Sweet Harmony Farm blog

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Posted 3/31/2011 12:45pm by Mona.

The past few weeks have been mostly sunny days.  Most of the snow is gone.  Evenings are still below freezing so the ground is wet yet somewhat solid. 

The alpacas have been running around the pasture, so happy not to be cooped up in the barn.  The chase each other and pronk about in big circles.  They cush out in the fields and take naps, usually in an adorable huddle.  Sometimes late at night we’ve seen them sleeping out in the paddock in the moonlight under the starry nighttime sky.  They’re even grazing.  I have absolutely no idea what they could be grazing on.  There’s only brownish grasses left over from last fall.  It’s been way too cold and still early in the spring for grass to sprout, but they’re finding something yummy. 

When I walk into the paddock to start chores they come running!  They all greet me with muddy knees and feet and sniff my nose and head.  They’re a bit less cranky at feeding time.  Once done, they all run out of the barn and begin pronking about the pasture again.  I love to watch them, all in full fleece and about as cute as alpacas can be.

I have no idea how to tell them tonight that we’re getting 14 inches of snow tomorrow, on April Fool’s Day.  Really.     

Posted 3/16/2011 11:20am by Mona.

A few days ago was Dan’s birthday so I baked him his favorite birthday cake:  chocolate cake with thick chocolate buttercream frosting.  Yes I made it from scratch!  Always!  There’s nothing like an imperfect looking, but fabulous tasting, homemade and handmade cake.  No two cakes I’ve ever made have come out looking the same.

Chocolate cake for Dan’s birthday is tradition for us.  Once, many, many years ago, I experimented a bit and made it a chocolate-raspberry cake with chocolate-raspberry frosting.  The cake part was easy enough; I just added some raspberry extract along with the vanilla.  For the frosting I melted chocolate-raspberry chips.  I’m sure there was plenty of melted butter too along with plenty of sugar.  I spread all this yummy goo over the cake and let it cool.

Well, melted chocolate chips with melted butter and sugar that cools turned into a frosting that hardened like fudge!  I’m pretty sure we had to cut this cake with a serrated bread knife to get through the frosting.  You could eat the cake and the frosting would just stay standing up intact on your plate like a taco shell.  So, we ate the frosting as if it were a piece of fudge.  To this day, it still is Dan’s favorite cake.

No, the alpacas won’t be eating chocolate cake.  They’re much too busy growing fabulous alpaca fiber for me!  This wonderful fiber will be made into yarns or roving or felt and then hand made into scarves or hats or rugs or something else wonderful.  One reason I love the small batches of mini-mill spun farm yarns is that every year the outcome is different and unique, complimentary to the changes in the alpacas’ fiber.  Each year’s harvest of fleece-turned-into-yarns is unique. 

When something is hand made it is always one of a kind.  You can follow the same pattern or instructions 10 times and all 10 times it will be a little different.  I love that!

While you’re making something handmade you can share your spirit of love and good wishes into the item you’re working on. 

A handmade item can be tweaked so that the intended recipient feels extra special. 

Handmade items are usually never perfect either, and these little flaws add to its uniqueness.  The uniqueness of something handmade is its beauty. 

Handmade is a simply joy of life.

Let’s share the handmade love!

Posted 3/11/2011 11:23am by Mona.

It was foggy and drizzly when we walked down to the barn last night.  No stars were out.  The path to the barn is mud and large puddles.  The snow banks are really going down but there’s still plenty of snow.  The paddock is mud, mud, and more mud, with puddles everywhere in the shape of cute little alpaca feet.  With the rain and the snow melting it’s hard to tell the mud from the alpaca poo especially at night.  At least it’s not iced over; spring is on its way.  Thankfully the new gutter is doing its job to keep the barn dry.

The alpacas were fairly quiet even after I turned on the barn lights.  I fluffed up the hay feeders and brought out another bale and they promptly starting eating.  Dan scooped what little poo there was in the barn and got started on the paddock.  I emptied and re-filled one of the water buckets and put in the apple electrolytes the boys love.  Then I went over to the other water bucket and unplugged it to empty it too.  I noticed that something much larger than a piece of straw was floating in the bucket.

Q:  What is worse than finding a very large mouse running through your barn?

A:  Finding a very large mouse floating belly up in the water bucket!

I started to shake.  I looked in the bucket again and oh yeah, it wasn’t straw.  I shook some more and put the bucket down on the ground.  I didn’t exactly scream, but instead let out a very long and loud, very girlie-ish squeal. 

The alpacas ran out of the barn.

So there I am again, a usually-sensible-forty-something-woman trying hard to keep my composure.  Instead I was squealing, speechless, and almost cried.  Dan stomped over to me.  ‘What, what is it?  Speak!’  So I told him.  He walked over to the bucket and looked in.  As he was leaving the barn to go dump out the bucket, he reminded me that this was a farm and that I need to get used to these things.

Really?

When he came back he assured me that it was only a small mouse, not a very large mouse.  He always knows the right thing to say!

Tags: alpacas, barn
Posted 3/9/2011 9:19am by Mona.

Barn with melting snow

There is a fifth season that is never mentioned scientifically, but it’s definitely talked about extensively here in New England.  It’s Mud season.  Mud season is that transition time during the melting snows of late winter and the not yet totally thawed ground of early spring.  Complicate that with heavy rainfall and Mother Nature creates a very messy, muddy situation.

Dan and I joke around a lot about how our pasture and surrounding yard looks like a ‘weird science experiment’ with all the swales and berms we’ve made to create proper drainage.  With the arrival of mud season which sometimes brings nearby flooding, we’re always eager to see if our experiments have worked.  We need to be certain that the alpacas are safe.  Alpacas are a sure-footed animal, yet deep mud while they’re pronking and not expecting it could easily break a leg or foot. 

So far, so good.

Over the weekend Dan put up a gutter along the front roof of the barn.  Melting snow with nowhere to go (ground is still not thawed) was slowly flowing back into the barn, creating a small pond near the opening, right where one of the alpacas’ poo piles is.  Can you say ‘oh yuck?’  Of course the boys were hesitant to even walk around it.  We would rake over some straw bedding to help absorb and re-direct the water.  This does work but it takes several hours and we’d much prefer the straw is used for the alpacas’ bedding, to stay warm and dry.  It only took about an hour to hook up the gutter and it had started to rain.  Yes, Sara and Emily, your dad was looking quite fashionable in his ‘hat-from-a-grocery-store-bag.’  His hair stayed dry! 

And the barn has stayed dry now too!

Tags: alpacas, barn
Posted 2/23/2011 11:17am by Mona.

Back in October, I picked up our farm’s first yarns made from our alpacas’ fleeces.   I had decided then that my first project would be made with the Geldings’ yarn and that it would be something for Dan.  Julio and Guinness’ fleeces made a deep, dark brown yarn (nice manly color) in a rugged enough grade 3.  I love grade 3 yarn.  It’s very durable, but still soft enough to be worn close to the skin.

At first I was going to make Dan a hat.  Then my new 7 foot adjustable rectangle loom arrived from the Hillcreek Fiber Studio, so needless to say, I decided I’d make him a scarf instead.  I love scarves.

Lucky for me, Dan is agreeable to these things. LOL.

large rectangle loom

This nifty loom can be set up to make 21 different sized rectangles ~ oh the possibilities!  Right now it is set at about 11” by about 64”.  Once it’s off the loom it will ‘settle’ a bit, and again when I wash/full it, so it will still be a good manly sized scarf.  After setting up the loom on Sunday, I got about a third of the scarf done.

Dan's scarf, one third done

I’ve even managed to figure out Ravelry a bit more.   I will try to remember to post updates there too.  You can find me on Ravelry as:  harmonyhandwovens.

Posted 2/17/2011 11:08am by Mona.

For several days now, we haven’t had any snow.  Some days are still rather cold, but things have been warming up a little bit.  And sunshine!  Even on cold and windy days the sun is melting snow.  Water is pouring down off the roofs and turning the driveway and pathway to the barn to mud.  It refreezes overnight to a thick sheet of ice, and now we inch our way carefully walking down to the barn.  The paddock has become a yucky-mud and ice-poopy mess of late winter thawing.  I’m not sure if I’ll ever get used to that!  Over fields of white snow, the sun can be blinding for a few moments, but most certainly a welcome sight.  Oh please, Mother Nature, send Springtime soon.

Since the arrival of Henry and Cowboy in December, it brings our total number of alpacas here to nine.  And lugging hot tap water for 9 alpacas is quite a bit more work than for just 5 alpacas, so we decided to hang up 2 five gallon heated water buckets.  At first I wouldn’t; I was terrified of fire but have since learned they are very safe.   Now the alpacas have warm water all the time, and we don’t have to worry about their water freezing.  The funny thing is, the boys will drink one bucket until it’s dry, and hardly touch the other one!  Silly alpacas.

With all this sunshine, the alpacas have been coming out of the barn more and more.  At first they’ll be squinting, look around, and casually stroll across the paddock, and down the little path into the pasture.  They’ll stroll around a bit, sometimes play a bit, and sometimes cush in the sun and nap.  Almost always the first one to venture out is Julio, or North or Coty, and lots of times it’s Henry.  Henry is always accompanied by Earth.  They’re buddies and are inseparable.   Once one or two are out, the other seven follow. 

Yeah, now I can look out my window and see my little herd of alpaca boys.  And what do they do when they come out?  They eat snow.  They’ve never done this before.  Yet now that there are heated water buckets with nice warm water that never freezes, they’re eating snow.  They’re all lined up in the paddock and down the path, eating snow like they’re grazing on grass.  Every last one of them.

Silly, silly alpacas.

Posted 2/3/2011 8:09am by Mona.

I woke up this morning at daybreak and noticed that it was snowing.  I’m not sure if I should end that statement with again or still.  Dan was out on the tractor for almost 5 hours yesterday, clearing and widening our driveway and the path down to the barn, clearing the paddock and making paths in the pasture, and clearing snow from around the trailer where the hay is stored and our tarp-and-pallet woodshed.  The snowbanks along our driveway and along our street are at least as tall as me or higher; I am 5 feet 4 inches tall. 

Dan clearing snow

Barn covered in snow

Snow up to front porch and windows

our mailbox, shoveled out

Yup, the alpacas will hardly leave the barn.  Yup, Stella gets stuck when she runs in the snow.  Yup, snow is up to the porch and just under the window.  Yup, we have to dig out the mailbox. 

Yup, I don’t think we’ll see grass again until July.

This year’s winter is definitely for the record books!

Posted 1/31/2011 9:44am by Mona.

My heart both aches and yet rejoices.  I have heard that by the end of today, all of the remaining llamas at the Montana Large Animal Sanctuary will have been evacuated.  (In fact, all of the animals will have been evacuated.)  Today was the deadline given for the rescue workers on site to leave the property.  The llamas are en route to, or have arrived at, their foster home destinations for proper care and feeding, rehabilitation and training, and eventual re-homing to forever homes.   There is even a group leaving in a critical care trailer with one of the workers, Gayle, who has so eloquently described this very sad journey of an animal sanctuary that was everything but sanctuary.

I have been there in spirit and prayer, hearing the screams of the llamas in my head for a few months now.  I am not strong enough a person to be there in person, to witness this scene of unimaginable tragedy.  I cannot express my gratitude enough for those people involved in rescue, this rescue in particular, this, the largest animal rescue in our country’s history. 

The really hard part begins now.  The wonderful people who have taken in the llamas for foster care are working so hard to restore these animals to health, and to give back to them a sense of trust for their human caretakers.

Once again, I list a few websites if you are able to donate to the care of these llamas.  Please note on your paypal donation or check ‘Montana Rescue.’

http://www.northeastllamarescue.blogspot.com/

http://www.southeastllamarescue.org/

http://animeals.wordpress.com/

http://www.fortlucasfarm.com/rescue/index.html

Thank you all for reading.  ~ Mona

Tags: rescue
Posted 1/21/2011 7:25pm by Mona.

Alpacas most definitely have their own little personalities.  Some may be quite timid with people, some may be much more vocal than their herdmates, some are more dominant over issues such as hay or spaces in the barn, and some tend to be very quiet and submissive, and so on. 

One thing about a males only farm is that they can be very, very silly more often than not.  Their only job is to grow fabulous fiber.  And boys just love to play!

Silly, silly alpacas are a simple joy.

Last night the boys were still cranky.  Another day of snow and cold wind, and they’re just tired of being in the barn cooped up with each other.  They can go out, but generally don’t.  If they do wander out, it’s not for very long.  Dan will need to plow out paths for them again this weekend.  It’ll be cold again, but thankfully sunny.

Snow started up again overnight so I didn’t venture out to the barn till it stopped around noontime.  Let’s hear it for heated water buckets!  As I walked up to the barn pushing the wheelbarrow, I could see everyone cushed quietly inside on their thick layer of straw.  At least no one’s spitting was my first thought.  I greeted them with my usual sing-song-y, cheerful ‘Hello boys!’ and turned on the lights.  I usually quietly do a head count when I first come out and for some reason I started counting out loud.  ‘1, 2, 3, ......... 7, 8, 9!’  I was still speaking in that sing-song-y voice.

The boys were all eyeing me very intently.  Ears started to go up.  Julio was the first to stand, then North, then the others.  As each stood up, I said ‘Oh good boy! There’s 1!  Oh good boy! There’s 2! .........’  Within seconds all 9 alpacas were standing, all with ears straight up, huge eyes following me.  No one had moved from their spot, but apparently they were finding me entertaining.

It’s not very often a human can have the undivided attention of their alpacas, especially all at the same time.

So I continued sing-song-ing. ‘Yeah, all the alpacas are up!  Yeah!’  I even jumped and down and clapped a few times.  Yes folks, there I was, a 40-something woman, in my barn jumping up and down, clapping my hands, and cheering ‘yeah!’  9 alpaca heads bobbed up and down as I did.  9 sets of alpaca ears were standing up straight.  9 sets of alpaca eyes were watching me.  9 alpacas made me burst out laughing in joy.

9 alpacas were probably thinking ‘Silly, silly, human!’

Tags: alpacas, barn
Posted 1/17/2011 10:15am by Mona.

Although, perhaps with the alpacas we should refer to this as ‘Barn Fever.’   It’s the dead of winter, lots of snow on the ground, the days are barely above zero, and any slight breeze is simply bone-chilling.  Usually people just remain inside their homes, snuggled up near woodstoves and curled up on the couch with blankets, sipping tea and hot chocolate and knitting away. 

After a while, we all go crazy being inside so much and just feel a need to get out.  Sometimes Dan and I will slip on the snowshoes and walk around the pasture and into the woods.  Stella runs along beside us, leaping through the snow.  If the roads are clear and down to pavement, then we’ll just take a little walk.  Activity always helps to warm us up.

Alpacas in the paddock

The alpacas don’t care for the deep snow and have been staying in the barn, cushed on their straw bedding and munching away at hay.  The tarps keep most of the wind out but it’s so dark in there even during the day.  I keep reminding them to come outside, get some fresh air and sunshine, but they just look at me with an ‘are you kidding me?’ look.  Dan cleared out the paddock after Wednesday’s snowstorm, but still they’ve hardly come out.  Being inside the barn so much is making them really cranky.  I find fresh spit on the posts and barn walls whenever I go in. 

But Dan on the tractor gets them out!  The boys will all greet him at the gate as he rides in.  Yesterday Dan plowed paths for them around the pasture, and the boys just loved it.   They’d follow behind him as he plowed, pronking and all but dancing.  They ran and ran, as one beautiful herd of alpacas.  Such a sight!  As they come up to the barn, you can hear the pounding of their feet like a small train coming in.  They stand in the paddock for a minute catching their breaths.  Then one of them will walk quickly down the little hill and look over their shoulder as if to say ‘C’mon guys!’ and suddenly all of them are running, around the paths and sometimes into the snow, leaping and pronking and chasing each other, having a great time.

the alpacas love our tractor

alpacas following Dan on the tractor

alpacas running in the snow

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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