Thursday, June 25, 2009

I am sorry for the delay! Things on the farm have been so busy that I haven't been able to find time to sit down and write. But now that I have time I can start.
The latest of my discoveries with the alpacas is their love of water! I realized that the alpacas must be hot considering the weather has been in the high 90s so I brought out the hose to fill their water bucket. As soon as the bucket was full, all of the girls were downing the water. I brought out another bucket, filled it, and set it on the ground. Millie went up to the bucket, put her foot in it and dumped it over. Quickly she laid down in the muddy sand and sighed. I should have guess that these funny animals would love mud!! I took the hose and sprayed the ground for about 20 feet around me. As soon as the alpacas saw the water falling, they all gathered under the spray. They loved it! When I was finished they all laid in the wet sand. Now I daily spray them, and the sand to keep them cool!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Eight Turkey Chicks

This Mama turkey hen had her eight chicks about three weeks ago. She was fetching food for them for the first 10 or so days by herself. Now she is more confident, she escorts them to where food is and teaches them table manners as she guards them when they eat (image above). Taima thinks that they are ugly, but I see them cute. When I tried to photograph them when they were still little, Mama turkey hid them in the tall grass (and I guess asked them to be quite too) and revealed herself to me as she walked away from the site. The farther she was from the site, the closer she would allow me to approach her. Finally, I was about a foot away from her admiring her graceful body, beautiful feathers and big eyes - it was an awesome experience (silhouette image below). She is so smart. No wonder Ben Franklin objected to the bald eagle as a choice for the US Great Seal instead of the turkey. He wrote to this daughter: "I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America . . . He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on." See more on Houssam

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mama Tortoise

Last week, a Box Tortoise laid her eggs in a shallow trench created by running water from the barn's roof. Tamara tried to protect the eggs by laying a wood plank over it. I found the plank away from the trench this morning; and, when I explained the purpose of it to Taima, she said: "Oh, the Alpacas role in the trench all the time". I would do if I were them, the shallow trench seems to be created perfectly to fit the shape of there body (whatever that shape is - we like to joke that Dr. Suess participated in the design process). Now, there is a hard-for-Alpacas-to-remove-chain-link covering the eggs. We all hope that they will hatch cute little tortoises. Here is a photo of Mama Box Tortoise. Houssam

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Goyo the Macho Man!

Goyo, the newest addition to our herd is still quite young and we are just starting to find his personality, and boy is he a handful! He is very very curious and is always willing to come and sniff your shoes. He is always getting into trouble because of his curiosity. Because he is the youngest, you'd think he would be skittish and follow the others everywhere. Today is the first day I've really seen Goyo on his own. When I turned out the animals he ran out first and kicked up his heels. Not long after that I was tried to get him to go to his mother in the other paddock. I must have scared him because he jumped between the fence rails right into the boy's paddock and hid behind Ben! Ben eagerly sniffed Goyo, who was just wimpering. I was scared that Ben would hurt Goyo so I jumped in and grabbed him. For a week old cria, Goyo sure can kick. I could barely hold onto him! It took everything I had to get him away from Ben. I'm sure that we are going to have many many stories to come about Goyo! Taima

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Step at a Time

Since my mom unexpectedly handed over the blog while she is vacationing, I guess I'll have to tell all of the silly things our animals do! Although I did not see this, my dad told me the story of Floreana and the water. Here in Michigan it has been pretty hot the past week or so, so we put out a bucket of water for the crias. We made sure it was low enough for them to drink and filled it to the brim, although we didn't expect much because they are all still nursing. My dad went down to the barn, and he saw Floreana checking out the water bucket. She would go up to it and cautiously look at it, trying to decided if it was scary or not. Eventually she lowered her nose into the water, but she quickly figured out that you can't breath under water! She went running to her mother, Tula, convinced the scary water was trying to kill her. Being a curious cria, she came back one more time. This time she carefully dipped her nose in the bucket and licked her lips. Her eyes lit up and you could tell she was saying "Hey! that tastes good." Now Floreana is frequently seen drinking water! Taima

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Darn Deer

Today was full of sadness. My sister in law and her two sons left this afternoon to return to their home in Abu Dhabi, UAE. They lived in Ada for nearly two years. The kids are sad and it will take some time to get used to not having them here. Besides my nephews were the best chicken catchers ever. What shall I do when the chickens misbehave??

Overall, it was a quiet day on the farm. (I know this is hard to believe). However, I was enraged to see that the deer have eaten some of my landscaping. It was bad enough that the chickens tore up everything, but to have deer eat the perennials is really too much. Two days ago I was out spraying that stinky deer off on everything. Can you imagine that the deer have eaten the lower parts of the pine trees in our yard? I am generous in spraying the plants but not zealous. My prize plant is a beautiful stargazer lily. My neighbor, Karyn, warned me that the deer would eat the blossoms. I was thinking that I had possibly averted fate because the blooms were nearly bursting open. Ha! Ha! I thought I had beaten the deer. I sprayed the entire plant--twice. This morning when I went out to fill the bird feeders I noticed that each bud was bitten off!! I nearly fainted. It rained last night and the stupid deer must have had a gourmet dinner on the stargazer as well as the coneflower and daylillies. Grr. Fine. I grabbed the deer off and began to get to work. I sprayed everything very well. I planted 4 flats of red and white petunias or 192 petunias. Yes, every single one of them got a shower. When I finished about 35 minutes later I smelled horrible. No wonder deer don't eat the treated plants. I know I did a good job because we have a flock block sitting by the bird feeders. The block is for the wild turkey and her chicks, but the chickens get into it and apparently so does the infamous deer. She approached the flock block around 6 pm. She began to nibble on it and then turned her head towards the daylilly growing nearby. She sniffed, shook her head and backed away. Victory! I hope it doesn't rain tonight. Tamara


I know I will be sadly missed but I am headed to National History Day Finals with Noah. We come back on Thursday and I leave Friday with Sam to Verona, Italy. So I am leaving the blog in the capable hands of Miss Taima. She is at a horse show, but will be returning on Sunday p.m. She does not know that I have bestowed such a high honor upon her. She will surely be surprised.

Friday, June 12, 2009

We don't need t.v.- we have chickens & Chester!!

These chickens...They are hilarious! Everyday they are into something or another. About 10 days ago I realized the chickens were gobbling down the dry beef/chicken flavored cat food. I keep it in a container that holds about 8 cups of food. When I finished chores in the morning the box was full. By 4 p.m. it was completely empty. It took me a few minutes to realize that it was not the cats munching down, but the chickens. I only realized this when one of the hens came hobbling along started pecking away. Yum. Yum. I couldn't believe they ate it all. And it gave me the creeps to think our eggs might actually be beef/chicken flavored. Surely I was capable of outsmarting the chickens. So I moved the cat's water and food up to the loft. This was successful for about 3 days. One night Miriam and I went up to close the loft door when we were startled by 4 chickens. Of course the cats followed us up. Chester went berserk. He actually does not want to eat a hen. He just wants to terrorize them. He started running towards her and she squawked and flapped her wings and ran in circles. She jumped up on a pile of hay bales, he followed. Miriam was running around trying to catch Chester. Finally she lunged and grabbed him while I chased the hens towards the loft door. I swear Chester was laughing. In the end the chickens ran towards the loft door, hesitated and jumped to the ground. I will say that they left a mighty nice stash of eggs in a neat little nest in the hay. And my solution for saving the cat food for the cats is to put a baby gate at the bottom of the stairs. The cats can slide under and the chickens are kept out. Tamara

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A new Cria!

Today at 3:00 p.m. Marla delivered her first baby. Noah found him in the paddock newly born and wet. Tamia named him Goyo, an abbreviation of William in Spanish. He is very similar to Isabella in color. Even their faces are strikingly similar. Tonight he and his mom are in a stall having some bonding time together until tomorrow when Goyo is ready to go outside. This is our fifth and last cria for this year. We are looking forward to next spring when we shall have new babies frolicking about the farm. They are really precious and we are enjoying everyday with them. I hope to post a photo of Goyo tomorrow. Tamara

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Catching up

Life on a farm is similar to having a baby. No one actually says "I am not having a baby because it is too much work." Of course there may be other reasons. The same goes for a farm. You don't really think about the back breaking work, never ending projects and lack of time for anything or anyone else. You just sort of muddle through and learn as you go along. And enjoy every minute of it. I do admit a sense of overwhelming incompetence occasionally. I don't think it is unnatural for someone as myself having grown up in a city. It must be in the genes--I have 5 generations of farmers on both sides of my family.
Apart from feeling exhausted every night, I feel blessed because everyday something new or unusual occurs. For example, Chester has discovered the bluebird house. Sam and I worked very hard to get a bluebird to nest in a house we placed near the garden. A male bluebird inspected the home and his mate accepted it as a place to lay their eggs. We have been very careful not to disturb them. Until today when I noticed Chester had climbed the post of the bird house and was sticking his nose near the entrance! He jumped off when I called his name but his favorite place to lounge now is in a bare spot under the house. I am hoping he will leave them alone. I will have to watch him.

The chickens have been behaving themselves by staying near the barn and leaving the landscaping alone. I am happy about this. And they have been laying many eggs which Noah appreciates as he is selling them to family friends. Today Sam found an egg in the alpaca stalls nestled in the hay. It was brown with flecks of white. It was beautiful. He came into the house and cooked it up! What a great way to start a Saturday morning. Tamara

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Swimming Pool

We have a swimming pool which is all fine and nice except that it drives me bananas. I love the idea of swimming. The kids enjoy swimming and it is great entertainment when we have a house full of people. It is beautiful and relaxing to see the water illuminated at night, etc. However, the mechanical aspect of pool ownership alludes me. I have had the pool company come out and walk me through all the maintenance procedures. I still don't get it. The next time I need to clean the pool or whatever I cannot remember what to do! Mind you I have written all of this down and yet it just doesn't stay in my brain. I say yes, yes, yes and then poof! I forget everything the repair person told me.
Lately we have had a few repairs, a shaft seal was broken and a timer, for I don't know what, needed to be replaced. Naturally when I was standing in the kitchen this morning and I saw a cloud of yellow smoke coming from the pool mechanicals I panicked. I ran out and turned the system off. I sniffed around and felt as if there was an "electrical" smell. I called the pool company and was told to call the electrical company that had replaced the timer. I was worried that the entire pump would blow up if I left it running. And I thought maybe several of the pipes were closed and not allowing water to flow through. Could that cause an overheated motor??

The guy came out in about 1/2 hour and knocked on the door. I told him to go ahead and I would follow when I got my shoes on. As I was rounding the corner of the garage he approached me and said he figured out what was wrong. "You won't believe this." he told me. There is a row of large pines on the border of our property just behind the pool. He told me to grab one of the branches and tug. I did. A cloud of yellow smoke wafted in the air. It was the pollen from the pine trees!! What more can I say?? We both were laughting. How ridiculous.... Tamara

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Alpacas on the Move

Part of pasture management is allowing it to rest after the animals have eaten it to the ground. We have 6 areas where the alpacas graze and hang out. I currently have 3 in rest. Yesterday I decided to move the mommies, babies and the girl to the front paddock so I can observe when the last baby is born. Marla is taking forever to deliver this cria! I let the crew out through the front of the barn. They were delighted! They ran, jumped and played as if they never get out of the barn. Even the mommies were happy. They sniffed the poop pile, checked out the hay bin, and dashed up/down the length of the paddock. The babies and White Lace were particularily excited. W.L. even jumped straight up into the air. When they finally settled down they munched on the hay I had put out for them and stuck their heads through the fence to eat the lawn. I even saw Meddlin Millie stretched out sunbathing.
On the other hand the boys were not so sure about their new placement. I put them into the largest area where the grass is rather tall. Usually hey tend to run about and irritate each other. They screetch and scream while chasing one another displaying their manhood. What a guy thing! Please. I thought this new paddock would allow them room to carry on. I was surprised that they actually didn't harass each other because they were so busy snacking on the grass. So in the end everyone was pleased especially me because I can see the to be mommy from the front porch. I am sure the minute I actually sit down in the hammock with a glass of ice tea, she will go into delivery! Tamara

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Composting as an art

When owning a farm one of the first questions to be asked must be "What to do with the manure and waste?" I read a few articles and did some online research. Basically I concluded that the whole process would not be too difficult and I could manage it. Ha!! Little did I know.

Sam built me a 3 bin compost about 15' long and 5' wide, clearly big enough to hold all the refuse. I did not plan on the horses being home and did not calculate how many wheel barrows full of yuck would be removed from the barn. Three full bins later and two windrows on either side of the structure I am still struggling with managing it. I even attended a seminar offered by MSU and had someone come by and counsel me on how better manage my piles. It all sounded so easy!

Noah and I struggled with pitchforks taking the waste out. Then we layered the compost with urea and put everything back into the bin. The piles were hot and seemed to be working. But then I forgot to turn it. So it went cold. Sam brought the tractor over and we attempted to turn the piles that way. This was a cumbersome process. I had ordered a thermometer designed to test the temps of compost piles and I began to think I knew what I was doing. I began recording the temperatures and turning the piles, yes with my pitchfork. So here I am no farther than I was a few days ago. But hopeful that the piles will continue to stay hot and eventually decompose. I would really like to move this stuff out so I have room to dump more poop in its place!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Jellicle Cats come out tonight......

My cats...I love them. I do. I cannot help it. My kids think I approaching the point of losing a screw. We got them last summer from the horse barn and aquired the third at a house offering free kittens. They are all black. We named them Chester, Alice and Jake. Chester and Alice are siblings with almond shaped green eyes. Chester is lanky and quite the hunter while Alice is round but is known to catch a mole or two. Jake, what can I say about him? He is a long haired, timid kind of fellow. He loves to race into the barn at about 6:30 p.m. as if someone lit a fire under him. He flops down on the floor and rolls because he is so glad to be home.
When I take a walk on the paths in forest, they follow me. They come when I call them, most of the time. They help keep the barn free of undesirables...mice and the like.
They are friendly with most who visit the farm and enjoy being petted and scratched. They also provide unlimited entertainment.
I recently decided that the landscaped area on the side of the house was a waste. It is full of weeds and bark. So I put up some chicken wire and stakes and plopped a few tri-colored squash and zucchini plants down. Today when Noah and I rounded the corner of the house we noticed two chickens had made a home inside the fence. They were resting from their usual clucking and pecking. I saw Chester sitting on some rocks above the garden observing. He looked innocent enough but then decided to jump down on them as they unwittingly rested in the sun. Feathers and squawking galore! Noah jumped into the fence (which only stands about 2 feet high) and grabbed Chester. He was not happy. But was appeased with a small snack of processed luncheon meat (chicken--naturally).
I don't feel too bad about the cats bothering the chickens because the chickens terrorize the lawn and garden and create alot of work for me in sweeping up after them.
I should mention that sometime ago I "rescued" three feral kittens from the compost pile. A lesson learned. But they are cute, cute. The are primarily gray. One is solid in color while the other two are striped. Beautiful eyes and gentle faces. However, not the friendliest. Taima is working on that part. She is gifted when dealing with animals and seems to know how to handle them. While I am terrified to stick my hand in their house, she delves right in. No fear there. Hopefully in a few weeks they will be as tame as the others.