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Running a ranch can take a lot of time. Our youngest daughter got married in April. I've been aiming to keep you up to date, but it just hasn't been happening. My apologies. Let's see if I can get you caught up.
We installed a new wood burning stove to save on the cost of propane. It's also a cozy way to spend a cold winter night watching the wood burn.
We did have a snow storm last January. Our oldest daughter and our grandson came out and got to explore the world of snow and hot chocolate!
We added a couple of outdoor cats to keep down the rodent population. Stripes the cat loves to hang out with the alpacas.
We had a warmer than normal winter with a colder than normal spring. A few of the fruit trees were too confused by the weather. The rest of the trees did have fruit for the first time this year. We're learning how to keep the birds and squirrels from getting all of the fruit.
We ordered baby chicks and turkeys. They came in the mail the beginning of June. There is 17 of them and they travel as a huge pack, intimidating the other birds.
Natalie and Ferdinand are now a year old. They received their first "haircuts" the middle of June.
We had 3 sweet little piglets born in July. Applesauce is their mother and she has done a great job taking care of her first litter.
Don installed more irrigation so we have faucets at all of the animal enclosures and the orchard and gardens. Click on the button (New Additions to the Ranch) below to see photos of the irrigation project. Before this, we were dragging hoses from the one faucet on the front corner of the house. Life is much simpler now!
Little by little we improve the ranch. We'll try harder to keep you updated. Thank you for your interest in our adventure. Come by and say hi the next time we're doing a craft fair.
When you say "ranch" everybody pictures big red barns, a huge white farm house with a wide front porch and acres of golden rows of corn. What if you can't afford that right away? Should you give up your dream?
After we bought our property, we didn't start with a lot of cash. We had to make some decisions. First we needed to decide what things were most important. We needed animal enclosures, but that didn't mean we had to have that big red barn. Alpacas actually do better in a simple, more open design for their enclosures. They can get out of the sun, rain, and and wind. Also, they can usually roam the whole property during the day, if they chose.
It's best to avoid going into debt. Our ranch isn't making a lot of money, yet. We've built most of our enclosures ourselves and we have done it a little at a time. Pork Chops, the pig started in a small enclosure when he was small and last fall we were able to build a bigger one for him. We also learn as we go. We are making our mistakes at a slow, steady pace, instead of all at once in the beginning.
Our home is comfortable. Our animals are safe and content. We have the space we need to expand as we go. It is healthy to be patient as we build our ranch. It's fun to try to picture what our place will look like in 20 years.
"Lord be willing and the creek don't rise."
The summer before we moved out to the ranch, our daughter received a male Guinea hog piglet for her birthday. He is named Pork Chop. He was the start of our hog breeding program.
Guinea hogs are a heritage breed that are perfect for small farms. They are a gentle, friendly breed that only get about 300 pounds. They were popular in the 1800’s, but as small homestead farms disappeared, the Guinea hog also started to fade away. Since the 1980’s the breed has been making a comeback. They are still a relatively rare breed.
After searching for weeks, our daughter found a sow in Montana that wasn’t related to Pork Chop. She and my husband decided to take a road trip to Montana to pick up a new pig.
They hooked the horse trailer to the truck. The trip went well until they entered Montana. It was the middle of the night and they hit a deer. They were only about an hour away from their hotel so they kept driving. When they arrived at the hotel my husband went into the office to check in. While my daughter waited outside she noticed the truck had caught fire under the hood. The clerk at the desk had no idea if he had a fire extinguisher somewhere about. They were able to put the fire out, but they had to stay in Montana a little longer than they had figured on staying, to get the truck running again.
The trip home was uneventful, thankfully. Susie has given us two litters of piglets so far and she is settled in nicely.
You've all heard the old joke about Real Estate ads:
Cozy, intimate home - extremely cramped
Historical house - ready to fall down
Lots of potential - you'll need several months of hard work to be able to move in
The ad for our new place listed animal enclosures. This is what we found:
We also had a fence:
We had our large animals boarded at the local alpaca ranch. We needed to build safe enclosures for the animals before we could bring them out. There were coyotes living on our property and bob cats and mountain lions wondered through from time to time.
We started with a shanty for one of our pigs, just to get started.
We then built a more solid, safer enclosure for our girls alpacas, Dolly and Melody, and the pig.
Next we built a pen for the boys, Arthur and Sam. Pork Chops, the pig, had been in a dog run along the back of the house, but we added a pen on the boys enclosure for him.
We were finally able to have our first animals safely on the ranch with us.
With three alpacas we decided we needed more space. We knew that we enjoyed taking care of our alpacas. We needed to find a home with more land. That started a whole new adventure.
We searched for land that was affordable. The farther from town we drove, the better the prices. Also finding an affordable spot meant we visited a lot of "unusual" properties. We drove down a lot of long, rutted, rough, unmarked dirt roads. We were often lost. Some places were on the side of a mountain with steep rugged drives to get to them. Occasionally, the house had nothing but 4 walls.
We went out on most of our Sundays and drove looking for the new listings. As we started to find places that might actually work, we brought along our long suffering real estate agents. They were so supportive and patient! It took us 3 years, but we finally found our place. It is 10 acres, with a small wood, some flat places for pastures, and a functional house. Our next adventure was to make a ranch out of it!
We had owned our two alpacas (Dolly and Melody) a couple of months when it came time for Dolly to have her baby. We read anything we could discover about alpaca birthing. We ordered all the medical supplies that the books recommended. And we waited.
Alpacas can give birth anytime between 10 to 12 months. 11 months is the most common gestation period. We knew that she was due to give birth the beginning of March. It turned out that she started labor one day after her due date.
She was an experienced mama and she knew just what to do. The ranch owner, where we bought Dolly and Melody, came down to help us with our first birth. Things went fairly smoothly and a healthy fuzzy little male cria (baby alpaca) was born.
He was up and about quickly and for a week or two we called him Wobbly. He would get excited and wobble quickly into a fence or his mother. There were no injuries and he grew steadly. We have named him Arthur and he is almost 4 years old now. He is still entertaining us with his silly personality.
Actually, you can buy alpacas on the internet. Just remember to inspect every animal you buy for your ranch or farm.
When I was in my twenties I worked with a petting zoo. There were llamas in the little zoo and I quickly fell in love with them. Overtime we considered owning llamas. Being a knitter I started to learn about the wonderful yarn made from alpacas. I discovered that llama fiber is not as soft as an alpaca's fiber. We decided we should get alpacas.
While visiting a craft fair we met some alpaca ranchers who were having a SALE! We could buy alpacas at a lower price! How could we pass it up. We were living on a typical 25' by 50' urban lot, but they assured us that the alpacas didn't need a lot of space. So, we became alpaca owners!
We bought two females -
Dolly was pregnant and due to give birth in a little over a month. My husband built a simple enclosure and the girls moved in.
Fortunately, the neighbors were charmed by our new additions. Alpacas make a gentle humming sound that is quite calming to hear. Dolly discovered that she could see more alpacas in our patio doors (her own reflection). Dolly is territorial and spent her mornings spitting on the "alpacas" in the window. I spent my afternoons washing the windows. We settled into a comfortable routine. Next blog - Arthur is born!!
We have started a sustainable homestead by the seat of our pants! We make things up as we learn day by day. We are not experts, but we have discovered a lot of ways to not do things. Read along and comment and/or ask questions. Join us on this adventure!
Our mini ranch hand