My wonderful guard llamas

Noodle the guard llama

Noodle the guard llama

Usually the pastures are quiet, unless Nino the guard llama is pestering Stryker the alpaca and he gets tired of “playing”, then he lets out a couple of  squeals and I am sure a nip or two, to let Nino know he’s done.  But yesterday I had just taken the dog out for her afternoon potty break and I heard a really high pitched scream a couple of times.  I looked over just in time to see Stryker heading for the barn, with Nino close behind.  But wait, they were ALL heading for the barn.  The girls and their guard llama Noodle from their pastures running full steam in, and then Hershey and the boys in their pasture heading in.  I could see them all standing inside and looking out towards the east pastures.   There is a rise on the east side pastures that falls down and away and I can’t see past the barn unless I walk out to it and get to their vantage point.  So I grabbed my binoculars (invaluable on our large acreage) and walked out.  Our neighbor has a couple of dogs they are familiar with, and usually once they get familiar they don’t mind them as long as they stay on their side of the road. The alpaca pastures are all secure with electric wire top and bottom.

Once I got out to the barn, I could not see what alarmed them.  I have seen a stray white dog that crosses that far pasture wandering over to visit the dogs across the road.  I have seen them stop and watch but never call the alarm and run in.  Occasionally, I have seen a young coyote wandering around crossing from tree line to tree line during the heat of the day, but as long as he is moving away they don’t seem to be concerned.   So I am wondering what it was they saw, but thankful that Nino was aware and watching and made the call to get them all to safety.  It is an alarm call that almost sounds like a woman screaming.  It is rather eerie.  After the danger had passed and they felt safe, they ventured back out to their grazing and playing.

Visiting alpacas

Hershey Surprise; evening grazing

Hershey Surprise; evening grazing

Our national organization, Alpaca Owners & Breeders Association (AOBA) has scheduled our 2nd annual National Alpaca Farm Days event.  Many states have recognized and issued a proclamation for this event weekend Sept 27-28. 

Many participating farms/ranches may choose to be open their choice of either day and/or both days.  You will want to check out the particular places you wish to visit and see what their hours and days are for this event in September.   Visitors will not be allowed in to the pastures or barns where the animals are, due to biosecurity concerns, but should have a good up close view through the fence at most farms/ranches.  There may also be some sheared fleece available to see and touch, some informational brochures, and each farm/ranch is on it’s own in creating an informative environment for their visitors.   Please be aware of hours each ranch opens and closes, every one can be different. 

If you are traveling a distance, try to map out several participating ranches within a travel proximity (mindful of open and close hours) and you can also find nearby restaurants and lodging, and make reservations to make it a weekend event.  Bring a camera and your questions.  It will be a fun day.

The AOBA link is below; 

    https://www.alpacaowners.com/FarmDaysSignup/

For more info on alpacas, here is a link:

http://www.alpacainfo.com/

Stryker

Stryker

Alpacas and hot weather

The alpacas are a pretty durable animal but they should/must be sheared in the spring before hot weather arrives.  We sheared later than usual this year, in late April, but I have decided that is the best time, late April into May.  Earlier than April and we have cold weather that hits us late in the season; one year we were shearing in March and it was sleeting!  The alpacas were shivering.  The later in the spring you shear, then the less “grow back” of their fleece by the time the hot weather is here.

I have a big, cheapy  thermometer I bought (Dollar Tree store, everything really is a dollar!), and it helps me keep an eye on the temp in their barn.  We designed it with doors on the east and west sides so there is usually always a very nice breeze that comes through and they like being able to see all around them and not feel trapped.  They hang out in the heat of the day and I turn on the ceiling fans in the late morning which really move the air (they are 3 blades and look like airplane propellers bought through Farmtek catalog, Canarm reversible, with manual speed control). 

 

pregnanat Sarah's Flashback (aka Flash) enjoying her hay

pregnanat Sarah's Flashback (aka Flash) enjoying her hay

Hershey Surprise, settled in with his hay

Hershey Surprise, settled in with his hay

The nice green grass has slowed down growth and so I divided up a bale of hay so they could munch on something and they each got their own flake today; I am using the hay troughs, turned over, to keep their buckets of water raised up high so they can’t dip their feet in the buckets in the hot weather.  This is another project on my husband’s list, after the chicken coops, is to build a platform the water buckets can sit on.   So I got a few pics of them enjoying their hay today.

I usually will top off their water late in the morning and while I am there I give them a spray down to cool them off a bit.  They line up for this and jockey for position to be directly in front of the hose.  Keeping the water on their lower and underneath sides keeps the wet off their back and from trapping in the heat in their fleece, creating a sauna effect.  They are happy campers after a bit of a spray.

The dog days are here

the first chicken coop

the first chicken coop

future coop resident

future coop resident

a really cute Partridge Silkie Bantam

a really cute Partridge Silkie Bantam

In the spring my goal is always to get all my yardwork/repairs done by end of June  so I don’t have to be outside in the intense Texas heat and sun in July.  The grass is now crunching as you walk across it; there is some rain in the forecast for this week.  Our neighbor across the road hays several hundred acres for a living fulltime and is busy  cutting and baling today to beat the rain I am sure.

That plan worked pretty well except my husband is still working on the 3 chicken coops which just can’t seem to finish quickly.   It is just that we have not built a coop or had chickens before, so we are trying to guess at what the design will do for them, good or bad and reading other’s experiences for more ideas.   We hope to have them finished up by end of July.   We are putting rolled roofing in a white color on the roof for maximum heat reflection; we may upgrade later if we can find some good materials on Craigslist for cheap.  But this roofing will go on faster than shingles and fit the width of the roof exactly so we are only cutting the length; not a whole lot of mess with this.  I will paint the exterior a light grey color to nearly match the barn they are next to. 

We are tossing around ideas on how to adequately ventilate without weather penetration in driving rains we sometimes have and have enough air movement when days are rather still with no breeze.  I think we have decided to start simply and we can  modify and add more venting as needed. The roof is such a steep pitch that all heat should rise quickly and exit out the triangular vents on front and back where the rooflines meet.  We will install  vents we found at Lowe’s that actually install in houses under the eaves for about $1.50 each; they are plastic vents with screening on the back (facing interior) and these will go under the low roof line at the top of the low sidewalls.  Holes will be cut to install these next. The other vents I saw I really like at Lowe’s look like short shutters with vents under  each louver.  I may install them on each side of the tall entry door if needed.  They will look like shuttered windows and add some character; they are about $6 apiece.  They come in white or silver and probably more.   Some pics attached of what we have so far. 

My chicks are now almost 7 weeks old and getting along together really well but they will be ready to spread out in separate spaces very soon and the alpacas will have something new to entertain them.

Charitable giving, many ways

A few blogs back I was talking about “going green” and put out some websites to get you interested in the concept, as well as some products that are affordable the average family can start with.

Today some newsletters I subscribe to have popped up and so I though about putting out there the links to maybe get you thinking about ways you might be able to participate.

The first one is fairly easy, can be worked on in your own home at your pace, and very little interaction is necessary in order to accomplish a worthy goal. It is Project Linus.  A National organization with many state/city chapters. The more rural areas may not have a close chapter, and if not, you can contact them to try and start your own.  Here is the website:  http://www.projectlinus.org/index.html

I like to sew and it is a great one for me to work with.  Some chapters may be lucky enough to get products donated, but generally you are on your own in rounding up the materials needed to sew a blanket.  

Please read through all the tabs and sign up for the newsletter.  Many of the local chapters issue their own newsletter, as well.  If you don’t want to work through Project Linus, then think about calling a local hospital or children’s service organization and make and donate blankets locally. You could start your own informal blanket giving group.  Note that Project Linus has some strict size and condition requirements given on their website for making blankets to donate; you might want to follow their requirements in making and donating locally on your own.

Another cause is one of orphaned children in Africa my uncle and his family in Baltimore are involved with through their church.  He was a Peace Corps worker/teacher in Brazil for many years when he was younger and has some knowledge of hard times these countries face.  Many churches have donated money, materials and time on this and it is all coming together although the red tape in some ways makes it slow going.  Nevertheless, spirits are not daunted and the children they are helping are responding positively.  Here is the website: http://www.akcli.org/  He spent two months last year in Africa donating his time and energy in getting the village built.  They only recently got water piped in.   And here is their blogspot you can subscribe to also http://akcli.blogspot.com/

And of course, Habitat for Humanity, is well known with lots of opportunities. http://www.habitat.org/

Volunteering locally is always needed.  No matter how small, all acts of kindness will be remembered and hopefully passed forward.

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