Wednesday, March 22, 2017


According to the calendar, spring is here.  The peeper frogs have been announcing that it is spring for several weeks now, however.  Last night as I was returning home from agility class in Parkersburg with Grover, I stopped the truck beside the beaver pond and lowered my window to get the full effect of their chorus.  It was more like a cacophony!  The noise was nearly deafening.  There must be thousands of little spring frogs in that wetland the beavers have created.
I had a beaver sighting a couple of weeks ago.  It was the evening after a series of huge storms came though, leaving our yard looking like this.  I walked the dogs to the beaver pond at dusk and there was a beaver sitting on a felled tree right above the creek.  He knew I was there before I knew he was there and fortunately the dogs never knew he was there.  While I watched he slipped very quietly into the water on the far side of the tree and made almost no ripple.  That was it.  It made me happy though.  

Since the last post I wrote was dedicated to the losses of Chiquita and Buck, I am quite behind on what has been happening in my world.  So maple syrup season has ended.  It was a very poor season for us, with only about 2 gallons of finished syrup produced.  And the second gallon has an odd flavor, which I don't find very pleasing.  I think it was too warm and the trees were probably starting to bud and I have heard that that will affect the flavor.  So we will have no syrup for sale this year, sadly.  Hopefully next year will be better.

Grover and I attended 1 day of our club's March trial in Zanesville.  We had a family event for the second day of the trial which took precedence, so we had to pass on Sunday.  Saturday was a great day for us though.  We got our first Q in Premier Standard, which requires more difficult handling skills than Masters Standard.  It was only our second time running this class and I was quite happy we Q'd.  It is always the first class in the morning and to be honest, I have been signing up for it to use it as a warm-up run since it does not qualify for our Double Q's needed for a MACH.  I know, complicated.  So we Q'd in that, then we no Q'd in Master's Standard (of course that's the one that counts toward our Double Q!) and then we also Q'd in Masters Jumpers.  So we got 2 Q's out of 3.  Not a bad day at all.  Grover and I will be attending a trial in Columbus on April 7 & 8.  A new venue for us.  And then our club's final trial of the "season" in Zanesville is April 21, 22 & 23.  

 While spring is here and with it, daylight savings time, it really hasn't been nice enough to do a lot outside.  There is a lot to do.  I have to clean all the sap buckets and taps and tubing and store away.  There is a mess in the yard left from the flooding a couple of weeks ago and all my agility stuff needs to be gotten out and set back up and  ready for practice.  At this time of year it seems everywhere I look on the farm there is something that needs to be done and I get anxious to get at it.  And the long days of being outside will be here soon, but for now, I am taking advantage of the weather to get some inside stuff done.  I just took 4 towels off my small loom.  They are all one color warp and then each one has a different color weft.  I also finished weaving and sewing some linen bread bags and I finished the hems on 2 rugs I took off the big loom a couple of weeks ago or more.

 I had dyed the orange and red rug yarn for the orange striped rug and I was so pleased with how it came out that I decided to do a similar rug for my weaving studio.  It will be larger, about 3.5' X 6' when finished, which is as wide as I can weave on my loom.  It will use natural white and black alpaca rug yarn and will be striped with turquoise and purple, to match my studio, which I have also painted in the last week.

 I plan to paint the trim purple and there are 2 walls in the turquoise and 2 in the butternut squash yellow color.    I first dyed my purple yarn, which came out a little darker than I wanted it to, but it will be fine.  I need half as much of it as I do the turquoise and I am very pleased with how the turquoise came out. 

This was no small dyeing feat as I had to dye 4 skeins of this turquoise and each skein was almost a pound and 40 yards.  Each skein needed to be dyed separately to allow for plenty of room in the dyepot, so I had to be very careful with my measurements and process to be sure they all came out the same color, which meant taking good notes.  I think I did a pretty good job.  I only had to dye 2 skeins of the purple.    I have 2 dyepots that are big enough to handle this job, so I did 2 at a time.  It is a long process, requiring most of a day from start to finish, though a lot of that time is just allowing the pots to come up to temperature and then cool down at the end.  And of course I end up with dye everywhere, though I try to be very careful.  I am glad this job is done!  Now for the weaving.  Once the loom is warped, it should go pretty quickly.

This will be a very different spring for us this year.  Shearing used to be a huge chore every spring, requiring days of work.  There were years we sheared more than 50 alpacas, and sometimes with no outside help, though we have had a lot of that over the years.  We would spread the job over several days and weeks and it was always so satisfying to throw those very last fleeces into the shed and clean the barn up for the final time.  It was hard dirty, sweaty, smelly work, but it was just part of our life as alpaca breeders.  Last year, we sheared only 5 alpacas and this year it will be only 3.  Sam says he wants to get them all done in one day.  I think we can manage.  And I lost my last hive of bees and I do not plan to get anymore.  I have come to the conclusion that while I like the bees, I just am not dedicated enough to do everything that really needs to be done to keep them healthy.  I like to hope that I have contributed to the population of wild honeybees with swarms from my hives over the last several years.  

So this spring, I will once again concentrate my efforts on the garden.  Our garden did so well last year and I hope to make it a success again this year.  And of course there will be hiking in the woods and dog agility and afternoons at the pond.  And mowing and making hay and all those things that make life on the farm so incredibly enjoyable and rewarding for me.  Bring it on!


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

This is a Tough One....

Chiquita Margarita (10-18-98 to 3-9-17)
I had every intention of writing a post last Thursday when I came in to our office, but that morning, Chiquita was down in the pasture and unable to get up, even with help.  I had known the end was coming, but it is still hard to say goodbye.  Chiquita's teeth were worn down so much she was having trouble chewing her food and she had lost so much weight over the last few months.  She has always held a special place in my heart, being one of the original 3 alpacas we purchased in the spring of 1999.  She was sassy and had a bit of an attitude, but she produced 12 crias, 3 females and 9 males, in 12 years before we retired her in 2012.  Her first female cria, Promise, was even auctioned off at the Alpaca Owner's and Breeder's National Auction in Louisville KY in 2004.  Lots of alpacas came and went over the years, but Chiquita was one of my favorites, so she never left.  She earned her retirement and spent the last 4 years or so living a life of ease here on the farm.  She will be missed. 

Buck 12-10  to 3-10-17

But, it gets worse.  Just the next morning, I went out to feed the other 3 remaining alpacas and the dogs, Buck and Star.  Buck had had some facial swelling the day before and we had the vet come out to look at him.  She treated him for an allergic reaction and told us to keep an eye on it.  The swelling was down a lot Friday morning so I was happy.  He ate like he usually does and I left the barn feeling hopeful.  I never made it to the other barn to feed the cats because I heard the terrible sound of a dog screaming in pain and I turned and ran back to the barn, only to see Buck standing in the barn with his left hind leg dangling from the hip.  As was his habit, after eating he went into the girls' pen to clean up any food they dropped and then climbed through the wooden hay rack that separates them from the lone male alpaca, to clean up after him.  Somehow, he got that leg caught in the hay rack, I am sure.  I was able to get him to the vet within a couple hours where my worst fears were realized.  He had a spiral fracture of the femur, which would require surgery with metal plates and this could not be done locally, but would have to be done in Columbus and probably not until at least Monday.  I had already decided that surgery was not an option for a dog who had never spent a day in confinement in his life, and so I made the decision to euthanize him.  Buck was born in December of 2010, so was only a little over 6 years old. It is so hard to go out to the barn now and not see him.  I'm not sure if Star misses him or not.  She may in her own way, but they were not really close.  I will never have another Great Pyrenees, as much as I love them, I have lost too many, too soon.

It just seems right to end this post and leave it as a memorial to both Chiquita and Buck.  One who is deserving of her rest, and one who has gone to it too soon.  Rest easy my friends.