Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Have you started your garden yet? Here's my new raised bed garden!

I've been "poking around" on Pinterest, looking for ideas on gardening, when I ran across a picture of this raised bed garden.  I fell in love and really wanted one.  So, I put the pencil to the paper to see how much one of these little babies would cost me.  Each of the raised beds came to about $78.  Pretty pricey, but I've just about had it with my cast iron tubs out in the backyard.  After our drought a couple of years back, I had determined I would find something with an open bottom. 
Well, here it is!
 We began with a trip to the local Lowe's store.  We opted to go with cedar on the wood, rather than treated.  After all, who wants to grow their own vegetables in a pressure treated wood garden?  Ew!  I don't want that leaching out on my veggies!

We took one 2x2x8 post and cut it into four equal posts and notched the tops, for aesthetic purposes.

Here is Tim cutting the posts into four separate pieces.  He also used this to cut the tops off of each of the posts.

 Here is a picture of the completed top on one of the posts.  You get the idea.


Next, Tim cut the corners of the cedar planks so they would fit with 90 degree angles.

 There are four boards for the top of the box and another four boards for the bottom of the box.

 Okay, I will tell you we tried this two ways.  The first time, Tim simply put the base together with the posts.  Then, he added the panels.  Finally, he had to add the top boards.  This was quite difficult trying to get everything square.  The panels keep wanting to shift and move.  Not fun.  So, on the second box, we did it differently.

This time, Tim decided it would be much easier to build the box and then simply cut out the corners on the panels before adding it to the box.  Yep!  That was much easier!

Tim measured out the four panels first and cut them to size (the two sides and two end pieces).

Next, he simply cut out the pieces and the corners, to fit around the posts.

Here, you can see how the panels are simply cut around the posts. 
Next, enlist the assistance of your children!  Here, Harrison staples the panels to the end posts.  He is a pretty good stapler!
Make sure and staple both the ends and all of the inside sections to make sure the panels stay in place.

Hailey came along and hammered in the staples that didn't go in all the way.  As you can see here, we added some trim to the end corners, too. 

Now for the trim on the sides. Tim placed a piece underneath and then added a trim piece on top.  Here is a picture of the underneath piece.

Here, Tim is adding the outside trim piece.  This gives added stability for when the box is filled with all of the fresh compost!

There you go!  Our completed, raised bed, garden box!

Here it is after we carried it to it's final destination in the backyard!  Isn't that nice looking? 

 After getting the box in place, we needed to make two compost tubes, per box.  This is easily done with chicken wire, hog wire, or "whatever" wire. 

 Here is a finished compost tube. 

 We placed two tubes in the center, on each end of each garden box and initially, filled with newspaper, to aid in keeping the compost from going in the tubes.

 Yes, we are lucky!  We have a tractor with a front end loader AND we have fresh compost, since we have alpacas, chickens, cows, and horses.  A menagerie of poo!  This compost has been sitting for a year, so it is ready to go into the boxes.

 Here is an idea I got off of Pinterest.  We had some tubes out in our barn from a prior project.  We took the tubes and drilled holes on one side all the way down the length of the tube for slow drainage.

 These tubes are then placed in a "U" shape inside the box, with the ends sticking up for filling with water.  The holes are facing down.  We placed these approximately 6 inches below the top fill of compost.

 Here are some completed pictures of the completed garden box.  You can see the tubes on the left side, sitting up out of the box.  I fill these up with water and walk away.  The tubes slowly release the water via the small holes in the bottom into the soil sitting 6" underneath the surface.

Here is a picture of the second box.  Again, the compost tubes are in the center.  I add vegetable and fruit scraps to it, as well as fresh cut grass after we mow, and whatever else I can find to compost.  This releases the nutrients into the bottom of the soil.  The black tubes are, again, for watering.  I'm trying this out this year.  If it works, awesome! If not, they are only 6" underneath the surface and can be easily dug up for next year.
That's it!  I hope you get some good ideas from this!  Have fun!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Shearing Day 2013

Well, this year we had twelve of our own animals, six animals being boarded on our property, and another four coming over from a neighboring farm to be shorn.  Whew!  That's a lot of alpacas!  However, the term "many hands make light the work" was ever true this day.  We are so very, VERY blessed to have so many wonderful friends coming to assist us every year with shearing.  This year was no different.
We began the day by haltering and leading each animal over to the cleaning station.  We begin with a leaf blower.  By blowing on the alpaca's fleece, we are able to get a ton of the dust and debris out before shearing.  This is helpful for two reasons.  #1 It makes the blades on the shears last longer before dulling and having to be changed.  #2 It makes cleaning the fleece much easier after it comes off of the animal if most of the hay and dirt has already been removed.
Some of the alpacas LOVE this part.  It wasn't a really hot day, but the most of the alpacas liked the "air flow" on their back side.  There are always a few who think you are an alien preparing them for the mother ship.  :o)
 The next task at hand is to place each of the alpaca's four feet in ropes, stretch them out and lay them on the mat on the floor.  Our lovely Peggy, who was a vet tech in a former life, goes ahead and clips the toenails while the animals are on the floor.  Erica patiently awaits for the fleece bounty to come her way onto the sheet.  BTW, this was Erica and Chris' first year to help out with shearing and they were AWESOME!!!  Thanks, you two!!!

 Brian was our "head man", holding the alpaca down and keeping it calm while Tim shears.  This is one of the cria about to be shorn.

 The shearer starts with the belly fleece.  He gets this out of the way since this fiber is relatively coarse.  We want this out of the way before we begin collecting the prime fleece... the good stuff!

 Here's a better picture of the belly fleece coming off. The dark spots on this animal are all dirt.  She's a beautiful white under all of that!

 Next, the prime stuff!  The shearer begins on one side of the animal and quickly works his way up to the back.  As the fleece comes off of the animal, Erica is placing it on the sheet, maintaining it's original shape.  This just makes it easier later on to skirt the fleece (pull out the area just behind the neck and above the tail, if it's too dirty to mess with, as well as other coarse or inconsistent areas).

Then, the animal is slowly rolled over to the other side while the shearer continues to shear, until the entire blanket has been shorn.


The legs and butt area are shorn on the side facing up.  Then, the shearer proceeds to the neck.  The neck fibers are considered seconds (not prime) and can be just as soft as the blanket.  Usually, there is more guard hair in this area that needs to be removed.

  Here's another picture of the neck being shorn on the animal.

 We release the ropes for a short period of time to get the armpits and upper chest area shorn, too.

 A little off of the top, please!

 All done and ready to be walked back out to the pasture!
Every now and then, we find an animal that has teeth that need trimming.  I hate this part!  Tim uses a dremel tool to file down the teeth.  Yuk!   Ted holds the animals mouth open while Tim gets down to the business of trimming the teeth.

There's a joke in here somewhere...  "How many guys..." 

Mark has helped out a number of years shearing alpacas.  Every year he seems to get more and more attached to these animals.  He and Charlene have a mutual admiration thing going.  :o)

Kathleen came by to watch some of the shearing, too!  She really enjoyed petting the alpacas and seeing how soft they are.  This was her first trip out to our place and she was excited to meet all of the animals, especially our horse, Belle.  Sorry, I didn't get a picture of that one!  Thanks for coming by, Kathleen!  Another new friend of ours, Masayo and her husband, were able to make it by, too, for a little while.  Masayo, what did you think?

Finally, after all of the animals are shorn, bags of fleece are stored, and the pasture once again filled with happy critters, the workers take a chance to relax, have a beer or a glass of wine, and chill out under the shade of a tree.  We're missing Hailey, Maddie Bata, Erica and her husband, Chris in this picture.  Our farrier, Joe Spearman happened to be out trimming Belle's hooves, so he joined us for some relaxation, too.  Now that's what I call a productive day with some really great friends!  Thanks everyone, for making this another successful year of shearing!

Monday, April 15, 2013

New faces

Well, we received five phone calls in just two weeks asking for help to find new homes for some Great Pyranees.  We had been talking about getting another dog to keep our dog, Tysin, company, so we decided to begin with these rescues.  The first one didn't work out.  She wanted to eat the chickens.  Been there and done that!  However, the second one seemed to be a perfect match!  Phoebe has won her way into our hearts and has become a good friend to Tysin.  She's also turned out to be a great guardian watch dog for the alpacas!

 Shortly after that, one of my daughter's friends, let us know her cat had kittens that were ready to be weaned and wanted to know whether we needed any barn cats.  Sure!  So, we added three kittens to our mix!

Okay, I'm almost embarrassed to even show this terrible picture.  You simply can't take good pictures with red heat lamps on!  Anyway, you get the idea!  We added over 30 chicks to our flock, too!  More eggs on the way!

 I simply had to post updated pictures of the baby alpacas (cria) here on the ranch, too.  Do you remember the baby that came to us last November, along with three mama alpacas, from Rockwall?  Here is an updated picture of this little cutie!

And do you remember the cria that was born in the trailer on the way here from Rockwall?  We call him "Baby", but his chosen name by his owners became "Lord Valor".  He has won his way into our hearts.  He was the bottle fed baby and is simply the sweetest little guy, ever!

Last but not least, here is the little cria born on Thanksgiving, when we were on our family vacation.  My friend, Cindy, was taking care of our animals that week.  She was super surprised to find this little one in the pasture on a very, VERY cold morning!  She's growing up fast!

Well, that's it.  I just wanted to keep everyone updated on the latest animals on the ranch.  Enjoy!