Sunday, May 31, 2015

 It looks like summer is finally upon us. The dogs want to go outside, they really do, but a nap on the couch is much easier to handle.

The alpacas, on the other hand, have nice cool barn they could be laying about in. And where are they? Sunbathing for all they’re worth. (You’ll have to take my word for it that they where all sleeping right before I took this, but they saw the camera and immediately jumped up to see if I was bringing them something tasty.)
We have been splitting the difference as we tend yard and house. Though yesterday we took a well-deserved break from work and took the Suzuki out to the Pinal Mountains for some off-roading.
While we were driving we came across a lovely metal sign that read “Grannies Pass”. Intrigued we stopped and got out. A short walk off the trail we came upon a small, well, I guess you would call it a cemetery. There were seven or eight memorials. Some simple crosses, others elaborate affairs of metal engravings and concrete. Some were placed quite recent; I noticed a date from last year on one. We have no idea who placed the memorials, but they found a very peaceful place for their friends or
families to spend eternity.
But rest time is over and now it’s back to work. The gardens have been producing nicely. We had the first corn of the season last night. Yummmmmmy!  Last year I left the ears too long on the stalks and most of the corn got tough. This year I picked off a bunch and spent the morning shucking and blanching the ears in preparation for freezing. I also did a mess of green beans, pureed some cucumbers for freezing in ice trays, (you can use the cuke cubes for smoothies through out the year) and shredded a bunch of zucchinis to freeze for zucchini bread down the road when we are not completely sick of it.
I learned a nifty trick to get all the air out of the freezer bags when preparing the veggies for the freezer. Fill up a bowl with water. Place the desired amount of food in the freezer bag.
Then submerse the open bag into the water up to the seal point.
Zip it close and, viola, minimal air left behind!
I wonder if this method would work for fleece bags? I think I will probably not try and find out.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Spring is coming, I promise.

palo verde in bloom
Pomegranate in bloom
I’ve been away from the blog for a while. In honor of my return, I’m dedicating this blog to all my friends and family back east where they feel that Spring is never going to arrive.
Poppies (in bloom)

The gardens are starting to fill in. In the back, we just tilled the green litter in as extra compost. Didn’t really think about it until little corn plants started popping up everywhere. Unfortunately, the volunteer corn is Golden Bantam, while we actually planted Blue Hopi corn in that bed. I assume the two verities will cross-pollinate and we’ll end up with …Blue Bantam? Golden Hopi? Whatever. Should be interesting.

All the rinds and seeds from the Desert King watermelons from last summer went into the compost bins, and the compost bins went into the front garden. Now I have tiny watermelon plants pretty much everywhere. Considering the number of watermelons we got off of just three plants last year, I’ve a suspicion we’re going to up to our eyeballs in watermelons before too long.

Speaking of which, the great watermelon wine-bottling event took place this weekend. And we finally tasted our brew. Here’s what I can tell; it’s not horrible. If you taste it with “wine” in the back of your mind, you’re going to be disappointed. Watermelons don’t taste like grapes, never have, never will. But if you just have “alcohol” as your starting point, well by golly, we’ve got that part right! This stuff has a pretty good kick. And a vague melony-cinnamon, smoky kind of taste. I’m thinking some ginger ale, fresh fruit and a good chill and this stuff would make really tasty sangria.

And I’ve got fifteen bottles of the stuff, so if any local peeps want some, come and get it!


We had a bit of sad news over the winter. We lost Godiva, the first alpaca we ever owned, to old age. We buried her in the boy’s field. That’s where she wanted to be most of the time anyway, so it seemed fitting.

The rest of the herd is doing well. We’ll be shearing them next weekend. I think this year, since I have so much less free time with the job I started last summer; we’ll be sending a fair amount of fleece out for processing. I just don’t have the hours to dedicate to spinning, weaving or felting. I miss it, but as I slowly adjust to working 40 plus hours again, I’m hoping to get back into it, even if not on the same level as before.

For now, I’m going to take some of this rare free time to sit back, sip some killer-melon wine, and daydream about what I’m going to try fermenting next.




Sunday, August 10, 2014

fun with watermelons


come to the conclusion that there are simply not enough hours in the day to get everything done. I’m not complaining, mind you, I could really just go for a nap right about now.

watermelon jam
We started out the weekend in a nice relaxing fashion, by taking the Suzuki out to Gila Bend where we had breakfast at the Space Age Diner. The place is a hoot, doing its best Roswell impersonation. I’m particularly found of the sparkly stucco the place is covered in.  We ate so much I forgot to eat lunch. Which is just as well, because I made a pretty big dinner.  Some days I’m more domestic than others.

It wasn't all play for us. Brian did some more work on the new veggie patch. (The alpacas are dutifully adding their contribution to the project.) He also turned over what is now being referred to as the “little garden”, where the bulk of the winter vegetables will go.  It saves me a whole lot of time and backache when he turns the soil with the tractor. I love that tractor.

making wine.
For my part, I made watermelon Jam on Saturday, then spent Sunday morning preparing my mix for watermelon wine. I’ll have Brian help me put it in the fermentor after it cools down. Then it’s keep your fingers crossed and hope I get a good fermentation and remember to rack it at the proper time. Basically, hope that I don’t screw up. It’s killing me to know I have to wait six to nine months to find out if I’ve made wine, or three gallons of watermelon vinegar. I don’t think I know what I would do with three gallons of watermelon vinegar…  I wonder if I could use it for dying? Na, let’s think positively and plan on toasting with a refreshing fruit wine come the New Year.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Dog days of summer

We’ve been having a fairly wet monsoon this year. The watermelons are loving it. I’ve been picking melons that are between twenty and thirty pounds! It’s a good thing we like watermelon, though I have to admit, we gave the last one away because, well, we’re getting just a tiny bit tired of watermelon.

The weeds have also been enjoying the rains. We finally fenced off the watermelon patch and safeguarded the pomegranate and sage bushes, and let the alpacas loose in the yard. I figured they could weed just as easily as I could. Though it is just a little disconcerting to see an alpaca walk by the window every so often.
Molly isn’t too thrilled with this set up. She is not a huge fan of the alpacas and spends most of her time up on the porch giving me that accusing look. (You let them out on purpose? What were you thinking???) The feral cats are equally annoyed. Except for Rufus. 

He’s adopted the alpacas, and the alpacas seem to have gotten found of him. During the heat of the day, when the boys all find their favorite spots in front of the cooler, there is Rufus, fast asleep in the middle of them. And I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen Rufus, arched back, rubbing in and out of the alpacas legs. It’s nice to see they’ve all made friends.

Brian and I have been talking about setting up a new vegetable garden in one of the pastures. We figured we could block it off until it’s done producing, then open the gate, and let the alpacas clean up. Win-win. Brian decided to go ahead and get that started. He ripped up the soil and moved our compost pile to the new garden. We’ll keep adding compost and keep the soil somewhat moist so that it is well conditioned for spring when we’ll start planting. In the mean time, we’ll put the winter garden where the old compost pile was. 

Monday, July 21, 2014


It’s funny how you become aware of things, before you realize you’ve noticed. You get that nagging tug at the back of your mind; something is different here. You start to look around trying to figure out what is out of place, what triggered this feeling.

I had that out in the barn last week. I was feeding the alpacas. Everybody was eating. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary,

Then I noticed Inara was eating while kushed. Her mother, Godiva, use to do that all the time, but this was not typical for Inara. She hopped right up when I walked over to her and went to eat out by another feeder. I chalked it up to her just being lazy and left.

The next day, once again she was kushed while eating. This time when I walked up to her, I noticed that she seemed a bit unsteady on her legs as she walked away. I checked her temperature, which was normal, but there was definite tremble in her back legs.

My first thought was PEM,  (thiamine deficiency induced polioencephalomalacia).  The typical treatment by injection large doses of thiamine, or fortified B complex into the affected animal. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any injectable thiamine on hand. A call to Linda, my vet, resulted in her ordering some for me, but it wouldn’t be in until Monday.

The reason it is preferred to give thiamine by injection vs oral, is that coccidian protozoa, a parasite of the intestinal tract, uses thiamine to reproduce, thereby decreasing the amount available to the body. If you give Vitamin B orally, you’re basically sending it straight to the critters that are stealing it from the alpaca. By injecting thiamine, it goes straight to the blood stream and bypasses the gut all together.

But since Inara was already showing neurological problems, and some Vitamin B was better than nothing, I started giving her tablets.

After three days of vitamin slurries, Inara is showing improvements. I finally got the injectable B complex, and I’ll switch Inara to that until we get the results from the fecal to see if we need to be treating for coccidia as well.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Alpaca dolls

Alpacazona Farm is pleased to offer these adorable alpaca dolls. Each one is individually hand crafted from alpaca felt with accenting fabric. They each stand at approximately 8” tall. Discounts are offered for bulk purchases,


$17 ea

2-4 dolls $15.50 ea

5-9 dolls $14 ea

10-12 dolls $12 ea

13 or more $10 ea



Contact us at for purchasing info

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The last two weeks have been fairly busy out here at Alpacazona Farm. It started out when I discovered George, one of our borders, with an injury to his eye. I haltered him and tried to gage how bad it was. The tissue surrounding his eye was so swollen that I couldn’t even see if he even had an eye in there. It was late in the day and I couldn’t get a hold of his owner, so we flushed it out with saline as much as we could and left it until morning. I had thought about separating George from then others and locking him up in the barn, but he tends to fret when he is separated, I knew that the alpacas would all settle down for the evening shortly after sunset, so I left him where he was and hoped for the best.

George's eye injury
By the time I went out for morning feed (at four a.m.) I could see from the glow of my flashlight that the swelling around George’s eye was almost gone and there was just a little discharge. We flushed it out a couple more times over the next two days, and I’m happy to report that his eye is as good a new. It’s amazing how quickly they can go from normal to “oh my god he popped out his eye!” then back to normal.

George three days later.
As soon as we were done messing with George’s eye, it was time for our yearly teeth trimming. Of course George was on the list to be trimmed. All in all, I imagine George thought he was having a bad week.

The weather has been so nice recently that I have been doing a lot of yard work. All the gardens are growing well and Jim and Dot have helped me put some old pallets up on the barn wall to act as a trellis for some luffas that I thought I would try to grow this year. Hopefully in four or five months I’ll have some spongy looking things to show for all this effort.

Finally, I found some new hay I’m trying out. Hay has always been an issue for us. Alfalfa and bermuda are plentiful in this area, but alfalfa is too rich as a steady diet and the alpacas really don’t like bermuda. We usually buy timothy hay by the semi load and bring it in from the north, but the last load we got was so expensive and of such poor quality that I have been aggressively looking for other options.

I stumbled across a farm nearby that was growing a native grass mix last fall. Unfortunately, he was just about out by the time I came across his ad, but he told me he would be cutting some annual rye grass hay in February or March.

I picked up two bales this week and have been mixing it in when I feed the alpacas. While perennial rye should be avoided because of a fungus that grows on it, annual rye grass is okay. (at least according to all the articles I’ve read)  The alpacas seem to like it. I have yet to send a sample off for testing, but if the numbers come back where I need them, I’ll be feeding the critters rye grass hay this summer.

 Unlike other types of hay, this is very short and doesn’t hold together in a flake so when you cut the strings, it looks like a big pile of lawn clippings. I’ll have to make sure I open the bales in a location where I can easily sweep it all up.

The next big event (at least the next planned one) will be shearing in April.