animals

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!)

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The Baby’s Here!

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The day after I posted about getting the shearing done, and announced that our female alpaca was pregnant, she had her little one!! (It’s been so busy, sorry I didn’t get this posted until today!) Here she is, just minutes old:

Cria, just born
The first time we saw her — what a cutie! Wet and wobbly! (We totally missed the birthing process!)

cria, just born, resting

Baby alpacas are called cria. Here she is the first morning, peeking around her momma:
cria, first morning

On her second day, checking out the world!!
cria, day 2

And here she is on the third day! Don’t you think she’s getting bigger?!?
cria, day 3

cria, day 3, fast2

cria, day 3, fast

She is amazing! She is so perfect, and perfectly alpaca! She’s curious and she often came right up to us to check us out. Her momma would make a little noise — like a cross between a hum and a squeak — and call her baby back.

She is incredibly fast! She runs, but sometimes her back legs try to pass her, and it is the cutest thing! She’s still learning how to use her brakes. She has gorgeous eyes, eyelashes and the sweetest little nose. Every day, she is a little taller, and she’s so alert and curious. She was born with a lot of wool, so she’s fluffy and SO soft.

So, I’m madly reading a book all about alpacas, so I can learn all the finer points of raising them, but thankfully, it’s all been common sense so far. Well, common sense for me since I grew up with sheep, and I bounce things off of Mom and Dad when I need some validation.

This is going to be a great adventure!! Twice a day, we have a little alpaca rodeo when we put them in/out of their little barn. I’ll post more about that soon, and some more pictures!

Home on the Farm

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So, I’m finally going to update you, my lovely readers, on what is going on with me and my husband on the farm! Thanks for your patience!
This year, my parents decided to move off the farm and into town to officially retire. This is a huge step for them — they’ve lived in this one place for all their married life, which is over 40 years. My dad didn’t want to be one of those old farmers who just doesn’t know when to quit, so he has been downsizing for a few years and this year, they were ready to make the big move.
So, my husband and I decided to take over. Although I love the North, moving back to the farm I grew up had such appeal to me, I just couldn’t turn down the opportunity.
So, we did it! We packed up all our possessions, loaded them into the biggest truck that UHAUL rents, and moved south. What an insane week that was! It took two trips, seven days (with one rest day in the middle) and I think we logged something like 3200 km on that UHAUL!!
uhaul nearly full
We put our house on the market — our real estate agent came by to take photos WHILE we were starting to pack! She did an amazing job staging our home! For as long as this link works, you can see our listing here.
I don’t know how we accumulated so much stuff. It’s crazy. And we don’t need most of it, by far. I am seriously wanting to declutter and so as we unpacked, I started making up boxes of things to give away — I know, it seems like we did it in reverse, but my parents were anxious to move and not have the house on the farm empty for more than a couple of days. So, we moved in haste! Not the recommended way to move! On the first trip, we got away a bit later than planned — those last few things always take longer to load than you think — so we drove all night to get to our new home. We figured we might as well just git ‘er done!
Has living on the farm affected me yet, other than the pleasant rural slang? I don’t think so. I went through a frustrating stage where I couldn’t find anything. I went through an overjoyed stage, where I was like a kid playing on the yard! So glad for some time off, some sunshine (October was so lovely!), and so glad to be with my honey again!
Main barnThings have settled in a bit, and although I am still very grateful to be here, regular doses of reality keep me grounded. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have dreams! I have SO many ideas for things we can do on the farm! I want to convert one (or 2?) of the buildings here into a greenhouse, and fix fences and get some sheep to “mow” the grass, and maybe get some ducks and some more chickens (I only have two at the moment)… 🙂 There is a main barn, several graineries and other small buildings, and a milk house, garage, and large shop space all with wood stoves, and corrals and fences all over the place. I could go in a hundred different directions, but here’s what I think is the biggest, best idea:

I want to turn the farm into a “care farm.”

I want to have animals and a greenhouse that people can visit when they are not feeling well and they need to reconnect with nature. They might be fighting an illness or facing death, or recovering from a stressful incident. The farm will be a place they can go for a walk, see the sheep, cows, and chickens — maybe even rabbits!! — and enjoy the outdoors. Although this is the dream, I don’t have a detailed plan, so I’m really excited to see how it all unfolds!
Contact me if you’re interested in finding out more, or if you have an idea or a desire to help!
(Click for larger version of photos below.)
overview looking west
looking west in corral
big machinery
dugout
The bush behind the house
Sunset field

What the Caterpillars Taught Me

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A few weeks ago, Darren and I had the lovely task of teaching canoeing to a group of girl guides. Their leader seemed like a great lady over email, so we were both pretty excited to go and do it. It was at a location we had never been to, so we were anxious to see the lakefront and meet the girls. We were also wondering how bad the caterpillars were, since the events the last few weeks at that camp had been cancelled due to them. There is a major infestation around Peace River!

Forest Tent Caterpillar

We arrived a little while after the group did and met the leaders and a few of the girls. After scouting the lakefront, which was reedy and impossible to work with, we made plans to go to another part of the lake the next day for all the actual canoeing. I did some instructing before supper — talked about the parts of a canoe and some basics — whatever I could do prior to going on the water.

The leaders were busily getting supper ready and corralling the girls, so Darren and I decided to help out by getting the campfire going. It wasn’t long before we had a nice little fire. The girls were, for the most part, on free time, and they played tag, “mantracker” and other games. A few came over and wanted to poke at the fire. Well, it wasn’t long before they were gathering caterpillars on their sticks and putting them in the fire.

I now know what a witness to bullying feels like.

I didn’t know what to do. It’s not like the girls were hurting an endangered species, but it still didn’t sit right with me. I had been amazed at the caterpillars everywhere and had been gently sweeping them off the benches, only to have them crawl back on in five minutes. They truly were everywhere — we had to do caterpillar checks before climbing in the tent, to make sure we wouldn’t bring any in. They had decimated all the trees and were just waiting to die, I guess… but dying in a fire on the end of a stick was not their destiny. But why didn’t I say anything about how I felt?

I think part of my paralysis was because the girls had seemed so sweet. From all we could see, and in what we saw for the remainder of the weekend, they were nice girls! But somehow it was fun to them to burn the caterpillars and watch them wriggle in pain.

Darren and I talked amongst ourselves, but neither of us spoke up and said what we wanted to say: “stop it. Those caterpillars of living things, so let them live.” I half-heartedly said things about the yucky smell it made, and I said to a couple of them that that was enough, but I wasn’t their leader, and I didn’t assume a role of authority — I had only met them a couple of hours before — so they didn’t really listen.

When the leaders came over and saw what was happening, they put a quick end to it, and the girls listened and stopped. They respected their leaders (it wasn’t hard to see why, these ladies were amazing) so they obeyed. But I was stuck wondering why I hadn’t spoken up more.

All the while, I had been thinking “where are the leaders? This isn’t okay! This is caterpillar torture!” I know, you might think it is ridiculous, but I’m a softie for all living creatures. I have even been known to let mosquitoes live, if they are bouncing up against a window and clearly not interested in biting me. I strongly believe that whatever the creature, cruelty, be it in the form of bullying or torture, is not okay, and I think that most people would agree, at least in principle. But look at the form it takes in our society!

– In many places, it’s just “a given” that some people will receive better treatment/service than others.
– In many places, kids are unkind and sometimes even blatantly threatening to one another.
– All over the world, animals that are supposedly pets are mistreated, not fed, watered or exercised sufficiently.
– All over the world, animals that are our food source are not cared for properly and not butchered with any sense of compassion.
– In some places, wild animals are captured and put in tiny cages for our viewing pleasure (zoos).
– Animals that we deem “pests” are killed en masse, without remorse.

I could go on, obviously, but I don’t want this article to turn into a rant about what’s wrong with the world.

Where are the Leaders?

I wonder how much abuse happens because someone is sitting on the sidelines, like I was, saying “where are the leaders? This isn’t okay!” Well, I’ve decided that we are all leaders and if I ever catch myself thinking that again, I am going to find a way to speak up immediately. The longer I wait, the harder it is to say anything, so I am not going to hesitate. I am going to try my best not to care what other people will think, and speak up anyways. If there are others who feel the same as I do, I may decide to band together with them… hmmm, have to blog about that another time.

I guess in some ways, my mildly-held pacifist beliefs were tested that day. I don’t believe in trying to force others to do something, and I am not a fan of trying to convince someone to change either. I am much more in favour of letting people live their own lives, with the consequences of their actions, and just helping in obvious ways that make sense without getting preachy or pushy (for example, serving on the volunteer fire department). I guess that’s why I don’t generally participate in activist rallies — I don’t necessarily think they work to create change and it seems a bit like leaving one crowd to join another. I’m a free thinker, which sometimes means I don’t relate to others very well, but I am okay with that. When those caterpillars were being tortured, however, my pacifism became a trap, and I felt like a mouse on a sticky pad — unable to move, unable to respond, unable to speak.

So, I’ve got to find a better model for intervening — pacifism might not be for me, and ordinary activism doesn’t quite fit either. Righteous indignation only works if you can pull off “righteous” or “indignant,” and I don’t do either very well! As usual, all the really effective ways of being true to myself are complex and can’t be labelled or summed up in a few quick words.

Ultimately, I think the main reason I didn’t stop the caterpillar torture was because I was too concerned with what others would think of my beliefs. I know they aren’t match up with mainstream society — most people would happily kill caterpillars! — and I was more concerned with conforming than being true to myself. Not being a weirdo. I was raised a weirdo, you know. We belonged to a “cult,” according to regular society. Perhaps now that I seem normal (those who know me, know I’m far from it!! :), I don’t want to be weird again. But what the heck! Isn’t weird the new cool? Well, it is for me!

I wonder if it would work to say, in a bullying circumstance, “you cannot do that around me. Now that I am here, you will have to stop what you are doing or leave.” Spoken calmly and clearly, I think it might work, and it might be the best way, for me, to be true to myself and speak up. I wonder if bullying in schools would decrease if teachers were able to act like real leaders, rather than being afraid to speak out because of the power parents and principals hold over them. Could one stop bullying single-handedly at school by intervening gently but firmly, so that all those kids paralyzed on sticky pads aren’t saying “where are the teachers? This isn’t okay!” (I’d love it if some of my teacher friends and followers weighed in on this!)

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Touch Me!

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A dear friend of mine got her dog from a shelter once. I don’t know the whole story, but I gather he was taken there because he wasn’t wanted, and this might have been because he was deaf. It wasn’t a big problem actually, and the dog adapted really well since hearing isn’t a dog’s major sense. When she wanted its attention at home, my friend would stomp her feet and the dog would turn to her, and she’d do simple sign language with it. When she took him for walks, she would take a few wieners along in a baggie. She’d go to the edge of town, where there was a huge field, and let him off the leash. When it was time to go back home, or if she wanted his attention for any reason, she’d just take a wiener out of the baggie and waggle it — the dog would come running! Wieners have such a strong smell, he smelled them instantly, even from a distance. It worked better than yelling works for people with normal dogs, and it did so because a dog’s primary sense is smell.

In contrast, a cat’s primary sense is hearing.Eddie If you want to get a cat’s attention — although you may never get its obedience! — make an unusual sound. Words don’t work very well, as cats don’t have a verbal center in their brains, but a scratching or swooshing noise is quite effective. Any sound that also tickles their innate curiosity is a good one! Their eyesight is also keen, and that’s why laser pointers and other erratic light sources will capture their attention.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/39167773@N00/2928695789/You can tell quite well what sense is dominant for an animal just by looking at its anatomy. Cats have large ears and eyes, while dogs and bears have big noses and small eyes. HawksKite have big eyes and owls have big ear sockets (although they aren’t immediately visible) but not much sense of smell. Vultures have good noses, as you might expect for a scavenger.

This makes me wonder about people — what is our primary sense? We don’t have very big noses — our noses don’t dominate our faces like dogs or bears. Our ears are not bad, but not particularly large either; these big brains of ours are great at interpreting tone of voice, but nothing very subtle that requires supersonic hearing. A few of us, musicians and sound techs, have better developed ears, but that’s more to do with the brain, I think. Our eyes are fairly big, but we don’t have very good night vision, and tend to lose our vision with age, so I don’t think it’s that. If I take clues from our anatomy, I think it’s touch. We are the only land animal with such a large percentage of our bodies covered with skin (I’m not massagegoing to talk about whales). Doesn’t it make sense that our dominant sense is touch — we greet by touching, we get an immediate impression about people by their handshake, and we loooooooove massages (not to mention, ahem, you know). We also communicate a lot by body language, which is facilitated by our (mostly) hairless bodies, decent eyesight, and expressive faces. But it’s touch all the way, with taste perhaps coming in second!

So touch me, baby, it’s my primary sense!