Another snowstorm….and it’s officially Spring

Well, we were expecting a little snow, but this is just too much.  It started snowing yesterday, Saturday, evening and has been constant since then with wind speeds up to 35 mph.  We are really stunned to see this.  This is the 3rd major snow for us this winter, and it is highly unusual to get any snowfall during a winter.   We are northeast of Dallas.  The El Nino phenomenon has kicked in big time. 

I got everyone tucked in  Friday  night.  The alpacas got plenty of hay; the chickens got their feeders filled and water topped off.  I cleaned up the barn and everyone had clean places to lounge.  The wind has been straight out of the west and right into the barn and out the other east doors.  We left the roll up doors open in case they wanted to go out, but so far they have not.  They all have a coating of snow on them but are warm enough cushing in the barn.

The chickens filed out of the coops when their little door was opened and milled around.  They don’t mind the weather, and the barn is a space they like to hang out in and they are protected there.

We just stayed in the house and watched it snow.  Monday it is supposed to be in the 60’s so this will all melt soon enough, but we will be back into the wet and mucky ground once again.  More rain is expected this week.  We can’t seem to dry out more than two days before we have more wet weather.

We just were not expecting all this white; it’s about 3 inches on the ground and we are supposed to get another 3 or more today.  Unbelievable North Texas weather.

Fibers and Textiles: shows and links

I was looking for information on shows where textiles and fibers like alpaca are shown and sold, within driving distance for us.   I would really like to start attending and learning more about the textile industry. I am not a knitter, weaver or spinner, but my dad handcrafted for me a pretty and traditional, and functional, spinning wheel years ago where it has graced a corner of the living room of the houses we have lived in over the years.  I really want to learn how to spin.  I have the fiber from our alpacas, I just need to get to work.

A local spinner bought some alpaca fiber from me and commented that she taught herself by spinning every day.  She said she started out by spinning whenever she decided to sit down and give it a try.  But because she was not seeing a lot of improvement, she decided she had to spin every day.  Kind of like learning to play an instrument.  You must practice, practice, practice every day.  So, she learned and now participates in some area club get togethers.

I think this will be my goal for this new year, to concentrate on and learn how to spin.  I have been researching fiber events and here are some links that can be helpful for you.

http://www.textilelinks.com/cal/calendarloc.html

http://www.charisma-art.com/sheep,_wool_and_fiber_festivals/

We love Pagosa Springs, Colorado,anytime,  and Wolf Creek in winter:

http://www.pagosafiberfestival.com/

http://visitpagosasprings.com/colorado/activities/colorado-events

http://www.wolfcreekski.com/links.asp

A New Year with alpacas and chickens in Texas

I just went out at 11:30 p.m. and closed up the chickens for the night. A little later than I should, but it’s been cold and rainy and hard to get motivated to go out.  But I saw a skunk scurry across my path and probably was looking for a chicken dinner so I may have scared him off. 

It was clear and  glowing outside.  The moon is full and almost like day.  I really didn’t need the flashlight except to scan around inside the coops to make sure all was well.  I threw some extra hay to the alpacas and wished them all a Happy New Year.  Fireworks are exploding in the distance and a bright new year is ready for us to enter.

Chickens in the rain

Being new to chickens, I have read alot about how to care for them.  Everyone has their own experiences and what works best for them.  Bottom line is that animals are versatile for the most part and will function just fine usually with what type shelter they are provided.  However, there are some ways to improve what you provide and make it a little more livable for them, especially in wet, cold,  or even hot weather. 

My chickens like to hang out in the alpacas barn (30×50 feet) if the weather is not nice for pasture foraging.  In the heat, they also like to hang out under the elevated coops (base size is 4×8 set up on  a cement block at each corner) where the cool earth and breezes  cool them.  In the winter the barn, bright sun, and hay on the floor helps warm them.  Their coops keep them warm enough at night when I shut them in and they can burrow into the deep litter and they mound together.  The decomposing litter also generates some heat, so I read, from the decomposition, which would create some heat for them.  So, keeping a deep litter in the coop is an easy way to improve their warmth.  I use a kitty litter scoop to remove any clumpy wet litter and to swish around the top layer into the bottom layer and get it started drying out.  I put a hook on one of the coop studs out of the way so I can reach the scoop and it’s so easy to keep the nest boxes, roosts and litter floor cleaned up.

Dealing with frozen water in winter is difficult.  Fortunately, they don’t need as much water as they do in summer, so they drink out of the alpacas buckets which take longer to freeze,   and I make sure  they start off the morning with fresh unfrozen water in their little waterers.  There are some heated waterers and heated bases to sit them on, but I have not tried those.  Last winter was the first winter and they all did just fine.  Since there isn’t really much of anything to forage from the pastures, I make sure their feed containers are kept full as the digesting of food will generate some body heat.  They also like to burrow into the alpacas hay troughs.  The alpacas eat “around” them. 

We don’t have too many “freeze” days in this part of the US, but still need to be ready for them because they almost always take us by surprise.

I have recommended them before, but I will again, and that is two books I have referred to constantly: Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, by Gail Damerow, and the other is The Encyclopedia of Country Living, by Carla Emery.  Find them at Amazon.com and you can create a book list and they will e-mail you whenever the prices change, higher or lower.  A great place to shop online.

The wetter the better–not!

One summer we took our daughter and son to Colorado on vacation when they were in middle school and high school.  We went river rafting and bought shirts to mark the event that said “the wetter the better”, which for river rafting is true.  However, in October in Texas  it is not. The rain has just been never ending it seems and we are all tired of the muck, especially we who must slog through it in the barnyard.  But, things are looking up and we hear that tomorrow will be the last of the rain. Hooray!

The dampness has settled into the barn and the  packed earth floor has become rather damp.  I have turned on the two large ceiling fans to move the still air around and try to dry it out some.  And of course the alpacas do not want to use their outdoor poop piles, so where are they going? Of course, they are.  Inside the barn, causing a little odor.  However, as far as clean up goes, I would rather clean up in there than have a mucky mess outside to clean up, so I cannot complain too much. 

I use Stall Dry on the inside poo areas after cleaning up and have I mentioned how much I loooooove Stall Dry. It deodorizes and sops up moisture (10x it’s weight, I read)  I will be sprinkling around the inside of the chicken coops this weekend,after cleaning out about 1/3 of the litter and replacing with new.  It is important to keep some old litter in the coop because, as I understand,  it has the established microbes already in place that are cleaning up and breaking down  the litter and will migrate into the new litter to keep it all breaking down correctly.  The old litter I clean out will go into the compost pile.  I have not had any moisture or odor problems in the coop with the deep litter.

The chickens do not seem to mind the wet and they do live in the barn during the day and hang out, dust and fluff, and clean up errant crickets.

I will keep my eyes open, but have not seen my hummingbirds.  I hung out freshly filled feeders just in case.  I did see one lone Monarch butterfly today on its journey south.

I plan to enjoy the new dry weather and get things decorated  for Halloween.

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