Sunday, July 4, 2010

Friends - Human and Animal Alike

Some of the land out here has a Property Owner's Association.  Many of its members got together over the Memorial Day weekend.  Ralph and I are not members of the association, but we appreciate the community spirit.  We offered to bring some of our animals out as an attraction to help them raise money over the weekend get-together.  One of our neighbors (just one of many surrogate grandparents from the ranch) did a great thing that saved us time and effort; he picked up corral panels from our local rancher who was nice enough to let us borrow them.  Not only did he pick them up, but he set them up.  When the time came he even broke them down and took them back!  I was so thankful for that help that I had to demonstrate my appreciation.  This is Weston helping me peel apples for the Apple Crunch I made as a "Thank you."  Our rancher-neighbor received a "Thank You" Apple Crunch as well.
Neighbors like ours can't be beat.  It was my pleasure to take time out, make these guys a special dessert, and to deliver them.  And with help from Weston, it was even more fun!

This is our gelding, Harley, who is giving one of our friends an idea of what it is like to ride a Llama.  Most of the time Llamas are merely pack animals which can carry 25%-30% of their weight.  However, Harley here is rather cooperative having no problem with the light weight of his temporary cargo.  After some reading, I am learning that it is the males who were the workers, while the females remained in their pasture bearing and caring for young.  In the Andean culture, if a male was not a good worker/pack animal, he landed on the dinner table.  To this day, males are the best choice for learning to walk and pack with you.  Harley is a good example of that.

Speaking of useful animals, our chickens are growing up!  Three out of twelve chickens from last year survived the Bobcat.  We couldn't figure out why we were loosing on average one chicken per day.  Then one early June morning Ralph woke up due to some very loud and urgent squawking coming from the chicken coop.  Bleary-eyed he couldn't see much of anything, but he noticed one of the chickens had escaped and was sitting on a Llama's back down the hill (she knew she'd be safe on a Llama!).  Then he realized one of the 'rocks' moved, it was a Bobcat!  After the Bobcat-issue was taken care of, we noticed one of the three hens might not make it.  Her wing hanging a bit, and her lack of interest in getting out to forage, we thought she wouldn't make it.  The cat had grabbed her but couldn't pull her through the chicken-wire door.  That must have been how the second one literally flew the coop.  Ultimately, she didn't make it.  So we were down to two hens until this April.

This year we have a better enclosure to keep the chickens safe.  After a year of freedom however, the two older hens don't like being confined much.  Soon we hope to expand their quarters to give them more space.  And soon, we hope to be getting eggs from the other twenty-some hens as well.  This is what they looked like when we got them this April.
Like little puffs of cotton!

One of our plans for making the land work for us is to milk our Nubian Goats.  We hope to have them bred in December so that they won't give birth until May, 2011.  Our winters last a while and we would rather the baby goats (kids) weren't born in April.  Mid May would be best.  Once they kid, we'll begin milking.  I want to try making all kinds of things with the milk, such as cheeses, fudges, yogurt, butter and maybe even ice cream.
This is Shelby.  She's the nicest of the three does we have.  We anticipate her being a good cooperative milker.  Goat milk is very good for you, especially for those who are lactose intolerant.

This all goes hand-in-hand with our ultimate hopes of building a few cabins for visitors.  Anyone interested in any aspect of our operation, be it the garlic, the gardens, the orchard, or the animals, then they can stay for a discounted price if they wish to help out during their stay.  Either way we want visitors to have a comfortable stay where they can experience off-grid living.

Our vision includes a central building where a group can come together and have either family reunions, weddings, or whatever.  No matter who comes, we would like them to have a cabin and the opportunity to just sit around, read, relax, or enjoy the gardens.  Some may wish to see what it is like to care for animals while others may want to work a little in the gardens, garlic fields or orchard.  We feel this is a great way to incorporate everything we want to accomplish.  Visitors will have the chance to go home with fresh eggs, cheeses, fudge, fruit pies, fresh cut flowers, garlic, or whatever happens to be available during that point in the season.

Progress is slow yet steady.  While I work and wait, I'll just be scratching my head like my son here, wondering if we aren't just crazy.

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