Jen Pietsch
Orcas Island, WA

I love spending time outdoors, gardening, running and raising my fleeced friends!
What I'm Reading!

Books I Love

Monday, June 27, 2011

postheadericon A Tail of Two Chickens

(Yes I know Dickens spelled it tale.)

Zig and Greta

I have never been a huge Dickens fan so I will tell of you my chickens.
We have been having such unrest in the coop. Let me back up.

Scrawny Greta- the Hester Prynne of the the flock. (No not Dickens- Hawthorne) No she is not an adulterer. She is just a general outcast. She had been fine just happy enough foraging alone since her buddy Polly Pullet was taken by a hawk. For some reason this spring all of the other hens and Frank turned against her. This took the form of bullying her into not leaving the coop on the best days and not leaving the protection of the nest box on the worst.

I, the chicken expert, deduced that it was because her vague rooster like appearance and the urges of Frank in the spring. He didn't want competition. She, as I have discussed before is a Lakenvelder, an old breed in which both sexes have cockscombs and spurs. Could our up until now kind hearted rooster be turning to the dark side? (Star Wars) Had he started this whole unrest? Maybe but it really doesn't matter. I can't have Greta getting beat up. (All of you who are talking about pecking order and the like back off. My chickens are pets. Yes they give eggs so you may want to call them pets with perks.)

She needed to be put into the hen protection plan.

Our coop has two parts. A covered and secure outside run and an indoor coop we call the coop proper. There is a ramp connecting the two which can be closed making two separate secure areas. I know you can see where I am going with this. I put Scrawny Greta in the outside coop with Zig and Zag the ole' girls, and let everyone else stay in the coop proper.

During the day the chickens free range, unless you are locked in the covered coop and then you watch others free range. I have worked out a system where the groups switch off sometimes in the covered run sometimes out ranging. The idea was that the hens could see each other and then would somehow magically get along. I am not sure this is working.

I have begun to integrate more and more hens into the Greta group and it is going well sort of. Now I just have two big groups of hens who don't get along. I will keep you posted.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011

postheadericon Happy Birthday Summer!

Today is Summer Thyme's birthday! She is two today- it is the nicest day we have had here on the farm all year. Bring on the summer.

Doesn't she look BEAUTIFUL?

It is not hard to remember the day our Summer was born.
  • It was Fathers' Day.
  • My crazy parents were here.
  • Luke, made his first communion.
  • It is my sister's birthday
  • We weren't at
We came home to the most beautiful surprise ever. She was up and running and hasn't stopped since!

Donkey Girls heard there may be cake.

They were mistaken!
Monday, June 20, 2011

postheadericon And Where Have I Been? Everyday is an Adventure!

I never thought one could be so busy and still not get it all done. Everyday is an adventure and if I don't write it all down right then and there by the time the next day comes with all its cool happenings it seems like a distant memory replaced by the next big day.

All in all it is you that are missing out on all the news. Here are a few of the tidbits you missed. I couldn't possibly remember all the cool stuff but...

  • We went to another show in Pasco, Washington. I got to drive the trailer over a mountain pass with snow! A real nail biter!
  • We did great at said show!
  • All of the herd is clipped and ready for summer.
  • I sheared a few of the animals myself this year- harder than it looks- but doable.
  • Brave Heart the hen is broody and with my luck will hatch out all roosters.
  • The haying is done.
  • We got a new lawn tractor (okay it is really a mower but is called a tractor for some reason) I am loving it.
  • The kids are out of school for the summer
  • The farm stand is open for the year and we have had lots of visitors
As I said if I don't write it down right away it is lost. I am sorry you have missed all of the fun but stay tuned anyway.

Here are a few pictures that Luke took at the Alpaca Showcase when I asked him to get ready for shearing by taking pictures of animals that had neatly trimmed heads. I wanted the photos to use for models to give us something to shoot for.

This is what he came up with- I should have been more clear.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

postheadericon Alpacapalooza 2011

So I always have the best of intentions with regard to giving you the blow by blow of the show as it happens. I even bring my computer, camera and my witty thinking cap. Honestly by the end of a busy day driving, setting up, scooping up, and showing I am, and I don't say this often, done in.

The drive down to Alpacapalooza was tough. I have gotten accustomed to driving with the trailer- turn wide- slow down way ahead of time...etc. What made this drive challenging was the weather. Imagine, it was still raining (okay not funny) There was tons of water on the road and big semis trying to blow us over. On the up side there was no rain on the other side of Olympia and none at all while we were unloading.

Luke was a champ. He was also for the most part the team photographer. Here are a few pictures taken through a nine-year-olds eyes all except the ones I took of him.

Checking the schedule

Getting ready to take Pippi in the ring

Showing off those teeth!

Pippi front view- Luke eyes on the Judge

The ribbon winners-
Luke is way at the other end with a big-ole-ribbon!

Our girls smiling for the camera- Pippi, Summer and Holly-B

Not to be outdone are our boys Ranger, Klackama (smiling of course)
and Buddy distinguished in profile.

This is a Suri- Luke was quite taken with them.

Everyone loves ribbons

Suri fleece up close and personal


Another Suri

This is someones animal getting ready to go in the ring!
Rolling in hay.

An entire bunch of Suris getting ready to go in the ring.

Home again, Home again, jiggity jog.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011

postheadericon Ready, Set, Go! or I've Come Un-Hinged

We leave for Alpacapalooza on the 6:45 am ferry Friday. (Yes, that does mean I need to load those darlings in the dark. They are not too hot on what they know of the trailer but we will work it out.) Let me clarify we means, Luke and I are taking the crew, Buddy, Summer, Ranger, Klackama, Holly and don't forget Pippi!

I am confident that farmer Jeff will hold down the fort- he may need an anchor-yes it is STILL raining.

Last week at this time I went out to air out the trailer and make sure it was going to be all comfy. I opened the ramp in the back and the ramp/door hinge busted. The weld broke. I immediately called our neighborhood fix it person- Captain Barb- queen of all fix it knowledge- and she confirmed what I already knew- It was really broken- my new- used oh so few times- alpaca wagon was busted.

Captain Barb pointed me in the direction of a local welder and I got on the phone with the trailer folks- who were very apologetic and very helpful. Avery, the king of customer service at Carry-On Trailers in Atlanta second day aired me new hinges and Jorgen local welding champion, slapped them on (carefully) I am now sleeping more soundly- you notice I didn't say soundly just more soundly. Huge thanks to one and all.

We, I am big with we- which usually means me- handled vet check this week too. My regular island vet is out of town for a well deserved vacation but left the island in the able hands of Doctor Michelle Loftus from San Juan Island. This is usually not even an event, just a milestone of excitement...for me.

Michelle has a llama so it was easy breezy to get the check done and she brought along regular vet tech Rachel. The only hitch came when we went to confirm the micro-chips on the babies from this year. They didn't read.

It isn't unheard of and almost common that a chip may 'drift' and a new one would need to be inserted. Ackkkkk. But all four? We decided it must be the reader not the chip. Which once I stopped and thought, (imagine that stopping and thinking) it made sense. I checked all of the chips once they were inserted but used my own reader. (My reader is out on loan/trade to another farm in exchange for a 'pregnatone' ultrasound thingy) Rachel made a quick trip back the next day and we are now ready to go!

Wish us luck!

FYI- the animals pictured above are not mine-
Friday, March 18, 2011

postheadericon I Just Love My Donkey Girls!!

Marika the strong silent type

Hey where is the hay?

Pink Lady having checked out the little boys run in- no hay in there!

I don't have much to say about these photos. I just wish that I could do the donkey girls justice! Aren't they just the best? They have been spending their days with the little boys and Penny. (They do get separated at night, no funny stuff here) It is kinda a cross-species stimulation experience for them all. They don't seem to know it is going on but I am enjoying it.
Thursday, March 17, 2011

postheadericon Just Ducky or Please Stop Raining!

I woke up this morning and well look what I saw swimming in my pasture- yes- I did say swimming!

Look closely. It's Ducks! Don't worry they were just passing through. The sun shone all afternoon and spring is on its way!!!!---I think?

I just love Make Way For Ducklings!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

postheadericon All Ears!

Are you looking at me?...good looking huh?

Still keeping you posted on training. We are doing better each day. I decided to use my 'phone a friend' and find out how to get my team to keep their heads held high. Kathy, who has amazing animals, and a special relationship with each one suggested that I just hold the lead at their eye level. She said that the animal will just follow the hand and look up.

Who knew? how simple was that? Okay so we are not one-hundred percent but a huge improvement over only a couple of days. I think the animals are happier seeing where they are going anyway.

Oh, back to the title of the post.
Here are a few pictures of the cria and their ears.

Ranger aka Tug

The ever lovely Holly-B

Clackama- ears at half-mast

Pippi where are your ears?

Oh there they are!
Sunday, March 6, 2011

postheadericon Love is in the Air or Salty Chickens

Black Pearl, Scrawny Greta and Two

Well love must be in the air.

We are lucky enough to have at least one nesting pair of bald eagles not far from our property. This time of year it is exciting to watch them. Our pair, that I can only assume are very much in love (they mate for life you know?) scream and soar while diving head first toward the earth. I can't help but hold my breath. It is like playing 'chicken' for an eagle.

I am not sure why they do it but having researched it, a little bit, diving and screaming is not uncommon. What is also not uncommon is the belief that the eagles are mating on the death defying dives they make as they plummet toward the earth. This according to all sorts of authorities this is not the case.

Oh you are wondering about the salty chicken part? With all of the prey birds gone a courtin' the chickens have to be locked up for their safety. This is making them ever so salty.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

postheadericon Bachelor Bunnies?

There are two bunnies that live in our backyard. (hard to see in this picture) I know you are thinking two? You know what happens when you have two don't you? Well these bunnies have been here since late last summer and aside from them being absent for a week or two occasionally, there are always only two. We get worried when we don't see them for a week or so fearing the worse, we have a lot of eagles but they have always reappeared .

We can't decide if they are bachelors or old maids either way they are fun to watch.

When Badger, our resident bun-of-fun is up at his summer hutch by the house I know the other rabbits come to visit. They leave their little round calling cards right near his cage.

-sorry about the picture quality, I don't know what is up with the camera.

Friday, March 4, 2011

postheadericon Still Training! But it's not Raining!

For some reason training season always seems to bring the rain and wind. As an added bonus today it was cold. The cria are really getting the hang of the whole walking on a lead thing. It is a slow, individually paced process. Some days they are more interested than others. This is my preliminary evaluation.

Clackama- he is just like his father Phoebus- aka the Ninja, he is a close walker. The challenge with him is to get him to walk a little away from me. Given his choice he would tuck himself up under my arm and walk that way. I love this but it will be hard to show him if he is hiding.

Ranger- Ranger is a slow and steady kinda guy. I am trying to speed up his pace to show off his lovely stride. What Ranger has head and shoulders above the others- aside from actually being head and shoulders taller than the others- is presence. He stands like he is the king of the world. Head held high legs straight - although sometimes splayed- which we are working on. He is a picture perfect stander.

Holly- Holly comes from a nervous family and I am so proud that she is learning to accept being handled without going into a panic. She like her half-brother Ranger is a picture of standing perfection. Head up, chest out and proud. Her only challenge at this point is physical contact. She doesn't mind having me close but when it comes to examining her she is uncomfortable. We are working together, at her pace to solve this, what I can only imagine to be a genetic trust problem.

Pippi- Itty bitty Pippi. She is a doll. She is the best walker of the bunch but stands like a shrinking violet. I have been finding that unlike Holly she is more comfortable the closer you stand to her. You can see her physically relax. I wish there was a way to teach her to keep her ears up. Kahana, my son who has been helping with training has decided that her ears are just proportionately too small. I see it as her top knot, the fleece on her head, is just so long and luxuriant that they appear small. Big or small I wish she would let the world see them.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

postheadericon Blowin' in the Wind

Carmen loves the wind in her hair!

Wow can you say windy?

Even though it cools things off our alpaca love to pronk when it is windy. Pronk you say? Yup it is this really cool run, hop, spring type thing they do. Imagine being able to spring off the tips of your toes and not have to bend your legs while you go way up in the air. The girls usually start the whole herd a pronking.

I have tried to capture this on video but it is just too mesmerizing to watch I don't seem to be able to stop watching long enough to film it. I instead have decided to share a couple of pictures of my team with their windswept locks.

The ever fashion forward Brooklyn

Autumn scanning the horizon!

Not to be outdone by the ladies Penny is stylin'

The donkey girls don't pronk but the wind has brought down a brand new madrona tree branch so they are happy as...well...donkey girls.
Monday, February 28, 2011

postheadericon Pretty Kitty Update

Today I received an anonymous letter from someone who was upset about my cat, "Pretty Kitty"

This brave person, who didn't sign their name, is obviously not a frequent reader of my blog, nor are they are familiar with my sense humor, nor the high level of love, attention and care I provide all of my animals adopted or otherwise. My self deprecating sense humor about how I feel about a specific species of animals in this case, cats, has no relation to my affection for and how I treat, Pretty Kitty.

I would never deny any creature the love, attention and care they deserve.

Believe it or not, I do not blog on every occurrence here on the farm. The day after Pretty Kitty arrived she was whisked away directly to our local vet for a check up, worming and to be checked that she was spayed ---which she is.

She has since been moved comfortably into the barn with access to a warm, safe, indoor place to sleep with fresh food and water.

My most heartfelt apologies to the Orcas Island Animal Protection Society who does great work. I feel confident that if I had any doubts about Pretty Kitty, and thus had chosen to take her to them they would have found her a great home.

She has chosen to live here with us and we are glad she is here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

postheadericon Smitten Kitten- My Secret Valentine

Well nothing says I love you like three dead voles all lined up in front of your office door.

Thank you Pretty Kitty!

Friday, February 11, 2011

postheadericon Spring Training!

Spring Training has begun in earnest.

I am in the process of getting those cute little cria to tow the line and walk like the pretty little creatures they are. You know, my arm candy.

Actually, halter training is a must for herd management. It makes everything run more smoothly and safely on the farm. We have a couple of older girls, or shall I say more mature, that are not halter trained. Any time we need to halter and move them it is a challenge for me and a huge stress for them and that is when they are healthy, forget about what is does to them if they are ill.

Sheering is a great example of when you really wish all of your animals would walk on a lead for you. It is stressful all around. I am stressed, the animals are stressed, and farmer Jeff is stressed- not sure why? but he is.

If the animals have a serious medical problem that I or my local vet can't handle here on the farm, it requires either a trip to mainland with the animal- expensive but not too hard if you can handle you animal, or an all expense paid trip for the vet to come here from the mainland. No ferry for her, she flies and charges by the hour.

Taking the animal to the vet instead of the other way around is much more economical. Having an animal that is familiar with how the lead works makes travel easier and safer.

Besides it is fun to have a big animal to walk with you! Talk about arm candy.

Monday, January 24, 2011

postheadericon My Reading Life

Okay, so a well known writer, whose books I have never read, writes a book about books he has read and how they fit into his life to make him who he is. What a great book idea huh?

Well that is what Pat Conroy wrote about in his book My Reading Life. I thought I would share this book with you because I know I can look back in mark time and periods in my life with what I was reading.

From my initial reading of his book I could tell that he had a crummy life in many respects. I at that point almost put it down- there is enough of that in the world I don't need to read about his issues.

But I kept on reading and enjoyed

  1. The interesting stories he tells about who set him on the path of reading a certain book and how it effected him.
  2. Loved it when I had read one of the books he read and could reflect on how it changed him/me or reminded him/me a period of his life. This happens to all of us...doesn't it?
  3. When it ended. Frankly, I was happy it was over because I could go back and think about books I have read during different periods of my life.
See, so, I have saved you from having to read this book because I have told you what it is all about. Take a seat and think about books that you have read during dynamic periods in your life---ponder them.

If you still want to read it. I will randomly select whoever emails me with an interest in it and send them my copy- I have already read it! (yup- my copy-not new-so don't expect it to be)

Happy Reading!

emails can be sent to

Please someone take this book off my hands.
Saturday, January 22, 2011

postheadericon Donkey Day of Beauty!

Brave Marika goes first.

Even though I have been doing the up-keep on our donkey girls hooves (hee-hawwww) I thought they deserved a professional pedicure to make them feel special.

We had a great farrier come over from Lopez island to trim and polish- okay no polish- I was willing but farmer Jeff thought it was over the top...maybe next time.

This was my first farrier experience, Greg came right on time and we were off to the pasture. Once I called the girls over he got a little twinkle in his eye and said 'I know these girls- Pink Lady and Marika right?' Apparently he had worked on their feet when they lived elsewhere, two owners ago and a couple of islands over. An aside-as usual- they are never having another owner they now live here and will always live here- aren't I the luckiest?

I glowed with pride when he told me how wonderful they looked and how well they took to getting their feet lifted up and picked out. Pink Lady alas is a little too buxom but we will continue to work on that. He suggested fencing them off a small part of their pasture with a gravel base where they can't graze all day. An added benefit to this is that their hooves would wear down naturally and I wouldn't have to trim their hooves as often. Win-Win---unless you are Pink Lady who does so enjoy a good graze.

Here are a few shots of the whole affair.

File and Buff

Don't forget the front hooves.

...Because I am worth it