Words cannot express my affection for our six month old cria.
Words cannot express my affection for our six month old cria.
Who knew chickens could be so entertaining?! Before moving on to Webb Acres, my experience with chickens were fried, rotisserie, or soup. Eggs came in a carton labeled small, large, jumbo; free range and organic.
I see now that chickens are social, territorial, and curious. A few of our chickens are so friendly they demand petting and holding. One girl uses a forearm as a pillow and seems to fall asleep as soon as she’s picked up. Aptly name Gucci by my mom’s caregiver, as well as the red heads, will jump on our laps if we sit outside. The white girls are a handful. They scurry away if a human dares to come close.
Each morning, the alpacas impatiently wait for me to open the hen houses and let the girls out before giving them their grain. The chickens run out straight for the other hen and see if the food in the other house is better than theirs (it’s the same food). They eat each other’s food, lay eggs in each other’s hutch, and do what chickens do with each other all day. For a time, we went on egg hunts in the woods, discovering eggs among thorny branches and fallen limbs. We have 10 hutches in the 2 coops but everyone goes in the same 2 or 3 everyday. At least they don’t make us look all over the property anymore.
I’ve learned that a happy chicken makes better eggs. Store eggs are generally mass-produced by hens who live in a crowded house or alone in a small cage – a miserable existence. Our eggs are fresh, rich, and full of nutrients lost by those sold in grocery stores. The three breeds of hens deliver three different colored eggs each day. While they look different, the clear whites and orangish/yellow yolks taste the same. However, our eggs do taste different – and better – from those sold in stores.
Our older red heads tend to hang out together and don’t give grief to the younger blackies and whities during the day. But if one of the younger girls is in red heads coop at bed time, they will peck and harass her as she runs for the exit.
At dusk, everyone is ready for bed. They come running towards us with enthusiasm. Jim Bob taught them that bed time means pieces of bread and egg shells so evenings are usually not like herding cats. It can be a bit of a challenge putting them in the right coop. But they eventually allow us to lead them to the right house. If it’s dark when we close their doors, the hens will already be settling in their proper place for a good night’s sleep.
Life has thrown a few curves in recent months. Sweet Mommacita died after miscarrying in the worst of the heat this summer. Fans, shelter, wet towels under her belly, and tlc just could not save Bina’s mom. One evening while checking on her, we found the fetus. Like Cocoa who carried small, we had no idea Momma was pregnant until it was too late. Mommacita passed soon after.
The death of another alpaca tore me to the core – how could I have taken on this responsibility of managing a herd and failed so miserably? Through my grief, I realized that yes, my naivety is partly to blame but the environment and care we provide our critters can only go so far. We purchased our herd without a history. We don’t know their ages. We did not know if they carried illnesses or if they had been vaccinated.
We believe Mommacita was older. Bina is barely a year old so Momma must have been impregnated soon after her birth last year. Momma’s fiber is coarse and straight while the hair of Moose, for example, is crimped and softer. The causes of her death will never be definitive. All I can do is move forward, keep learning and do the best I can with the rest of the herd.
As I mentioned in a previous post, my mother is now living with us. She has some health issues as well and spent a couple of days in the hospital. Now on hospice care, mom is doing well and getting out of the house more. Always a talented baker, she and her caregiver, Rose, baked an apple pie yesterday that Jim Bob exclaimed was one of the best pies he’s ever eaten.
On the joys of life, there is sweet Zeus who continues to grow and thrive. He is now eating hay like a champ and leaping in the air when I carry out their hay. He is still too young to bite into the pellets but curiously sniffs in his mamma’s feed buck before nursing. He is beautiful, fat, loving yet confidently independent.
Surviving the challenges life has thrown lately has not been easy. But I strive to practice a few minutes of mindful meditation daily, sneak off to the gym whenever possible, and express gratitude for the loving patient husband I am fortunate to have found in Nulato, Alaska.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks. Last week, I visited my mom in New Orleans where she moved after living most of her 83 years in Cleveland, Ohio. Living independently became an increasing challenge for this bright, strong-willed, active woman who was born during the Great Depression. We decided as a family that the safest and best next step was for Emilie – we call her Em – to move in with me and Jim Bob. So we bought her a ticket and Em is now part of the Webb Acres herd.
It’s not the easiest transition for her but the dogs and chickens at least are thrilled to have her here. The alpacas are wary creatures but at least they don’t let out warning cries when they see my mom like they do when they see cows in the next pasture or the neighbors’ dog coming into our yard.
Zeus is the most adventurous when he eventually accepted some hay. Yes, our Zeus is growing up so fast. He’s now eating hay like a big boy.
On a more somber note, Mommacita is struggling a bit with the heat. She is weak but readily accepts hay and water, especially loving the water with electrolytes and other goodies. She seems to be getting a bit stronger but this heat is so brutal for all of the creatures large and small. We have large fans that all of the alpacas enjoy in the shade. And Jim Bob is wetting the dirt under their canopy to help keep their belly cooler. Alpacas – and humans – aren’t meant to live in 100 degree heat.
Also, cria Bambina, has developed mange. We bought medication for her and the rest of the herd but it’s so hot right now we don’t want to stress them out by giving them shots as well. Hopefully, it will be cool enough tonight or tomorrow morning so we can get that going.
The chicks look almost big enough to start laying but they heat may delay their production. Our 3 big girls are only giving us one egg a day right now.
Life is busy for me right now and am so grateful that the Moringa tree is now a part of my daily diet. Moringa is one of he most nutritious plants in the world and a dear friend turned me onto a product that gives me more energy, focus, and motivation than I ever imagined. My fibromyalgia and CFIDS symptoms are mostly gone and I really feel great. Without SuperMix and the other products I take daily there is no possible way I could experience this full, hectic, and wonderful life. Let me know you have an interest in learning more about these products.
This morning, I finally used the skirting table Jim Bob made for me to clean and pick the debris from the sheared alpaca fiber. Building the frame with pvc, he found a wire shelf and covered it in chicken wire.
It works great. It’s tall, sturdy and the holes are small enough for dirt to go through and hair stays on the surface as I agitate and pick the soft hair. It’s a good thing Jim Bob made it sturdy as it’s going to be put to a lot of use as I work through the bags of fiber.
The outer hair in some of the critters is well covered in stickers so I snipped the most matted areas.
The hair is silky soft. It’s fun agitating and picking out the junk. While this color may not be the most sought after, I like the white with bits of tan.
I look forward to seeing how the color will look as yarn when I start using my new spinning wheel.
A couple of months ago, I spent the day learning how to spin at Homestead Heritage, a community near Waco, Texas that offers a variety of sustainable classes from cheese making to pottery. In a day, I learned the basics of using a wheel to spin yarn. I was hooked in no time. By the end of the day, I wasn’t good but started getting the hang of it.
I selected this one as it’s portable yet has the height and size of other wheels. It also was one of the lower priced styles. The clincher was our teacher said her favorite wheel is this Side Kick.
Sometimes I feel impatient with all that needs to be done on Webb Acres. I wish I could spend the day playing in our jungle garden, playing with fiber, and doing animal chores. Working full time on Webb Acres is just not feasible. I need to keep reminding myself that the joy is in the journey and not worry about the end game.
In other news, Moose is feeling healthy and back to her feisty self. Jim Bob just told me that she chased the barn cats across the field and into the woods scolding them as she ran. Then she pranced away proud of her accomplishment.
Zeus continues to grow and thrive. He’s funny, curious, and so very handsome as proven in today’s photo.