Thursday, May 26, 2011

Almost Summer!

Yes, it must be almost Memorial Day Weekend because the hay is ready to be cut.  If the forecast ever stops calling for rain, the air will be filled with the sweet smell of new-mown hay.  

It will also help us to get on with our shearing.  We have managed to shear about 1/4 of our herd between rainstorms and trips out of town.  I also went to a friend's farm nearby and assisted them with shearing their herd this past Monday.  It's always fun to get together with friends and get dirty!  Somehow, the shearer and I were the only ones to get spit on.  I think I will invite said friends to come help US shear this weekend!

I will be attending the Great Lakes Fiber Show   in Wooster Ohio this Saturday.  I am not a vendor, just going to shop and drop.  By drop, I mean I am taking a car load of fiber to be processed into yarn.  The processors will be there to pick up fiber and it eliminates paying shipping one way.  By shopping, I mean, well, shopping.  There will be yarn and fleeces and weaving, knitting, and spinning supplies galore.  They will fill several barns at the fairgrounds.  It is a fiber-holic's paradise.  There will also be fuzzy and fluffy animals like sheep, goats, bunnies and yes, alpacas there.  I look forward to this event every year as it is the closest good-sized fiber festival to me.  All my spinning guild friends will be there and I will likely run into other alpaca breeders I've known for years.  

Last week when I was writing my post I mentioned that I thought one of our females, Tunita, was in labor.  Well she wasn't.  She actually had her cria yesterday.  Another male, which makes us 3 for 3 this spring.  2 more to go.  Tunita has never had a cria in the spring before and her gestation was a good 2 weeks longer than her previous longest gestation at 356 days.  This cria is big and strong and hit the ground running.  Sam said he was trying to stand up within minutes of birth.  He is sired by our own Straightfork Synchronicity, his first ever cria.  

3 hours old
When weighed this morning, he and Margarita's cria, who was born on the 14th, are exactly the same weight, 17.2 pounds.  Of course, this guy was "in the oven" for 34 more days!

3 hours old and 11 days old

We still have Micki who is at 359 days today and B'Nita (Tunita's daughter) who is at 349 days today to go. 

Mother's milk!

Last Friday before I went out of town for a friend's memorial service, I suited up and went to check our behive.  When I opened the end of the hive, I saw the most beautiful comb being made!  The weather was sunny and warm, so most of the bees were out and about gathering nectar and I did not feel at all threatened by them.  I was able to take a photo or 2 before closing the hive back up.  it is so exciting!

comb being built!
 As a new beekeeper, it is gratifying to open the hive and see that things are going as they should be.  If something was wrong and there was no queen in the hive, it would be chaos.  Instead, it looks very orderly.  On the other end of the hive, there was much more going on and I did not want to leave it open long enough to take  picture at this time.  I suspect that this is where the queen is laying her eggs and the workers are taking care of the brood and the queen.  They will be much more protective of this end of the hive at this time. Very cool.

 As a modern day farmer, I have some things at my disposal which make my life easier on a daily basis and I just thought I'd mention some of them.  First, is what we call our "little truck"

 it is a Japanese 4WD vehicle which was actually imported used from Japan.  It has right hand drive and a manual transmission.  It has been fitted with off-road tires and a hydraulic dump bed.  We use (and abuse) the heck out of this vehicle.  I think Sam said we have put 3K kilometers on it since we have had it and that is just here on the farm.  It is great for hauling hay, firewood and even people on occasion.  Rowdy LOVES to be my co-pilot.  Here is yet another use for it:  

Of course, our 4WD Kubota tractor is something it would be hard to do without.  It is necessary to brush hog the fields and pastures to control weeds. Without it, the hay baler would be nothing but an ugly lawn ornament.  The front end loader is more than handy.  When the snow is too deep for the little truck, I can load 4 bales of hay into the loader and take it to the alpacas.  It can move snowIt can scoop up a week's worth of poop at a time and dump it into the manure spreader.  It has too many uses to name.  We also have a back hoe attachment for the tractor which comes in handy when Sam needs to dig a trench for a water line or a gas line or to re-route the water running down our tractor roads into ditches on the side.  It is also useful for the sad times we need to dig a big hole, which does happen on a farm.

 My automatic waterer in the main alpaca barn is an incredible thing!  It is placed between 2 pens so that usually it is available to all the alpacas (and dogs) in the barn.  The stainless steel bowl holds about 2 quarts of water and is on a balance so that when the bowl gets low, it tips and the water flows into the bowl and refills it.  It is also heated in the winter and rarely does it get cold enough to actually freeze the water in the bowl.  It comes apart for easy cleaning and I have found it is much harder to keep clean now that I have 2 dogs drinking out of it as well as 30 alpacas.  Dog slobber!

 Another can't (means don't want to) do without item is a frost-free hydrant.  I have 5 of these on the farm, one at each alpaca building and one at the horse barn.  These are hooked right into the wells and are made so that all the water drains back out of them when they are shut off so that they never freeze (well, until a washer wears out).  Since each alpaca will drink about a gallon of water a day, having one of these spigots at each building eliminates hauling water from the house.  I can also attach a hose to them in the summer for hose parties for the alpacas:  They LOVE being hosed off when it is hot.  Unfortunately, my horse has been using this hydrant as a scratching post and I am afraid he may break it off, which will be a mess.  So right now I have a saw horse and my poop wagon creating a barrier around it.  You can still see white horse hair on top of the hydrant  and the hoof prints around the bottom!

My last useful item for this week is a small compressor.  It seems we are always needing to inflate a tire on something!  The gravel roads are rough on tires and there are always sharp objects finding their way into our car, truck and 4-wheeler tires.  Probably the oddest thing that Sam ever had to remove from a tire was a shed deer antler.  He did not see it in the woods and a tine embedded itself in the tire when he ran it over.  It left quite a large hole as you may imagine!  So this little compressor sits in the garage and is used on a regular basis.  I wish it did not have to be, but tires are expensive!

I have not had much time for fibery pursuits this past week, but I will be working on more rugs shortly.  

I will close with a photo of me running in the Rails to Trails 5K in Barnesville Ohio on the 14th.  This is right at the 1 mile mark and I was being passed by a walker!  To be fair, I think he was the winning walker.

I did not realize until I viewed the results online that I came in second in my age category for women.  I am pleased and now need to pick up my plaque!

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