Sweet Harmony Farm blog

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Posted 12/9/2009 12:13pm by Mona Kennedy.

Last week I posted about our unseasonable 65 degree weather in December.  On Saturday we had our first snow for the season, an easy to clear, 3 inch snowstorm.  My wimpy alpaca boys wouldn’t leave the awning and a grumpy crew they were in the evening at feeding time.  We only have the one pen set up, so the barn/awning is basically all open.  We moved the feeder inside under the awning for the winter so that the hay doesn’t get wet with snow but the boys still have 4 open stalls, 5 if you include the space in front of the tack room, and the pen.  One whole stall per alpaca is quite a lot of room!  We have no panels for stalls set up yet, so there’s plenty of space to pronk indoors!  We’ve been concerned about their water bucket freezing so lately I’ve been bringing out a gallon jug of hot tap water to add to it.  The nights it’s been windy I’ve added 2 jugs.  My mixture is about 2 gallons hot water to 3 gallons water from the pump.  It makes the water almost lukewarm and the alpacas just love it.  We put the bucket on the ground in the corner by the middle post and the pen wall and surrounded it with straw to help insulate it.  We’ve put plenty of straw down in the pen and 2 stalls for them to snuggle into to keep warm.  We’ll have to keep adding straw over the winter. 

On Monday Julio finally got brave and ventured out past the paddock, sniffing the snow on his way to the pasture gate.  He was in the other pasture for a good 10 minutes before the others slowly decided to play ‘follow the leader.’  First Coty and then Bo, followed by Arlo with Guinness bringing up the rear.  They all managed to find something to graze on but within a short time Bo skedaddled back up to the barn and so did the others.  Yesterday they played follow the leader again in the morning.  With the sunshine things melted a bit so they were able to graze for over an hour and play for awhile before heading back up to the barn.

Afterwards, they were still being wimpy and hid out under the awning for the rest of the day.  Last night they watched us intently as we put up a tarp over one of the awning openings for a windbreak.  We covered just one stall so the boys wouldn't be too confused.  Then for our added amusement Bo, Coty, and Arlo played 'Ring around the tarp' for awhile.  We will probably put up another one tonight or tomorrow.  I can't see into the barn from the house as well now with the tarp up, but of course it's more important that the boys be dry and warm enough!        

Today, today, we have a real New England storm:  it’s noontime, there’s more than 6 inches of snow on the ground, and it’s still coming down fast and furious.  Looking outside my den’s window, everything is covered in bright white fluff.  Snow is blowing around in the strong winds.  The alpacas were all in good spirits this morning while I worked in the barn, and very curious about Stella barking from the entrance gate. They all peered out from under the awning long enough to get their beautiful topknots covered in snow.  All except Arlo, who was much more interested in me filling up the hay feeder.  True to form, Arlo’s topknot is covered in hay.  No one has left the barn again today, but Coty has been happily cushed right between the wall and the hay feeder for hours, with a perfect view of the snowy outside world.

Tags: alpacas
Posted 12/3/2009 11:57am by Mona Kennedy.

It is December in New Hampshire and today it is sunny and 65 degrees!  If you’re from another part of the country ......... yes this is very much unseasonably warm!

Here we are preparing for winter, in fact on Saturday we’re supposed to get snow, but today, I feel like gardening.

We really don’t mind our home being surrounded by green, growing grass but we also don’t follow the American obsession with perfect looking, golf course style lawns.  We mow, albeit not regularly, rake when necessary, but that’s about it.  I’ve read that American households use way, way, too much fertilizer and pesticides on their lawns, much more by square foot than is used in commercial agriculture. This creates a ‘chemically dependent’ lawn, the runoff pollutes groundwater, the pollution kills beneficial bugs and birds and other species ....... and the horrid cycle continues. 

Dan and I, we welcome the natural world and its micro-ecosystems.   Nature does know best; why mess with it?  We don’t want Stella rolling on pesticide laden grass, nor do we want to walk on it.  We welcome the dandelions and clover and other weeds, and we don’t fret over yellow grass due to grubs.   The grubs feed the robins, blue jays, woodpeckers and other birds, which in turn eat bugs that would invade our gardens.  The skunks also eat the grubs and frankly I’d prefer they not hang around because of the alpacas!  But oh well.

So folks, dig up your lawns!  Plant a garden!  I realize we’re all starting winter, but here’s a couple of links for you all to start planning gardens for next year:




Posted 11/23/2009 10:38am by Mona Kennedy.

In the mornings I go out to the barn to check on the alpacas.  They’re always fine, quietly munching on hay or cushed chewing their cud.  Sometimes they’re out in the pasture grazing.  I can’t imagine what’s out there this time of year to graze on!  Our pasture areas are far from perfect and still need a considerable amount of work but they always seem to find something.  We got some wonderful 2nd cut hay from a friend but if it’s sunny out, they’d rather be grazing on all the little nubs of grass.  I fluff up the hay and fill the feeder anyways just to be sure they don’t run out of hay while I’m at work or running errands.  Out in the pasture they all love to roll around in the dirt piles.  It’s so funny to watch and then they spring up quickly and shake and dust goes everywhere.

In the evening we go out again to check on the boys, and now it’s grain time.  My boys love their grain!  When they see me they all come running up to the barn.  In their excitement they all visit the dung pile too.

As we enter the paddock we greet all the alpacas by name, then Dan and I begin our quiet routine. He starts to ‘scoop the poop’ while I turn on all the lights.   I fill up the hay feeders again and dump the water buckets and refill them.  All the time we are eyeing the boys to be sure they’re all A-OK.  Sometime they will eat hay, sometimes they might cush while we work, but they all watch me.  When I’m done with the water buckets I pick up the grain bowls, and they all eagerly follow me to the tack room.  I usually get visitors at the tack room door sticking their heads in to eat hay while I fill the feed bowls, all except for Coty, who usually comes all the way in to the tack room and eats hay right next to me from a bale.  The spit fest starts between Julio and Guinness if I’m not fast enough.

When the bowls are ready, Dan and I will grab 4 of them and hold them up over our heads as we walk out.  The alpacas get excited again and do the 10 yard dash to the stall where we feed them.  Commotion erupts for a few seconds while everyone arranges themselves to their particular spots..... Guinness is on one end, Julio the other, and Bo and Coty in between.  Arlo walks up to the non-occupied bowl and starts eating while I run back to the tack room to get his bowl and call him into the pen to eat.  Most nights all is quiet except for the sounds of munching alpaca mouths.  Dan stands with the big boys in case anyone gets a little fresh and tries to eat someone else’s dinner.

Arlo eats so very slowly and I wait with him so he’s not alone.  When the big boys are done, Julio patiently waits on one side of the pen and Bo by the other, both hoping Arlo won’t finish.  Julio will look over the top of the pen wall, his eyes looking out from under his long topknot.  Bo is not quite as tall, so he rests his chin on the top of the pen wall and just stares.  Sometimes Dan or I will offer them a small handful of grain which they nibble up in a quick snort.  They sniff our noses often, alpaca kisses (!), and sometimes we’re able to scratch them behind the ears.  By then Coty will have come over too, but he’s still too shy to eat from our hands.  Arlo won’t eat from my hand either, but he loves a good ear scratch and noses me too.  They’re just very sweet and so funny.  Then there’s Guinness, our little piglet.  He’s never too shy when it comes to food!  He squeals until we give him a little extra grain too.

When Arlo is done I open up the pen door and he trots off.  Julio and Bo will rush in, sometimes Coty and Guinness too, and they all go after Arlo’s bowl, whether there’s anything left in there or not.  Arlo has the cleanest bowl on our farm!  I go back to the tack room to put things away and shut off the lights.  Arlo sometimes like to eat hay by the tack room, so if he’s right there waiting for me, I’ll put out a small handful for him.  The others by now are eating hay at the feeders or cushed chewing their cud, and Julio is usually cushed by the paddock entrance, ever watchful.  

Nighty-night, my boys.

Tags: alpacas
Posted 11/14/2009 7:34pm by Mona Kennedy.

We have been blessed by many glorious days of Indian summer lately.  It gives us extra time to cut, split, and stack the four cords of wood we burn over the winter.  There are still some beets and carrots in the garden which I’ve left in on purpose to give them some extra time to grow since they were so stunted by the deer grazing through.  The leaves have all fallen yet we are in no hurry to rake them up, even though they make great compost for gardening.  Instead we are putting up one of those ‘tarp and metal frame’ type sheds to store the tractor and its attachments. 

Pam is at full capacity now at her farm so this week she brought our girls, Dreamer and Alana, and Alana’s newest cria, Hank, to New Hampshire for us.  They will now agist over at Val and Gary Newell’s Crown Point Alpaca Farm, where they will be in very experienced hands with plenty of fellow alpacas for company.  Val and Gary have quickly grown their herd to over 40 alpacas, they agist for many farms, and have started other pastures to grow their farm even more.  They have an amusing assortment of other farm animals ~ chickens, ducks, turkeys, rabbits and goats.  And they have other projects in the works too, including a nature trail and my personal favorite, a yurt in the woods to rent out.  And like us, they focus on sustainability and the natural world, hence their name ‘The Green Alpaca.’  Our girls and crias will continue to be well taken care of and now that they are only about 35 minutes away, we can visit them more often.  Val does fabulous photography and hopefully I can figure out how to get my pictures out of our camera soon.

Apparently it’s been an easy transition for our girls who are already being themselves.  Dreamer is often at the fence line shared with the boys, spitting at them, and then trotting off doing a little jig.  Alana likes to run back and forth through the pasture from one end to the other.  And little Hank has already made friends with the other crias, climbing hills and pronking around with them.

This is a wonderful new beginning for us.

Tags: alpacas
Posted 11/2/2009 8:38am by Mona Kennedy.

Another thing about autumn is the coyotes.  In the evenings and throughout the night you can hear them howling.   Lately it sounds like it’s coming from the woods down the street, but many times it is the woods across the street from us in the state park, or in the woods behind our house.  Sometimes the pack behind our house howls back and forth with the pack in the park.  It’s a haunting noise and when the howls are close by the hair on the back of my neck stands up.  Our little alpaca herd doesn’t seem overly concerned, but of course we are.

We went up to Maine yesterday morning to pick up our new guard llama from Nancy Durst at White Barn Meadows Farm.  Nancy runs a gelding alpaca fiber farm that is picture-postcard beautiful.  Senator is a well experienced, well mannered guard llama that is easily handled.  He is just perfect for us. 

The initial meet and greet was in a word, hysterical.  Our boys all huddled around the paddock fence while we had Senator on the lead on the other side.  The happy sniff fest went on for quite some time, our boys much more curious about him than he was of them.  Once we led Senator into the paddock, Coty quickly instigated the others into chasing him around the paddock.  The same thing happened once we opened up the pasture.  Our boys ate their dinner quietly with virtually no fighting amongst themselves and then peacefully ate hay together out of the same feeder.  Senator ate hay from the big feeder and then stood just outside the paddock, observing the woods.

After dinner and hay our boys weren’t quite so spunky so Senator got to check out his new home in peace.  He carefully walked the fence lines and checked out the gates, sniffing and sniffing the air and I swear each inch of pasture.  It was a full moon night and the whole pasture was lit up.  He was very observant and alert over every little sound, dogs barking and howling, owls hooting, crickets chirping, leaves rustling in the wind, and I’m sure things that we humans can’t hear.  Finally he settled down and cushed in a spot along the middle pasture fence line and its gate.  Here, he has a perfect view of the barn with his new herd to protect and the entire pasture.

And Stella won't look at him either!

Posted 10/30/2009 8:45am by Mona Kennedy.

I am a very slow knitter; therefore I weave.  Occasionally I do knit and no, I’m usually not the person who knits a swatch first, although I know I probably should.  Most of you faithfully knit swatches, right?  This would mean that most of you also have accumulated a ‘swatch collection’ and what does one do with swatches?

One could make simple ornaments!  I admit this idea is a ‘no-brainer’ and lordy, why didn’t I think of this myself.  Hmmm, how lovely a Christmas tree will be decorated with alpaca! 

Swatch Ornaments

Dig out your swatch box and put project swatches to good use making ornaments. Thin, drapey swatches will give the smoothest effect.

Materials: Glass or plastic ball ornament; knitted swatch (height and width similar to or slightly smaller than ornament circumference; exact dimensions are not critical, swatch will stretch to fit.); strong sewing thread, needle; ribbon (optional)

Directions: With right sides facing, sew two short ends of the swatch together to make a tube. Turn right side out. With a doubled length of thread, make a running stitch line along the bottom edge of the swatch.

From inside the tube, draw the thread tight and gather the bottom of the swatch into a tightly closed circle. Fasten off the thread. Pop the ball ornament into the swatch bag.

With a doubled length of thread, make a running stitch along the top edge of the swatch. Draw the top opening tightly closed, stretching the fabric slightly if necessary. Fasten off the thread. If you'd like, attach a ribbon for hanging.

                                                 From Knitting Daily, Interweave Knits, www.interweave.com

Posted 10/18/2009 10:48am by Mona Kennedy.

We love autumn and October in New Hampshire is especially beautiful.  The maple trees’ leaves slowly turn to glorious hues of reds and orange, making the sky look so blue and the grass and fields so green.  The air is wonderfully crisp and dry and there’s always a great breeze.  It’s perfect weather for hiking. This is such a fabulous corner of the country to live in, and autumn our favorite season.

This is the time of year I switch to drinking more tea as coffee really doesn’t keep one warm, we go apple picking, we split and stack large piles of wood, we rake huge amounts of leaves, we cut down the perennials, we pull up the veggie garden and till back in large amounts of compost.  I go back to cooking soups and casseroles and baking bread.  As the days get shorter we lament ‘oh no soon it will be snowing once again’ but we wouldn’t choose to live anywhere else but here, where we have 4 distinct seasons. 

It went from normal autumn chilly to downright cold just like that this week which of course now makes me concerned that the alpacas are cold.  Yes they are livestock with super thick fleece so by nature are just fine in the cold weather.  Yet here we are in the house, all of us ~ me, Dan, Stella, and our indoor kitty Gracie ~ all snuggled up near the woodstove so it’s hard not to want to bring the alpacas inside!

Dan is concerned too, so the other day he came home with some straw to put down for bedding for them.  We have found out that hay that is on the ground will wick up moisture and not dry if it’s been rained on, so yeah, the alpacas would get cold.  The straw is hollow and does not absorb moisture, so it’s perfect for them to snuggle on.  We spread out a bale and it didn’t take long for them to all cush on it.  Smart alpacas!  We will continue to add straw on top of what’s there, layer upon layer, to keep them dry and warm over the fall and through winter.  Apparently, if done correctly, there is a composting effect, therefore creating heat which does help to keep the alpacas warm.

Off to make soup!

Posted 10/16/2009 1:53pm by Mona.

Why do we all raise alpacas?  Why, the fleece of course!

This year, 2009, has been named by the United Nations as the International Year of Natural Fibers.  Alpaca fleece is a natural fiber!  You can read about the United Nations’ overview of alpaca fleece at http://www.naturalfibres2009.org/en/fibres/alpaca.html.   There has also been a non-profit organization established, in cooperation with Heifer International, to celebrate this United Nations declaration, called http://www.keepthefleece.org/.  Their goal is to build the largest fiber flock in the world.  What a goal!

We are so happy to be part of this growing community of alpaca fiber producers.  We have lots and lots of bags of many, many pounds of fleece (well, for us it’s quite a lot!) and are still deciding on which fleeces to be processed where.  Someday I will learn to spin, but for now we will send it out for processing.  Some will be sent to our wonderful, local mini-mill, Sallie's Fen Fibers, to be made into yarn, some will be made into yarn through our preferred co-op, NAAFP, and still some will be made into wonderful rugs.  Because this is still such a new venture for us, we prefer to get our own fleece/yarn back, which will also serve our ‘locally grown’ clientele well.  But also as a business which supports a growing industry (alpaca textile), we realize that joining a co-op is a sound decision.  The NAAFP co-op’s regional collection facility as well as their commercial mill is here in New Hampshire!  So not only will the co-op’s yarns have our fleece in it, the co-op’s yarn is locally made in regards to our farm!  We’re thrilled.  

And how could we not be thrilled?  Alpaca is the absolute best fiber there is!

Even though it is now October, it is still not too late to join in the celebration of the International Year of Natural Fibers. Whether you knit, crochet or weave, you’ll enjoy working with alpaca!

Posted 10/12/2009 11:51am by Mona Kennedy.

There are several horse farms and horse owners here in our town.  In fact there are at least 6 horse farms/owners here on our street, plus the vet.  Our farm is also within 7 miles +/- of three different feed stores, each selling 1 of the 3 major brands of alpaca grain/pellets (Poulin, Blue Seal, and Mazuri), all which also sell hay, so our alpacas will never go hungry.  Because the overwhelming majority of livestock in our area is horses, the hay is usually 1st cut Timothy hay.  There is certainly nothing wrong with 1st cut, especially when it’s still very green, but it does tend to be coarser and ‘stemmy.’  Alpacas will usually pull out the stems and not eat it, leading to quite a large amount of waste.  Alpacas’ digestive systems requires a  higher protein value than horses or cattle, so the hunt for green, grassy, 2nd cut hay for the fall and winter is on.

We purchased some 1st cut hay from our neighbor when our alpacas first came home.  It was pretty green.  The alpacas seemed to like it although they have definitely been pulling out the stems, and as a bonus they also seemed to enjoy grazing on what little grass we have growing in the pastures.  Next spring we will have our soil tested so that we can fertilize the pastures properly.  But right now it’s autumn and it’s getting cold outside, and our vet would prefer they put on some weight before winter.  It will be easier to maintain their weight from then on, rather than trying to have them put some on during the cold weather.

We went over to a friend’s house yesterday to pick up a couple dozen bales of 2nd cut hay from his fields.  Beautifully green, fabulous ‘just cut’ smell, and much softer to the touch!   I pulled out the other hay from the feeder and re-filled it with the new hay.  When the alpacas see me, they generally all come running (yes, it’s a nice feeling!) and run they did!  They took a few good sniffs of the new hay, a few bites, then turned around and walked back out to the pasture.  Silly, silly boys!!  All except our littlest guy, Arlo, who happily eats hay from my hand.  I’m guessing that because we’ve had some light rain occasionally the past few weeks, there must be new growth on the field that they like.  Right now as I type, they’ve just come back from the pasture and are chowing hay!  I guess they like it after all.

Posted 9/30/2009 9:46am by Mona Kennedy.

When I think of farms that have livestock, barn cats always come to mind.  Because of all the feeds and grain that are stored, mice, rats, and other rodents would become rather prolific without the assistance of a good cat or two.  I have always been the type of person who has indoor kitties, thinking that indoors is the safest place for a cat to be.  I am also realistic and know that someday it will be necessary to have an outdoor cat now that we have alpacas.

We’ve taken precautions but also know that our current mouse-free situation is temporary for the short-term at best.  We built the tack room with a solid floor, store the grain in metal trash bins in the tack room, store the hay in the tack room also, and sealed off cracks between the boards.  We are currently deciding on where to put a ‘cat door’ for entrance into the tack room, as this will be the main place for a barn cat to get out of the weather.  I am also researching the many wonderful rescue organizations that place feral cats into a barn home situation, stray and ‘street-wise’ cats that would be inappropriate for an indoor home.

That being said, Stella just loves to chase squirrels and chipmunks.  They all always out run her, either hiding in a hole in the stone wall or running up a tall oak tree.  I suppose you all know where this story is now going ....... 

We have lots of rocks, large boulders down to softball sized, piles of them here and there left to us after the loggers cleared.  Dan loves to build stonewalls and he has plenty of rocks now to keep him busy for years.  Stella hears the chipmunks squeaking, and she hangs around the rock pile for hours, fussing and whining, occasionally digging a little, and pouncing at every noise.  She’s always done this, and we just let her be.  The other day when we called her, she gleefully came trotting over to us, tail hanging from her mouth, and promptly deposited a mouse at Dan’s feet, just like a good kitty would.  But she’s a Sheltie-mix dog!

So now we have a new nickname for her: “Stella, the Mighty Hunter!”

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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