Shearing Day!

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Shearing day is always an exciting day on the farm! It only comes once a year, and by the time it comes, the alpacas are super-fluffy and I feel like they are looking forward to it!

Daisy and Marley the morning of shearing.

In the photo above, Daisy and Marley are definitely wondering what’s up, since we never close them in the barn using that half-door.

The shearers are a 2-person man-woman team that we’ve used for a couple of years. They called while we were having breakfast to ask if they could come earlier — in half an hour instead of at 11:00 am! Ack! So we were a little rushed getting ready for them to arrive, but it actually went really smoothly. I had bought more harnesses so that we had one for everyone, and that helped too.

Most of the alpacas walked really well on their harnesses/leashes, which is amazing considering we really don’t practice with them. Alex was born last year, so it was his first time on a harness, being led and being sheared. He did the usual bucking around, but he walked okay. He did NOT like getting sheared — he cried the whole time. Poor little guy! He did seem pretty happy afterwards, however!

That’s Alex in the foreground and Ziggy behind.

It was really nice to be able to see Alex’s eyes! He’s been so fuzzy, we haven’t been able to see them! The sun must seem really bright to them after having such long bangs.

Sometimes you’ve just gotta scratch!

I was worried that Alex was a bit small for a yearling, but the shearer said that he looks normal, or even a little big, to her! So that’s good.Β Β (Remember when he was born? What a cutie!)Β It could just be because he and Boeing are friends, and Boe is a big fella.

Boeing is our gentle giant, the white fella. He and Alex are clearly buddies.

After shearing was done, everyone was tired and hungry (and happy… trust me, I can tell).

Marley having a nap in the sun

 

Fozzie in the foreground, and although he is laying down, he’s also eating.

Don’t you just love how the shearers leave little legwarmers? It helps protect their legs from mosquito bites, and keeps them warm in winter.

Check out those legwarmers!

 

Ziggy, just chillin’

They have to be sheared in summer so they have enough time to grow a coat before winter. Mid-June is a bit late, actually, but I’m sure these guys will be okay. They produce a LOT of fibre!

For months, I’ve been saying, “look how fluffy you are! You’re getting so BIG!” and now I am saying “look how skinny you are!”

After shearing is the only time I can see their bodies, and know if they are underweight, overweight, or just right. They all look good, except maybe Miss Uki (she looks a little skinny).

MIss Uki after shearing

Daisy got to wear her harness a little longer than everyone else. When she was done, we just unclipped the leash and she ran away! So we had to catch her a while later and take the harness off. Luckily, alpacas can still eat and drink while wearing one. You an see her in the distance behind Fozzie below:

Fozzie with the girls (Daisy on the left) behind him.

The reason the shearers came early was because at their first stop, the sheep were all wet! So, to give them a chance to dry, they came and did our alpacas first. Apparently, shearing wet sheep is akin to hell bent over! The boys were a little damp, so I spread the fibre out in the sun to dry. Doesn’t it look glorious? Boeing’s fleece is white, Ziggy cinnamon brown, Fozzie brown/black,and Alex dark brown with sun-bleached tips. πŸ™‚

Alex’s fleece had a lot of straw in it, so I spent a while picking it out. It is SOOOO soft. Best time ever!

And hey, a good friend of mine featured Daisy’s first cut fleece in a video! You can watch it here:

I’ve actually been working on processing the fibre lately! There are 3 steps before I can start knitting it: de-dusting it, carding, then spinning. I could also wash it, but it isn’t absolutely necessary as long as I get the dust out. I have a mesh table that I fluff it on. My grandma gave me her drum carder and spinning wheel and I spent a day carding the fibre at home and then another day with her while she taught me how to spin. I was SO terrible at it, but apparently, that’s normal for beginners. There is no such thing as beginner’s luck in spinning! She kept teasing me, saying I was making a rope! It was way too thick. But I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it.

That’s all for now, everyone! Take care!

Here are a couple more “before” pictures to enjoy!

Alex before shearing
Boeing… after a dirt bath! No longer a white alpaca!
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Farm Activity — New Fences, Hay Field Planted

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Spring is such a busy time of year! There are a few things that really need to be done in spring and there is a short window to to them. This year, I found myself working a lot on yard clean up, since you have to do it before the grass starts to grow too tall. I’ve been picking up old wood, random small pieces of wire and whatever else I find. I put the wood on the hugelculture (I’ll try to blog on this some day!) and the metal on a trailer where we’ve been gathering scrap to take to the metal recycling yard.

It is also time for planting! We have been working on our hay field for a WHILE. Last year, we mowed, plowed and harrowed it, and then did it all again later in the summer, to prepare for planting. It was pretty nice and smooth and ready for planting this spring! I am always aware of the weather, so I decided to plant before some rain in the forecast… perhaps it was a bit early, but at least the weeds had not started growing yet. I went to UFA and talked to one of the men there and decided on the “Stockman’s blend” — a seed blend of different grasses. I promptly went and showed my Dad to see if he thought that I picked the right kind! He said it would grow well, and he recommended a broadcast seeder for that sort of seed.

We already have one hay field; this will be our second. It’s a little over an acre, and the only seed broadcaster I had is one like this (on the right).

So, let’s just say, I walked back and forth more than a couple times! It went more quickly than I thought, actually. Some people might have moaned about not having a bigger/proper seeder, or maybe tried to buy/borrow/rent one, but I just went for it with what I had. My feet were a little sore that night!

The other big job we had to do was replace a fence. It’s been leaning more every year and it was time to build a new one. It’s in a bit of a low spot, and the frost always heaves the fence posts out. So, we decided to build a Montana-style jackleg fence.

The fence before:

You can see that farther along, it really starts leaning! So, we tore it all out in one evening (with temporary fences in place the keep the alpacas separated).

 

 

And then built a new one the following day! We had bought all the rails we needed several days before (and we already had a stack of fence posts for the A-frames).

All done! This was a really fun job, actually! It looks great, is really stable, and since it sits on top of the ground, we shouldn’t have to worry about frost heaving. We also put some old straw down to try and fill in/build up the low spot. Plus last winter, we fed the alpacas hay here many times. Over a few years, this should fill things in pretty well. We also filled the holes where the fence posts were. The only small problem we foresee is when it comes time to wean a baby alpaca — he/she could very easily put their head through to continue nursing off their momma, so we’ll have to put up some snow fence or something to prevent that!

Other projects we want to work on this summer (with the goal of completing one per week):

  • Remove the west doors on the barn (seen above) and convert them into one large sliding door (put them on a backer/frame and install a overhead rail).
  • Install a snow guard on the west lean-to part of the barn roof (also pictured above) so that snow doesn’t slide off into a big pile in front of the door!
  • Sand and paint the main metal gate
  • Install more pickets on the picket fence (and paint them)

As you can see, a lot of our work this year involves fences. Anyways, that’s all for now, everybody!

NOTE: I originally meant to post this back in May, but I was so busy! Sorry everybody!

Nonviolent Solutions are Not What you Think

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I celebrated the beginning of the worldwide Season for Nonviolence with the loveliest like-minded people in Edmonton today. We all met at city hall and had a short ceremony to commemorate it. People read prayers/statements for peace from many world religions and we sang songs together. We even stood on the steps in the shape of a peace symbol. It was all very nice and, well, peaceful.

Nothing anyone said surprised me. It was so lovely, make no mistake, but I did feel that it was a little platitudinal. That’s a word I just made up today. It means, it was full of platitudes. Of course, we have to be the change we want to see in the world. Peace begins with me, definitely. I really don’t want to be disagreeable in this post. Public displays of intention are so important. And perhaps they aren’t the place to get into the how. But I can’t resist — so I’ll do that here (platitude-free).

We fall into a trap if we think that peace is simple. Choosing the non-violent solution, every time, is complicated. It’s tricky. It requires us to be aware of what makes us mad and then, before we can take any angry action, to write a new ending and flawlessly act it out. This is not easy, not even for those of us who are working on being aware of what makes us tick. It’s tricky coming up with a peaceful solution. It’s complicated and messy, although no more messy than violent solutions. Choosing nonviolence still leads to casualties — your ego, your pride, your wallet, perhaps. It is not simple, and in a world where a simpler life is almost worshiped, complexity, and therefore nonviolence, is undesirable. Getting mad is simpler! Being aware and maintaining ears that listen and a desire to understand others is a difficult and multi-faceted enigma. Life is complicated, and so is nonviolence.

There will always be differences between us. There will always be reasons — even good ones — to fight against someone different than ourselves. We simply have to find a way to rise above the differences and accept each other. We need to love and accept ourselves to do this, of course, but doing that alone is not enough. We have to take action, or non-action depending on the situation, with the ultimate goal of peace. Sometimes, we have to focus on de-escalating the situation. We have to face angry people and not add to their anger. We must consistently look for ways to build each other up instead of tear each other down.

Let me give you an example of a messy, non-obvious peaceful solution. One spring, my cousin contacted us and said that she and her husband had booked a bulldozer to come and knock down all the trees on the 19 acres adjacent to our land. She hoped it would not bother our animals, and that was that. The bulldozer was coming, sometime in the next five days. We were devastated. We loved those trees! I grew up exploring that bush and loved it dearly. It was valuable habitat for deer, porcupines and skunks, not to mention birds and squirrels and countless other critters. It was a valuable wind break, shielding us from the harshest north winds. My husband I were outraged, overwhelmed and felt completely helpless to stop it. For about an hour.

Somehow, I was able to stop villainizing my cousin and start thinking straight again. Why were they doing this? They valued farm land more than bush land. They wanted to turn the bush into arable land, probably because they had such large farm payments. They were feeling the pressure of making their big mortgage payments. So, we offered them the radical, messy, nonviolent bulldozer-less solution: we offered to rent those acres of bush, at the rate of farm land, each and every year, to help them make their payments and just because we wanted to. No bulldozer required. They would be making as much money off that land than if they had gone through the years of work it takes to clear the land. We could go for walks without feeling like we were trespassing, and put horses on that land or whatever we liked. It was a win-win solution! I was so thrilled they agreed.

You may be thinking, “how is paying a big bill every year win-win?” I don’t see it as a big bill at all. When the land was divided in the first place, that bush should have been included in our section. But it wasn’t — we didn’t think we could afford such a large piece of land, so we left it out. So, we rent instead of paying a MUCH larger mortgage. See, it’s still win-win. πŸ™‚ This is my favourite example of a non-traditional nonviolent solution, and it just came to me out the blue sky — once I was calm enough to receive it. Some people would see it as ridiculous — to pay prime rates for less-than-prime land — but it really is a fabulous solution.

The nonviolent solution often means thinking outside the box. You may have to really stretch to understand the person you feel like fighting with. It might cost something — your time, your attention, your pride or even a bit of money — but all our actions cost us something if you really think about it. The peaceful answer may feel completely foreign to you. It might be a huge change and something you can’t imagine any rational person doing. Try it out.

Yes, we need to be serene down to our core to affect the world, but we also need to be peace-lovers and take non-conflictual action. I think I just made up another word! Non-conflictual!

So, throughout this season of nonviolence (until April 4), let’s all keep our eye out for those unexpected, nonviolent solutions and actions. After April 4, go back to your old ways — just kidding! πŸ™‚ Some random acts of kindness would be awesome, too.

Love you all! If you have an example of a bulldozer-stopping example of a nonviolent solution, leave a comment! πŸ™‚

Welcome 2018, Farewell 2017

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What a year it has been! There are so many highlights I want to share with you!

Farm stuff

The day we got Ziggy and Boeing! I can’t believe that was less than a year ago. I feel like we’ve had them forever!

We got our well fixed back in spring, on the first warm day! It was a big event, and we were so grateful when it was done and the pump wasn’t spraying water all over the inside of the pump shack any more. Darren made a fancy thermostat to control the heater in the pump shack, so it will never get below zero in there again. And we can check the temp any time, because he also made a wifi temperature sensor.

Shearing day! It’s always a big event. I got spit on by Uki, and my arm was GREEN and STINKY until I washed it. After 5 minutes.

Alex was born! What a cutie! So spunky and healthy! We named him Alex to remember his sister, Allie, that passed away a year ago.

Alex is getting so big! πŸ™‚

Travel


Total Solar Eclipse – We had such an awesome trip to Idaho to see the total solar eclipse! πŸ™‚

Cambodia – In November, I went to Cambodia for 8 days to visit a friend and be a tourist. It was amazing. I really should blog about it!

Personally

Music – I continue to play in a band once a month at the Centre for Spiritual Living, which I love. Singing and playing is so fulfilling for me, and I’ve been getting a bit more bold in my song choices. My keyboard playing is getting better too! I love it, and I play with such great people. I really feel blessed.

Writing and Publishing – I’ve been writing like a fiend this year! Just not blogging (sorry about that)! πŸ™‚ I finished writing 4 tiny books, and just this month, I’ve finished all the layout and publishing tasks to self-publish 3 of them with lulu.com! I still need to finish the 4th one. This is another thing that I absolutely love doing! It’s so fun and fulfilling, and I can’t wait to get my books out to the world! πŸ™‚

I feel like I’ve had such a great year! I was grateful much of the time, and was able to help some friends going through tough times and not get carried away by their grief or anger. I took a couple of self-development classes this year; I learned how to do Heart Math and I do it all the time. It’s such a helpful tool for regulating one’s emotions and creating more resiliency. In the second class, I learned more about Ernest Holmes and all that he stood for. It was also an excellent class and I enjoyed every minute of the reading and the class discussions.

I wish everyone such a happy, amazing, phenomenal 2018. May you grow in love and be surrounded by joy, peace, creative activities, and time for all the things you enjoy.

Boeing… Isn’t he handsome?! πŸ˜›

Solar Eclipse Awesomeness

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Solar Eclipse Animated map
On Monday, Aug 21, Darren and I got to see the eclipse that went across North America! We had been planning it for months, and our trip went really extraordinarily well.
We decided to take the Pathfinder and drive down. Although it has over 400,000 km on it, it’s still the best when it comes to 4X4-ing… and we wanted to keep that option open in case there was an eclipsopolis! You know what I mean, right? A zillion people in a small space, all trying to see the sky for a few minutes on a certain day in August! It could have been a formula for disaster — and I gather some towns were totally overrun — but we ended up in a really nice, remote spot.

Here’s a map of the general area. We had set our sights on Idaho:
WesternStatesEclipse

On the way there, we saw some neat stuff! At The Bomber Command Museum in Nanton, AB, we saw a Lancaster bomber!

We continued through southern Alberta and took the Crowsnest Pass into BC. I had never been that way before and it was quite lovely — definitely the easiest pass through the Rockies. πŸ™‚
In Montana, we found the area around Flathead Lake (named after a native tribe) particularly beautiful:

At the south end of Flathead Lake is the town of Poulson. We drove through and stayed at the Gaynor Ranch not far from there. The guest rooms were all booked, so we stayed in a tipi!

The staff there were great, and we had a nice time, but we left early to get into the zone of totality and find a camping spot.
Our Plan A was to go to Cascade, ID, but the highway to it was closed due to forest fires. We found this out before we left Alberta. So Plan B was Stanley, ID. Apparently, a lot of other people had that idea too, and the town was throwing a big party. Along the way, we stopped along the Salmon river for a break, and met a man who suggested we camp with others along highway 93 in Idaho. There is no town nearby, but that didn’t matter to us, since we were prepared for remote camping. We had planned to get in to one of the many National Forests and take advantage of their policy of “dispersed camping” that allows people to camp wherever, as long as they stay close to their vehicle.
South of the town of Challis in the middle of nowhere, we came upon this:

Once through the rocks, we got into a wide valley and found the Challis National Forest to camp in! But where are the TREES?!?

There were some up in the hills, actually, but the sign looks so funny there! You can see Borah Peak, Idaho’s highest peak, in the background of this next shot (first peak from the left):

Several people were climbing the mountain to try to watch the eclipse from the peak. I wonder how many made it? We stayed up late the night before the eclipse and saw lots of headlamps of people part way up. I don’t know if there were actively climbing all night long, which doens’t sound wise to me, or if they were just hanging out on the steep slope waiting for the sun to come up.

So, there we were in central Idaho, in the zone of totality with a neat little area to camp. In 1983 there had been an earthquake and the valley floor had dropped and left a visible fault line. There was a sign along the highway and a little fenced off area and interpretive signs about the earthquake. There were already a few people camping out of vans and truck box campers.
It was a wide, arid valley between two mountain ranges. The only vegetation was sage brush and small yellow flowers. There were no bugs, birds or other wildlife, so it was a little weird. We decided to camp right by the earthquake interpretive area with the others although we had the option to spread out nearly anywhere. Many people did that, proving that if you try hard enough, even in a total solar eclipse in the US, you can be alone if you really want to!

Here’s a shot of the crowds on the morning of the eclipse! πŸ˜‰

Here’s a shot from Google Earth of where we watched the eclipse from:
eclipse spot

This was the morning of the eclipse — a little smoky but not too bad. You can see the interpretive signs on the left and our picnic table in the middle.

We met such nice people there! They had come from all over the US and there was another couple from Alberta there, too. They really helped to make the experience special. After the eclipse, our new friend Dave played the bagpipes.

I didn’t focus on taking photos of the eclipse. It was so short! I had read a website that warned against being consumed with photography instead of simply enjoying the eclipse. It was P H E N O M E N A L! So amazing.
This is basically what I looked like, I’m sure! (Photo from here.)

The sun is blocked by the moon. It sounds so simple, but is it so beautiful, it is mind-blowing. The corona is so striking, and the entire sky is so neat. It wasn’t totally black, unlike some photos you may have seen online, but instead, a deep twilight. There was a sunset on all horizons. But the corona is really what makes it so amazing. I am having a hard time finding words for how striking the whole thing is!

And, in 2 minutes 8 seconds, it was over. Wow.

We relaxed for a while while the sun returned, and took down our tent. We didn’t want to be stuck in traffic, so we lingered. Eventually, we made our way back into Montana where we had supper with the bagpiper Dave and his sweetie, and camped at his brother’s place. We visited other new friends in Poulson the next day and then camped near Glacier International Park. We drove the “Going to the Sun” road through the park the next day. It was a combination of great views, crazy heights, narrow roads and no guard rails!

It was such an amazing trip. I’m so glad we did it! I’m glad the weather held out for us, and that we met such nice people and had a phenomenal time.

Did you see the eclipse that day? Leave a comment with your eclipse experience!

Alex the Alpaca Video

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Enjoy this adorable video of Alex, just a couple of days old, running around!

Alex the Alpaca from Darren Griffith on Vimeo.

Previous post introducing Alex

Alex the Alpaca

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Hi all,

I can’t believe what a busy summer it has been! Our Miss Uki had her baby WEEKS ago, and I haven’t had a chance to blog about it!

He is a real cutie! In this photo, he is only hours old (still looking a little stunned at how bright and noisy the world is)!

He knew right away where the milk was!

He would drink and rest, drink and rest that first day! We decided to name him Alex. I don’t know why — he just seemed like one!

Alpacas are so cute when the lay flat-out! They all do it from time to time — except Miss Uki. She is the momma and she doesn’t seem to rest that much!

The boys are doing well, too! We have some tall grass on our land, and they sometimes to eat it or hide in it!

And, of course, on a hot day, Fozzie is still loves to go in the pool!

Fozzie is Alex’s papa, and we are starting to see that perhaps personality is passed on, too! Alex LOVES to run now (since he was a day old!) and he will even pester Daisy, his older sister, to play with him. He bumps into her, interrupting her grazing, to try and get her to run with him. He is such a funny guy! Just like his papa.

I’ll try post more photos soon, but who knows!? Life is busy. Today we leave for the US to watch the eclipse on Monday! I am so excited — I can’t wait.