The Red Barn

It’s too big. I think those were the first words I uttered when we first laid eyes on the spread that would become our home, our farm. Way too big, I wouldn’t know what to do with it all.

In our small family I’m the voice of reason, the realist, the pessimist Glen would say. He’s all yes, yes, yes, that glass is full, dang isn’t it beautiful?

I saw a mountain of chores, mowing for days, too many spaces to fill and to fix.

In my long single days I lived in an 800-square-foot condo in the sky and a 500-square-foot shot gun shack for heaven’s sake. Small means organized, understandable, manageable.

Walking into the big red barn that day it felt cavernous and I was nervous. The barn cat, William, presided over his domain, bored. Yes, I thought it was beautiful beyond words, the smell of hay and wood and wet concrete mixed with animals I had yet to know. But it just seemed to unknown, too much, more than I could fathom.

Ten horse stalls, two small storage rooms, a wide center aisle, two open rooms on the side for gardening tools and equipment, an apartment up the stairs, a tin roof. The story goes that the first owner lived in this barn and bathed in the well before there was a house, before there was a bathroom.

The Farmer’s Almanac says old barns were painted red, not for the color but for the usefulness:

“Many years ago, choices for paints, sealers and other building materials did not exist. Farmers had to be resourceful in finding or making a paint that would protect and seal the wood on their barns. Hundreds of years ago, many farmers would seal their barns with linseed oil, which is an orange-colored oil derived from the seeds of the flax plant. To this oil, they would add a variety of things, most often milk and lime, but also ferrous oxide, or rust. Rust was plentiful on farms and because it killed fungi and mosses that might grow on barns, and it was very effective as a sealant. It turned the mixture red in color.”

So the rust-red barn stands, the original structure, the oldest. The best.

Meet the Farm Family: Toby

When we bought the farm (or the farm bought us?) we wanted to leave it “blank” for a little while, meaning we didn’t know, at first, the purpose of the farm to be or how to populate it.

The previous owner kept horses, high-dollar endurance horses: think ultra-marathons for horse and rider. We didn’t know anything about anything relating to horses – for my growing up annual 2-week summer Girl Scout stay-away camp my mother informed me that we couldn’t afford the horse riding track, so my best friend and I did canoeing each year (I’m an excellent canoer). Glen grew up riding a horse every once in a blue moon. We marked it off the list of options for the farm.

When we’d been here a few months, our neighbor and her son asked if they could “keep” their two horses in our pasture for a while to replenish their grass supply. We had plenty of grass, so Bucky and his dad Flash came to the farm. It was nice, very nice, to have life in the field and even though B&F as we came to call them weren’t exactly trained, or easy to love, we liked having them here.

When our neighbor called to say that his mother was missing seeing them out of her back window and he was coming to take them back, I was sad. Overly sad. I tend to get attached.

My husband the fixer wanted to fix me being sad. He disappeared into our bedroom and searched Craigslist until he could come out and say, “Honey I found our horse.”

A horsey friend I have said, “Look, I don’t want to tell you what to do but you Never, Never, Never, Ever buy a horse off Craigslist. There are too many things that can be wrong. You never find a good horse that way.”

A nice couple delivered Toby the next week. When he came off the trailer, it was love at first backside glance. He is, by all accounts (even my horsey friend), the one good horse on all of Craigslist.

Hello Toby.

Late Summer at the Farm

Star Lily and Star MagnoliaBaby Boy Alpaca
The dog days of summer have arrived at the farm. Alpacas like nothing more than a hose-bath in this kind of weather. Some of the shyest, most laid back of the “pac” are veritable bullies when the hose turns on. We have some new alpacas on the farm (because alpacas are like potato chips, they seem to add up). We needed another male alpaca to be be a buddy to Pancho when we was finally weaned. Instead of one, we ended up with three: Talon, Twist of Fate and Everest (thank you to our friends at Timberlake Farms). In that group we also got a mother/baby combo of Fiesta and Hot Fudge and another female named Butterfly. On March 15, Cocobean gave birth to an apaloosa male we named Julius Ceasar — Ides of March and all. In April we had all the alpacas sheard and I’ve been skirting fiber (cleaning out the hay and debris in order to send it on to be processed into yarn). And on May 2, Star Lily gave birth to Star Magnolia, and she is bright white and gorgeous just like her mother. The bees are doing well and the honey harvest will be in the next couple of weeks. Life on the farm also means looking forward to the next season and in this case fall will bring with it (we hope) the fall births (or how did Hershey do with the ladies?). And follow us on Instagram now — #kingbeefarm!

Bye bye stud!


This is Hershey. We had Hershey for one month. He was our first (leased) herdsire. The ladies went wild for Hershey. They thought he was better than a box of chocolates.

Put down your romance novel, animal husbandry is not for the faint of heart. Not five minutes into being led into the all-female field (save baby Pancho) ladies fell to their knees left and right of the fella, waiting their turn. No one blushed. Okay, I blushed.

After a few uncomfortable locker room jokes, you have to push past any discomfort and get right in there and make sure everything is, well, connecting properly. That no tail fiber is getting in the way. That the gentleman hasn’t, um, missed his mark. It was quite a site to behold. Being first-timers and all.

Thank you to RFSS Peruvian Hershey’s owners, Georigan Oaks Farm and Suki Farms. For their trust in us to have him on our farm and the lessons on what to do and what to look for.

He was a perfect gentleman. Well, we hope not perfectly gentlemanly, but you know. Now we wait. For gorgeous alpaca babies in the fall. We learned a lot. The ladies all gathered at the gate as he settled into his trailer and all hummed a sad goodbye. Until next time, they hoped!

A happy Thanksgiving, an even better Black Friday

Black Friday in her coat with herd

At one week, in her cria coat.

Black Friday on her birthday

First day, first hour.









For Thanksgiving we had our Albany cousins up to the farm for the second year. We numbered 15 for food and fun. We also had a very pregnant alpaca, Maya. The bitterly cold weather ensured that we were all cozily in the house (okay, extra cozy) while Maya held out for a turn in the weather. The next day some of the cousins had gone on to other celebrations, but we were still with Carol and Joe and Leah and her three girls, Katherine, Margaret and Andrea. Big G had to go to work but before he left, and unbeknownst to me, he took the girls outside and showed them Maya’s stomach and the hollows behind her pregnant belly. He pointed out that as of this morning they seemed to be “breathing separately,” which was unusual. “Today is the day, keep an eye on her,” he told the girls.

Like alpaca clockwork at around 9:30 a.m. the girls came running in to tell me it was time. We’d had so many false alarms with Maya that I was in some state of disbelief in the warm house heading up to change out of my yoga pants and t-shirt when Leah said, “You don’t have time to put your bra on.” What? Outside, and braless, I saw the head was already out and ran into the field (okay I fell, flat out, before reaching the field, adrenaline and all; my EMT husband would later admonish me for rushing to the scene). With an audience of 6, plus the herd, and Toby the horse, Maya gave birth to a jet black baby who I helped dry off as Maya bit my ponytail and pulled up, hard. Not your baby, mine, thanks for the help.

As if at the most exciting baseball game, we set up plastic chairs at the edge of the pasture, complete with drinks and snacks and that is where we stayed for the entire day. We watched first steps, first nursing, first poop, being greeted by the herd, first nap (is she still breathing? Yes, cheers). We took video to show the proud human papa who’d known all along he would sadly miss all the excitement.

Later in the day, my cousin’s husband Joe, from his place in the audience, said — “It’s Black Friday.” And indeed it was.

“A garden is where you can find a whole spectrum of life, birth and death”
―    Tiffany BakerThe Little Giant of Aberdeen County

“The main facts in human life are five: birth, food, sleep, love and death.”
―    E.M. Forster

Cliques and Hums

Alpaca first day 81713Alpaca first day 2 81713

It was a soggy evening. It’s been raining all summer or so it seems. We were so excited when the trailer pulled up and Raymond and Sharon Bogenshutz from Georgian Oaks Farms delivered our four new girls. Rosebud, Maya, Cocobean and Star Lily marched out of the trailer, into our barn and out into the field like they owned the place. We loved them from hello.

Our existing herd of 6 (plus 2 llamas), not so much.

Alpacas meeting 81713

“Are you looking at me?” “No, are you looking at me?”

Sharon told us it might take a month to mingle. It’s a funny site to see our “old” girls lined up in the bottom of the pasture tight against the bottom fence and the new addition firmly planted on high ground, again as close to the fence as possible. Old guard is also sticking very close to their guardian llamas and, as Big G said, “Who knew our alpacas loved the llamas so much?”

To be fair, they come together at meal time, warily and a little grouchily (is that a word?), with lots of humming that I wish I could decipher. Big G got caught in a territorial spit fest last night. In the face. Can’t we all just get along? Next month maybe.

“It’s just hard to meet new people in my position.” — Eminem

Mama Mia!


This is Lady Carmela. She is the best mother alpaca in the world. Or so we think. Of course she is the mama to Pancho Villa, and if you sneak up early in the morning or late in the afternoon mama and son are always resting side by side. And then there is Sparkle. Sparkle, whose real alpaca mom died giving birth or soon after and was bottle fed. Sparkle of the, “Where’s my mama?” And “Will you be my mama?” constant hum.

Although Sparkle is almost a year old and Pancho is 3+ months old, they are almost the same size. I try hard to be Sparkle’s mom without overstepping animal boundaries. But about four or five weeks into of alpaca ownership I noticed that Sparkle seemed to sneak under Carmela and start nursing while Carmela was eating grain.

I didn’t know if this was “right” or “wrong” — would it affect Pancho? Would Carmela kick her if she discovered it wasn’t Pancho. Was it too weird? Something in me just let it keep going, encouraged it really, as I would keep feeding Carmela a little more to make sure she didn’t discover it was Sparkle. After awhile I realized she knew exactly who was there, and she was actually okay with it.

A few weeks later we had Sharon Bogenshutz from Georgian Oaks Farm out to do a consultation on our herd (thanks to Sharon and Raymond, we learned a ton!). They asked if Carmela was Sparkle’s mother and we told them the story. When we got to the part about the, um, nursing mix-up — I swear I saw their heads jerk around. Raymond said, “Do you have any idea what you have?” Sharon said, “This will give Sparkle a much better chance of building her immune system up.” Raymond said, “I’d never, ever sell an animal like that.” Then we knew that Carmela didn’t just have a gorgeous underbite, she was the mother of all mothers. Sparkle thanks you Carmela, and so do we.

Learning the Hive Jive

Beehive 1  Beehive 3

Late yesterday afternoon Big G and Neighbor Ed went out to work the hives. It has been an eventful first week for our apian friends since arriving at King Bee Farm. We had a storm so strong it blew one of the tops off a hive, and in the days that followed probably six more inches of rain. My sweet husband checked on workers and two queens daily and gave them sugar water and put their world back together after the storm, but this was the first full-scale “check up.” Ed was stung three times, husband once. But they learned a lot, the bees are, well, busy, and the consensus is that we are baby steps in to helping save the bees in our own small way. Go bees!

“If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live.”
―    Albert Einstein

King Bee Farm Says Hello Bees

Big G and our neighbor Ed went to Cartersville today to pick up our first two hives. Now thousands of Italian bees are getting used to their new home in the lower pasture, safely away from the alpacas and other sundry animals. How long until honey, honey? Add Bees to Farm Day One

Profile: Powderpuff

Powderpuff profile

In addition to our girls (and baby boy Pancho) we started out with two female guard llamas, Gracie and Powderpuff. We got our llamas through Southeast Llama Rescue (thank you to Deborah Logan). After a thorough farm visit and approval process, it was decided that both sets of animals would be delivered at the same time for the best chance of blending. A week or so before they were to be delivered I had a minor freak-out and told Big G that maybe we didn’t really need the guard llamas after all. I was afraid I wouldn’t take to them, that they would be too big. Maybe a little weird compared to the sweet, small alpacas. He told me to relax and that it was all going to be okay.

Deb Logan says, “Llamas have their own special charm.”

A truer statement may never have been spoken. I LOVE the llamas. Their eyes say a million things at once and they are smart and do their job perfectly. Gracie is shy, aloof and likes to have some alone time in the field — but she will eat out my hand at times, looks after the alpacas and her brown apaloosa spots against white make her very cute.

Powderpuff, however, is the star of this story to date. Taller than all of us, she is bright white with a tinge of pink, and black spots on her ears. She looks at you like she knows exactly what you are thinking and is three steps ahead of you. She runs the girls around and gently nudges baby Pancho to make sure he is where he needs to be, and she has been known to spit a green streak to ensure her share of food. She makes me feel safe and also makes me want to crack the code to all of her secrets. She is queen of the pasture and, maybe except for me, she is the queen of King Bee Farm. All hail Powderpuff.