Sunday, September 22, 2013

Llama Biography #11: Autumn Hill's Tatoka

Things have been pretty quiet around the farm, and I keep forgetting to take pictures of things, so I'm going to be lazy and do another biography post.

Llama #11 on our farm was Autumn Hill's Tatoka.  In spring 2001, we took 2 of our breeding females (April and Sheba) to Yellow Wood Llamas in Martinsville, IN to be bred to 2 of their males.  April was to be bred to PPF Pablo Cruz, a beautiful white male with a red head.  She was bred and spit off several times before returning home with Sheba.  Later in the fall we determined that April didn't hold the pregnancy, so she went back to YWL to be bred again.  She was bred again, and during one of the spit tests she actually attacked Pablo!  We hoped she would hold the pregnancy and took her home again.  About a year later (in October 2002), Tatoka was born.

Autumn Hill's Tatoka at 1 month of age.  (Unfortunately this is the only digital picture I have of him!)

April was notorious for having her babies when no one was home.  On the day Tatoka was born, my mom came home to check on April during her lunch hour.  Barely an hour later, my sister and I came home on the school bus to find the baby already born and walking around!  Tatoka is a Native American word for "antelope" (I believe in the Lakota language).  Tatoka was running around the pasture almost as soon as he could stand on 4 legs, so we thought the name was appropriate.

Alder Crest April Showers, Tatoka's mom, at the 2002 Great Lakes Regionals.  Tatoka was only 2 weeks old at the time of this show, and he was a huge hit!

Tatoka was one of the very first llamas that I sold.  He was sold to a new llama breeder and fiber artist in February 2003 (though he didn't leave the farm until he was weaned).  His new owner has since become a great friend, and she gives Tatoka a great home.  Tatoka was purchased to be a breeding male, but he was ultimately gelded and is now a farm greeter and fiber producer.  Every time I go to visit (his owner also has a fiber store!), it amazes me how much he looks like his mom!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Off Topic...Flowers!

I'll apologize in advance...this post is quite off topic!  But I'm (hopefully) bringing a bunch of flowers back from home (Indiana) when I got back in two weeks, and I need to figure out what to do with them!  I promise to talk about fibery/llama things in the next post!  But feel free to share your opinion on what I should do with the gardens!

Garden #1: Back Tree

This is a newer garden.  It is under a big tree, but it mostly gets sun.  There were some day lilies, to which I added lavender, purple coneflower, a low purple plant, lambs' ear, and lots of sedum.  The lavender is slowly growing, the coneflower got eaten, but the rest are doing great.  I'm definitely moving the coneflower and would like to replace it with another tall plant (maybe a daisy).  There is also lots of room to add flowers to this garden.

Early spring.

Mid-summer, before the coneflower got eaten!

Poor dead coneflower, but the sedum went nuts!

Back side of the same garden.
Garden #2: Swing Set

This is a brand-new garden.  I needed a sunny place for a clematis (at least we HOPE it is a clematis!), so I dug out a spot under the swing set that is used as a bird feeder hanger in winter.  I'd love to get vines growing all over the swing set!  In addition to the clematis, there are three other plants I bought on sale at Lowe's this summer.  The rabbits were munching on one, but some well-placed dog fur was a great deterrent!  For now I think I'm leaving this garden alone; it doesn't need to get too big, and I'd like to see how the plants fill out.

Right after I planted.

Clematis finally started growing!

Garden #3: Aspen

This is my "oops" garden!  All winter as I was watching the sun exposure in the gardens, this spot was sunny!  But once the huge maple tree a few feet away leafed out in the spring, it was almost 100% shaded!  I planted a lot of sun plants here, and now they all need to be moved.  Currently there is sedum (which is doing okay), columbine (also okay), daisies, grape hyacinths, and two types of lilies.  I also replaced a couple of other plants with two hostas, which will definitely stay.  So I need to replace most of the plants in this one...

Early spring.


After adding the hostas.  The sedum looks great.

Garden #4: House

This was an existing garden, but it has still taken a lot of work.  And it is huge!  It is on the north side of the house, so I believe it gets morning light and afternoon shade.  The outside edges of the garden obviously get more sun than the inside.  There were a few hostas and lilies here, as well as some sort of shrub.  I have planted more hostas, a forget-me-not, chives, more of the low purple flower, lambs' ear, daisies, sedum, poppy, lily of the valley, and some other shade plant I can't remember the name of.  The poppy sort-of got eaten (though the dog hair remedy worked here as well!), but most of the rest are doing good.  Some of the hostas have been slow to grow, but hopefully they'll take off next year.  I don't think anything needs to move out of this garden, but there is room for some shade plants if I have them leftover.

Early spring.

Early spring (left side).


Late summer.  Really starting to fill out!

The bush thing is starting to take over, but apparently it dies off every winter.

The back part (close to the house), which could use more shade plants.

Garden #5: Pine

This is another new garden.  It may have been started last year...  Another partial sun/shade.  There is a nice big bunch of irises, some lilies, and lots of roses.  I added lots of sedum, some columbine, a lemon balm plant, lambs' ear, and a hosta.  All seem to be doing well, but there is lots of available room for new plants.

Early spring.

Late spring.  There is more room on the far left for plants.

And just for kicks, the established gardens.

Lone garden in the middle of the lawn.

The hedgerow garden really needed to be weeded!

The coneflowers didn't get eaten here!
So...thoughts?  Tips?  I'd love to hear what you think!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Pasture Management

Slowly but surely, I'm working on rehabilitating the pasture.  I should've done more of the work BEFORE the llamas got here, but hindsight is always 20-20.  And as it turns out, the llamas are pretty good at pasture management too!

The llamas enjoying the bottom part of the pasture.
As I've mentioned before, I did quite a bit of mowing (with the push mower I might add!) before the llamas got here.  Most of the pasture is too tight or hilly to mow with the bush-hog, and the riding lawn mower is worthless!  So I push mowed and raked about 75% of the pasture, hoping to get rid of some of the weeds and encourage the grass to grow.

For the most part, the mowing worked great.  The tall burdock plants are gone (although there are new ones growing in their place!), and the grass is growing back in.  I couldn't mow everywhere though, as there are two large spots in the pasture that are covered in small boulders/large rocks, and I didn't want to break the mower!  So the weeds in those spots were at least chest high, if not higher.  Luckily the llamas seem to LOVE these weeds, and they are slowly taking care of them!  T prefers to wade through the weeds to find the ones he likes, while Kara buries her head!  It is quite funny to watch.

The llamas are slowly working their way through the tall weeds.
Another big aspect of the pasture rehabilitation is filling in holes and gaps in the fence.  In the past two days we've moved about 4 loads of dirt, using it to fill in some ground hog holes and one big gap in the fence.  I could use another 10 or so loads, but we'll get there eventually...

One of the gaps in the fence we are trying to fill.  There is also probably some barb-wire fence buried underneath too.
I've also been planting a TON of grass seed!  Since the pasture was about 50% covered in burdock plants, there are now a lot of bare spots (where the burdock was shading out the grass).  I fenced off the biggest bare spot (in the bottom part of the pasture), and in the few short weeks since the weeds were cut there has been a lot of new grass growing.  It is already about 6" tall!  Unfortunately there is still a big bare spot right along the fenceline, so I roughed it up with a rake and spread grass seed.  Of course we then got about 2" of rain, so I re-planted about half of what I had done!  This time I covered the seed with a light layer of hay, to protect from driving rain and birds.  Hopefully we will get some rain in the next few weeks so the seeds can start to grow!

The big bare spot in the bottom part of the pasture, now seeded and covered with hay.
Another big area up by the barn was also covered in burdock, and now that those are gone I planted seed there as well.  That spot is close enough to the barn that I can water it on a regular basis, so I expect it to start growing sooner than the other spots.  Unfortunately I didn't have enough temporary fence posts to block this spot off as well, so I hope that the llamas don't trample the new seedlings or eat them too early!

Another bare spot in the pasture, also re-seeded.  This one is up at the top, by the silos and barn.
 And last but not least, I've been doing weed management.  As I mentioned above, even though the big burdock stems had been cut down, there were still new plants growing in.  And the tiny burdocks were producing seeds already!  (The llamas are COVERED in burrs, if you were wondering...)  I tried twice to spray the burdock plants with a safe herbicide mixture (vinegar, salt, and dish soap), with varying results.  I decided that it wasn't working well enough, so I spent two afternoons digging/pulling the larger burdock plants by hand.  Technically it worked (the plants are gone after all!), but there are still a lot of tiny burdock plants, so today I decided to mow about half of the pasture.  I'm planning to mow it every 2-3 weeks, and hopefully the grass can out-compete the weeds and take over!  There are also two low-growing weeds in the same area of the pasture, and hopefully the grass will out-compete those as well.

One side of the pasture which is covered in weeds.

Two of the weeds in that spot of the pasture.
I'll try to remember to report back in a few weeks and give an update on how the pasture is doing.  Unfortunately there isn't much time left in the growing season, so I expect (and hope!) that the real difference will be seen next spring.

Mr. T getting caught in the temporary fence.