I’m a Llama Whisperer and I’m Ok

Today was a day filled with hauling, chopping, and stacking wood. Jay originally said this would be a two hour job – this job took the day. We did have a few breaks and enough water so we could finish the ever growing stack of wood at our feet.

The first job was sawing the wood with a chain saw, and then hauling the wood out and putting it in a huge pile near the garage. Then, after many hours, water, and sweat we started to stack the wood back up inside of the garage for Annie and Jay’s winter supply of fire wood. There is still some stacking to go, but we got 80% of it back where it all started.

With all of this hard work done for the day, Annie decided that we needed to go down the hill to eat some ice cream. We went to a place near the house ate our ice cream on the porch over looking the beautiful Muskingum River.

Then back to the farm so we could feed the goats, and put the critters to bed. Ernest and Etta (goat kids) are now at 100% – I know this because their tails are staying up most of the time, and they’re eating well.

My last stop was out to the llamas. Today Jude came up to me and acted as though eating out of my hand was the norm. The cool thing about the llamas today was that I got all the llamas to eat out of my hand. Annie was amazed that Pepper was willing to do this because he has never been willing to do this before. Annie has now insisted that I need to put “llama whisperer” on my resume.

Striking Out and Whispering to Llamas

Today was off to a normal start with the usual chores like feeding the goats and chickens, but then Jay told me that that we were going to round up the llamas. That news meant that I needed to wake up Cat (Annie and Jay’s granddaughter) so we could have all hand son deck. We all took hold of a rope so we could gather the llamas into the corner. This worked with all but one llama, Maxwell (the head of the herd) who decided to prance around and show us who is boss. Annie did eventually get him to come, and the whole thing included Jay playing a game of tag with him.

After all of the llamas were tied up, Cat and I started brushing the llamas. Llamas are naturally very timid animals and because many of Blue Rock Station llamas were rescued, we have to work at winning their trust and allow them to become more confident llamas. We combed the llamas coat. I made sure I paid special attention to both Rita and Jude. Jude is the most skiddish of the llamas. As I combed his coat I told him that I believed in him and that he would learn to trust me.

After we did our best combing out the llamas coat, Annie, Cat and I went to a pro-choice bowl-a-thon. This was in Columbus so the drive was long but worth it to support the cause. I took a wonderful nap on the way there. After the bowling game we went to a wonderful Thai restaurant and ate coconut ice cream for dessert.

We came back to the farm late , the goats were not happy with us and were getting into a little bit of trouble. We fed the kids which is always my favorite part of the day but today I got a even better treat. Today Jude allowed me to feed him from my hand. Annie has not been able to do this before and has proclaimed me a “llama whisperer”. It’s one of the most amazing things to gain an animals trust. I feel so lucky to have gained his trust. I will keep working with Jude, so he can be the best llama he can be.

Pounding Tires in the Rain

Today started on a sad note: Ringo died this morning. Ringo waited for Annie and then left this world. So I started my morning helping to dig a grave for him.
Thankfully I got to feed Ernest this morning, that brightened my heart. This is how farm life really is – there are both sorrows and joys. In life it reminds you that life is fragile and precious.
After chores we started to prepare for the Earthship workshop. We had hosted a young man the night before (Chad). He helped dig the grave, and then assisted with preparing the canapes we made for tea . We made different types but the most delicious had lemon cream cheese and mint leaves (one that I invented).
I swept the floor out on the porch which was almost impossible since the brick floor is not sealed.
As the individuals started to arrive the dark clouds started to roll in and a little bit of hail started to fall down.
When the second to last individuals came Jay decided that we should start showing them how to pound earth into tires, before the weather got worse. Why were we pounding earth into tires you ask? Well the house that Annie and Jay live in is made out of reclaimed tires. An Earthship is a design for homes made by architect Michael Reynolds. If you want to know more about how rammed earth tires work you can come to an Earthship workshop.
As we pounded in the pouring rain Jay gave great explanations on how to make tire walls and how the process of building the home worked. I got to learn so many things in the workshop about this special house (I have been walking around in this very house for a week.). I am so happy to be staying with Annie and Jay and learning about all the wonderful things on the farm. I am so grateful to be able to enjoy their company and for all of the things I’m learning.

Playing in the Dirt with Elton John

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today Annie and I went out early – before morning chores to check on the chicks. Thankfully, when we got to the milk room, Isabella was already cooing over her beautiful new babies. I am so happy that she is an amazing momma of 27.
Ringo, one of the llamas on the farm has not been doing well. Annie and Jay are doing the best to take care of him, but are worried that his days are numbered. All the other animals on the farm are doing well and I hope Ringo gets better. Ringo was a rescue llama and because of this Annie and Jay don’t know his age.
Annie went to town this morning to get groceries and I was put to work on cleaning out garden beds. As I weeded I lessened to a good variety of 60s,70s, and 80s music. Jay quizzed me on who the artist were. To say the least I was not the best at guessing the artist, but I did enjoy Jay’s company and funny side comments.
After the garden beds were weeded I planted kale and cabbage. Both of these plants are in the brassica family, so Annie suggested that I look up companion planting. Companion planting is a very helpful gardening technique that prevents pests and diversifies the garden environment. I looked up the information in Annie’s book, Natural Gardening Blue Rock Station Style. This book gave me a whole reference section on companion planting and suggested putting plant like chamomile, peppermint, dill, sage, and rosemary near brassica plants. I decided to put chocolate mint ( a type of peppermint plant) in with the kale and cabbage because it was easily available and was dug up from where we had made the earthen wall earlier this week. Tomorrow will be my first workshop and tour that I get to help out with. I am looking forward to tomorrow and all the things I will do.

Ohio is a Great Place to Pick Up Chicks

Today was our day off at Blue Rock Station, however, a day off on the farm is never complete without daily chores. As usual Etta May and Ernest were fed along with all the other goats on the farm. Feeding chickens is what happens next after Tilly and Eleonor try to get a few bites of extra feed.
On our day off Annie and I went to Newark to do several errands. The first stop was at the Muskingum County Library to suggest buying Jay’s wonderful book When the Biomass Hits the Wind Turbine. While Annie was talking to Thomas (the man at the library who would decide to purchase the book), I went upstairs to look at a quilting exhibit. I enjoyed seeing the skill and effort that went into the garments.
After this we went to drop off a book to an eager purchaser of the book at the Licking County Planning Office. We then stopped off at the Newark library but the man who Annie was hoping to chat with was out to lunch. With that in mind Annie and went to lunch at a delightful authentic Mexican restaurant. We made the joke it would be quite funny if a Mexican restaurant admitted to be ing inauthentic.
Next was a stop at Goodwill to pick me up a wonderful set of bib overalls since yesterday my overalls got quite a bit messy. At the end of this we stopped for tea and creme buele, which was quite nice – in spite of the overly sugared and out of season fresh fruit on top.
We stopped off at Tractor Supply Store to get feed for the goats and a few other things for the farm. This leads me right to the most important part of the day and that was the picking up of baby chicks. Annie had given a teacher eggs to hatch for a class and at the end of the lesson they gave them back to the farm. There were 27 beautiful little fluffy chicks. Isabella, the hen that has been waiting to receive her babies received the large amount of chicks very well tonight. She cooed to the newly adopted chicks when we placed them under her wings and butt (it was dark and she couldn’t see). We will have to see tomorrow if all is well with them but Annie is quite hopeful. So I guess it is true that Ohio is a great place to pick up cute chicks.

Becoming a Enharradora

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today during morning chores I went up to the milking room and had my first chance to milk a goat at Blue Rock Station, Eleonore did quite well. I learned that milking is a skill that needs to be quite often – to be done well. I am sure by the end of this summer I’ll be great at milking these goats. After having a meeting about the upcoming build Persa and I started to prepare to earth plaster the wall we built yesterday.
One of my favorite parts of the day was feeding Ernest, one of Pinkie’s kids. He wasn’t doing so well last week. Thankfully, after feeding him and his sister, Etta Mae with Annie’s new infant bottle technique (using a 10cc syringe without the needle) they are doing just fine.
Who says men are the best construction workers? We “enharradoras” are going to give them a run for their money. Enharradora is the Spanish word for plasterer, as I learned today. Mud plastering was traditionally done by the women of Mexico. Today was my first experience in cob building. I have been anticipating working with cob for many years. We mixed the clay and hauled it up to the earth bag wall. This day was full of shoveling dirt and flinging clay. I have to say this schedule is much better then any gym schedule to acquire upper body strength.

A Day Working with “Dirt Bags”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is day two of working at Blue Rock Station, and what a day it was. This morning I went with Jay to a college architecture class, where he talked about sustainable design. I really enjoyed the presentation; during the presentation he talked about various peaks in oil, coal, and natural gas. A main question that Jay poised was, “Why do we build things the way we do?”. The answer is because that’s the way they do it. Things are made the way they were made before because these are the ways that individuals were taught. Another part of talk was about the fact that there are many ways to integrate passive solar into design whether in creating new buildings or refurbishing an old one. He also gave a little energy history, which I found quite interesting. I am considering purchasing his recently released book When the Biomass Hits the Wind Turbine.
After the presentation we picked up some lime plaster for the flexible formed rammed earth wall (aka earth bag construction or as I like to call it “dirt bag construction”). We then went on to pick up some delicious ice cream after stopping to pick up some 2x4s for various projects around the farm.
Also as a added bonus Persa came today. She will be stopping by throughout the summer to work on projects like the dirt bag wall, but, most importantly she is the designer of a new privy ( a bathroom – I did not know this word before I came) for the entrance of the farm. The building will also have a green roof that visitors can go up and look at. Today Persa came to work on a test wall that surrounded a garden bed near the green house. I got my first experience with rammed earth. This was both fun and tiring. Shoveling, tamping, and moving wheelbarrows this summer will definitely help me develop better upper body strength. With a great supper and including leftover rhubarb crisp I pronounce today a wonderful day.