Alpaca shearing did occur

The alpaca were supposed to be easy. They are always supposed to be easy but when one practices a skill for one day a year before letting it lapse for another 364 days it is hard to become super proficient. On top of this the alpaca are the definition of passive aggressive. We had three just hit the dirt and refuse to move. They would not get up and Mr Rainman and I had to just lift them up and carry them to the shearing table. It is incredibly annoying and the longer the day went on the less umph I had to lift them.

The new porcelain cutting blades worked great! I was able to get them all adjusted and they did not get as hot as the metal ones. So you end up with porcelain blade on top and a stainless steel blade on the bottom. The bottom blade doesn’t move, the porcelain cutting blade does all the dirty work. The alpaca are filthy. They keep rolling around in the weeds and dirt. We think if we shear them earlier in the year we can avoid a large portion of the dirt and weeds. There is no telling unless we try, so I will be attempting to make time for them right after we hay in the spring.

We only kept the “saddle” portion this year and tossed the rest in trash bags. Annmarie had us save the seconds and legs and neck hair in those bags and she has some plan for them. We hung them up in the tack room from hooks in hopes that the mice could not get at them. The finished keeper hair we put in individual gunny sacks with the picture of the donating alpaca. They got put into two trunks until I can get the alpaca fiber tumbler built. It will go onto my cement mixer, I will remove the bucket and then attach the fiber tumbler so we can tumble fibers while using a leaf blower to clean out the fiber from the sheared hair.

We were all getting tired and I just wanted to finish and get it over. We had two alpaca left but they would not come in yet just as we were exiting the barn they volunteered to be caught. This necessitated us just hunkering down and getting it done. The very last alpaca decided after we had the halter on that he was not having any of it. He reared up full height on his back legs and body slammed Sarah into the barn wall. He hit her from the side mostly due to some inattention on her part. She ended up on the ground but will only have a few bruises and we managed to get the last alpaca sheared.

Mr Professional has been working on the porch off and on all week. The large wooden beams got painted with Kilz and then all of the metal wraps had to be recut and fitted to go over the new new deck. Then the railing had to be installed. This is not as easy as watching a YouTube video as the porch is not exactly perfectly level or square. He worked on it Saturday while we went out and sheared the alpaca.

Mr Rainman went down to the Mother-in-laws and put blocks under the new shed and piled gravel up so that the riding lawn mower can be driven into it. I may have to make a little wooden ramp that can be moved into place so the four inch tall threshold can be surmounted.

We are on the lookout for some more cheap alpaca. I am thinking this fall when no one can get hay, people will be offloading all kinds of animals.

Alpaca day!

I am a week behind, as I was too tired to post again. I always wonder if I should just skip it and ignore the day, but it really did happen and it shows how things are not always under your control so I decided to just finish it before starting this week’s post.

Mr Rainman came out on a Friday so we could get the alpaca sheared. This takes a full day and I had sent in all of the blades to be sharpened so we should have been ready. We moved all of the alpaca into the barn lot and then got the shearing table all setup. Power moved out to the barn and then Annmarie came out. She was busy in the house. Of course the easiest alpaca to catch was Snoop. He is the most laid back and tame of the bunch, they all like women better than men as my mother-in-law hand feeds them treats every day. The wife and daughter do it occasionally also, I do it once to twice a year, I don’t count. We got him in next to the table and up onto it and stretched out and tied down. We took 30 minutes to trim his feet till they were all pretty and functional, no curled toes. It was time to shear, well I thought I had ordered ceramic cutting blades but I only had metal ones. I prefer the ceramic ones as they last longer and seem to work better for me. This was a huge understatement. I could not get the damn shearing blades to adjust correctly. I tried everything. The blades were new and sharpened and I could not get them to cut. I managed to get the saddle portion off of Snoop but that was it. I promptly ordered the ceramic blades and will be using them when they come. I had the blades so tight that the heat was too much. When i backed off the tension I could not get them to cut. It was weird. My once a year, three years running experience does not exactly make me an expert.

We gave up and turned them loose and went back to the front porch. We had to install stay boards between every step as the pressure treated boards were warping on their own. It has been crazy doing the porch as all of the new lumber has not what I would call great quality. It has warped within 2-3 weeks after getting unbanded, every single piece! So we installed and straightened as best we could to keep the boards from shifting more. The TREX doesn’t have any structural strength so the boards need to stay in place and the TREX can just sit on top and look pretty.

Mr I Need a Belt Bad spent the day cleaning out the chicken coop. It took him two days and it had not been done in 2 years. Covid killed my activity level and it just did not get done. He disturbed the chickens enough that they spent two days hollering at him for invading their space. We had to discuss attention to detail items a few times, typical of a teenager.

Annmarie and I are seeing quail everywhere! If the baby quail survive our population should increase by a factor of 5-8. It will be amazing, I am hoping for at least a couple of hundred quail on the farm after this year. It is official we do actually have two rabbits on the place. This may lead to more rabbits, we will see. In the past this has just led to the owls eating rabbit.

Haying is not going smoothly

It has been a long two days. I worked a 19 hour day between my paying job and the farm. The lights we installed last year are really helping. The weather was beautiful and I was able to use the rake while wearing short sleeves and even once the sun went down it never got super cool. I just kept going. Until I broke the rake. It has two legs off the back and square tubing that is bent 30 degrees. It broke right at the bend and this ended my raking at 2300 instead of midnight like I had planned. So now the new welder needs to get in play again and fix this issue. I want to be able to reinforce this angle and purchased some angle iron and flat iron to be able to make this happen. I am going to need to create a spot in the machine shed where I can store all of these scrap metal pieces to use for various projects.

Mr Professional has been out of service for the last couple of days and was returning to the farm today. I gave him the good news that I had broken the rake. But I wanted him to stay focused and just get the old John Deere 336 baler up and baling the hay I had rowed. We need bales made! he got it going this afternoon and in under one hour made 200 forty pound bales before it made a noise and stopped working. Turns out we need a new bearing. I had to come home early and take a nap and had enough time to run into the parts store. I was running on empty and could not keep going. I got a bearing, picked up a sandwich for us to split and headed home. The bearing looked weird but it was a part in hand. Mr Professional was already out in the field making round bales. I looked at the broken baler and broke out the repair manual. Come to find out we needed the gear box bearing seal. All of the oil had leaked out and according to the book we need to pull the entire transmission out of the baler! So this will not be a two hour fix.

I went out in the field just as Mr Professional broke the mini round baler. He took the covers off and the shear bolt was broken. The problem with this is he took the tool bag out of the canvas bag on the tractor. He violated the tool rule!! We both know that the tools have to be on the tractor, this is why we have a special bag with all of the correct sized tools to repair the baler. So we had to go back and get tools and shear bolts and then he left me to go work on the old John Deere Baler. I started in on it and kept getting both gears to turn when I turned the baler splines. The internal gear should be attached to the shaft which should be stationary as the tractor is not moving. The only reason it could move is if the same gear insert problem we just welded on the other side happened on this side. My gut said it was the problem. I was texting Mr Professional who kept telling me to just replace the shear bolt. Hard to do when the gears won’t align. I was saved by a call from work and I had to go into the hospital, problem was I am dirty and covered in grease. I went home, turfed the problem to Mr Professional and went and got cleaned up. Big surprise 30 minutes later he is pulling it into the machine shed. The exact same problem occurred and it needed to be torn down to expose the gear so it could be welded to the insert. I was called off of work but I was now clean. I ended up doing some dishes, putting away laundry, watering my plants and starting Roomba. I even took the time to work on the blog!! I want to get to bed before midnight and I will need to be working nonstop after work for the entire weekend to get the hay thing under control. I am hoping we can get the bearing tomorrow for the old John Deere. We made about 200 square bales and 25 round bales. The square bales are around 40# each and the round are calculated at 50# but probably weigh closer to 65#. We will need to weight some to get an accurate count. So about 4.5 ton are baled and the property owner gets half, we get the other half.

It only took Mr Professional two hours to tear it apart weld it and put it back together! It took 8 the first time on the other side. It is 2230 and he is out on the little tractor in the dark making round bales. I am going to go to bed so that I can get at it tomorrow afternoon and on into the night also. It is nice to work with someone who gets it.

Snoop, the alpaca, is so lazy he is laying down and eating baled hay off of the old baler!! That is lazy.

Spring is coming

Well, we have gotten some stuff done this week, it seems like the more you plan the more things need to change to accommodate what is actually occurring on the farm. We were able to sell our daughter’s house this week and will be closing at the end of April. This is going to be a big push for us to get her out and get the house cleaned up. We are going to have to clean out our spare bedroom for her to move into while she finishes college. She will be going to Moscow, ID for the next two years so we will see her on holidays and in the summer. I am sure we will need to make a spot in the attic to store a bunch of her stuff. Luckily, the boxes cannot be too big or they will not get through the attic door.

I borrowed our neighbor’s small backhoe and dug a very large hole. This took me three different locations to find one where I could get deep enough as the soil level is not very deep in places and the clay, rock level is the next level. I finished that over a few hours on Friday and was able to snag a big rock from the side of the road on my way back! Annmarie and I talked about adding it to our rock wall behind the barn. The lambs like to run and jump off of the wall but the best thing they like to do is play King of the Hill! I can put this 600+ pound rock on top of our existing wall and they will be at the highest point in the yard. I took loose gravel and poured it over the rocks after I had them in place so there is no obvious way to catch a leg, there is always a way for the sheep to find a way to get in trouble or harm themselves.

Our plumber came out and set a new drain plug for our upstairs sink and set the sink into the countertop. He is going to come back later after it all dries and finish the drain plumbing. It has this cool drain plug, you just push down the installed plug and it seals, to unseal it you just push down on the plug again! I have been vetoed on keeping the self retracting 50’ plant watering hose with wand plugged in at all times in our new bathroom, something about aesthetics. The compromise is we now have a quick connector installed so I can just push it on and then use the hose to water my plants.

The tractor is older now, ten years, and is starting to show my abuse. The front wheel oil seal blew on the driver’s side. I ordered and picked up a replacement and while I was talking to the dealer, we discussed my next tractor purchase. I am going to get the next size up. I need a slightly larger machine and I will keep the first one also. This will stop me from having to duplicate all of the attachments. I also ordered a new plastic sleeve cover for my hydraulic hoses near the bottom of the tractor, the old one is just about gone and I ordered new locking rings for my three point hitch, they look like a key ring and prevent the tightening mechanism from turning once you have set the tension. A stupid little five dollar thing that prevents a big headache of always having to jump off and retighten the three point side to side swing. These are the little things that you just learn to live with and I am going to make an effort to fix them.

Our ram had not been doing his job, we were hopeful that as soon as we tossed him into the herd he would start having sex immediately. Well, as fat as he is we were not sure how successful he would be and whether he could even mount a ewe. It took him until yesterday to finally get spotted doing his one and only job. We found a gestation tracker calendar we had stashed away and should have lambs starting August 16! We do realize that the sheep are on a 21 day cycle and he was going to be given the benefit of the doubt. His competition is coming this summer sometime. We will run two rams in neighboring fields in the hope that they will speed up their critical work and shorten our lambing season. On the plus side we have several baby ewes from this ram we want to keep and the new ram will allow us to do that.

Annmarie completed her very first alpaca yarn from our own alpaca! She spun the fiber, then made two ply out of it, then soaked it, shook it, dried it, and then put it into skeins. This process takes a lot longer than I had imagined! She spins for about 15 minutes every day, usually in the evening but sometimes first thing in the morning. We are talking about her making an alpaca rug now on her floor loom. We are still on the hunt for some male alpaca, cheap, who need a forever home. We have two that are very old and and don’t think they will make it through this year. We trim hooves, teeth and shear them annually now. They are allowed to free range throughout the farm and are the only animal allowed on the two acres around our cars and yards as they don’t scratch the cars and they are very respectful of fences. I have never been purposefully spit on, you can catch some spit if they are having a pissing match between two alpaca and one ducks. It’s nasty, but for the most part they are very benign. We have about four of them now who you can touch, none that you can just walk up to and pet while they stand still. They are super easy to herd. Just open a gate that they have not been through in a month and they will come running to see what is on the other side!

Farm Work was happening

I started out the Sunday by tagging and banding the last two little lambs we had in the barn, a little boy and girl. I then mixed all the sheep together so we don’t have to manage two separate herds. I came in and started working on the bathroom shelves and while outside cutting lumber heard some squawking. I looked around the edge of the house and there was our pretty rooster in the front yard desperately trying to get through the metal fence to get away from the dogs. Unfortunately for him, he is too big to fit between the gaps. I was able to call the Border Collies off but our little ankle biter Brussels Griffin, Gizmo, did not want to leave the chicken and had to be hollered at. I tried to open the gate but that just confused the chicken and ended up just having to reach down and grab him and toss him over the fence. He got lucky and only lost about 30 feathers. I have no idea what he was doing in the yard, the chickens know it is not safe.

I went out to pickup the carcasses and once I got into the barn lot I decided I had better do a couple of things before just getting the carcasses. Annmarie and I had noticed the culvert that did not get repaired was undercutting the bank and drive over path. She was afraid if the horses got out they would try and cross this and fall through potentially braking a leg. So I dug out the old culvert, it took a few tries to get it above ground. I finally had to go clear all the dirt off of the culvert before I could lift it out of the water. I moved that culvert over to the other culvert and will work on getting it set so it takes the water coming out of the crossing and allows it to run down through the culvert and not eat out the bank edges. I will mess with that after the water level goes down some or I won’t mind getting wet.

While I was messing with the culvert I spotted something in the back runoff creek. I wasn’t sure what it was but it looked like an animal carcass. My only thought was I hope it isn’t and if it is then please don’t let it be so decomposed that I cannot just drag it out of the water. I was able to just slide a chain around its neck and pull it out of the water. It had been dead for a few days only so it was still intact mostly. I took it up to the boneyard and then came back for the stillborn lambs, dead lamb and dead alpaca. It smelled bad but managed to stay in one piece while moving it with the tractor. I was eternally grateful that the carcass only smelled a little bit.

While I was dropping off the carcasses I noticed water running in an ancient ditch that has never been there before since we moved back in 2007. I will need to dig out the ditch again and make it a little deeper and give it some consistent shape. I will just have to add it to my list for the year. I am starting to feel better after my run in with Covid19. It has been eight weeks and this was the first weekend I did not notice any chest pain. My hope is that my aerobic ability will improve quickly now.