A Fiber Farm Blog

Posts tagged ‘Farm Life’

Early Spring on the Farm

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We are preparing for spring on the farm and it is a crazy, busy time!  It was an unusual winter here……..warm and dry, with only a couple of inches of snow all winter.  We finally got some rain this past week and are anticipating more this week.  Hopefully we are coming out of this dry spell.  With so much going on around here, I will try my best to keep you updated.

Garden

I got my spring garden planted last week.  Jeff had the garden all tilled and generously spread with alpaca poop.  I planted turnips, beets, spinach, lettuce, onions, carrots and tons of radishes.  There is nothing better than fresh radishes, right out of the garden!  As I was planting, I kept my eye on a slow-moving rain storm coming from the southwest.  Usually my timing isn’t that great, but this year I was able to get that garden in right before the rain kicked in.  We received some badly needed moisture.  My garden and I were thankful!

Strawberry Patch

We have had Strawberry Patch issues over the last few years.  We have tried several different ways to grow strawberries and it seems like we just end up with a big, unruly, out of control weed patch (and, if we were lucky, maybe a couple of ripe strawberries that weren’t rotten, mashed or had been stepped on).  I had strawberries at our first house and it didn’t seem that hard, but here, I don’t know, it has just been a mess.  True, we have had a couple of bad years, no rain at all one spring, then the next, so much rain that what berries we had rotted before we could get to them.  I have had a plan to build a “better” strawberry patch so we are going to give it a try this year.  Last week, Jeff tilled up an area for my patch and placed concrete blocks around for edging.  We ended up with an area of about 2 feet by 20 feet.  It’s not the prettiest thing, but I’m hoping it will be functional.   It is a little early here to purchase strawberries so I am watching for sales and will hopefully have them planted in a few weeks.  My hope is that with my new patch, 1) the strawberries will be controlled and kept within the blocks and, 2) I will be able to weed and pick strawberries without having to walk through the patch itself.  We will see how it works out.  If I can finally get a successful, easy to maintain patch going, we will probably build another one and get it started next year.  I will keep you posted!

Strawberry Patch

Orchard

I am very excited to announce that we will be starting a small orchard on our property.  We have purchased 10 fruit trees that are packaged so that they are good for our location and good for cross pollination.  They should be delivered by the end of this week and we are expecting 3 apple trees, 2 peach trees, 2 pear trees, 2 plum trees and 1 cherry tree.  Since we have a very busy weekend ahead of us, we decided to go ahead and start preparing the holes this past Sunday.  It took a lot of time preparing 10 holes on Sunday afternoon so we were glad that part of the job is out of the way.  We are expecting more rain this week, so also didn’t want to take the chance that it would be too wet to dig.  We want to get the trees in the ground as quickly as possible once they arrive.

MOPACA Show

I am preparing for the MOPACA show this weekend.  The show will be at Hale Arena in Kansas City this weekend and will have lots of alpacas, vendors, fiber and some great competition in the show ring.  We will be one of the vendors and since this is one of the bigger shows we do and with it pretty much being our first show of the year, there is lots of prep work to be done.  I will be setting up for the show on Friday and the show and vendor booths will be open both Saturday and Sunday.

This is just a bit of what we have accomplished the past week and what we have in the works for the farm this year.  Next week, I will update you on how the spring garden is doing, if I’ve found any strawberry plants, the progress of our little Orchard and the MOPACA Show in Kansas City.   Until then, enjoy some other pictures of Early Spring on the Farm!

 

Fall Farm Day – September 25th

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Are you Coming?

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We’re waiting for you!

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And watching for you.

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We’re discussing and making plans.

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And promise to be on our best behavior.

Because Parsons’ Prairie Farm’s 2016 Fall Farm Day is almost here!

Last year we were so busy and had so much going on that we decided to cancel Fall Farm Day………a decision we regretted almost from the minute it was made.  We so missed opening up the farm to visitors, meeting new friends and the enjoyment of sharing our farm with others.  I vowed we would not miss a Fall Farm Day again!   So come on out to the farm on Sunday afternoon, September 25th and see what we are all about.  Learn about the alpacas and the fiber they produce.  Shop the farm store for handspun yarns and hand dyed yarns, rovings and craft felts.  Start your Holiday shopping early by browsing our selection of alpaca socks, hats and gloves as well as hand made soaps, made right on the farm!  Try your luck at fishing in the farm pond, gather eggs in the hen house or just sit, relax and enjoy the farm day refreshments.

Things to keep in mind:

So far, every year that we have held Fall Farm Day we have been blessed with perfect weather!  But we will hold the 2016 Fall Farm Day rain or shine, so come prepared for the weather.  If the weather is nice, we will open the front female alpaca pasture so you can move among the alpacas.  If it rains, we will figure out a way that visitors can view the alpacas close up and stay dry at the same time.  In any kind of weather though, if you want to move among the alpacas, make sure to wear poop-proof footwear!

We would like to invite you to try your luck at fishing in our farm pond.  We will mow down to the north pond (you will be able to drive down there if you wish) and will mow around the pond.  Bring a pole, bait, a chair and bug spray to make your experience more enjoyable.  Of course, all children must be accompanied by an adult.

We want your visit to be enjoyable.  Feel free to wander the property and take all the pictures you want.  If you find a nice, out of the way place to relax and enjoy the farm, please feel free to do so.  Poke your head into the hay barn and look for the many (too many) barn cats that call the farm home.  Check out the fruit trees, berry bushes and grapevines in the back yard.  Whatever you choose to do, enjoy your farm visit!

Farm Day No Pets Policy – please do not bring your pets to Farm Day.  We currently only have one dog, our livestock guardian dog, Bella on the farm.  Bella has a job to do and although she might be visiting with Fall Farm Day guests, she is always alert and ready to defend the alpacas.  Bringing other pets to Farm Days could possibly cause either your animals or ours to be hurt.   We will all have a better experience if all pets are left at home.

Feel free to contact us should you have any questions.  Look forward to seeing you on Fall Farm Days!

Jeff & Kim Overbey

 

Bella & Kitten Update

It is time I gave you an update on Bella and the kittens.  First…..Bella.  She went to both the vet for her annual checkup and to the groomer last week, so for her, it was a great week.  She weighed in at 93 pounds!  The vet said she was a healthy girl and at the perfect weight.  It was a very hot day and she enjoyed plopping down on the cool, tile floor at the office.  A few days later she spent the day at her grooming appointment.  She seemed to enjoy that day as well, another hot day spent inside.  When she got home she looked and smelled so nice that she got to spend an hour or so in the air conditioning with me.

Groomed Bella

And the 3 kittens……wow have they grown!  They are 4 weeks old now.  In a couple of weeks I will be looking for a good home for them.

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Curly 1

Moe 1

Are they not the cutest things you have ever seen???

 

 

Bella – a Livestock Guardian Dog

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Bella was delivered to us on Valentine’s night, 2014 and our hearts have been hers ever since.  We had lost Balto in November the year before and it was just not the same without one of these big, white, beautiful, loyal Great Pyrenees dogs on our farm.   She was 10 weeks old when she arrived and nothing but a big, squirmy ball of fur.  She moved and wiggled around so fast that it was almost impossible to get a decent picture of her.  But as we have come to expect from these dogs, it didn’t take her long at all to become trusted among the alpacas, friends with the cats and to settle into her new home.

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Bella 3

We get lots of questions about livestock guardian dogs so I thought I would introduce you to Bella by answering the most common questions.  Here we go…..in the order of how often the questions are asked.

#1 most asked questionWhat does a livestock guardian dog (LGD) actually do?  Bella’s most important job is to protect the alpacas.  We keep her in the pasture with our females and crias to make sure that they stay safe.  Our biggest predator problem is coyotes and while they have never bothered our alpacas, Bella makes sure that they don’t come close.   She has a booming bark and sends them on their way pretty quickly.  It is interesting to me that Balto and Bella had very different methods of sending the coyotes packing.  Balto, who had a knack of getting out of the pasture any number of ways, would actually leave the pasture and chase them till they were off the property.  Bella, alternates from running along the fence line and barking to trying to round up the alpacas for safety by herding them into the barn.  She will run back and forth, between the alpacas and the fence, until the threat is gone.  I think another very basic instinct that these guardian dogs have is the ability to show compassion and care for a sick, scared or newborn alpaca.  I am in awe and brought to tears every time I see this happen.  But I have seen it enough to know it is true.  I have seen both Balto and Bella welcome a new cria.  They sit back patiently to guard and watch at first but then, when Mom seems to be ok with it, they will sit or lie beside the young cria.  I have seen Balto sleep beside a weanling the first night that he was without his mama and I have witnessed both Balto & Bella not leave a sick alpaca’s side until there was nothing else to be done.  They are very protective and take their job extremely seriously.

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Forever Royal & Bella

#2 most asked question – Does Bella really live in the barn?  Where does she sleep?  Doesn’t she get cold?  Doesn’t she get hot?  Bella lives in the barn with the alpacas.  She spends all day in the barn and sleeps in the barn at night.  This is the way it has always been for her.  Her mama and papa lived in the barn and she was born in a barn, so that is all she has known.  It is important for both her and us to know that she is with the alpacas to do her job.  Bella has her own area in the barn, a place that the alpacas and donkeys cannot get to.  Her bed is in this area and it is a place she can go to still be with and see the alpacas but have some space all her own.  Bella has a very dense coat, particularly in the winter so she doesn’t seem to be cold at all.  And you would be surprised how warm it is in the barn with all the animals and hay in there.  When the weather is very cold or we are expecting ice, we will shut the doors at night to keep the wind and weather out and all the animals stay very comfortable.  The hot humid days of summer are harder for her.  She does get hot.  We keep her groomed so that she stays as cool as possible.  She drinks out of the automatic waterers that we have for the alpacas so she always has access to clean, cool water.  She also has her own fan that she can lay in front of on hot days.  It is back in her little private area of the barn so she doesn’t have to try to share with the alpacas.  I will admit that we have let Bella in the house from time to time when it is really hot.  She gets to come just inside the mudroom and lie on the cool tile floor.  It doesn’t take her long at all to relax and rest in the cool house.

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Bella Keeping Cool

#3 most asked question – How hard is it to train a LGD?  It’s easy…..they train themselves.  It is instinct and in their nature to protect.  We have had 2 Great Pyrs since they were puppies and it has been fascinating to watch them go from the puppy stage to being an effective LGD.  The first thing I noticed was that, even very young, they seem to have a sense about when to approach the other animals and when not to.  They seem to figure out which alpacas don’t much care for them being around and which ones don’t seem to mind.  They fit into their surroundings and get along with other animals very, very quickly.   At first, the alpacas don’t seem crazy about having a puppy around, but they all very quickly learn to get along and trust each other.  As they get older it is fun to watch them pick up more and more of the behaviors that will make them excellent LGDs.  Of course, like any puppy, we have had to spend some time on basic puppy manners and obedience, but they are LGDs in their hearts and their guardian instincts seem to come naturally as they get older.

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#4 most asked question – What does Bella like?  What does Bella dislike?

Bella likes:

Spending time with humans

Walks with Jeff

Splashing in the ponds

Playing with other dog friends

Her best friend…..Cooper the Cat

Cucumbers – straight out of the garden is best, pulled right off the vine…..yummmm!

Grooming – Believe it or not, Bella loves to go to the groomer and doesn’t seem to mind being brushed too much.  There is a little bit of diva in her I think.

Going to the vet – again, a little strange maybe.  Bella, because of her size, is a huge hit at the vet and she certainly loves the attention she gets.  She seems to love hearing the vet say what a pretty, big, healthy girl she is.  And there always seems to be a few kids there to fawn over her too.

Duck eggs – the fresher the better.  The days that she can get to the duck eggs before we do is a good day!  She seems to love it that the ducks lay their eggs on the ground where she can always get to them.  Much easier for her to get than chicken eggs and they are bigger eggs to boot!

Car rides

Watermelon on a hot day!

Bella dislikes:

Moles – the word “dislike” might be a little mild.  She hates moles.  She will dig them up and kill them without a thought.  She has literally saved our yard from being tunneled to death!

Fences around gardens – it’s because of the cucumber thing

Long, confusing days with lots of people around – like shearing day

Loud noises – she is terribly afraid of fireworks or cars backfiring.

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#5 most asked question – Does Bella ever get a bath?  I think it is kind of funny that this is asked so much.  I hate to think that she looks or smells that bad and I really don’t think she does.  I tell people all the time that she doesn’t really ever get a bath.  It just doesn’t do any good.  She lives in the barn and honestly getting her wet just turns everything to mud anyway.  She does love to get dirty though and many of our pictures are of one dirty dog.  The only exception to this is when she is groomed.  She seems to love getting bathed there and comes home smelling like lilacs or something I wonder is embarrassing for a barn dog but she seems to love it while it lasts.  It’s the diva thing again.

Wet Bella 2

Bella Resting

#6 most asked question – Every time I come down your driveway I see your LGD sound asleep.  Are Great Pyrs lazy dogs?

I think this is funny every time I hear it.  I’m sure it seems that way but you have to remember that these working dogs are often up all night long.  They work the night shift so to speak.  That is when most of the action happens and they need to be on guard.  It seems like they are very busy right at dusk and then again at dawn.  Still, I will often get up in the middle of the night and hear Bella barking……doing her job.  She doesn’t bark unnecessarily but there is just a lot going on in the dark.  So wouldn’t you, if you had been up working all night, be more than ready to take a snooze in a nice patch of sunshine or shady spot when the notion hits?  But trust me, even though she may look dead to the world when she is asleep, not a lot gets by her.

Bella Sleeping

Bella 1

So these are the questions we get asked most often.  I hope you learned a little about livestock guardian dogs, Great Pyrenees, and of course Bella.  We purchased both Balto and Bella from the Colemans with Wing and a Prayer Alpacas, Amity, Oregon and we cannot recommend them highly enough.  Even though Bella is a working dog and spends most of her time with the alpacas, she is also a huge part of our family.  If we are home and working outside, Bella is out of the pasture and right with us.  She loves to take long walks, splash in the pond, go on car rides or just nap in the shade………as long as we are right there with her.  It is such a comfort to know that she is taking care of things out in the pasture and ready 24/7 to guard and protect both the alpacas and us.  We couldn’t love her more!

Bella in Tall Grass

 

 

Surprise Kittens

We’ve had a bit of a barn kitten explosion on the farm lately and knew it was way past time to do something about it.  We had plans to take both Knit and Purl to the vet this morning to be spayed.  Knit had kittens about 6 weeks ago and Purl was too young (or so we thought) to have kittens yet.  We gathered up both cats over the weekend and put them in a dog crate so that they would be ready to go to the vet.  What a surprise I had this morning when I found that Purl had 3 new kittens in the crate.  We went ahead and took Knit in, she had her surgery and is recovering nicely.  Purl got a reprive for 6 weeks to raise her kittens.  Purl has hardly ever been handled and is pretty wild so we decided to keep her in the crate and eventually on the screened in porch so we can catch her again when we need to.  She can raise her babies there.  The good news about all this is that I can finally watch a litter of kittens grow.  Knit always hid her babies among the hay bales and you never saw them until they were up and moving around on their own.  This will be fun to watch and I want to share the experience with you.  Purl is not a happy camper in the crate right now but she seems to be a good mom and handling the kittens well.  She is very protective.  I didn’t get the best pictures as I was trying to take them through the bars of the crate, but here  you go:

Day 1:  3 kittens; 1 yellow, 1 black & white, 1 mostly white with some black

Kittens 2

Kitten 1

 

Shearing Day!

Shearing Day is once again upon us! And, this year at least, it can’t come a minute too soon. It has been unseasonably warm and a few days it was downright humid. The alpacas and I will be relieved when they have all that fiber off! Right now we plan for the shearers to arrive around 7:00 a.m. Wednesday, April 15th. As always we welcome visitors. If you would like to participate we can certainly find a job for you. If you would prefer to just pull up a chair and watch, we would love to have you do so.

Watch the blog for any changes to our shearing date and time. We try to be as flexible as possible to accommodate the shearers schedule.

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The boys before shearing

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The same boys after shearing! Always makes me laugh!

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2014 Harvest

Balto

For many reasons, I need to get back to blogging! But there is an important post that I must do first, and to be very honest, I have been putting it off. We lost our livestock guardian dog, Balto, last November and I just haven’t had the heart to blog about it. We are moving on here at the farm and there are a lot of exciting things happening so I need to get this done. I really haven’t been able to talk about him to date, but I owe it to Balto to let everyone know how much we loved him, how much we miss him and how much we regret that we let him down.

Balto
October 5, 2012 – November 9, 2014

Sweet Balto 2

We lost our beautiful Balto on November 9, 2014. He ran out in front of a pickup, was hit and killed pretty much instantly. The couple that hit him (or maybe I should say, Balto hit them) were wonderful, stopped and checked to see if there was anything they could do and then notified us immediately. While it was all so very sad, it was a comfort being able to be with Balto during his last few minutes and to be able to bring him home afterward. He is buried alongside Daisy and a few of our alpacas in a shady spot in the back pasture.

Balto was an amazing livestock guardian dog. He stayed beside a sick cria for days even though all the alpacas had by instinct “given up” on the little one. He slept beside a young weanling when he was moved over to the “big boys pasture” and let poor little Nillie the cat curl up on his blanket the night she passed. I’ve never seen a dog that could size up a situation with other animals so fast and seem to know if it was best to come up close and protect or respectfully watch from afar. We all terribly miss his presence in the pasture……comforting, protective and vigilant.

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Balto & New Cria

Balto loved people as much as he loved animals and took his job very seriously. I think Balto felt it was his job to befriend and protect the world. He knew no boundaries, had no prejudices and I doubt thought twice about going under a fence, over a fence, squeezing through a gate, dodging through barbed wire or crossing a busy road just to visit a friend. No matter how many ways we tried to keep Balto in, he always eventually found a way out. He was smart, much more agile than his size would indicate and very, very strong.

Balto meets Duck

I have loved every dog I have ever owned to distraction, but Balto will always, always have a special place in my heart. He taught me about big, beautiful and loyal Great Pyrenees dogs and I can’t ever imagine not having one in my life and on my farm. He had the most beautiful, soulful brown eyes and I swear when you looked into them you could see right to his big heart. I will always regret that we didn’t try one more thing to keep him home and safe.

Balto, we miss you still and we are so, so sorry we let you down.

Luffa Farming – Year 2

Last spring I decided I was going to give Luffa farming a try. Typically, when I decide to try something new, I just jump in with both feet, go way overboard and worry about the consequences later. It’s just the way I am when it comes to my creative endeavors. But this time, thank goodness, I tried to be more conservative and started out small. I started with only 12 plants and after making several mistakes and having a terrible summer in Missouri for Luffa farming, I ended the year with 2 luffas. Yes, that is it! There is no one else in the world that was as proud of my 2 luffas as I was, but let’s face it, it was not a great first year.

But as the winter went on (and on and on and on, it seemed), I began to get excited about Luffa Farming – Year 2. I learned a lot last year and if Mother Nature cooperates a little bit, I’m hoping to have a much better season.
One of the first decisions I made was to purchase a different seed. I don’t know that a different seed would have made much of a difference last year with the short summer that we had, but I am excited to try something new. At the Mother Earth News Fair last October I met the folks at Botanical Interests and was able to talk to them about the luffa gourd seeds that they have. I purchased my seeds this year from them and am excited to see how they work for me.

Luffas need a very long growing season, 110 days at least. This year I planted my seeds indoors earlier than I did last year so that I had a more mature plant to start with. I also used a plant light to give my seeds the warmest and lightest start possible. I really think it made a difference.

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I started around 60 plants indoors. To prepare a good place for my luffas this year, I purchased 2 cattle panels just for my luffa farming project. We attached the panels to posts which gave us about 32 feet of space for the luffas to grow and vine to their hearts content.

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I got the 60 plants in the ground today. We are off to a much warmer start this season and if we don’t have an early freeze in the fall, my luffas will have plenty of time to mature.

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We have placed temporary fencing around the luffa garden just until the plants mature some. I don’t want my chickens to uproot the plants while they are still so young and tender.

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Watch for more posts to see how Luffa Farming – Year 2 is coming along.

Shearing Day

Shearing Day 2014 was a huge success.  First of all, we couldn’t have asked for better weather….both on Saturday and the few days leading up to shearing.  We didn’t have to put all the alpacas in the big barn until Friday night which made for a much less stressful time for them.  Brian and his team arrived shortly before 7:00 a.m. and got right to work.  We were so fortunate this year to have our niece Briana, as well as Stephanie & Sarah all vet students at the University of Illinois here to help out.  Our daughter Kellie also joined in on the fun.   Not only did the girls do a great job, but they brought a lot of fun and laughter to the morning as well.  Now, it’s time to start working with the 2014 clip.

Below are just a few of the many pictures I took Saturday.  Enjoy!

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Shearing Day 2014

Shearing Day 2014 is right around the corner! Right now we are expecting the Shearing Team to arrive around 8:30 – 9:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, April 12th. We invite you to our harvest day!

Please check this blog or our website before you come out. We are only 1 of 3 farms that our shearing team with work with on Saturday and we always have to be flexible with their time. I will post any changes to the timing (if there are any) on both this blog and our website at http://www.naturalfiberfarm.com.

Enjoy a haircut 2

Shearing day is the most important day of the year for our fiber farm. It is our day of harvest…the day we have worked so hard for all year. We will be able to hold in our hands all that wonderful fiber…..and see for ourselves how our breeding decisions, feeding and mineral supplements, attempts to keep the barns and pastures clean and our overall herd health has impacted our fiber harvest. And for our alpacas, they get to enjoy the sweet coolness that comes with a freshly shorn body.

We would love to have you come, but please keep a couple of things in mind:

Please don’t expect the alpacas to be on their best behavior. This is a very stressful day for them. They have often been kept in the barn for a day or so to make sure they are dry. We keep both male and females (in separate sides of the barn, of course) but they are close enough to add even more stress to the situation. When the shearers arrive, the alpacas get scared, stressed and just plain mad. Some will be absolutely quiet, some will hum worriedly, some will screech at the top of their lungs. And yes, some will spit at anything in their path. This is not the best time to observe the typically quiet, gentle nature of the alpaca.

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What you can expect to see is an impressive process. Our shearing team is a group of 4 young men who have tons of alpaca handling and shearing experience. They will set up 2 shearing stations in the barn and get right to work.   We can expect them to shear our 38 alpacas in 3 plus hours. As the shearers are working with the alpacas, we are collecting fiber and sweeping up after each animal is shorn. It is definitely something to see.

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Come prepared to be out in the weather. We will shear in the main barn where the animals and shearers will be dry, shaded and have easy access to the animals and electricity. The barn will be crowded with 38 alpacas, 4 shearers, and several fiber collectors all trying to stay out of each other’s way. All spectators will need to watch from outside the barn, so come prepared with what you might need to protect yourselves from the weather and don’t forget to wear shoes that are suitable for a barnyard!

We will have lunch for the shearing team and our guests after shearing is done. The shearing team has a 3 hour drive ahead of them and will shear at another farm before the day is done. We hope they can stay and eat with us, but if not, we will send them on their way with lunch to eat on the road.  We would love to have you stay with us for lunch. Please send us a quick email (or comment below) if you will join us. That will help get a good number as to how many we might have.

While shearing is taking place, Jeff and I will probably not have a minute free to visit with you. Hopefully you can stay around a little while after shearing, enjoy lunch with us and visit.

Please do not bring any pets to the farm. Our dogs are trained to live with our animals and to protect them. There is a lot going on and we sure don’t want any animals to get hurt.

And finally a word about our miniature donkeys Jelly & Jalapeno. They love attention and it will be very hard for them to understand why the alpacas are getting so much of it…..and they so little, on shearing day. We will have them farther out in the pasture, out of the way of the business in the barn. If you don’t mind, take a minute to give them some love while you are here. They are sweethearts and I guarantee, visiting with them will make your day!