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Times, They Are A’changin’

So, things have changed here quite a bit in the last month. I was offered a spot in a competitive program, and I accepted. This means no farm for a while. Maybe some gardening if we can find a rental with some backyard space and amenable landlords, though! On the one hand, delaying this dream is incredibly disappointing, but on the other hand, pursuing this other dream is very exciting (and terrifying).

This will probably turn this blog into cooking adventures with our CSA boxes, and maybe a bit more collecting of research as time allows (this program is not very full of free time).




I am trying to decide if sheep will be worth our time and effort. I’d love to try my hand at spinning, but that can be accomplished with alpaca fibre instead. We need to try mutton to see if we actually like it (the Fella does not). I think having sheep for wool and meat would be the best for us, and if we aren’t going to eat the meat, I don’t know that it’s worth the investment to own them solely for wool when there are alpacas about. Nevertheless…

*Straw is best for sheep bedding. Wood chips are not absorbent enough and saw dust will ruin the fleece. Waste hay can work.

*Good ventilation is key. Drafts are not a big concern with sheep, but keeping the moisture and ammonia out of their shelter are of concern.

*Sheep seem to need to be dewormed fairly frequently (read about a ‘worm-resistant’ breed that needed to be dewormed every three months or so).

*It can be possibly, depending on personalities, to keep different species with sheep (like goats).

*Sheep can live into their teens. Rarely into their early 20s. Commercially-bred sheep rarely live past 8.

*Some breeds of sheep (particularly longwools) are often shorn twice a year, but typically, sheep are shorn in the spring.


*The wool from one sheep is called a fleece, from many sheep, a clip.

*The amount of wool that a sheep produces depends upon its breed, genetics, nutrition, and shearing interval.

*Long Wool Sheep have the longest fibres, which makes their wool desirable to hand-spinners. Course and heavy fibres. Border Leicester, Coopworth, Cotswold, Lincoln, Perendale, Romney, Wensleydale.


(Lincoln. Source:

*Medium Wool Sheep are typically used more for meat than for wool. They have the lightest-weight, least valuable fleeces. Medium wool is usually either felted or made into blankets, socks, and sweaters. Popular meat breeds are Suffolk, Dorset, Southdown, and Hampshire.


(Suffolk Sheep. Source:

*Fine Wool Sheep produce the thinnest fibres, which are the most versatile. American Cormo, Booroola Merina, Debouillet, Delaine-Merino, Rambouillet are fine wool sheep breeds.


(Merino Sheep. Source:

*This looks to be an excellent resource on starting out with sheep:


I love hand-spun fibres and knitting and crocheting. I’m hoping to add weaving to my hand-crafting repertoire when we have the room for a loom, as well. It seems natural to consider adding sheep and/or alpacas to our farm for fleece, so here’s my current collection of alpaca information:


*An adult alpaca generally is between 81 and 99 cm in height (a little over 2.5 feet – a little over 3 feet) at the withers (highest part of the back). They usually weigh between 48 and 84 kg (106 and 185 lbs).

*They are a domesticated species of camelid and they can spit, though not all do.

*Alpacas use a communal dung pile, where they do not graze. This behaviour tends to limit the spread of internal parasites. Generally, males have much tidier, and fewer dung piles than females, which tend to stand in a line and all go at once. One female approaches the dung pile and begins to urinate and/or defecate, and the rest of the herd often follows. Apparently they can be house-trained. (Source:

*Alpacas are induced ovulators (they ovulate at the act of mating and presence of semen). Gestation is ~345 days (+/- 15 days).

*Alpacas can live up to 20 years.

* They typically eat hay and grass and usually get a daily dose of grains for vitamins if they are not free-ranging alpacas.

*Alpacas need to eat 1-2% of body weight per day, so about two 60 lb (27 kg) bales of grass hay per month per animal.

*5 per acre is ideal, though 8-10 is generally accepted as the rule of thumb.

*Planning the location of the barn and alpaca pasture is important. Alpacas need shade available to them in summer and an easy way to get out of the elements in the winter.

*Alpacas make great manure. Some dogs apparently like to eat it. Considering myself forewarned.

*Fencing is required to protect alpacas from predators more than anything else. They will not challenge the fence. 2×4 mesh wire fencing works well because it’s too small for the alpacas to poke their heads out of and too small for predators to stick their heads into. 5-foot height should suffice. Attaching chicken wire to the bottom of the fence and burying it out about 2 feet helps prevent predators from digging under the fence, too.

*A guardian animal is a good idea for alpaca protection in addition to excellent fencing.

*Alpacas get sheared once a year, but as they age, the growth rate of their fleece slows. This is an interesting article on sheering alpacas:

*Nail and teeth trimming needs to happen ever 6-12 months.

*You can build your own alpaca feeders:



But the alpaca farmers who built these say that it mats the fleece on the necks of their alpacas, which makes the fleece unusable.

Here’s a commercially made feeder. Not sure how it functions for neck-matting.



* lists these things as necessary alpaca-owner equipment:

  • Halters
  • Lead ropes
  • Needles and syringes
  • Toenail trimmers
  • Grooming items
  • Scale for weighing cria
  • Cria and birthing kits
  • First aid kit
  • Shovel to scoop poop and something (wheelbarrow, wagon attached to ATV) to scoop poop into
  • A trailer for transporting alpacas
  • Stock tanks
  • 5-gallon buckets for water with heating elements for winter

*There are two types of alpacas: Suri and Huacaya. They are physiologically alike, but differ pretty distinctly in appearance. Both types of fleece are considered luxury fibres in the textile world. They both come in several different colours.

(Source: Alpacas 101)

Suri Alpaca:






I wasn’t totally sold on alpacas before a bit more research, but they are really growing on me. Really, really growing on me!

Walipini – The Underground Greenhouse

These are some of the coolest things I’ve ever seen! I’m imagining the potential ability to grow tropical-climate plants in our short Canadian summer, and a continuous sustainable food source through the winter. I’m really excited about the prospect of building one or two of these. In one video I saw, they even built a tunnel for the chickens to get from the coop down into the warmth of the greenhouse in the winter. I haven’t though through the long-term ramifications of that yet, and I suspect it might be too much of a climate change for the poor chickens in our winters, but it’s an interesting idea.



Benson Institute has a free manual online for building your Walipini.

And the Pure Energy Systems Wiki has a great collection of information and videos on Walipinis.



(With great thanks to! Excellent resource website with so much information.)

Easter Eggers: Medium egg productivity and medium-sized eggs. Eggs are blue, green, or pink in colour. They are typically friendly, easy to handle, calm, quiet, and docile. Come in all different colours. The can tolerate all different climates. Related to the Ameraucanas and Araucanas breeds. Usually a smaller bird.



Golden Sex Link (Bovan Brown): lay big brown eggs. Hardy and friendly. Can tolerate cold climate. High egg productivity. Imported originally from the Netherlands. Males are white, females are red. These are an egg chicken.



Olive Eggers: lay khaki- to olive-coloured eggs. Tolerate all climates. Medium egg size and medium productivity. These are an egg chicken.


Swedish Flower Hens: first eggs tend to be small, but after a few months, they generate extra-large eggs. Well-adapted to colder temperatures. Medium egg productivity. Various colours. Eggs are cream-light brown in colour. These are a dual-purpose chicken (meat/eggs).



Partridge Plymouth Rock: Tolerate cold climates. High egg productivity with large eggs. Eggs are brown. Chickens are brown-rust. Skittish temperament.

Partridge Plymouth Rock






Saanen Goats: Holsteins of the goat world. Averages 1,975-2,000 pounds of 3-4% butterfat milk per year. Good harness- and pack-goats.



Nubian Goats: Jersey of the goat world. Produces a creamy milk with high butterfat and protein content (ideal for cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and soap). Good for packing and cart-pulling. More heavily muscled than Swiss dairy breeds, so can serve as meat goats, too. Fun pets, brush-mowers, and show animals. Smart, friendly, active, easy-to-train.



Alpine Goats: Produce a high volume of milk over a long lactation period. Milk has good butterfat and protein content (good for cheese). Friendly and curious. Good pets, show animals, brush-eaters, can be pack-goats if well-trained.



Kinder Goats: Compact size, excellent feed conversion, high production of quality milk with high protein and butterfat content. Base production of 1,500 pounds of milk in 305 days. Wethers are good meat animals. Friendly, sociable, personable pets and brush-mowers. Nubian does bred with a pygmy buck.


(Source: wikimedia)