Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Rainy Weather Continues

Rowdy likes nothing better than a nice swim in the creek or pond between rain showers, of which we have had a lot lately.  It is hard to get anything done outside like shearing or planting the garden or mowing the lawn.  I was supposed to go to the farm of some friends to help shear this past Monday, but I ended up just going over to socialize, as their alpacas were too wet to shear.  We have still been unable to start our own shearing between the rain and our schedules.

I ran my first 5K this past Saturday.  Last year, Rowdy and I entered as a "canine team" and we had to walk, but this year I left Rowdy home and ran.  I had a respectable time (to me ) of 31:09 and was pleased.  Rowdy is just not comfortable in crowds and I did not think the venue was set up in a very dog-friendly way last year, as there was no place for the dogs to "hang out" after the race while waiting for prizes and awards and eating.  Obviously many participants from last year felt the same as there were only 9 dog teams entered this year and last year there were many.  I hope to enter some more 5Ks in the future and need to work to better my time!

Last week, I wrote about alpaca gestation lengths and mentioned that you just never know when a female will give birth.  Well, on Saturday, while I was at the 5K, Margarita gave birth to her cria.  She was the LAST one bred last June, a good 2 weeks after anyone else.  Her cria came at only 322 days, which is a bit earlier than I like, but HE is doing well. 
Margarita and first cria born 5-14-11


This is Margarita's first cria and he was quite small at only 13.2 pounds.  He is a lovely "vicuna" color, which is a fawn fading to almost white on underbelly and legs.  

The Vicuna is a wild cousin of the alpaca which lives in the Andes mountains and has not been domesticated.  They are rounded up about every 2 years in South America and shorn and then turned loose again.  Their fiber is extremely fine and very valuable.

Wild Vicuna
 This cria was from an outside breeding, where we send our female off to be bred to a male we do not own.  His name is Mr. Bojangles and he is a brown male with white on his legs.  I was hoping for a fawn offspring from Margarita and him and that's what I got.

So we still have 3 births to go this spring and I was fairly sure this morning that Tunita, who was bred on June 4th, was going to have her cria today, but no news from Sam so far.  She was showing classic signs of impending birth which include not coming in to eat, staying off by herself, rolling and spending longer than usual at the poop pile.  We'll see.

Since there is not a lot going on due to the rain this week I thought I'd share a little bit about my morning routine on the farm.  Morning is when I do the most as far as "chores" go.  After my morning coffee, Rowdy and generally head out to do the feeding and poop-scooping.  Alpacas are nice in that they tend to use communal poop piles, which makes clean-up much easier.  Of course, they usually have more than 1 poop pile per pasture, but for the most part, they keep it all together.  

Poop pile with my tools of trade
We have 4 separate housing/pasture areas for the alpacas.  In each pasture, I have a "poop wagon" (see photo above), a rake and a shovel.  A fork also comes in handy. I always start at the "garage pasture" so called due to its being next to the garage.  Here is where we usually have weanlings.   There are never more than about 6 to 8 alpacas in this pasture, so clean-up and  feeding are quick.  From there, I go to the main barn, or "girls barn" as we call it.  We have about 30 alpacas here most of the time.  All our pregnant females and females with crias at side.  This is the most work.  I scoop inside the barn, put out up to 3 bales of hay per day in the winter and scoop outside, weather permitting.  I also spread sawdust in the barn on the floor once I have scooped.  This helps to absorb urine and reduces odor.   Since the crias are in this barn, I may weigh them at this time and I may spend time watching the females in the maternity pasture for signs of labor. This is where the dogs live also, so I feed them once I have finished my clean up and am ready to move on.

My next stop is the horse barn, where Apache gets his grain (hay as well in winter) with a joint supplement.  There are also several barn cats living here and they get fed as well.

From there, we walk about a quarter mile down the road to our other 2 pastures.  One is across the road from our guest house and one is behind the guest house.  Across the road right now we have 5 unbred adult  females housed in a 3 sided shed.

The girls "down the road" across from the guest house
 This is also an easy area to clean up, especially since I put new lime screenings on the floor in the shed almost 2 years ago and no one has dirtied it yet!  That is a miracle in itself. In other words, no matter how inclement the weather, these girls leave the shelter of their building and go outside to "go".  It will only take one, one day, to decide not to go outside in the pouring rain, and the building will become a new poop pile.  That's why I had to put new screenings down.

The boys waiting for me with the feed bucket
After this pasture, I go back behind the house to the "boy's field".  Here is where our adult males live together.  There are 8 right now, which is about the maximum the field and building will accommodate.  They are not as tidy as the girls and I re-did the lime screenings in their building at the same time as the girls'.  They, however, re-started the poop pile inside their building within hours of the new flooring going down and have been using it daily.     With only 8 here and 5 across the road, I spend about 1/2 an hour, which includes my walk down the road and back.  This pretty much ends my morning routine.  I often have to move hay or feed as well, but not every day, just once a week or so.

I have become an avid audio book listener.  Having a good book plugged into my ears makes the work go more quickly.  I found before I got an MP3 player that I always had one song stuck in my head playing over and over every day, so I started with music and moved on to audio books.   I always listen to music while walking or running, but I love the audio books for chore time, housework, knitting, etc.  

Speaking of knitting, etc, I took the first 2 rugs off my "new" loom a week ago.  I still  have to finish  them (stitch the end bindings) but am pleased with them.  The first is a 2' X 6' runner

And the second is a 2' X 3' in grey with black and white accents.  I LOVE this one!

 On my knitting needles I have the first 12" or so of the bulky lace vest from the hand-spun alpaca/cormoX roving.  I love how it is coming out so far.  The pattern is nice and it goes quickly on big needles.

Hoping to get started shearing this weekend!  I think there is a dry day in the forecast!!


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