Summertime

And the living is easy.  Or so it is for our alpacas.  They just love the summer because it means they go out to the pastures to graze.

Grazing in the back field

Grazing in the back field

We have two barns, a large one and a small one.  They both have overhangs and paddocks in the front.  During winter, the alpacas stay in the barn and paddocks and don’t go to the pastures.  They don’t particularly like snow and here in New Hampshire we have a lot.  But when Spring comes they start humming to go out.

The big barn holds our large female herd and a small herd of males we call the ‘young boys’.  The girls have the largest areas in the barn, and the boys are kept separate in their own stall and section of overhang.  They are not all young anymore, but are younger than our other male herd (known as ‘the big boys’) who live in the smaller barn.

Big barn and front paddock.

Big barn and front paddock.

Small barn looking from their pasture.

Small barn looking from their pasture.

Both barns have access to pasture behind them.  The girls and younger boys access their fields by going up a rather steep aisle-way that takes them up to the grass.  The young boys’ aisle-way parallels the girls and those young boys will not go to pasture until the girls do.  The older boys in the small barn next to our house, go downhill a bit to their field and though they can see the girls go out in the distance, they don’t depend on the girls to tell them when to graze!  When we are cleaning stalls in the morning, we watch the girls as they stare at the back sliding door and hum anxiously.  It is open, but for some strange and unknown reason, they don’t go out automatically.  Dick thinks that it is one female, MoonDance, who ultimately makes the decision to go.  One or another of the other females, who are lower down on the hierarchy, may attempt to go out.  She’ll go into the aisle-way, but when nobody else follows, will come running back in.  Finally, MoonDance will start off and the whole group leaves the barn.  The young males see them start up and they run to their aisle-way and go up too.  Once and a while I get impatient with the constant humming and indecision and will clap my hands and shout, “OK! Let’s GO!”.  It does work on occasion.  Sometimes if I just walk out the door after saying that, they will follow me up the aisle-way and into what ever section of the field we’ve rotated them to.

MoonDance, the fearless leader of the girls

MoonDance, the fearless leader of the girls

Summertime may be easy for the alpacas, but it is not easy for Dick.  He spends a great deal of time tending to the pastures.  Because we practice rotational grazing, he is always moving temporary electric netting around to funnel the animals into different sections of the fields.  It became obvious to us that we didn’t have enough pasture for the girls.  But we had a back field that wasn’t fenced and was growing some nice grass once Dick started mowing it regularly.  We had long been storing manure there for it to age, and once spread on the other fields, good grass was growing where the piles had stood.  So this summer we decided to try to graze the girls in that back field.  Three sides of it were bordered by woods and ancient stone walls and the fourth side had an existing perimeter fence for what we call ‘the hidden pasture’.  (Before we cleared our land of new growth trees, the hidden pasture was surrounded by woods.  The woods are gone, but the name stuck.)  The only real large opening to the back field was below our vegetable garden where we had access to that field.  Dick put up the electric netting to that opening, blocked a couple of other little places with field fence and we let the girls out there through the hidden pasture gate.  It worked great, except that I fretted that the ancient stone walls couldn’t protect them from predators when they went out at night.  To make myself feel better, I take the dogs out there frequently in hopes they leave dog smell around.

Girls gawk at Teddy in the hidden pasture.

Girls gawk at Teddy in the hidden pasture.

Alpacas leaving the back field through the hidden pasture gate.

Alpacas leaving the back field through the hidden pasture gate.

We have plans to have the whole back field fenced with the six strand high tensile electric wire, but in the meantime I’m hoping the dogs are a deterrent.

Girls grazing in back field. Netting keeps them out of the garden.

Girls grazing in back field. Netting keeps them out of the garden.

The not so ‘hidden pasture’ and the back field have become the girls favorite places.  The back field has an added benefit of having some undergrowth where they can scratch.  Seeing as New Hampshire has a lot of bugs in summer, the underbrush gives them a place to rub at the itchiness.  The young boys also have a grove of trees where they scratch.  On hot days, that is their place to hang out.

They've worn out all the underbrush!

They’ve worn out all the underbrush!

It is now August and the grass has slowed it’s growth so we supplement the pasture with hay.  Since the hay is now almost a year old, the alpacas prefer their grass, but being the chow hounds they are, they eat the hay too.  As Fall approaches, we know they will have to be closed off of the pastures once the grass stops growing.  By then, we’ll have all new second cutting hay to give them.  But they will still hum at the back door for a month or so.  And by then, there can be no, “OK! Let’s go!”.  Alas, winter is not so easy…

 

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The Inevitable

When you have lots of animals, you’d think you would get used to death.  It is, obviously, a part of life, but it doesn’t really get any easier.  I suppose those farmers who raise meat animals get used to it, but those of us who don’t, still find it sad to lose a member of the herd.  Alpacas aren’t the same as pet dogs and cats.  They don’t bond with us the way that pets do, or even the way horses can bond.  Nevertheless, when you’ve taken care of them for years, used their beautiful fiber, watched them raise their young and interacted with them on a daily basis, it is hard to see them go down.  When we first got into alpacas, we used to tell people that they lived into their mid-twenties.  I guess that was based on llamas, because the lifespan of most alpacas that I’ve heard about has been late teens.

Caraz, who was euthanized yesterday, was an import from Australia with a birth year documented as 1995, making her 19 this year.  She’d been thin for a couple of years but still made very nice fiber.  In fact, her last year’s fleece is at the mill now, being spun into yarn with MoonDance’s fleece.  Caraz made it through this past cold winter, wearing her coat, but ten days ago we found her down in the stall on her side.  We got her into cush position and she was able to get up.  But after a few days, she could no longer get up at all.  We’d help her up and she was able to walk stiffly to the poop pile, the water and the hay, but did not stay up for long.  Whenever she tried to get up, she fell over onto her side, and couldn’t right herself from there.  It was time.  Now when you know it is time for a pet to go, you pack them into the car and take them to the vet.  But when a large animal can’t walk, you can’t do that.  Our vet was coming out for the annual rabies herd shots, so we had to wait for that.  We tried to make her as comfortable as possible during the wait.  When the herd all went outside, we’d go out to try to get her up so she wouldn’t be stressed by being left alone.  More than once we found her grand-daughter Susannah and her great-granddaughter Judy Blue, standing inside nearby.  Did they know she was a relative?  We’d get her up and they all would go outside.

Susannah and Judy as a youngster.

Susannah and Judy as a youngster, Caraz’s legacy

Caraz was a typical import.  She was spitty and grouchy and never liked us.  Susannah inherited that temperment, but thank goodness Judy Blue is a sweetie.  But Caraz did pass on her wonderful fleece characteristics, so for that we are thankful.  Despite her crabby disposition, it was still sad to see her deteriorate and sad to put her down.

Dick teased me by asking, “Do you think Caraz will be waiting for you at the Rainbow Bridge?  She’d come over, spitting at you all the way?”.  I laughed and said that I didn’t think alpacas would want to wait for their owners.  They rather spend eternity with other alpacas in perpetually green meadows.

Rest In Peace, Caraz, you old witch.  We’ll enjoy your yarn, and Judy’s too.

Sandwich Fair

We spent the Columbus Day Weekend at the Sandwich NH Fair.  It is quite different than Fryeburg, as it is much smaller.  At Fryeburg we have our own barn, but at Sandwich we share with other ruminants.  We have a stall for the animals and a nice area to set up tables to sell alpaca products.

We are in the Sheep Building, with goats...

We are in the Sheep Building, with goats…

There was a goat show going on, so most of the goat breeders were at the ring.  We had LaMancha goats across from us, and seeing no one else to ask, the fair-goers asked us about them.  “Why do they crop their ears?”, they’d ask, with a rather horrified look.  “They are born that way, they are not cropped”, I say.  “Why?” (for cryin’ out loud, how do I know?).  “Because that is their breed.  They are LaManchas”, I say blithely.  That always seemed to satisfy them.

LaMancha Goats - 'Lovely LaManchas'

LaMancha Goats – ‘Lovely LaManchas’

We brought Judy Blue Eyes and Cracklin Rosie on Saturday and since we take them home each night, we were able to swap Cracklin for Molly on Sunday.  Judy and Molly are going to the show in Vermont together, so I figured they’d best get used to being together.  They did okay, and my sign asking for people not to touch seemed to work.

It was very cold both days, so sales of hats, gloves, mittens and socks were brisk.  Yay!  Our barn is next to the Cow barn and this year there were Scottish Highlander cattle there.  I’d only seen them in Scotland, so was thrilled to get a good look.  I had a chance to pat the calf, and, man, her coat was silky.  Don’t know if anyone ever spins it, but they could, I bet.

Young Highlander all spiffed up for show.

Young Highlander all spiffed up for show.

Sandwich Fair is a very old Fair and the last one of the season.  We always enjoy it, but it is tiring, just the same.

The girls relaxing in their pen.

The girls relaxing in their pen.

After the fair each night of the weekend, when we got home, we set up a strong light in Starman’s stall and flushed out his abscessed cheek.  He was actually very good about it, considering.  But he continues to be hard to inject.  He just hates it.  Today, Monday, we took him to the vet’s to have the drain removed.  Megan gave him his Pen G and a Banamine shot and even she had trouble.  Made me feel better!  We have another week of Pen G, but he does look better and is eating better.  He has an enlarged mandible bone and there is still puffiness, but we’re hoping the worst is over.

 

 

When Walking is a Challenge

Today was Health Cert day for the alpacas going to the show in Vermont.  We needed to trailer them to the vet’s office and get the appropriate paperwork.  Two of them are ours and live here, two of them are co-owned and live at the Lucy Farm with Mary and the last is a young male wholly owned by Mary and her son Randy.

Our Molly and Judy Blue Eyes are experienced and walked well to the trailer and only needed a little encouragement to load.  However, the two co-owned girls, Summer Breeze and Vanilla Moon have only had a little halter training, and the boy, Dreamer’s Maximus has had even less.  Plus, he cushes when he feels any pressure on his head from the halter.

Needless to say, Summer, Nillie and Max neither wanted to walk, nor load.  The girls stayed on their feet, at least.  Max had to be half-carried, though he did load on his feet.  Once he saw the girls in the trailer, he decided he’d better go too.

Summer Breeze during Nat'l Alpaca Farm Days

Summer Breeze during Nat’l Alpaca Farm Days. Vanilla Moon below, ears back like sire Sammy.

Vanilla Moon, with ears back like her sire Sammy.

 

At the vet’s, they were all as good as gold, letting Dr Rachel Kleidon check them over.  Nobody objected to that cold stethoscope pressing onto their sides to check heartbeat.  Everything seemed fine, though Molly was persistently pushing to get out of the trailer.  We kept pushing her back and she finally had to be restrained by me holding onto her halter.  Then she cushed in total irritation.  She got up quickly and then proceeded to pee for a good minute.  Poor girl was trying to get out to pee away from the rest of them!!

Funny thing, when we got back to Herd of Dreams (Lucy Farm), the three recalcitrants were pretty eager to walk back into the barn.  Obviously, we have more training to do to get them ready for the show ring!

Starman’s Lump

Starman, one of our biggest male alpacas, developed a lump which we didn’t discover until we sheared him in May.  It is on his face, and the amount of fleece there hid it.  Thinking it might be an abcess due to teeth trouble, we took him to our vet for xrays and tests.  Too funny to see him walk into the building and lay his head on the xray table!  He was sedated of course, but the Starman is a calm boy and did very well.  There didn’t appear to be anything wrong with his teeth, nor did the tests on the contents of the lump show any bacterial infection.  We’d given him a 5 day course of antibiotic injections, which he hated, and that hadn’t touched it.  It ain’t easy trying to give a 225 lb muscular guy a poke in the butt!  So we opted to watch him and see what happened.

He continues to eat well, chew cud, keep weight on, but the lump grew and grew.  So today we took the boy back to the vet’s.  I knew we didn’t have a halter that would fit over the lump, so I took a soft, narrow, dog show leash and fashioned a halter that looped around his nose and up behind his ears and around through the nose loop.  It worked like a charm, and I could fasten a lead rope to the handle on the dog leash.  He followed me onto the trailer without hesitation.  Once at the vet’s, they put a bit of numbing stuff on his cheek and again tried to take out some of the contents of the lump.  Since the lump is pretty hard, we weren’t sure if anything would come out.  But stuff did – white, thick like glue, without much blood.  So more tests will be run.  Could it be cancer?  Will it now show bacteria?  It will be nice to know.  Meanwhile, he’s happy, and his herdmates were glad to have him home.

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Before we headed over, I checked online to see what was in the stuff I had given Beau to help his appetite.  Mirtazapine, it turns out, is an anti-depressive med that occasionally causes side effects in cats.  Restlessness, dilated pupils, vocalizations – all the things that Beau was showing.   No more of that – too bad the vet won’t take it back.  Today, when I told them about it, they gave me two new jars of meds to help coat his stomach and stop nausea.  Since he seems eager to eat, but stops after a few bites, it make sense that his stomach may be troubling him.  From what I’ve learned about Chronic Renal Failure (CRF) in cats, acid stomach can go with the problem.

National Alpaca Farm day is this weekend and we are doing it together with Herd of Dreams Alpacas in North Conway.  Spent awhile printing off business cards and thinking of what to bring.  They don’t have any alpaca products to sell, so we get a corner on that.  It is supposed to be good weather, and since they are on a very busy road, there should be lots of folks stopping by.  We’re hoping it won’t be too warm, as then people don’t think of buying warm apparel, but at least we don’t freeze in the process.

The Beginning – Sept 24, 13

This is how I began this blog.

I’ve been entranced by the journals of Nella Henney, who spent summers in Marnie’s house up the road. Her journals were published as ‘Summers on Foss’ and were really just a log of her every day doings.  It was back in the 1940’s to 1960’s, but aside from the historical interest, I am very interested in the people and landscapes that were here on Foss Mountain at that time.  Sooo, I decided I should chronicle the doings here on the land that a family named Ellis lived on (though I think this was Henney-owned land that they leased).

Today was very cold for a September day, only in the 50’s, and I put the heat on.

I walked the dogs around the back of the field this afternoon.  With Biff gone,  it seems prudent to have dog scent from Teddy and Luna around the perimeter.

Teddy the Pyr mix and Luna the Collie in the back field.

Teddy the Pyr mix and Luna the Collie in the back field.

Beau, my 13 year old bicolor Ragdoll, hasn’t been eating enough to keep weight on.  The vet had given me an ‘appetite stimulant’, but it seems to make him agitated and doesn’t help with the eating.  The last time I gave it to him, he acted strange as well, so I guess I won’t be giving him anymore of that.

Beau just looks at dry food now. :(

Beau just looks at dry food now. 😦

The alpacas just love the cooler weather and were out a lot.  We have taken all the big barn folks – those being the girls and the younger boys – off of their pasture, as they have overgrazed it.  Plus, Dick is over-seeding the young boys’ section, which was originally seeded about five years ago and is in need of repair.  He spread the composted manure yesterday and today, then seeded it and rolled it.  It is a bit late for it to germinate, but will do it eventually.

This was in May and even then we knew grass would be sparse

This was in May and even then we knew grass would be sparse

We took Molly out again to continue her halter training.  Her sister Cracklin’ Rosie went too, for moral support, as she is well trained.  But Molly didn’t cooperate until we were headed back, when she finally stopped rearing up and then throwing herself on the ground.  She wasn’t nervous though, because she always cropped grass when she was down!!!  Just being resistant to the halter, I guess.  Since Cracklin’ and her other sister Venus, were both great on the lead, I’m thinking Venus will get there too.  Hope, hope…

Molly, happy in the field with no responsibilities.

Molly, happy in the field with no responsibilities.