Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My visits with Hans...

So leave it to Cousin George to catch me in my first slip up of my secrets!  I know this post is supposed to be about my wonderful visits with Hans Von Barby and it will be, but in my last post about the wind storm I said something along the lines of between here, The Royal Ranch and the future home of The Double J, near The Royal Roost....  And smarty pants cousin George caught me.  Well, George, yes, we are making some very large changes, and yes they are mostly due to my back.  But you have one thing wrong...we will not be moving to the Roost; we are in the process of buying a large piece of property (37+ acres) on Camp Creek (the same road that The Royal Roost is on) that will be the home of The Double J; and THAT is all I will say ON THAT.  And I will post more about why a larger ranch can be easier on a bad back than a smaller ranch in a different post, but for now I want to catch up on a few great visits I have had with a new mentor:  Hans Von Barby!

I met Hans through the IYAK Association.  When I started doing research on Yaks, I found the most amazing coincidence, or as I believe there probably aren't many of those, but anyway, one of the founding members of IYAK was Jerry McRoberts of McRoberts Game Farm or MGF for short.  That is how many animals are registered with the farms initials, and MGF is very famous for it's llamas and how I know this is because my first boy llama that I ever fell in love with, and the only one that I paid $$$ for that is worth a dime (Elway is the other) is an MGF llama!  MGF Fortune Hunter, or Hunter as he is known around the ranch, is such a well rounded, beautiful llama he has remained one of my favorites all of these years.  The funny thing is, is that I have this spectacular show quality llama up here hidden in the mountains and no one knows about it...

Ooops, got a bit sidetracked there, well, I guess that is why I called this blog a journal, lol.  Back to Hans Von Barby!  And Yes, I am going to keep saying his name that way because each time he calls or the kids say his name it is with such vigor it really cracks me up-he has such a strong German name it really fits his strong German personality!  He is 77 years old, retired and married to a VERY avid Golden Retriever trainer/breeder/shower.  He has a small herd of Yaks that sits at 8 right now.

I was so lucky to see an IYAK member that lives over in Evergreen right past the High School that I attended.  Hans was kind enough to invite me over for lunch a couple of weeks ago so that I could meet him and his herd, learn more about Yaks, fencing, birthing, etc.  As you all, family, friends, Rebels (my readers from my other blog) know by now I really do my research before I jump into any project....especially if it is a LIVING project.

We had a wonderful lunch, all served up in such a fashion that I had to think of my dear German-exchange sister Irina, the way he had the table set and everything.  Just so fancy.  Anyway, we talked about what I had planned with Yaks and how he got started in Yaks.  And most importantly how he learned from his mistakes.. he lost 2 of his Yaks when he first got them and thought they were gone for good.  They were sighted all over the mountainside for 2.5 months until he finally rounded them and a new calf up in the Springtime!

Somewhere on this dreaded web, I had read that Yaks are such docile creatures that they don't use their horns as defense and therefore we as humans are not in danger from them.  That reminds me, I still need to look back and see where I read that so I can give those folks a piece of my mind, because when Hans heard that he got a good German chuckle out of it.  And his bull Black Jack almost got a good piece out of my arm with his hook action if I hadn't been forewarned!  They do have a mean downward hook tossing action going on with those big ass horns that is for sure!!!  How in the world else would they defend themselves in the wild, duh?  I was stupid to believe it in the first place.

Now, the bottle fed babies are an entirely different story; they on the other hand are as docile as can be.  And even some of the calves that have been handled a lot.  Which some of the smaller farms, like Hans' do, but many do not, so I will have to be very choosy when I go to pick out my animals...especially my BULL.  Geez, there I go again, all getting off topic and telling more than I was planning.  Dammit, George, see what you're doing to me here?

Okay, so things I learned at Hans Von Barby's house.  He thinks that you CANNOT herd Yaks.  Period.  And do NOT ever let them get loose.  His fences are at least 5 feet high and made of welded wire some with 2' squares and some with 4' squares.  Also he thought that a concrete pad where they eat and drink would be a good idea as they territorial pee/poop this area and it would make it easier to clean.  Yaks are not too keen on shelter like llamas, a three sided will do them fine.  He has them in with a horse, a goat, 2 calves, 2 yearlings and the mamas of those.  Bull is separate so he doesn't breed daughters, so Hans is hoping I will take some daughters.

So I compared them to llamas just a minute ago.  And they sort of remind me of llamas; they are ruminants.  But of course they are of the bovine family meaning that they are much more closely related to the cow, but in my opinion much smarter and more useful since we can use the fiber, etc.  I am bummed that most folks are now telling me that no way in hell would they try to milk their Yak...we'll see about that.  But back to comparisons, their poop is even like a combination of llama poop and cow, it is so weird!  It is kind of like God took a fiber animal and a cow and Bam! you have a Yak!!!!

Off track again, back to my visits with Hans, lol!  When I told him of our plans, he knew I must meet some friends of're not going to believe this...right here in MY county!  Right in South Park.  I was so excited for this visit because not only are these people Yak folks but they are building an Earthship, oh my goodness!

Hans set everything up and of course drove, I told Mom that I felt bad because he wouldn't even let me open the gates, silly man!  Here I was sitting like a princess in the truck, while this 77 year old man was getting in and out of the truck multiples time opening and closing the gates in the cold South Park winds!!!  But anyway, as we drive through I couldn't believe my eyes because it was like I was looking at my dream come true; there before me were Yaks, both Royals and Trims, all sorts of calves running everywhere.  And right among them were sheep, llamas and a couple of very large horses.  Nestled behind this HUGE herd of animals was a very large Yurt and an even bigger tire foundation, that's it just a tire foundation.

Come to find out that the Kist's have been having so much fun with their herd of animals, living in their Yurt; letting those South Park winds just blow right over them, that they have let the house fall to the back burner.  And who can blame them?  They are making a living, and most nights they eat, it is entirely from their own place.  Elaine Kist has a beautiful garden, yes, at 9,400 feet in South Park.  And her and her husband Dennis,  raise pork, yak, poultry, and lamb to sell at local Farmer's Markets.

They started on their tire home quite a few years ago and chose to go with tire bales instead of the flat tires like you will typically see.  When I asked Dennis why he chose this he simply asked me if I had ever seen them pounding those tires and how labor intensive it was and then laughed.  Also, while a typical house will take 2,000 tires out of the landfill, the Kist's home took 42,000 tires out of the landfill!

Thank you Texas U for the photo

Okay, let me see, where was I??? So rudely interrupted by children needing to get ready for school and needing to go to the bus stop, etc.; GEEZ!!!!  (Keep repeating to yourself, I will get this post finished, lol)  So, anyway, back to Earthships and tire bales for a second.  Tire bales cost the Kist's a pretty penny, as did the labor and machinery to place all of those huge, heavy bales.  Whereas, I on the other hand hope to even make a buck or two on collecting said tires.

Dennis assured me that Park County was pretty good to deal with on these sort of homes.  But they sure did grumble that people who built them never seemed to finish them; I'm afraid the home that I toured was a perfect example of his complaints!  After many years of living on the windy plains of South Park in a Yurt with two wood stoves for heat and a cute kitchen about the size and comforts of mine, they sure didn't seem in any hurry to get that building done.  Elaine says that what she has in her kitchen now is all she will take with her to her new Earthship home.

We had a lovely lunch of Yak chili around their kitchen counter and of course talked Yak business.  How is their Yak meat business going?  Well, they can't keep up with demand; they had to miss out on 5 weeks of farmer's markets last year as they ran out of product.  They are very ingenious people, even selling lama manure similar to my Naked~Nure!  They have a self-serve store right there on their ranch that people can just come and take what they need out of the freezer or fridge and leave their money in the cash box and off you go.  Talk about small town service!

Hans had brought pie for dessert and then we all visited a bit more in their comfortable living room....that Yes, guys had a big TV in it.  Elaine and I got lost in the books; I told her about swapping and she told me about a great Yak book I could order free through the UN, who knew?  The visit wrapped up with them walking us out to the truck and oh, that took us past Elaine's snow covered garden...well underneath all that snow were still a few very hardy turnips still thriving away!  Finally, Hans was shouting that it was time to go, and we said our goodbye's for now because we knew we had met kindred spirits indeed!

And then back through the gates, Hans Von Barby opening and closing each one, with me just giggling at the little German man with one pant leg tucked in his boot insisting that he doesn't allow the ladies to do the "heavy lifting".  Even if the gate is on wheels.


  1. Wow, when we talk with you and read your blogs, we are simply amazed that we raised such an adventurous, intelligent, resourceful girl, now woman!! We often laugh about our family trip to New York City many years ago (you were maybe 11) and you proclaimed that this would be where you live when you grew up {grin}. We are sure glad that you “saw the light” and went in the complete opposite direction!

    As we discussed when we were there last week, I am amazed at how much of the bus conversion technology fits directly with the “Earthship” technology. We look so forward to following your adventure!

    Love Dad and Mom

  2. Oh, Mom and Dad, Where do I even begin!!! Lord knows what a part of this crazy ass journal you all are going to be!!! I am afraid poor "Father" as he is known around here is going to have to be our resident Engineer; because yes, Earthships and bus conversion technology do go hand in hand (I can't wait to write more about this). And we all know where a Mother tends to be, right there with a shoulder to cry on and a hand to hold. Thank GOD for my parents!!!
    Daughter JJ~

  3. So you are building an Earthship? Very cool! Can't wait to hear about this. Hopefully there will be some ideas to steal and experiences to benefit from. You make the mistakes so I can learn! I already want to move to Colorado. Maybe you will find a way I can actually make it happen before I am too old to do it.


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