Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to not live in a "swing" state.

I bet it's a lot quieter this time of year.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tear Down a Parking Lot

When we moved to our farm a few years ago, there was a huge parking area in front of the house as well as a smaller parking area behind the house that added up to regular parking for 11 cars... for 2 people.

If we were having a party, and wanted to park cars several deep, I bet we could fit 21 cars (7 wide x 3 deep) just in front of the house and still not block the road.

Every time I went out front, I heard Joni Mitchell...

It apparently looked like a cul-de-sac to everyone who thought they could get to the neighborhood to the north of us even-though there's a "no outlet" sign at the entrance of the road.

It's hot and miserable on summer afternoons and pretty much only grew puncture vine, which is not nice to puppy paws, wheelchair tires or even bare feet when the seeds make it into the house. ouch.

This parking area was one of the things we would address later and later is finally here.  :-D

I called a 800-number that our state has set up, told them what our plans were and they coordinated the marking of all of the potentially buried lines in the area.  It only took a few days to get everything marked.

Hubba hired a contractor who agreed to come over and scrape off the top 2 inches and haul it away, then break up the soil to about 12-inches deep and till in our alpaca manure.

He got started last Tuesday.

Yes, that's smoke from another wild fire in the background. :-(

They found a concrete wall buried in the middle of the space, so we made plans to jack-hammer it out.

Then got stopped for a few days due to rain and snow.  Not too much as far as either was concerned, but enough to make the work very difficult.

Our contractor decided to clear out around the concrete wall to make sure he knew what he was up against before starting the jack-hammering, only to discover a U-shaped foundation with a concrete floor that had been filled with concrete pieces.  Then directly to the East (to the right in the below photo) another rectangular shaped foundation full of more concrete pieces.

Our contractor thinks that they must have used this space to wash out the concrete trucks when they were building the neighborhood to the south of us.  All of the houses were built in the 1970's, as was our house, and I have heard that all of the land around here used to belong to the same family ranch.  So, I suppose it's possible... but seriously, what were they doing?  If they were just planning to bury waste concrete, why would they go through the effort of building two separate foundations?

He brought in 2 loads of top soil and then tilled that in with our manure.  I didn't get a photo, but the tilling attachment on the skid steer is pretty awesome.  It's now on my To Acquire list.

I put in a few T-Posts with baling twine to keep people and their cars off our our freshly tilled garden until we can get to a more permanent fence.  I had planned to put the raised beds for the berry bushes along the road, but am now going to put them over the newly discovered foundations.

I am so happy to have the bulk of this project done.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Garden: Lessons from v2.0

This year's garden was my second in Colorado and I have learned a few things, as I suspect I always will.
  1. Soil fortified with Alpaca Manure grows massive plants.
  2. Thanks to #1, Tomato Cages are woefully insufficient for keeping tomatoes off the ground.
  3. Rabbits LOVE Bean and Pea Sprouts.
  4. Hanging CD's in Fruit Trees protects the Fruit from Birds.
  5. If I don't plant enough Roma Tomatoes, I will be unhappy.
  6. It's worth paying attention to the seed spacing recommended on the pouch.
I've been thinking about next year's garden and tossing around the idea of year-round gardening.  I've been inspired by several blogs based in the Southern Hemisphere, but especially the City Garden, Country Garden.  She grew 75% of the produce they ate in August which would be like me growing food in February.  I think that's amazing.  You only have to know it's possible in order to achieve it.  Right?

In the meantime, our second garden is under construction which should give us plenty of space for rotating crops and keeping winter vegetables, I have drafted a planting plan for next year and my Seeds of Change Catalog has arrived.

Happy Planning. :-)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fiber Arts Friday: Wingspan, part 6

A few rows while waiting at the DMV, a few more while waiting at the airport, a few more on a couple of long car rids and a little bit more here and there... and I have 5 1/2 of 8 wedges completed.

... only one more than last time.  Darn it, I thought I had made more progress than that.  At this rate Maybe I'll be finished in January.  ;-)

Happy Fiber Arts Friday!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Four Years

I realized earlier this week that right about now, four years ago, my life would begin undergoing a significant transformation.

Four years ago I was in the process of being outsourced.  As in, my job would be the same, my desk would be the same, but I would cease being an employee and begin being an outsourced serviced provider.

I was starting to realize that with this new outsourced situation there was no professional reason to stay in New Mexico.  The job I had did not require me to physically be in the office, most of the time.  So Hubba and I realized that we could think seriously about moving back to Colorado.  Something we had talked about doing "someday" for many, many years.

Certainly there were lots of personal reasons to stay, but we were no longer tied to a location because of the jobs we had.  Hubba had become location independent several years earlier and I was soon to be as well.

The outsourcing was official on Halloween, President Obama was elected a few days later then Hubba and I took what turned out to be the last vacation we would have... at least so far.

A couple of weeks after that was Thanksgiving and the time that we officially made our decision to return to Colorado.

We went through all of the steps to ensure our house was ready to go on the market by spring.  It sold rather quickly.

In the meantime I was layed off.  A couple of job changes later and I have now been with my current company and client for 3 1/2 years.  I have spent a lot of time on the road for them, but not much this year.  Which has been really nice.

Day job stuff aside, the reason we came back to Colorado is that we love it here, one of the best veterinary schools in the country is here, the training opportunities for Hubba are extensive and we have family and friends nearby.

For the farm, the first step was to find it.  Then to get the alpacas here. Then to actually raise, birth and breed alpacas as the farmer, not the agistor (boarder) and to get our guardian dogs in place.  The next step now is start bringing in some income.

Right around this time, four years ago, when we were embarking upon our path back to Colorado, the economy was in a bad state.  A lot of people blame it on the current President, but jobs were already difficult to find (I had been looking),  housing prices had already dropped (people said we were crazy to sell at that time) and since alpacas are really a luxury item, their price was down as well.

We have not tried to sell any alpacas, but we have not bought any since then either.  We have been focused on growing our herd slowly and organically.  With the blessing of our 3 girls this year, I feel that starting in mid-2014 we will be able to offer more than just males for sale.  Hopefully by then the price of and demand for alpacas will have recovered somewhat.

I think that once we are able to start selling our livestock, we will be able to fund some of the infrastructure improvements that are required in order for us to grow at a faster rate.

Also in early 2014 we expect to have our first litter of Tibetan Mastiff puppies available for sale.

I have been working on my shearing skills.  I have a small group of regular clients.  While I haven't been actively marketing my shearing services, I did gain a few clients last spring and am hopeful that I will gain a few more this spring.  I have also made some contacts so I am now able to refer clients to other qualified shearers if I am unable to meet their needs.

Over much of this year we have been working on an upgrade to our website.  It really is "this" close to being ready.  I can hardly wait to share it. :-)

The next task, I think, is to prepare our fiber.  It's one thing that I have a lot of but all of it is still raw and not yet ready for sale.  I have a relatively local mill that I'm anxious to try... and with my not travelling as much, I might actually be able to fill orders when they come in.

It's been a long and expensive road so far.  We have a ways to go before the farm is supporting us.  But we have learned a lot, invested a lot and each year we get a little closer to living our dream full-time.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Time for a Baby Update

Wasabi is fitting in nicely.

She and the other dogs all get along very well.  She has learned very quickly that cria are not for chasing and is following the lead of the other girls for what's worth barking at.  She is a collector of things... big sticks, little sticks, half-eaten apples the squirrels have left behind.  It seems there isn't much she doesn't want to carry around.

I spied Willow snoozing on Sunday...

She sat like that for quite a long time.  I'm not sure if she looks comfortable, but she was certainly content.

Pearl was snoozing too, but Holly was watching my every move...

The little girls are gaining weight and chase each other around the corral most of the time.

The other day a coworker asked me what I do with the cria and I had to tell her that I just sit, watch them and giggle.

They're so funny, have very different personalities and are clearly very good friends.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Wrapping it Up

I spent much of the weekend doing the final tasks to get the garden ready for winter.

I pulled the remaining weeds from the veggie garden and put the stakes, labels, row-markers and patio furniture away.

We have a man coming this week to help us turn the front parking area into a second veggie garden including incorporating all of the alpaca manure we have stocked up.

After that the only thing I have left to do is wrap the young trees when it gets a little cooler and pick up the leaves once they've finished falling.

Then I think I am ready for winter. :-)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fiber Arts Friday: For Me is Finished!

There's something pretty great about thick yarn and a simple pattern.  Even with "not much time" for knitting, I finished my Alpaca London Beanie in a couple of weeks.

I wish I had made it just a little tighter and just a little deeper... perhaps there will be another one coming soon.  ;-)

Happy Fiber Arts Friday.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fiber Arts Friday: For Me!

In honor of our first hard freeze last weekend and with the realization that I only have one hand-knit hat and it is not alpaca, I cast on a hat for me using hand-spun yarn from our oldest girl, Keyla.

Keyla with Willow

It was donated by her about the time we were just dipping our toes into the idea of raising alpacas and spun by a friend of our first alpaca-farming-mentors.

I thought it was the most beautiful yarn I'd ever seen and had dreams of making an Irish Fisherman's Sweater out of it.  Of course I had no idea then that there was no where near enough yarn for a sweater.  :-/

It has sat mostly quiet in my stash since then.

I decided a simple London Beanie would show off the character of the yarn best and give me the fit I wanted.

I've made this pattern so many times that I can almost do it in my sleep... exactly the sort of pattern I need right now.

I must say, it feels good to have been hit with a little inspiration and to be able to act on it.  :-)

Happy Fiber Arts Friday.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


I have been reading Astrology Zone for years.

I think that Susan Miller does a very good job... for me anyway.  My forecasts are usually quite accurate.  So I had to share tomorrow's forecasts for me.  Boy, I sure like where this is going.  :-)

Daily Forecast – 10/10/12

You haven’t lost your way.  If anything, you’re on the verge of finding it, if only you would discard past expectations and debunk the myths you've told yourself about what constitutes a happy life.  There is a new wave of people coming into your life and they could become the truest guides that you could ever hope to have.  If you would allow yourself to follow their lead.  Open your mind and your heart, and they will show you the world in ways that you've never seen it before.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fiber Arts Friday: A Growing Herd

I had hopes of sharing some fiber-y goodness with you today, but we kept having babies...

Friday morning we were blessed with Holly.  Saturday afternoon we were surprised by Pearl.  Then Monday we were prepared for Willow to make her debut.

L-R: Holly, Pearl, Willow

It would appear that my plan to have all of our cria born around the same time has worked much better than expected.  Three healthy girls in four days.  :-D

On Wednesday, Daisy was confirmed not-pregnant (again) by ultrasound but Apple is definitely pregnant.  So we will be expecting one cria in June and then breeding everyone again next summer.

L-R: Daisy, Willow, Clementine, Apple, Keyla

In the meantime, I will be talking with some friends about setting Daisy up with their very handsome, more assertive, more experienced and hopefully not related herdsire.

Then later on Wednesday, Wasabi joined the family.  As we know, Tibetan Mastiffs grow a nice fur that makes a very squooshy yarn and they can produce quite a lot of it.  ;-)

A rare clear photo of 4 dogs.
L-R: Wasabi, Noodle, Wonton  with The Alpaca Dog in front.

The dogs are doing very well with each other and the new cria.

I hope you're having a beautiful Fiber Arts Friday.  Be certain to visit everyone linked in over at Wisdom Begins in Wonder.  :-)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Last Harvest?

We are expecting our first freeze tonight, and snow later this week.  So I picked all I could earlier today and made sure that the hoses have been disconnected from the house.

The winter squash have all been wiped down and are resting on the counter in preparation for storage.

We just have a few onions and rutabagas remaining in the ground and then my 2012 growing season is complete.

Introducing: Shang-Hai's KayaKyi Susitna

We spayed Wonton over the summer, so we had been looking for another breeding-quality female Tibetan Mastiff (TM).

LGD#3 is 7 months old and just came back from her first show where she won best Tibetan Mastiff Puppy.  :-)

We brought Noodle down to our breeder's place yesterday so she could see how well Noodle has grown up, as well as ease Wasabi into her new family.

Wasabi is related to Wonton, but not to Noodle.  So this will give us more breeding options in the future.

She was great on the car ride home, and made friends with both Wonton and The Alpaca Dog quickly.

She wasn't too sure about the alpacas at first, but has warmed up to them quickly too.

Wasabi in front, Noodle behind and Wonton to the right

Her fancy name is Shang-Hai's KayaKyi Susitna, but as you've probably figured out, we will be calling her Wasabi.  :-)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Introducing: Alpacamundo's Willow

Well, after the excitement over the last few days, we were ready for Willow to join us.

We thought there was a possibility for a delivery yesterday, but a quick exam showed Keyla was progressing, but not imminent.

She was definitely in labor while I was doing chores this morning.  Keyla has been around this block several times.  So I decided to sit back and watch her after I was finished cleaning and feeding.

A few minutes later, I knew it was happening.  I walked over to the corral and instantly the head and front legs were out... Superman Style... exactly as it should be.

Alpacas are very social and curious, especially when a baby is coming.

10 minutes later we had a girl on the ground and Keyla was up tending to her.

Willow was on her sternum in about 10 minutes and standing at nearly 45 minutes old.

She was ready to suckle from the very beginning, but Keyla was not interested.  She kept walking away, but was otherwise very attentive.

If you zoom in, you can see Willow's hot-pink tongue poking out ;-)

After about 3 hours, I called our vet who made plans to stop by on his way home.  But then 30 minutes later, I spied them nursing.  whew.

Alpacamundo's Willow is the daughter of Enchanted Sky's Charlie Brown and Qaint Keyla.

And with that, our Cria Watch is over.  :-)

We feel very blessed to have three healthy girls.

Slow Living: September 2012

It's definitely fall now.  The Cottonwoods have started dropping their leaves and the other trees are changing colors.  The nights are into the 50's and sometimes lower.  The days are still warm, but not nearly as hot.  I've started foregoing my flip-flops and shorts for long pants, socks and shoes.

I love the change to fall, almost as much as I love the change to spring.  :-)

So on to September's installment for the Slow Living Project.

NOURISH: Make and bake as much as possible from scratch. Ditch overpackaged, over-processed convenience foods and opt for 'real' food instead. Share favourite links/recipes/tips from the month here.

We continue to eat primarily from the Farmer's Market and our garden.  We also roasted the last of our Turkeys.  Our Turkey Farmer will be bringing his birds to butcher in the next month or so and we had to make room for a few in the freezer.  ;-)

PREPARE: Stockpile and preserve. Freeze extra meals or excess garden/market produce. Bottle/can, dehydrate or pickle foods to enjoy when they are not in season. Aim to reduce dependency on store bought items especially those known to contain BPA and other suspect additives. Stocking up on dry goods when prices are low counts too.

Canning season has continued... I've crossed the half-way mark with my apple tree by making a batch of applesauce pretty much every weekend, then the Mother-lode of apples when my Momma came for a visit.

I opened the last few bags of wood pellets that I bought at the end of last winter.  We use them on the alpacas' manure piles to soak up extra moisture.  It helps to keep the flies and aroma down during the summer.

We are almost finished with our Cria Watch.  I've made sure that we have plenty of clean, dry, old towels at the ready along with fresh checklists for each of the expected cria and a few other supplies in the event that they were needed...

Holly was born on Friday.  It was a bit scary as I had to intervene, twice,  and her momma wasn't super interested after that.  But they have everything worked out now and are both doing well.

Alpacamundo's Holly with Apple and Wonton.
Her momma, Frieda, is in the background

Then Pearl was a big surprise and born on Saturday.

Alpacamundo's Pearl with her momma Kocoa.  Daisy is looking on.

The dogs are learning how to be gentle with the cria.  This is only their second experience with cria and it's challenging not to be too excited.  ;-)

Wonton is ~100lbs and Holly is ~14lbs

Clementine (last year's cria) who last week still seemed small, is quite big next to the new babies.

Pearl and Clementine saying Hello while
Momma Kocoa and Auntie Daisy  supervise.

Only one more cria to go.  :-)

REDUCE/Reuse/Re-purpose/Repair: Cut down on household waste by re-using, re-purposing and repairing. A ladder into a strawberry planter? A sheet into a dress? Share ideas and project links here, allowing others to be inspired.

Hubba has started replacing door thresholds and weather stripping and fixed the-door-that-doesn't-always-close with a few wood screws from the-jar-of-old-screws-and-nails.

GREEN: up our lives. Start (or continue!) using homemade cleaners, body products and basic herbal remedies. The options are endless, the savings huge and the health benefits enormous.

I don't think we did anything that fits in this category over the last month.  :-/

GROW: plant/harvest. What's growing this month? What's being eaten from the garden? Herbs in a pot, sprouts on a windowsill or and entire fruit/vegetable garden -opt for what fits space and time constraints. Don't have a backyard? Ask a friendly neighbour or relative for a small patch of theirs in return for some home grown produce, they may surprise you!

This month zucchini, tomatoes, onions, watermelons, okra, red bell peppers and apples have all made it to our table.  We have finished off the beets and cucumbers.  I'm losing confidence in my chiles... I've had lots of blossoms, but very little fruit so far. :-(

Still  in progress... are spaghetti squash, pumpkins, acorn squash, butternut squash, 
rutabaga, okra, and apples.  :-)

We've also had some rain over the last week or more.  Everything is starting to green-up again... as the leaves are changing.  ;-)

CREATE: to fill a need or feed the soul. Create for ourselves or for others. Create something as simple as a handmade gift tag or something as extravagant as a fine knit shawl. Share project details and any new skills learnt here.

A little knitting and a whole lot of canning.  I had another apple pectin/jelly experiment that didn't go so well.  It jelled this time, but way too much so we made apple candy instead.  ;-)

DISCOVER: Feed the mind by reading texts relevant to current interests. Trawl libraries, second hand shops or local book shops to find titles that fill the need. Share titles/authors of what is being read this month.

I am planning to store some of our winter squash.  I haven't tried that before, so I continue to spend time with these two books.

We also spent a lot of time watching both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.  I can't say that I really enjoyed them because I do get tired of the political rhetoric, but we feel it's important to listen to both sides.

ENHANCE: community: Possibilities include supporting local growers and producers, help out at a local school/kindergarten, barter or foodswap, joining a playgroup or forming a walking or craft group. Car pooling where possible and biking/walking instead of driving. Even start up a blog if you haven't already - online communities count too! Or maybe just help out someone trying to cross the street! The rewards for your time are often returned tenfold.

We donated a pair of over-stuffed sofas.

Hubba bought them from a friend soon after we moved into our house thinking he wanted them in his Man Room.  But the truth is, they were not our style, he never used them and they were in great shape.  Someone will be thrilled to find them at Goodwill, I'm certain.

ENJOY: Life! Embrace moments with friends and family. Marking the seasons, celebrations and new arrivals are all cause for enjoyment. Share a moment to be remembered from the month here.

The Paralympic coverage was big for us this month.  We enjoyed seeing amazing performance after amazing performance and seeing some of our friends do well.  We was very disappointed that they did not have live coverage of the Marathons, since that is our favorite event.  It was quite a bummer to wake up at 4:15 on the morning of the races and find that there was no coverage anywhere.  Of course we were delighted to see that Shirley Rilley from the US won Gold.  :-)

We also spent several days hanging out at the Farmer's Market.  Truth be told, we've been doing a lot of this over the entire summer, not just in September.  But one day this month we spent so much time hanging out and talking with people that we completely missed out on buying any produce. lol.

Lastly my Momma spent a weekend with us and we peeled and canned apples and chatted.  I love hanging out with my Momma.  She also went to the gun range with Hubba.  It was the first time she had fired her gun since before she retired from the Sheriff's Department about four years ago.  They had a "blast."  :-)