Posts Tagged ‘farm’
This is that last we saw of our Peacock, Farina. He was one of two males that we have had for a little over 3 years. Two weeks ago we had a group of friends over to the farm, and had opened the door to the PeaPod so that our friends could see the birds.
Farina must have been spooked, seeing strangers standing in the doorway, and he flew out the open door, landing on top of the barn cupola. I hoped that he would come back to the roost in the evening, so we shut Buckwheat in the aviary, and opened the doors to the house, turned on the lights and put a bowl of food in the doorway. We sat out there for hours waiting for him to fly into the house, but when it got dark, we went up to the house. Next morning we scoured the entire property for him, but he had disappeared.
We were broken hearted to lose him, but the worst was seeing how dejected Buckwheat was to have lost his friend. He called out several times the next morning, but Farina never returned. Unfortunately, the weather took a turn for the worse, and we had several inches of snow and record cold temps for the next week. I doubt that a peacock could survive in those conditions without shelter.
We felt so bad for Buckwheat that we bought him a girlfriend. He had never known anything but male companionship, so we weren’t sure how he would react to a new hen. But it was love at first sight. We’ve named her Darla.
By morning, he was singing love songs and showing off his tail. He has been very gentle toward her. Notice the head down posture. I can only surmise, as I don’t speak peacock, that he is letting her know he is not going to challenge her. Smart Bird!
Could be we’ll get some eggs come spring.
Posted in Arts and Crafts, Photography, tagged cleaning wool, crafts, farm, fiber, fiber blow out box, fiber crafts, llama, llama business, llama fiber, needle felting, Photography, shearing, tutorial, wool on December 8, 2012 | 6 Comments »
Step by Step Tutorial on How to Build Your Own Box with PVC Pipe
After owning llamas for 11 years, I am finally starting to get interested in producing things with their wonderful fiber. Up until last year, we had been sending all of our fiber to mills that would process it from the fleece into a finished product, such as socks, rugs, scarves, and mittens.
I decided last year to have my llama fiber spun into yarn so that I could learn to make things myself. I have really enjoyed working with the yarn from my very own llamas. It is so soothing to feel its softness slip between my fingers as the intertwining loops grow into a finished creation.
I’m still very new to this process, but one thing I have learned is that there is a definite cost benefit to taking the extra time to prepare your fiber before sending it to a mill, or before processing it yourself if you are clever enough to be a spinner. When the mill receives your fleeces, the fees are initially based on the incoming weight. By the time it is processed into yarn, you can lose up to 50% of your initial weight if you haven’t cleaned it up a bit beforehand.
I’m only talking about llama and alpaca fiber here, as sheep wool contains lanolin, and requires additional steps, which I’m not going to go into. Before shearing, we carefully blow out our llamas to remove vegetation and dirt.
Then we brush them to further remove vm (vegetable matter). But even so, there will be junk that remains stuck in their hair. Then there are the inevitable second cuts, the small pieces of short fleece remaining in the fiber, caused by shearing the same area twice. All this waste will be processed out, but adds to your incoming weight.
Now— an easy way to clean up that fleece right off the animal, the Fiber Blow Out Box. (It’s still best to clean the fiber as well as you can while it is still on the animal). Just put your shorn fleece into the box and blow it with a Circuiteer high speed blower, or a leaf blower will do. This allows the fleece to tumble and separate so that the dust, trash, and short fibers are blown out of the mesh of the box.
I saw a version of a fiber blow out box at a recent llama conference and came up with a simple and inexpensive way to make one myself. I’ve been using PVC a lot lately in building agility equipment for my Goldendoodle pup, Bayley. PVC is lightweight, inexpensive, and very easy to work with. I’m not a “tool girl” and I only need one tool to make most anything with PVC.
These are the instructions for making your own blow out box. It will take a couple of hours and will cost less than $30 in materials. The finished size is 24” x 34”.
It is important to be accurate when cutting and gluing, making sure each pipe is fully seated in its connector, and your squares are as true as you can make them.
Sharpie marking pen
You will need three 10′ lengths and one 5′ length of ¾” Schedule 40 PVC pipe. All of the connectors are for ¾” pipe. I designed the box with these measurements to minimize waste. If you cut one piece of 10′ pipe into four 22″ pieces, you will have 32″ left over for your side pieces. The fourth piece of 32″ pipe will be cut from the 5′ section.
1. 90-degree slip connectors (4)
2. 3-way corner fitting connector (8)
3. 22” pipe sections (12)
4. 32” pipe sections (4)
5. ½” plastic hardware cloth (36” by 15′)
6. White cable ties (8″ long) (100)
7. White Cable ties for door hinge (12″ long) (4)
8. Glue (see comments below)
9. Two 10″ mini bungee cords
Let’s start with the 24” end squares. There will be 3. One square will serve as your opening door.
Start by gluing four 22” sections to four 3-way corner fittings. Once your square is assembled, place it on a flat surface and adjust so that it lays flat.
A NOTE ABOUT GLUE
I don’t recommend using the PVC glue that is sold in the plumbing section. This stuff bonds IMMEDIATELY and does not allow for any readjustment that will be necessary to make sure all of your angles are true. Since this doesn’t have to meet a water pressure test, I have found that a plastic epoxy works wonderfully. This glue sets up in from 10 to 20 minutes, allowing you to tweak the joints once they are assembled.
Make the second end square the same way. Then make the door square using four 22” sections and the four 90-degree connectors.
Place one of the end squares flat on the floor, and stick one of the 32” sections in each joint gluing as you go. Then place the top end square in place and glue, pressing firmly to assure the pieces are fully seated.
Your box frame is now complete and ready to be wrapped in the plastic hardware cloth.
Cut the plastic netting to 9′. This will be too long, but we will cut it to size once it is attached to the frame. Lay the netting out on a flat surface and place the box on top so that one end of the box is aligned with the edge of the net. You want the net to be the exact width of the box, so go ahead and cut the net to the correct width. It should be 34″ wide.
Place one of the end squares on the remaining net and cut two pieces. They should be 24″ square.
My advice, measure the net to the frames before cutting it. There could be variations in the dimensions of your box.
Now line up one edge of the box with the 34″ edge of the plastic net.
Attach the net to the PVC pipe with the 8″ cable ties. I put 3 on each pipe, pulling the net tightly as you wrap it around. Once the net is secured, go back and put a couple more ties on each rail and trim off the tails. You can get an idea of what we did in this photo.
Attach the net to one of the square ends, but leave the other end open. This will be your door opening.
Then attach the net to the square that you made with the 90 degree corner connectors.
Now you are ready to attach the door to the box. For hinges you will use the 12″ cable ties. Connect one side of the door panel to a top rail of the open end of the box. 3 ties should be enough, and don’t tighten them down too much. You want the door to swing easily but not be too loose.
To secure the door, use the two 10” mini bungee cords. It’s quick and easy to “lock” and open the door to load your fiber.
Now you’re ready to try it out.
Load one fleece at a time. You want the fibers to be able to separate and move around as you are blowing it out.
Use a circuiteer high speed blower or a leaf blower and blow air into the box. There will be a lot of dust flying, but it doesn’t show in the photos.
Keep rotating the box and blowing up under the fiber to keep it moving. When you don’t see any more dust, (it’ll take about 5 minutes or so), it’s done.
You fiber should now look clean and fluffy.
You may find some remaining longer pieces of grass and hay that is still in the fiber. The longer stuff won’t be blown out of the small holes in the net. This stuff you will have to pick out by hand.
In the future we’ll try to make sure our floor is clean when we shear. I know what happened here. We had a hay bag by the shute to keep the llamas entertained while we sheared, and they dropped pieces of hay into the cut fiber on the floor.
As I said earlier, it is much easier to clean the fiber while it is still on the llama. Time spent on this step is not wasted. This blow out box will not clean a filthy fleece. It will merely remove any dust, dirt, small second cuts, and bits of vegetable matter that may remain in a relatively clean fleece. You might want to use a 1 inch plastic hardward cloth, but I was afraid of losing too much of the good fiber.
Please let me know if you decide to build one of the boxes. You might come up with even better ideas that I would love to hear about.
Next, I’m going to run this fleece through a drum carder to make it into batts that I can use for my needle felting and wet felting projects. I’ll let you know how that comes out.
Posted in Around the Farm, Llama Stories, Photography, tagged animal, animals, Christmas parade, farm, humor, llama, llama business, llama trek, pet, Photography, reindeer antlers, Shenandoah Valley on December 6, 2012 | 2 Comments »
There is no better way to herald in the Christmas Season than to go to the local Christmas Parade. Oh, except for, maybe, walking in the parade.
I love a small town parade. We have talked for years about walking in our town’s parade, but with our weekends being occupied with our llama trekking business, we were never available. But this year we made the time and we did it. What a great time.
We gathered up 6 friends to walk 6 of our llamas. We hung sleigh bells around their necks and put antlers on their heads. (The llamas , that is).
The crowd loved seeing the llamas, especially the kids. They would bunch up right in the middle of the street to pet the llamas. Our llama, Silver, seemed to be the most approachable target.
Even the adults were Ga Ga.
At one point, our littlest llama, Pete, was mobbed by the children for a couple of minutes, holding up the parade behind him.
Of course the rest of the herd disappeared down the street. When Pete tired of the adulation and realized he had been left behind, he dashed down the street to catch up, dragging his handler behind.
The crowd loved seeing the llamas, but it was evident that many didn’t know what the heck they were. We heard several “Look, it’s camels”; and from one sweet child, “it’s fuzzy reindeer”. Of course there was a lot of the usual mistaken identity, “Look, they’re alcapas.”
But oddly enough, these wooly, four legged mammals, are sometimes mistaken for emu; even by the nurses’ assistant that stopped by to enquire at the end of the parade route.
But the most important member of the group was the elf that brought up the rear.
Luckily I didn’t need to scoop any poop along the way, but I did hear my share of sideline remarks, to include, “She’s sure got a shi**y job”.
But back at the trailer, a job well done, Pete said, “Thank goodness that’s over, can I go home now”.
While cleaning and winterizing the barn recently, we discovered that we had some aspiring musicians living in the tack room.
These photos are of wasps nests that were built on our window frame. This artwork is done by a specific type of wasp known as the organ pipe mud dauber. They are fairly large wasps, but are a very docile species. They are good to have around because they help to keep the spider population under control. The male wasp stays at the nest and stands guard to protect against preditors that might steal their nest materials or prey and the female goes about collecting spiders.
We’re usually pretty diligent about cleaning out the wasp nests, but it’s hard to get rid of these little treasures.
Posted in Around the Farm, Our Chickens, Photography, tagged animal, animals, chickens, country life, farm, farm life, farm scene, humor, Photography, Shenandoah Valley on October 22, 2012 | 5 Comments »
After the July Bear attack that diminished our little flock of 4 chickens by two, we decided to get some replacement chicks. I found a hatchery that would mail as few as three chicks so I ordered three Golden Comet chicks, the same hybrid breed that we currently have. They arrived on August 7 as day old chicks.
After brooding them for 3 weeks in our bathroom…..
we happily moved them to more spacious quarters in the garage.
They are now 10 weeks old and nearly full grown. They have outgrown the spaceship and are ready to move out to the outdoor coop.
We have raised up three sets of chicks now, but we have never tried to integrate new chickens into an existing flock. It can be a tricky thing to do. It is very stressful for both humans and birds alike and can even be brutal. They call it the pecking order for a reason. We followed some common advice and divided the coop in half with chicken wire.
I had to crawl in the run to fit the bottom board. I was soon accompanied by the two hens quite curious about the new occupant.
The coop is divided both on top and bottom. We plan to keep the birds separated for about three weeks and by then we hope that they will be used to each other and can live together peaceably.
With the two older hens now safely ensconced in their half of the coop, they were clearly not pleased with the new interior design.
We introduced the 3 new chicks into the upper roost first….
But after an hour, they were still reluctant to venture down into the brave new world.
Ever wonder where the pejorative term “chicken” came from?
Finally I gave them a nudge and pushed them down the stairs. The original hens were now REALLY incensed about this new living arrangement. You know the expression “mad as a wet hen?” Well here is what one sounds like.
by Will Carleton
William McKendree Carleton (21 October 1845 – 18 December 1912) was an American poet born in Michigan. Most of his poems were about rural life. I recently found this poignant poem and thought I’d share it since it is expresses the season so beautifully.
Yellow, mellow, ripened days,
Sheltered in a golden coating;
O’er the dreamy, listless haze,
White and dainty cloudlets floating;
Winking at the blushing trees,
And the sombre, furrowed fallow;
Smiling at the airy ease
Of the southward-flying swallow.
Sweet and smiling are thy ways,
Beauteous, golden, Autumn days!
Shivering, quivering, tearful days,
Fretfully and sadly weeping;
Dreading still, with anxious gaze,
Icy fetters round thee creeping;
O’er the cheerless, withered plain,
Woefully and hoarsely calling;
Pelting hail and drenching rain
On thy scanty vestments falling.
Sad and mournful are thy ways,
Grieving, wailing, Autumn days!
Most of you are familiar with the Barn Cat. It helps rid the barn of mice and rats. We have one of those. But we are also extremely fortunate to have a barn frog to protect us from those vicious crickets. Looks like he’s been very effective.