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Posted 2/9/2010 10:36am by Mona Kennedy.

Coty loves to hay-dive.  He’ll stand at the wheelbarrow picking through the hay, chewing and sniffing.  Then suddenly he’ll thrust his head down to the bottom of the wheelbarrow.  His head is completely covered in hay.  He’s eating all the delicious bits of grassy things that fall to the bottom.  Sometimes he stands in one place. Sometimes he’ll reach over under the hay as far as his long neck will stretch.  The hay on top of him jumps around.  The other alpacas don’t mind him doing this.  Usually they’ll just continue eating the hay that’s covering his neck and head.  Sometimes they join him.  After a while, swoosh!  Coty’s head pops up.  He’ll stand there chewing a mouthful of hay, with long, grassy, green hay hanging down on both sides of his head.  I laugh and tell him how adorable he is wearing his ‘hay hat.’  If you’ve never watched an alpaca hay dive, you’re missing out on one of the funniest things in life.

Tags: alpacas
Posted 2/4/2010 10:52am by Mona .

Jenna Woginrich blogs on the Mother Earth News as the Happy Homesteader.  She recently posted a fabulous entry she entitled ‘Yearning to be a Farmer.’  Many readers have commented that her term ‘Barnheart’ will be this year’s ‘locavore.’  I’d have to agree.  I am relieved to hear that many people share my affliction.  If you have a chance you can read her blog post here and on her personal blog site here.

Barnheart is essentially the heartfelt, intense longing for the outdoors, of growing our own food, building our own shelters, and raising our own livestock for food and clothing.  It’s our longing for self-sufficiency and breathing fresh air while we live our conventional lives, working in our windowless, stuffy office cubicles.  It’s that calling we feel while discussing average percentages and quarterly reports with co-workers.  That longing for a quiet and peaceful life based on simplicity and nature is what wakes people with Barnheart up at night.

I have had Barnheart all my life and now it has a name!  I grew up in suburbia with its developments, soccer games, traffic lights with congestion and honking, and strip malls.  On paper my hometown had a wonderful school system and safe neighborhoods.  During and after college I continued to live in suburbia for years.  But I longed for large open fields of lush grasses and wildflowers.  I longed for large expanses of land that beckoned to be hiked in solitude from crowds.  I longed for that smell of fresh air.  I longed for hearing nothing but birds singing and the wind rustling grass and leaves.  I longed for that life where joy is found in pulling up that first unperfect carrot grown from the soil you created and rainwater, baking bread from grain you grew, upon finding that first egg in your coop in the springtime, vases filled with flowering weeds, attending to animals in an old barn, and running your hands through freshly sheared wool.  I longed for wearing wool from animals I raise and care for.  I longed for working my land, for having dirty hands and knees and unbrushed hair and for that to be my fashion statement.  I longed for starry nights that can be seen from my porch, my land, my homestead.

I longed so much and for so long and now joy is here with my little farm.  The longing never really goes away, yet with each step forward one’s smile becomes wider.  For all of you with Barnheart too, may you find your joy soon and may that joy bring you peace. 

My name is Mona and I have Barnheart.               

Posted 1/26/2010 12:57pm by Mona.

Oh what a gorgeous spring like day today!

Yesterday’s storm was rainy and yucky but not at all as horrible as predicted.  The little road to the barn is very muddy this morning but most of the ice is gone so I could walk down quickly, not inch along like I’ve had to do.  The pathway in the paddock is still pretty icy and the mud is slippery but at least it’s just a short path to the tack room.  It’s warm enough today that I didn’t have to lug jugs of hot tap water.  I just used the water pump in the barn, wow!

And the alpacas are enjoying this burst of warmth too.  Dan had put some straw down on one end of the paddock for the boys to cush on a few weeks ago and the sunshine today has dried it up nicely.  Straw from the barn has also blown out, so now there’s a really large cushing area for them.  They seem to be basking in shifts.  This morning Guinness, Bo, and Coty were all out for hours, and now it’s Julio and Arlo.  Last night their fleeces were all wet and muddy with hay and straw stuck all over them.  Today they all look so much cleaner.

The rest of the paddock is an absolute muddy mess and this is where they’ve now decided is their poop pile of choice, all of it!  Better than inside the barn.  Last year when figuring out how to deal with the mud (i.e. drainage), it was suggested to us that the paddock area be considered a ‘sacrifice area.’  A sacrifice area is where no grass is grown and instead just stonedust or cement blocks, etc. is used.   It sounded like a great idea and clearly worked for that farm.  So what did we do?  We brought in loam and planted grass!   Once spring is really here we will move all that loam and bring in stonedust.

There’s so much still to learn!  But having a great time ..............      

Posted 1/23/2010 3:45pm by Mona Kennedy.

Oh what an absolutely beautiful day today!  The sun has been shining and not a cloud in the sky.  The sky is so blue, blue, blue making this weeks’ additional 1 foot+ snowfall look so white, white, white.  Best of all it’s been just above freezing this afternoon, about 34 degrees, and the snow is really melting, running down off the roof like a stream.  It feels like Spring!

We thought it would be a good idea this weekend to clear out a lot of the snow from around the barn and the house in preparation for the upcoming rainstorm headed our way on Monday.  It’s supposed to be a little warmer with ‘significant’ rainfall.  We want to be sure the rain and melting snow are directed away from the barn and pasture and our cabin.  A warm and rainy Spring in New Hampshire, and especially Spring-like weather in January, could easily mean flooding due to all that fast melting snow.  The weather people are probably doing the usual ‘doom and gloom’ forecast, but this is our first experience with our little alpaca farm and rain with melting snow and we just don’t want to take any chances.

Our tractor has been good to us for working on our pastures.  We’ve moved rocks and roots and stumps, and leveled the loam for seeding it.  We’ve dug swales and made berms for drainage.  Now we have come to realize that it is an invaluable tool for moving snow!  Having the bucket in the front and the blade in the back allows us to move snow much, much more quickly than using just a snowblower would.  Watching Dan play (oops I really mean work) with the tractor today, I am so happy we purchased it while setting up our farm.  We’re using it more now in the winter than we did in the summer. 

Dan cleared out the entire paddock (again) and made long paths through the pasture (again) for the alpacas to pronk.  And pronk they did!  They romped around the tractor.  They all ran up and down the paths.  Coty wrestled with Arlo for the first time!  Bo managed to find green grass in the paths to graze on.  Guinness did his signature ‘rolling’ in front of the tractor.  When he finally walked away, Arlo laid down and rolled too.  Copycat!  And such a cute copycat he is.   We’re so happy that he’s finally grown enough to ‘play with the big boys.’  It was great to see them out in the sun after days and days of staying in the barn with snowstorm after snowstorm.  When they tired of pronking, they all went into the barn for a good hay fest on the fresh hay I’d just put out to distract them so Dan could work.  Julio instead stood near the hayfeeder, eyes glued on Dan working.  The path out of the paddock leads over to the main swale through the pasture, so runoff is directed right to it.  There’s a bit of an indent in the snow where the swale runs down the pasture to the back fence.  We’ve created huge snowbanks in the front corner where the fences from the 2 pastures meet and the swale begins.   

When Dan was done with the paddock, he cleared an area alongside the tack room end of the barn.  This will now direct runoff from the path to the barn, past the tackroom and over to a narrow swale under the snow.  This swale runs on a diagonal away from the back of the barn, under the fencing, and into the woods. 

Phew!  We’ve had so much snow already that we’re running out of room to put more.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we’re done with snowstorms for this winter!!            

Posted 1/14/2010 10:55am by Mona Kennedy.

I still suffer from ‘new alpaca owner syndrome.’  Anytime anything, and I mean anything, out of the ordinary (and when you have a new farm what’s ordinary?) happens, I have a quick panic attack until I realize everything is just fine.  I say ‘phew!’ and have yet another good laugh.  Alpacas are curious creatures and also very smart creatures, each with their own personalities.  I’m beginning to think that now they are teasing me for their own amusement. 

When we go out to the barn in the evenings it is already well past dark.  Sometimes the boys are eating hay but usually everyone is cushed and cozy.  We were pretty darn hungry ourselves last night when we came home from work so we ate our dinner first before going out to feed the alpacas.  Our footsteps make a crunching noise in the snow.  The entrance gate squeaks and the bottom of the gate scrapes against the snow and then clang! The gate rattles in the latch as we close it behind us.  We approach the barn saying hello to each of the boys but in the dark and behind the tarp we can’t see them just yet.   Dan turned around to go back and get the wheelbarrow for poop cleanup.  The barn has three light switches:  one for the outside perimeter, one for the little tack room, and one for the stalls.  I turn them on in that order and inspect our little herd.  Guinness had gotten up, Bo was blinking from the lights trying to wake up, and Coty and Arlo were cushed, chewing their cud.  Arlo always looks so happy to see me! 

And then there was Julio.  He was cushed in the straw too with his head stretched out, chin on the ground.  My heart dropped to my stomach.  Normally he’s the first one up and he hears everything.  I approached him slowly, calling his name softly.  All he did was flick his ears a bit and his chin turned a little, this way and that.  I called his name, again and again.  Nothing.  Dan walked into the barn then with the squeaky wheelbarrow and still no response.  I showed Dan Julio lying there so oddly and instead of being quietly cautious, my ever-so-calm-husband just walked right over to him and loudly said “Hey, JULIO!”  Up came Julio’s head like a rocket.  Being a suri, his topknot covers his eyes but we could see them blinking at us like “What! What!”  He stretched out one front leg and then the other, put his chin up towards the ceiling and s-t-rech-e-d that long neck.  Then he hopped up, shook, and walked over to the feeder and started eating hay.  He looked over at me like ‘Hey, everything’s fine.’

Dan calmly said, ‘Mona, he was just sleeping.’  ‘Phew!’ I answered and had yet another good laugh.

Tags: alpacas
Posted 1/6/2010 1:21pm by Mona.

We have had gentle snowfall for 6 days now.  We’ve probably picked up close to another foot of snow.  At least it’s come in small increments so it makes it easier for us to clear the driveway and pathways around the house and down to the barn and over to the big poop pile.  Dan hooked up something called ‘skid shoes’ to the bottom of the ‘blade’ attachment on the tractor and has a fairly easy time ‘plowing’ all these paths out.  It’s much, much faster than using the snowblower even if he has to be turned around plowing backwards the whole time.  He used the tractor bucket as well as the blade a few weeks ago to clear a path in the pasture for the alpacas to run around on.  They all followed him and pronked behind the tractor while he worked.  Guinness was so excited he was pouncing around the tractor and then laid down in front of it and rolled and rolled and rolled.  When Dan was done, they all had races up and down the paths sometimes tripping over Guinness when he decided to roll again.  They continually find endless ways to amuse us.  Now when they see Dan coming down the path to the barn on the tractor they get excited, thinking he’s going to clear another path in the pasture for them. 

The strong winds continue and I’m constantly re-shoveling the drifts that keep accumulating on the paddock walkway.  Today the sun is shining brightly and I wish I could find a way to get the boys out of the barn.  Julio is a good guard keeping the others in the barn out of the wind but the sunshine is so refreshing!  Alpacas, with their wonderfully dense fleece can withstand the cold easily but it’s the wind that creates havoc with their health.  Wind blew snow up and over the tarp and onto the straw we’ve put down.  A few days ago I was actually shoveling snow off the straw in the awning area of the barn.  The boys must be heartier than I keep planning for as most days I find them cushed on the stonedust in the 2 stalls where we did not put straw down.  Usually at least one is cushed in front of the hay feeder entirely in the wind.  Arlo enjoys the thick straw in the pen the most although I wonder if the reason he likes cushing in the pen is because that’s where we feed him his grain! 

We’d been visiting our alpacas in the winter up at Pam’s during the 2 years they’d been there but this is our first winter to watch them ‘grow into their fleece’ on a daily basis.  Wow!  What a show!  The more their fleece grows the more gorgeous of an animal alpacas are.  It is so soft to the touch and with gloveless hands my fingers are instantly warm.  Their fleece right now is as long as my fingers are or longer.  When I touch all the way down to their bodies, their bodies are warm.  Yeah!  Sometimes it’s necessary to put a coat on the younger alpacas or the older or sick ones.  With this wind I’m tempted to make little ear warmers and booties for them although I’m sure none of my boys would wear them!    

Posted 12/28/2009 1:23pm by Mona Kennedy.

I hope all of you had a better Christmas weekend than I did.  I spent most of the time on the couch, sick with some sort of mild flu.  I only left the house in the evenings to go out to the barn with Dan to feed our happy little herd.  Standing among the alpacas, they radiate such joy and good energy it’s hard to feel sick.

I love New Year’s and the hope for new beginnings that it brings.  On New Year’s Eve Dan and I like to sit back and reflect on our past year and create our goals for the New Year.  Our reflections start with the good, i.e. all the goals we did accomplish or are completing, and then on to the setbacks.  But instead of dwelling on any bad experiences that we may have had, we talk about what we’ve learned from those experiences so that it may help us in the future.  And then we laugh and talk about what we are looking forward to, jot down ideas, and from there our new goals are formed.  It's the end of the year.  Every end is a new beginning.

With the alpacas physically here it will be much easier for us to visualize the direction our farm is headed.  I’m sure all farms sit back every year and say ‘Hhmmm, what needs to be fixed?  What do we need to buy this year?  What could we improve?’  Necessity and the budget usually dictate what will come first.  If the alpacas could speak, I’m sure they’d like us to keep working on a better pasture, free of rocks and roots, and filled with lush, green grass!

As I type, big, fluffy snowflakes are falling covering all the tree limbs, fence posts, birdhouses, and all the mud left by yesterday’s rain, once again transforming our cabin, yard, barn, pasture and woods into a Norman Rockwell-esque painting.  I love a fresh snowfall.  Everything looks so peaceful and new.   

Here’s to wonderful new beginnings!

Wishing you all a joyous, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

Bright Blessings,

     Mona

Posted 12/24/2009 12:31pm by Mona Kennedy.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

And thank you for reading our little blog!

~  Mona, Dan, Stella, and the alpacas at Sweet Harmony Farm

Posted 12/21/2009 12:47pm by Mona Kennedy.

Well, all alpaca owners experience it; I already have several times.  It’s been happening at least a couple times a week to me.  Dan, on the other hand, has not experienced it.  But on Sunday night, he did experience it for the first time.....What am I talking about?  Dan was showered in the face and hair with alpaca spit.

On Sunday we also had another snowstorm.  We are far enough north that we were lucky to only get another 2 inches of powdery snow that makes the pasture look like we just spread white frosting all across it.  Everything looks fresh and clean.  The alpacas like to cush near the openings of the stalls.  The winds blow in snow and cover the edges of the straw in little drifts, and decorate the backs and necks of the alpacas.  They have no idea that they’re covered in snow; their fleece has gotten so thick and long.  Guinness easily won the “Most Snowy Alpaca” award.  The sparkly white snow on his dark brown fleece looked like vanilla icing on chocolate cake.  Of course I left the snow on him.

Julio is still imposing his ‘no leaving the barn while it’s cold and windy’ rule and the boys are getting quite cranky and stir crazy.  Bo and Coty wrestle with each other right there in the barn, sometimes over the poop pile.  Arlo keeps trying to join in but he’s still too little.  But it’s Julio and Guinness who get the others all riled up at feeding time.  They get jumpy and spit at each other, and then start chasing the others around the barn when we bring out the feed bowls.  Last night was quite a circus trying to get them to settle down to eat!  No one was in their usual place but after a couple minutes every nose had its own bowl and the steady munching started.  When they’d finished they all started eating hay and another spit fest started.  Dan was right there watching them and whoa!!!  All of a sudden he was showered in spit and I laughed for about 5 minutes straight.  I was still in the pen with Arlo and instead of spit, I got an alpaca kiss. 

Today it is the first official day of winter and it is sunny and frigid cold again.  The fierce winds are blowing the snow around sometimes making little ‘tornadoes’ dance across the pasture.  Surprisingly though it is above zero even with the winds.  The alpacas still won’t leave the barn.  I love the winter solstice.  The days start to get longer again! 

The water in the bucket was frozen again when I went out to the barn this morning.  And once again they weren’t concerned, just I was.  The past several days I put about 2 gallons of hot tap water in the bucket and carry it down along with the gallon jugs of hot water.  I am putting all hot tap water in the bucket and it’s still freezing up, hopefully not as fast.  Julio likes to drink the hot water and Guinness also seems to, but the others will put their noses in and look up quickly at me “What! What happened!”  After a few minutes, once it has cooled a bit, then they come back and drink.  I guess the alpacas don’t like tea as much as I do.  Hmmmm, perhaps I should be putting a tea bag in the water bucket ....

 

Posted 12/17/2009 11:42am by Mona Kennedy.

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr....................................  Wow!  Is it ever cold outside!  With below zero temperatures it is quite a struggle to stay warm outside when doing barn chores or just walking Stella.  Stella and our indoor kitty, Gracie, are on the couch or the rug by the woodstove all day.  It got so cold so fast.  Dan is already wondering if we’ll have enough wood for the entire winter even though we’ve never run out.  It’s hard to imagine how livestock manages to stay warm, especially creatures that do not have a warm fleece like our alpacas have.  When I put my hand down in their fleece, their bodies are warm.

It was about 15 below zero with the wind this morning when I went out to the barn to bring down jugs of warm water and check on the alpacas.  They were all cushed, looking quite cozy.  I smiled, relieved.  Then, to my horror, the water bucket was frozen solid!  Some mornings it has skimmed over and a quick poke with my finger or an alpaca nose will break through, but not this time!  I apologized profusely to the boys, picked up the bucket, and all but ran up to the house.  Thankfully we have another unused water bucket in the garage where we also store extra hay and straw.  After a quick rinse out in the kitchen sink, I filled it halfway with warm water and back to the barn I went.  I added the two jugs I had brought down originally and the alpacas just stared at me, wondering what all the fuss was about.  Apparently no one was thirsty. 

Even though we put up a tarp to help block some wind, the boys generally cush in front of the 2 open stalls right around the hay feeders.  Last night we spread out more straw for them.  It’s funny to see their bodies’ imprints in the fresh straw in the morning, so we know that they were behind the windbreak at least for a short time.  We’ve been stuffing the hay feeders full, full, full, and giving the boys a little extra grain in the evening.  We’re going to pick up more straw and place the bales along the edges to help keep out drafts.  That almost sounds ridiculous because it’s a 3 sided shelter!  We still think every little bit helps.  

Julio has imposed a ‘no leaving the barn’ rule since it’s been so cold and windy.  Whenever one of the alpacas wanders out to the paddock or ~gasp!~ the pasture he runs out after them and noses them until they come back in.  Sometimes instead of a gentle nosing it’s more like a bullying push.  It’s nice to know he’s so protective but I’d prefer they’d all get at least a few minutes of sunshine!

Quote for Today

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

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Our new fiber store on Local Harvest!

 

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