Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tulips and Toenails

Spring is so close, I can almost taste it.  I keep walking into work and saying that.  People keep looking at me funny.  Like Monday, when it was -32C in the morning.  However, it was practically balmy by the afternoon.  Trust me, it's starting!

I love beautiful flowers blooming in my house at this time of year!  Plants don't do well with my neglect, but a pot of forced bulbs give almost instant gratification.  Such a lift in February.

Sunday was pedicure day at the barn.  Often people assume that alpacas have cloven hooves, like goats.  In fact, alpacas and llamas have soft padded soles on their feet and have two toenails.  The toenails grow, especially in North American soft pastures.  So, every 6-8 weeks, they need to be trimmed.
(I apologize for the poor picture, but this farmer tends to lose help if she spends a lot of time fiddling with the camera instead of getting the job done.)
When we first started caring for alpacas back in 2002, the nail trimming deal was a cause of great stress and it took us a lot of planning...even though we started with 5 alpacas.  Now, we can do 18 alpacas in just over an hour with minimal energy.  Partly because we know what we are doing, partly because our animals have all been here long enough to trust us and partly because my daughter has grown into a strong, tall farm helper.
Some farms use a chute.  We don't.  Toe-nail trimming here is usually a two person to hold the alpaca at the front, the other to lift each leg and do the trimming (that's usually hubby).  If there is a third person to stand at the opposite side of the alpaca to keep them from leaning, if needed, that's a bonus.  With alpacas, it's all about balance and control, if they can't balance or resist the amount of control (either too much or too little) being applied by the humans, then they rebel.  Alpacas have very strong legs and necks, are great at twisting, rolling and bucking.  Working with any animal, things just work better if the animal is at ease and cooperating.  And with upset alpacas, there is usually stinky spit cooperation is key (sometimes a shower cap helps, too.)
Now, the other side of the story...we have one big, bad female named Jimena who has a nasty attitude and really disgusting spittle when she's upset.  And she a "Friday the 13th" movie soundtrack.  She's a lot better now than when we bought her 5 years ago, but we still leave her for a day when we are feeling particularly adventurous.  She's number 19 in line and left for another day.

This a Berry Cake.  Ingredients include 2 cups of blueberries and 2 cups of raspberries from my freezer.  The wild raspberries were from the bumper crop that I picked around our summer trailer site.  Yummy! 
See how this baking/cooking thing turns into a monster.  Now, I have a litre of buttermilk that I bought for this recipe...minus the 3/4 cup required for this recipe.  I thought the cat might like a bit of it, but it offended him. 
So now...I need to find a recipe for buttermilk and eggs.

Thanks for stopping by.


Les Alpagas d'ALDO said...

Thank you for that post on toe nail trimming. We are not very good on controling our alpaca and trying to find a better way to do it. Any good reference, with more detail, you can give me? Thank you

Wooly Knits n Bits said...

My friend does the best salad dressing with buttermilk and herbs, kinda like this one:

Even with my milk intolerance, I can handle a small amount of it. Mmmm!

luckybunny said...

Love the title, "tulips and toenails!" hehe. Amazing how quick you do them all now! Regardless of practice and good animals that's still a lot of work in a short period of time! I agree spring is in the air, I'm with you there!

The berry cake looks so good, I'm in for anything with berries. You could use the buttermilk to make buttermilk biscuits, a lot of breads use buttermilk, or cakes.

Great post! :)

Norma from Misty Haven Alpacas said...

What works for us (after learning the hard way) is:
1) people must be calm for the alpaca to be calm
2) use the minimal amount of restraint - we found that haltering the alpacas got them too excited...possibly thinking they will be travelling or mating - so we don't halter them to cut their toenails. They need to find their balance in 3 legs so it's key to let them adjust themselves and not push on them (unless they are pushing against you) 3) don't have the girls in the barn when you are trimming the boys (and vice versa).
Marty McGee Bennett is the expert of camelid behaviour in North America. Her book 'The Camelid Companion' is a popular one as are her weekend workshops - which are often offered in Ontario, possibly Quebec. (If you are interested in a workshop and can't find one, email me) I can't say that I've read her book completely(even though I own it, I got it after several years with alpacas when I was trying to halter train some older, very large llamas) and I haven't attended her workshops, but I beleive that her knowledge and teachings are solid. Friends that have attended her workshops swear by her techniques. That might be worth checking out. Or do you have other alpaca farms around you that might be able to give you some hands on help to give you pointers?

Norma from Misty Haven Alpacas said...

Oh, Dominique - also, working with them in a small pen where they can't see too many escape routes is a good thing too.

Verde Farm said...

I just found you through a comment on another friends’ blog. I would so love for you to link up with Farm Friend Friday at my blog. I don’t have many alpaca farm friends and would love to have some. I want an alpaca so badly for our farm. We would welcome you to link up anytime including today :)

Azure Islands Designs said...

Sounds like quite the production on pedicure day...but it appears you have it all under control! :0)

Your Berry Cake does sound yummy...a baking monster can be a good thing!