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Fred & George – Pet Alpacas


Find out what our two pet alpacas do on our small farm
I talk a big game about making the farm work for us. The apparent weak link in all of that is the alpacas. We don’t do anything with the fiber, they’re usually very dirty by the time we shear them and I don’t spin any way. The poultry all serve the purpose of insect control, eggs and meat. I’m sure as heck not going to eat the alpacas, so what do we keep them for? [Read more…]

Hold it! Drop That Tree!!

This is for those of you with real trees; 
those of you with fake ones keep on eating cookies and eggnog!
Give them to your Goat! 
mmmmmmm pine
This little charmer is/was Phoebe (now shes called Ante).
This is actually about 75% Christmas Tree and 25% Snow. 
The trees serve several purposes. 
The goats and llamas will strip them pretty fast. 
The late, great Cuzco (brown) best. llama. ever.
This is actually Dorthy’s final ‘wallow’ from last years semi-dead cow adventure. When she got up they decided to move in. These trees were actually placed around her for wind/snow breaks.

Behind the chubby Miss Sophia you can see trees placed around the emu (don’t ask) barn, it keeps the snow from blowing in and adds some insulation. They also create fun pockets of joy for the chickens. The ducks and chickens peck but I’m sure sure they really eat anything.
Her… uh good side. The trees provide free forage for the goats and llamas in the winter when hay is expensive and greenery is hard to come by. In theory the wood that’s left can be shipped up and used in stall. Usually we just have a terrifying bonfire in the spring.
Last year they stopped counting around 200. Several local towns started dropping off trees by the trailor load.
Don’t have access to a goat? 
Look for ‘tree recycling signs’ or ask at a feed store, like TSC.
Most farmers I know would be glad to show you around in exchange for a tree.
Check with local zoos, I know a big cat sanctuary in Florida took a bunch and gave them to the cats to claw.
One more reason not to use tinsel!

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Down On the Farm: Dorothy and Sophia


 This is Dorothy. I bought her about 13 months ago at an auction. Her back story: she was the ‘family cow’ (basically a term for a non-commercial dairy cow who is used for milk production on a home –scale), her owner died and his kids didn’t want her. She looked so sad and confused at the auction. She was in a stall all by herself in a back corner. I was drawn to her immediately. I spent most of the day in the stall talking to her and petting her neck. The ‘real’ farmers probably thought I was nuts. We bought her bred, she delivered freshened had  Sophia about two weeks later.
Sophia Day 2 – See how Dorothy is always trying to lick the camera?
I love my cow. When we bought her her name was Friendly, and she really is. She loves people. When someone new walks in the pasture she’s the first to run (talk about scary, 900+ pounds at a full run AT you) up and slobber  sniff.  Up until yesterday I have never lived with my cow. She has been at my boyfriends mothers since we got her over a year ago.
Dorothy and Sophia, left, Mable and S’mores, right. Couldn’t this be a card for a Mother’s Day Buffet?

Dorothy is my miracle girl. (Warning! Sad story with a happy ending)
The Cow Who Lived – New Years Day
Last year, on December 17, 2010 Dorothy almost died. She got out of her stall and got her head stuck under a board trying to get to another animals food. My boyfriends mother (BFM) found her laying on her side with her head stuck. She removed to board and tried to get her to stand up. They tried to temp her with food and tried rocking her back and forth but she couldn’t stand.
Mike (my boyfriend) called me at work and told me what happened. At that point I didn’t realize how serious it really was. I left work and drove over to meet the vet. He tried to rock her and then used a cattle-prod to test her reflexes. I felt horrible, like I was being shocked. She didn’t stand but she did move her legs. He eventually told us that she must have hit her back on the wall and injured her spine. He didn’t know if the damage was permanent and he couldn’t  tell us if she would ever be ok. He gave us steroids and told us to come by the office for hiplifts to try and get her standing.
One of the worst parts of this ordeal was the weather. It’s December. In Central New York. Cold, Cold, Cold. Of course she somehow crawled out of the barn and was laying in mud (her body heat melted the frozen ground). I has begun compulsively reading anything I could about cow health and found out the bottom of a cows thermal neutral zone is 20 deg F. (That means an acclimated cow isn’t affected by the cold until it’s 20deg). My definition of cold changed. I checked the weather constantly. We made her an igloo. We piled hay bales around her for windbreaks and used a tarp to keep the snow off her. She hated it. The buckets and buckets of warm oat and sweet-feed mash I made helped a little. 
The second vet that came out told us that as long as she was trying (eating) we could keep her alive but the longer she was down the less chance there was she would recover. Cows are large animals and their muscles can atrophy very quickly. Generally with farmers, if they don’t get up that day they turn into hamburger. Before you hate on them, realize that it’s HARD to be a dairy farmer, they aren’t making money because they can’t charge what their product is worth. The ones I know try their best for their animals, but if it comes to feeding their kids or meds for an animal that might not recover the kids win. Off the soapbox now…
This all happened right around Christmas, I spent a lot of time crying and screaming. We had some moments hitting rock bottom. It was so cold the tractor wouldn’t start and we couldn’t get her to stand. She didn’t seem to be making progress and it seemed like everyone else was giving up on her.  I was literally crying all the time, in the car on my way to work, from work to BFMs house, on the way back to my house. Good thing I didn’t get pulled over right?
Mike and the Girls, she’s skinny and filthy but standing
Then the miracles started. We had a warm snap for a week or so before New Years. And she started moving. No one saw her so we don’t know if she was walking of crawling. I remember walking back to the barn to get aspirin (ever try to shoot a pill the size of your thumb down an angry cows throat?) and I walked back and she was 10 feet away from where she had been.
Fast forward 15 Days. New Years Eve. Walked out of the llama barn after delivering 3 goats (I am multi-talented) and saw a cow-butt sticking up in the air. I swear my world stopped. As soon as she saw us she lay back down. The next day we got the call that she was up AND WALKING. By the time we got there she was laying down (in the barn at least) but we got our miracle.  She had lost a lot of weight and was very filthy. She had mastitis in one quarter (more farm lingo, bacterial infection) that we treated with antibiotics. My boyfriend and I had actually decided to ‘pull the plug’ if she wasn’t up by Monday, THE NEXT DAY. I honestly don’t know how if we would have gone through with it.One of those things I don’t like to think about.
Grazing, she gained back all the weight she lost and more
Fast forward again. October 6, 2011. My girl is home with her baby happily grazing and laying in the sun. It’s been such a long bumpy road. I feel like we’ve finally come full circle with her. She has an admirer, Fred is completely enamored. They keen touching noses and he stares at her like a little boy with his first crush.
Love is in the air
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Down On the Farm: Meet the FuzzButts

Say hello to George and Fred. Or as they would say hmmmmm.
(NOT the Harry Potter twins)
They are both male alpacas. They are the newest additions to the farm. They are incredibly sweet and generally low maintenance. They are a bit skinny at the moment (really under all the fiber they are quite wee) so they get grain in the morning and evening, fresh water and free range of the pasture. They get shots 1x a month for parasite prevention and regular toe clipping and yearly shearing. 

Grass, Yum
My long term goal is to spin yarn from their fiber but even if that never happens the boys are so worth the ‘trouble’. No matter what happens at work I come home and they make all seem ok with the world.
The boys expect me to follow them so I can make food appear in the bowl
Some people use alpacas and llamas for animal assisted therapy. They are both a bit too skittish for that right now, but they like to be hand fed and are ok with some petting so hopefully we can work our way up to it. It would be a nice way to ‘give back’ and all that jazz

 Fred being dramatic
In a nutshell alpacas are Fuzzy. And awesome. And Fuzzy. 
Stay tuned for more gratuitous fuzzball pics