Everyone loves a cria!!!

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.