Saturday, August 22, 2009
Austen and Miguel
I had too many animals on the farm. Something had to go, and it was the alpacas. I freely admit, I went a little crazy on Craigslist during my first year here. I wish I had enough land to indulge all my animal fantasies, but I just don't. Turns out, five acres is not as big as I thought it was when I moved here. It's only natural I would misjudge. I spent my early and middle childhood on a 3.5 acre mini-farm, and it always seemed pretty big to me! We crammed three horses and a dozen goats on that place, not to mention a score or so of chickens.
But I've learned that the number of animals I have acquired here - 2 ponies, nine goats, three alpacas, and about twenty-five chickens - just isn't sustainable in the long run. This has been a very dry year, and I've flat run out of grass. I don't have the funds to be buying hay nine or ten months of the year. Also, there's the little matter of the county's sustainability plan.
Those of us with animals are supposed to have no more than 1 "animal unit" per acre of usable pasture, which excludes non-permeable surfaces, wetlands, or steep slopes. What's an animal unit? Well, I'll tell you. It's one cow, or one 1000 lb. horse, or 3.1 sheep, or 1.4 llamas, or 100 chickens. I added up my animal units (assuming that a goat was the same as a sheep, and that an alpaca was slightly less than a llama) and I came up with 4.1. That's actually just under the limit, considering that I have about 4.25 acres of usable land. However, it feels unsustainable, considering the quality of my land and what has happened in this year's drought.
Realistically, the ponies are the least practical animals I have, but I LOVE them and won't consider getting rid of them. The alpacas are the next most useless (no food products, just hair). So, even though they are funny and silly and decorative and even though Rowan has done wonders with their fleece, we had to say goodbye to them.
They did net me $50 each. That's more than I paid for them.