Tuesday, November 12, 2013

While I was attending an open house at a friend's farm this past weekend, I had a woman call asking if she could come out to the farm and see the alpacas. Of course I told her she was welcome, but that weekend would be tough, maybe she would be able to come to our open house in a couple of weeks? That sounded like a plan to her, she started to ask for some more info and then said, well that's alright, you update your blog.

..... Uh, yeah. About that blog.


Obviously, I have not been keeping up. I'm not even sure where to begin. We attended the annual Fall Festival up in Pinetop again this year. Sales were pretty good, beating last year. Sales aside, we always have a good time at that show and it's great to see our show friends again. This year we were next to a woman that makes clocks out of old door hardware. I was highly impressed with her work, but couldn't think of a spot to put another clock. Maybe next year.

I also went to the Southwest Fiber Festival down in Tubac earlier this month. That was a long drive, but well worth the effort. We blew away last year's numbers.

This coming weekend is an off weekend for me, then it's three weekends worth of shows in a row. The weekend before Thanksgiving we'll be up in Sun City West at a new show we're trying out this year. Then off to Chino Valley for the annual Christmas Boutique at Singletree Farm. Finally ending up at out place for the 7th annual open house here.

The weekend after out open house, our partner farm, Mesquite Valley Ranch in Gilbert will be hosting another open house, but we'll be resting up and getting the house decorated for Christmas.

And then I'm going to take a nice long nap.

Friday, August 30, 2013

So I've finally managed to get some work done out in the shop. I've been avoiding the place for the last couple of months, well, because it's 130 freakin' degrees out there and I'm totally sick of being hot.  But show season is rapidly approaching, and I've got to get some product put together or the alpacas won't eat this winter.

 Actually, as fat as they've all gotten, it probably wouldn't hurt them to not eat for awhile, but they can get quite whiney when they are hungry and the constant humming would probably get distracting.

But I digress...

I got about two dozen skeins of yarn dyed up and a bunch of two ounce batts ready. During the month of October, there is a yarn crawl organized for the state of Arizona and Tempe Yarn wants us fully stocked over there. We are also donating a hand-woven rug to Tempe yarn as one of their giveaways for the event.  So all you yarnies, make sure to stop in and show Tempe Yarn your support.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Kittens, kittens and kittens, oh my!

Oh Happy Day! We spent the weekend trapping kittens. In the end we caught thirteen really, really pissed off  cats. An achievement I am particularly proud of as we only had 12 traps. I have become a very efficient cat trapper and earned myself a spot on the Spay and Neuter Hotline's Facebook page. Makes me kind of wish I had showered before schlepping all those cats up to Tempe.

Any hoot, there is a single holdout left in our colony and I'm 80% sure it's a male, so I'm less stressed about catching up with him than I was about getting the females before they all reach breeding age. He won't be making kittens on his own. Our colony has gotten as big as it ever will (PLEASE!).

For any one keeping count, we have spayed and neutered 31 cats since the end of May.  I swore this would be the last generation of kittens, and I think I am winning the fight.

And once again, Brian spent some time being amused by drunken kittens wandering around the property. The kittens were less amused.

Monday, July 29, 2013

and then there is Yoda.

I know this blog is suppose to be about alpacas, but lately our lives have been revolving around kittens (okay, my life. Brian is far less concerned about the fuzzy little buggers.)

The count for kittens under the house is now at thirteen. Actually it has always been that high, I just finally managed to get them all out in the open for an accurate count.

Plus one in the house.

Yes, there is a kitten in the house, on purpose. In the open, not hiding under the floor boards. For a two to three week period, the momma cats developed a nasty habit of scattering kittens everywhere; under hay bales, under car parts, in between  irrigation pipes. Which is fine except that the kittens, now having to wait until their mothers came around to feed them, would start yelling at the top of their little kitten lungs for a meal. It was very distracting.

I finally started gathering kittens up and stuffing them back under the house where their mothers were hanging out. (Here cat, you lost this!) This plan was working rather well until we came across the last lost kitten. When I went to fetch him from under the hay, I discovered that he was not in great health. His eyes were swollen shut and he was just bones and fluff.  Stuffing him back under the house would probably just mean a slow death.  I challenge anyone to  condemn a kitten to a slow death. Even the most hard-hearted villain would have a hard time doing so.

So he came into the house so I could clean him up, feed him and make him well. While I was washing out his swollen eyes, Brian made a comment: "He looks just like Yoda. Hi Yoda!"


Well now he has a name, we have to keep him. So Yoda, weighing in at a whooping 12 ounces, became a member of the family.

Now two weeks later he has more than doubled his weight. His eyes are looking good and he has gained enough confidence to lie on his back and play with Molly's nose. Molly for her part, has agreed not to eat him.  Even Daisy will play with him on occasion, but only when the mode hits her and on her terms. (which usually involve her flipping Yoda onto his back with her nose, then stomping on his belly.)

Even Dot has gotten in on the Yoda bandwagon. When she comes to get the dogs for doggy daycare, Yoda goes with her. Can't have him spending all day by himself, after all.

One of these days, I'm going to get back to writing about the alpacas, I promise.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The kitten saga, or How I lost my mind and destroyed my house.

Two weeks ago, my friend Pat asked me if we had any kittens. Well, yes! I replied. We have four that are tame enough to be pets, two males and two females. She was headed out of town on vacation, but when she got back, she said she would take the two males.

So she called me Sunday afternoon to let me know she was back and would come over for the kittens after awhile. Being the good and dutiful friend that I am, I tried to lure the kittens out from under the house, where they spend the heat of the day. (along with their mother, three more adult cats and at least nine more kittens) I managed to get the two females, but only one of the males. For safe keeping, I put them in the laundry room until Pat could come and choose the ones she wanted.

Brian, wanting to see what I was up to, took a peak in the laundry room after a few minutes. He then informed me that there isn't a kitten to be seen.

Well shoot. I can't have them hidden away when Pat gets here, so I go looking for kittens. I manage to find two (one boy, one girl) in short order, but I cannot find the third kitten.

I stashed the first two in our small bathroom, thinking there are no hiding places in there I can't get to, and go back to search for missing kitten number three. I finally manage to find her in the motor of our freezer and by bending my body into many unnatural positions, manage to get her out. Triumph!

Off I go with my little prize, to put her in safe keeping with her siblings. But wait! There are no kittens in the bathroom. What the....

So stashing rotten kitten number three in a box, I set off to find the little rats, er, kittens. Turns out, there is a tiny gap between the floor of the vanity and the top of the kick board. The kittens had squeezed themselves through it and where under the sink. At least I hoped so, as Brian pointed out; what if there was a gap in the floor where the pipes come up and the kittens where now in the insulation under the house.

Okay, so now I'm panicked, think I have just condemned these poor hapless kittens to a slow starvation under the floorboards of the house. Or how I was going to convince Brian to start pulling up floor boards to get them out. Luckily for me, Brian is a much calmer person and came up with option number three; he pulled the kicker board off the vanity. (some splintering occurred in the process, but I'll deal with that later)  We could now see the three kittens huddled in the corner. I decided they were safe enough there for the time being and went to calm myself.

When Pat arrived a few hours later, I got down on my belly and retrieved the first kitten. The second kitten followed quickly after. To get the last kitten, I had to reach as far as I could and twist my shoulder. once I got the kitten in my grasp, I realized my arm was now stuck under the vanity. I have to tell you, I just put my head down on the floor and decided I would die there before I admitted I couldn't get free. After what felt like to me, an eternity, but I'm sure was really just a couple of breaths, I tried to turn my arm in various directions to see if I could pop it loose, all the while keeping my grip on the kitten, who was now biting my thumb. At last, I find the right combination and pull both arm and kitten from beneath the vanity.

Pat ended up taking the two girls, and I let the little boy go back to his mom and brother under the house. Pat's granddaughter was thrilled with her new little friends. So, other than some scrapes on my elbow, a few tiny teeth marks on my hand and a bathroom that is going to need some repairs, the story had a happy ending.

By the way, when I asked Pat how the kittens had done through the night, she let me know that they had escaped from the kennel she had set up for them so they wouldn't get lost, and they were hiding under the sofa. At least they weren't somewhere between the walls.

Life goes on.

It's been a while since I posted. A lot has happened, some good, some bad. I guess the biggest news, for us, is we finally came to the end of the journey with Jack. Losing him cast a pall over the whole farm. I wasn't really aware of how much our daily routine revolved around him and what was going on with his health until he was gone. It sort of threw us all for a while.

During this time, Storm developed a large swelling on his jaw. We didn't know if it was a tooth problem, an abscess, or possible a lymph node issue. We couldn't find any external wound and it didn't seem to faze him, so it went on the back burner while we focused with other things. It turned out to be an abscess which opened on its own and we could clean and dress the wound.  

As soon as Storm was on his way to recovery, Donny stopped eating. By now I was just having a WTF moment. It seemed like everybody, including me, was falling apart. Last year Don had an abscess under his chin, which had caused him to stop eating for nearly two weeks. I suspected this may be a similar problem. For a couple of days, I was able to coax  him into nibbling some equine senior food, but he eventually stopped eating altogether. When that happened, I had to mix up a product called Fibrevive, basically alpaca mush, and syringe feed him.

I have never been comfortable with tube feeding, and feeding with a syringe worked just as well. It takes  a little more time, but it  works. Up until now, I have been using a turkey baster to do the job, well the old turkey batser had pretty much been destroyed over the years and I didn't have another one. I did, however, have a giant syringe that was used to inject brine (or whatever flavoring you desire) into a turkey. It held about 60cc of fluid. I took off the metal needle portion, (and by I, I mean Jim) reamed out a bigger hole, attached some flexible tubing and viola! Alpaca mush feeder extraordinaire!

Mean while, I had started Don on some antibiotics that I had left over from Jack. (with my vets blessing) Five days after starting the meds, Don started to nibble at food again. By the seventh day, his appetite seemed to be back in full swing. We'll keep an eye on him for the next couple of weeks, but I'm hopeful that we got this one cured.

It hasn't all been drama around the farm. We had another cat-trapping event. We caught eight cats this time. Well, really nine, we re-caught one of the cats from the original trapping. So much for the theory that the cats won't go back into the traps a second time. We caught him fairly early on in the evening, so we gave him some food and water and left him in there. He didn't seem any the worse for wear when we let him back out in the morning. Now we're down to just the latest round of kittens to spay and neuter so we'll do this again in September when they are big enough.

We also got our yarn from Zeilinger's. That was exciting. We sent in two different colors and they sent back solids and a ply of the two colors together. I was really pleased with how it came out. Since we're still in the middle of  doing some remodel work on the house, the two VERY large boxes of yarn have taken up residence in the middle of the living room. Someday we'll be done, and the yarn can get put away.

While we have been tearing apart our house, Jim and Dot have been busy building a gazebo at their house. We like to tease Jim about his collection of "stuff" and the mistaken idea that some of my friends have about him running a scrap yard, but he got his gazebo put together for less than twenty bucks. It even has electric lights and there is a plan for a ceiling fan in the future.

So we're getting back into a routine. Hopefully things stay quite through the summer, I've had enough drama for one season!


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Life is good

Friday I was the first person to the office in the morning. A homeless man sleeping in front of the front door startled me as I nearly stepped on him. I woke him and he moved out of the way. Instead of snarling at him to get a job, as I might have done at one time, I asked him if he wanted a cup of coffee.

            He gratefully accepted and waited outside until I came back with a cup of the freshly brewed stuff. He thanked me, took his coffee and headed down the sidewalk to do what ever it was he was going to do that day.

            On Monday I left work to go do yoga with my friend Lisa. Afterwards I stopped by the grocery store then moved over to the gas pumps to fill my car. As I was waiting for the pump to finish, I watched a man standing at the corner of the driveway, sign in hand, panhandling. Most of the cars went by without stopping, but one pickup did slow, the driver handed the man some money and drove on. As the truck pulled away, I saw the man bend his head in prayer. Whether he was praying for himself, or the driver, I couldn’t tell you, but it made me reflect on my life for a moment.

            I had just spent time with a good friend; I had a car full of groceries; I was working on a tank full of gas; I was headed home to a loving husband and a sturdy roof over our heads. I was blessed in so many ways.

            In my purse was two dollars. It was the change from a large order of fries I had bought earlier in the day, not because I was particularly hungry, but because I just wanted some french fries. As I pulled way from the gas pumps, I fished the two dollars out of my purse and a handed them to the man on the corner. As he leaned into the car to get the money he said, “God bless you ma’am.” All I could think was; he already has.

            Will these small acts of kindness make a huge difference in these men’s lives? Realistically? Probably not. But if a butterfly can flap its wings in Mexico, and cause a typhoon in China, imagine the potential a couple of dollars might have.

            Someday it may be me sleeping on the sidewalk, and it sure would be nice if someone brought me a cup of coffee.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Shearing 2013 -- DONE!

Shearing is once again behind us! This year, with a little help from our friends, (okay, a LOT of help from our friends. Thanks Pat, George and Chris!) we got everybody done in one weekend. There were a few minor injuries, mostly to the people, that I'm happy to say everyone is recovering from.

We sheared just in the nick of time. The day after we finished, we had a major wind storm. The gust where so strong that it actually blew a couple of bales of hay off the stack. I can just imagine the nightmare shearing would have been in that kind of weather. We would have been chasing fiber all the way to Casa Grande!

I meant to get some before and after pictures of the alpacas, but I set my camera down and forgot all about it until we were cleaning up on Sunday. So all you get is an after shot.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

This and that

The heat has been teasing us. We'll get hot for a couple of days, and we think here it is. Then we'll cool back down for a couple of days. No 100 degree days yet, so at least we get to ease into it this year.

The funky weather tends to catch the alpacas off guard every year, and every year we have one or two that don't stay hydrated enough and get impacted. This year it was Cartigan. I use a product called Magnalax, it is a laxative with a mild antacid, with a nice minty flavor. I know for a fact it has a minty flavor, I also know that alpacas don't particularly care for mint flavoring. Anyway, two  or three doses and it usually gets everything back in order. Cartigan was no exception.

We took Jack off medication again. So far it's been five weeks and we're keeping our fingers crossed. This is the longest he's been of meds in the last two years.

I've had a little free time recently so I've been working on the web store. People have been asking me for years if our yarns and such are on line. I finally figured out how to do it. I should be able to add some more of our one of a kind finished products as well, so check it out. Just remember it is still a work in progress, so if  it looks kind of unfinished, well, it is.

The big activity for this week is shearing this weekend. I'm hopeful that we can get everybody done, but if there are a few left by Sunday evening, I'll just get them finished up over the next couple of weeks in the chute.  Then it is back to the old routine of skirting, and tumbling and washing and....  you know how it goes.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Did you miss me?

Alas, poor blog, I have neglected you so.

I'm going to claim it's because I've been crazy busy, but there is a little bit of laziness involved as well.

We're gearing up for summer. The fans have been cleaned and oiled, we're doing some modifications to the coolers, and we have a couple of new great big water tanks for plenty of cool drinking water. (or a dip in the afternoon, whatever floats everyone's boat)

I have been busy at the loom doing some special order scarves. I finally finished them up yesterday so it's on to other things. The spinning wheel has dust on it, it has been so long since we visited, so that's on the to-do list. I won't even mention the state of the shop and the carder.

On the plus side, we did get over 300 pounds of fleece boxed up and sent off to a couple of mills for processing. Just in time for the next clip to start coming in. We're scheduled for the weekend of April 6 & 7 to get the bulk of our shearing done. Then it will be pretty much every weekend after that until all the farms are done in this area.

April 27 and 28, we'll be helping Pat and George with their Wool Festival. It may be at the Pinal County Fairgrounds, or it may be at their new home, I'm not entirely sure yet.  I plan to have fun where ever we end up.

The broccoli crop is in and I have a freezer full! The rest of the plants we're letting bolt so we have seed for next year. It looks like I'll be passing out seed to everyone I know again. It's amazing how many seeds you get of each plant. The snow peas are kicking into high gear right now, and we dug out first potatoes (and ate them already). I've got peppers and tomatoes in for the summer. I'll try squash again, even though I have failed spectacularly every year with it. I guess I'm just an optimist.

The alpacas love when we switch over to new veggie beds because they get to snack on all the old plants. So everybody is happy!