Sunday, February 27, 2011

Exercise update

I'm still sticking with my plan. This week was my 5th week in a row of exercising at least five times a week - and this week I got in six times! Today is a rest and recovery day though. I have been trying to give myself time to recover by switching around. I rarely do the same exercises two days in a row. If I run on the treadmill, the next day gets a bike ride, exercise bike, or workout video. This way I keep myself entertained, and switch up which muscles are getting a workout.

The workout video I've been doing is Sansone's Walking exercise DVD. It's lots of marching in place, with strength moves thrown in. It's a good workout, but my feet do not care for the marching in place - the pressure on the balls of my feet can make my toes go numb, so I have to concentrate on how my feet are hitting the floor.

Adding up all the exercise, plus I've been doing a good job of keeping my calories in line, I hope I see some progress on the scale on Monday. I'll be fine with it either way. One problem is that I'm going to get a new digital scale because the old analog one isn't as accurate - it gives me different numbers every time I step on it, sometimes as much as 7 lbs different! So whatever number I get from the new scale on Monday will be my new starting point, and I'll work from there.


Saturday, February 19, 2011


The training on the alpacas has slowed down quite a bit. Although Red got the hang of the clicker training, and seemed to understand his behavior was effecting how quickly he got his reward, the other two have been more of a problem. I have had issues with them invading my space, kicking at me when I enforce my space, and trying to hit me from behind, which is particularly scary. I don't want to interact with them any more than necessary, because I would describe their behavior as pushy and spiteful - when corrected they look for ways to strike back. So we have switched from grain to straight hay, and I close them out of the paddock while I am cleaning and refilling feeders. My friend who runs the rescue is going to come over and check them out and see if their issue is with me (as in, they've decided I can be pushed around) or if they have a more serious problem from having been spoiled and not understanding that they need to give humans space. I am being very cautious around them, and I never take my eyes off them when I'm in their area.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Foggy full moon

Incubator Progress

Since we were stuck at home because of the snow, and I couldn't do any yard work, I decided to do a little work on the incubator. I have been wanting to test it out, but I can't do that until I get new weatherstripping put on it, and I don't want to do that until I get the front refinished. Last week I bought the sandpaper I'd need, and some stain, and today I sanded off the old finish, and put a new one on. Once that dried I applied a layer of sealer to it. I hope that comes out looking nice. I couldn't get the hinges off without stripping screws, so I left them on and I'll clean those up with the dremel. So far it looks much better.

When it's dry I can put the weatherstripping on and take it for a test run, see if it holds it's temp and humidity properly. If that all works, I see no reason not to put a few eggs in it and see how it goes.


Snow day! Didn't see that one coming!

Jeeze, I guess I should pay more attention to the weather reports. I had no idea this was going to happen!

I think this is Navi's first really good snow

It seems to bring out the 'play' in the eskies!

Tennis ball + snow = snowball!

Jack doesn't like it when it's cold and wet

Let's go inside and lay on the couch and watch TV - and turn the heat up!

Of course the alpacas have no choice. But they seem to like it. If they didn't they would have stayed under the shelter, and not have snow on their backs.

Yay! Snow!

There's just something special about a snow day!


Monday, February 14, 2011

Weight loss update - down 13!

I am down 13 lbs total for the year so far - yay! I have been very devoted to both exercise and eating right. I feel great, though I have had a day here and there where I was just beat - tired. I've been trying to make sure I get enough sleep to re-energize after a day where I exercised hard. I've been really pushing myself, and enjoying it! It feels great to set a goal and reach it. I really enjoy saying I'm going to do a hard exercise for 30 minutes and push myself to do it - when I get to that part where I want to quit, but I keep going, it's a real rush to finish!

I have been drinking lots of water, trying to get the 8 cups a day - no pop at all, and I don't miss it a bit. We're eating more fruits and veg, especially fruit for snacks, and veg snuck into every meal whenever possible. I wouldn't be doing as well without the SparkPeople website. Having goals like eating 5-6 servings of fruit and veg, or 8 cups of water, and then tracking those goals, really motivates me. And cheating on my 'diet' is not a problem, because it's not a 'diet', it's a lifestyle change. I like tracking my food daily, and being able to look at charts to see how I am doing in the long term.

This is my calorie intake for the last month. The steady upward climb was on purpose. I was concerned that staying at the bottom of my recommended calorie range was actually causing my body to hang on to fat a bit, since it was such a big change from what I was eating before - I'd estimate with pop and chips, I was mindlessly eating about 3000 calories a day! I have been trying to land more in the middle to upper part of the recommended calories. They say eating too little is bad because your body will resist losing fat if it isn't getting enough calories. But if I'm close to my calorie limit for the day and I feel I need a snack before bed, I'll have a snack like canned peaches and cottage cheese (one of my favorite new snacks). The hundred calories isn't going to kill me, and I'll get a good night sleep and wake up relaxed. So I'm watching the calories closely, but not being crazy about it.

So that's how it's going so far. I feel really good, I enjoy the exercise, and I'm trying hard to eat right and change my habits. I actually want my loss to be slow and permanent. I'm in it for the long haul.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Alpaca training day 4

While Red and Black seem to be getting it, White decided he would try some new behaviors today. He was the second one to be fed. Red was already in the garden working on his food, and Black was waiting in the paddock for his turn, while White was in the pasture - so they were all separated. White started physically pushing me and I had to actively use my hand to tell him to back off, but he kept pushing and getting right in my face. He tried to use his head to knock the food bowl out of my hands, and finally he looked right at me, shoved his face towards me, and spit in my face! Luckily he hadn't worked up the goo, so it was just a snort of foul air, but my immediate reaction was to turn around and hand his food to Black in the paddock, and walk away, leaving White to watch the other two alpacas eating their breakfast. I hope he thinks about how that worked for him.

We'll see how the evening feeding goes.

Update: Dinner went much smoother. Red made a couple stabs at diving into the bowl, then backed off, Black backed off and gave me room immediately, and White got fed last. He walked up to me and I waved a hand at him to let him know he was getting too close, and he immediately stepped away, turned sideways, and watched me out of one eye - Bingo! That gets you your food. I think going without his breakfast made an impression on him.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Alpaca training day 2

The nice thing about clicker training is that it works on everything - dogs, cats, whales, tigers, chickens, and even alpacas. Today was the second day of 'don't push me over to get to the food' training, and they surprised me by offering different behaviors than yesterday in their efforts to get to the food quicker. They weren't GOOD behaviors, but that's ok. I just ignored them and waited for the behavior I wanted - which is standing at arms length and waiting. The behavior I want is the only one that gets them the bowl of food.

Today Red got frustrated when I blocked his repeated attempts to force his way to the bowl, and he looked right at me, tilted his head up and started gurgling up a wad of spit for me! I just held a hand up to him and calmly told him 'no' (usually I just ignore bad behavior, but I felt this one merited a comment, and I wanted to get my hand up there to deflect the spit) and he backed off and tried something else. So that's ok. I like that he's trying things. I want him to figure out on his own that standing back gets him the food.

Likewise Black got so annoyed he was kicking and stamping his feet, but not AT me, so it was ok. I just ignored it. He figured out on his own to stand back, and he got his food. I think he got it the quickest of all three. Red took the longest today. I had to use the whip to remind White to keep his distance while I was filling a bowl - I just tucked the whip under my arm and turned away from him while I finished filling the bowl (so the whip moved towards him) and the whip barely touched him but he jumped away and stayed back. Llamas (and alpacas) like their personal space - I think it's only fair for them to respect mine as well.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Alpaca Zen

To get the food, you must give up the food... First rule of Zen training. The dogs learn it so they won't leap up and steal food out of your hands (taking fingers in the process), and now the alpacas are learning it so they won't mug me and spit all over me to get their daily grain. I like the term 'Zen' training as well because it isn't bossy or pushy or forceful, it involves doing nothing to get what you want, which is a peaceful way to train.

So I went out this morning and filled a bowl and invited a packy into the garden area (out of spitting range of the other two). I held the bowl and as Red tried to dive in, I blocked him with my hand. If he got real pushy I turned away. As soon as he turned his head away from the bowl I clicked and thrust the bowl out to him to take a bite, then took it away again. After repeating a few times he quit trying to jam his head into the bowl and just stood back and waited. That also gets a click and another bite from the bowl. When it looked like he understood, I clicked and set the whole bowl on the ground and let him finish his breakfast in peace.

I repeated the training with the other two individually, and it worked just as well. It took a few tries, and they figured out they got their food faster by staying back. I did it again at dinner time and it went just as well. I'll be curious to see how quickly they pick this up and give up on rushing the bowl. So far, excellent results, and I didn't get spit on at all.

I went to the feed store for some supplies today and picked up a long horse whip - about four foot long. I find this is perfect to help gently move the alpacas around. Now if they crowd me or aim their butt at me, I can encourage them to move while remaining outside of kicking range. A few gentle taps with the whip and they scoot out of the way.

What do you know? I may be smarter than an alpaca!


Over the River...

The theater company we belong to, Magenta Theater  is doing a performance of Over The River and Through the Woods, a family comedy about a guy seeking to move far away from his overly-attentive grandparents. It's a very cute and touching show, and I got to go take pictures for the publicity photo. I love taking pictures of plays. Dave sorted through the 250 pictures I took and selected a few to make this nice collage to go out with the publicity notices.


Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Alpaca training?

I friend sent me a link to a llama training guide online. The most eye opening thing was that the training is all positive, uses clickers (which I already knew was possible) and begins with 'llama zen' - the equivalent of 'doggie zen' which is a self control exercise we teach the dogs. I am going to start using some of these techniques to work with the alpacas and see if I can get any communication going on.  Getting some cooperation from them would make them a lot easier to live with.

dragonflyllama training manual



I don't know why llamas and alpacas don't like me, but it's clear they don't. I'm guessing maybe I'm too nice, and they figure they can push me around. Well, that's all over. I've worked out some strategies to avoid getting spit on, and they seem to have worked well so far.

To start with they used to be in the paddock when I was getting food ready, and they could see me and start getting worked up about it. Now I shut them out of the paddock, while I get food ready.

Yup, you guys can just stay over there while I get your bowls ready. I'm sure the white one is wondering if his spray could hit me from there.

Once the food is doled out I get Red to come into the garden and give him his food. He gets the most because under all that filthy wool is a very skinny alpaca.

Then I get black and white separated. One gets to go in the paddock (today it was black) and the other stays in the main field.

White is always too excited and starts getting spitty so I don't even give him the chance now, I won't let him anywhere near me. When I have the bowl I hold my hand up high (to make myself taller) and make him back off. He seems to be taking me seriously. I definitely won't let him crowd me or sniff my face anymore.

 When he was done eating he went around to the fence to annoy the dogs. Navi doesn't like the monsters at all! Barclay didn't like seeing me get spit on, he was ready to come defend me right then. But they aren't allowed anywhere near the alpacas because the alpacas could hurt them and vice versa.

After they ate their grain I used a bucket of hay to get them all into the paddock for the night. The dogs had to inspect it before I could get across the yard with it. They  don't get it - it doesn't look like food to them!

Workin' hard around the yard

We had the most beautiful weather this weekend (our weekend is Tues-Wed). This is why we live in the NW. It was sunny, and in the 50s on Tuesday, 40s today. Perfect weather for getting a bunch of hard work done before the ground either freezes up solid again, or melts completely into a mud puddle.

So I started out with a project that has been nagging at me for a couple years. Several years ago I put in a raised bed garden in an unused part of the yard, and it didn't really work out there, so it sort of got abandoned, it was hard to mow around, and because it was made of concrete blocks with the holes in them, it was a hazard for the dogs who have been playing around it (especially just recently), and it needed to be removed. But who wants to remove 30-some concrete blocks that are sunk into the dirt and seem pretty permanent? Nobody. But it has to be done.

So I got the mower and the lawn cart, and took a load of wood chips over to the garden area (no point driving over there without taking something along for the ride). I shoveled a bunch of fresh chips onto the path where it was getting bare and muddy. It's going to take several more loads.

Fresh wood chips on the left, ground that needs some more on the right.

I took the cart over to the drainfield area and started loading up concrete blocks. Each one had to be wrestled out of the ground, wiggling them back and forth like a loose tooth. I loaded 12 into the cart at a time and took them over to the area outside my garden next to the compost piles and..

Used them to build a new compost pile area. I really needed a new compost area to put the alpaca poo I've been scooping up every morning.

So that was all yesterday. Dave helped a bit but by the end of the day I was beat. Those concrete blocks are terribly heavy! But I'm really happy with the compost area.

Today I headed right out this morning and got to work on the next thing on my list - the semi-annual cleaning of the chicken coop. (this is the after picture).

The deep bed method had backfired on me as it piled up faster than I was keeping up with it. For the last two weeks I've been trying to find time to get out there and clean it up. I cleared out THREE heaping wheelbarrow loads - and I think it's an 8 cubic foot wheelbarrow! That's a lot of crap!

I spread the chicken poo thinly over the beds in the garden and put the rest in the new compost pile. Then I took all the straw I removed from the alpaca shelter (which was old straw, sheep poo and pig poo from last year) and scattered that over the chicken poo. I'm hoping all this will break down by planting time (May around here) and make for happy plants this summer.

Back in the chicken coop I got the brooder all cleaned out, because the feed store is getting chicks this weekend, and I want to get some. This way they should be old enough to start laying by winter. In this picture I've put straw in the brooder, but I'm going to change that to chips, because I think the straw will be too hard for the chicks to walk on.

Some of my girls moved right back into their clean home. They were a bit put out after being banished from the coop all day while it was being cleaned. Next on the to-do list - put up a piece of plywood to hide the insulation from the chickens. I don't know how they  get to it to tear it up, but they do.

In the coop the dogs help clean up any poo I missed - yuk!

A beautiful end to a very productive two days. I shoveled until I had nothing left in me! It's great to finally get all those chores done. Now I need a weekend to recover from my weekend!


Monday, February 07, 2011

Ugh - spitwad to the face!

I went out to feed the alpacas this evening and the white one pushed to the front and spit right in my face - NASTY! This morning when I separated them to feed them he gurgled at me and I was firm with him to knock it off, then as I set down his food and walked away he aimed a kick at me, missing by a hair. I tell you, whenever I give these llamas (and now alpacas) a chance they always prove themselves to be foul tempered, nasty animals. I really don't get what people see in them. Having an animal that will unload a stomach of green goo in your face is just FOUL. So much for rescues being grateful for what you do for them. These guys were fine the first week, but now that their bellies are full they are back to their nasty selves. I'm glad they'll just be temporary fosters.


Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The exercise bike and the weight loss project

Dave scored a free exercise bike from someone. Strangely enough it is exactly like a bike we had a few years ago, which I gave away for free on Freecycle because I didn't use it, and now I was wishing I had an exercise bike, and we get this one for free - that must be Karma. (I had already started taking it apart in this picture)

We just brought it in this afternoon, and the resistance knob didn't seem to do much. So I looked up on the net for info about it, and saw several people complaining that it goes through resistance bands and they are expensive to replace. So I was thinking, great, that explains why it was free. So after Dave left for rehearsal I had nothing else to do this evening, so I pulled the cover off to have a look.

Pretty simple. The pedals turn a big flywheel that has a drive belt going to the side of a smaller, heavier flywheel in front. That one has a nylon strap around it. The strap is tightened by turning the resistance knob using a basic bicycle-style brake cable. Except the spring between the strap and the cable was broken.

So I took the spring out and went out to the garage and started digging in my workbench. I quickly found a couple springs that might do the job. One felt about right, but was too long. So I snipped off what I needed and re-bent a loop into the end.

I came back in and put it all back together and tah-dah - it seems to work just fine now! I'm so happy that I was not only able to figure out the issue, but to find just the right doo-dad out in the garage to make a fix with. I guess I'm to that age where I've done enough projects that the leftover pieces occasionally are useful for something without yet another trip to the hardware store!

As far as the weight loss project is going, I have not lost any more weight, but I have hampered myself by overdoing it and hurting myself, which causes me to have to take a couple days off of exercising. Even though I have not seen the scale go down, I am feeling so much better than I ever expected, and I have more energy for doing stuff in general - like taking care of alpacas and cleaning up the garden, and today we cleaned up the shop and I carried many boxes of toys up to the second floor. And when I am exercising, turns out I love to run (or jog, in my case). It feels great, and I get such a rush from pushing myself!

I have also learned a lot about what I eat through journalling - and I can't believe how many calories are in some of the things that I used to enjoy. I can still enjoy some of those things, but now I need to find ways to lighten them up, or plan around them. So if I want to go burn 700 calories on a burrito bowl at Chipotle (one of my favorite things) I can still do that, but I need to make sure I also don't have a 700 calorie dinner! Really though, my problem was soda pop, mindless snacking (especially while sitting at work), and portion control - because you can have too much of even a good thing. Never again will I eat Chex Mix, with its high salt content and calories completely devoid of nutritional value - I don't even have the urge to! I'd rather eat a banana or an orange or some dried fruit or nuts, or a big spinach salad - turns out I love fresh spinach with tomatoes and cucumbers and a little Italian Dressing! Who knew?!Or a tortilla wrap with tomato, cucumber, turkey deli meat and cream cheese - yum!

So I'm happy with the project, even if my weight isn't showing it. I have no doubt it will soon, and that the new habits I'm learning, and the exercise I'm doing, is going to start paying off. I don't mind if it happens slowly. It took a while to put it on, and I think if I take it off slowly, it will stay gone, which is fine by me!


This morning

It was 28 degrees this morning, and I had to get right up and go out and break ice off the water troughs, separate the alpacas and feed them each their individual breakfasts (without getting spit on because they get excited when they see the bowls), scold the dogs for barking at them the whole time, freshen up their hay, send them out to play in the pasture, and clean up all the poo in the shelter area. 

Ok, so adding 3 packys is a LITTLE extra work. I'm sure all my farm friends are doing the same thing and more :D