Remembrance Day

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I did Remembrance Day a day early this year. I was invited to sing with the One Voice Choir in Edmonton, and we performed a medley of 2 songs for the No Stone Left Alone ceremony.
Although it wasn’t exactly like other Remembrance Day ceremonies I’ve been to, there were definitely some similarities. Dignitaries were announced as they walked in (I wonder why they do that? Maybe because in Elizabethan England people would whisper, “who is that? Who’s that with him?” so they started announcing people as they came in to reduce the whispering. It’s just a theory). People held flags. A man in uniform played the trumpet. There were speeches, generally boring and filled with cliches. They go something like this:
To [important person #1], [important person #2], [important person #3], [important person #4]… (until all “important people” in attendance have been listed). We are gathered here today to [insert cliche #1], [insert cliche #2], [insert cliche #3]. (They then proceed to say mostly boring, socially expected things and ramble on for their allotted time. Honestly, my mind wanders after a bit and I usually get sidetracked wondering what strange situation spawned the cliches in the first place.)
I don’t mean to slam all tradition; I know it is important. But,

Here is what I would like to say, on this Remembrance Day.


To the men and women currently serving in any capacity in our armed forces: Thank you.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I’m pretty sure you’re not doing it for the money or the fame. So, in whatever motivates you, may there be lots of it. Again, thank you.

To the families of those who serve in our military: Thank you.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Thank you for living with uncertainty, facing your fears daily, and for all the unseen and unknown hardships that you go through. I’ll never know what it’s truly like for you, and all I can humbly say is thank you.

To the families who have lost their loved one(s) in the line of duty: Thank you.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
May you have all the support you need. May you never feel alone. May you feel the gratitude your whole country has for the difficulties you have had to face. May you feel as much peace, hope, and optimism as you possibly can. May you remember that your loved one contributed to a good cause, and died in the prime of his/her life doing what he/she loved.

To the wounded soldiers who return to us, whether wounded physically or emotionally: Thank you.
Thank you.
Thank you.
Thank you.
May you have all the support you need. May you never feel alone. May you feel the gratitude of your whole country for the difficulties you have had to face. May you feel as much peace, hope and optimism as you possibly can. May you rediscover how to thrive, how to live a full life, and how to enjoy the freedom you helped to create.
Thank you.

To all those hearing these words, shake the hand of a uniformed person today, and tell them you appreciate them. Hug your loved ones and tell them you appreciate them. Stand and clap with me, if you agree.

[ thunderous applause ]

Dreaming of a Tiny House

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I am tired of walking 20 steps to get from the kitchen to the bedroom. I know, it’s a horrible first-world problem; people elsewhere have had their houses blown away by typhoons, crumbled by earthquakes, or wrecked by hurricanes. So, I have a lot to be grateful for — I love my house! — but I sometimes do feel my house is too big. I’m sure it’s a sign…

What’s it a sign of? It’s a sign that my innocent fascination with tiny houses, and tiny house-school-buses, has grown into something more. I think we are actually going to do something about it!

Originally, I started looking at tiny houses because of working away from home. Sure, I’ve been lucky to find good places to live, but I thought if it did not last and I wanted to have my own little haven to come home to. I also wanted it to be mobile, so I could camp out at the airport at times or in town at times. I started some surfing the web like a maniac. I did a LOT of research online, and started drawing up possible floor plans. I used to design houses all the time when I was a kid/teenager — it’s a wonder I never went into architecture.

I wanted to find some old sketches from when I was a kid, but that’s going to take a little searching. But here are some scribbly sketches I’ve done in the past couple of years:

12-foot long tiny houses... top sketch is all one level, lower one has stairs leading up to a loft
12-foot long tiny houses… top sketch is all one level, lower one has stairs leading up to a loft

Thinking about roof lines, and what you need in a tiny house
Thinking about roof lines, and what you need in a tiny house

Two very different layouts of a 15-foot long tiny house, with a hip roof
Two very different layouts of a 15-foot long tiny house, with a hip roof

Then, I saw a school bus RV conversion, only the people lived in it! Brilliant! So, then I started researching school buses like a maniac, and I even found a cheap one on kijiji I was considering buying. Imagine taking an old bus and turning it into something like this!
converted school bus
So lovely, and their blog is very nice, too!

It is just so much fun to dream of this stuff, and even more fun to make plans. Even if those plans never come true, who cares? I enjoy it!

But, it looks like it might not be just a dream anymore. For starters, I realized the other day that our spare room is about the size of many tiny houses! It would be very workable, in particular if we subtract the bathroom element and just use the house’s bathroom. Bathrooms, and plumbing in general, can be tricky in tiny houses! I mean, I’ve seen showers that were only 2 feet wide — that is awfully skinny even for a skinny person. I’m pretty sure I’d hit my elbows on the sides a lot. And how do you install a waste water tank below the floor? In Canada, it has to be inside the house so it won’t freeze. Gravity-fed plumbing requires a tank up high, otherwise you need a pump… so overall, plumbing is definitely not trivial.

So, here’s my plan: I’m going to make a platform for the bed (which is a double mattress) and raise it up, like the bunk beds people buy their kids. Sometimes, they have a desk below the bed, or whatever. I am going to put a couch or comfy chair below the bed, and my dresser. I’m going to make sure that I can still sit up in bed, and that the window in the room will not be blocked. I’ll have a small counter for a kitchenette — probably just a toaster oven, and maybe a bin for a sink… or maybe I’ll buy a sink and install it with a pail below to catch the water. I should probably add some shelves for plates, bowls, and mugs. Clothes in the closet, and books on a shelf. What else does a person really need? :) Oh ya, space for yarn!

I’m really looking forward to it, to playing tiny house inside the main house. I will have about 85 square feet (11’4″ x 7’6″), which is pretty small by tiny house standards — anything less than 100 square feet is considered “micro!” Tiny house people have such a great sense of humour! But, since I won’t be totally self-sufficient (no bathroom contained), I am definitely cheating a little. And my ceiling isn’t as high as most tiny houses, so the space below the bed will be a bit short — sitting down space only. Which should be fine! Everyone needs somewhere to sit. I’ve thought about making a fold-up bed that can be stowed during the day, but for now, I think I’ll stick to the platform. I love the idea of creatively using the space you have.

I will be sure to post some photos when I’m done! It’s going to be a while before I can get to it — I have to wait for winter. There is still a LOT of outdoor work on the farm that we need to do to prepare for winter! It’s a little overwhelming, but we are finding some people to help and it’s coming along!

Roof Walking

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I felt like a bit of an astronaut a few days ago. Darren and I were doing some much-needed roofing on the main barn. When my grandpa built it in 1957 or so, they used wooden shingles. Can you imagine nailing one shingle down at a time? Over the years the wooden shingles have been drying out and getting smaller and smaller as they age, so the roof leaks. My dad started replacing the roof with tin, which is a fantastic roofing material, but he didn’t quite finish.

We have two panels 3 feet wide to do, plus three small areas that are odd shapes. Earlier in the summer, I went up and did a little work removing the last of the wooden shingles, but it’s unnerving. Because it’s so high, and so steep, it’s really hard to work. There are no good hand/foot holds, and when you constantly feel like you’re going to slip off, you can’t really do anything. Plus, with nowhere to brace yourself, you can’t really put any muscle into anything you do!

So, my safety-bear of a husband attached 2 solid anchor points by installing heavy-duty hooks from the inside of the hayloft. Once we had those, he googled how to make a rope safety harness and bought rope. So, now, we have a way to anchor ourselves so that we don’t have to worry about falling to our deaths. Don’t mean to sound melodramatic, but it would be quite a fall…

view from roof

The other night we finally got the perfect night to go up there and install those last pieces, so we set about cutting them and getting everything ready. Ladder, check. Ropes, check. Extension cord, check (we were using an electric drill/screwdriver). Special grippy footwear (Vibrams), check. One at a time, we climbed the ladder with our small pieces of tin, drill and harnesses — with tool belts attached. We clicked into our safety lines, but we couldn’t just walk around up there — the roof was too slippery even with the grippy footwear, so we switched to bare feet. How odd to be safety-minded in bare feet! No steel-toed footwear here! But the sweat on our feet was the best grip-enhancer of all. So, we got to work.


We installed a small, simple piece easily enough, and then moved on to a harder one that required one of us to go onto the very top part of the roof. Darren climbed up there, checking out the 2 small patch-pieces that needed to be added, and then a thought occurred to me: we only have one ladder. What if we somehow knocked it down? We’d be stuck on the roof! Neither one of us had our phones! So, for all our planning, and safety, we had forgotten a pretty major one. So, I put my Vibrams back on and went to get a back-up ladder. It was just around the corner, leading into the hayloft. So, with the second ladder in place, we decided to try install a big piece of tin.

Unfortunately, the last piece my Dad had installed had a gash in it, so we had to take that one off and install one of our newly-cut pieces in its place. So, we’ll have to cut one more another day. I climbed down again and got the piece, which we had washed earlier to get the spruce needles and general grime off. The piece was just over 3 feet wide by 99″ long (8’3″) and although it was not overly heavy, it was awkward. I managed to carry it in one hand and go up the ladder. Once on the roof, I got to put it down while Darren positioned himself. When he was ready, I had to bring the piece over to the upper roof and lift it up about chest-high, so we could slide it into position. This sounds so easy but was in reality so hard! I needed to use both hands, and each of my feet were only gripping onto one screw of the roof I was standing on!

the barn-2

A few minutes later, when I was standing on the upper ladder (sorry to confuse you, there are a a lot of ladders involved!), giving direction and encouragement to Darren, it hit me: this is like spacewalking. Astronauts on a spacewalk are tethered to the vehicle they emerged from; we were tethered, too. All an astronaut’s tools are tethered to them; ours were all attached to our tool belts or tied to the roof itself. Astronauts have no friction in space, and so they have to grip with their hands or have their feet anchored in order to apply muscle; same for us. Astronauts have to plan every move carefully and work in teams; so did we.

Now, I can’t say I have a more profound thing to say than this: It was cool, for an little while on a roof, to play astronaut. In another time, another life, I might have been one… but the top of the roof will have to do for me!

Saltwater Joys – Product Review

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A friend of mine, Robin, started her own business last year! She makes, by hand, gorgeous, organic products like moisturizer, sunscreen and such. I am a bit a of a “junkie” for her stuff, so I thought I would do a product review here to tell you all about it!
Here are the items I have bought:
Saltwater Joys products

Scrumptious Body Whip

SWJ - Scrumptious body whip-2
Let’s start with Scrumptious, which is sort of Robin’s signature product. I don’t know exactly how she makes it, but I gather she whips the coconut oil and all the other ingredients until they are gorgeously fluffy.
SWJ - Scrumptious body whip-4
Because it’s made with coconut oil, you have to be careful not to let it get too warm! I was showing mine to my friend Angela and left it on the kitchen table on the hottest day of the year… so it melted a bit and now it isn’t quite as fluffy/bubbly/frothy! But it is still gorgeous!
SWJ - Scrumptious body whip-3Now, let me tell you why I love it. It is so smooth going on, it basically melts onto your skin. The vanilla beans she puts in makes it smell amazing! The main reason I got it was because I was having trouble with dry, itchy spots of skin — some on my face, some on my scalp. I started using Scrumptious on my face and just loved how it felt. There was no way I would react to it — like I do to other “creams” — and it really soothes my skin! I gather that not everyone can use coconut oil on their face, but Scrumptious is gorgeous for hands, arms or legs, too! And feet!
I would say if you have any kind of problem skin, you really should try it! She takes orders through her Facebook page.

Bella Bath Scrub

SWJ - Bella bath scrub
Bella Bath Scrub is a great alternative to store-bought stuff. It is made with coconut oil and himalayan and epsom salts, so it soothes, moisturizes and scrubs at the same time! As you can see from the label, I’ve used mine quite a bit! It’s amazing how nice my skin feels afterwards.
SWJ - Bella bath scrub-2
My only tiny complaint is that it’s really hard to get out of the jar! It’s very thick and I have to scrape it out with my fingernail. I am thinking of getting a little spoon to dig it out with! :) I have a friend in the construction business, and he just scoops it out with 3 fingers and rubs it all over! He loves it.

Breathe Easier!

SWJ - breathe easier
SWJ - breathe easier-2
One day, Robin was looking at the ingredients in Vick’s Vapo-rub — the stuff you rub on your chest or nose to ease congestion. There were some seriously sketchy ingredients in there — long chemical names, not good for ingestion — so she decided to make a natural version! She used coconut oil and Eucalyptus and Peppermint! That oughta clear out your sinuses!
I haven’t had occasion to use it yet, but it smells awesome and I love that it doesn’t have any chemicals in it. I mean, wouldn’t the essential oils be more effective anyway? And to think people put the chemical-laden stuff on their kids!!

Lemon Lavender Deodorant

SWJ - deodorant
SWJ - deodorant-2
I’ve been using natural deodorant for quite a while. If you’re one of my blog followers, you know I love being a natural woman! :) After I saw it on this webpage, I made a batch of powdered deodorant and have been using it since! However, powdering my armpits is sometimes a pain, and the jar I keep the powder in is not very portable for when I travel. So, Robin’s deodorant is a great product! It’s the same thing but in a cream form. It works great, and smells very nice with the lemon and lavender! I think she makes another “flavour” too — Citrus bliss peppermint. I am going to have to try that one!
For anyone nervous about using non-store-brand deodorant, don’t be! It honestly works great. You just rub a little on your underarms and go about your day!
I am trying to give you all a good, fair review, so the only “bad” thing I can say again is that once, when camping, I left it in a hot tent. Oops. It kinda melted and went sideways in the jar. However, I bet store-bought deodorant would have melted too in that tent! It was HOT! (If you look closely at the top photo, you can see how it is sideways! :P


SWJ - Sunscreen
I had no idea that you could make natural sunscreen until I heard that Saltwater Joys was selling it. Robin did some serious research here, to find out what oils have the highest natural SPF. Raspberry seed oil? I had never heard of it! But it’s one of the ingredients, because it has a natural SPF from 28-50 (depending on the quality of the oil). She has also added carrot-infused oil because, you guessed it, it’s got a great SPF too. Now, those aren’t the only 2 ingredients, so you can’t treat this sunscreen like it’s got an SPF of 28-50, however, I used it a couple of times when I was working outside and it was great for me!
SWJ - Suncreen-2
I couldn’t believe how nice it was going on. It was smooth and smelled so nice — I bought the citronella version — and made my skin feel so soft. Store-bought sunscreen is so often oily, and although Saltwater Joys’ products use oil, they aren’t oily, somehow. It’s one of nature’s mysteries, I guess!
Overall, if you were going to the beach in Mexico or Australia, I might not recommend it. It might not quite have enough SPF. However, I did not burn using it in Canada on those hot days in July. (Remember those?) :)

Just a side note: The sunscreen is not really green! The jar lids in all my pictures look blueish because they are reflecting the blue sky outside, and so that blue-tint has also turned the sunscreen a bit of green colour. To me, it looks yellow in real life — I think it’s the citronella that does that! :) Sunscreen that also repels mosquitoes — hell, yeah!

So, go check out the Saltwater Joys Facebook page to see the latest products and make an order (just post on her page)! September’s products are spicy and pumpkiny! Oh man. I am going to have to order some!
I love supporting individuals and small, local businesses, and frankly, I kinda enjoy giving a thumbs-down to the big pharma companies that make things out of chemicals and label them natural. Not cool, guys. If you have any kind of problem skin, you have to try Scrumptious! It’s amazing.
Have a great day, everybody! To those following my blog, thanks! :)

Every Day, a New Hair Adventure

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In early April, I stumbled upon some articles on the internet about washing one’s hair without shampoo. Many people use baking soda and apple cider vinegar (abbreviated ACV), but I also found some sites discussing the hazards of that — the extreme pH differences can hurt the hair. Then I found this site about washing with water only and it intrigued me. It made sense to allow one’s natural oils to condition the hair, rather than stripping it with shampoo and then adding the oils back in, artificially, with conditioner. So, let me tell you the end result of this experiment!

I love my hair! As many of you know, I enjoy being “a natural woman,” and this new hair regime suits me. It might not suit everyone, but for many, I’d say it’s worth a try. If you like perfectly-coifed hair, this might not be for you, because I do find that sometimes my hair behaves unexpectedly! Water-only washing is especially recommended for naturally curly hair, but I don’t actually have curl, just cowlicks — and sometimes, it gets pretty licky!

best shampooThere is an initial oily stage that everyone has to go through. There are webpages out there that give hints on how to get through this stage gracefully. Since I was already washing only every second day and using a great tea-tree and peppermint-oil shampoo, I found that it did not take very long to get through this stage (3 weeks perhaps). I put my hair up lots and I don’t think people noticed very much.

After that, I went through a strange waxy stage, where I felt like I had helmet-head. Other women have commented on this on the internet, too. My hair was ridiculously thick and felt like I had something like styling wax in it. All over. Not good. I mean, it looked fine, but I could have made dreadlocks so easily. A quick google found the answer — lemon-juice rinse or “shampoo” with an egg. I did both, and it worked beautifully. Actually, on those super-hot days, I put lemon and water in a spray bottle and squirted my head from time to time… so the lemon spray kept me cool AND gave me highlights!

So, how is my hair different? The pro’s: it’s thicker, feels really healthy and has way more body than it used to. As mentioned, it has more “curl” than ever, which is sometimes frustrating, but should not be surprising, since my hair always has been easy to curl. The con’s: My hair gets staticky sometimes for no apparent reason. I can usually get it to stay down by dampening it. Speaking of wet, when I blow-dry it, sometimes I can’t tell if it’s dry or not. It feels thick, so I think it’s wet, but it isn’t. All things considered, I would definitely not go back to the normal way of washing and conditioning! I am intrigued by soap nuts, so I may try them some day, but I have no idea where to buy them.

howtowraphairbrushNow, here’s a pro-tip if you decide to try this: when your hair feels (or looks) a bit oily but you don’t want to wash it (or don’t have time), wrap cotton yarn around your hair brush and use that. This was key to my success! Some people recommend using a boar hair brush to absorb and distribute the oils throughout the hair, but I didn’t like it. The bristles are too bendy for me, and I found that cotton absorbed the oil fabulously and I could replace it whenever I wanted so my brush never got icky. I use the same cotton yarn that people use to make knitted wash cloths — you can buy it in lots of places — and I just wrap it around the brush, through the bristles (see photo at right).

This page says that the more you use shampoo, the more you need it, because it strips the natural oils so much, your scalp produces that much more. This makes so much sense to me! And this reinforces something else I recently realized: hair dye makes your hair go grey faster, therefore you need to buy more of it and are soon hooked! Grey hair is caused by a build up of hydrogen peroxide at the root, and what’s the main ingredient in most hair dye? Hydrogen peroxide. Have a look at this article. I guess it isn’t surprising! Hair colour, like so many things in this world, is meant to cover up a problem, not prevent it. So, let’s not be trusting the fashion industry, drug stores, or anything commercial, when it comes to health or beauty advice!!

If you are interested in trying the water-only method, google it, or try this site. And be prepared to give it a good, hearty try — not just a week or two. I think 2 months is needed to really let your scalp settle. You may even want to start in fall (how about now? :) ) — summer is perhaps NOT the best time, as the heat can make the oily stage worse. Also, you need to use hot water, and on a hot day, who wants a HOT shower?

water-only washed hairI have my really good shampoo on standby if I get really dirty or dusty — my absolute favourite is in the photo near the beginning of this post. And remember, it’s not that I don’t wash my hair! It’s just that I don’t use detergent. I just use water!

Earth-Friendly Coffee

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I wonder if Jim Henson — or whoever did the writing for the Kermit character on the Muppets — realized how popular Kermit’s line “it isn’t easy being green” would become! In particular, it resonates with those of us who’d like to have less impact on this planet we live on. I’ve been thinking of ways that I might be able to make a difference, and of course a small difference in something I do every day adds up to a big difference over time.

Take coffee, for instance. For so many of us, it’s a daily routine of brewing, or driving to get our favourite liquid addiction. I’m not even sure it’s as much about the caffeine as it is the sugar — coffee is an excellent sugar-delivery system! In any case, coffee is something we do a LOT of, so I wonder if we could do it more sustainably?

First up, paper cups. Where I work, we have ceramic cups available, but hardly anyone uses them! Why not? I think we’ve just gotten used to paper cups with plastic lids, and a paper sleeve if it’s really hot, but honestly, a reusable ceramic cup is so much better. Everyone knows that styrofoam cups are the worst (although I believe it’s now illegal to use CFCs in their production), but paper cups are lined with plastic. A true paper-only cup would be like a Dixie cup and wouldn’t hold up to coffee very well at all. So, although the cups can be composted, they don’t do it well and we may be introducing microplastic into the environment, which no one wants to do. So, I have been making an effort to use an ordinary ceramic coffee cup or my stainless steel tea thermos whenever possible. :) Just a tiny bit of water and they are clean and ready to go again! Think of how many times a ceramic cup can be reused. A million times!

K-cups. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s noticed how wasteful they are! They are meant to reduce waste in brewed coffee — instead of making a pot and then pouring a bunch down the drain when no one drinks it, use a K-cup (or Tassimo, same thing)! But rather than one large container of coffee grounds, which we scooped out of, we now have many small plastic containers going into the trash! Is a little coffee down the drain really so terrible? Compared to the garbage we are producing in astronomical amounts? I mean, you can take them apart and send the plastic only to the recycling, but if you’re not at home, are you going to do this? Not likely. Although this nifty tool might help: You can buy a reusable K-cup that you can put your own coffee into, and I think that is an excellent option!

And the company that got me thinking about all this? One Coffee!

one coffee-box-1

90% biodegradable sounds more like it, and their website says they are now at 99% biodegradable! And Fair Trade, too!

one coffee-box-2

one coffee packets

The pods are individually wrapped, but I still think it’s better. The bottom pod is made of the a thin coffee-filter material, rather than plastic!
one coffee pod

And after brewing one, this is what it looks like. No mess!

one coffee pod after

I love to see companies coming up with cool solutions to problems. Here’s another one: Lafarge is burning K-cups and then using the ash in cement mix. That’s one way to keep K-cups out of the trash!

Alpaca Lovin’

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We had a little excitement the other day — hell, we had an alpaca porn show! It started when I went out after sundown to close the barn for Uki and Daisy (the momma and baby — and baby alpacas are called crias), and I thought I saw something black in the barn with them… sure enough, it was Fozzie! He had somehow gotten out of his corral and was in the barn with the two females! Little bugger! Well, little did I know, the “buggering” was just beginning!

I had to get him out again and try to wrangle him back into his corral. All the alpaca books (and breeders I’ve talked to) say that you need to keep the male out for about 2 weeks after a cria is born. So, I opened the gate to his corral and went back to try and separate him from the girls and all three got out of the barn. Hrmf. Well, no sooner were they out when Fozzie started trying to get on Uki. She did what any female alpaca in her position would do, I guess: she laid down on the ground and let him. They don’t do the wild deed stanging up, like horses or cows — they lay down. And I think I know why.

alpaca cave artIt takes forever! I had read in the alpaca book that it can last as long as 20 minutes, but I’m sure this was more like 45. Little bugger again, I said to myself! So, Daisy (the cria) and I just hung out, with the twilight fading and Fozzie sidling up and up and up onto Uki, and making the most crazy and amazing sounds! “Orgling” it’s called. It’s so strange someone had to make up a word to describe it! It’s like “oh baby, oh baby” in alpaca. Mixed in with strange gasping sounds. Apparently, it’s the combination of orgling and the male grasping the sides of the female with his front legs that makes the female ovulate. So, I think it worked! Way to go, buddy!

It was too dark to take a picture — plus, I didn’t want to leave Daisy unguarded in case any coyotes were around — so, I hope you enjoy this cave-art drawing (by me) of what it looked like. For 45 minutes. (There really should be more cave art in the world, don’t you think?)

The next day, I found the exact spot Fozzie must have jumped over the fence, little bugger. There was fresh broken wood, and Fozzie with a “what’s up?” look on his face kept visiting the spot. (I fixed it right away.)

Fozzie where he jumped

Now, we’ll know if it worked in a few more days when I let Fozzie back in again to visit Uki. If she spits at him and won’t lay down for him, it means she is pregnant. Isn’t it cool that she knows? I have never heard of an animal like that.

So, there you have it. Porn on the farm. Sex in the corral. Doin’ it, alpaca-style!

Oy, what a life I lead! :-)

Daisy photobomb
Daisy, only a few days old
(Thank you, Patricia, for the photo!)