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Bluebird boxes

February 22nd, 2016 • By: jilladmin Uncategorized

bluebird

It’s pretending to be spring in Maine at the moment, with bare ground and warm temperatures (hey, anything above freezing is warm this time of year!), so I’m taking the opportunity to put up our tree swallow/bluebird houses before the scouts get here. Males of both target species arrive on the breeding grounds before the females, and they’re already in southern Maine – many bluebirds didn’t even bother to leave this winter, the weather has been so mild.

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We love hosting bluebirds and tree swallows – both birds are great at catching bugs, and anything that reduces the number of buzzing, biting insects here is very welcome. Houses are cleaned and emptied after every season with a dusting of diatomaceous earth sprinkled inside to make life unpleasant for lingering bird lice. It’s important to be vigilant when offering nest houses, as undesirable cavity nesters may compete lethally with the species we want. European House Sparrows (HOSPs) will build nests right on top of occupied nests, killing the previous occupants. Properly locating and patrolling your nest boxes is very important to reduce HOSP predation on desirable birds: Getting Started with Bluebirds

Unfortunately, our houses were up and unmonitored in Benton for a summer during our move to Pittsfield, before they were brought here and stored in the barn. While cleaning the houses today, I found graphic evidence of just how lethal HOSPs can be – the mummified remains of a tree swallow and her brood, suffocated by the nest a HOSP built right over them. A sad lesson learned, and the boxes won’t go unmonitored again.

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How can you resist this face?

February 21st, 2016 • By: jilladmin Uncategorized

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Ninny is a beautiful suri (of course, I think they all are). But right now, they’re also muddy and covered in bedding, which needs to come out as soon as the weather gets a little warmer consistently. So we’ll stick with a glamour shot today.

Today’s egg-y goodness

February 1st, 2016 • By: jilladmin Uncategorized

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Look at all the yummy eggs I collected this morning! Our adult turkeys started laying a few days ago (silly turkeys) – and now it looks like the turkeys formerly known as Thanksgiving and Christmas are also laying. You can see their smaller eggs next to the full size turkey eggs up top. Apparently they’re both hens, given that there were two eggs this morning. I knew one – let’s call her I Guess We’re Going to Keep You – was a hen, because she drops like a rock in front of me every time I enter the pen. She apparently is a little confused about both species and gender if she really wants fertile eggs. I had assumed the other turkey – we can call her I Guess We’re Going to Keep You, Two – was male, but maybe she just doesn’t like me.

The chickens are laying up a storm – it’s tempting to think about pulling out the incubator soon, but that’s what I bought silkies for. If either one thinks about going broody, I’ll let them. We have a bunch of pure wheaten Ameraucana hens and a rooster, but for the winter they’re all mixed in with other breeds – silkies, a maran, a splash cochin rooster, some Easter Eggers, and a whole bunch of who-knows-whats. Mutt chickens can be so beautiful!

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Goats!

January 31st, 2016 • By: jilladmin Uncategorized

If you don’t love goats, it’s only because you haven’t met the right ones yet.  We love our Nigerian dwarf dairy goats – they’re like little dogs that eat your gardens if you don’t watch them like a hawk. Thyme is the beige one, Pearl is black, and Jasmine is brown.

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I bought these three does bred several years ago with the honest intent to milk them, but then I discovered that I’m pretty much terrible at doing anything on a regular schedule.  Besides, the girls could tell I’d never milked a goat before, and that was the end of that.  So I let them raise their youngsters and gave up on my dreams of goat’s milk soap (at least temporarily). Jasmine and Thyme both had triplets, but sadly, Pearl resorbed her pregnancy.

Baby goats are quite possibly the cutest things on the planet.  They hop, they jump, the climb on anything that stands still long enough – and when they fall asleep in your lap, the cuteness overload is too much.  261203_10200320587831489_2045848377_n

We ended up keeping one of each set of triplets, and so now we have our little herd of five, the three does and two wethered boys.  Number One’s disbudding was botched by the vet, so he is the proud owner of a set of horns.  Thankfully, he’s mostly good with them, unless he really, really thinks you need to be petting him more.  You can see he’s not a lap goat any longer.

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I am often asked if goats and alpacas can be kept together.  The short answer is, “No.”  The longer answer is, “Yes, if you’re willing to do a lot more work and run some serious risks of illness or injury.”  Goats and alpacas share all the same parasites, but unlike relatively tidy alpacas, goats don’t even seem to know when they’re pooping – so manure ends up everywhere.  This exposes the alpacas to a lot chances to pick up parasites, and alpacas are a lot more sensitive to those parasites than the goats that shed them.  So a responsible owner would need to be checking fecals, eyelid color and weights on a regular basis (not deworming to a schedule!), to make sure the alpacas were not developing a worm burden beyond their ability to manage.

Goats and alpacas don’t have the same nutritional needs, either.  Goats need added copper compared to most livestock, while alpacas are copper sensitive, like sheep.  They don’t speak the same language – goats may be used to getting rammed in the ribs by their herdmates, but that same butt could break a young alpaca’s ribs.

I could go on – but I don’t have to, because the Suri Network put together a chart of pros and cons for keeping alpacas with other types of livestock, not just goats.  Nutritional issues, parasites and diseases, behavioral challenges – we tried to cover it all.  Read more in the current issue of PurelySuri, here.

Some little piggies will go to market – but these three stay home

January 25th, 2016 • By: jilladmin Uncategorized

There are a lot more animals here at Bag End than just alpacas – today I’d like to introduce you to our pigs, Undur, Bub and Squealey.

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The two sows, Undur and Bub, have suitably Tolkienesque names – Undur means “fat” and Bub means “pig” in Orcish – but our boar Squealey pretty much named himself as a piglet.  The sows are crosses of two heritage breeds, Gloucestershire Old Spots (GOS) and Tamworth, while Squealey is pure GOS.  Both breeds are old fashioned foraging types, and our little herd will be out in the woods and fields this spring.  They’re a great way to reclaim or till areas you want worked over – we introduced Squealey to his job as a walking rototiller when he was just a little guy (that’s our amazing summer intern Evelyn supervising).

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Hopefully, they’ll have piglets out foraging with them, if Squealey has done his job.  We have to cut him some slack, though, as the girls still outweigh him by about 200 pounds.

The alpacas have finally become accustomed to the pigs after many months, although they remain incredibly suspicious of them.  I suspect it’s because pigs seem so ambiguous – not clearly a predator, not clearly another grazer.  Not to mention that the pigs think trying to play tag with the alpacas is great fun, even with a fence between them.  The alpacas have yet to figure out the pigs mean the chasing and squealing in fun – although the donkeys liked to play when they had an adjoining fence.  The pigs and donkeys would touch noses, squeal or bray, turn and race away, only to come back and repeat.

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Squealey and his lady friends are pretty darned spoiled (as is everything else on the farm) – here Squealey is ensuring that our son Fox gives him a thorough scritching by the simple expedient of sitting on his feet.  Escape is generally possible when Squealey collapses on his side looking for a tummy rub, though.

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But as idyllic a life as these three have, we do raise pigs for more than just the pleasure of knowing them – one of their piglets will become bacon, chops and roasts in our freezer, while the remainder will feed other Maine families looking for humanely raised and handled pork.  Our pigs have ample room to roam, are fed healthy feeds to supplement what they forage for themselves, and are treated with kindness and respect.  We will not castrate any male piglets raised for slaughter, but instead will process them young enough that there is no possibility of boar taint.  We know that eating meat isn’t for everyone, but we have made the conscious decision to raise the beef, pork and poultry we eat ourselves, so that we know every individual animal was happy and healthy from birth to death.

Sunshine, vitamin D and alpacas

January 24, 2016
by: jilladmin • Alpacas, Herd health

National Show Results

March 18, 2014
by: jilladmin • Alpacas, Black, Brown, Fawn

Suri roving available for sale

February 26, 2012
by: jilladmin • Alpacas, Beige, Black, Fawn, White

MAPACA results

April 9, 2011
by: jilladmin • Accoyo Bloodlines, Alpacas, Brown, Full Peruvian, Males, White

Bluebird boxes

February 22, 2016
by: jilladmin • Uncategorized

How can you resist this face?

February 21, 2016
by: jilladmin • Uncategorized

Today’s egg-y goodness

February 1, 2016
by: jilladmin • Uncategorized

Goats!

January 31, 2016
by: jilladmin • Uncategorized

Bluebird boxes

February 22, 2016
by: jilladmin • Uncategorized

How can you resist this face?

February 21, 2016
by: jilladmin • Uncategorized

Today’s egg-y goodness

February 1, 2016
by: jilladmin • Uncategorized

Goats!

January 31, 2016
by: jilladmin • Uncategorized