you ask, do the alpacas do in 90 degree heat?  Well they spend a lot of time sitting in the barn in front of their fans 

Until someone (Me) comes out and gives them a "Hose Party"!
 Alpacas absolutely LOVE to be hosed down on a hot day.  They fight and squabble like a bunch of kindergarten kids to be right in front of the hose.  I have to stay on the other side of the fence during all this or I am likely to get stepped on, run over or kicked in the confusion!

Once they are nicely cooled off and wet, the next favorite thing to do is to go roll in the dust bath and then sunbathe.  Isn't that what YOU would do??

We have had our first ripe tomatoes from the garden with more to come.  I have finished canning the beets and the squash plants are taking over!  I have butternut and acorn squash planted and the vines have gone crazy.  We will have our first butternut squash soon, I think.  If only my son the chef was here to make us some more totally awesome soup.  YUM!

I have not had much time to devote to fiber the last week or so.  Between visiting family and humane society duties (I am a co-director of our local shelter, it just happened one day), but I have spent a lot of time thinking about what to do with some of that fiber.  On the 7th of August, my spinning guild is having a "Dye Day" at one of the members' farms.  We will all get together and eat and drink and dye yarns, rovings, etc.  So, I think I need to prepare some white fiber and rovings to take along and see if anyone wants to try out some alpaca! 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Meet Apache!

So, previously you met Cheetah, the livestock guard dog through this blog.  Now you will meet another long time resident of our farm, my old friend Apache, affectionately known as Patch.

As long as I can remember, I have loved horses.  As a girl growing up in the suburbs, my greatest desire was to live on a farm and have a horse.  I lived, breathed and dreamed horses.  I drew them in algebra class in 9th grade.  I drew them constantly.  I read all the requisite horse books, Black Beauty, the Black Stallion, Misty of Chincoteague and any others I could find.  My best friend in high school even gave me a horse (a poster) for my 16th birthday!  I went to horse camp.  I got on a horse any time the opportunity presented itself.  I was, in a word, horse-crazy.  

But I grew older and life came at me, along with marriage and a child and then a divorce.  Then I met Sam.  We soon married and had another child and worked and saved money and in 1991 we bought a 5+ acre piece of cornfield in central Indiana, where Sam's job in restaurant management had taken us the year before.  We had a house built, with the main floor finished and Sam spent the next winter finishing the upstairs while we lived downstairs and dealt with drywall dust and the other inconveniences of construction work.  In 1992, we were ready to start building a BARN and FENCES!  My dream of horse ownership was about to come true.

My first horse was not the best choice for a first-time horse owner and I kept her only a short while before tearfully deciding to sell her, which I did, at a local horse auction.  I then started to look for a gentle, well-mannered, well-trained horse, and Apache, an Appaloosa, came into our lives in July of 1993.  He was 8 years old, reliable, trustworthy and with a heart as big as the rest of him.  17 years later, he is still with us.   Here he is in Indiana with my two sons, shortly after he joined us.  
 And with my husband, Sam

Patch and I did a lot of trail riding together and a lot of riding on our local country roads and we even herded cattle one time at a friend's parents' farm.  THAT was fun!  Patch was one of the only horses in the group that day who did not snort and turn tail when he saw those cattle!  We also rode in a few of the local horseman's club shows, although Patch was definitely not a show horse.  Here we are in 1995 just having a good time 

We had other horses through the years, including a black Tennessee Walker and another Appaloosa, who is buried here on the farm in Ohio, but Patch has been the only constant.  I don't ride him much anymore since I don't have anyone close by to ride with.  He is pretty much a retired pasture potato and enjoys the life of a horse with about 40 acres to roam and a barn to run into when it's hot or rainy or snowy.  A couple times a year he gets saddled up for the nieces and nephews to ride and once in a while I decide I need to ride as well.  He has earned his retirement and often hangs out with his head over the fence into the alpaca pasture, probably wondering if their hay is greener than his! 

Here is the real me with Apache just this morning.  He hadn't been saddled in 6 months and I rode him bareback all over the yard with nothing but a halter and lead rope.  That's my dream horse!
 Things around the farm go on as usual.  It has been SO busy.  Last week, my mom and youngest niece arrived on Wed and stayed til Saturday so mom could leave her dog with us while she travels.  My niece is 10 and loves to visit.  She is a great kid and I look forward to her spending more time with us as she gets older.  Then my OTHER niece, who is 20 and in college arrived on Thursday and stayed til Sunday.  She needed a break form work and summer classes and social pressures and I am glad that she feels our farm is a good place for that.  This Firday, my sister-in-law and her best friend are coming with their 5 kids total to stay in the guest house until Sunday, so it has been family time this month!  

I have not been doing much knitting.  Working on a summer top in a hemp blend commercial yarn and it's not very inspiring knitting.  I hope to finish it before we go on vacation next month.  I have been spinning, though.  I have spun up 4 oz of each of the 3 alpaca rovings I hand-dyed before the weather got nice.  Here they are all spun up.  I think they are great!  Now to decide what to make with them and to find the time!!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Heat Wave, Pond Happenings and a Dose of Real Life

Yes, it has been HOT.  Rowdy has the right idea, a cooling dip in the pond!

And speaking of the pond, the picnic pavilion has been going up.  Sam got the posts set with very little help from me and then it was time to build trusses.  Once the trusses were ready, all it took was a case of beer or 2 over the 4th of July weekend and several neighbors and Sam's brother showed up to get them in place.  Fortunately no hammers were dropped on anyone's head!

I may have mentioned before that we have great neighbors, but you can't say that too many times.  We are all lucky to have such a good relationship, both for work and fun.

All we need now is the metal for the roof, which has been ordered from some local Amish.  Sam also plans to put an aerator in the pond which will be powered by a windmill which will be mounted on the roof of the pavilion.  Since our pond is sourced from run-off and not springs, the aerator should help to keep the water clearer.  Right now it is still so muddy because there are not yet any plants to keep the dirt settled.  

We have had several days of 90 + degree weather this week.  It has made getting any outdoor work done difficult to say the least.  But now we have the bush hog on the tractor and we have lots of mowing to catch up on.  I often think it would be nice to have another tractor so we could just keep the mower on it all the time.  We have pastures that need mowed, which I call "weed control", we have our walking/4-wheeler trails to mow, and just various open areas which we don't want to get totally grown over.  

I have been doing some spinning since it is so hot outside.  It's nice to sit in the air conditioning and spin.  I also canned another batch of beets this week and probably have 1 more to do next week.

Life on our farm is for the most part pleasant.  Yes, we work hard, but we enjoy the work.  It is satisfying to do a good day's work and be able to see the results at day's end.  

Sometimes the other side of life intervenes and we are faced with death.  I have had to choose to euthanize 3 dogs and a horse in the last 12 years.  Most were aged and their quality of life was compromised if not uncomfortable and I have always known I was doing what was best for them even if it hurt me. 

This past week we lost a 3 week old cria.  She was our last cria of the spring to be born.  She was the only female cria of our own that we had this spring.  She was the 9th cria from one of my 2 favorite females.  She was so healthy and full of life on Thursday, and on Friday morning, she was down and having seizures.  Within an hour of my finding her, she was gone.  Her mother, Peg, cried for her for 48 hours, gazing out the door of the barn in the direction in which she saw her baby being taken. 

I have always had the hardest time with the death of the young ones.  At least this one had a chance to enjoy life, no matter its brevity.  I feel really bad about the ones who are never healthy from the start and whose lives are a struggle until we finally lose the battle.  These critters never get to enjoy life.  Fortunately, this is a very small segment of our farm population, and most critters here live long happy lives.  I couldn't do it otherwise.

                                                  Aurora     6-11-10 to 7-2-10