What the heck are they?

"What the heck are they?"  That's the question I've gotten more times than I can count since we decided to add Alpacas to the farm.  When they first arrived, passersby would slow to a stop trying to figure out what they were seeing.   One lady asked if I had camels in my pasture.  I resisted the urge to tell her that, "Yes, they are minature, hump-less camels imported from South America". 

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After folks figure out what they are, the next question is usually, "Why do ya want them?"  Here are a few of the reasons I think they are such a good fit for our farm:

1.  The most obvious reason...     

2.   They're pretty easy keepers. 

In other words, they are relatively easy to maintain.  Pasture and a small amount of grain keep them happy during the warmer months.  In the winter they require hay.

Their feet are padded, not hooved so they don't destroy the pasture.  It takes very little land to keep them---You can keep up to 8 on an acre of ground. 

They require shearing only once a year, in the spring.  At that time they also recieve vaccinations and have their toenails clipped.

 

3.   They offer income potential.

While we are hobby farmers, our goal is to make our land productive and profitable.  When I was researching alpacas I discovered that not only is their fiber very valuable when sheared, but their manure is highly sought after by plant lovers. 

Like other manures it improves the water holding capacity of soil and adds much needed nutrients.  But unlike other manures, Alpaca poo doesn't neeed to be composted before use.  This means it won’t burn plants.  It is also less likely to contain strains of harmful bacteria, like E-coli, found in other manures.  This makes it perfect for vegetables, house plants and medicinal plants.

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We have been collecting, drying and pulverizing the alpaca manure here on the farm and are now offering 1 pound bags for sale.  This is a wonderful soil condtioner to add to potted plants.  It's also great when starting seedlings.  Or you can add it to your vegetable plants, or flower beds. 

 

 

 

We also offer Alpaca Tea Bags. 

These are cute little biodegradable burlap bags filled with dried "paca poo."  You fill a 1 gallon container with warm water and place the tea bag in it.  Let it sit in the sun and "steep" for 6-8 hours until it turns a rich carmel color.  Then pour over your plants.

Each bag will make 2-3 gallons of liquid nutrients for your plants.

 

 

 

 

 Both of these products can be purchased here.

Recycling Around the Farm

One of the best things about living along a sparsely traveled, country road is the seclusion.  However, with this seclusion comes the opportunity for illegal dumping.  Over the last few years we have had a few old tires thrown out on our farm in areas not visible from the house.

While the DEP has been good about picking them up when called, Justin came up with a great little DIY up-cycling project for a few of them.  On one end of our garden is a slope which too steep for the tractor to till.  His idea was to use some of these cast off tires as raised beds there.

He started by arranging the tires to give plants plenty of space to spread out and marked the outlines on the grass.  With a shovel he removed the sod and placed it to the side.  Where the center of the tire would sit he dug down several inches and added some sandy soil from the creek bank to allow for drainage.

Then placing the tire on the flat, sod-free surface, he filled the inside ring of the tire with dirt.  After depositing some seeds and seedlings inside, it was just a waiting game.

Fast-forward two months and the tire beds are overflowing with healthy, happy squash plants.  Cucumbers and cantaloupes are also coming along nicely.

This idea has allowed us to accomplish a few things:

-Utilize tires which would have otherwise ended up in a land fill

-Take advantage of a hilly section of our property

-Save space in our garden for vertical growth plants

At some point I wanna paint the tires some bright colors to add beauty to the garden.

Considering my love for all things junk, I'm sure this will be just one of many ways we will be able to use cast off items to add to the function of our fledgling farm.  I encourage you to be on the lookout for projects that give you the opportunity to breathe new life into old materials.