Sweet Harmony Farm blog

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Posted 9/22/2009 11:38am by Mona Kennedy.

We’re having such a great time with the alpacas.  They do have their individual personalities and over the past month, we’ve begun to decipher them.  As I’ve mentioned, Julio is the self-appointed guard and leader.  When he heads out into the pasture, the others all follow within minutes.  When he heads back up to the barn, here they all come.  In the evening after sunset, he stands by the paddock entrance and seems to scan the woods.  When he hears something, his ears perk up and his body stiffens.  We’ll sometimes shine the flashlight to see if we can see anything, but we never have.  Sometimes we’ll hear a neighbor’s (it’s the country; neighbors aren’t exactly ‘nearby’) dog in the distance, but usually we don’t see anything.  Then he’ll slowly walk off into the pasture, look around again, and start grazing.  One by one, the others follow, and graze under the stars.  They’re all such a friendly little group together.

But alas, that changes somewhat when food is involved!  Fighting over food is normal in the livestock world as well in the wild.  We try to make things as fair as possible, like one would with their own children.  Some evenings they pleasantly eat their grain and then go back to the paddock and cush.  Some nights the spit is flying!  The usual instigator is Guinness, who for some reason seems to think that all the bowls are for him.  Dan will try to move him from the others’ bowls, then everyone rearranges themselves; what a riot!  We always put Arlo, our littlest and shyest guy, separate from the others or else he’d never get to eat, and I ‘stand guard’ by him until he is done. 

And then there is the hay feeder.  Usually all is fine, with everyone quietly munching.  Then they see me getting more hay to add, and I’m usually bombarded by alpaca mouths.  That’s fine as I can still easily add that flake or two into the feeder.  Once again, Guinness seems to think the hay is all for him.  His first victim is usually Julio who when it comes to fresh hay, always fights back.  Yesterday the two went at it, spitting and screeching at each other for a good solid 5 minutes.  The others were eating on the other side of the feeder but when the spitting started, they stood back with me out of the line of fire to watch the spit fight.  What a riot my 2 geldings are!

But what we love the most is in the evening when the alpacas play.  Either Coty will head butt Bo Jangles or vice-versa, the other returns the favor, and off they go.  They’ll run gracefully together side by side around the pasture, stop for some head butting, wrangle their longs necks together, and roll all over each other.  They make gentle snorting sounds as they wrestle and off they go again running.  Sometimes they’ll head butt the others gently to join in the race around the pastures.  It’s so beautiful and peaceful to watch, under just the moonlight and stars.

Posted 9/18/2009 10:02am by Mona Kennedy.

In a previous post, I shared info I had found online regarding how to preserve your garden harvest.  I have found another wonderful article for all of you, this time regarding drying your harvest, from one of my all time favorite sources, the Mother Earth News.  Enjoy!

 

Posted 9/14/2009 9:24am by Mona Kennedy.

In a previous post, I had mentioned how our alpacas had easily adapted to their new home here on our farm, and that because they’ve been so calm, we’re kinda irked that they haven’t done something.  Well, now they have!

They were all hanging out by the awning and hay feeder, cushed and chewing their cud, when suddenly they all leaped up, instantly alert, and Julio ran to the back of the pasture.  He was intent on something past the stone wall.  The others cautiously came to the end of the paddock and one by one they stepped out slowly into the pasture in a line, but never quite reaching Julio; Coty first and then Guinness, followed by Bo with Arlo bringing up the rear.  Oddly enough, they were in a line from tallest to smallest.  I called out to Dan who was in the garage and he ran out back along the east fence line.  I got the binoculars and went out down the west fence line.   Julio was definitely eyeing something, and the others were cautiously standing still and watching, with Bo constantly looking over his shoulder at Arlo as if to say “Don’t move!  Stay right there!”  When Dan got to the middle of the stone wall that follows the back of our pasture, Julio turned around sharply and ran up to the barn, nipping at everyone’s back end to hurry along.  It was quite the sight to see them all running together as the herd that they are. 

The fuss?   Apparently there was a red fox sitting on the stone wall watching them.  It started to run off when Julio approached, and Dan saw it run off into the woods.  When Dan got to the stone wall where the fox had been, that’s when Julio called the gang back up to the barn.  It’s good to know that our alpacas can distinguish between Stella and our neighbors’ dogs (no threat) and with a wild animal (big threat).  Julio, being the tallest and heaviest, is the undeclared leader and guard.

Good boy Julio!

Posted 9/12/2009 7:07am by Mona Kennedy.

The next best thing to eating food fresh from the garden during the summer and fall is having it to eat during those cold winter months.  I found this terrific article on the Farmer's Almanac website regarding preserving those wonderful summertime harvests and thought it perfect to share with all of you.  The link to this article follows at the end.  Enjoy!  ~ Mona

Easy Ways to Preserve Summer's Bounty

In the summertime, nothing is better than fresh food straight from your garden or the local farmers’ market. Wouldn’t it be great to have these delicious fruits and vegetables available year round? Well, you can. Save money and eat healthy, tasty meals all winter long by preserving those homegrown fruits and vegetables. It’s easier than you think!

Freezing
Freezing is a simple and convenient way to preserve food for several months. It slows food deterioration and stops the growth of bacteria. Food can be frozen in containers such as freezer bags (these are heavier duty than the thinner sandwich bags), plastic containers (butter tubs and whipped topping containers work well), canning jars, aluminum foil, or freezer paper. Remember – food expands as it freezes, so do not overfill containers.

Freezing Fruits
Prevent cut fruits such as apples, peaches, and pears from darkening by first soaking them in a commercial anti-darkening agent or make your own solution by combining one teaspoonful of lemon juice to one quart of water. For many fruits, it is best to add sugar or a sugar syrup (see recipe below) to enhance taste and help the fruit retain its color.

Sugar Syrup Recipe
Light Syrup: Boil 2 cups sugar and 4 cups water. Makes 5 cups syrup.
Medium Syrup: Boil 3 cups sugar and 4 cups water. Makes 5 ½ cups syrup.
Heavy Syrup: Boil 4 ¾ cups sugar and 4 cups water. Makes 6 ½ cups syrup.

Cool syrup, then pour over fruit before freezing.

Freezing Vegetables
Fresh vegetables must be blanched before freezing. Blanching involves submerging vegetables into boiling water for a short period of time, then immersing them into cold water to stop the cooking process. Blanching kills enzymes that age the produce, resulting in fresher tasting food.

Home Canning
Home canning is another great way to preserve food. With canning, the food is placed in jars and is heated to a specific temperature in which food-spoiling germs are killed. This heat forces the air out of the jar, sealing it once it cools. Since bacteria cannot enter a sealed jar, the food can be preserved for a number of years.

There are two types of canners: a boiling-water canner and a pressure canner. The boiling-water canner is a huge pot in which jars can be covered with boiling water. This type of canner cannot reach temperatures high enough to completely kill all bacteria in jars no matter how long they are boiled, so this method is used primarily for canning

fruits and pickles since they contain natural acids that will prevent growth of bacteria.

Vegetables are more safely canned in a pressure canner where higher temperatures can be reached through the use of its tightly locking lid that holds steam inside the pot. A modern day pressure canner has a safety valve that will pop off if the pressure becomes too great, so do not worry about the unit exploding. However, precautions must still be taken. Never open the canner until it is fully depressurized. Once all pressure is released, open the lid away from your face so as not to be burnt by the release of steam.

What You Will Need for Canning:

  • Canning Jars – Canning jars are made with thicker glass than standard jars to prevent breakage at high temperatures. Jars are available in different sizes and can be purchased by the dozen or found at garage sales.
  • Lids and Bands – Lids and bands should fit the jars perfectly in order to obtain a good seal. Lids (or “flats”) should always be purchased new and must never be reused, as they may not seal properly a second time. Bands (or “rings”) may be washed and used again as long as they remain in good condition.
  • Canning Salt – Canning salt is optional and enhances the flavor of the vegetables. Do not use regular table salt as this will result in soggy vegetables.


Canning Tips

  • Be sure jar rims are not chipped, nicked, or cracked, as this will prevent the lid from sealing.
  • Do not fill jars to the top. Leave headspace so food will have room to expand while cooking.
  • Remove air bubbles from the jar by sliding a plastic spatula between the food and sides of the jar. Releasing air bubbles will help ensure food stays covered in liquid.
  • Wipe off food debris or salt from rims of jars so sealing will not be hindered.
  • Before placing lids on jars, first heat them by simmering (not boiling) in hot water. Let lids sit in the hot water until ready to use. Any remaining bacteria will be killed during canning.
  • Check jar seals within 24 hours of processing. Any jars that did not seal properly should be reprocessed (using a clean jar and new lid) within one day, or else the food should be refrigerated and eaten within several days.
  • Thoroughly read all operating and safety instructions that come with your canner.

Now that you are armed with knowledge on how to preserve that delicious summer bounty, go ahead and plant those extra veggies or buy an extra bushel of fruit at the farmers’ market. When wintertime comes, you’ll be eating garden fresh!

Farmers almanac link:

 http://www.farmersalmanac.com/home_garden/a/easy-ways-to-preserve-summers-bounty

Posted 9/3/2009 11:49am by Mona Kennedy.

Hello!  We've recently updated our website to include pages on our barn/pastures/fencing, guard animals, and quotes.  We hope you'll find our information helpful.

More recipes coming in the next few days!

Posted 8/27/2009 8:46am by Mona Kennedy.

Our first week of raising alpacas has been basically, blessedly uneventful.  They’re such quiet and peaceful animals.  Not that we were expecting them to be constantly animated, but after a few hours we were saying ‘hey guys do something!

I love to read other alpaca farms’ humorous tips and stories, and now we’ve acquired a few of our own.  These are in no particular order.  We will also keep this list in our “Other Stuff” section of our website and update it periodically:

 ~ There is always a pecking order.  Our boys were in a large herd and now there’s just the 5 of them of various ages, so by default it appears Julio and Guinness, our 2 geldings and the oldest at about 6 years old each, expect to both be the alpha.  We think Julio will eventually reign, but until then, there’s some spatting and occasional spitting.  When the spit starts to fly get out of the way!  Yesterday we both got caught in the crossfire.

 ~ When there is barn work to be done in the heat, humidity and rain, wear a bathing suit.  I wear a tankini with men’s swim trunks.  The trick is to wear a color your husband would never wear; mine are purple.  As you get wet from the rain or drenched in sweat, the suit will dry quickly.  And when you get hot, just hose yourself off.  This has been a wonderful idea for working in the garden (my mother in law’s trick) and it works great for the barn too.

 ~ Keep the herd out of the barn while you arrange feed bowls.  Ours have walked right into the tack room and started helping themselves, and all but attack us as we walk the bowls out to the stall.  I swear I think we were being orgled too.  (note to self:  order panels!)

 ~ Alpacas love the leaves on saplings.

 ~ Barn poopers happen.  Just accept it.  And it is easier to clean up then the poop piles in the pasture in the rain.

 ~ Always be grateful to your Mr.-fix-it husband who can finagle electricity to the barn while you are watching a weanling to make sure it is OK after an episode of choke.  Also, have a chair available for him to sit on.  He knew in his heart that our little boy would be fine, but waited in the barn with me for 2 hours anyways because he was worried about me.

 ~ Ladies, you will almost always find hay in your bra.

 ~ And also, Ladies, sometimes your hubby will actually forget to remove his shoes before entering the house.  Bleach (non-chlorine) will help you feel much better.

 ~ If you are the type of person who is always checking to see if the toaster and iron are off and unplugged, you will also constantly be checking gates and doors to be sure they are properly closed.

 ~ After spending thousands of dollars clearing 3 acres of land and fencing it in, your alpacas will spend the majority of their time on the 1/3 acre surrounding your barn.

 ~ Your dog may be mad at you for having alpacas (see my post: Oh Stella!) but your indoor cat couldn’t care less.

 ~ Work your poop piles from the outside in.  Your shoes will definitely stay cleaner.

 ~ Alpaca males can and will open gates when there is an open female, surprise!

 

Posted 8/24/2009 9:48am by Mona Kennedy.

Our dog is just wonderful and we’ve done an excellent job at spoiling her.  She just loves the attention and is happy all the time.  But now that the alpacas have arrived, suddenly she is sullen, clearly jealous, and not too thrilled with us!!  First thing every morning for months now, Dan gets up and takes Stella for a walk around the outside of the fencing.  She is always excited for this, and trots along checking everything out, sometimes darting off into the woods.  Not that first morning!!  She wouldn’t go anywhere near the fence.  Dan had to actually put the leash on her and pull her along till she finally started to walk on her own.  She would hardly look at me either when I put down her morning crunchers.  As dog lovers (and lovers of all animals) we personally are just crushed!!   We’re sure she’ll come around soon, but until then, we’ll just feel terrible.

Hmm, I guess this means we’ll just have to shower our wonderful little dog with even more and more attention, which we’ve been doing.  More walks and frisbee tossing, scratches and pats, sometimes hand feeding her, and always more snacks.  Thank goodness she likes veggies, tofu, and rice.

The other morning I was at the fence line taking pictures and Stella woofed at me jealously from the yard.  She happily came over to me when I called her, wagging all over, but stood with her butt to the fence, refusing to look at the alpacas.   Dan has gotten her to willingly walk around the fence line with him, but again she just will not look into the pasture.   

But she is coming around; it’s just going to take a little longer than we had hoped. Such personalities our dog friends have!

 

Posted 8/20/2009 8:53pm by Mona Kennedy.

I got up bright and early at 5:30 a.m., nuked up some coffee and starting checking email, the weather, and the news.  Suddenly, poof!  The power went out.  A bright and sunny summer morning, no wonder the power went out; this is rural New Hampshire after all.  Dan was listening to the radio (back up battery) and apparently a squirrel had gotten into a substation and ............ which knocked out power for several towns!  While I feel terribly for the squirrel, we found it to be a rather amusing story, and what a way to start our day, the day ‘the alpacas come home.’

The dragonflies are at it again this morning, flying around the yard and pasture gracefully.  We’ve been playing phone tag with our neighbor for a few days now.  Our first order of business is to swing over there and pick up some hay.  Our beautiful new wooden feeder will be ready in a few days, so for now, our yellow muck-wheelbarrow, new and still clean, will serve as the hay feeder.  It makes for some interesting pictures!  Their grain and minerals were on order and due in some time today, so we’ll run to the feed store later this afternoon.

Our little crew arrived at lunchtime with Pam beaming ear to ear.  Yeah, she loves our place!  The boys were a little confused getting out of the trailer but we easily got them into the barn.  We put out water and hay, and they all drank and started munching away.  We stood and watched them for a while, while they investigated their new barn and pasture.  They’re even enjoying what little grass we’ve got growing.  All in all, it seemed to be a simple, stress-free transfer for them.  What a wonderful way to start our transition to alpaca farming.

Welcome home, Julio, Guinness, Bo Jangles, Coty, and Arlo!

 

 

 

Posted 8/17/2009 12:38pm by Mona Kennedy.

We’ve finally had another stretch of hot, sunny days so it feels like summer.  I’ve actually had to water the vegetable garden for the first time since I planted it.  Our mid-summer flower gardens are blooming with many brightly-colored hybrid daylilies, purple coneflowers, black-eyed susans, liatris, and hostas.  All the nearby fields are filled with bloomers too, goldenrod and queen’s anne lace, wild black-eyed susans, ragweed, and many others of which I haven’t got a clue.  In the late-day summer sun, our yard and pastures are teeming with hundreds of beautiful dragonflies.  Walking by the nearby fields there are clouds of them, hovering and swooping, their presence so magical and uplifting.  Sometimes one will land on us while we’re floating in the canoe or in the gardens.  We love to sit and admire them close up, such a fascinating little bug.

We love to see the dragonflies and have planted many of the flowers that attract them.  Dragonflies are harmless to people and animals, and because they eat so many mosquitoes it only makes sense to have plantings that attract them.  These same plants also attract many insect-eating birds too, another bonus.  And when it comes to eating mosquitoes, we don’t argue with the bats that show up at night either!  Attracting dragonflies and birds (and bats), not having standing water, and fans in the barn are our top choices for keeping mosquitoes, flies, and other disease-spreading insects away from the alpacas.  We know there will always be some bugs, and sometimes plenty of them, in our humid climate, so every little bit helps.

 

 

Posted 8/13/2009 11:49am by Mona Kennedy.

 Our alpacas will start coming home to our farm soon, and now is when we realize that oops!  There is so much more to do.  But like any farm, or business, there is always ‘more to do’ or ‘something that needs getting done.’   All farms are a continual ‘work in process,’ and ours certainly will be no exception.

I suppose there will always be a new gate or gadget needed, an extra water bucket here, move the grain feeders there, that sort of thing.  Running through all the major things we’ve done .......We’ve cleared land and improved the pastures with, oh my, lots of drainage.  We’ve built the small barn with an awning.  We’ve installed the hydrant for water from our well.  We’ve put up fencing and adjusted gates and sealed off the low areas where rainwater has washed out underneath, allowing small critters such as the red fox access.  We’ve seeded the pasture with pasture grass mix and excitedly watched as it started to grow, albeit in large splotches!  Our first pieces of alpaca equipment is appropriately enough a poop scooper and large 2-wheeled wheelbarrow.  Our hay feeder is on order.  We’ve secured a hay source and grain/feed source.  We’ve decided how to divvy up the barn stalls and which directions to put the gates and panels.  We’ve purchased that very well used but sturdy horse trailer. We’ve prayed for clear, cool days and sunny skies.

So now we sit back and say, the alpacas will be here in a few short days, and we’re not ready!  We have waited for this moment for almost 2 years so how could we possibly not be ready?   We’ll need some grain feeders and oh yes grain, something to store the grain in, water buckets, the wire type tape to block off the area behind the barn where it’s still a bit mucky, and that tape to block off the stall where we’ll store some hay, oh yes ~ hay!, panels to divide the stalls, a scale, one of those awning things with metal supports to store our tractor in as we need the barn space for the alpacas now, where to put the pile of poop, and also...............  I’m sure after they arrive, we’ll constantly be saying ‘gee we really need to get a .......’  Until then, we can improvise.  Dan is very good at improvising, or as he says ‘mousing it.’

We are life long animal lovers and in that sense we are not nervous about the alpacas’ arrival.  Even though we’ve never owned livestock, we are comforted by the fact that there are several alpaca farms with kind alpaca owners within a 30-45 minute drive, our vet is walking distance away, and of course Pam is always available for our multitudes of questions.  Thanks Pam! Your patience and kindness to your animals, and now ours, is cherished. 

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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