Tuesday, March 21, 2017

New Digs!

I'm trying out a new site for my blogs that will allow me to have multiple pages.  If you would like to continue to follow my blogs visit Zephyr Hill Farm at:

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Frozen February

As we begin our frosty February there are a few updates coming from the barn.

First of note, the chickens apparently have resumed egg laying after a two month hiatus.  While looking for a M.I.A. Delores at the morning feeding, I discovered her roosting on the chickens last known laying nest.  When she got up I discovered eggs!  They may have been accumulating over a couple of days time.  That is an unknown since I haven't been looking for eggs and wasn't expecting any for a month or so.  One egg had definitely been there long enough to freeze and crack.  Of course the temps have been brutal the last few nights so it could have been laid just on Friday.

As you can see, despite the freezing temperatures, the chickens are still happily doing chicken things, they're just doing them inside.

Bo unhappily blocked as I attempt to clean the boys stall.

The alpacas, especially the boys, are reluctant to venture outside.  I have to bribe them with hay just to get them to leave the stall long enough to get it cleaned.

Raphael and Bo grudgingly having hay alfresco.

With temperatures freezing, then having snow, then thawing and freezing again the snow build up on the barn roof is constantly sliding off.  It has now passed the bottom of the chicken coop window.  I don't recall it being this bad last winter.  Fortunately I'm not using the chicken coop door into the chicken run! 

Snow accumulations climbing up the side of the barn.

I've been working with the babies, getting them used to being handled and used to wearing a halter in preparation for possible shows later this year.  Faith was last to come on board with the whole halter thingy.  She questioned my judgment for awhile!  

"Why do I have to wear this thing?"

Linus is suffering from the winter doldrums and I have had a hard time coaxing him outside.  He hasn't ventured to the barn in over a week.

"Ugh who thought up winter?  I can't get any vole hunting in with all the cold white stuff on the ground!"
Last known siting of Linus in the barn.

I'm excited to finally have an organized office!  I've purchased canvas totes to store all the alpaca yarn and goods in.  I've also rearranged the office and feel it's functioning better and  I'm not dreading spending time in there.

New office arrangement and organization!
Though I'm not thrilled with the snow and the cold temperatures I can fully appreciate the beauty of a chilly sunrise as it turns the snow scape into a glistening vista.

Snow diamonds!

Happy February!!  Only six weeks till spring!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Bright Sunshine on a January Day! Hooray!

This morning at 6:45 a.m. the temperature was one degree!  It had been a beautiful clear night with a 3/4 moon.  At 3:00 p.m. this afternoon with unlimited sunshine and clear skies the temperature has climbed to 32 degrees.  All the beasts, both inside and out, and the humans, are revealing in the vitamin D boost in their own way!!

A chilly sunrise.

Still chilly at 9:15 a.m. despite the sunshine.

Not only does it look chilly it was!  Still only nine degrees.

Linus coping as best he can!

Finally the temperature is climbing and the girls are enjoying sunshine and hay.  Can't beat that combo!

Despite my best efforts at reconciliation Daisy is still not happy with me and my decision to isolate her and Andraya from the rest of the girls.  In an attempt to repair bruised relationships I frequently let all the girls get together during the day to catch up.

Sting Ray continues to capture my heart!  He is a lot like Linus.  Friendly, smart, and always getting into trouble!

Monday, January 9, 2017

New Year Beginnings

Thanks to the crocheting talent of my Aunt Carla, I now have a beautiful afghan created using all five of the natural colored alpaca yarns from our alpacas!  I was anxious to see how the yarns would work together and can't be more pleased with how my Aunt skillfully blended them.  Thank you Carla!!

Carla's beautiful Afghan with all five colors of our alpaca yarns.

Here are the five yarns used to create Carla's Afghan.

One of my goals this year is to teach myself how to crochet so I can create products out of our alpaca yarn.  Hopefully one day I will be able to match the skill of my Aunt!

I'm also going to be exploring the art of felting.

I've begun felting basics 101 by creating dryer balls out of the alpaca roving I'm selling on Etsy.  These dryer balls can be used in place of chemical laden commercial dryer sheets.  I'm felting them by using Daisy's raw fleece as a core which I fashion into a rough ball. I then tightly wrap that with layers of roving until it is slightly larger than a tennis ball.  These balls are then placed in an old nylon knee high.  I can get four balls in one knee high tying a knot in between each one.
The sleeve of balls is then washed and dried two to three times.  This felts the balls.

I've been using them in my dryer and find that they help cut down on static (though I can't say they eliminate it entirely) and in loads with towels they help create a fluffier towel.  I've been adding a drop or two per ball of essential oil creating a subtle scent.  Dryer balls are also touted to help speed the dryer time.  I can't say I've done a scientific study to determine if they have helped reduce my dryer time.  What I can say is that I'm quite pleased to replace my commercial dryer sheets with a natural non chemical alternative!

Suri Alpaca Felted Dryer Balls
 I hope to be able to offer a set of three dryer balls for sale soon on my Etsy site.  Right now however, I'm in the process of fulfilling a large order and don't have any available.  I'll post on facebook and my blog when I have dryer balls available.

In other farm news, the bitter cold has created some interesting chicken behavior.  My girls have taken to roosting in the rafters at night.

I was startled to discover Delores about three weeks ago missing for night call when I went out to feed for the evening.  The other four girls were already settled in for the night in the coop but I couldn't find Delores anywhere.  Fortunately I glanced up and found Delores perched 12 feet above me.  She seemed quite content and there was no way to get her down.  So I left her there for the night.  Since that night she has managed to get up into the rafters each evening before I make it out to the barn.  Plus she has convinced the other three younger chicks to join her!  The only one not joining the rafter party is Winifred.  She has never been able to even marginally fly and can't get up on the hay stack to make it into the rafters.  So she is content to roost in the new enclosed roosting box in the coop.  The only chicken in a 10' x 10' chicken coop!  On top of that all five of the girls are going through their seasonal molt.  Poor Winnie, however, is looking downright ugly.  It looks like she has been randomly plucked.  I wonder why chickens molt during the coldest season of the year when a nice layer of feathers would be a welcome protection from frigid temperatures?

Winnie looking freshly plucked.
The baby alpacas are growing fast and have now started eating a regular diet of hay and alpaca crumbles ($$$).  They are still nursing, however, and won't be weaned until late March or early April at about 6 to 7 months.  I'm having a hard time keeping the Moms, Felicity, Birdie and Twizzler at a good weight.  Between providing milk and trying to keep warm in our already frigid winter they are looking too thin.  I've increased the amount of alpaca crumbles they get and I am giving them as much hay as they will eat.  I've also started adding alfalfa pellets($$$) and goat feed ($$$) to the crumbles which have a higher protein content.  I'm hoping this will help them gain more weight and maintain it.  I've learned an important lesson.  Any further breeding I do will be done to create late spring crias so that Moms will have access to a summer of rich pasture while they are nursing.

Sting Ray enjoying his own alpaca crumbles and hay.

Since the babies are eating a more regular diet they are creating more output.  In an attempt to make stall cleaning feasible and help control feed grabbing by the Moms I've moved Daisy and Andraya  to their own stall.  This meant I had to move the boys to the new stall and give the two maidens, Daisy and Andraya, the boy's old stall.  That way they can still see their old herd mates and share a fence line with them but they don't have to compete with them for feed and I have an easier time cleaning the stalls.  Unfortunately Daisy thinks I've sentenced her to purgatory and won't acknowledge my presence!  She has always been an outgoing friendly youngster but now she is starting to resemble the cranky old maid Andraya.

Daisy, Daisy, Daisy!

Ah the trials and tribulations of the barn life!  Worse then a soap opera.

On a brighter note, I received a new larger two wheeled wheel barrow for Christmas!  Just one more way to make stall cleaning easier!

The new super duper Truper barrow, able to move more manure with fewer trips!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Christmas Card Greetings!

Our Christmas prayer for all our family and friends
 is that you may experience 
the wonder and joy and true meaning of Christmas!

May each new sunrise give you new hope!

May God's creatures and creations give you a renewed sense of peace!

May the simple joys of life give you laughter and satisfaction!

And may you experience the fullness and wonder of this life we've been blessed with!

Merry Christmas!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Fall, Going, Going, Gone?

So I was highly disappointed early this week when my efforts to finish up outside farm projects were rudely interrupted by the appearance of snow on Wednesday the 26th of October!  We're not talking about a few flakes lazely drifting down.  We're talking about snow all day!

At 2:00 in the afternoon.

At 6:00 p.m. in the evening.

As of today, Friday, we still have snow piles where the snow slid off the barn roof. 
The fall colors were so brief this year and have already disappeared.

The last of the fall colors.

My homage to fall.

Crias napping in the fall sun.
Good bye fall, I'm truly sorry to see you go!

Despite the lack of cooperation from the weather, I managed to start on a project that I have to complete soon.  That is the construction of a creep feeder.  "A what?" you say.  As did Jeff.  A creep feeder is a small enclosed area that only the crias will have access to where they can safely go to eat without worrying about adults stealing their food.  At about two months of age the crias should have access to alpaca crumbles as they slowly start the transition to solid foods.  I purchased two dog kennel panels, created a small corner next to the stall, cut a cria size hole in the stall wall to allow access and began construction of a hay/crumble feeder.  To be continued.

With our friend Ray's help the third stall is now complete with a gate.

Thanks Ray!  It will be very useful come March.
Finally I want to let you know that I have an Etsy account where I am selling my "alpaca goods."  There is a button on the upper side of my blog page that will take you to my Etsy page, Zephyr Alpaca Goods.  I'm offering yarn as of now but will soon have roving available and hopefully other wares.  

Five silky soft natural colored alpaca yarns available on our Etsy shop. 

Roving which is great for hand spinners, felting and crafts.  Available soon on my Etsy account.

The last glimpse of the fall colors.

June Bug and Faith enjoying the last of the nice weather.

"Hey Sting Ray, can I tell you a secret?  Fall is gone!"

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The New Crias!

We are happy to report that we have three new crias!  They were all born in September and are doing great! 

Faith and Mom Felicity
Sting Ray and Mom Twizzler

Hannah's Faith was born on 9/13 three weeks early.  Though there were some worrisome moments, like being too weak, and unable to nurse because of it, she is now three weeks old and gorgeous!  To thank friends and family that have helped us on our alpaca journey I've decided to name any Zephyr Hill Farm crias after them.  Faith is named after our daughter Hannah, who assisted us this past spring with our first shearing.  

The last two crias were both born on 9/26!  Sting Ray was born a little before 7:00 a.m. and June Bug at 10:30 a.m.  Nothing like togetherness!  They were both born close to their due dates and had no problems.  All three are gaining weight, active and too cute!  Sting Ray was named after our good friend Ray who has assisted us with the construction of all our barn stalls.  His grandkids call him Sting Ray!  June Bug's intials stand for our son Jeremy and son-in-law, Brad who helped us erect our first fencing last year.  Jeremy also assisted with our shearing this past spring.  Thanks to all of you!  We wouldn't be where we are without your help.

Hannah's Faith

Sting Ray

June Bug with Faith behind her.

Both Faith and June Bug are considered Dark Browns.  Their coloring is so close that their Mama's often have to sniff them to determine one from the other.  Sting Ray's Pinto coloring isn't seen too frequently.  His dominant color is a Medium Fawn, with a little bit of gray around his eye.  He has four white symmetrical socks, a white neck band and a white star and nose.  

Sting Ray and Linus have a meeting.

Thursday we finished our fencing project!  We made a paddock for the boy's outside of the barn by taking away a small section of their pasture.  We added four gates.  One 10 foot gate from the boy's pasture to the back pasture.  A four foot gate from the new boy's paddock to the back pasture.  A lane from the barn to the the second 10 foot gate which allows access to the newly created back "back" pasture.  We divided the "back" pasture in half.  The lane allows access to the back half of the back pasture.  Clear as mud?

Back "back" pasture gate and new fencing.
We have a lane!  Now we can have alpacas sharing the back pasture separately.
The new "lane" looking towards the barn from the back pasture.

The two new gates from the boy's paddock (on the left) and the boy's pasture (on the right).

I'm trying to wrap up fall projects before the weather is no longer accommodating.  I've created a hay feeder in the girls stall which I will enclose to create a cria "creep" feeder.  This will be a cria only area where the crias can come to munch on alpaca crumbles and hay without the adults snarfing it all.  I'll make an opening just the right size for crias to enter but big Momma pacas can't.

New hay feeder

New hay feeder with hay in it!

With the help of our friend Ray, we've created a third stall to house the crias when I wean them in the middle of March (at or about six months).

Just when I think I've checked off one item on my list a new "to do" replaces it.  Sigh.  The work on a farm never ends.  The only troubling part about this is that my obsession to complete my list never gets satisfied.  I love, however, living and working on a farm.  Guess I can trace my farming roots back to my maternal Grandma Vi.  She was always pressing the envelope during her life.  She ended up living on a cattle farm with my step grandfather in Onaway, Michigan the last half of her life.  Thanks Grandma for the farming legacy!

The mist rolling in at sunset.