Spinning My Wheels- Take 2 (from fluff to fiber)

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Jill’s friend was selling a spinning wheel.  I told myself I should not be spending so much money.  She had a carder available too.  Both of them were the same price I paid for my spinning wheel two years ago and each had only been used twice.  I figured that if we are crazy enough to jump off this cliff and give this homesteading full time thing a go, then we should just jump full out and see what happens.  If I fail it won’t be because I was five hundred bucks short.

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Do you recall my story?  Two years ago I bought a spinning wheel and two alpacas with the hopes of getting sheep.  Doug termed the name PackyWoo and we were going into the yarn business.  I had trouble getting the hang of spinning and was so frazzled at the time that I didn’t have the patience to learn.  The alpacas were not friendly and kicked, at about visiting kid height.  We were not able to sell them and lost all of that money.  We sold the spinning wheel for less than we paid.  It was a heartbreaking bust.  I didn’t know I was getting sheep.

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My sheep are the two craziest, cutest, little line backers around.  They love to romp and play and hug and nuzzle and get scritched (yes, that is how we say it).  They make me want some more sheep.  They make me want to create the dream I had dreamt before.  Raise the animal, sheer the animal, card the wool, spin the wool, grow the plants used for dye, color the yarn, and use it to knit or crochet hats, and blankets, and shawls, and sell some gorgeous yarn too.  I understand that only having two sheep will get me roughly a pair of socks.  But, I do this stuff for the love of it, not for the profit.  If they could help bring in a little income, they are welcome to.  If they just want to be freaking adorable and brighten my day, so be it.

In the meantime, I have a spinning wheel, a carder, two month old lambs, and a dream.  What could be better?

Choosing Farm Animals (no alpacas this time…)

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We went over to Sylvia’s farm Sunday afternoon.  The day was warm and sunny and her alpacas were wandering happily about their pens.  Sylvia was a gracious host and went over again everything we would need to know after taking the two alpacas home that she had generously offered us.

They are very cute boys.  Buddy is small and fluffy and his friend, Carmello, looks like a camel.  Their fleece is lovely and they didn’t kick me or spit at me.  They did immediately head away from anywhere we were.  That is how alpacas are.  I don’t know if I thought these alpacas would be different.  They would run up to me and want their noses rubbed and a hug around the neck.  They aren’t mean but they aren’t really friendly either.  A little newborn kept nibbling at my shirt and was absolutely adorable but would skitter away as I turned around.

We thought it through, we planned.  We decided.  Not this year.

Our Lady of the Goats

When I write something on this blog and set it out into the universe it starts spiraling.  It starts manifesting.  And my dream for this year is Doug’s as well and we are going to make it happen.  (Look for the full scoop later this week!) but for now, our entire income will hinge on the success of our Homesteading School including the Certified Herbalist arm.  Farm tours and interns, vegetables, milk shares, eggs, lots of folks coming to the farm.  The aura of the farm needs to match our intention.  Having families come tour our homestead is always a delight for me.  I love how excited the kids get when they hold a docile chicken or play with Elsa, the uber friendly goat.  When they talk non-stop about bottle feeding goat kids or kitty “hunting” (can you find all nine in our house?).  If we had terrified animals in the back corner…well that doesn’t really fit in.

I am getting two lambs next month that will be bottle babies to make them tame and I will try my fiber fun with them and if I love it, I can always get an alpaca next year to add to the fiber animals but in the meantime, we need more of a petting zoo environment, I think.  A good experience for kids (and adults) to hold onto when dreaming of their future farms.

Fiber Animals- Take 2

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Isn’t January a time of reminisce and future plans?  There isn’t much to do so we review our progress, our successes, our hopes, dreams, and ideas.  Two years ago in January we posted about alpacas.  Doug and I had been avidly attending alpaca festivals, visiting farms, yarn stores, and reading up and dreaming of the day that we would get our very own marionette-like animals.  I would while away the hours spinning on my old fashioned wheel, knitting socks from our very own fiber from our very own alpacas. *Sigh.

Look who wanted in this morning!

We adopted two alpacas, a sweet boy named Natali, and a young one named Cody.  The brown one was a Suri and the second a Huacaya.  The Huacaya was going to be our main fiber boy.  A big, fluffy white alpaca would be great for hand dying my own fiber with plant dyes.  A garden was going to be created with plants specifically for dyes.

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We bought two big bags of fiber from a friend of ours down the way to practice on.  I did not have the equipment to card the fiber and everything was so expensive to purchase.  So, we sent it to the mill.  The total cost to us was a whopping $20 a skein of yarn.  Let’s just say that was not a profitable adventure.

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I bought a beautiful spinning wheel, new, full price.  I practiced and practiced and used roving that a student of mine gave me.  My “yarn” looked lopsided, lumpy, and fell apart easily.

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The two alpacas were terrified of us.  The younger one kicked anyone that went by.  His leg cocked back was the exact height of a small child’s face.  Not good.  We had saved a lot of money (for us) to adopt these animals.  The farm folks that sold them to us had promised to help us and be a resource for us but were nowhere to be found when we had issues.  A mere four months later we had to give them away.  That’s right, gave them away for free.

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I was so upset over the whole situation that I also promptly sold my new spinning wheel for under cost.  I regret that now.  I do tend to make rash decisions rather quickly.

That was last spring when everything seemed to be going wrong.  Fast forward to a few days ago.  Knitting club at the coffee shop and we girls are talking about alpaca yarn and alpacas and my poor experience when two gals came across the room to greet one of the knitters.  They each have an alpaca ranch and we laughed at the coincidence since we were just talking about that.  We recalled my horrible experience and the alpaca ladies were horrified that that had occurred to us, especially after so many years of planning and dreaming.  We felt jipped.

One of the ladies offered me a free alpaca.  He has fabulous fleece, smaller than some, and is mentally handicapped.  Well, y’all know we are suckers for the misfit animals.  He apparently loves attention.  Of course, I don’t have her phone number but in a small town I bet we can locate it.  I had put it out of my head, not thinking Doug wanted to delve into the world of alpacas and fiber again, but yesterday he casually mentioned pasture fencing and special ed alpacas.  He loves alpacas and was every bit as disappointed as I was in our experiment.

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So, joining us on Pumpkin Hollow Farm (I need to go across the way to the owner’s house of this fine land and see if we can bring on more animals) may be a few sheep and a smiley alpaca.  Now I need to find another spinning wheel!

 

 

The Can’t Do It All Homestead

At the beginning of this venture, I truly believed that Doug and I would be able to learn, complete, and excel at every  homesteading skill.  We could be self sufficient!  We don’t need nobody.  We would be so busy chopping wood and weaving clothes, sheesh, we’d do even more than the pioneers!  We’d learn everything and do everything.

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Hmmm.  I made a list.  Remember my list making post?  I do excel at making lists.  They open my eyes and help me figure out what my next step is.  This is a list that I would encourage you to fill out as well.  It can really help your life move in the direction you want it to, see what you is no longer important to you, and what you downright don’t like to do.  Let go of old hobbies and open the door for new things.

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Make four columns.  In the first column write out the things in your life you LOVE to do.  These are things you do without putting them on a to do list.  Things you don’t have to even think about, you love doing them.

  • Raising babies; chicks, goats, kittens
  • Milking
  • Making soft cheese
  • Making food items; vinegars, oils, etc
  • Cooking
  • Gardening
  • Collecting eggs
  • Making things as gifts
  • Preserving
  • Entertaining; being with friends and family
  • Sitting in the sun, working outdoors
  • Making herbal medicines
  • Writing
  • Reading

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Now that you have your list of the things that you need no prompting to do and that you still enjoy, write in the second column the things you like do doing once you get started.

  • Yard work, domestic chores
  • Painting (on canvases)
  • Sewing (not intricately)
  • Yoga
  • Farmer’s Markets
  • Making body products

I was surprised to see that painting was on my once I got started.  I keep planning all these fine paintings.  I am to show my work in a coffee shop next month.  I have nothing new.  Perhaps I am not as into it as I used to be.

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On to the third column.  List everything that you put off.  Things you make every excuse in the book before doing.

  • Training animals
  • Calling customers
  • Filling orders
  • Spinning
  • Crocheting
  • Piano
  • Fiddle

This was an eye opener for me.  I have such a strong vision of Doug and I wiling the hours away playing good country music together.  We love the idea, but hate to practice and don’t really want to get any better.  We want to be magically better.  I used to be quite a good pianist when I was a kid.  It doesn’t come natural to me.  I quickly forgot everything I learned and would have to start over completely.  I took a piano lesson Wednesday to try to get back into it.  I fidgeted on the piano bench worse than any six year old she’s had.  I looked at the clock to see when it was time to go home.  She gave me lots of homework.  I came up with every excuse yesterday why I couldn’t practice.

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I put my fiddle, piano, Doug’s mandolin, and my spinning wheel on Craigslist.  These things require dusting, and moving when we move, and are never used.

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I do not like training animals.  My alpacas will not come near me.  They are not lovey creatures.  I do not like to spin.  These have become expensive stand offish pets.  Cute pets, don’t get me wrong.  I will try to sell them back to where I got them.  This farm is way too small for animals that don’t fit in.

Doug’s list complemented mine.  He enjoys the same things as I do.  He also loves talking to customers and filling orders.  He doesn’t even mind dishes.  We just need to rearrange our chores.

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Now the fourth column is for what you want to learn.

  • Beekeeping
  • Green house growing
  • Making hard cheeses

These are this year’s projects.  If I don’t like them, then I can move on to the next venture.  I do not have to know how to do everything.  I do not have to do everything.  This is still a homestead.  There are plenty of homesteaders out there that enjoy knitting.  I can support them by purchasing or bartering for their wares just as folks out there love my herbal medicines but don’t have a passion to make them themselves.  We all work together to make homesteading successful.  Not self sufficiency, community sufficiency!

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This list can be used in any aspect of your life.  It’s important to stay on top of our goals and release what is no longer important.  I love homesteading, this whole journey, all the learning and hands on projects.  Now, it will be that much more enjoyable!

What to Do With All that Poo (composting manure)

As Doug and I were shoveling alpaca poop onto the garden beds yesterday I said lightly, “You sure can’t be bothered by poop if you live on a farm, can you?!”  He laughed and agreed and we continued shoveling.  I did not know that I would be around it so much post baby diapers. But there it is, now what to do with it?

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The nice thing about Alpaca droppings is that it won’t burn plants.  It is adds nitrogen to the soil but does not have to be composted.  It can be added directly around plants and into garden beds.  From poop pile to garden bed.  Instant fertilizer.  If you know someone that has alpacas, they will likely share.  It is an added benefit to adopting alpacas, no more Miracle Grow!

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The chicken coop is full of future nutrition for the soil but it needs a bit more time.  Believe me, six months on a farm goes real fast though.  I have a compost bin that Doug easily made out of discarded pallets.  In the first one, the pile starts.  Coffee grounds from the coffee shop and the kitchen, tea bags, and other items I wouldn’t put in the chicken food go in the pile along with the soiled chicken bedding.

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When Nancy and I saw Joel Salatin two summers ago he mentioned that leaving the bedding in the coop all winter and just adding more as needed creates a warm space for the animals.  In the spring, we are to shovel out the foot high plus pile of bedding and move it to the compost pile.  Nancy didn’t like this idea when she tried it.  She has a lot more chickens than I do and for her the smell was overwhelming.  The floor of my coop is dirt and it works well for me.  Next month I will scoop out the soiled bedding and leftover scraps they didn’t want (orange peels and such) and throw them in the first open bin of compost.  He also mentioned that using straw is what creates the ammonia smell.  I stopped using it and started using the pine shavings he suggested.  The coop does not smell bad at all.  However, now I learn that ducks will eat pine shavings so we will be back using straw soon.  So, in this case, I may clean out the coop four times a year instead of two.

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Scooped into the wheel barrel and thrown into its requisite side, it will be topped with some dirt or finished compost and left to finish.  (Note: I constantly forget to turn my compost.  It never looks completely black and finished, but it still works.) In the fall when I go to add compost to cleaned out beds, it will be perfect.  Then the bedding from the summer coop pile will be cooking away in the second open area of the compost bin and will be ready to apply in spring.

new goats

The goat poo is new to us this year.  It will not easily be picked up in their pasture as they drop small and many pellets.  I’d be raking for a  week.  However, their bedding will get changed out next month from their igloo and that will go into the cooking pile of compost.

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Dog and cat feces may not go into the pile.  It will decompose in the grass, true, but just like ours, one would need a composting toilet and high heat to kill the bacteria present.  Doug and I are planning on getting a composting toilet in the next house though!

Human urine kick starts the whole process.  However, raised in a home of decorum and higher society than most folks I know, Doug refuses to pee on the compost pile.  (Of course we are open to a major thoroughfare and close neighbors.)

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I used to think the chickens were going to give me too much compost to use.  But I find myself in constant lack.  The more I garden, the more I need.  The larger this farm gets, the more I need.  Even if one lived in a house smack dab in the middle of Denver one can use the compost from the allotted chickens and goats there.  It goes faster than you think!

Manure tea can also be made with droppings and poured on house plants or outdoor beds.  Just make sure the manure sat for six months if it isn’t from an alpaca.

I never thought in my life I would be writing about poop.  Just goes to show, never say never and having a farm changes you.

Year Round Greens

You know you are a homesteader when things like poop that doesn’t have to be composted excites you.  Alpaca poo isn’t “hot” like other types of manure so it doesn’t have to be composted for six months.  We filled a wheel barrel full of alpaca droppings and took it over to one of the raised beds to spread.

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Now in November I had every intention of getting every bed cleaned out properly, covering them with compost then mulch for their long winter’s nap.  A good kink in my shoulder decided otherwise.  It would have been nice to have it all done, but it will surely wait for me, I decided.  So, on the bed that we started putting manure on, I noted emerald green from the patch of otherwise browned kale, chard, and collards.  Tiny Swiss chard leaves, two inches high were trying with all their might to grow.  It certainly was an epiphany for me.  If I cover the greens well with loose straw next year, I could be harvesting well into January!  That is without the help of a greenhouse, hoop house, or cold frame.  An easy way to extend the season.

Since I did not expect any more greens after November, I had been diligently snipping greens and freezing them.  No blanching necessary.  I have no desire to eat slimy food…ever.  All you do is pack sandwich bags with greens, release the air, and zip closed.  Put in freezer.  Now, the next day it will be frozen solid.  Don’t let it thaw!  Just crush it between your fingers so that the greens are crumbles.  When you need greens, crush the ones on top more and sprinkle handfuls into whatever you are cooking.  Replace the rest in freezer immediately.

I have been putting greens in all kinds of soups, in omelets, scrambled eggs, on potatoes to be roasted, and in sautés.  There are innumerable ways to use greens and the nutrients are especially desired this time of year.  The perfect blend of calcium and magnesium to make it bio-available, iron, A, C, E, and K, full of anti-oxidants and cancer killing properties.

Greens are one of the foods that I would have with me if I were trapped on an island…along with margaritas.  Is that a food?

Barnyard Snapshot (and goat mid-wives)

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If you were driving down the Kiowa-Bennett Road you might be distracted by the thoroughfare as it zips across the country, the rising speed limit sign ahead.  But, if you were to look quickly to your left before leaving the town you might startle yourself wondering if you just saw what you think you saw.  A puppet?  A marionette?  A Jim Henson creation?

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I, myself, walk past the back door, catch a glimpse of them in the back yard in my peripheral and have to look again.  “Dad,” I announce, “We have alpacas in the back yard!”

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They love Doug.  He is the keeper of the hay.  The keeper of the morning grain.

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They also love my friend, Kat.  When she comes over she is rewarded with kisses from Natale (the brown one).

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“Which one is pregnant?” Kat asks.

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“The white one, Katrina.”

“Then the black one is way too fat!”

Do you have anything to eat?

Do you have anything to eat?

Indeed, Loretta is a little short and chunky.  Maybe she is a stress eater, I do not know, but we are working on trimming her waistline.

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Katrina is going to kid next month or early March!  Even though I know she will likely do quite well on her own giving birth, we have to be ready as goat mid-wives, an occupation that may not be recognized on our tax return, but a job description of a farmer nonetheless.

  • Paper towels
  • Iodine or betadine (very important to dip the umbilical cord in)
  • Snot sucker to suck out their airway
  • Ob gloves just in case

This is the list Jill gave me.  I am as nervous as a first time mother!  Last year we waited impatiently and excitedly for Maryjane to be born, this year we wait on goats.  Twins perhaps?  There will be a tremendous amount of cuteness over here, folks.

How Much Does it Cost to Have a Farm Animal?

We knew how much it cost to buy the farm animals.  Approximately two or three dollars per chick.  $200 per alpaca (that was a smoking deal).  $200 for the pair of adorable goats to be bartered for herbal medicine.  (Another great deal.  We should be able to sell Katrina’s babies for $200-$300 each!)

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What we didn’t know and couldn’t seem to get answers to was how much is it to raise these guys?  How much to feed them?  Twenty dollars a month?  Two hundred dollars a month?  I needed to know if I would have to return the farm animals after three weeks if we couldn’t afford it.  I keep a good budget (it could certainly be better) and I save up money for months in advance because our main income is earned during the summer.  So, if some farm kid is going to eat us out of house and farm, Lord, I need to know about it!

Look who wanted in this morning!

I have gathered the numbers for all of you out there wanting to get a few cute farm animals yourself.

Introducing Ferdinand!

Alpacas are surprisingly affordable.  The upfront cost can make you choke (count on $300 for a fiber boy up to $20,000 for a prized breeding girl) but once you get the little guys they don’t cost much.  We’re talking one bale of hay between the both of them.  Around $13 a month.  With pine shavings and the pellets that have their minerals in it takes us to twenty.  So, each fiber boy costs $10 a month.  It’s a good thing they don’t cost much to feed because any animal that is that fluffy and cute should allow me to go snuggle with it.  No can do.  They don’t come near me.  Sad.

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Goats eat a tad more, but not much. They love to eat.  We got a pregnant mama here.  They don’t need the grain. (I was told at church yesterday by Jill.  We spoil them a tad too much perhaps.)  So with pine shavings, this makes the girls about the same.  $10 a piece per month.  We’ll give some sweet feed in a few months when we are milking Katrina, so that will raise it up slightly.  Jill gave us a good start on minerals.  So, when we do have to purchase minerals and the sweet feed, we may be looking at $15 a piece per month.  I have Nigerian Dwarves, so a larger breed would probably eat more.

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The chickens….wouldn’t you expect them to be the cheapest?  They are giving us eggs to pay for their room and board.  We feed organic feed.  It’s not that much more than the GMO stuff.  They have been going through much more lately because of the cold and lack of forage (and lack of things to do, in my opinion).  $36 dollar a month plus pine shavings which will take us to roughly $40 a month.  At the two to three eggs a day from fifteen hens and their useless (but good looking) husband, that makes each dozen of eggs cost $6 a piece.  No profit.  But, we do have to consider that we don’t buy eggs either.  So, I am okay with that cost.

baby and kitties

The greyhound costs $20 a month and eight cats cost $60 a month.  So, in the end, the cats are the ones eating us out of house and farm.  They better get back to mousing!

Of course these costs don’t take into consideration veterinarian costs.  But, we rarely to never use a vet.  We are herbalists and teach people how to treat their own animals.  Not much we can’t help take care of.  So, that saves us a tremendous amount of money having that knowledge.  We did pay $75 for the people we got Natale from to geld him.  Looks like the bratty Ferdinand may have to go that route too, we’ll see.  But, just having a cat can place you at risk for having a huge vet bill in an emergency, so I don’t count vet costs because that would come out of an emergency fund.

It is nice though, to see a general cost of feed and housing.  A house is much more of a home with a rooster and a goat, don’t you think?  Now, how much does it cost to have a sheep….

petting goats

Farm Animal Housing

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Well, the cat’s water in the room behind the kitchen only has a thin layer of ice on it this morning.  It’s warming up!  Folks, can you believe how cold our country has been this last week?  When the wind chill hit -23 I was pretty certain I had been transported to the North Pole for Christmas.

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I worried about the farm animals.  I was certain we would lose a chicken.  Their water was frozen within minutes after bringing a fresh bowl out.  Their heat lamp did nothing to help.  I figured little Ginger might just be a popsicle when we went out in the morning.  Yesterday, Sophia let Doug know her displeasure by flying up to his hat and staying there.  She was hitching a ride into the house.  Enough was enough!

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The alpacas have their three sided shelter that has been perfect for them.  The hay bales, tarps, and protection from the south and north winds has been enough for them.  They walk around with snow covered faces chewing their cud.  Happy as reindeers.

Introducing Ferdinand!

But the goats originate from Nigeria.  I felt like they should probably come inside and stay in the living room.  My friend, Jill, that gave them to me laughed.  They will be fine, she says.  Just look for excessive shivering.

Loretta

Backtrack three weeks ago right before we brought them home, I went into the garage to clean it out to make it into a barn.  You have to be creative when you live in town (even if it’s in the country) and want to be a homesteader.  There are no barns on this property.

However, when I walked in the garage, I got a shot of reality.  A pile of holiday stuff took up one corner.  Andrew’s belongings took up a full side of the garage that he doesn’t have room for yet.  Gardening items, clothes to grow into, boxes of photographs….this was not becoming a barn.

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I jumped on Craig’s List and looked up goat housing.  Up popped up these igloo looking things that were for calves or goats.  I had seen them around the county so I called to see how much and how to get it here.  The gentleman on the other end of the phone was a jolly man with a great many goats.  He said that he had even gone out and sat in the igloo during a snow storm and was surprised at how cozy it was in there.  For two hundred dollars, I didn’t have to clean out the garage.  Sold.

He proceeded to give me directions to his place.  Directions that would lead me next door to Emily’s boyfriend’s family’s house.  Certainly a small world.  We started talking about when I could pick it up.  “Well, not Saturday,” he says, “We have a craft show at the middle school.”

“Oh, we’ll be there too!”

He asks what we sell.  They use our arthritis medicine for their dog.  They sell soap.  They were next to me the whole season at the farmer’s market!

Small world indeed, and I found what I needed.

This cold has had me terribly worried, but each time I look out they are snuggled together in their igloo, running out to get treats or kisses.  I am impressed.

This is a great way to house goats if you are short on space or want multiple houses in different yards.

No barn necessary!  (I do hope to have a barn on our next homestead though!)

Stay warm out there, folks!

Alpaca Lessons

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They sure are cute.  That is about all I could tell you about alpacas before yesterday morning!  All Doug and I knew is we wanted one, or two, or fifty-five, but we’ll stick with two.  They look like marionettes who have lost their strings.  They hum.  Mmmm.  They are very sweet and timid.  We have been to every alpaca festival in a twenty mile radius for the past two years.

Alpacas

Alpacas

Llama

Llama

A lot of people confuse alpacas for llamas.  I cannot tell you how many people have warned us about our upcoming alpacas!  Llamas are bred to be guard animals.  They are the junkyard dog of the barnyard world.  I have met very sweet llamas, but most are aloof and on the job 24/7.

Doug carrying a baby back after dental work.

Doug carrying a baby back after dental work.

Alpacas are skittish prey animals that provide the most luxurious fiber.  Imagine fiber as warm as wool but as soft as fleece.  My spinning wheel is waiting to make plush yarn that I will knit into soft, warm sweaters, hats, gloves, scarves, and socks.  As soon as I master spinning….and knitting…and taking care of alpacas.  They get sheared in the spring.

They can be snuggly though, I just had to learn how to handle them.  My first inclination was to pat their soft heads.  Which they immediately balked against being quite head shy.  We were told to reach out to their necks (this is easiest when they are on a harness) and put our face near theirs (which seemed aggressive, but apparently not) and blow softly into their face.  Softly, mind you, no talking, or excessive blowing.  They return the gesture with a soft kiss.  Delightful.  Thank God they don’t have the bad breath that llamas do.

We practiced cornering the two we are taking home Sunday and getting a harness on them.  Then we learned how to lead them around, then how to take the harness off again, all while keeping the seemingly upper hand.  Gentle does it with alpacas, and they responded well to us.

Introducing Ferdinand!

Introducing Ferdinand!

We clipped nails.  I couldn’t have imagined what the bottoms of their feet looked like.  I assumed a hoof or something.  But there is actually a large pad, much like a dog’s main pad on the bottom of their feet, with two nails that also look like a large dog’s.  We have to clip them with pruners and put a bit of muscle into it (which automatically made that Doug’s job) keeping them even with the pad.  They have a quick like cat’s and dog’s nails so we have to take care not to get overambitious.

Introducing Natali!

Introducing Natali!

We watched Natali, our three year old alpaca that we are getting, get gelded.  Sorry bud.  They were worried that as he gets a little older he will try to overpower the one year old, Ferdinand.  Which would be awkward and inappropriate having an alpaca attempting to ride the other around the back yard.  Snip.  Snip.

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This last week we were busy finishing their shelter.  We have to be pretty creative around here.  Remember, we live in town and cannot just erect full sheds and structures without permits and such.  We also don’t have a lot of money to spend on it.  So we viewed the space between the garage and the chicken coop with new light.  2x4s had been placed there when we moved in to stabilize the chicken coop.  It provided a place to put old metal sheeting on top to make a roof.  We then placed corn stalks from the garden on top to provide cushioning from sound (like hail or hard rain, spookable animals, remember) and then covered everything with a tarp that was securely fastened to the first board.  Another was added that hung down the back. We stacked straw bales along the tarp to create a wall.  A nice, snug, weather proof, wall that the chickens are enjoying nibbling.  We now have a shelter.  We have bowls.  We are so ready for the boys to come home Sunday!