Saturday, February 27, 2010


Yesterday was just a beautiful day. The sun was so warm, there was only a hint of a breeze to contend with. It reached almost 50degrees and most of the snow is gone. I can hear the sound of the meadowlark as I do chores this am. Ah yes, spring is in the air, thank goodness! The old timers here state that this has been a record cold for Colorado, go figure that we would move to a place with a record cold year.
Last weekend it snowed for about 5 days, probably about 6-8 inches had accumulated. Large softly falling snowflakes, like the ones I used to cut out at school,that seem to go on forever,falling from the sky. I stick out my tongue and they slowly melt,adding who knows what kind of nutrients to my body. I imagine two lovers are walking hand in hand in the softly falling snow, talking and dreaming about their future together, not a worry or care in the world.....
Back to reality,the sun barely seen for 5 days, this is really a downer for me, I feel so much better when the sun is shining, it is one of the things I miss most about Arizona, that and my parents, that is. I remember when we first moved to sunny southern Arizona, the people were all so nice and happy, my dad said that is because the sun is always shining! Must be some truth to that. Or could it be that most of them are retired????
The previous owners have plantings along the house, probably crocus that are just beginning to peek out from under their blanket of dirt to renew and come to life. I wonder how they survive the below freezing temps every night? Survival of the fittest I guess.
My dad sent me a very special package in the mail yesterday. It came in a manila envelop with a big bulge in the center, but was very light weight. When I opened the package, I found a red baseball cap, much to my delight. I belong to the red hats of Wellington, and don't know how much longer they will put up with me going hat less, but this one will be perfect. All I need to do is add a little purple netting around the brim and maybe a red hat broach. I will be all set. Speaking of Red hats, we met last weekend on that snowy cloudy day and had pizza delivered, and watched the movie "Julie & Julia" Definately a chick flick, but it was so nice to be out with friends for good conversation, and food.
Here is a picture of me in my new red hat, that has not been doctored up yet. I will show you another picture of my hat when It is finished.
We have a big day planned in town today, so have to get going.
More later.......

Friday, February 19, 2010

hoof trimming, and playing in snow

Tuesday Dennis and I decided that it was time to do goat hoof trimming. They need trimming more often here in Colorado, vs Arizona where they seemed to wear down a little bit more with the caliche soil that they have down there. Also the alfalfa here is so rich and leafy, promotes hoof growth, as do the minerals .
If you don't trim a goats hooves they may go lame in time. Also a goat who is walking on platform/elevated hooves,with spiked heels so to speak, has a hard time jumping up on the milk stand. The main weight bearing of the goat is on the front feet. When getting a goat, good legs and feet are so important, because they are on their feet most of their lives. If they have poor leg/feet conformation it will lead to arthritis in joints when they are older. Light colored hooves are easier/softer to trim than dark colored hooves. The best time to trim hooves is after rain or when the feet have been exposed to moisture for a time.
Goats do not particularly like to have their feet messed with. They are a prey animal, and they need their feet for flight. So they have to be very trusting, or forced to give you their feet. We do ours on the milk stand, and offer them grain and salted peanuts, and they put up with the every 2 month ritual.

The tools of the trade are from bottom to top,
1. a hoof pick to clean the hoof prior to trimming. There is often dirt and manure packed in between the hoof walls that have overgrown. If this stuff is left in , the animal may get hoof rot, not to mention if you were to cut too deep, you may get ecoli in the wound, resulting in a nasty infection.
2. a green and orange handled hoof shears, Dennis likes the green one as it gives more leverage, I prefer the orange handled as they fit my smaller hand better.
3. a wood rasp or plane to even out the walls of the hoof after they are trimmed, it also removes some of the soft callous part of the middle of the hoof. If you start getting pink, you need to stop.
4. a sharpener to sharpen the blades of the hoof shears, as they dull very quickly.
And 5. last but not least, we always have blood stop for any mishaps, if we cut too deep. Dennis usually does this, not me!

Next we need a willing victim. Seen here is Dosado, ready, and willing to go, or to be done that is.
The perpetrators come next, here you can see both Dennis and I giving it a go. We are working on L'il Orphan Annie. (Her mother passed away 3 weeks after she was born, hence her name.) We often take turns, as goat hoof trimming is tough work and we usually have muscle soreness for the next day,(mine usually lasts longer). Sometimes it is down right hard to hold on to a 186# goats foot, when they have "had enough"!Of course, Annie shown getting her hoof trimmed is probably a little over 100#.
I don't know if these next two will show up on these pictures but here is L'il Orphan Annies hoof before trimming !

and then after. A perfect job!

And lastly the finisher. There is always a dog or three waiting to eat the hoof shavings. They just love them and gather around during the trimming process. You would think we were handing out rocky mountain oysters or something!

It was a balmy 23 degrees this morning when we went out to do our chores. We also got a couple of inches of snow during the night. No sun yet. Dennis is seen shoveling out the alpaca pen in the background. I tell him it is a "free" workout. I did not do any shoveling this time as I am still recovering from the last snowfall with 2 sore, achy elbows. My white alpaca, Prize is in the front, I can always tell when he needs his bangs cut as he has to raise his muzzle to see in front of him, but he is still a handsome fellow.
Remember when you would bring your kids to the Dentist or Doctors office? They had those magazines where they would have to find the dog, or something in the picture and they felt so proud when they did. And it sure did keep them busy for what seemed like hours while you waited? Well do you see the white dog in these pictures?

If you found a white dog in each of these 4 pictures, you are very observant!!!
After straining the milk, I went back outside and watched as the alpaca and dogs were exercising in the pasture. There was no wind, and so peaceful outside. The air is fresh and clean. Ahhhhhh, life is good.

More later........

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Day in town, goat milking, kefir, and milestones

Dennis and I took the day off yesterday and went into town together. We went to Fort Collins to an indoor Farmers Market. I got all kinds of new ideas, as there were alpaca farmers with their wares, other knitters and felters there also. Buffalo/Bison, grass fed beef vendors,pedaling their wares. One Indian fellow gets his grass fed Buffalo up in South Dakota, which are raised by the Lakota Indians up there.(LBCC) Lakota Buffalo Caretakers Cooperative. They are field harvested which means the animal's life is taken in the field they live on and are not brought to a processing center alive. They feel it is the respectful way of ending the animal's life. The buffalo do not handle the stress of transport going to market. (Something I did not realize. But makes perfect sense. If you have to eat something with a face, that would be my way to go.)
We also spoke with a couple who farms about 20 miles south east of us, and they do flowers,(sold as dried in the winter) raise chickens, pigs,and heritage turkeys. They said that hail is a problem with gardening, but you just keep on going. So we are very optimistic with the upcoming spring and growing season. Dennis was able to have a beautiful garden in the desert of Arizona, so should do fine here. We do have a lot of fertilizer, that's for sure!
He is almost done with our chicken coop, It is all together, just has to add the trim, shingle the roof, and do the inside. Painting will come later when it warms up. In this picture of the chicken coop, you can see Lulu lying under Bear, she always takes that position in case of a good tummy rub.

We got home a tad late and the goats were waiting for us to come and do chores, all standing at the gait bellering "Maaaaaaaa". Now I don't know if any of you grew up milking cows, but goats are the same way, they have internal clocks, and they know when feeding and milking times are. They get down right mad if you are late.
But Coco finally got milked so she was happy. My goats all know their names and come when they are called. I do not even have to lead them to the milking stand, just open the gait and they run up to the stand and hop on up. Makes milking so much fun.


Dennis has started making Kefir again out of fresh goats milk. Kefir is a pro biotic health drink, somewhat like drinking liquid yogurt. It is thicker than whole milk. Kefir is the substance that makes grains which look like pieces of cauliflower which are actually colonies of bacteria and yeasts. These are called the grains.
Supposedly enormous health benefits when drank and have been around for years. Way back, when there were no refrigeration, these grains were added to the milk supply as a preservative,preventing the milk from going bad.
Cheers to our digestive health!!!!


Now picture this, close your eyes. The young woman in her 20's has just finished her shift at work, and has been extremely tired out these past couple of weeks. Her back aches from the increase in her weight, with the spasms coming closer and closer, her feet and ankles swollen from too much time on them, walking back and forth down the long corridors, which seem to get longer as the shift progresses. As she leaves the building to go home, her gravid belly is the first of her profile that you see coming out the door.
Her sandy brown hair tousled, is combed neatly back into place with her fingers. A huge smile creeps onto her face as she realizes all the dreams and anticipation that have been building up to this climax. She gently shakes her husbands shoulder waking him from a deep slumber to inform him "it is time".. The couple make it to the hospital, and their first son is born.
He has slept under her heart for the past 9 months and will forever be emblazoned there, til the end of HER time, the lifetime bond that can't be broken, between mother and child.
Fast forward----She fondly recalls his first smile, the first time he says "mama" and "dada". The first crawl, and the first few toddling steps he took---All the other milestones they have experienced in his growing up years----All the years of sacrifices, the investing of so much of herself to insure him a better life, that he grows up to be such a fine young man. Then, at the end of high school---he announces he signed up with the recruiter, for the Marine Corps. As she listens to his words, her heart catches in her throat pounding with fright. Her beautiful young man--but wait--still a boy, going off to war! Tears well up in her hazel eyes, threatening to spill over to display her true emotion to the news, as his life passes before her eyes.
But they support him, as this is his wanting.. She thinks of all the past milestones, and all the future milestones that she wants to see him achieve, his career dreams, marriage, first child, first grey hair, reaching the Big 5-0......

Whether you are for this war or not, this boy/man could be your son, your brother, grandson, nephew or father. Please take a minute or two of each day to pray for our military. Please pray for my nephew Seth who is over in Afghanistan right now.

More later..........

Monday, February 8, 2010

winter shelters, roving and yarn, dogs,alpaca

Brrrr 20 degrees out this morning, there is a wind, so who knows what the wind chill is--we have about 1 inch of snow on the ground, and of course another cloudy day!

All the goats were in their huts when I went out to do chores--for you Arizona folks, who wonder what we do in the colder climates to keep our animals warm, I have attached a few pictures below.
We were told that all you need in Colorado is 3 sided shelters, but we don't think that is enough. The alpaca shelters we have added 4x8 sheets of plywood to close off the fronts and made doorways. For the goats we have the huts that we made, plus their 3 sided shed. For 4 goats we have 2 huts, we have them in the openings to the 3 sided shelter and they face the back wall. So the goats are out of the wind. Also we have a straw pack--about 1-2feet pack of straw in each hut. The reason for the straw is it keeps the girls off the ground, the manure and urine fall through the straw and the pack is warm due to the waste underneath. And it keeps them warm.
We also did this up in Minnesota, however, you need good ventilation as ammonia smell builds up and will cause respiratory problems with the animals. In a 3 sided, with much ventilation we don't have to worry about this. The goat, with their big barrel(ie gut with rumen) they need all the lung capacity they can get.

You can see the feeder we put as a divider in the 12x24 foot 3 sided shed. Goats can be bully's at times, this way the little girls can eat on the opposite side of the big girls, if trouble arises.
This is Roxie, as you can see she probably slept outside last night. She has a blanket of snow on her back, now if it stays below freezing and the sun does not come out, the snow will not melt off her back. Alpaca fiber is a great insulator, her body warmth will not melt the snow.

Dennis and I doing our evening perimeter walk with the dogs. Our dogs have free range of 7 acres and can come and go out of the alpaca pens at will--Lucky Dogs!!!

Note our neighbors horses at dusk, these are the draft horses.

This is some alpaca roving that I died with koolaide, a turquoise and orange color.And it is also shown after I spun it. This is the color of Arizona sky at best.
More later.......

Sunday, February 7, 2010

horses, dogs, alpaca and Sunday morning rambling

Picture this, now close your eyes. It is just before dusk, the winds have died down. The sun is a huge golden orb, the skies are dark turquoise and the overhead billowy clouds blanketing the skies are orange/pink in color. As the sun is setting below the Rockies, looking like heavy eyelids slowly starting to close, sleep overcomes Colorado. As you gaze off over the prairie, movement catches your eye--off in the distance you notice a band of horses--some are contentedly munching the browned dormant grasses. Their tails are switching from side to side as if to flick off some unseen pest. And you notice as the dust rises off their backs, off to the side, a middle aged gray mare watches. Alert. Listening. Her nares begin flaring, in and out with anticipation--then she gets that look in her eye and takes off, running with abandon, the rest of the band follows at her heels.
Now watch them run in slow motion--their large muscles bunching and relaxing in cadence, over and over--as their hooves become airborne, clumps of sod goes flying. As a cloud of dust surrounds the band, you can almost smell the sweat as it collects on their shiny coats. You feel the jarring of the earth as each hoof hits the ground. Moving as one unit, they suddenly stop as all their energy has been released.
Just like me, the thoughts have been building--and now the release--time to write my blog again!!!
But seriously, I have always loved horses, starting at age 9. I wanted one so bad, but by the time we were able to relocate in the country, I felt that I was too old to start with horses, as well as being a nurse, I had taken care of too many folks that were injured around horses. But our place here we are surrounded by neighbors who have horses. I can look out my window and see them contentedly grazing or being worked.
This is a picture of our neighbors team of draft breed horses this past fall out our front window.

Doesn't this just take you back to days long past?

Good news, our new dog Lulu is getting along splendidly with both Bear and Casey(our 10+ year old lab). Casey checking out the kennel. Seen in this picture below.
A little information on Casey, she was a rescue dog from some neighbors we had in Minnesota. These people wanted a lab in the worst way. They had 2 puppies before they had Casey. They did not last even a month at their place as they got run over by some member of the family. Then they got Casey. She was their 3rd puppy that summer. Poor little Casey did not get much attention and was left tied up all day when they were off to work. When they would get home from their full time jobs, they would let her loose. Of course she always ended up at our house. She would hang out with our Rottweiler Reba, and they became good buddies. She also would take Dennis shoes and chew them out in the yard. We kind of considered her family at that point on.
The owner would come over and retrieve her, then beat her for coming over. And every time he would come over, I told him that if he did not want Casey that I would take her. Well, before we were transferred back to Minneapolis, I told this guy that we were moving and that I would take Casey. He was still adamant that he wanted to keep her. One week before we were scheduled to move, he brought Casey over and said that I could have her. Needless to say, it was months before she would let us pat her head without flinching. To this day she still does not like her head touched, but will tolerate it with her morning loving up. She to this day has low self esteem I believe from her earlier days of abuse, but is such a good dog. I am so glad that we have Lulu and that Lulu is trying to get Casey to play with her, as Bear does also.Picture of dogs playing.
The dogs in a huddle, no doubt talking about tonight's big game!

The following picture is of three of my alpaca. Roxie is the dark colored one on the right, she is mother to the other two. You never know what color of alpaca that you will get. Roxie has always been bred to a white male. Alpacas come in over 22 colors and variations there of. Rock Star is in the center and you have already met him, and Emma is on the left side. She is a medium fawn color. I hope in next writings to include more alpaca information.
As I started my writings with a horse scenario this morning I thought that I should end with one. What got me to thinking of horses today is the big Superbowl that will be going on. I don't really watch the game, but sure do hope that they have memorable commercials with Clydesdale horses.
More later.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Road trip, and LuLu

Yesterday Dennis and I took a road trip to Pine Bluffs Wyoming.
We currantly live about 20 miles south of the Wyoming border, and another 12 to Cheyenne. Pine Bluffs is about 67 miles one way.
This is what some of the countryside of Wyoming looks like. We passed those big wind whirlybirds which we can actually see out our upstairs bedroom window on a clear day and they are 20 miles away. Cheyenne is 6082 elevation, which is about 800 feet higher than we are here. They usually are colder and windier than we are and close the roads frequently in the winter. We passed so many antelope, but was unable to get a good picture through a moving vehicle.
I took a picture of myself as we were moving down the highway, did not want Dennis to take his hands off the wheel. I sure look like my dad in this picture, but I also look like my mom.

The trip was to pick up a new livestock guardian dog. Her name was Biscuit, but we have changed it to LuLu. She was named by our son Ryan. She is 6 months old, and is part Great Pyrenees and Anatolian Shepherd. So she is a Pyrtolian. Here is a picture of LuLu in the kennel, looking not too happy.

We put her in our dog kennel at first so she could get used to the sights and sounds of our place. She did not like Bear and was growling and showing her teeth. We were kind of worried, as the Anatolian can be fairly aggressive. Well this morning she was out running around with Bear and all seems to have been worked out. I forgot to mention that Anatolians are very intelligent self thinkers, and can figure out things, like how she got out of kennel and out of the collar we had on her. And this all in less than 24 hours time and at 6 months of age to boot!
Here are the tell tale signs of her escape.
LuLu and Bear during chore time this AM. All is at peace here.
You can see the size difference in a 10 month old Great Pyrenees and 6 month old Pyrtolian.

Two important things that I learned about LuLu on the trip home, First is that she gets car sick, and second is they fed her a good breakfast that AM!

Oh, for my weather report, I forgot to look at the thermometer this am with all the dogs excitement going on.

Monday, February 1, 2010

dyeing yarn, goats, and goat coat

I had a very productive weekend. I took out my dye pot and dyed some yarn that I had previously spun. I am going to be knitting a cardigan,(my first) since it is so cold here and I always seem to be dressed in layers. I am signed up for my first class this weekend. Entitled "your first sweater". I can't wait. Living in Arizona for 5 years, I did not really need sweaters. I am going to show you some pictures of the process of home dyeing. I used Jacquard dyes which are a powder, and you use vinegar, water, and soap for the process. The first picture is Rock Star one of my alpacas, as you can see, he is just full of fleece, I am shown parting his fleece or fiber. Wool is from sheep. Note the waviness, this is called crimp. It gives memory and loftiness to yarn. the length of his fiber is a good 5 inches or so, we call this staple length.

This is the yarn at the start of my dyeing process. The way it is shown is called a hank. It is not in a ball yet because the hank lets the yarn relax and you do not have the stretching that you get when the yarn is in a ball. I need to take this white colored yarn and soak it in hot soapy water for 30 minutes as I prepare my dye.
I decided to dye this yarn Crimson Red. I did 5 skeins. I dissolved my powdered dye in 1/2 cup of warm water and then added it to my 2.5 gallon enamel pot with about 2 gallons water in it. You can't use aluminum as this interferes with the dyeing process, you need enamel or stainless steel, once you use a pot for dyeing, you can not use it for food preparation either.) To the 2 gallons of water add 1 cup of white vinegar,and start heating this up. I need it about the temp of my soaking yarn, this is important as the conditions are perfect for felting, a change of temp to shock the yarn, soap and agitation. When fiber or yarn is felted, it is the scales on the individual strands that open up and well, "felt" together.
Of course at this stage I get a call from my #1 son Ryan, as I was talking to him I added my yarn to the dye pot, as you can see the yarn turned out with a slight variegation, because I forgot to stir the dye pot prior to adding the yarn. The dye had settled to the bottom. But the phone call was worth it.
The yarn is seen hanging on a coat hanger to dry. All I need to do know is put into ball form, and knit away. I have a ball winder for that, sure makes life easier and so fast!

The following is goat related.
3 of my goats have an outer coat, and then a downy undercoat for warmth, except my big black goat Dosado(pronounced like the square dance term doe-see-doe.) She was named after my square dance years, but that story another time. She just has the outer coat. Some of these nights have been downright COLD, so I found it necessary to make her a coat. Normally a goat will do fine with adequate food and shelter, but Dosado had a hard time with the boarding and transport when we moved up here and she lost quite a bit of weight. It is just good goat management to prevent problems from occuring. So I want her to use her calories to regain her lost weight, not to stay warm.
Goats 101.
When you feed a goat you are feeding the bacteria in their rumen, which breaks down the feed and nourishes the goat. Ruminates need to keep their rumen at a certain temp as you don't want the good bacteria to die off and be replaced by the bad bacteria which can lead to sepsis and death of the goat.
That is why I want Dosado not to get too cold. Here is a picture of her modelling her coat, of course the other girls had to help out and be in the picture also. Never a lack of help when you are out in the goat herd.
My goats are Nubians, and my big girls weigh in at around #180 pounds. The Nubian breed are actually from a warmer climate, but have some Swiss breeds in them dating way back. they have the roman nose for warming or cooling the air, and the long pendulous ears for cooling. My black goats enjoy lying out in the sun even when it is over 90degrees. Dosado is a 4 year old, she has had babies twice in her life, she gives over a gallon of milk per day in the first 6 months or so of her lactation. We milk them for about a 1 1/2 years before they are dried off and rebred.
I love goats. Goats and dogs are two of the most useful animals on the planet as far as I am concerned. From goats you get milk that you can drink, make cheese, or soap out of, fiber goats called angoras, you get mohair for spinning. People use the larger breeds for packing, they are good companion /pet animals, and of course, some people eat them, but I never could, it would be like eating my dog.

Highly intelligent also! Our first goat, Glitter could turn on lights, after she saw us do it. Her wheels were always turning, and you could just see it in her eyes. They need good fencing, because they will learn how to get out, and open gates. Which reminds me of a goat we had named Buster. Our grandson Brady was over, he was about 5 at the time. We had an outdoor spigot near the barn, and it kept mysteriously being turned on. The red lever had to be pulled up. Well after this happened a few times during his visit, we asked Brady if he was turning on the water. He said no, then little Buster came up to the fence and lifted that pump handle as easy as you please. We had to move his fence.

This is a picture of me feeding the goats salted peanuts as a treat. Every day after the morning milking they all line up for them. Their heads are just a swaying and bobbing through the fence with eyes pleading "me first, me first!" Goats will follow you anywhere for a salted peanut. Bear has started liking them also.

For all of you weather afficionos, our temp was 14 degrees this am, and was foggy, but as soon as the sun showed up the fog was gone.

More later.........