Our Website: www.ashdalealpacas.com

Saturday 31 October 2009

Sounds of the Countryside

Today we had to go into Axminster again and as it is the weekend we decided to call into the sweetshop and treat ourselves. It is really old-fashioned and takes me back to my childhood, glass jars on the shelves full of loose sweets; it is really hard to choose but I decided that I needed Edinburgh Rock in my life and Si chose Barley Sugars then we spotted sweet peanuts and ginger creams. Ok then the diet can start on Monday as it does every Monday and then ends on Tuesday.

Once we were back I went over to clean the girl's paddock but went through the top gate again. The girls spotted me heading that way and all crowded round humming, they had seen the long grass and put me on a guilt trip. I decided that as they were so good and easy to get back in yesterday I would let them wander for a bit. When I'd finished 'waste management' (just in case Rosemary's mum reads this) I thought that I deserved a cup of coffee, which I had sitting on the step because the weather was so good. I was listening to the birds in the hedgerow and watching them fly out to the feeding station for peanuts and sunflower seed. I have decided that one day I will be able to identify them from their cries. In the background we could hear gunshots that seemed to be getting closer and closer and started to worry about the alpacas getting stressed but then they faded away again. Suddenly there was a vroom, vroom behind me but that was just Si watching the qualifying for tomorrows Grand Prix.

We heard fireworks going off this evening but couldn't see anything lighting up the sky whichever way we looked. I put on 'Strictly Come Dancing' and before it had finished there was another funny sound coming from the sofa, it was Si snoring. This is really strange, as for a man whose only previous contribution to the Great British Dance Movement was pogoing with a bottle of Stella in his hand, he normally becomes the fifth judge criticising arm positions, choice of music, rise and fall etc.

Peace and quiet, please, I would love some.

Friday 30 October 2009

The Great Escape

When I went to do the paddock cleaning today I let the girls out by mistake. I went through the top gate after cleaning Merlin's paddock but forgot that it swings wide open as soon as you unlock it. The girls came charging up as soon as they saw me and as I tried to manoeuvre the wheelbarrow through the gateway Chance got past me. When I was trying to coax her back in the others ran past to freedom. I didn't want to stress them too much so got on with cleaning their paddock and left them roaming around with the wethers. I was hoping they would get bored and come back of their own accord but that was wishful thinking, they just wandered farther away. I took the feed bucket across and called out to Mimi, she came running down and the others soon followed, once I'd got them all to the troughs I ran up to the top gate and closed it quickly. They must think I'm stupid because as soon as they finished their feed they ran up to the top again to see if I'd left the gate open.

I was feeling really pleased with myself until I checked out Rob's Blog on Wellground's website. They have some absolutely stunning items for sale. I remember Les showing me one of their jumpers and it was so beautifully soft. I am now really jealous and can't wait until I can start knitting our fibre. I have already started to collect knitting patterns in preparation.

Thursday 29 October 2009

Spreadeagled and on top

After the morning feeds we made a quick dash into Axminster for supplies, we had to be back early because MGB were coming back with two of their stud boys. The arrived as I was cleaning the girl's paddock.

Mimi spat off last week but we kept finding her sitting next to the fence of Merlin's paddock so Si took her into the pen with him and she promptly sat for him again so she was obviously not pregnant. Cherrybomb also went down. Today we put them in pens with Hallmark and Augustus to be remated. Cherrybomb went down almost straight away and Augustus went to work for about 40 minutes. Mimi ran round and round and promptly spat green slime all over Mark. Mark had just been an innocent bystander, honestly. She then came over to me for cuddles. She is one of the few alpacas that actually likes to have her head stroked, it must be because she was bottle fed as a cria. You won't find any complaints about that from me; I love the fact she wants attention.

With the matings over we came in for coffees and I was really amiss. I forgot to get the biscuits out. I know that unless you have a huge tin filled with biscuits all the time you haven't earned the title 'alpaca farmer'.

When the boys had gone I planted a few more spring bulbs while Si was spreadeagled on top of the horse box. Some of the seal had broken so he was on the roof doing repairs and then called to me to do the evening feeds while he finished before it went dark. It seems I have to handle both ends of all the animals at the moment. When we came in I spent the evening hanging four pairs of curtains that I had made so that I can decide what length to hem them.

Monday 26 October 2009

Season of Mist and ................

more mist and even more mist. Keats didn't visit this area, we couldn't even see if there was any mellow fruitfulness.

I could hardly find the alpacas this morning to feed them. We have had horrible fine rain all day so I just did a quick check of all the animals when I fed them this morning. The poor things looked like drowned rats. Mimi tried to follow me (or should I say the bucket) out of the paddock, I think she wanted to come into the dry and warm. Mimi is four years old but is such a baby still, she pronks with the cria and is lovely to watch.

Cherub and Sweetheart normally act as though rain is acid and run for shelter as soon as it starts but they must have got bored and decided to risk it today to come out to graze. I could hear them crying for attention but I wasn't going to play with them today.

Si normally does the evening feeds, even on the days he does his hard sums, but with the weather being so bad I thought I would do them while he was travelling home. The rain had started to get heavier so I decided that I would don his new waterproofs. Si is a foot taller than me so I had to roll up the trousers. I must admit that I've had coats shorter than his jacket was on me, but at least I stayed dry. He arrived home just as I was finishing and couldn't believe the weather had been this bad all day. He only works 20 miles away and they didn't get any rain there until about 5pm.

Sunday 25 October 2009

Give me my hour back. Now.

What a difference the loss of the hour of daylight makes.

It's been an absolutely gorgeous day here. "Crackin' the flags" as they say in Liverpool, really warm and sunny. Bacardi and Coke (the pigs) spent the morning sunbathing on the fresh straw we had put down for them yesterday and Cherub and Sweetheart (pygmy goats) played on their climbing frame and platform. They were standing on their hind legs and looked as though they were having a boxing match, so cute.

Today has been spent doing more spit offs and worming injection. Si went to get all the girls that hadn't been done the other day into the catch pen ready for the spit offs but Ms Humphreys went down in the paddock and refused to move. She was nowhere near the male, she was just being her usual stubborn self. She's far too heavy to be carried and so she got her own way, again, and was left while he tested all the other girls. She spat off 2 weeks ago so we will try her again next weekend. Nobody will ever boss her around. Si asked Phil (2nd son) if he would help with the injections and was told "I don't 'do' injections". When Si explained that he would only have to hold the alpacas still he was a lot more willing to help. I think he has seen us stab ourselves too many times but Si should have told him that he was no safer holding the animals as I've managed to get the needle into his thumb instead of the alpacas skin but my aim is getting better.

OD and I had planted some strawberry plants the other day so after I had cleaned the paddocks I put some of the poo around them. I also planted some more bulbs in tubs in the hope we have a colourful display of crocuses and daffodils in the early spring. It then started to get dark so we had to come in. I suppose we had spent more time than was necessary with the alpacas though but they are such time wasters when they want to be. It was a shock to the system that night time had come so quickly when it was still warm enough to be outside.

Si has just asked if he can watch the highlights of the Liverpool game. It's football, there are no highlights. He still hasn't forgiven me for the time he took me to the pub to watch a match and I referred to the stuff they wear as a uniform. The result was 0:0 and I commented that it had all been a waste of time to create that much dirty laundry. For some reason he never took me again.

Saturday 24 October 2009

Weather Obsession

OD went home today and I think I was missing her before she even got back to Liverpool although she did text en route to say that she had just gone through Bournville Station and the train didn't even stop. We're both chocoholics. It's definitely a lot quieter around here without her.

We got back from Taunton to a horribly windy and wet farm. Its funny how the weather has become an obsession in planning work around here, we've even got a weather website in our favourites on the computer. I only used to worry about my hair if the weather was bad and that would mean phoning a taxi to go less than a quarter of a mile instead of walking. How life changes.

The animals were a bit be-draggled and because Ms Humphreys fleece was hanging flat we noticed how fat she was looking. How do we put an alpaca on a diet? It is still warm here most of the time so the grass is still growing. As she is always first to us when she sees the feed bucket we have to raise it above our heads and tease her with it while the others get to the troughs first. The others were all fine when Si did the body scoring last week. She is always first at everything. When the rain starts she runs like mad for the field shelters and then decided who she will let in.

Our goats our really enjoying their new red mineral licks. We haven't actually seen them using them but the fact that they have bright red faces shows that they are licking them when we're not looking, such messy eaters. Maybe they're the goat equivalent of lollipops.

Wednesday 21 October 2009

Spit Offs

Today has just been spent catching up on alpaca chores after our day out yesterday. The sun was shining this morning and our pygmy goats were really enjoying sitting in their feed trough sunbathing and obviously waiting for 'room service'. They're not very fussy about where they soil so Si had to wash out the trough before their breakfast.

We did four spit offs and all the girls went mad so we now have a green male alpaca and it looks as though the matings last Tuesday were all successful but as it is always with alpacas we will just have to wait and see.

We cleaned two paddocks and then went round searching for stones in the ground. We have an awful lot of large flints that work to the surface so we collect them now and again to prevent the animals getting cuts on their pads.

We moved Ms Humphreys, she is such a diva, and she remembered exactly where her dust bath was. She is our only suri and she loves to roll in dust and mud. She is definitely the boss; she is always first to the feed bucket as soon as we get through the gate then she works her way along the troughs. If I don't let her get her head in the bucket I end up with grass and slime in my hair. I have learnt not to wash my hair before the morning feed but I have to admit she is one of my favourites.

This afternoon the heavens opened and Si was so glad that we had bought him new waterproofs at the weekend but I stayed snuggly inside and caught up with some knitting.

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Aah and Complaints about this Blog


Biffy and Proud Mum

We've had a really packed day. After the feeds and checks this morning we had to take Ollie into Exter to catch the coach to Liverpool. He has gone to spend half-term with his friends in Liverpool; the coach driver didn't seem too happy with the amount of luggage he was taking but it did include his guitar. OD and I decided to embarrass him as the coach was packed. As it pulled out of the station we blew kisses and waved at him but the coach driver thought I was blowing kisses at him so I was the one who ended up with the red face as Ollie sank lower and lower in his seat.

After we had got soaked seeing off Ollie we went across to see our new babies at M and M Alpacas. We discussed all things alpaca for a while then checked that Laura hadn't tried to smuggle one of their pigs out under her coat (she is really enamoured with them) and visited a really pretty village pub for lunch. Phillip was off work today so came with us and we took over the largest table in the dining room. We enjoyed good food and great company but I took some stick over this blog. Mark and Mike no longer wish to be known as MGM they would prefer MGB (my gorgeous boys) then OD decided to get in on the act and object to being called OD, she said that it stands for overdose or overdraft. As she is at Uni for the foreseeable future I think it is highly appropriate.

We retired to Poole Farm for coffee and got onto the subject of winter feeds and care of the alpacas, MGB (NB: boys, your wish is my command) then filled the back of the car with fruit and veg for the pigs and checked out the 'Disco'. The car is called gold on the paperwork but we all decided it is really beige so that has aged Si by about 20 years. We then went off to get some mineral lick for the goats and bought loads of treats for our cockatiel. There are now so many toys in her cage that it resembles a creche.

Monday 19 October 2009

Blowing a Gale

It's been a day of only doing what's necessary outside. The wind has been howling and it's raining oak leaves; they're even getting in the house and on the carpet. Laura and I did brave it for a while to get some of the bulbs planted but that didn't last long and we came back inside to watch Loose Women. I spent the rest of the afternoon making curtains and knitting.

When Si got back from his day job (he spends three days a week in an office doing hard sums) we all got ready to go out while Ollie did the evening feeds and checks. We had a lovely evening and dinner at the White Hart in Wilmington. We've always had fantastic food and service there but they've now made life difficult. They used to have a dessert board with a small choice but now they've gone 'all posh' and put them in the main menu so it takes much longer to choose. It just means we'll have to go more often to work my way through them all.

Looking forward to tomorrow when we are going over to see our new cria for the first time, if the weather is fine we should be able to take some photos to put on here.

Friday 16 October 2009

Mother and Daughter Bonding

Today we moved all the girls and their babies into a new paddock. The grass is still growing here, albeit a lot slower than a few months ago so we decided to move them to see if we can get the grass longer in the paddock nearer to the park home. I would prefer them to be closer to us through the winter months when the weather is really bad. It sounded easy moving them until we realised that the paddock we wanted to use has three gateways but no gates on them so we had to carry the gates across first.

Laura and I went out paddock cleaning again when the rain had stopped; I told her that she had to search to see if any of them had 'gone' outside the normal area and she laughed and said that this was an unusual form of mother and daughter bonding. She did point out the weather map on tv this evening that the only area of rain was over Devon and the sun was shining up in Liverpool. Whenever she comes down here it rains and she thinks our tans are actually rust.

Phillip (2nd son) arrived back from Liverpool today and we were able to tell him that we had another boy born yesterday; we have decided to call this one Biffy after Biffy Clyro.

Thursday 15 October 2009

Where are the BeeGees?

We went out in the new car today. What a disappointment. When I was told it was a disco I expected mirror balls, strobe lighting and the BeeGees sitting on the back seat. It's a Discovery; I feel as though I have spent all day in it. We went across to Weymouth this morning and then into Axminster on the way back to renew our library books. We landed home for a short while to collect Ollie and then on to Taunton to collect OD from train.

Laura must be impressed with the park home because once she found out that her lecture has been cancelled for next Thursday she decided to extend her stay until the weekend and promptly announced it on her Facebook page so it is 'official'.

The new hay must be particularly sweet because it is proving very popular with all the alpacas. We still have loads of grass left but they are preferring the hay at the moment and are all sitting round the hay bags or coming across for a mouthful and walking away. It's like a branch of McDonalds. They'll be asking for toys with their Happy Meals soon.

Poo Tiddlywinks

The weather here has been lovely again today so that meant back out into the paddocks to collect poo. We can't afford a paddock cleaner yet so I am doing it with a rake, shovel and wheelbarrow. When it is dry it's just like playing tiddlywinks as it pops onto the shovel. I console myself with the fact that I'm collecting compost and fuel. When you think about it these alpacas are really environmentally friendly. They provide fibre to keep us warm, poo to compost and grow food and it can also be made into bricks to use as fuel. They also give us a warm glow just looking after and getting to know them.

Si collected his new car today, apparently it's a Disco. I'm not really into 4x4's but it's a necessary evil with a farm. We need something that can tow a horse box and after being snowed in for 3 days last winter I can see the attraction. Ollie is obviously impressed with the fact it has not one sunroof but two and has even asked if he can come to collect his sister from the station tomorrow (anything for a ride in it).

I'm really looking forward to OD arriving tomorrow. I have over 300 bulbs to plant and I know that she will help with them. The fact that her student loan still hasn't come through helps; she is totally reliant on me for rent and food for the foreseeable future.

MGM were across again this afternoon and we spent a happy time planning next years matings. Mark is brilliant at knowing what male to put with which female. We were also discussing fibre and what products we need to be making but there is no hurry with that as we have two years fibre waiting to be sorted once we have our barn up.

Tuesday 13 October 2009

Alpaca Porn

Just think how many men are going to be disappointed when their search engines bring this up later............

We have had a visit from MGM at M and M Alpacas today. They brought three of their stud males (I can't even begin to list the rosettes they have won). Hallmark won Best Adult Male at the Devon County Show this year and we have used him before. He is so funny; he watches us all the while he is working as though wanting confirmation of his prowess.

Four of our girls were mated today and afterwards they could be heard humming to each other, obviously comparing notes (Oh, how I miss Liverpool on a Friday night). The boys had all been trying to out orgle each other; I don't know why people talk about the peace and quiet of the countryside. It was a right old racket here today. Even Bacardi and Coke (the pigs) tried to get in on the act. They don't like to be ignored and had the odd scream to try and get some attention. They do love to have behind their ears tickled.

Hallmark and Wellground Jemima

Augustus and Wellground Juno

Barnaby and Ashdale Cherrybomb

Hallmark and Ashdale Halo

Note the prefix on the top two females. You know that old saying 'I loved it so much I bought the company' well Rob and Les were having none of it so we bought some of their animals instead with being so impresed with their quality.

Sunday 11 October 2009

At Last..............................

We have been planning to start this blog for months now and as the weather is inclement (to say the least) it seems as good a time as any.

It's nice to be able to start with all good news. We have nine breeding females over at our friend's farm to be mated to their prize-winning stud males. We have had two safe births in the past two days, one fawn female and one dark brown male. We will be going over to see them later in the week when OD (only daughter, is down from Uni for a few days). This morning we have been trying to decide on names for them, we tend to call our cria after bands we have seen and enjoyed so have settled on Adora for the female, taken from King Adora and Minuteman for the male. After saddling him with that name we are hoping that he isn't a potential stud.

Yesterday we had visitors. Rosemary, Carl and Sam from Westhill Alpacas came to see us. We had emailed each other a few times after I had been enjoying Rosemary's blog for the few months that we have had internet access down here. Carl and Si talked about boring electricity stuff and things like that, well, they seemed to enjoy it. Rosemary and I were more interested in talking about the alpacas and plans for the future. Four of us had lived in a caravan for 17 months so it is nice to now have a park home and be able to invite people round. The weather was so good that we were able to sit outside and enjoy the views. We are looking forward to seeing them quite a bit in the future. Carl took a liking to our pygmy goats, Sweetheart and Cherub and now wants some. We could have talked for a lot longer but Rosemary is still bottle feeding one of her cria and had to get back.

More good news is that Mark and Mike from M and M Alpacas (henceforth to be knows as MGM, My Gorgeous Men) are coming across with their stud males 'Hallmark' and 'Augustus' on Tuesday to do mobile matings with the last three girls to try to get pregnant. Mark and Mike have become really good friends since we first met them. They have been absolutely amazing and give us a load of laughs when we do manage to get together. Their farm is brilliant and they have worked so hard that every time we visit there are new developments.

This morning I had to telephone Rob at Wellground Alpacas for advice. I am a bit worried about one of our Australian girls. She has been taking herself out of the herd quite a bit and has been humming. There doesn't seem to be anything wrong with her and she is grazing and eating normally. When in doubt we always 'phone our mentors. We did a spit off on her yesterday in case she had lost her pregnancy and boy did she spit. I really hope her pregnancy holds as she is mated to Wellground Close Encounter and we are expecting a pretty spectacular result from it. Close Encounter won Champion Intermediate Male at the Royal Bath and Western Show in 2008. The problem with Wellground is that we are spoilt for choice with their stud males. We are using all of them but we have to choose which one to put with each of our girls.

The rain looks as though it is here for the rest of the day and we are going a bit 'stir crazy' being stuck inside. I can catch up with my knitting so that eventually there will be some products to go on the website, which I hope is a hint for Si to work on getting that set up.