A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

October 18, 2017

Unexpected Treasures

Sunflowersblog1

Sometimes we can try so hard to make things happen, yet our plans don’t work out as expected. Then at other times we discover acts of serendipity, when things just happen without any effort on our part.

Our gardening efforts at the farm have been historically hit and miss. A shortage of water on the farm, dry desert heat and drying winds, lack of time to dedicate to care of the plants, and a distinct lack of green fingers on my part have meant that any crop production has been low.

So imagine my surprise when I recently discovered a bumper crop of pumpkins and sunflowers in the area where we compost the alpaca poop! I’ve tried for years to grow sunflowers on the farm but experienced total failure, pumpkins had never really crossed my mind as I knew that they needed quite a bit of water. Yet here they were happily growing side by side, and in the case of the pumpkins very happily growing.

So had did this bounty happen? Well every fall we ask people to bring us their leftover pumpkins to feed to the alpacas. We feed the pumpkins to the alpacas and the alpacas are very happy. Every day we feed black oil sunflower seeds to the alpacas and the alpacas enjoy eating the seeds. As part of the feeding process some of the sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds are left on the ground and get raked up when we are raking up the poop piles and off they go to the compost area. In addition to this process last year we had a whole bag of sunflower seeds that got moisture in the bag and molded, so off they went to the compost pile as well.

Maya Eating Pumpkin

The seeds have been sitting there for a while, the alpaca poop has been breaking down into what alpaca breeders like to refer to as black gold, then this year we have been blessed with some rain and poof! Low and behold our bountiful crop appeared!

How cool is that! That Mother Nature did her own thing and created a much better result than all my efforts could produce!

Pumpkinsharvested

The pumpkins are about ready to harvest. To start with we will use some to decorate the farm. Once their decoration duties are done we will use some of them to feed to the alpacas, llamas, chickens and guineas. Some of the pumpkins appear to be sugar pumpkins so will be cooked and used for pumpkin pies and cookies, with some cooked pumpkin being reserved in case we need it for a sick animal (pumpkin is an excellent soother of the digestive tract). I was hoping to be able to harvest some sunflower seeds from our sunflowers but our horses Savannah and Saber decided to eat the heads off most of the sunflowers. No wonder their coats are looking so glossy! Hopefully they will leave me at least a few sunflower heads to harvest for next year.

Sunflowersblog2

So where do we go from here. Well my plan for next year, provided we have a chance of rain, is to take a random assortment of vegetable seeds, toss them on the alpaca compost area and let them grow if they wish to. Why toil for vegetables when they apparently do better without me? (Although I probably should consider a horse fence!).

Until next time,

Rosemary

March 25, 2008

Planting with Pacas

Gerri from Australia had posted a comment to the blog the other day expressing an interest in learning more about the use of alpaca poop as fertilizer and using alpaca fiber as mulch.  With spring here and the warm weather trying to make a return I thought it a good time to write a little about using alpaca by-products in the garden.

Alpaca poop can be used almost like a slow release fertilizer.  If the poop is not composted it takes a while to break down, but that can be used to your advantage if you are looking for a fertilizer that will release over time.  When using uncomposted alpaca poop we make sure that it is covered over by dirt so as not to attract flies.  We also try to get the poop that does not have too much vegetable matter in it so that we don’t inadvertently grow something undesirable such as burrs.

The composition of alpaca poop is usually similar to this:

Organic matter  70.8 %
Nitrogen 1.49 %
Phosphorus 0.23 %
Potassium 1.6 %
Calcium 0.91 %
Magnesium 0.45 %
Sodium 0.12 %
Total Salts 2.54 %

Of course this composition could vary, depending on what you feed your alpacas, but those figures will give you a basic idea of what alpaca poop can contribute to your garden.

I am told that alpaca poop does not burn the garden like horse manure and so far that has been my experience.  I have not had any problem with the plants where I have used alpaca poop as a fertilizer, although I must say by the time we clean up the poop in the morning most of the urine has dried off it.  If the poop you intend to use is heavily soaked in urine you might want to allow it to dry off for a little while as the urine could scald your plants.

Even better than straight alpaca poop is composted alpaca poop.  There are various ways to compost it ranging from a specifically designed compost barrel to digging trenches in the ground and putting your compost material in the trenches.  The trench method was explained to me by another alpaca breeder from California who has the same type of sandy soil that we have, and also a lack of moisture and high winds like ours.  By building your compost pile in a trench you can prevent the wind from sucking all the moisture out of the compost pile and also easily collect any moisture you do receive.  That same breeder also uses concrete horse troughs to create compost in.  She layers old straw and alpaca poop in the horse troughs and leaves it over winter, by spring it is ready to plant in and she reports she gets great results from it.  Now for any composting to happen there has to be some moisture involved so if you are going through a dry spell you will need to add water to your compost pile.  Don’t forget you can also add all sorts of other goodies to your compost pile to help it compost such as egg shells, shredded uncoated paper, dried bread, old fruit and vegetables, burn pile ashes, garden clippings, even dryer lint!  Remember too to turn your compost pile periodically.

I will readily admit that I am not the worlds authority on gardening, but when even I can successfully grow plants using alpaca poop and composted alpaca poop it has to say something for the great qualities of the alpaca poop.

Tomorrow I will write about using alpaca fiber as mulch, something I tried for the first time last year and which was so successful that I will be using more this year.

Rosemary

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