As I’ve discussed in previous posts- I keep extensive supplies on hand as we live in a very rural area.
Part of that is a lot of first aid stuff – for general maintenance and emergency situations.
I’ve also done blogs for chicken and people first aid kits- but in this post I will be showing you my alpaca kit.
So- the first thing to understand about alpaca care is that there are very few medicines designed specifically with alpacas (&llamas) in mind. For the most part we have to use cattle and equine medicines and adjust the dosage to size.
Secondly- I am NOT a vet- I just read a lot of different manuals, both printed and online and I also asked my alpacas vet what he would keep on hand.
Onto the nitty gritty-
1. Zinc bolts for in the water buckets – this is the most effective way to treat a zinc deficiency.
2. Nail clippers- a good pair too. You’ll be using them a lot. Some of my alpacas need those nails done every couple months.
3. Thermometer- large one for taking rectal temperature.
4. Needles – I like these from Jeffers Pet Supply. I get a lot of my supplies from them actually.
5. Supplemental Vitamin AED – injectable
6. Injectable ivermectin- I’ve used generic brands with great success in the past as well.
7. A starter course of paste wormer like panacur or equimax – when you see tape worm castings in the poop pile, you want to be able to dose ASAP. Not the next time you can make the 2 hour round trip. It’s important to note you do need to go get the follow up course of meds to give them 2 weeks later.
8. Marker – gotta be able to grab the right needle for the right alpaca. We write their names on their doses before we go out to give them. Easy peasy.
9. Front line spray – for mite treatmeant
10. Nu-Stock – for other skin conditions and this stuff is so good. I had a couple alpacas come down with different symptoms of skin problems and this shit is AMAZING – one or two applications and boom- healing.
11. Alpaca/llama nutri drench – electrolytes for camelids
12. Lemon lime Gatorade – also electrolytes for camelids and they actually enjoy this one. I give it to them diluted in warm water- like 4 Oz to 1/2 gallon. They slurp it right up.
13. Gauze and vet wrap for open wounds – include some neosporin as well.
14. Toxiban- this is for accidental poisonings.
This is my basic kit- if anyone has anything else they’d like to add, feel free to in the comments!
If you spend enough time with any group of animals, you come to accept that they can be kinda… funny.
They all do the normal animal type stuff, like running and rolling in the dirt to cool off… but it does seem like all types of animals have their own “things” that are species specific.
So here’s some stuff That feels kind of specific to alpacas… feel free to correct any wrong assumptions in the comments!
1. They have a fierce set of vocalizations – they go from a lulling moo to a xena screech in a flat second under the right circumstances. Now I understand all animals have voices in some way- but alpacas are what I would describe as “chatty” creatures.
2. They chew the wooden shelves to keep their teeth neat – I have video of this but it’s kind of a weird one. Be warned. They don’t have upper teeth, so they’re literally gnawing just the bottom ones. At first I didn’t understand what the worn spots were, but they do this often enough that I figured it out pretty quick.
3. They absolutely head butt you gently in recognition – and it’s the most adorable thing until they start doing it repeatedly for more food. They also come in and huff & sniff right in your hair. And butt. I mean c’mon they are animals.
4. They will kick with their back legs when they want someone to back off, but they also do a kind of a pawing motion with their front feet to get stuff they want- food, usually. Attention sometimes.
5. They actually confused my mom for me once-
6. MrGillis would like to add that they are a labor (of his wife’s love-)- not profit (thanks honey) – I find this a little off. We get a ton of fertilizer every year, and I have beautiful yarn and knits to show for it. Plus, they’re cute as hell. He knows he’d never give them up either.
7. He also points out that they are excellent small to medium predator deterrents- we’ve seen everything from weasels to raccoons to bobcats and foxes run away as fast as they can. The Fisher is TERRIFIED of them. But-
8. Truly – snapping turtles and beavers don’t give a hoot. The snappers get caught in the fence at least once a year and the beavers just sit with their back turned on the alpacas while they xena scream at them for existing.
9. They HATED my parents cat Sharkie. He comes down to the farm most days and it took months of them screaming at him, and him not caring, before they stopped.
10. They also HATED the pigs- took them days to calm down the first year we had them.
11. My herd loves dogs- I think they were all raised with dogs on site, but they do still seem to want to play with them.
12. They also play with and chase the chickens.
13. While they love treats, they’re pretty picky about what they’ll eat. When Stormie first started losing weight, I had to work really hard to get them eating the beet pulp with their pellets.
Anyone out there want to add anything? Feel free to comment!
Since the beginning, we’ve used Deep Litter Method for our henhouse. And in this blog I’m just going to talk about why and tell people how we do it.
As for why-
1. when temps dip into the -30 range because winds are whipping everything around including power lines, you cannot rely on the power to stay consistent. We don’t ever lose power for long, but it does flicker a lot because of those high winds. If we we’re to rely on a coop heater to keep our chickens warm, when the power went out, they’d wouldn’t be able to get used to the tempt change in time and they will freeze to death. besides the fact that they cause fires every year that kill not only flocks, but sometimes whole families. So a heater is a big no no- I already feel nauseous at the heated water buckets, ever since I found one that HAD LIT ITSELF ON FIRE AND THEN DOUSED ITSELF WITH ITS OWN WATER. So this is the most efficient way to help heat the coop naturally.
2. It makes great compost. Seriously. And we are serious about compost around here. It’s a bit high in nitrogen so it should be either buried and allowed to slow release in a large area OR composted for at least one year. We do both and have great luck.
3. It’s easy to maintain with very little daily work- seriously. I go in every morning and flip the shavings around. It’s approximately 1 minute of physical labor.
4. I only have to “clean the coop” twice a year. And I know a lot of chicken tenders that do it less often. I just happen to really want the compost.
Now for the how-
1. I use a mix of pine shavings and spent hay (the rough end bits the alpacas don’t like to eat) from the alpacas. I just think it smells nicer then one way or the other. Plenty of people use straw, hay or pine shavings exclusively.
2. I add extra bedding whenever it smells “off” and mix it in really well. I would describe off as any smell that is strongly not your bedding or normal chicken fluff.
3. When I clean it out (usually April and September) I clean it ALL the way out. I spray everything down vinegar spray and let it air out for a hour or so. Then I put everything back together, throw in a new bag of shavings and some new hay and make sure to mix themin together.
4. I mix them EVERYDAY. This is a seriously important part. If you don’t take that minute to mix them up with the Pooh, the chicken manure just rests on top and becomes its own layer. It doesn’t break down and you end up with ammonia problems which can cause respiratory distress in your flock.
5. I don’t put water in the coop unless we’re having such extreme winds that I fear letting the chickens outside for the day. This doesn’t happen very often, and I always try to put the waterer somewhere where it can’t get tipped over. It almost always spills some water. I try to get out the wet shavings and proceed as usual.
So that’s about all I have to say on that- I’d love to hear from anyone else!
They’re are several keys to successful homesteading- today I’d like to talk about the ugly reality behind frugal farm adventures.
The truth is we are level one hoarders. According to aftermath.com “Hoarding Level One:Clutter is not excessive, all doors and stairways are accessible, there are no odors, and the home is considered safe and sanitary.”
Thankfully, I have adapted and become a master organizer, but more on that in a different post.
In this post I’m going to outline exactly what I call “Hoardsteading” – a term I’ve only seen used in one other blog. Shout out to them!
To me- hoardsteading is the act of holding onto a lot of stuff that has potential for DiY solutions on an active homestead/farm.
Let’s all be honest- I don’t know anyone who’s handy that doesn’t have at least a small hoard of handy stuff.
So here’s what we do.
1. When we find quality free stuff- we take it. –
We have gotten a
few dozen windows,,
a wood stove,
a good stainless steel two bay sink,
an old sewing machine,
A pull behind thresher,
dozens and dozens of ball jars…including OLD ones with glass lids.
the list really goes on. Point is, a lot of people just want to get rid of stuff, especially if you’re willing to pick it up.
2. We put out notices when we’re looking for specific things and it works! We’ve gotten both recipes and jars this way & have also bartered for different things this way. This works on Facebook, the local community newspaper & posting notices in the fuel office.
3. We love to go to yard sales- garage sales clean out sales you name it. We don’t go to junk shops or antique places because they’re overpriced- but if you’ve got a senior class yard sale where everything’s been donated, you go. I found a Corning ware glass frying pan for a $1. I sold it on Etsy for $18.
4. This is kind of a funny one, but we get a lot of free pig feed because of the local food donations. A lot of people will go get the free food and then bring what they don’t want to us, to feed to the pigs. We don’t turn any of it away, and if we deem it unable to go to the pigs, we rehome it in our bellies. It’s a win win.
5. In the past, we’ve cleaned out garages and old houses for finders keepers. I got a first edition copy of a very popular books series in this situation. Not only was I paid to the take it, I found out it’s worth $70 or more!
6. A basic sense of organization is important. Like, all those free windows? Stacked neatly by the side of the shed out of the way. Extra siding? Stored in boxes under the house. It’s great to have this stuff, but only if you can friggen find it at the time of need.
7. Don’t get too attached to the possible that you lose sight of the probable- I think everyone can relate to that.
As previously mentioned – this is a last ditch effort to see if we can save the very neglected and badly planned strawberry garden.
We already knew we lost over half the plants in between planting and year two- pretty disappointing.
Last year we weeded them out – once- and it just wasn’t enough to keep up with it. Friggen duh, amiright?
So this weekend we got a permit and burned the ever living delight out of them.
It was a beautiful day for burning and shoveling alpacas poop and we did plenty of both. I only have pictures of the burning tho.
And also- burning the hay inadvertently gave us a good laugh for the day
Yeah- I really don’t like free ranging out hens for this reason right here. I like those eggs in my basket, not the strawberries.
I’m going to be completely honest- I don’t have a lot of hope at getting a good number of plants from here. I think we neglected it for too long. But this is something we have to do in order to move forward. Guess I’m just going to have to cross my fingers.
Better late then never- and hey, I’m actually ahead of where I was last year! Also – Happy April!
Once again- I’ll be treating this as a list of goals and a general update on the farm because multitasking. In fact I’m cooking pasta as I write this. It’s bound to explode in my face.
1. Start the process of moving our trailer- there’s a method and a madness to this. When we first moved this trailer here, there wasn’t as much cleared area as there is now. We also were just trying to get here and get on the land as quickly as possible. Ifen you’re really interested in the backstory, the links are here, here & here.
Now that we’ve been here a few years, we’ve decided that we don’t really like how this is set up- for plowing, for a garage, for a mud room addition and a deck. So- we’re taking our tax return and putting in a new pad and moving the trailer. Like 150’ from the original spot and at a different angle. We are insane. But there’s so much more possible when we move it. Right this moment we are hampered by the literal boundary line on one side and also the proximity of the shed on the other side.
So this year is(hopefully) – build the road, bring in fill to build up and level out the area we’ve chosen and hopefully get the new septic in.
2. Get Stormie back to his normal self – it’s been a rough winter for Stormie , and if you happen to follow us on Facebook, you’ve been able to see that as we’ve struggled to keep him alive. This is not hyperbole- I found him hypothermic more then once. We think we’ve finally kicked the tapeworms butts and he hasn’t gone down in over a week as of this blog. But he is still severely underweight. All of rest of the herd has gotten quite plump because of the diet I have Stormie on- and he alone gets supper. But it’s a long road ahead of us- he’s still in a jacket until weather gets a little milder. We’re having a lot of heavy winds and overnight chill offs. So I guess once Maple Syrup Season is over
3. More perennial gardens and work on strawberries – we’ve got a bunch of elderberry starts and two new witch hazel bushes coming. We have some different herb seeds to plant into raised beds and We’re burning the strawberry area as soon as we can. We think it may kill the overgrowth of weeds from the last two years and give the plants a chance to come back so we CAN actually save them. It’s a now or never situation at this point it feels.
4. More selective clearing & using the sawmill – this is very exciting. MrGillis was able to get a good amount started last year. He bartered a bunch of cedar poles for hay last year And we have four more piles. Also were going to need some rough lumber for more gardens beds, the winter pig shelter (next goal) and the new meat bird brooder house because they aren’t going back in the shed. Lastly, the more we clear back there the closer we come to the ULTIMATE GOAL.
5. Move pig pasture & raise winter pigs – beep beep winter piggies comin thru. I explain this a little in this blog about our third year of raising pigs. I may go into it further in another blog down the way. But we got a lot of work to do- moving fence, building a really solid shelter, lining up extra hay… even just deciding if we’re going to commit to raising pigs for other people because we’re unsure of the new variables introduced with winter rearing.
6. bee time – immersion into the world of bees. At least one hive has made it and I want to really get cozy with them this year. It sounds weird but I’m going to go and start talking to them once a week. I just sit and talk to the herd and the flock daily- why not the bees too?
7. Expand Etsy – were already up to 50+ listings with 8 sales & 2 five star reviews! This is after only 4 months on. And the Etsy shop has actually brought me 3 LOCAL sales as well. I’d like to be up to 200 listings by the end of the year.
8. Get yarn made – this goal was originally last years but it was not fated to be. Between the lack of festivals and the uncertainty of everything, we just couldn’t take the financial risk. But this year is looking up, and we’ve decided to use my credit card as a way to loan the business some money. So yarn will be made. Hopefully I’ll have it on Etsy by June.
9. Work on inside of shed – this will be later this year after harvest, and maybe even more of an early ‘22 goal, but it’s on the horizon. We don’t actually have a ton left to do in order to have it presentable. The roof is so shiny and beautiful. Any updates I’ll be sure to post.
10. More raised beds, more cold frames – we love raised beds and cold frames no fricken joke. I can’t ever imagine going back.
11. Look into doing the butchering of our own pigs – LOOK. Meaning find out the cost of equipment, maybe go and help someone take care of a pig. I’m not even sure how far into this goal I want to go yet. I actually have a hard time sending the pigs every year. I’m hoping with a few more years of chicken processing under my belt, I’ll be less broken hearted over it. Maybe.
12. Be more consistent with web content – I’d love to start blogging once a week or so again. And with Issac fast approaching 3 – baby no more- I could make this happen. Its always back and forth for me. Sometimes I just don’t feel like I have anything to say. Hard to believe if you know me in person.
13. Potty education for Issac – it’s a work in progress but as of this blog he’s been out of his cloth diapers for a week & he’s only having a couple accidents a day instead of the ten or more of the first few days. I expect it to be an ongoing process, but we’re not going back. I’m in the process of donating my cloth diaper stash. And I hate disposables so much.
14. Expand on the knowledge I already have- I want to become a much better herbalist. And of course keep building on my knowledge of animals, bees and homesteading. Get better at my various crafts too.
Alright! How’s that for biting off too much again?
Let me start this blog out with a long drawn out, slightly hysterical bout of laughter
2020 was NOTHING like what we expected it to be- so much so that the reverberations can still be felt.
So without further ado- our updated goal list for 2020- what the heck did we actually get done last year?
1. Save the strawberries – nope. Didn’t happen. Long story short- lumber was scarce and expensive and we couldn’t build as many beds as we wanted. However- we did transplant about a dozen into beds further back on the property and we’ll see if they’re happier there or if we need to figure out a different spot again.
2. More raised beds – yes, but not as many as we wanted or could have done because once again, the price of lumber, even raw cut, skyrocketed with demand. We did work on a sort if inverted huglekulture bed- MrGillis would dig out a large trench and we’re burn in a large pit fire for a couple days. Then we layered in logs, compost, hay, manure, dirt, etc until full. Then we put a box over that and fill accordingly. The ones we finished in time for planting worked beautifully last year- we can’t wait to do more.
3. Focus- laser focus- this one deserves another long drawn out laugh. Aaaahhahahahahah- no. We did stay home and attend no festivals and truth be told- I kinda enjoyed it. I’m just as characteristically unfocused as ever. But I have made great strides this year in focusing on my online presence as I will explain later..
4. Landscape the ponds- we made good headway on our side last year- we got rid of some of the alders and planted In elderberries and bayberries along with a couple Aronia bushes to try and Change the landscape- I bought another 15 elderberry starts for this year. We’ll see what else I find. As always, we didn’t get quite as much accomplished as we would have liked.
5. Have fiber spun into yarn- didn’t happen last year as we decided to invest out monies into something else (I will explain at the end I promise) but we are in the schedule for this year to drop off 15 or so fleeces in April so yea! Progress!
6. Start a new line of products- nope. Just never got motivated pass the flower pressing stage. Maybe this year. I’m not judging myself on this
7. Get a functioning online store- BOOM I actually hit this one out of the park – but not until this last three months soooo… hey I’ll take the win. So here’s a link to our etsy shop!
9. start selectively clearing up back – a little. In order to really do it we need a way to bring the logs down. We’re working on that.
10. Get the new roof on the shed- yup. We got her done. It’s beautiful.
11. Get more comfortable with the bees- sorta? I still didn’t manage what other beekeepers would consider a proper inspection but I did catch and carry a swarm to its new home in a hive next to the originals. I also did spend time out there talking to them and looking inside the hives- And as far as I can tell, both hives have made it thru the winter this time. I haven’t dared to open them yet as the days have been very windy.
12. Expand our perennial gardens- not gonna lie we absolutely kicked ass on this one- we added a lot of different bushes and trees and we only lost the witch hazels and the grapes. Pretty sad about that but we’ll reassess in a few more seasons and possibly try those again. Witch hazel I’m m actually trying again this year. It’s grapes we’re going to research a bit more.
13. Pigs all year – nope. We decided to wait until we’ve winter reared piggies, and maybe even helped with a little before jumping into breeding headfirst. But winter rearing is happening this year.
14. Separate the alpacas – nope and I’m embarrassed but the lack of lumber again held us up here. We really thought we’d be able to get two flats of rough boards for a couple hundred each like years pasts – our sawmills around here wanted almost a thousand for even one flat. The demand was just so high that they could get away with it. Best intentions aside, Stormie also got very sick this last winter and I’m afraid that separating his from his herd would have killed him. I just barely got him thru. Worst of all, it appears to have been tapeworms. He was the only one who exhibited any symptoms at all- but more on that another time. That’s a whole series of blogs in itself.
15. Streamline our gardens- we really kicked this ones butt too- we grew a smaller amount of plants and we had an excellent harvest up until the early frost in September, and last fall put in and onion and a garlic bed to overwinter. We also used a a lot of containers for peppers and I will never do it any other way. holy we grew tons of peppers – and the containers were just so convenient. We bought a few greenhouse panels to turn our boxes into cold frames with and the experiment seems to have worked. The cold frame survived the snow and the dirt is thawing much faster then the ground. I have very highhopes for the yields in our future.
16. Start a mushroom farm – I started it. And killed it. I do have plans to start another one, but other projects came up. Maybe if I turn it into a blog?
17. Spend less time on internet (or be more mindful) – I feel like I did fits and bursts of this- I obviously didn’t spend enough time on here blogging- but I could sometimes go days without being online and just reading books or playing games with the kids or living life. Or other days I would get sucked into a Facebook hole of anxiety because social media is so much like school sometimes – so well call this a middling. Not a failure but not a success. Lessons still to be learned.
18. Learn new things – no I never did conquer the distillery… but I got pretty good at some other stuff. I’d call this a work in progress.
Because we had such a hard time reaching some goals- not thru a fault of own hard work or ability- but because demand had skyrocketed price of lumber-
We bought a sawmill.
Yeah. It’s a beaut isn’t it? It came in two big boxes and MrGillis had to build it himself. Funnily enough, the day ours was delivered, another couple had one delivered as well- they had to come pick it up at our delivery address because the truck driver couldn’t find them I guess.
The spring of 2020 was INSANE, I think we can all agree. And in this blog I’m going to ruminate over pigs and what the heck happened last year.
I don’t know about what other homesteaders went thru in their respective areas, but holy smokes. Piglets were a hot commodity – for a few reasons.
Multiple farmers reported low births from their sows, the cold snaps killed other litters and with the steep climb in demand, piglets were very hard to get ahold of locally this year. The prices were going up. The demand was skyrocketing. First timers were getting in the meat raising game, people that were getting back in after taking a break.. sometimes after only a year or two, but others that hadn’t raised pigs in decades. It seemed like a great cultural shift that we were witnessing all because people were scared of where their winter meat was going to come from.
If it is any indication – my The Cost of Raising Pigs for Meat has become one of my highest hit blog, with hundreds of views a month at this point. In fact, The Cost of Series and ALL my Pig blogs have been exploding in views since February of 2020.
Which, hey, whatever gets people motivated to get more involved with how they get their food, two thumbs up, I guess. And I say that with extreme trepidation- I’ve discussed in previous blogs how unstable our current large scale agricultural system is – how it is not remotely sustainable, and how we are already feeling the affects of this basic truth in small ways.. well last spring has shown a lot of people the large ways that they will be affected once the system inevitably falters again… and keeps faltering until it crumbles.
If I sound dramatic, it’s on purpose. Anyone that is paying attention, and doesn’t have a financial gain involved, agrees with me.
So back to the Title of this particular blog.
We bought out of state pigs to fill our need this year. And while they put some beautiful meat in our freezer, we were, at one point, legitimately afraid we weren’t going to get them. To the point where we PREPAID for them a month in advance to make sure we were not left without. I have never prepaid for piglets before. It was nerve wracking, especially when the pickup date was PUSHED BACK twice.
Also- goodness they were in pitiful shape when they arrived. I’m glad we were able to give them a good home for the duration of their lives but I hate to be involved in large scale factory meat farming and these pigs were a direct result of that.
Keeping all this (& more) in mind- we started throwing around the pros and cons of starting our own pig herd.
The main reason is that we always envisioned a farm with year round pigs – we love having them around for waste food alone. They’re also fun, smart animals that can be enjoyable, if sometimes exasperating, parts of a farm.
We have also already found people that would love to either buy their piglets from us, for various reasons, or would be interested in us growing our pigs for them, like we are already did last year.
We’ve worked out the money:to maintain weight a pig needs to eat about 6 lbs of food a day- more when pregnant and breastfeeding. With three pigs, 2 -3 litters per year, I have figured at us using roughly 150 bags of feed per year. At an average of $12 per 50 lb bag that brings us to $1800 or $600 per pig per year in feed alone. that’s not including bedding and the increase to our water bill.
We need 2 additional shelters and more pasture – 1 separate area for the boar and 1 area for the sows with their piglets. This is on top of having the area we already raise our pigs in. Shelters and fencing are really no problem for us.
The one thing that I am nervous about is cutting the baby boar testicles out. That is…. a lot. And I’ve cut bumblefoot abscesses from chicken feet. I guess you have to cut their little teeth too, which also seems like a suckie situation.
So the short of it- we still don’t know if we want to raise pigs all year round, breeding and everything.
We have ultimately decided to raise our pigs this year in the fall and winter. This is for a couple reasons, but mostly to see what it’d be like to have pigs in the snow. Until we can determine how much extra work that would be, it’s hard to commit to it for multiple years in a row.
It will also just be an interesting experiment in farming for us.