Thursday, June 7, 2012

Shearing is Finished for Another Year!

Late evening hayfield in June

We have been enjoying a nice break in the heat this week.  As you may recall from last week's post, we sheared several alpacas in 95 degree heat.  Well this week, we finished up the last 11 alpacas in temperatures that were 20 degrees lower.  What a difference!  It has been in the 70's during the day and has dropped as low as 46 degrees at night here in the holler.  But that is all about to end soon.  It's summertime!

Yes, shearing is done.  We had planned to start early on Saturday and finish up all 11 we had left to do, but mother nature intervened with rain all day on Friday.  Mostly it was nice steady rain, but there were a few times that it came down in torrents.  Between that and the cool weather, we had soaking wet alpacas on Saturday morning.  We could not really complain about the rain as it is beneficial for the garden and the pastures and hayfields, but we just can't shear wet alpacas.  It is an exercise in futility.  So we occupied ourselves with other things and around 2 pm we decided the 'pacas were dry enough to do some shearing.  By the time we got through 7, we were ready to quit.
Alpacas do not go meekly to the shearing table.  They are not the world's  brightest creatures and seem convinced that anytime someone gets hands on them they are going to the BBQ.  Not as a guest.  So some put up a good fight.  Sam and I are capable of handling just about anything they can dish out, but not always without injury.  I made it most of the way through shearing season without any spectacular bruises until Saturday.  You can see where the toenail scraped down my leg and the bruise spread.  Now, 5 days later, it is even more colorful.  The one who did this also kicked me in the shoulder.  

7 on Saturday left 4 for Sunday.  We did start fairly early on Sunday (after a brunch of blueberry pancakes) as we were eager to finish up and get to work on fence replacement.  We had to tear down the old fencing, replace any posts that were broken, clear away any heavy brush and weeds along the fence and then roll out and nail up the new fence.  By 6 pm we were about done in.  But, we have lots of nice new fencing up.  It is not quite finished, but as I said, we were all in.

The old fence is still laying in rolls in these photos, waiting to go to the dump.  We got almost a whole 330' roll of fencing put up.   Not a bad day's work.

In other news around the farm, we have managed to reduce our alpaca herd by about 25% in the last 3 weeks or so.  I have sold off my young males as well as one of my boarder's herds and a couple females of my own.  Going from 50 alpacas down to the current population of 35 is wonderful.  My work load seems to be so much less.  I have 3 more females sold and would like to sell my other boarder's herd by fall since I have several crias coming and would like to be under 40 for the winter.  That means less hay will need to be in the barn and less work over the winter.  Ideally, I would like to have 25 or less alpacas for fiber production, and of course I have 3 or 4 alpacas here who have been with me for 12 or 13 years who can just live out their lives here.

 Here is one of those girls standing in the doorway to the shed.  That's Peg.  I've had her since 1999.  She is due this fall with maybe her 10th cria and then she will probably retire from production.  I REALLY want a female from her this year as we lost her 2010 female cria.  

We also had a stray dog attack on our chickens on Monday.  It is a dog I have had some problems with before, but his owners had moved farther away last year and he had not been around for some time.  I chased him off when I realized he was chasing my chickens, but he came back later when I wasn't at the house and he did some damage.  I did not see most of the chickens until much later in the day as they went into hiding, but there were numerous piles of feathers in the yard and barn lot.  At dusk, the last poor chick limped home to the coop, missing 50% of her feathers and trying not to put too much weight on one leg.  Another hen had also lost a lot of tail and butt feathers and one or two others had a few feathers missing.  I have been really worried about the more seriously injured chick and have been afraid she would be dead every time I have gone to the coop, but she is  hanging in there.  Hasn't left the coop in 2 days, but she was even up on the roost last night, instead of sprawled on the floor like she was Monday and Tuesday night.  Time will tell.  She seems determined to pull through.

I have been feverishly cleaning the guest house of a winter's worth of bugs and dust this week.  I have 5 "girls" who I went to high school with coming in tomorrow for a reunion weekend on the farm.  I am looking forward to it.  I went to high school in the Cincinnati area, which is on the other side of the state and I have lived in New York and Indiana and Columbus and over here in Monroe County since graduating 30+ years ago and I had not really kept up with these friends over the years.  But believe it or not, Facebook allowed me to get in touch with them, and several of us met for dinner last summer and this weekend has been in the works ever since.  It is hard for 6 people to find a couple days together that will work for everyone.  But it looks like it is going to happen! 

As for fibery stuff, not much has been going on.  My studio is piled with bags of fleece waiting to be skirted.  Ugh.  It is hard on the back. But I'll get to it after this weekend.  I am still knitting the dog/cat satchel for our fundraiser which is 2 weeks away.  I'll get it done.  Almost there.  In the meantime, I knitted an afghan square for a swap I got into through   This is the second of 4 12" X 12" squares I have to knit and send to a recipient.  I will in return receive 4 squares from other participants.  My first square went to a lady in England in April and this one needs to go out this month.  It is going to a knitter in California.  It's all secret, so while I know who I am knitting for, I have no idea who is knitting a square for me.  It's kind of fun.  We all include other "goodies" in the packages and post photos of what we got on the forum.  

I'll end with a couple photos I took on a late evening walk last night.  

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