Everyone loves a cria!!!

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...

Saturday, September 15, 2012


   When we bought this house we fell in love with the house, the land, the outbuildings, and all of its potential.  All of our needs were met, and we are viewing this as a blank slate.  So in line with that idea, we are currently doing some renovations to our barn.
   The barn is essentially a wooden shed in good condition, with a cement floor.  However, it does not quite suit our needs.  As a result,  Donald and I are working on adding a fence and gate within the barn to prevent the herd from using the entire shed.  This makes them easier to work with to administer injections, and when the veterinarian comes to visit.
     In addition, we are putting a door in the back wall of the barn for the chicken coop.  The chicken coop is going to be in the back part of the shed, with chicken wire, perches that are hinged for easy cleaning, and nesting boxes.  The chickens should start laying in the next two months, and we are very excited about it.  Also, as the weather gets colder the chickens need to have somewhere to keep warm and be protected from predators.  The predators in our area include: skunks, coyotes, fox, cats, wild dogs, raccoons, opossums, eagles. 
    Finally, the last part of the barn is going to be empty between the herd and chickens.  We will store grain in bins and some hay.  This will allow us to feed the alpacas in the mornings, without having to go up and down the hill.
     We are building this completely out of convenience for ourselves, the animals, and for functionality.  We are all about being clean, efficient, yet stylish. 

"Tina, eat your food!"

   The alpacas have settled in nicely to the new barn and paddocks.  We get our daily paca kisses when we go clean the paddocks.  Today, we even put some halters on them and went for a walk to some greener pastures. While, Virgil frisked about behind us wearing a halter, he is not quite ready for a lead yet.
    However, let us backtrack to last weekend.  Last Sunday morning we went and picked up the llama we dubbed "Tina Claire." Ok, let's back track some more.  The day after we got the alpacas we emailed our good friend Judy of Perfect Peace Alpacas and asked her to keep on the look out for a female llama.  We needed an experienced herd guardian to protect our herd from wild dogs, coyotes, and other  undesirable animals.  By Wednesday, she had passed on the name of an experienced girl llama who has been protecting a herd of Dwarf Nigerian Goats.  So Sunday morning we headed off to Martinsville, VA to meet our newest addition.  In fact, there seems to be another new addition on the way, as she seems to be pregnant.  We loaded her into the trailer and off we went home.  As soon as we opened the door she hopped off the trailer and in with the new herd.  She blended right in, with no need to establish herself in the pecking order. 
     So what about names? Well I thought it would be amusing to name her "Tina" after Napoleon Dynamite. That movie is entertaining, and one of the few in which a casserole is chucked at a llama to eat. Oh, and our llama looks just like her. If you haven't seen it yet, you need to. Click on the link: Napoleon Dynamite feeding Tina. In addition, upon telling my students about "Tina," one student insisted the new addition should be named after her too; hence the name "Tina Claire." 
     We are working on halter breaking her more, since she was mostly a herd guardian.  She was not shorn this year due to being pregnant, but she will be shorn next April. We are hoping that she will have her cria by then, we are not sure when is due.  She is very sweet and very protective of her herd.  We could not ask for a better guardian for our small alpaca herd. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

At last...our alpacas have come along...

     After an excellent second week back at school, we are ready for a relaxing three day weekend. Not!!! The alpacas are finally coming home tomorrow afternoon; Autumn, Solstice, and baby Virgil.  We have the grain for everyone, plenty of orchard grass, all of our buckets, and alpaca necessities. Also, the barn is all ready with electric and a cement floor; it was already existing when we bought this house.
    However,  we still have one more side of fence to put up for the spoil section, and another gate. "We" really meaning Donald, as the most I normally do is sit on the tractor, or hold tools. (Note: I do other things around the farm)  Fencing is not my specialty; however, it seems to be Donald's. After hours of research, phone calls with professional fencing friends, and some heartache, it seems to be almost done. Who knew when we bought this place that it was the rockiest place in Virginia? Not us apparently.  Yet Donald, ever my superhero, managed to make it happen.
    Also, now that we are back to school and receiving regular pay, we are able to buy  more fencing to create more paddocks.  We want to rotate the alpacas into different pastures.  Rotating pastures is a great way for the alpacas to not over eat in a particular area.  In addition, it allows the pastures to be resting 75% while the others are in use.  After tons of research we believe that this is the most effective way to allow the alpacas to naturally graze; in addition, to hay and grain.
   Similarly, in the future as we expand the farm, we would like to allow all the farm animals to rotate pastures.  This method is an ideal practice to maintain the land, and also allows you to control or evaluate animal intake. We shall have to see what the future holds, and take one step at a time.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Keeping up with...Farmer Joe?

  Since we bought the farm we have...officially gotten engaged, bought 25 chicks, lost 2 chicks, seen multiple deer, started alpaca fencing, set up a kennel for the dogs, taken down a tree, experienced a strong wind storm (known as a Derecho), bought a truck, bought a tractor, built a chicken tractor, made plans for a chicken coop, started storing hay for the alpacas, started storing wood for the winter, finished setting up the house, killed a ground hornet's nest (5 feet wide by 3 feet deep at least), and numerous other things.  Dreams do come true!

We bought the farm!!

  Ladies and gentleman it finally happened! On May 18th, 2012 we finally bought our hobby farm! We are now the proud owners of a beautiful 11+ acre property in Catawba, VA. Our amazing new place backs a few thousand acres of the Jefferson National Forest, while the Appalachian Trail is right in our own backyard.  The past few months have been a whirlwind of To Do lists and emotions. However, we would not trade it for anything in the world.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Beginning

     This is the beginning, of the record of our journey, as we pursue our dream of one day owning a hobby farm.  Our passion for animals, and my love for knitting led us to get our first pair of alpacas in March of 2008.  From these two lovely creatures, we have shaped our dream of owning a hobby farm that will be able to sustain itself.   One day, we hope to be able to at least partially live off the land through gardening, fiber from our animals, and dairy animals.  Please feel free to join us through this journey of triumph and struggles as we work towards owning our dream farm.