Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Out in the Pasture

The grass here in Northern Ontario is still pretty brown.  However, the alpacas are neglecting the hay feeder and spreading out in search of the new grasses coming up.  We have quite a lot of pasture for our small herd.  If we didn't, I would be keeping the alpacas off all the pasture until the grass had a chance to get hold.  But I like the sight of them moving around the pasture in the spring after hovering around the barnyard for so many months. 

The ratio of alpacas to pasture is said to be 4-7 per acre.  I think that is quite high, unless you are blessed with exceptional pasture.  I currently have 19 alpacas and 2 llamas on about 22 acres of pasture.  We usually end up trimming our pastures down with the mower at some point in the summer, as they can't graze all of the grass down.  If the grass grows too high, the alpacas won't go into the pasture.  This is the alpaca's instinctive way of protecting themselves from predators that may be hiding in tall grasses.  Alpacas are very nervous of anything touching their hind legs, including tall grasses.

Alpacas like to move around in their herd and they keep a watchful eye for anything approaching through the field or neighbouring bush.  There are usually deer grazing in the hay fields beyond the pastures (sometimes right in the pastures). 

Sometimes it is difficult to get some nice photos of the alpaca group as they often move away from the person walking in the field, so that I have a great collections of retreating alpaca butts.

Well, except for Raven, who comes running to me across the field and then walks beside me, as if directing me as to which angle I should be taking the shot from.  Sometime I think that Raven is really a farm dog in alpaca clothing.
We are expecting 40-50mm of rain today and then continuing rain for the next few days.  That is a lot of rain, but I suspect that it will cause a major greening in our landscape by the weekend.
Enjoy your day!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


I had a happy thing in April.  Well, I had many happy things in April, but this one I am a bit bubbly over. 

The editor of Fibre Focus, the glossy magazine published for members of the Ontario Handweavers and Spinners Guild, chose to publish my article about the black alpaca jackets.  If you didn't catch my blog entry about the jackets, you can read it here.

The article is really about honouring my good friend and fellow weaver, Suzanne Philbin, who had woven and tailored the jackets.  I was so pleased that the publisher sent me an extra copy so that I could give Suzanne one to show off to her children and grandchildren.  Also, for the first time, I received payment for an article!  Really an honorarium, but enough to buy lunch with wine for Suzanne and I.  Honestly, I did strut around like a proud rooster, joking with my library co-workers that they had a 'paid writer' on staff.  

Of course, there is always someone ready to knock you down to size. 
In the form of Smokey the Pampered House Cat (formerly, Smokey the Rough Barn Cat).

SERVANT...where is my milk?!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

White on Green

It sure is nicer to head out to the barn in the morning with the promise of warmth and sunshine in the air.  It's almost time to retire the winter rubber boots for the summer rubber boots. The alpacas are looking for those first blades of green in the pastures.  It will be a week or so until all the snow is out of the fields, but once it happens, the green seems to sprout almost overnight.

 Alicia here is getting a bit annoyed with me.  She is supposed to be pregnant for the first time.  Sometimes, with new moms, it is hard to be 100% sure with a spit check.  Every chance that I get, I check her from the back-side to see if the cria is bulging out one side.  She's getting self-conscious, I think.  What a nice fluffy butt she has, though! 

Here's a picture of some of the boys.  It's nice to see them out getting exercise.  They don't move around much in the winter...basically their winter trail is from the barn, to the hay feeder, to the poop-pile, to the waterer.
Then, there is Jessie, the camera hog.  She's just curious, really.  And if you were wondering...Yes, that nose is as soft as it looks.
 This is Lily, the rejected-then-adopted cria from last June.  You can read her story here

So, all my white fleece from last year has finally come full circle back from the mill.
I've got a new batch of yarn and fibre.  Pictured is a sport weight yarn in a blend of 70% alpaca, 30% merino.  It's a very soft and lofty knitting yarn.
I also got returned a large batch of white 3 ply sock yarn that is 60%alpaca, 20%merino, 20%nylon.  My 3 ply yarn makes a very warm sock that is durable, but still soft.
As well, I've received a large batch of 100% alpaca white rovings, 70% alpaca, 30% merino blend white rovings and soft beige fingering weight yarn.
I am trying to rearrange my life to have some time to start dyeing the white yarn and rovings , now that it's warmer in my sunroom.
Thanks for popping in!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

My Secret Weapons for Growing Food

As I told you last time, I am committed to growing vegetables this year.  I mentioned that I had 2 secret weapons.
Actually, I have 3 weapons, but since I've told you about one of them previously, only 2 are secret. (Do the math!)

Yes, I told you about alpaca poop....aka Golden Beans, in this post here.  I mentioned that I didn't know the scientific properties of alpaca manure offhand.  However, I've put a call out to my paca-peeps and they came through to help me find the information.  A Canadian publication called Camelid Quarterly has an article about the properties of alpaca poop in their June 2008 issue.  You can also find information on this website.

A brief version of the benefits of alpaca manure:
  • lower in organic matter than most other livestock manures - but it still has plenty to improve soil texture and water-holding capacity.
  • This lower organic content allows alpaca manure to be put directly into the garden without fear of "burning" the plants.
  • the nitrogen and potassium content of the droppings are comparatively high to other barnyard animals, giving the indicator of good fertilizer value.
  • the alpaca's 3-stomach digestive system processes food so efficiently that seeds do not survive to become weeds in your garden.
I know that alpaca manure did wonders to my front lawn.  Also, my in-laws have noticed a huge improvement in their vegetable garden since using alpaca manure.

Now that we've got that stuff out of the way...

Here is Secret Weapon #1...
Drum Roll, please.....

Heritage Seeds from Soggy Creek Co. in Nipissing, Ontario.  No more genetically modified, perfect looking, bland-tasting veggies from the grocery store.  I think I`m going to have the best tasting squash, lettuce and purple beans EVER, this year.  Apparently, I will even be able to wear the bean as a mustache (a real plus for menopausal women...I guess...).

Soggy Creek Seeds are produced by Yan & Sherry, a funky, fun couple who run the Piebird Bed & Breakfast in Nipissing, Ontario.   (Check it out...really neat website).
Forget the seeds!  You cannot throw these seed packets out or leave them on sticks to mark garden rows.  Frame these works of art.  (I really think the couple on the "Strange Squash from Outer Space" packet, are indeed Yan & Sherry themselves...coincidence...maybe not...)

Secret Weapon #2

I am the proud card-holding member of three different public libraries.  All these libraries have books to help the novice gardener like me teach myself the fine art of growing food.

I can taste it now.