So many changes…


Ok, first some good news. I got a new job! No more hour-and-a-half commute downtown, now I have a job a mere 45 minutes away (not bad considering where we live) in my own state – so no more paying taxes in that other state. Plus I got a raise, plus they have fully-company-paid medical and dental. I think I hit the jackpot! Next week is my last week at the old job, and then I start off on a new adventure, doing the same thing, Software QA Testing, but a whole lot closer to home!

The next big thing is going to be selling our house and moving closer into town – cutting that 45 minute commute down even more. Frankly we just can’t keep up with this property by ourselves. And it’s expensive to try. I don’t have much time at home, and I don’t want to spend it mowing. I’d rather be out bicycling or paddling or working on my car. We’re looking at houses in a modest neighborhood that is so close to work I could walk or ride my bike to work, and central to the other things we do, and to our friends who live in town.

Today we had to rent this monstrosity to catch up on the overgrown back and side yards.







Poor Dave worked his butt off to get the yards looking that good. Still pretty shaggy, but better. Next the weedwhacker will come out to do the edges.

We’ve also been cleaning and de-cluttering the house. As we get a room looking good I take pictures of it.


front room




I’m really happy with how they are coming out. I think our house looks pretty good! Keeping it clean and uncluttered is going to be a challenge for us, because we’re ‘pile-ers’ and we tend to accumulate stuff, but I think we can do it!

We had a friend who does house-cleaning come in and clean for us. We have carpet cleaners coming in on Monday. We’re going to have to spend a little money on having some pros come in and help get some stuff taken care of that we can’t do ourselves.




I’ll miss our place in the country, but I’m really looking forward to simplifying our lives, so we can concentrate on the things that we really enjoy.



4H meeting at my house

Martha and our guest speaker worked with the kids to help them address showing/handling issues with their llamas.

We had a 4H Llama meeting at our house today. I really enjoy hosting the meetings, because it’s fun to see everybody, and I don’t even have to leave the house! The dogs usually get to play with some kids, and it’s always exciting to see what happens. Today we had some unexpected excitement!

To start with, last night a couple families dropped off their animals early, and one of the families discovered their llama had inflamed feet – turned out they had foot rot going on because of all the mud on their farm. So I hung out with them and helped them get the llama treated until it was nearly dark, then kept her in our dry paddock all night.

This morning the 4H group started showing up, and we had a couple visiting experts, so they had a look at the foot rot problem and gave her advice on what to do. They got busy treating their llama’s feet, and the other llamas they had brought, and we got the other kids busy working on learning to show for fair. Our visiting experts helped them out one-on-one, which was great for the kids.

At the same time, a couple families had said that on the drive in they saw a very shaggy llama running down the street about a mile from our house. I pretty much know who lives where, and I thought I knew where that animal belonged. By the second time someone mentioned it, one of the families jumped in their truck (with horse trailer) and headed off to look for it. After a short chase they cornered it and caught it, wrestled it into the trailer, and brought it back to my place. I gave them a halter for it and they walked it out (noticing along the way that it was an intact male) and as soon as Martha, the other leader saw it – she recognized it as an animal she had given away a year or two before!

Turns out this animal which should have been gelded, had instead been passed around intact, never sheared apparently, and was now a big mess, and running loose! So I hopped in my van, along with the mom who had caught the beast, and we drove to where I thought the critter belonged. I got it right on the first try! She went up to the farm house, and the people said ‘yeah, he got out again’ – and they weren’t even out looking for him! So they took the llama back to it’s home, and the 4H mom told the people if they ever wanted to get rid of it to let her know. Instead of saying yes right there, while the animal was haltered and in the trailer, they waited a couple hours and then called and told her to come get it! jerks! So now folks are networking to figure out how to rescue this animal, get it the old snip-snip, and find a home for it.

After the 4H meeting was over I went along with two of the other families to the family’s farm with the foot rot problem, and we all worked until it was getting dark, treating all their animals and rearranging their barn to make a safe dry area for the llamas to recover in. Since this is the family that ended up with my llamas, I got to visit with Scoops and Patrone again, and Scoops was as sweet as he ever was – proving to me that it’s not me, these alpacas I am fostering really are just jerks! Heck, even Patrone was nicer to me than the foster alpacas!

So it turned out to be a very long day. I barely sat down between 10am and 7pm, helping haul straw, lift, pull, drag, dig, lead, and do anything else helpful I could (without getting kicked by a llama). Glad I could help out our friends, and I hope their animals recover quickly. I know this snuck up on them and they felt terrible about it, and I could have easily seen that happening to myself.

I stopped and picked up a pizza on the way home, and now I’m crashing on the couch – what a LONG day!  But you know, it made me feel good too, because my friends (like me) all have learned along the way, through trial and error sometimes, to take care of their animals, and help each other out, and if I decide to get a horse someday, I know they’ll be there to help me too.


Snow day! Didn’t see that one coming!

Jeeze, I guess I should pay more attention to the weather reports. I had no idea this was going to happen!

I think this is Navi’s first really good snow

It seems to bring out the ‘play’ in the eskies!

Tennis ball + snow = snowball!

Jack doesn’t like it when it’s cold and wet

Let’s go inside and lay on the couch and watch TV – and turn the heat up!

Of course the alpacas have no choice. But they seem to like it. If they didn’t they would have stayed under the shelter, and not have snow on their backs.

Yay! Snow!
There’s just something special about a snow day!

Alpaca training day 4

While Red and Black seem to be getting it, White decided he would try some new behaviors today. He was the second one to be fed. Red was already in the garden working on his food, and Black was waiting in the paddock for his turn, while White was in the pasture – so they were all separated. White started physically pushing me and I had to actively use my hand to tell him to back off, but he kept pushing and getting right in my face. He tried to use his head to knock the food bowl out of my hands, and finally he looked right at me, shoved his face towards me, and spit in my face! Luckily he hadn’t worked up the goo, so it was just a snort of foul air, but my immediate reaction was to turn around and hand his food to Black in the paddock, and walk away, leaving White to watch the other two alpacas eating their breakfast. I hope he thinks about how that worked for him.

We’ll see how the evening feeding goes.

Update: Dinner went much smoother. Red made a couple stabs at diving into the bowl, then backed off, Black backed off and gave me room immediately, and White got fed last. He walked up to me and I waved a hand at him to let him know he was getting too close, and he immediately stepped away, turned sideways, and watched me out of one eye – Bingo! That gets you your food. I think going without his breakfast made an impression on him.


Alpaca training day 2

The nice thing about clicker training is that it works on everything – dogs, cats, whales, tigers, chickens, and even alpacas. Today was the second day of ‘don’t push me over to get to the food’ training, and they surprised me by offering different behaviors than yesterday in their efforts to get to the food quicker. They weren’t GOOD behaviors, but that’s ok. I just ignored them and waited for the behavior I wanted – which is standing at arms length and waiting. The behavior I want is the only one that gets them the bowl of food.

Today Red got frustrated when I blocked his repeated attempts to force his way to the bowl, and he looked right at me, tilted his head up and started gurgling up a wad of spit for me! I just held a hand up to him and calmly told him ‘no’ (usually I just ignore bad behavior, but I felt this one merited a comment, and I wanted to get my hand up there to deflect the spit) and he backed off and tried something else. So that’s ok. I like that he’s trying things. I want him to figure out on his own that standing back gets him the food.

Likewise Black got so annoyed he was kicking and stamping his feet, but not AT me, so it was ok. I just ignored it. He figured out on his own to stand back, and he got his food. I think he got it the quickest of all three. Red took the longest today. I had to use the whip to remind White to keep his distance while I was filling a bowl – I just tucked the whip under my arm and turned away from him while I finished filling the bowl (so the whip moved towards him) and the whip barely touched him but he jumped away and stayed back. Llamas (and alpacas) like their personal space – I think it’s only fair for them to respect mine as well.


Alpaca Zen

To get the food, you must give up the food… First rule of Zen training. The dogs learn it so they won’t leap up and steal food out of your hands (taking fingers in the process), and now the alpacas are learning it so they won’t mug me and spit all over me to get their daily grain. I like the term ‘Zen’ training as well because it isn’t bossy or pushy or forceful, it involves doing nothing to get what you want, which is a peaceful way to train.

So I went out this morning and filled a bowl and invited a packy into the garden area (out of spitting range of the other two). I held the bowl and as Red tried to dive in, I blocked him with my hand. If he got real pushy I turned away. As soon as he turned his head away from the bowl I clicked and thrust the bowl out to him to take a bite, then took it away again. After repeating a few times he quit trying to jam his head into the bowl and just stood back and waited. That also gets a click and another bite from the bowl. When it looked like he understood, I clicked and set the whole bowl on the ground and let him finish his breakfast in peace.

I repeated the training with the other two individually, and it worked just as well. It took a few tries, and they figured out they got their food faster by staying back. I did it again at dinner time and it went just as well. I’ll be curious to see how quickly they pick this up and give up on rushing the bowl. So far, excellent results, and I didn’t get spit on at all.

I went to the feed store for some supplies today and picked up a long horse whip – about four foot long. I find this is perfect to help gently move the alpacas around. Now if they crowd me or aim their butt at me, I can encourage them to move while remaining outside of kicking range. A few gentle taps with the whip and they scoot out of the way.

What do you know? I may be smarter than an alpaca!



I don’t know why llamas and alpacas don’t like me, but it’s clear they don’t. I’m guessing maybe I’m too nice, and they figure they can push me around. Well, that’s all over. I’ve worked out some strategies to avoid getting spit on, and they seem to have worked well so far.

To start with they used to be in the paddock when I was getting food ready, and they could see me and start getting worked up about it. Now I shut them out of the paddock, while I get food ready.

Yup, you guys can just stay over there while I get your bowls ready. I’m sure the white one is wondering if his spray could hit me from there.

Once the food is doled out I get Red to come into the garden and give him his food. He gets the most because under all that filthy wool is a very skinny alpaca.

Then I get black and white separated. One gets to go in the paddock (today it was black) and the other stays in the main field.

White is always too excited and starts getting spitty so I don’t even give him the chance now, I won’t let him anywhere near me. When I have the bowl I hold my hand up high (to make myself taller) and make him back off. He seems to be taking me seriously. I definitely won’t let him crowd me or sniff my face anymore.

 When he was done eating he went around to the fence to annoy the dogs. Navi doesn’t like the monsters at all! Barclay didn’t like seeing me get spit on, he was ready to come defend me right then. But they aren’t allowed anywhere near the alpacas because the alpacas could hurt them and vice versa.

After they ate their grain I used a bucket of hay to get them all into the paddock for the night. The dogs had to inspect it before I could get across the yard with it. They  don’t get it – it doesn’t look like food to them!

Workin’ hard around the yard

We had the most beautiful weather this weekend (our weekend is Tues-Wed). This is why we live in the NW. It was sunny, and in the 50s on Tuesday, 40s today. Perfect weather for getting a bunch of hard work done before the ground either freezes up solid again, or melts completely into a mud puddle.

So I started out with a project that has been nagging at me for a couple years. Several years ago I put in a raised bed garden in an unused part of the yard, and it didn’t really work out there, so it sort of got abandoned, it was hard to mow around, and because it was made of concrete blocks with the holes in them, it was a hazard for the dogs who have been playing around it (especially just recently), and it needed to be removed. But who wants to remove 30-some concrete blocks that are sunk into the dirt and seem pretty permanent? Nobody. But it has to be done.

So I got the mower and the lawn cart, and took a load of wood chips over to the garden area (no point driving over there without taking something along for the ride). I shoveled a bunch of fresh chips onto the path where it was getting bare and muddy. It’s going to take several more loads.

Fresh wood chips on the left, ground that needs some more on the right.

I took the cart over to the drainfield area and started loading up concrete blocks. Each one had to be wrestled out of the ground, wiggling them back and forth like a loose tooth. I loaded 12 into the cart at a time and took them over to the area outside my garden next to the compost piles and..

Used them to build a new compost pile area. I really needed a new compost area to put the alpaca poo I’ve been scooping up every morning.

So that was all yesterday. Dave helped a bit but by the end of the day I was beat. Those concrete blocks are terribly heavy! But I’m really happy with the compost area.

Today I headed right out this morning and got to work on the next thing on my list – the semi-annual cleaning of the chicken coop. (this is the after picture).

The deep bed method had backfired on me as it piled up faster than I was keeping up with it. For the last two weeks I’ve been trying to find time to get out there and clean it up. I cleared out THREE heaping wheelbarrow loads – and I think it’s an 8 cubic foot wheelbarrow! That’s a lot of crap!

I spread the chicken poo thinly over the beds in the garden and put the rest in the new compost pile. Then I took all the straw I removed from the alpaca shelter (which was old straw, sheep poo and pig poo from last year) and scattered that over the chicken poo. I’m hoping all this will break down by planting time (May around here) and make for happy plants this summer.

Back in the chicken coop I got the brooder all cleaned out, because the feed store is getting chicks this weekend, and I want to get some. This way they should be old enough to start laying by winter. In this picture I’ve put straw in the brooder, but I’m going to change that to chips, because I think the straw will be too hard for the chicks to walk on.

Some of my girls moved right back into their clean home. They were a bit put out after being banished from the coop all day while it was being cleaned. Next on the to-do list – put up a piece of plywood to hide the insulation from the chickens. I don’t know how they  get to it to tear it up, but they do.

In the coop the dogs help clean up any poo I missed – yuk!

A beautiful end to a very productive two days. I shoveled until I had nothing left in me! It’s great to finally get all those chores done. Now I need a weekend to recover from my weekend!


Ugh – spitwad to the face!

I went out to feed the alpacas this evening and the white one pushed to the front and spit right in my face – NASTY! This morning when I separated them to feed them he gurgled at me and I was firm with him to knock it off, then as I set down his food and walked away he aimed a kick at me, missing by a hair. I tell you, whenever I give these llamas (and now alpacas) a chance they always prove themselves to be foul tempered, nasty animals. I really don’t get what people see in them. Having an animal that will unload a stomach of green goo in your face is just FOUL. So much for rescues being grateful for what you do for them. These guys were fine the first week, but now that their bellies are full they are back to their nasty selves. I’m glad they’ll just be temporary fosters.


This morning

It was 28 degrees this morning, and I had to get right up and go out and break ice off the water troughs, separate the alpacas and feed them each their individual breakfasts (without getting spit on because they get excited when they see the bowls), scold the dogs for barking at them the whole time, freshen up their hay, send them out to play in the pasture, and clean up all the poo in the shelter area. 

Ok, so adding 3 packys is a LITTLE extra work. I’m sure all my farm friends are doing the same thing and more 😀