Sunday, June 11, 2017

Not Your Typical Farm!

Palmer, Alaska
Big Bear RV Park



We agreed that we needed a day of rest so the plan was to stay an additional day at this RV park and then spend an hour or two at Musk Ox Farm.  With that plan it would allow us time to come home and just veg the rest of the day.

The Musk Ox Farm didn't open until 10 so no mad rush to get somewhere this morning.  

You could tour the museum free of charge and if you wanted a 45 minute tour it was $9.00.  We all opted for the tour and were very glad we did it.




Here's what was posted in the museum about the facility:
    
Once driven to extinction in Alaska, the mighty musk ox 
has thrived after being reintroduced to the state in the 1930's.  Decades later, John J. Teal hatched the idea to use the indigenous animal to help support the indigenous people of Alaska in their economical and cultural self-sufficiency.  

The under-wool, or qiviut of the musk ox is one of the finest fibers on earth.  Softer than cashmere, warmer, than sheep's wool eight times over by weight-it is an exquisite material.  Spun into yarn and hand-knitted by Alaska natives, qiviut garments are works of art.  We call it Arctic Lace.

By way of qiviut, a cottage industry was formed.  By way of honor, a place for musk ox in the hearts of Alaskans was formed.



A small skein of yarn was $90.00.  One of the neck scarfs was $200.  They were beautiful and I can see why someone would pay that much for something handmade and so soft. We were told that the yarn is hypoallergenic, not itchy, and strong. 

When it was time for our tour group of six  we had to walk through a "disinfecting shoe bath" before we could go out in the pastures.


Our tour guide stopped at the locked gate and gave us a serious talk on safety and what to do if one of the animals was on the outside of the fence.  (He's wearing a hat made out of the Musk Ox fibers).


This lecture had true meaning as the yearlings had managed to get out of their fenced pasture and we had to take a detour until they were corralled.


Where we walked was the size of a one lane road between the fences.   







Our tour guide knew the names of all 80 musk ox.  We were told that this musk ox likes to come over and walk the fence as the tour groups go near.  





I had no idea how intelligent these animals are.  









There is lot science involved in making sure everything is perfect before they breed because they only breed 5 females per year.    



I asked why only 5 per year and was told that they only have 75 acres and they can't sustain anymore.  



Here's a mother with her baby.  We saw a mother running her baby along the fence.  






The animals are taught that they enter the barn and get their hair combed.  They are not sheared like sheep. The tool is one of those old hair picks women used when they teased their hair.  The musk ox last about five minutes while being combed before the combers have to let them out of the barn.

Information is collected on weight, when and who combed them and how much quiviut was collected. 




Their horns are clipped off about three inches twice during their life to protect the workers. 

The bulls can weigh between 700-900 pounds.  They look so awkward with the short little thin legs.  







We did discover that they love the extreme cold--minus 70 or 80 degrees.  





There was another pasture that we couldn't see which held two females who have been retired.  They are both 23 years old and have surpassed the average life expectancy of musk ox.  

Hard to believe that these huge animals have babies that are 15 to 20 pounds.  Once they are bred, you can't tell if they are pregnant until the calf is born.


The five yearlings were separated until they are older so they can learn socializing skills.


This is a male because he looks like he's wearing a helmet.  They eat a bale of hay per week per animal in the winter.  








These balls are the musk ox toys that the musk ox actually play with.  




If you ever get to Palmer, the Musk Ox Farm is worth the visit.  Did I mention that they are a non-profit organization?

After our visit we decided to stop at the Palmer Visitor Center which also has a tiny museum attached to it.  As we were looking for the visitor center, we happened upon a Colony Festival. 

It's was a typical town festival with the locally made products, food vendors and a play area for the kids.




We didn't buy anything other than food.





Harry found flavored pork rinds--cajun and tequila and lime.  Carlena and I both tried a reindeer hot dog.  It was spicy and tough.  



After we filled our bellies at the festival we went over to the Visitor Center.



The museum was small but interesting.  Most of the exhibits were about the Colony.



You can click on this photo to enlarge it to read.

There was a video playing which gave a lot of detail about that first year they were transplanted in Palmer.



On the grounds were the gardens that looked beautiful.  They are very proud of their gardens.  




It's a small world.  I was talking to a lady who lived in Casa Grande near the mall. She told us about the Colony House Museum which was around the corner.



It was easy to find, but unfortunately it was closed. I think we were all glad as it had been a busy day.





I know I didn't blog yesterday.  We were busy all day just shopping.  My camera hadn't been taking clear photos ever since it was in the hot springs.  I just wanted something very simple that comes on instantly when we see some wildlife.  Today's photos were taken with it.

We also stopped at Wal Mart and I found another chicken to replace the one that "flew the coop". 

I was teasing everyone saying that the chicken had his legs crossed like he had to go.  I was demonstrating the stance in this photo.  

Harry got his smoker out this evening.  He'd been wanting to try and bake an apple pie in it.  We'll be official tasters any day.  It was delicious.  

Tomorrow we're off for new adventures.  

Turtle Safely.........










11 comments:

  1. LOVE the musk ox ... a cranky group of critters. Would love to knit with their "fur" but it's always been too expensive for my knitting skills.

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    1. I couldn't believe how small that skein of yarn was for $90.

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  2. Interesting stop, we missed the musk ox farm. We may have to go back to Alaska some day.

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  3. What an interesting day of exploring and no doing anything? Travel safe and enjoy more fun adventures.

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  4. Now that is an interesting place. I didn't know anything about Musk Ox. I demonstrate your chicken stance quite often.

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    1. Me either, but we saw a few in museums and wildlife pamphlets.

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  5. David & I also toured the Musk Ox farm in 2008. Intereting animals. I bought a headband that covers my ears....$125. And, yes, I do wear it rather than a socking cap in the winter months in southern Arizona. Saw a few musk ox when we were near Prudhoe Bay, Alaska as well. Enjoy. Lynn Cross

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    1. I'll be interested to see your headband.

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  6. What a cool zoo. Y'all are having such a great experience. Thanks for taking us alone.

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