One man went to ……. meow

There are certainties to my life here on the farm:

  • The sun will come up tomorrow.
  • There will be more ‘paca poo to scoop.
  • The grass will need cutting again.

Some days I deal with all three. (it’s a hectic life) There is a lot of grass to be cut but I find the task quite relaxing. However the last outing nearly turned to disaster. I was just completing the first circuit, coming up the hill towards the barn, when I became aware of an unusual noise from the mower deck. It’s funny how you can get used to a piece of machinery and quickly recognise the smallest abnormality  in sound or vibration.

I stopped the engine and jumped off to look for the problem. To my surprise, the the strange squeaking noise continued. I instantly knew that the sound was one off the new kittens. At least he was making a noise. I opened up the grass collection basket to find a dazed and confused kitty covered in clippings. I will have to be more careful when I start up the mower in future.

No little pussy cats were harmed in this reconstruction
No little pussy cats were harmed in this reconstruction

Two down, two to go

Miss Lynne had to leave early this morning for her trip north. Before we left for the airport she had a word with our pregnant girls to see if they could delay any birthing until her return. Although she asked sweetly, it wasn’t to be.

I'm up mum!
I’m up mum!

I returned from the airport run, completed the delayed morning routine by around 9.15 and then had some breakfast. Just after 10, Cagney and Lacey were bugging me to give them a run out. They can be most insistent. While outside I thought I would quickly check on the the pregnant girls and to my complete surprise Miss Elegance was fussing over a new born cria. Mother and baby were in no distress so I was able to calmly walk the dogs back in and collect towels, warm water and iodine from the mud room.

Yes, I think this is my best side
Yes, I think this is my best side

Elegance simply does not live up to her name. She spits and kicks and always pushes herself to the feed bins – all of them. I’m afraid she lived up to her reputation in childbirth also. She dropped her little one right in the middle of the poo pile. Good job that I had cleared it only an hour before. No harm done though and she cleaned up fine with a bit of warm water and plenty of towels. She is a spirited little thing which made putting iodine on the umbilical less that straightforward. Mum wasn’t too pleased with me but it has to be done.

Elegance looks on with pride
Elegance looks on with pride

The little one soon found control of those very long legs and made equally quick work of finding the milk bar. I’m not quite sure what colour classification she falls under. She has some black, some grey, some brown and that lovely white face. She’s a pretty little thing and no mistake. Miss Lynne and I just have to think of her name.


A buzz around the place

Last week I got the call to say that our bees would be ready for collection Saturday. And so begins another crazy experiment.

Miss Lynne and I have been attending the local bee club meetings for six months or so and had taken the first steps to becoming bee keepers. I had already constructed the hives and we just needed the bees to fill them.  We chose to start out with two colonies to be delivered as two times five frames in cardboard boxes. These are essentially mini hives. You just have to transfer the little creatures from the box to their new home. Of course, there is the task of getting them home in the first place. I’m pleased that I took the truck as one of the “nucs” was not totally sealed , allowing the odd bee to squeeze out. That might have been difficult if it had been in the cabin.

Positioning the "nuc"
Positioning the “nuc”

I have previously set the hive base in position and when I returned home, I thought it would be best to just rest the “nucs” on the base boards to help the bees to orient themselves to their new location. Yes, have lunch and then tackle the installation when Miss Lynne got home from weaving guild.

Protective gear on with smoker in hand
Protective gear on with smoker in hand

Well we bucked up the courage to attack the task and I got the protective gear on and fired up the smoker. The bees will naturally become a little subdued when they sense smoke. You never know what you will find when you first open that box.

Just a little smoke to subdue any angry bees
Just a little smoke to subdue any angry bees

I had no angry bees so it was a relatively simple task to transfer the frames of buzzing bees to their new homes. Once in place I was able put in the feed bags of sugar water to help them while they are finding local sources of food. They have quite a hard job to do in the next few weeks and we need to give them a helping hand.

Healthy frame of bees
Healthy frame of bees

The hives soon became active with bees coming and going and crowding the entrance. I’ll take this as a good sign. I’ve already refilled the feed bags once and will do a general inspection on Saturday. If all is going well I will need to add  a second body on each hive to allow for expansion and the storage of honey. I think this is going to be a fascinating addition to the farm routine.

I have to thank a very brave Miss Lynne for taking the photos with no protective gear at all. She did ask that I attach a longer lens to the camera next time though.

Shearing time once again

It hardly seems possible but we have just completed our second annual shearing. It was a lot less worrisome than last time around, even with three times as many animals.  We have become much more confidant at handling them and also have the barn pens configured to help.

Little Sarah, the evening before shearing

We were up early to feed the animals prior to locating all the girls in the larger pen and the boys in the smaller one. This allowed us to have a smooth flow from holding to shearing mat and then release to the paddock. Kyle and his assistant arrived shortly after 7.30 and we were quickly into the rhythm. I would capture the animal, Kyle and assistant would lead to the mat and rope the hind legs and then I would rope the front ……. and gently stretch. The guys were very careful with our animals, especially the expectant mothers. Firm and positive actions seemed to  calm them.

Once on their side, Kyle quickly clipped the toe nails and then moved on to shearing; one side, then the other and then the neck and top knot. Meanwhile Miss Lynne scurried around collecting all that luscious fibre into  appropriate bags. The last operation was to cut the teeth if needed. Only the boys needed the “Dremel” treatment. It’s hard to watch that for the first time but an Alpaca’s teeth are clearly not as sensitive as ours.

Everything went very smoothly and we were all finished by 10.30 or so. We ended the morning with lots of fibre to sort and 16 goofy looking critters. All done for another year!

Sarah post shearing
Sarah post shearing

New chicks

The Post Office called early to say that they had a box of new chicks for us and would I like to collect them. Sure, it would save them being in a van for hours.

They caused quite a stir in the line as I carried them out. They made a nice healthy chirping noise. Pretty cool for 26 chicks only days old that had already traveled 900 miles. I guess they were hungry.

They are doing well in the feed room under the heat light. We lost 3 in the first couple of days but I guess that’s normal. I’ve got to start planning another chicken coop now.

No time to play & Cagney gets a haircut

Just because the boss was away, there was no time to play. I had my list of jobs!

First I had some digging to be done in preparation for raspberries and gooseberries plants. The good old Georgia soil does not have a lot of organic matter and so I created a bed with material from the ‘paca poo pile. I’m hoping that this will help retail moisture. We will see. It’s all an experiment.

Just as I was beginning the evening routine, “Watson” the concrete guy turned up with some good news ……. and some not so good news. The good news was that he was able to start work on the concrete apron around the barn. The bad news (for me); the guys would start work in the morning. “Yes, I’ll have it all clear for them Watson. See you at 7.30 tomorrow then.”

It was hectic but I managed to get the alpacas relocated to the lower barn and pasture. The girls were no trouble. They just followed me shaking a bucket of food. The boys I haltered and lead them on by one.

lower barn
Temporary accommodation

I moved the chicken coops out from undercover to the pasture, removed 8 gates, relocated the trailer and the RV and generally made sure that the guys and a concrete truck had clear access. It was a very late finish.

The guys arrived while I was in the middle of the early morning routine and got right down to work, leveling the site and constructing the shuttering ready to pour. They worked fast to be ready for that truck which rolled in right on schedule.  Of course things would have been just a little easier if I had kept the chickens locked it that morning. One of them walked the entire length of the newly formed concrete. She was darn near chicken supper I can tell you. By mid afternoon it was all finished up and looking good. I just had to keep the chickens out.

New concrete poured around the barn

I spent some time creating a barrier around the new apron to keep those pesky chickens out and was pleased to see them all back in the coop that evening. The next day was all about getting the gates re-hung and ready for the alpacas to return. That would wait for Miss Lynne’s return from the UK.

Just before Miss Lynne had flown off, we had Cagney clipped for the summer. I swear she gets embarrassed by the whole new look. She came home and is constantly asking for attention. It’s ok girl, we will always love you.

Cagney is a little embarrassed

Big Barn Cat

Well I hope this month has finally dealt it’s last body blow. I’m sorry to report that Big Barn Cat has uttered a final meow.

Wednesday morning BBC greeted me at the door just like normal; tried hard to trip me up as we walked to the barn as normal; scoffed a bowl of kibble and cried for more as normal. At 10.30ish BBC joined me as I gave Cagney and Lacey a run out, then took up a favorite position right in the middle of the driveway, soaking up a little sun. Later, when I had to drive out to the feed store, I assumed that the little devil was just being awkward by not moving for me. I jumped out to give some encouragement and it soon became clear that Big Barn Cat was no longer with us. Just passed away in that favourite sun spot. So sad.

Big Cat in her (lately) favorite spot
Big Cat in her (lately) favorite spot – taken a while ago

One hen down

Towards the end of this mornings routine I heard a commotion at the bottom end of the property. The chickens were in a fluster. As I rushed out of the barn for a better look, I saw two Alsatian dogs chasing the flock around. I ran towards them, making as much noise as I could. The dogs grabbed one hen and ran for home. I gave chase through the woods and followed them home. The owner was very apologetic. It seems that they escaped from  the compound. No compensation for that little hen.

Rodger calms the girls after the trauma
Rodger calms the girls after the trauma

“The Apprentice”

I have some family business to attend to later in the week so I thought I would give the apprentice Super Pooper Scooper a practice run. I hope it doesn’t rain too much while I’m away.

The Apprentice is much more stylish
The Apprentice is much more stylish

Getting ready for spredin’ an’ sprayin’

The pasture is gradually coming to life after the winter period. I broadcast some winter rye grass last autumn. I wasn’t sure which variety to go with so experimented with two different lots. The more expensive seed won hands down. I’ll spread it again next year.

Unfortunately, grass is not the only thing growing. Weeds will soon pop up and when they do I’ll have them sprayed like last year. If I keep on top of them we can gradually use less and less chemicals. To help the grass grow strong the fertilizer company will truck in and spread about 5 tons of lime. It helps to neutralise the acidity in the soil. They will also deliver fertilizer to put down in a month or so.

The Daffs are out
The Daffs are out

In readiness, I’ve been spending time cleaning all the leaves from the pasture. It’s been a combination of rake and lawn tractor come giant vacuum cleaner. It’s dirty and dusty work. The alpacas will appreciate their clean pasture and I will appreciate the hard work done when I’m sorting their fiber in a few months time.

One of many piles
One of many piles

Mother nature is playing trick with the plants. Whilst we have had some very pleasant spring like days, we continue to have freezing temperatures over night. The Camilia seems to suffer a bit.

The Camilia would do better without frost
The Camilia would do better without frost

The chicken, on the other hand, have decided that spring really is on the way. They are back in full production. I collected 5 eggs yesterday and 6 today. You can’t beat farm fresh eggs!

Rodger and his girls on the range
Rodger and his girls on the range