Six books you will want for reference

I am a dedicated “researcher”.  Before we make any decisions or buy anything that is a  big ticket item, I research until I am comfortable making a decision and spending our hard-earned money.  You name it and I have researched it.  Likewise, before I invest in a reference book for the bookshelf , I want to make sure I get exactly what I need.  I read reviews and comments first.  I may check it out at the library first, or borrow it from an acquaintance. 

And so, in our pursuit of country living, alpaca/livestock husbandry, and poultry raising, I found these books so far that have helped answer lots of questions.  I shop at a nearby Half-Price Books or Hastings for good values; otherwise, I get great deals on Amazon.  You can set yourself up with a “wish list” and check it often to find any of your wish-list books that might be on sale at that time. Take a look  and search by topic, or author,  for an easier search.

Here are my 6 “go-to” books right now, in order by topic.  Some of the “country” will also have sections on poultry.

Country living:

1.  Storey,John and Martha Storey. 1999.  STOREY’S BASIC COUNTRY SKILLS.  Massachusetts: Storey Publishing, 564 p. 

2. Emery, Carla.  2008.  THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF COUNTRY LIVING, the original manual for living off the land & doing it yourself.  Seattle: Sasquatch Publishing, 922 p.

3.  Ekarius, Carol. 1999.  SMALL-SCALE LIVESTOCK FARMING, a grass-based approach for health, sustainability, and profit.  Massachusetts: Storey Publishing, 217 p.


4.  Damerow, Gail. 1995.  STOREY’S GUIDE TO RAISING CHICKENS, care, feeding, facilities.  Massachusetts: Storey Publishing, 341 p.


5.  Hoffman, Clare and Asmus, Ingrid.  2nd ed. 2005.  CARING FOR LLAMAS AND ALPACAS, a health and management guide.   Wyoming: Pioneer Printing, 176 p.

6.  Bennett, Marty McGee, THE CAMELID COMPANION, handling and training your alpacas & llamas.  New York: Raccoon Press, 386 p.

Buying a tractor

Last summer our trusty lawn tractor bit the dust.  It held up reliably for over 10 years which is rather a long time based on the research I was doing for a new one.  We debated on how large of a tractor we really needed.  We are on 104 acres, but we let our neighbor’s cattle graze and he maintains for us almost 80 of our acres.  We have 20 acres we are shaping up into a hay growing pasture.  The balance we maintain around the house and the alpaca/poultry pastures.  We considered a step up from a lawn tractor to a  small tractor with a front loader.  Then we looked at the horsepower and found the tractors in our price range didn’t have much more horsepower than our lawn tractor and were not really recommended for using with loaders, not enough horsepower, even though companies were selling them as a package. 

Then we looked at what we really needed one for or how often we might need it for other uses.  We decided just to step up to a larger lawn tractor, with a wider deck and a little more horsepower.  You can also buy implements that attach for an occasional need to plow a small garden plot or grade down some gravel or sand.  We decided on the Husqvarna brand and have been so pleased with it.  It is so easy to access all the parts for servicing and maintaining by us which is a BIG plus.   It is easy to fill with fuel and the tank is visible under the seat and has a slot to view the fuel level.  It is somewhat quieter and has a well cushioned seat and larger tires for a smoother ride.  The headlights really do a great job when you are almost done but the day has already turned late dusk.  I like the sleek looking design and the cool orange  and grey color combination.  It even has cruise control!

The deck is easy to clean up.  We try not to mow when it is wet, but sometimes you just have to, or the grass is deep enough it is holding moisture.  The deck also has more height adjustments.  I did a lot of research before deciding on this brand.  From a lot of comments I read, the green Deere brand of mowers are overpriced; you are paying for the name.  For others, their reliability and life span are short.  I did have a couple of other brands I would have considered also.  But this one and it’s price at Tractor Supply was the key.

Once I got over my fear of what button to push or  turn and how to stop and start the mow deck  you couldn’t keep me from using it for something.  I do mow, and we have a great poly cart that can hook to the tractor and haul anything, like sand or manure buckets.   I have to be careful not to mow too much and leave something for my husband to do on the weekends since he thinks this is “his” toy.  We plan to purchase another implement or two to make this a really valuable piece of equipment for us with a long useable life.

Alpacas and their food

Alpacas like their evening meal.  I feed Llama and Alpaca Maintenance in the evening; they each have their own food dish wired on to the fencing in the barn with enough space in between each other so they will not be so hoggish.  The girls seem to do okay.  No one is gulping their food down and then pushing someone else off theirs so they can then have the others dinner too.

The boys, on the other hand, are real pigs.  Riptide is the one who is such a hog.  Stryker does not chow down fast enough and Rip is over at Stryker’s bowl making him squeal his high pitched little yell while Rip gulps down Stryker’s food too.  Sometimes Stryker will stand up for himself and spit some to make Rip move.  But usually he just yells and Rip gets his food.  On days I have felt sorry for Stryker, I have moved Rip out of the barn with my “flag” (a great tool: a soccer field corner flag: sturdy, orange and long. I use 2 for herding) and then Stryker can finish his meal in peace.



I don’t  see any real way of feeding them differently.  Rip appears he may have had issues as he was growing up in getting enough food and has this habit of gulping his food then  eating  anyone else’s as quickly as he can, even if the other goes hungry.  He doesn’t mess with Nino the guard llama who is taller and spits if Rip even looks at his bowl.  Rip doesn’t mess with Nino.   

Riptide on left and Nino the guard llama

Riptide on left and Nino the guard llama

It’s just the normal pecking order, but sometimes you wish the bully would just get put in his place and the low man could move up a notch in the order.

Alpacas and hay



Flash, our pretty rose grey female

Flash, our pretty rose grey female

We just got our alpacas on-site a year ago in November.  I thought it would never happen. We find our place, move , get barn and pasture set up and then get the alpacas moved down from Ohio and Nebraska. I am a little out of order on this, because we actually had an opportunity to get them all moved down at once and then boarded nearby until we were ready for them.  And after moving here and before getting the animals, we had our daughter graduate from college, our daughter get married, and our son get married (already graduated from college), all in less than a year.  Whewwww; I am glad we are past all that stress. Now moving on to a different kind of stress.

My husband and I have not lived on a farm/ranch.  We had relatives who did, and I delighted in visiting my paternal grandparents in Stafford, Oklahoma at their farm.  As a child I was not aware that an outhouse and a pitcher pump at the kitchen sink were in any way a hardship.  The old handcrank phone on the wall still meant  relying on how many rings  to know if the call was yours or someone else’s on the partyline. No airconditioning, and the only heat from a gas stove in the living room. Sleeping on the small screened in porch in summer was delightful but scary as the coyotes howled. I loved hearing and seeing the train whistle down the track nearby and jackrabbits run and jump out of the way. Feeding the minnows in the cows stock tank dry  oatmeal so they would come up to the surface scrambling for a morsel. Helping feed chickens, holding new chicks, gather eggs,  or gather sweet corn. To a kid from the city it is heaven.  I loved the outdoors and dirt and bugs didn’t bother me a bit.   So, we bought our own bit of heaven on 104 acres in northeast Texas.

So now we have our barns and pastures, and our animals living here for just over a year.  Learning to care for the animals is a learning curve; you never really stop learning.  We were lucky that the previous owners had all  pastures in grass for their bison.  The 3 acres we fenced in with alpaca friendly fencing (the other acres are cross fenced  in barbed wire), I was not sure what was planted there.  I took a handful of grass in to the USDA office and she identified it as brome, which is just fine for alpaca grazing.  During the winter we buy small hay bales for them to eat. Usually a flake a day per animal works out about right.   As the grasses come in I cut back on how much hay is put out.  Luckily, our neighbor across the road is a full time hay grower and has really nice coastal Bermuda, which is a preferred hay for alpacas in this area.  He owns and rents several large areas of land  and has multiple locations for his hay storage.  We just have to drive across the road to get ours.  How lucky for us. The alpacas love it and the chickens like to scrounge around in it for hiding crickets and bugs and grass seed heads.img_0013

The local co-op manager (another neighbor) had a new product in his store called Chaffhaye.  It is used in place of hay.  He gave me a sample package. the alpacas were not too fond of it; I mixed it in with their evening feed.  They kept rotating among feed dishes trying to find one without any in it. I have added a little bit every so often in their evening feed and they have become familiar with the taste.  I will maybe keep some on hand to mix in regularly.  It is supposed to be better for the animal as it is alfalfa hay mixed with molasses to encourage better digestion and is compressed and bagged so it is easy to transport and no mess.  Alfalfa can create various issues for alpacas so I will not feed it full strength at this point.  But it is a handy source to have as a backup and extra treat for them.