Merry Christmas. We found our farm in late April of 2009 and closed on it at the end of May. We moved onto the land on June 15, 2009 and began the fencing on the 2 areas we selected for pastures. Our first alpacas came here on August 28th, then we purchased 2 sons out of Peruvian Ion, Essence and Tequile. Soon after, the boarded alpacas arrived and also our guard llama Chocolate Chip. Since then our herd has grown to 20, 11 alpacas and 3 llamas. We have bought some really good females, adopted a male from a petting zoo, as well as purchasing 1 gray and 1 black geldings, so as to increase our selection of yarn colors.
All our fencing projects are now completed. we have excellent perimter fencing and use temporary electric fencing to rotational graze our animals, improving the grass and keep the parasites at bay. Fencing is expensive, so we have had to pace ourselves. Infrastructure in very expensive. However we now have all the tractor tools we need and are finishing up the small stuff. For example, the blackberries are now trellised, apple trees added along with a whole new blueberry patch, 3 rows of eating grapes, both Marquis and Muscadines. We have a high tunnel (unheated greenhouse) that is 72 X 30. This extends our growing season, both in the Spring and Fall, and presently we are selling kale and cabbage.
In addition to raising alpacas and llamas, we also raise Southdown Babydoll Sheep, and produce and eggs for resale, both here at the farm and at the local Farmers Markets. Iris also takes produce and eggs to her hairdressing shop in Western Branch for folks to stop in and pick up (757/484-2682). This year, we sold our produce and alpaca products at 2 Farmers Market, Portsmouth and Suffolk. And finally, we are Certified Naturally Grown. This is a farmer to farmer program similar to "Organic", but we think "beyond organic", because big AG and the Government isn't involved.
Thanks to Joel Salatin and the great books he writes. Produce wise, we are planting apple trees to replace the dead peach trees. Peaches don't do well here because of the April frosts, precisely the time when the peaches blossom. It took me 8 years to figure that out! Also, going to do more cultivating with the tractor this year. I have a new plan to straddle the low growers, while at the same time cultivating the high growers. Time will tell if that works. In the meantime the 3 gardens are covercropped with white clover.
The winter weather has been unpredictable as usual. We have some peach trees that could blossom very soon, while the others thankfully are not. I am going to start planning the garden layout, which includes 3 gardens. I am going to alternate low plants with high plants so I can straddle the low rows with the tractor and be able to do a better job with cultivation. It seems like the grass always gets the better of me in July and I am trying to do a better job this year. Also, we are going to grow more of the popular vegetables and fewer of the least popular. We only sell what we produce on this farm and we will do that again this year. We may be one of the very few farms that do things that way- no funny business!
I am now 76 years old, Iris is a bit younger and we have decided to retire from farming. The weather in the Summer months is just to hot and oppresive and we have decided to move on. We are in the process of selling the animals and the farm is next. We really hate to do this and if the weather wasn't quite so hot we would continue. Our next life passage is to spend a month or so in Western Branch and the rest of the year in northern New England, maybe in Western Maine or Northern New Hampshire near the Canadian border, and John is going to hunt, fish, trap and ski. And Iris, who knows, maybe just doing some hair and relaxing!