Sweet Harmony Farm blog

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Posted 4/30/2010 9:57pm by Mona .

Well this is certainly not my nor Dan's favorite picture of ourselves, but look at Bo Jangles!  Doesn't he look fantastic!

Mona & Dan with Bo Jangles, April 2010

I would have loved to have presented a 'before' picture, but as you can imagine Bo Jangles was not exactly in the mood for posing after hearing his fellow herdmates screeching.  I'm surprised he willingly stood for this one.  As soon as Dan released him, he ran out of the barn to join his buddies in the pasture.

I'll post about our experience during our first shearing day soon.




Posted 4/26/2010 7:01am by Mona Kennedy.

Curious Alpacas

 Sometimes, a picture says it all!


Tags: alpacas, barn
Posted 4/20/2010 11:39am by Mona Kennedy.

I’m back!  For the past couple of weeks I’ve had the privilege of serving as a juror for the US District Court.  It was a wonderful experience, but it’s nice to be back to the routine of our daily life.

I had to be out of the house first thing in the morning, so Dan was tending to the alpacas.  Cell phones are not permitted in the Federal Building so I’d leave mine in the car in the parking garage, a few blocks away.  I had to wait until the end of the day before I could quickly walk to my car to call Dan and bombard him with questions:  Did Arlo greet you at the gate?  Did Julio sniff your head?  Did Guinness let you scratch his neck?  Were Bo and Coty so excited to see you that they started neck wrestling?  Anyone give you alpaca kisses?  These are all regular morning happenings for me and I was surprised that Dan responded with “Uhhhh ....... nope” for each question.   Ditto after Day 2.  By the third day I barely got to say hello before Dan said ‘Mo, I think the alpacas just like you better.’  I don’t want him to feel bad, so I told him I think it’s just that they see me more often. 

Dan is still concerned, so now he fills his pockets with Ziploc baggies of baby carrots when we go out to the barn in the evenings.   This is probably Julio’s and Guinness’ favorite snack.  Those great sniffers know there are carrots somewhere, so they follow Dan around as we do the nightly chores and sniff at his pockets.  Dan makes them wait until they eat all of their pellets before he gives them their carrot dessert.   Julio will at least chew his carrots, but Guinness can eat a whole carrot in one big snort.   The other alpacas, the ‘little boys,’ are curious as to what’s happening and watch this scene intently.  They too sniff at Dan but when offered a carrot they turn their heads.  For some reason our three younger alpacas have never liked carrots, so I put a little extra pellets in my hands to distract them.  Wet alpaca tongues tickle my hand as they cheerfully eat the pellets, and sniff at me for more.  The two geldings stand around Dan, poking at him with those long noses and sniffing him until they’re certain that all the carrots are gone.  Dan laughs as they sniff the top of his head over and over.  After a few minutes Guinness or Julio notice the little ones getting pellets for a treat and they quickly stomp over to me for their treat too.  Within seconds I am showered again by the geldings in alpaca sniffs and kisses. 

So nice to be back to the simple joys of our alpaca life......

Tags: alpacas
Posted 4/7/2010 9:07pm by Mona .

I would love to have all summer days just like today - mid 80’s with lots of sun and a gloriously strong warm breeze.  Stella has been chasing butterflies, running like a puppy on too-long legs.  When she gets hot she finds a cool spot in the dirt under my car or in the grassy shade from the trailer.  Daffodils and forsythias are blooming.   I can see the daylilies all popping up, their tips a deep green.  Birds are everywhere this time of year, singing cheerfully while they gather up supplies to build nests.   This morning I could hear the familiar rubbing noises on the outside of the logs here in the den.  That noise is a mama robin, building a nest on the criss-crossed corner of our log cabin, in the shade of a large maple tree.  Lately we’ve been seeing a smaller bird flying in and out of the barn also carrying grass and such in its beak.  This type of bird built a nest in the barn last year, up in the ceiling peak near the light.  It built a smaller nest in the next light to watch over its babies’ nest, and it would often perch on the fence nearest the barn to watch Dan and me.  It’s not really gray yet not really green either, but never stays still long enough for us to get a good look.  Anyone have any idea what type of bird it could be?

I wouldn’t be concerned normally about the alpacas on a very warm day like today but they are still in full fleece.  Shearing Day isn’t for another few weeks.  They must be roasting in those wool coats!  My feet were definitely toasty today in my Muck boots (time to get those purple clogs!)  I checked in on them again at noontime and everyone looked the same as any other day so that’s good.  I put out another bucket of cold water from the well pump for them.  Not that I really think 5 non-breeding male alpacas would drink 10 gallons of water in an afternoon, but I felt better!  I was going to put ice cubes in the water too but then I know I’d be concerned that they would swallow an ice cube whole and choke, thanks to my wild imagination, so an extra bucket of water it is.

The boys are still not too sure about their new bale feeder, except for Guinness, always except for Guinness, aka ‘Grumpy’ on our little farm.  He’s never shy when it comes to being fed!  Guinness will gladly munch and munch from the hay feeder, and fuss loudly and sometimes spit when another one of the boys comes over to eat too.  Even Julio walked away today, too hot to fuss back.   Eventually Guinness will walk away too; then the others will approach.  The bale in this new feeder is going down, down, down, so I know it’s not just Guinness eating from it, even if it seems that way sometimes.  This new feeder is in the barn under the awning in the shade, so I’m happy to see them eating hay in the shade while the afternoon is so warm.

Posted 4/2/2010 10:01am by Mona Kennedy.

One of the many fun things with having a farm is that you get to utilize those hobbies of yours.  For Dan, my very crafty husband, he gets to use all of his woodworking tools and skills.  He just made this beautiful hay feeder for the alpacas which holds an entire bale of hay!  The feeder sits along the ground so the alpacas are able to eat their hay as they naturally do, right at ground level.  No one is pulling hay out overhead, so no hay will fall into beautiful alpaca topknots belonging to the shorter creatures, i.e. Arlo.  The top frame is made up of smooth wooden dowels so no alpaca noses will be injured.  The frame rests on the bale and drops down with the bale as the alpacas eat.  The doweled frame keeps the hay in the feeder; otherwise my fleeced friends would at times be able to pull out a large section of a flake and race around the barn.  Don’t laugh ~ sometimes as I’m carrying a couple flakes of hay the boys will come up and eat from the flake, and yes they’ve taken it away and ran!  Silly, silly alpacas, they’re always finding a way to make us laugh.

hay bale feeder

Of course introducing the new feeder is a different story.  Alpacas are very curious creatures, and rather cautious about anything new.  To their horror, we wheeled away their bright yellow wheelbarrow.  They eyed us intently.  And then we walked in the new feeder.  They eyed us intently still, but no one moved.  Even after we ceremoniously brought over an entire bale of hay and plunked it in, no one moved.  I pulled up some hay through the dowels to entice them.  Nothing.  We stepped back towards the tack room, and waited.  We watched and waited while they stretched their necks, sniffing loudly, and we watched and waited some more.  Finally, a brave alpaca soul approached.  And who was the first alpaca, the bravest alpaca, to try it out?  Guinness of course!

Posted 3/25/2010 2:26pm by Mona Kennedy.

For morning chores, I usually don’t go out to the barn until at least mid to late morning.  From all the rooms in the back of the house, we can see straight out into the barn and pastures.   I can clearly see the hay feeder and can easily tell how full or not full it is.  Now that the snow is melted, the alpacas usually spend the early morning as the sun is rising wandering about the pastures, casually grazing on whatever is starting to sprout.  We don’t have any pregnant females or newborn crias to worry about.  Nor do any of our boys have any ongoing health issue.  The nights have been above freezing so I know the water bucket is not frozen.  Since we just have ‘non-working’ males here on our farm, I can usually drink my coffee and do my computer work before heading out to the barn for morning chores. 

The first thing I do when I head out is check the water bucket, empty it and re-fill it with the water pump in the barn.  I only bring down jugs of hot tap water in the evenings now.   The boys were all cushed here and there and Arlo as always got right up to greet me.  As I walked across the barn over the straw to the middle post where the bucket is, something looked strange to me.  Very strange.  Julio was cushed by the wheelbarrow, chewing his cud, watching me.  Ditto with Guinness over by the hay feeder.  Well that wasn’t strange; that’s normal of them.  I literally turned around slowly in a circle, looking around, very confused, trying to figure out what it was that was different.

Then it hit me.  AHA!!!  For the very first time since the alpacas have come home to our farm, 7 whole months ago, overnight nobody had pooped in the barn!    It was a pleasant surprise indeed.

“Oh what good, good boys!”  I kept on telling them, while I changed the water in the bucket and filled up the hay feeder.  I took a quick look out into the pasture and saw a beautiful green haze of grass sprouting up.  I walked back into the barn where everyone was loudly munching hay and said again “Oh what good, good boys!”  And Guinness promptly walked over to the middle stall, and un-surprised me.

Posted 3/22/2010 10:40am by Mona Kennedy.

Like most people, Saturday mornings are usually reserved for household errands, such as going to the bank, post office, grocery shopping, and a dump run.  Now every month or so, we fill our Saturday with farm errands as well.  On those mornings we sometimes also say ‘well, what the hay!’ and go out for breakfast as well.

Farm errands generally involve going to our local feed store and simply picking up a bag of alpaca pellets.  Sometimes we’re also running low on other necessities like electrolytes for their water or minerals, and sometimes we’re in need of another pair of gloves or tube of a de-wormer.  I always eye the boot selection.  Usually, though, we like to just walk around and check things out and talk with the wonderful owners.  This couple loves animals and is always interested in what our alpacas are up to.  We happily oblige and try not to babble on incessantly.  With every conversation we’ve had with them, we learn a little something. 

From there we head out to another fairly local feed store to pick up straw, when our local feed store is sold out.  This store has the same, but different, stuff stocked and is also a hardware store (gotta love small New Hampshire towns!) so we poke around there too.  This particular store is also really into feeding outdoor birds and I’ve always enjoyed looking at all the different feeders on display, located right next to bags of dog food.   When our prior dog had gotten older and developed sensitivities, this particular brand of dog food was the only one that would make her feel better.  I always think of my beloved Critter when we come in here.  Soon they will have starter chicks and ducks hatching, set up in metal boxes like tall structures with lights, resembling stacked trays and grow lights for starting seedling plants.  I know that’s the way it’s supposed to be done but it has always looked so odd to me.  They usually have a good selection of dog toys and treats so we always pick up a little something for Stella too, who is usually waiting patiently in the truck.

Some Saturdays we also need to pick up hay.  Our little tack room probably could not store a year’s worth of hay so we pick up hay every month or two.  We also need space in our tack room for the metal trash cans which store the alpaca pellets, wall room to hang halters and leads and the feed bins, and the small ‘work table’ in the corner.  We put these things along one half of the tack room and the 30 or so hay bales along the other.  The rest of any hay we purchase is stored in our garage and we wheel it down with a dolly as needed.  We put the few bales of straw we purchase in the corner of the pen, although lately the alpacas have discovered that rolling in an opened bale of straw is lots of fun!

Posted 3/5/2010 1:58pm by Mona Kennedy.

Today is pleasantly warm with a soft breeze and the sun is shining brightly!  It is so wonderful to see no clouds in a gloriously blue sky!  We’ve seen robins here and there, and daffodil tips are peeking up along the foundation to the house, sure signs that spring is on its way.

The alpacas had been romping around the pasture early this morning.  There’s still some snow covering most of the ground and with all this quick melting there’s also plenty of deep puddles and mud.  Thankfully my boys hate to get their feet wet so they hop over the puddles and quickly walk through the mud.  The sun has dried the straw that we’ve put out in the paddock for them to cush on.  They’ve been basking in sunshine for hours.

Arlo greeted me at the gate as he usually does although today he’s totally covered in straw.  Apparently, he’s been rolling!  They’re so funny when they roll.  First they sniff out an area like a dog would, probably to be sure it’s ‘clean.’  Then slowly they will cush, and suddenly they kick out their feet as they roll onto their side, and kick and kick while they slither on the ground.  Then they’ll go back to a cush, spring up, and shake.

As I went about my chores, Coty came into the barn and started sniffing the one stall with no straw, just the stonedust.  Next thing I knew, he was dropping and rolling!  After rolling in stonedust, Coty’s rosy-fawn fleece looks kind of gray.  Guinness had been cushed near the hay feeder so he just flopped over on his side and rolled away.  He too was covered in straw as he sauntered over to the water bucket.  I turned around to see Julio coming into the barn from the tack room side, sniffed at the straw, and he too dropped and rolled.  During all this rolling, Bo had been quietly eating some of the fresh hay that I’d just put into the wheelbarrow.  He only had straw on his legs from cushing.  I let him know that I had seen him rolling out in the paddock from the window this morning.

I guess all the alpacas have spring fever too!

Posted 3/3/2010 10:48pm by Mona Kennedy.

Last Thursday, New Hampshire, and most of New England and New York were hit with yet another seriously strong storm.  The weather forecasters talked about it for days; you’d think the apocalypse was coming.  They’ve been pretty wrong quite a bit lately so I didn’t think too much of it.  In the afternoon the heavy rains and wind started up, the back of our cabin started to leak in odd places, and I knew that this time their forecast was correct.

In the past 3 years since we’ve started our farm, Deerfield and the surrounding towns have been hit with record rains, flooding conditions, collapsed roads, record snowfall, a tornado, a severe ice storm causing extensive statewide damage, power outages lasting weeks, a phone outage (due to flooding) lasting a month, etc. etc.  This last windstorm once again caused extensive property damage, downed power lines and trees, flooding, impassable roads, and power and phone outages for days.  This is getting all too familiar.

The power went out late Thursday night.  The winds were so loud we couldn’t sleep, the strongest winds coming about 1:00 a.m. Friday.  We were curled up on the couch all night in front of the woodstove, bleary eyed.  We heard the most god-awful noises but with no power we couldn’t turn the outside lights on and it wasn’t safe to go outside.  At first light, around 6:00 a.m. I ran out back and started calling out to the alpacas, who were all huddled behind the tarps we put up.  Within seconds they all came running out looking excited to hear my voice!  All were fine and the barn appeared intact.  We did have minor roof damage to the house, branches down all around, and trees down in the woods.  And, oh yes, no power nor phone, again.  The Governor declared a state of emergency, and told us to plan for an extended outage, again.

It’s easy to become despondent and anxiety ridden, and I was on the borderline.    As Dan and I drove around looking for somewhere to get water for the alpacas and saw all the damage around town, we quickly changed our spirits to all that we were and are thankful and grateful for.  We continue to keep thinking about all that we are grateful for.  Gratitude keeps us focused on the important things.  In the big scheme of things, nothing really bad happened to us.  We are just fine.  We have neighbors and friends and co-workers who were not as lucky as us. 

We are so happy and grateful that we were not injured, nor were any of our animals, we are grateful that our house and barn and fencing were not really damaged and that no trees fell on them, we are grateful that no windows broke, we are grateful that we had supplies and daylight to repair the roof quickly, we are grateful that our cars and trailer and tractor were also not damaged, we are grateful that the house stopped leaking (it stopped raining), we are grateful that no power lines fell on our property, we are grateful that the sump came within three inches of the top (i.e. it did not overflow!) and that the cellar stayed dry, we are grateful that we have a friend who offered us water for the alpacas, we are grateful we live in a town that has water available for livestock in emergencies (how great is that!), we are grateful that we’ve always enjoyed heating our home with a woodstove, we are grateful that the right situations fell into place and an electrician was able to come out to wire the house properly for a generator, we are grateful that we finally got said generator running, and we are grateful that the phone and internet service were up within 3 and half days. We are very grateful that we were out of power for only 48 hours this time. 

We will always get a good laugh at how the power came back on less than 5 minutes after we got the generator running!  Now that we have a properly installed generator for such emergencies, we’ll probably never lose power again! 

We are grateful in advance for that.   

Posted 2/19/2010 9:02am by Mona Kennedy.

I just love to go barefoot.  In the warm weather, the sun on my toes and the feel of grass or beach sand beneath my feet is such a relaxing sensation.  I’ve always hated to have anything on my feet except for wool socks in the winter when I’m in the house and my feet are cold.  I only put slippers on to run down cellar or going onto the porch for wood.  When I come into the house, whatever is on my feet I quickly kick off.  Dan even has a family friend who does go barefoot in the winter, even outside!  (Hi Jeff)  My mom often reminds me of the Easter day when I was 2 years old and cried all day.  That evening when she took off my new little shoes, my feet were covered in blisters, and I stopped crying.  I imagine I’ve hated wearing shoes since then.

I do have to have something on my feet to drive or walk or get around so in the warm weather you’ll usually find me in something like Teva sandals or Birkenstocks.  I can easily take them off before I start driving.  If I’m hiking in the woods I will wear proper hiking boots to protect my feet.  I wear the hiking boots for getting around in the winter too.  And somewhere I do have men’s type work boots for safety when we cut and stack wood, move rocks, and other yard chores.  And now we have livestock, so another boot beckons.  It just wouldn’t be healthy for me to be barefoot in the barn and pastures!  Dan on the other hand, has no shoe issues and always prefers to wear something on his feet.

So what’s a barefoot loving girl to do?  She wears boots from a company appropriately named The Muck Boot Company!  We are lucky enough that the feed store here in town carries them.  We were looking for a boot that would keep our feet warm while doing barn chores in the snow and wind and we tried on their ‘Artic’ boot style.  Oh my!  The sole is quite cushy but also has arch support and while walking around the store, my feet were actually comfortable!  They come up almost to my knees which keep out deep snow, but they also fold down so I can easily tuck my pants in, and then roll them back up.  How great is that!  They are rated to keep your feet warm to 40 degrees below zero.  And may I dare say, my feet have never been cold while I’m out in the barn!

During those weeks of below zero temperatures and fierce winds, all I could think of was Elaine on a Seinfeld episode when she was writing for Peterman’s catalog:  “Thank goodness I was wearing my Muck Boot company’s Artic zone boots!”

Last weekend at the feed store Dan was showing me some clog style boots for spring and summer.  Lucy, the owner, quickly opened the catalog to show me that they also come in purple.  Purple!  How can I resist a boot that comes in my favorite color!  Come summer folks, you will probably find me about the farm not barefoot, but in my purple clog-style farm boots.

Quote for Today

Never let the odds keep you from doing
what you know in your heart
you were meant to do. 

Coming soon!
Our new fiber store on Local Harvest!


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