Everyone loves a cria!!!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 in Review, A Novel

   I finally have had some time to sit down and update the blog, that's right it is currently December 29th. That means it has been almost one year since I have updated the blog, and many things have happened.
   In February 2013, we multiplied the alpaca herd! We went from Autumn, Solstice, and Virgil, to Achilles, Kipling, Kuhio, Hawaii, Merry Christmas, Lili, Palisades, Denali, Kailua, Merlin, and Nicky. We went from three alpacas to fourteen! It was such a big jump for our little farm, and we could not have done it without our good friends Judy and Charlie from Perfect Peace Alpacas.  They helped us a great deal during the transition. 
   In March, we took two of our boys to the local alpaca show and they both placed in their fawn classes.  It was our first time showing our little guys, and we loved every minute of it.  The judges confirmed our thoughts on our animals, so we could apply it to our future breeding program.  A big thank you to Judy for convincing us to enter, and assisting us.
  That same weekend, I also received a gift of five baby ducklings from my husband to be.  They turned out to be four girls and one handsome drake.  Once they were old enough, we allowed them to free range with the rest of the chickens.  The flock of ducks are the funniest group of critters to watch on our farm.  They greet us when we come home from work, and waddle over very quickly when it is feeding time. No, we do not plan on eating our ducks. Instead, we use their eggs for baking, cooking, and anything else we can do with them.  Their eggs are bigger than the chicken eggs, and just as tasty.  We even sent some eggs to the Green Living class in Roanoke City Schools, so the eggs could be hatched.  As a result, the flock went from five to eight.
  In May, the herd was shorn and the fiber was sent off to be processed by a few different mills. We planned on doing it ourselves, but the clippers went ka-put (clearly a technical term), and so the Schroeders' son took care of our crew. The fiber was processed into a variety of weights: sport, lace, worsted, etc. We looked forward to selling the fiber, and working with it in a few projects ourselves.
  In June, we were married in a beautiful wedding.  We were lucky to be surrounded by our family and friends on a warm, sunny day.  We incorporated the farm into our decor and special moments as much as possible, short of bringing the herd to the wedding.  Our wedding cake even featured a custom alpaca topper. That day will always shine in our memories. 
   In July, we went on a fabulous honeymoon to Hawai'i. Once we came  home, we hit the ground running. At the end of July we traded Kailua for Lilliput, from our good friends Beth and Neal of Painted Spring Alpacas. We made the trade, so that each of our farms could expand on our bloodlines.
  Then in October, we further expanded the herd to include a variety of colors, such as gray, bay black, and light fawn.  We added Ariana, Bellisima, Rosabella, Franny, and Tilly.  These lovely ladies brought in some great bloodlines, fiber, and colors.  So we went from fourteen to nineteen!
   In November, we expanded our household fur kids by one.  We went into another co-ownership with our great friend, Sharon Ferraro, on a blue afghan puppy.  Our new little boy, Dragon, flew in all the way from New Zealand.  From the time he came out of his carrier in New York, he has never stopped wagging.  We look forward to spoiling this little man and watching him grow in the coming year.
   Throughout the year we (meaning Donald) expanded the fields and have been developing the property as needed. Donald has been quite busy, along with our neighbors, and his father. Our friends, family, and neighbors are always so helpful and supportive of our mad adventures. Someone always seems to be around to lend a hand.
  As a result, of all this expansion, we are done with expanding the herd for quite some time.  Our goals for 2014 are to focus our energy on the fiber, breeding, and the marketing end of our alpaca business.  We are looking forward to the New Year for all of the possibilities that may come our way.  We want to send a huge thank you to ALL of our family and friends from near and far, who support and believe in us.  We love you more than words could ever express. May 2014 find you in good health, and surrounded by those you love.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Ring in the New Year!

 We have many plans for 2013 for the farm, our wedding, and our dogs.  Keep watching for updates, and I will try and be more diligent with posting.   Thank you for all of your support as we go through this adventure we call life.   All of us here at Pacaberry Farm wish all of our family and friends a safe and Happy New Year!!! May your year be filled with love and happiness!!

The chickens and the bees...

  All of the hens and roosters have flourished with their free range lifestyle.  The roosters and hens have grown into beautiful animals with shiny feathers, and fully bodies. Their feathers are absolutely glorious from all of the scratching they get to do around the property.  They still enjoy their unlimited freedom around the property, and head to their coop at night. The roosters enjoying parading around the ladies acting  like men with their harems. 
    In the beginning of December, all of our hens began laying eggs on a daily basis.  We have built six nesting boxes for the ten hens, and they appear to be appreciative of them.  The ladies are averaging at least 5 eggs a day, which is about one egg from each hen every other day.  Partridge rock chickens normally produce about one egg each day, so we hope to see an increase in egg production as we change the lights in the barn.   In addition, our bantam girl has an egg about every other day.
  When we purchased the chicks as a straight run group (unsexed) we knew that we may end up with more roosters than we desired.  Since we had too many roosters, we have processed four of the partridge rock roosters.  It is certainly not our favorite task, but there were simply too many roosters.  We chose our two roosters  based on their temperament, size, coloring, and feathers.   We did decide to keep two roosters of each breed, so we will always have a back up.  We believe reducing the numbers was a smart idea to ensure fewer dominance battles between the roosters.
     We plan on incubating the fertilized partridge rock eggs, and bantam eggs this spring/summer.  A local friend has offered to lend us their incubator with the promise that we will give them some chicks.  We are excited to hatch our own eggs and look forward to this new experience.

Tina Claire the Bear Fighting Llama

  We got Tina Claire, the llama, with the intention of her being a herd guardian. However, little did we know how valuable she would be to us.  It was a typical Thursday morning at the farm.  Donald was feeding the outside crew, and I was making lunch for our work day.  We both were getting ready for our day job, teaching.  However, Donald came inside around 6:30am and said "Steph come outside now."  I quickly threw on my boots, because when Donald makes a statement like that it is not normally followed by a positive situation.
    Donald was outside, standing near the barn and he asked, "Do you see Tina Claire anywhere?" I replied, "She is not exactly a small animal that can hide."  I walked into the paddock and the barn, but I did not see any signs of her black woolly body.  All the alpacas appeared to be fine and were all accounted for.  We quickly started scanning the property, neighboring fields, and the woods.  I began walking the fence line and realized that one of the corners of fencing was bent down; the wooden pole had shifted from its home three feet underground. As I look at the corner I almost stumbled upon a HUGE pile of bear scat, that's right bear scat! I immediately began running multiple scenarios through my head.  By the looks of the fence, a great battle that rivaled a Tolkien Middle Earth battle, had taken place.  Donald and I immediately jumped into the car and started driving up and down our road, to see if we could spot our woolly warrior.  Yet, there were no signs of our girl.
    We immediately decided that this would be a great day to take a personal day to see if we could find Tina Claire.  We began making calls to local alpaca/llama friends and game them a heads up about our interesting morning.  Our mentor Patty set up a pretty clear scenario, based on her experience.  According to her, the bear smelled the sweet feed in the barn, and wanted to get to the barn. Tina Claire, as the herd guardian, was not going to allow that and she bent the fence spitting at him aggressively.  She eventually jumped the fence and chased him from the property, and may have gotten lost.
    Through my phone calls from neighbors and friends in the area we found out that our lovely llama girl was hanging out at the gas station, about a mile and half down the road.  It was about 9 am, and our llama had been sighted and appeared to be uninjured.  A  few neighbors, and alpaca friends helped us try to corral our bear warrior.  Hours dragged on, and it appeared she would not allow anyone near her and she was still excited from her earlier experience.  At about 2pm we decided we needed to call Virginia Tech and have her shot with a tranquilizer gun.  The veterinarian and vet students arrived,  and the first time they shoot the dart seems to lose energy and falls very short of our girl.  The vet stated that in all her years this has never happened before, but of course it happened that day!  The second dart was successful and lodged itself in her fuzzy hindquarter.  Tina Claire eventually became woozy enough and decided she needed a lie down.  We managed to halter her and quickly evaluated her for any injuries.  It seemed she escaped with not even a scratch, but her feet were a bit sore from her run on the road.
    By 5:30pm Tina Claire was locked in the barn, and was losing the effects of her tranquilizer.  As she recovered Donald and I quickly installed an electric top wire to our paddock.  Our neighbor had generously donated the kicker and wire, as they were just sitting in his barn.  We truly are blessed by such great neighbors.
    One week later, it was open season in Catawba.  Our neighbor called and told us that he had shot Tina Claire's bear.  Her bear was a 250 pound, four year old male.   It seemed this bear had been a menace in the area, knocking over barbeques, and following neighbors for food.  We were so thankful for Tina Claire and her dedication to her herd.  Her vigilance and protective nature prevented an what could have been an awful situation. 

Miss Piggy... I mean Piggies!

     First, we did end up getting two Yorkshire mix pigs at the end of September.  The two sows were approximately a month old when they came to live here.  After we got the first two girls, our friends asked if we would raise pigs for them and we said, "What are two more?"  We ended up picking the last two piglets from that litter.  All the girls lived in an area that we created with cattle fencing, which is relatively cheap, but strong enough to hold these strong girls in.  As they grew, we moved the girls to a new area with blackberry bushes, and expanded the amount of space they had.  In addition, we built them a bigger house to contain their quickly growing bodies.  The girls were eating a combination of pork maker, which we buy from our local mill, and corn.  We also gave them all sorts of great scraps, except for meat.  Here in Virginia, it is illegal to feed pigs meat due to the possibility of them contracting illnesses and transferring to humans through their meat.  It was not a problem; however, because the girls would eats fruits, vegetables, dairy, breads, and even vegan quinoa chili.
    As the piglets grew into 200 pound sows we knew the invitable time would be coming, and the reason why the girls were purchased in the first place.  So Donald placed the phone call to a local butcher that would process the pigs for us, they had great prices and many referrals.  We decided we would have two girls done before Christmas, and then two processed in January.  Donald and I roll up to the butcher's  address with the two girls in the trailer.  However, the house looks like a suburban neighborhood, and does not seem like a place to have pigs processed.  Donald tells the owner that we are here with our two pigs, and the man gets a wheelbarrow.  Donald looks at the guy and says, "What are you doing with that?"  The man responds, "helping you get your pigs."  Donald replies, "Well, I don't know how you think that is going to work because our pigs are alive."  It turns out that this particular gentleman is an excellent butcher, but he only processes animals after they have been killed.  Obviously that would not work for us.  So two of our sows had a lovely tour of Blacksburg, VA home of the Virginia Tech Hokies.
     This still left us with a need to process the pigs, as the girls were getting very big and were eating pounds of food each day.  So our excellent neighbor recommended us to a meat processor that lives down the road in Catawba.  He processed the two largest sows the following week and did an excellent job.  The meat from these two pigs were not cured, but the pigs that are due to be processed mid January will be cured.
    As an animal lover I had many  misgivings about raising an animal to be slaughtered.  However, I realized that I prefer to raise an animal and know that it has been fed and cared for properly, rather than to buy meat from the local food store where the animals may not have received such careful care.  Our pigs have led a great life with a big open space to run, dig, and play.  They ate a well balanced diet, and enjoyed getting ear rubs and tummy scratches.  I am confident that our pigs only ever had one bad moment in their lives.  We are sure that when they were processed they did not suffer whatsoever, and everything was done in a very humane way.  When the last two sows leave I will miss them, and their excited oinking as we come out with leftovers from dinner.  Pigs are truly lovely animals, and should be respected for their intelligent and affectionate nature.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Is Babe in our future?

    We went to a local friend's house this weekend where they have ducks, goats, chickens, and pigs.  They currently have three female piglets at their house.  Two of the piglets are theirs, and one is for a friend. They feed them healthy foods from their house, pig grower, and any excess food that they have.  They even put their pig pen (no pun intended) around their garden so the pigs can dig it up for next year, and eat any excess fruits or veggies.  It only takes two days for the pigs to dig up and eat this particular area.  After a few months, they gain about a pound per pound of food they eat. In November, when the pigs are about 300 pounds, they bring them to a local butcher who sends the pigs back honey-cured or in sleeves.  They found that the cost of selling one pig for a friend, pays for their other two pigs maintenance and butcher fees.
    This is a little conflicting for me, as I love animals and do not like them to be harmed.  However, I am hypocritical in that I eat meat.  Yet, I do believe animals are entitled to a good life up, to their last moments.  They feed us, so the least we can do is ensure their well-being.  Pigs are extremely intelligent animals and are aware of their surroundings.  Unlike a dog that will eat until he kills himself, a pig will actually stop eating when it is full.  I even saw the girl pigs at our friends' farm playing tag with each other, just as a dog may.  I disagree with people that say pigs are not social, I have witnessed myself that pigs are very social animals.
    So how does this all relate to us?  Well we have decided that we would like to purchase a pig to raise on the farm for our own consumption.  I think it is a great opportunity in many ways.  First, we can ensure that the piglet is properly raised and treated appropriately.  Next, the meat it provides us will last a substantial amount of time, and save us money in the long run.  Also, the meat can be ground down for our dogs' raw diet.  Finally, the area that the pig lives in will get churned up because pigs are diggers.  We want to start our garden this March, so some of the work will be done ahead of time with little labor on our parts.  Pigs are tremendously strong, a boulder that you thought could not be moved will be on the other side of the yard the following day.  A pig offers many positive attributes that can be beneficial to our farm and home.

Extreme Barn Makeover

   The chicken coop has been completed.  The perches are little ladders on hinges, so we can lift them to clean underneath. There is a chicken door that can be opened and closed from the outside of the coop, it is very convenient in the mornings when we are just checking their food and water.  A friend commented that it looks like a guillotine, without the deadly edge of course.  It took a few days for the chickens to acclimate to the new place, they kept running to the chicken tractor and trying to sleep next to it.  So after rounding up chickens, for three nights, they have figured out that this fancy abode is their home sweet home. 
    After that project, we added a split rail type fencing to cut off half of the barn for the alpacas.  We only need to add a gate and then we will be in business.  By putting in this piece we have separated the chicken coop from the alpacas, and we created an alleyway to keep hay and grain bins.  
     Donald always impresses me with his handy work.  He even used the leftovers to create a wood rack for our wood-burning stove in the basement.  He managed to put that up in no time at all. 
    Pictures of everything are coming soon...