Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pepita's Cria

Cria watch is over at my farm.  It started with one birth and ended with the same birth.  I did have three pregnant females heading into the spring. Two of those (Cassa Blanca and Jessie) were sold, and then delivered to their new home where their offspring were born.

That left pregnant Pepita here.  I don't think Pepita really enjoyed her pregnancy.  She's been pretty ornery for the past 11 and a half months of her gestation.  (Yes, Ladies....that's right....quit complaining about your 9 month pregnancy!) 

Watching for an impending cria birth is nerve-wracking, since we work off-farm. I scheduled the whole family (and sometimes friends) to ensure Pepita was checked quite often.  Most alpaca births are uneventful, natural and fairly quick....but we don't like to take chances.  Eleven and a half months is the average pregnancy...but a normal birth still puts the delivery date somewhere in a month range.  That's a whole lot of waiting and worrying. 

Pepita had had pretty full teats for a couple weeks which is an indicator of a cria on its way.  Tuesday morning, I had a feeling that delivery day was here.  Pepita had what my friend, Nancy Carr of Silver Cloud Alpacas, has coined as 'hip-dip'...with some experience, you can actually see the hip muscles relax prior to birth.  I pleaded with Pepita, when giving the morning pellet rations, to have the cria in the morning before I had to leave for work at noon.

I kept an eye on her from the house.  I guessed that she was in early labour about 9:30am when she was alternately laying down away from her herdmates and then going to the poop-pile.  Things looked a bit more serious around 10:30am, so I put on my boots and headed to the pasture.

There were two little feet and a nose sticking out under her tail - which is exactly what you want to see.  We've had 30-some births on the farm, and I've witnessed about half of them.  Pepita has only had one other birth and we had to help a little bit, so I was prepared to give her some assistance if required.  Our inclination is to let nature proceed without our involvement - as it's always possible to do more harm than good by intervening.    

The only concern was that Pepita kept laying on the ground which was making it difficult for the cria to make it's way out the canal and into the world.  Alpaca usually give birth standing up, with the baby hanging out by the its hips for a bit before it drops to the ground.  I understand this is nature's way of ensuring any fluid drains from the nostrils and mouth.

So, I haltered Pepita so that I could keep her up.  With my teenage daughter (who arrived in her mini-skirt and rubber boots, no less) gently stroking Pepita's neck, saying 'Push, honey' once (yes, I'm serious...she's watched to many episodes of ER!)...the little guy was born. 

Everything else that happens with a birth, plus the cleanup and well-baby check happened before 11:15am.

A quick shower, check that the cria was heading towards the teats and I was off to work on time.
No Problem.
(And what did YOUR library clerk do before SHE went to work?)

These pictures, including the one above, were taken when the cria was about 22 hours old.  He weighed 20lbs.

In this picture, Pepita blows around his butt end as an encouragement to nurse.  A raised little curl of a tail is usually a good sign that he's latched onto a teat.  Pepita has ample milk.

The mother clucks and hums a lot at her cria.  He knows that she means 'Stay with me and away from the 2 legged one'.  

Thanks Pepita, good mom.
Job well done.

Monday, June 25, 2012

What I'm Up To...

I finished knitting this purple shawl some time ago, but just got around to washing and blocking it.  I love the colour, although it isn't one that I would normally wear.  I've knit this simple pattern before, and it really shows off the variation in the handspun, handdyed yarn. 

I love it when people admire a handspun garment and ask me if I made it myself.  "Yes, first I tended my alpacas for a year while they grew the fleece, then I gathered the fleece as my husband sheared it, then I washed and carded the fleece, spun the yarn on my spinning wheel, then dyed the yarn, then knit the garment....yes, I did make it."  (I try not to take all the credit if the particular alpaca is nearby)

Here's my current knitting with handspun project - a very plain rectangular wrap.  I find that garments knit with very simple stitch patterns look like pieces of art, as the handspun, handdyed yarn is interesting all on it's own.

Creating handspun, handdyed garments is definitely a labour of love.

It takes me a while to turn fleece from the alpaca's back into a clean roving that I can dye, and then spin, and then knit.  I showed you the yarn for these two shawls here back in December after it was just dyed.

I picked up a book on the 'New' shelf at the library, "Culinary Intelligence" by Peter Kaminsky.  The author is a well-known food writer/restaurant reviewer.  This isn't a book I would normally pick for a bedtime read, but I am becoming more and more interested in healthy eating in a way that supports sustainable and responsible agriculture.

I'm about half way through the book.  I find it really interesting and Mr. Kaminsky has explained in terms that I can understand, ways to select food that leads to better health for yourself and your planet.  He wraps it all around a term called 'FPC' (flavour per calorie).  In short, if you make the decision to only select the best tasting food - generally, you are going to select food that has been picked when ripe (ie. regional), had less salt and chemicals added to it (less processed) and therefore with less packaging and environmental impact.  He also explains how natural food flavours are meant to be enhanced by salt, sugar, etc...not totally overwhelmed by food processing industry, as is often the case when we buy packaged or fast food.

I like books that make me smarter. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Versatile Blogger Award

Well, for the second time this year, I've been nominated by a fellow blogger for the Versatile Blogger Award.  In February, Leigh from 5 Acres & A Dream nominated me.  I was appreciative but...well...time slipped by and I didn't pay the award forward.  Recently, I was nominated by Debi of Puddleduck Grange.
Thanks Leigh and Debi.

I appreciate both nominations from these interesting female bloggers.  Those two blogs capture my interest - one is about rural sustainable living, the other is more about creativity.
So here I go to nominate some blogs that I find interesting and worthy of the Versatile Blogger Award.
1.  Life with Sheep
2.  Mystic Hills Ngaroma
3.  A Northern Life
4.  Tree and Twig Farm Blog
5.  Camp Runamuck
6.  What Housework?
7.  Divineknits with Infiknit
(okay, I didn't get to 15 and some are not 'relatively' new to blogging....but...well....I tried.....)
Readers:  Please visit these new bloggers who inspire and share many,many ideas with us all.

Okay for awarded bloggers....the details if you choose to participate.

Nominate 15 (or what you can) fellow bloggers who are relatively new to blogging.
Let them know that you nominated then.
Share 7 random facts about yourself.
Thank the blogger that has nominated you.

And finally....Add The Versatile Blogger Award picture to your blog post!

Here's the (very) random facts about me:

1.  I once took and passed my scuba diving qualification but decided that I didn't like breathing through a tube.
2.  I had my last cigarette in 2003 (for somewhat of the same reason why I chose not to scuba dive) and I do miss it.
3.  My favourite pizza toppings are mozzarella, mushrooms and green olives.
4.  My alcoholic drink of choice is amber rum with diet coke.
5.  Dark Chocolate with Almonds...that's my go-to yummy.
6.  I have a serious and immature crush on George Clooney.
7.  I once owned a 28 foot sailboat named 'Soliloquy'.

Have a happy day!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Good Morning, Farm!

Good Morning, Jimena!

 Good Morning, Deer!
(no the corn isn't ready yet

 Good Morning, Corn!

 Good Morning, Bean!

 Good Morning, Potatoes!
(GoodBye to the 'No Potato Diet' soon)

Good Morning, Onion!
Good Morning, Groundhog!
(No lettuce, yet...)


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Of Boys and Joys

What a spring we've had.  High temperature and incredibly very little moisture.  Northern Ontario has been devastated by forest fires.  Drought is always a concern to anyone who relies on pasture and hay to feed a herd.  As I write, it has been raining steady for a couple days with promises of several more days.  A huge sigh of relief!

We were done our shearing 2-3 weeks earlier than usual because of the weather.  Then we delivered three girls sold to a farm nearby.   We also delivered two breeding males to them to use for the summer.  

 DEA Cyrano always looks impressive, with fleece or not.  He's quite the poser.

The white MHA Striker gave me some lovely studly-like poses as well, but since my filthy barn kid dressed in her Oscar-the-Grouch barn pants and her school uniform top (ahem...) was in them, I chose not to show you those.  Then, my camera batteries ran out.  So, here he is, looking less than studly. 

Back at the farm, there are less males in the male pasture.  Of course, competition runs high in the spring time.  With fewer girls to impress, there is still an abundance of shows of testosterone.
This is MHA Benecio (Ben) and MHA Awesome Carmel (Carmel) doing a little neck-wrestling.  Alpaca necks are incredibly muscular and strong.

The game continues with one guy trying to bite the other guy.  Alpacas only have bottom teeth at the front, but the males develop very sharp fighting teeth at maturity which need to be dealt with to protect the other herd members.

This game ends with one screeching male running around the pastures, with the other hot on his heel, screeching and trying to bite his butt.

In the end, you have two out of breath males, nostril-flaring and dripping green spit from their lips.  At least one will have some other guy's tail fibres stuck in his teeth.

Yep, nothing like walking by the girls area covered in green smelly slime with fibre stuck in your teeth to try to win a date.

Bolstered by the relative success of my wee 6 x 12 vegetable garden at the house, we've taken over a small pasture for our garden this year.  Our farm is on clay, so I'm not quite sure how successful this will be this year.  We tilled the soil twice before planting.  It has been fun to see the first shoots of corn and first green leaves of the potato plants coming up.  It's been a family project so far...hopefully, the excitement will continue once the weeds and harvest starts.

A mama groudhog decided to make a den and have her groundhog pups between our house and barn.  This is a picture of one of the pups staring out at me.  A couple of the other ones were running around in the sand from their main denpipe, but with the direction of the sun, the sand and their colouring the photos weren't good.  They are pretty cute, even though I know they will get into my garden.

I've seen a big rabbit hanging around my yard and a doe with a very new fawn just outside the pastures.  Nature is watching for my garden harvest!

Unfortunately, as I write this, I haven't seen the groundhog pups for several days.  They were running around the yard for a couple days and then we found a blood-covered site where one likely was attacked by a predator.  The next day, I saw the mama groundhog sitting up by her hole looking anxiously around.  She wasn't moving when she saw me.  I am hoping that she was able to save some of her pups by moving them onto a different hole, if indeed a skunk or fox has gotten a pup.  Perhaps she moved them because the rain was flooding her den.

Thanks for stopping by to read my little blog and special thanks to those who leave comments.  I love hearing from you.