Rain and more rain

While we love the rain (after two years of going without rain in North Texas; I know others have been struggling for longer in their areas), we have had rain on a regular basis now weekly, and usually it is not a gentle rain but drenching downpours and high winds with it.  And of course, the grass/weeds/pastures really love it and are growing like crazy.  So what’s the complaint?  Well, first of all, we usually tend to our mowing chores on the weekend.  However, with the rains hitting us weekly, the weekends are not proving very workable. Everything is staying so wet and taking forever to dry out.

The other problem is the size of tractor vs. the size of property.  We removed a portion of pasture from grazing because it was at the front of the acreage the house sits on and it ran along the road.  If we turned it into a mowed “yard” it would expand our view out over a nicer looking, groomed lawn.  We hope to incorporate a large pond into that area in the future.  So, our lawn tractor that would mow 3 acres very well is now forced to mow much more than that, and wet grass to boot.  What happens is the wet grass clogs up underneath the mower above the 3 mulching blades.  There is a lot of stopping to unclog the blade area by scraping out the mucky grass by hand with a trusty putty knife.

So, what to do?  Dream about buying a larger tractor, because those  guys are pricey.  We are paying off the financing on the barn and fencing and a tractor could run in that same price range if bought new, although a used one could be a good deal if the owner was meticulous and followed maintenance schedules.  We’ve looked and priced and have our eye on one of those blue New Holland tractors with a bucket and mower.  Until then, I think I am being recruited to help out with mowing during the week when I can fit some time in to do it.  Hubby will fit in mowing on the weekends.  Living in the country is great, but there is a lot of work to keeping it “pretty”.  I love it when it’s mowed, and to keep it that way is time consuming in itself.  I think I will look into  creating more “meadows” with natural wildflowers.  Those are pretty too and create something interesting to look at, as well as attract all the lovely butterflies and hummingbirds.  I have to go now; the mower is waiting for me and the sun has popped out for a while.

Shearing Day for alpacas

Hershey SurpriseWe located a wonderful shearer near to us.  She arrived at close to 9 a.m. Sunday and we finished at 3 p.m.  We have 6 alpacas and 2 guard llamas, both originally came from Carol’s herd.  In addition to shearing was the time it took haltering and leading of each from the barn to the garage; not a tremendously huge amount of time but nevertheless adding to it.  She preferred the double garage as it is  a concrete floor giving good footing and has electrical outlets close by.  Next year we will bring the stall mats into the garage so we, and the animals, have better traction.   We were also able to cross tie the animals but leaving their back end free to move around if they got spooked. And if they wanted to kush then they could, if they felt better.  Some were better than others and she has been shearing for so long she could “go with the flow”.  

We hope to work with the animals more this year as they have been agisting (boarding) at another farm until we could bring them here last November and have not had the consistent training to get them accustomed to being handled.  For the most part though, everything went well and everyone is pounds lighter and very much cooler as we are due some hotter Texas weather this week into the 80’s. 

Next on our agenda is getting two of our females bred to our ribbon winning herdsire male, photo attached.  We have one pregnant female (not sure when she is due as she is an accidental pregnancy due to some lax fence enclosures at the other place and males getting in with females).  She will be a literal surprise when she has her cria sometime in the next few months.  Pregnancy lasts for 11 months for alpacas; the cria on average weigh about 18 pounds at birth and are up and running around within 30 minutes.  It will be our first cria birth here at our place and we will be reading up and getting supplies on hand in the meantime.

‘Paca’s and Poultry

I commented awhile back that I was evaluating breeds of poultry to try for the first time.  I have not had chickens, except for the time I was 2 years old and a relative gave me one of those easter-egg dyed chicks.  I have a picture of me holding it in my hand, dressed in my  Easter finery. I choose to not think about where that chick ended up.  My grandmother had chickens and I was intriqued when we visited their farm. I remember sitting in the middle of the chicks in their brooder and how warm it was there and they crowded around my child sized form.  The other memory is helping my grandmother gather eggs early one morning and she told me to go stand over on that fence for a minute.  She had spied a snake in the hen yard and swiftly disposed of it with a hoe and chopped it up into pieces.  She put the pieces in a nearby trough and when I brought my 2 younger brothers to see, the chickens had already finished off the snake. 

We also had a duck named Gus when I was in junior high school.  He was lots of fun.  My brother was the winner in his elementary classroom to hatch a duck from an egg (with parental permission first) and so that adventure started with an egg in a metal tub in our kitchen with a warming bulb attached, etc., etc.   He hatched, I imprinted him on me, so whenever he saw me he came running to me; I was his “mom”.  For awhile the duck traveled back and forth to school as a learning experience for the children.  When he got too big and started flying over the tall fence in our backyard, we got permission to let him go at the nearby park that had flocks of ducks and their own “duck island” in the middle of the large pond area.  The park rangers even helped us by taking us out on their boat with Gus and getting close to the island so we could release him there and he could settle in.

So, my experience with poultry is very limited.  I read about how easy it is to take care of poultry, but reading about their requirements seems contrary to other’s experiences.  I have to consider the heat of Texas summers; we are in the northeast of Texas so the weather is fairly moderate in the winter as well. I know we will need pest control in the alpaca pastures (ticks, flies and other parasites)  so I plan to keep the poultry mostly confined to their 4 pastures.  If we need some control around the house, I can let them free range in that area.  My research showed that guineas are kind of an all purpose bird to have.  They warn off hawks so help protect the chickens; and snakes and mice are also disposed of, as well as cleaning up the poop piles to rid them of flies, and taking care of the ticks, grasshoppers and other pests in the grasses.  I have ordered 10 of those and I chose to get a variety to see all the pretty colors.

I also read about Bantam Silkies, and they sounded like great fun so I ordered 10 partridge silkie bantams.

I also wanted some laying hens, so I have ordered 10 of Ideal Poultry’s Rare Breed Pullet special.  I will get an assortment of those.  I had also considered Barred Rocks, reading about them seemed to show them as gentle and good layers.  I may order those later if I get the hang of this.

My delivery date I chose is in June, so in the meantime I will be putting together the housing they require and getting the right feed and equipment in place.  I think they will be a great addition and give our alpacas some entertainment too.  I can’t wait to get some wonderful eggs later in the year once they start laying.