Alpaca Poop

Catching up on blogging with some rapid sequence posting! It’s gardening season again! Last year I mentioned that I obtained alpaca poop from a cardiologist colleague who also happens to own and live on an alpaca farm. He is just one of the nicest people I know, to boot. This year I went back for more and brought the kids with me. IMG_1911 Just look at that face! On the farm they have alpaca, llama, and paco-vicuña, all used for their wool. They sell the fibers out of the farm and at various fiber festivals across the country.  Paco-vicuña in particular creates a lusciously soft fiber. The kids had fun getting to know the animals IMG_1917 Well, the girl did.  The boy, hilariously, was TERRIFIED of the curious but skittish creatures.  IMG_1910 That didn’t stop him from standing on the sidelines, shouting out instructions to the other kids and telling them the right way to interact with the animals, even though he rarely got within spitting distance of one again. IMG_1955 There’s the girl, helping to shovel some of the steaming pile of…poop. And once we got home, more shoveling. Thankfully I had some dedicated helpers. IMG_1963 IMG_1966 Pictured with the boy is one of his neighbor friends from down the street. He and his brother always run up and help us whenever there’s any gardening to be done, and are actually very good and helpful! Given that this post is a month old, most of the garden is done and planted at this point-will take pictures of that when it’s had a chance to grow a bit. Differences from last year so far–I’m not bothering with corn or any bell peppers.  I like the look of corn but it had too many creatures last year and not enough yield.  As for the bell peppers, I can’t get them to grow even remotely well.  I’m doing more beans this year and hoping to have some dried ones for winter, and I’m trying brussels sprouts for the first time. The boy also said he wanted his own plot so I’ve given him one of the boxes by the street-he thus far chose a broccoli plant, a green zebra tomato, a brussels sprout, and some flowers.  He’s responsible for the weeding and learning about the care of the plants, which will be a great summer project for him, I think.

Shoveling…excrement all day long

This year, I hired an edible landscape designer (Susan Adams of Simple Roots Gardening) for some new ideas for the vegetable garden.  I love the plan that she came up with. (click to view larger)

It looks a bit…overly ambitious to tell you the truth, but if there is anyone who is an expert in biting of way, way more than she can chew it’s me. I mean, with 2 kids and a full time job, why not add a small farm to take care of.  In fact, why stop there? Maybe it’s time I get some chickens (so trendy) or a backyard goat (even trendier)!

Since I’m pretty sure the animals would die from lack of care and we couldn’t even eat them, being vegetarian and all, it’s probably not the best idea for that.

Susan also does a soil test and tells you what your soil needs, and in my case I needed a lot of composted material. In one of my conversations with her, I mentioned that one of the doctors I work with has an alpaca farm and had invited me to come get alpaca manure for the garden.   Her eyes snapped open and she had an expression on her face as if I had told her where she could find a free trove of diamonds. So, of course, I borrowed a friend’s Ford F-150 and went to go pick it up.

The alpacas (or more accurately, paco-vicuñas) were curious and cute.

Their poop was not.

If you have ever wondered (and I know some of you have) how long it takes a smallish woman with one shovel to unload a pickup truck full of alpaca poop, the answer is about an hour and a half and 1 beer. Watch for that on the next SAT.

Neighbor kids came scurrying over after it was all done, wrinkled their noses, and promptly declared, “It smells like a farm over here!” I love when kids use euphemisms.

Over the last few weeks I’ve managed to get some seeds in and the bamboo trellis up and the walls o’ water up as well. Planted thus far: peas, onions, green onions, radish, spinach, lettuce, beets, kale, chard, carrots and broccoli. The perennial herbs have already come up nicely and we’ve had fresh sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano and chives for weeks now. Until the other plants can go in, I’ll be modifying the irrigation system we have in place. Last year I tried to water less and I don’t think it worked well-I thought the plants were smaller with lower yields.

As a few wise people told me when I started the garden 2 years ago, the grassy area in the center is now a patch of dead dirt and will be converted into a path of some sort this year–any other ideas of what to do with that path? It would be nice to keep it something that we could walk on barefooted, which is why I’ve been unexcited about gravel or wood chips, and ground cover takes so long to grow.

As a side note, a different Susan keeps telling me that I need to go and get new dirt for the garden as well, but the thought of digging out all that dirt and then replacing it is more than I can take right now. Next year, maybe.  (Next year, though, we might annex some of the neighbor’s front yard since all they have there are weeds, and that’ll be project enough.)

More pics when other things start coming up, since right now it just looks like a field of dirt. Just be happy you can’t smell it.