Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Shearing Daisy

We sheared Daisy, the huarizo, last night. Technically she isn't a huarizo because her mother is a llama and her father was an alpaca, but since Daisy if half alpaca and half llama, we call her an huarizo anyway.

Shearing her was a 'hack and whack' job. She really looks terrible right now. Hopefully we can clean her up later this week. I've taken a class in shearing using the Andis shears, but I'm really not experienced enough yet to use them efficiently. Since this spring was rainy and wet Daisy didn't have a chance to dry out enough to shear her. Then my mom passed away, so this has been the first chance I have gotten to take care of Daisy.

Daisy's fleece was a disaster, I didn't even try to save it. She loves to roll in the pasture and the dirt so it was full of foxtail, sticks, dirt, and grass. YUCK! Her fleece was about 4" long so you can imagine the amount of debris that was stuck throughout. If we had had the time we would have spent a few days blowing her coat, combing through it, and then washing her. But the temperatures are above 95˚ F and we wanted to get her sheared so she wouldn't get heat exhaustion. Here is a link about shearing llamas. Here is an excellent link on shearing alpacas.

It took Vet2Be and Hubby about 20 minutes to catch her and get her into the llama chute. We decided that the llama chute would be much better than tying her down on the ground. The other people we talked to said that the llamas and alpacas are much happier if they have the chance to stand rather than have their feet tied and stretched out. Although we haven't tried the other way, she seemed just fine standing.

We trimmed her toes first. She didn't seem to mind much at all. No kicking at all!

Then onto the shearing. I used the electric shears for about 30 minutes. Daisy's fleece was so dirty and long that the blades got dull quickly. We resorted to scissors, which Daisy liked better than the noisy shears anyway! Prion, Vet2Be, and I all had a pair of scissors and snipped away for another 90 minutes.

Daisy is happy to have a thinner coat in the heat of July! I'm sad her fleece was a total loss, especially because this is her first fleece. I'm glad it will grow back. I could tell that it was a beautiful, soft fleece, so I am excited to shear again next year.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Five Wishes

My mother passed away on July 18th at about 2:00 AM, 4 hours after the nurse removed the ventilator. Mom suffered an aneurysm (sub-arachnoid hemorrhage) sometime between July 4th and 5th. My youngest sister went to her apartment on the evening of the 5th. She was not able to get in, so she called the paramedics.

After they broke down the door, paramedics treated my mom and brought her to the hospital. She was transferred to another hospital where she remained until her passing.

Mom had filled out something called Five Wishes a few years ago. It stated that my brother-in-law was her medical proxy along with other wishes that she had for the way she should be treated in case she was unable to speak for herself. If you haven't hear of Five Wishes, you should go take a look. Lakeland Health Care will send you a complimentary copy. You can also find out about Five Wishes and download a copy from the Wikipedia page.

There was really no chance for my mother to survive this type of aneurysm. She smoked most of her life, she was not found immediately, she had a abdominal aortic aneurysm repaired a few years ago, she had a spot on her lungs (that seems to have gotten smaller over the last few months), and she was diabetic. No one would have guessed by looking at her that she was weak in any way. She had a part time job and was always helping others in anyway that she could. But smoking has a way of damaging a body in places you cannot see.

She was 66 years old. Here is how she asked to be remembered (as found in her Five Wishes)
Mary danced through life, stopping only to smell the first flowers of Spring and catch snowflakes of the first snowfall every Winter.

My sister wrote the following about her:
She was a free-spirited artist, philosopher, dreamer, cheerleader, beachcomber, student, caregiver, gardener, reader, and believed that Jesus Christ was her Lord and Savior.

I am grateful to the nurses in the hospital as well as the doctors. The nurses were kind, caring, and compassionate. Even though my mom was comatose, the nurses spoke to her as if she was able to respond and as if she was still awake. It was comforting even though I knew her state and knew what the end result of this injury would be.

It was comforting to look over the last year and see how many things mom was able to 'finish' up. I don't think she knew what was going to happen, but I believe that our Heavenly Father whispers to people and helps them to prepare and to finish many things. My mom did listen, even to the cleaning out of her car a few days before she had the aneurysm. The list of things she did seemed unexplainable and 'weird' at the time, they make perfect sense now and are very comforting. It is wonderful to know that there is a Father in Heaven who prepares us for what lies ahead.

Mom, I love you. Sleep now, take your rest, and be at peace. We will miss you. Thank you for the wonderful gifts you gave us during the last 12 months, they are priceless and comforting.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Off-line for a few weeks

I'll be off-line for a few weeks. Mom is in the hospital 2400 miles away. Needless to say, I'll be heading out that way soon and won't be thinking about posting for a while.

We're not sure if she will pull through or not. The doctors aren't sure what the problem is so they are keeping her sedated and on a vent for a while. More testing next week, too.

Hubby will be on a business trip for 2-3 weeks, too. Vet2Be and Prion will be in charge of the farm while I'm gone. They will be fine, but prayers are always welcome!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Our Odd Chicken Coop

We have an odd chicken coop! I got it in trade a few years ago for a month's worth of guitar lessons. The coop looks like a huge rabbit cage. It has worked really well for our chickens. We had foxes that lived next door for a while and we often have raccoons coming down from the mountains. I don't mind the foxes as much as the raccoons. The foxes take a chicken home for dinner while the raccoons just play with them and leave an ugly mess for us to clean up. Since we have had this coop we haven't lost any chickens to predators.

Here you can see the front of the cage with the chicken ramp that Hubby built. On the right side of the door there is a feeder. There is a plastic shoe box on the left side of the door that we also use as a feeder. We don't use the feeders during the warm weather, but when it is cold we make sure there is always food in them. In the warm weather we feed all the birds (ducks and chickens) in the poultry pen or on the ground.

About halfway through the cage there is a dividing screen. It has a doorway cut into it so the chickens are free to go from the front to the back. When we get new hens (usually older hens that someone doesn't want) we put them into the back area and close the door. They live there for a few days. By the end of the second or third day the old flock and the new flock have woken up together enough times that they think they all belong together. There is a door on the other end so we have an easy time giving the new chickens food and water.

Here is a photo from inside the front door. You can see that we are as thrifty as we can be around here. The lay boxes are cardboard fruit boxes from the local grocery store (free). I cut a large notch in the front and fill the boxes with old grass hay. They hens seem to like them since we find eggs in them every day. I like them because if they get really messy I just toss them in the garbage and go get some new ones. I never have to clean them out.

The whole cage is covered with a tarp and sits on top of a wooden frame. There is a board placed on the back to keep the wind out. There is also a long board leaning against the side to keep the wind out. The ducks sleep underneath the chicken coop at night so the boards give them some protection as well.

The bottom of the chicken coop is made of wire screen. This works out well since the droppings generally fall through to the bottom. The whole coop is easily moved so we can clean out underneath or change the position of the coop as we need to. This coop has been moved many times!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Growing Up

All the baby animals are growing well. We haven't had any more sickness this spring. Buddy is getting better and is now out with the kids and building up his muscles by playing and running. Vet2Be had a hard time getting a picture of him because he wanted to play. He is still a bit wobbly and falls down, but he picks himself up and is off playing again quickly.

Here's Buddy asking Vet2Be to please play with him and not to worry about the picture.

Here are the three lambs. The black lamb and the white lamb with the short tail (the one in the front) are still very friendly and love to come up to people. Since the long-tailed white lamb wasn't bottle fed, she really isn't interested in being friends with people.

Here are the 4 chicken poults that we bought from our friends. They are half Arucana (not Ameraucauna) and half Rhode Island Red. They should be good layers and lay blue-green or greenish eggs. If they lay brown eggs, that's okay. I just love opening a box of eggs and having different colors to look at.

The ducklings are now out with the big ducks. The wonderful thing about ducks is that they seem to get along well and there is no 'hen pecking' as there often is with chickens. These girls are all doing well! They know when there are people around, there must be food coming so anytime we go out, the ducks all come running in.

The turkey poults are doing well, too. Here they are with their little white chicken pal. A vet-tech in the area who knows Hubby asked if we would take an abandoned chick and duckling in. This chick is a few weeks younger than the black chicks. The black chicks weren't too thrilled with a new pal, but the turkey poults liked him (or her).

The turkey poults and chicks decided that they didn't like being confined to the stall so they flew over the board the other day. Vet2Be took the board down but left the stall gate closed. The poults and chicks can come in and out of the stall as they please now. They also have a place to run to if the old hens decide to pick on them.

We seem to have plenty of room for all of them, so there doesn't seem to be any problems with bigger animals picking on younger animals at this point. If we have problems later we'll fix up some new pens to keep the young ones safe.

Friday, July 3, 2009

More Cheese! And Some Soap!

We are taking care of a friend's farm while they are out of town for 10 days. They live about 25 minutes south of us. They are a great family and have taught Vet2Be alot about goats. The mom is Vet2Be's 4-H leader. They raise Nubians and we milk 3 each morning and evening. They also have some steer that they are raising for beef, chickens, and some horses.

Nubians can be very 'opinionated'. I guess you could also call them stubborn. Two of the ones that we milk can be a bit difficult on the stand. They are fast to milk, though, because they have larger orifaces than our goats do and they don't give quite as much milk.

The great thing about Nubian milk is the high butterfat content. Saanen milk doesn't make mozzarella because the butterfat content is about 2%, Nubian milk is about 4%, just like the whole milk in the store.

So today I made two batches of 30 Minute Mozzarella. Both batches were wonderful! They are in the fridge waiting for our 4th of July Picnic tomorrow. If you are interested in making mozzarella from goat milk, make sure you add extra citric acid. For some reason goat milk needs to be a bit more acidic to make good mozzarella.

I also decided to make some Feta. I haven't made any since last year but we have plenty of milk right now. Hopefully it will turn out tasty for tomorrow, too!

I also tried another batch of goat milk soap today. The first batch I made last week didn't turn out at all. I think the lye was too old. The batch I made earlier this week had some weird spots in it. They weren't lye, but I'm not sure what they were. I tried to remelt the batch and put it in different molds but this recipe does not melt well. I'm sure the soap will be fine to use, it just doesn't look pretty!

Today's batch looks nice so far. We'll see how it turns out when I take it out of the mold tomorrow. It is in the refrigerator for a few hours. When you use milk in a soap recipe it tends to super-heat and turn the soap into a gel. That really isn't a problem, but the heat tends to carmelize the milk and turn the soap a golden color instead of a lighter yellow color.