Country Life for the weekend

Weekend Living in the country is such a nice change from driving to work during the week.  The weekend means we can sleep till 7 instead of 6; we can take a little more time giving everyone their morning feed and even notice and enjoy the sunrise  a little longer.  Nothing feels like work when you enjoy what you do, so the weekend chores are not really chores. I look at them as making a nicer area for the alpacas to lounge in the barn and  cleaner nests in the coops for the chickens to  lay their eggs.

When the barn is clean and freshened up it is a great feeling.  I eliminate hiding places for little mice or a wayward skunk or rabbit.    The chickens plop into their nest boxes and we know we will have more eggs to collect that evening. 

We have had lots of rain so the few days in between that have the sun shining we enjoy the most.  The truck or car get washed of the mud and grime to enjoy for a day or two before the next rain and muddy road. 

The puddles in the pasture dry out enough that we don’t have to wear our Wellies outside.  The alpacas venture out into the pasture to enjoy the new sprigs of spring grass before they are relegated into the barn when the rain starts up again.  They stretch out on the ground to soak up the warm sunshine. I wander over just to make sure they are breathing.   The chickens spread out in the pasture in the warm sunshine to find any new bugs hiding out.

So this weekend the sun is shining until Sunday afternoon, so we are cleaning up around here.  I am looking at the raised beds to get ready for the vegetables I will plant soon.  Green peppers were fabulous last year.  The tomatoes not so much, but this year I will plant them in a different bed and not so close together.   Some  of that alpaca poo and chicken poo will be turned into the soil to add some nutrients before this year’s planting begins.  The trees need a boost of fertilizer.

The robins and cardinals are here now.  I saw a little bird I had never seen before so I am trying to figure out what it is.  The mockingbird is here but not singing yet.  I will clean the hummingbird feeders and hang them out although the migration map shows they are just arriving at the west coast and the storms may interrupt their progress.  The  Monarchs will soon be taking off from Mexico and headed our way.


I am sure you have heard of this term, AgriTourism.   If not, a lot of the agricultural community is turning their farmplace into a learning place.  Whatever they raise or grow they are willing to teach others about. Sometimes it’s free, sometimes not.  It may be a weekend event or an ongoing opportunity that just requires a phone call and a visit for a personal tour.  Questions will be asked and answered, maybe some free literature and contact information for more info.

This might be your chance to find a great new business for yourself or expand on what you have.  Google the term for your state and find out where to go for help in finding farms with information for you.  Also, check out the livestock networks of owner/breeders who might be able to guide you with help.  Check out the farmer’s markets and various animal show events for people to help you find your way.  They are glad to pass along what they have learned.

I researched heavily the alpaca and llama farms and ranches in the area and also their websites online to see who I wanted to visit or had info for me.  I read alot about chickens before I bought.  Those in AgriTourism are really wanting to help promote what they do.  They may have a guest house you can stay in for the weekend.  Some places have permanent cabins they rent as a restful vacation retreat for you.  One place nearby has expanded to include a chef who teaches cooking classes that include the seasonal foods they grow. 

 If you are looking for property it’s a great way to network to find out who might have a bit of land they have not put on the market but would be interested in selling.  I have found out a lot of land is sold among people who don’t even use a realtor.  Word of mouth among friends and neighbors travels far and can be successful.

AgriTourism is  becoming more popular and states are setting up new agencies to deal with this new business.  Find a place to visit and enjoy what you find.

Snow, snow and more snow

We have had now 12+ hours of ongoing snowfall. This is very unusual for our area and has set a snowfall record for this calendar date and also for the amount of total snowfall in a season for our area.  The snow is expected to continue through until the early morning hours of Friday morning then taper off.  Saturday is supposed to be in the 50’s.

Today on my way to work I slid off our little country road (the road has a sharp turn in it; I turned the Explorer steering wheel,  but it kept going straight).  Off the road, into the ditch and up the other side and into the neighbors pasture as I steered it back down the ditch and up onto our road.  And mind you my foot was not even on the gas pedal the entire time.  The vehicle took on a life of it’s own.  Luckily in that section of the road there were no trees, poles or pasture fencing.  I went on to work, very slowly, but the outcome could have been totally different. 

I am amazed at the bravado drivers have in bad weather and choose to impose their bravado onto other drivers by endangering everyone’s safety.  I also don’t understand the drivers who choose not to turn on their vehicle headlights as a matter of safe visibility.  Not because they can’t see, but because I can’t see them in downpouring rain or like today when the snow was so thick I could not see them until they were there, and especially WHITE vehicles. Duh.  That’s why I choose to stay home if I can in bad weather; not because I am a coward, but because I choose to stay out of the way of those idiots.

Please drive safely and TURN ON your headlights so we can see YOU.

Guinea fowl in the barnyard

I just read an interesting article in my Hobby Farms magazine.

 They were featuring poultry and ducks, etc. in this issue.  The guineas they mentioned would not get along well with other chickens or smaller chickens in their coops at night, but I would beg to differ on that comment.

All my chickens and guineas arrived together as a few days old from Ideal Poultry Farms.  I did not lose a single one in transit and they all got along and were together from day one.  Maybe this can make a difference.  I have not added any new ones, except two that hatched out by their moms last June and are 2 gorgeous roosters.  They were “brothers” and get along great and all roost in the same coop at night, guineas, roosters, and chickens.  We have two other coops that a few hang out in, but the rest, all 12 of them, like to be in this one at night.

I have had more losses with the guineas from predators; mainly I think because they are not the “sharpest tack in the drawer”.  They forget they can fly “over” the 4 foot tall  fence if they get stuck on the other side and want to go where the others are.  They forget they have a huge barn to go inside of if they get locked out of the coop at night and it is raining.  They forget that predators will find them roosting asleep on the ground outside the coop when it is pitch black outside.  But I would miss them if they all left, and I will replace them when I need to rebuild that flock.  They can be loud at strange things, so close neighbors probably would not appreciate that.  We don’t have anyone close enough to hear them,  except us and I know something is wrong when they sound off and I investigate.

The alpacas have no tick or insect problems.  The pearl guinea is the prettiest and I like the lavenders too.  I would definitely want guineas again.

Skunks as poultry predators

We will see a skunk occasionally waddling across a pasture hurrying to get across before it is seen or snatched by something, and we know they take shelter in the culvert pipe when it is dry, but we have not ever had one lodging in the barn until recently.

When we had poultry losses last summer (because in the heat of the summer evening I decided not to close up the little chicken door in the coop),  our losses either a) disappeared with no sign of a struggle, or b)  feathers strewn showing signs of a struggle in the coop and a headless body laying inside.  Someone visiting us said the skunks will decapitate to suck the blood of the poultry victim. In these cases, there was never any blood anywhere, amazingly.  So maybe that is true. Even though I did not close the little coop door, I did take off the ramp that hooks onto the lip of the doorway thinking that nothing could climb up that high to get in, but I was wrong about that.

Our skunk visitor in the barn found some leftover lengths of guttering from when the barn was built to hide in. We had just stashed it out of the way.  Once I got the skunk scared and running out of the barn I was able to prop the gutter on end to remove that hiding place.    We are careful not to have animal food exposed (we keep food in their bags and stored in old empty  leaky water troughs not good for water anymore, that so far nothing has gotten access to).  And I had thought all hiding places were eliminated, and now they are for sure.

While the skunk was in the barn it feasted on rabbit; We found a couple of mostly clean leg bones inside the gutter nest.  I don’t care to know what happened to the rest. 

So if you have a skunk problem, eliminate any access to any animal food and water if you can, including your outdoor dogs and cats.  We also  keep the chicken’s food and water closed up with the chickens at night. The alpacas food bins are mounted high up on the chain link fence in the barn, and the water is in a tall container. Here is a very helpful link if you have predator problems.

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