Thursday, April 23, 2009

Me and My Wombats...

Me and My Wombats are off to the big city...yea, that's NYC. I hope you'll pray for me and my gills. I hope they'll make it out of water.

My Boogies

Claire was born Mareike "Claire" on 2/20/02 at 2 p.m. I don't know if all these twos mean anything, other than that she is an extraordinarily special girl. But who doesn't think that about their daughter? You don't have to answer that. Mareike (mar-i-ka) means "little Mary" in German. Since we have a German last name, and I can speak a smidgen of German, and I really loved the meaning, we decided on this crazy, un-pronounceable first name. We chose to pair it with a classic middle name. We call her Claire. Or sometimes Boogies.

I'm pretty sure the Boogies thing was already a set name before this happened, but I can't resist showing this little clip of Claire when she was a few months old. I hope she won't be mad at me when I show it at her wedding.

Within the last year Claire has asked us to stop calling her Boogies, which I can completely understand and I have respected her wishes. I mean, she really is only a Booger some of the time. However, by default, and the fact that it rhymes with her name, she is now known to us as "Bear". Which, like a Booger, she sometimes is. When she's a bear, however, I just have to send her outside and make her sit for a few minutes. It's usually a guarantee that this works, as you'll see below.

Isn't she a beautiful, well behaved bear?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My Seed Planter Friend

This is Kerry. She is my seed planter friend. She's the one who planted the alpaca seed in Paul Bunyan's head. She also shared a community garden plot with me when we were in grad school together. Her half of the garden was much cleaner, neater, less weedier than mine. She's type A. I'm type F. She's still my friend, even though she has red lights in her house.

This is the wedding cake I made for Kerry and her husband Sam. They got married in a barn. It was round.

This is Kerry's kitchen in her new post and beam house, which Kerry's brother-in-law built for them. Everyone has lived to tell about it. This is what a type A kitchen looks like. I won't show you what a type F kitchen looks like. Kerry made me dinner on Monday night. The first time she made me dinner, she cooked me the best chicken burritos I've ever had.

This is Boone. He's kind of a boner.

Here's Moses. He has major issues.

But he's grown into them.

I like that Kerry has dogs, because I like dog people.

I like that Kerry lives on a mountain and that it was a blizzard when I left her house. It calms me to know that I still have time to plant my seeds.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Why Alpacas? By Paul.

Every time someone asks, "so what made you guys get into Alpacas", the Hussy likes to embarrass me and , erroneously describe how I (Paul Bunyan; August IV) was out to make millions and never have to work again. Now, as I have already stated, that is just crazy. I may not be all that bright but I would have to be an idiot to think that by purchasing two pregnant alpacas I was going to be joining the Fortune 500. And, I already have what I believe is one of the best jobs in the world prolonging life 36 hours per week with some of the greatest people in the world. I don't ever take any work home with me and I have 4 days off every week. Instead, my explanation regarding the alpacas is rather boring and as follows.

It all started about five years ago when we had some friends over for dinner. Kerry, one of the Hussy's grad school mates, said you guys should raise alpacas. She went on about how one of her colleagues raised them and how cool they were and that he had just sold a few and made a bunch of money. Kerry had taken care of the alpacas for him and she said they were easy to handle and care for and they didn't take up all that much space. I am the first to admit that the potential to make a little money raising livestock was exciting.

People will tell you I have sort of an addictive personality. In college I was addicted to everything that had to do with weed; creatively smoking it, selling it, and growing it. For a while I was into freakish animals you could house in an aquarium. All at once I had 3 snakes, an African horned toad, 3 turtles, a monkey tailed skink and 17 other lizards and a lot of aggressive fish. Now I am very addicted to projects. I need to have somewhere to focus my energy otherwise I go a little crazy. So after just one conversation with Kerry I was addicted to alpacas.

In the proceeding 6 months I spent hours (100's) studying them on the Internet and subsequently signed up for a seminar at one of the most well known farms in the industry and I talked my father into coming with me to learn "How to Buy, Breed and Succeed in the Alpaca Business". We flew to Oregon to Northwest Alpacas and we/I apparently learned everything except the "Succeed" part. I found two females on the farm that were both pregnant and about to give birth in the coming month or so and I just had to have them. I was all about "jump starting" my herd. In order to get into the business fast I had to grow my herd fast. With two pregnant females that would soon deliver then be re-bred before they got a long ride in a truck back east I would do just that. I would have a herd of 6 alpacas in just over a year. So against my father's better judgment I left Oregon the proud owner of two of the nastiest alpacas available in the country and it has been a struggle ever since.

My thinking went like this: I really wanted to raise animals on this beautiful piece of property we have in rural Vermont. I wanted to have a small farm and so did my Hussy. It is important to me to raise my children creating a work ethic and an environment that only a farm, no matter the size, can provide. I was intrigued by the challenge of raising livestock having only raised fish, reptiles, and some canine companions. Alpacas would be a perfect fit for my wife. Fiber arts were and still are one of her passions and alpacas produce some of the nicest fiber in the world. And in all honesty, I dreamed of some additional income from the animals. My business plan had us selling an alpaca or two a year to supplement our income.

One can make millions in the alpaca business but not on this farm. It takes a much larger pasture area and a much greater initial investment than I had to offer. I have made quite a few mistakes along the way, the biggest being the first two females I chose as my foundation stock. It has been hard work (harder than expected) and it has been quite a learning experience.
But these are the reasons I did it and I am not done yet. I am confident that if I continue to work at Happy Hollow Alpacas I can make it everything I hoped it would be.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Meet and Greet the Animals...The Real Ones

Hi there. How are you? We're doing just fine. Thanks for asking. Do you want to meet us? We're very friendly; well, one of us isn't so friendly, but that's okay. Where do you want to start? With the oldest first, okay. We can do that.

This is Julia. We didn't name Julia. She came from Northwest Alpacas in Oregon. They say she was born in 1994, but we don't know for sure since she was imported from Peru. But she's our old lady; and, unfortunately, maybe, possibly, unable to breed for us anymore. Which is definitely sad, considering the amount we paid for her.

This is Bianca. We didn't name her either. She came from Oregon too. She's the not so nice one. She's the spitter. I can't get a good face to face picture of her because she would have hocked a loogi (is that how you spell that?) at my camera. She's a good mommy, though, and that's why we bought her.

updated: Bianca passed away in her sleep on January 21, 2010. We believe she died of old age.

This is Julia's only off-spring that we have on the farm. His name is Cronus. We named him that because we thought he'd be god-like. He isn't. His dad's name was Glacial Storm. Can you imagine having a dad with a name like that? Anyway, he's a real dork. I don't think the other boys like him much, and I think he gets picked on a lot, but there has to be one in the bunch. Right? He has beautiful fiber though and we're grateful for that.

Updated: Cronus passed away on July 31, 2009 of colic (a twisted gut). I'm still trying trying to decide how best to honor his last blanket.

This is Prima. She has beautiful teeth, don't ya think? She has the whitest fiber of any of our white alpacas. It's gorgeous stuff. She is going to be a momma for only the second time this summer.

Here's Prince Lucas. Don't you love his eyes? I know, he needs some barrettes. He is our stud. Really, he is stud-like. A big boy...strong like bull but lovable too. He stays by himself because he would kill all the little boys. He especially would love to cut up and eat Cronus. Big Jock vs. Big Dork. You know who would win.

Here's one of my favorites. This is Hamlet. Bianca is his mom. Hamlet is a gentle boy and loves to give kisses, and hopefully he won't go crazy and kill everyone like Hamlet from Shakespeare does. I named him Hamlet. I don't know why.

Paul Bunyan introduced some color into the herd a few years ago. This is Lydia. We didn't name her. She came with a daughter, who you'll meet next. She also arrived pregnant and gave birth to a beautiful brown boy, who we named Titan. Titan died in Jan. 2008 of a ruptured bladder. He died in my arms. I cried. It was very sad. He was beautiful.

This is Chloe, Lydia's daughter. We did not name Chloe. And if I did, she would be named Tina Turner, cause this girl is feisty, saucy, a minx...she is a hussy, which is why I love her so. She wants to give you a kiss. It's lovely.

Watch out, here is Jumping Jack. His Mom is Bianca too. Guess what he used to love to do? Jump Around. Jump Around. Jump Up and Jump Down. Are you singing the song? Hello?? Have I lost you. He gives lovely Eskimo kisses. You gotta come see for yourself.

Okay, now we're going to get into some real cuteness here. These are the two newest additions, both born last summer.

Here is Tom Tom. I don't know who named him this (I think Claire) but it's stupid. I'm sorry. Prince Lucas is his father and Prima is his mother...the only alpaca to have both mom and dad on site. Look at that face. Can you resist?

Are you ready for sweetness?

Here she is. It's not a great photo of her, but she's the color of maple syrup. We named her Anne's Luck because we went away twice last summer and both times the woman staying at our
house got to witness both births! Look at her gorgeous sweet maple color. I can't wait to get my hands on this when we shear them May 4th.
Well, that's all 11 of our crazy lookin' alpacas. Stay tuned because tomorrow Paul Bunyan is going to explain "IN HIS OWN WORDS" why he got into this crazy business in the first place. It may clarify a few things!
Peace out,
The Homesteading Hussy

Saturday, April 18, 2009

WARNING!!! Graphic Photos to Follow....

Holy Moly Guacamole...look what I found yesterday morning:

I'm sorry little mousy that you can't run through the halls of our warm house anymore, or use our clothing to make your little nests, or eat the butter on my countertops. I'm sorry that you'll never again run over my toes, or meet me half way in the kitchen, or take craps in my drawers. I'm sorry Hunter hunted you, and caught you, and that you are now dead. But I would like for all of us to Praise King Hunter the Hunter...please, for he killed two in one night. Amen.

And you, reader, if you're offended and disgusted and/or angry at me and my inhumane post, a nice man on our Front Porch Forum offered a link to a website that will show you how to catch a mouse without killing it. But I do have to warn you that you may have to spend a lot of your precious time recatching and recatching this mouse. It's not a fun game. I think the smarter thing to do would be to get a FREE cat and then you can get rid of your problem once and for all.

But that's just my two cents.
Here's the link:

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hello Kitty Kitty Kitty

I never really considered myself a cat person. We had a few cats when I was growing up; one, in particular, was an albino. He was blind and deaf and subsequently called "corky". I think he was a stray. But because of his blindness and deafness he attacked you, out of pure fear, when you walked by. I didn't love him too much, but my mother did, which is why we kept him. So, I guess I became a cat person when I discovered that I most definitely, for surely, am not a mouse person. We had an infiltration of mice into our home in the fall of 2007. I don't know exactly what we can attribute it to; I can't remember if it was a cold fall or not, but it wasn't okay with me. They were not welcome in my home. I would come down to the kitchen in the morning to find one or two scurrying away into their small dark holes. And you can imagine my utter disgust (if this is what you want to call it) to see their droppings everywhere. And here's one worse...their f-ing teeth marks in my butter! I know, I know, this is gross. I had to do something about it. And this is what I did...and they were FREE! Look! Free kittens!!

My friend Mud once got some kittens at a shelter and ran them under the water in the sink to make them look like they had been left out in the rain. She lied to her roommates and said that she found them on the side of the road, abandoned by their mother, just so they would let her keep them. This is Mud's daughter holding "Daisy". While I was driving these two meowing brother and sister, flee and worm infested (yea, not so free), baby cats home, I picked "Hunter" and "Huntress" as perfect names. Claire, on the other hand, had other plans. She put up a big fight, so I let her name one of them and "Daisy" was born. Daisy looked a lot like a cat I had growing up and I, therefore, had a bit of a bond with her. But both Daisy and Hunter spent their first winter in the basement. They loved and cuddled and played very well together. In the Spring of 2008, they got their first mice. I praised and praised them both; I didn't know which one of them murdered which specific mouse, but I was always happy to find dead bodies at the bottom of the stairs. These cats were intended to be outdoor cats, so they were allowed to come and go out of their cat door whenever they pleased. This was fine with me, as I had all sorts of other animals to tend to. But one day in June, Hunter disappeared. He was gone; I was certain...dead. But, I put posters up around our small town, called the vets, etc. etc. etc. Three weeks (3!!) later I get a call from the old woman at the bottom of the hill. Hunter had been hanging around there for a few days. I couldn't believe he survived his little vacation...what with all the coyotes, fisher cats, owls, hawks in our woods, you get my drift. He was a little beat up, skinny, and needing love, but he was alive.

Daisy decided to risk the NOLS trip as well. On August 27th I watched her venture into our deep dark woods and never return. I haven't been the same since.

Here is, however, her big brother...alive and kicking. He has killed all the mice in the vicinity, all the moles, and has moved onto other things.

Here are the bird feeders that Paul Bunyan made for me last Christmas. Yes, the licence plates are from places we have lived. Aren't they wicked cool?

Here are the sweet innocent birds that love to eat from the wicked cool bird feeders that Paul Bunyan made for me last Christmas.

Here is the mean and rotten cat who eats the sweet innocent birds who eat from the wicked cool bird feeders that Paul Bunyan made for me.

Here are the ducks who return to the pond every year in the Spring, exactly on the day after the ice melts. I don't know if they are the same pair...but I have a feeling they are. It's like the couple that goes back to the same resort year after year after year. They're set in their ways.

Here are the geese that stop by every now and again on their way north, kinda like the ducks.

Here is the cat that has eaten all the mice, and moles, and voles, and birds, and thinks he might have something bigger and better to eat.

Here is the cat stalking the very big Canada geese who are just on a long layover.

I think he realizes that they are four times his size.

And that maybe he should just look at their reflections in the water, instead of trying to murder them.

BUT Sydney, she's lookin' for some goslings to throw around. Sorry Sydney, not yet, but I'm sure their tryin'.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Got Wood?

Cause we do...if you need any. We got this pile.

And these piles.

And this big fire wood pile.

And look at all these!!

This one is waiting for the road ban to be lifted on May 15th. And then its off to market.

Paul Bunyan needs to do a lot of this. But he's supposed to have his chaps and helmet on...and steal-toed boots, but I'll talk to him about that later.

It was this guy who made such a big mess in my back yard. Yea, he's hiding because he's broken and a little embarrassed that he's been sitting here since February.

We are lucky enough to have 135 forested acres to romp around in, get muddy in, get lost in, make trails on, splash around in, find all sorts of animals in, and generally bask in the glory of all the trees. We have the land enrolled in the state's Current Use Program, which allows us to have a tax break on all the acreage as long as we don't develop it. Which is perfect, since we don't want to develop anything. In order to be enrolled, we have to have a forest management plan, which gives the state an idea of how we're going to maintain the woods over the next 10 years. Here is a page out of the plan:

It talks about what kind of trees you can find in this section of the woods and what needs to be done to manage them for regeneration. So in accordance to the management plan, we had some logging done in February, when the ground was frozen and the least amount of damage could be done to the existing trails and roads. Despite the ground being frozen, I knew that there would be some damage to our roads because of the size and weight of both the skidder and forwarder, especially when they were loaded down with gigantic trees. I went up into the valley yesterday to see what tree carcasses remained.

The blue spot on this tree means it still needs to come down. Dave, the logger, left a few for Paul Bunyan to take down for fire wood.

Here is where it starts to get messy. Dave put down lots of branches and smaller logs in the wettest part of the logging road.

Up into the valley.

Onto the ridge.

Piles of tree tops.

I get kind of sad to think about the years of growth crumbling in one fell swoop. I definitely don't like the sound of a tree crashing to the ground. And the idea of cutting down something that is a combatant against our world-ending greenhouse gasses, makes my heart crumble. However, I do know that in order for life to prevail, things must die. And in this case, if it means a tree comes down just so another can grow in its place, I'm okay with that.

Especially if the young one is as beautiful and as straight and as sweet as this one.