Our Website: www.ashdalealpacas.com

Friday 27 November 2009

Blonde Day

For some reason I have been having difficulty signing into the blog tonight. It kept telling me that cookies had been disabled. Mmmmmmmmm cookies. Anyway it has just worked ok without me doing anything highly technical with the computer (as if I could).

My poor animals look dreadful. They're so wet that their coats have lost a lot of their fluffiness and they look as though they have lost loads of weight, if only the same thing happened to me when it rains. They haven't lost their appetites though. I popped out to play with the goats when the rain stopped for a short time today and the alpacas must have thought it was feed time and came charging over. I felt so guilty about them being out in the rain, although it is really their own fault as they won't use their field shelters, that they got their dinner early.

I decided to crack on with entering all the animal details onto the database. It's brilliant because the animals we bought from Wellground have every toenail cutting, medicine etc listed from the day they were born so I have just been copying the printouts that Rob and Les gave us then adding on meds that we have given. I really must stop thinking of the alpacas as being my babies because I entered all of them as having blue eyes, well I have and my ex husband has so it seems logical to me at the time. It was only when I thought I had finished for the night that I realised what I had done and had to go back in and correct them all. Think how much damage I could do if I was naturally blonde. I think I will blame the fact that it was too noisy to concentrate with the hammering of the rain on the roof.

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Cuddles and Pedicures

Ollie was out dismantling some more of the old paddocks this morning. He's obviously toughened up as he was only wearing a short sleeved t-shirt and didn't even come in when it was raining. We are hoping to re-use some of the top rails that he has taken down. There is a full day of fencing planned for tomorrow where Mark had put the new posts in the other day. We discovered that we had almost run out of those large staples so when Si got home from doing his hard sums we dashed off to Countrywise in Honiton to buy a large tub. I couldn't believe the price of them. No wonder fencing is so expensive to do.

I fed the alpacas their evening meal and then decided that the goats were ready to have their hooves trimmed. It's quite an easy job with pigmy goats as you just pick them up. Cherub is used to being handled as she has been cuddled from the day she was born. I sat on a bale of hay and sat her on my knee while Ollie trimmed her feet. She just tucked her head under my chin and stayed perfectly still but I think I would too if Ollie approached me with those clippers. Sweetheart isn't as keen on being cuddled but he behaved really well. They then knew it was time for their tea and they danced about on their hind legs on the way to their feed trough then proceeded to circle it waiting for me and Ollie to catch up.

I had a telephone call this evening with the PM results of the girl that died the other day. The vet was right, she had a twisted gut. It doesn't make it any easier but at least we know that she isn't in pain now. Her baby is still feeding from another girl and seems to be thriving. I've had lovely messages from people after last nights blog, so thank you. It probably seems silly to other farmers but I think that alpacas are pretty special, as daft as they are and ours are looking pretty grotty at the moment.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Noah Set Sail

Not a lot has been getting done around here because of the weather. The ground is so water-logged now that we are developing our own lakes. Noah took off on his ark two days ago. He must have got up to quite a speed with the gales in his sails. Luckily, he didn't take any of our animals, he must have collected enough on his own.

Si and the boys have been struggling with the fencing despite the weather but it has been really slow going. The ground is too soft to be able to use vehicles on so it means posts etc are being carried by hand to where they are needed. We are almost bent double fighting against the wind as we walk uphill, poor Si looks as though he will snap in two being so tall.

Yesterday we had some really sad news. The alpaca that had been off-colour died on Sunday night. The vet and MGB were absolutely marvelous but it just got to the stage of keeping her as comfortable as possible. The vet seems to think that it was a twisted gut and has taken her for a PM. I don't think I will ever get used to animals dying even though we were warned about this before started breeding the alpacas.

The noise around here is dreadful at the moment. Gales are still blowing but the forecast is for them to get worse over night and die down tomorrow. We are also forecast a few dry days with sunshine. I can't wait. My poor animals are filthy but they're still not staying in the field shelters.

Read Zanzibar's blog before and picked up a great tip for repairing my wellies. They developed a leak yesterday so tomorrow I will be looking for the boy's puncture repair kits.

Friday 20 November 2009

Last Night I Went To Bed With David Cassidy........and he kept me awake 'til dawn

I've waited over 30 years to be able to say that. It's not quite as exciting as it sounds though; Si got me his autobiography from the library yesterday and I couldn't put it down. It was lovely reliving my school days through his songs. He's the reason I'm doing this blog so early though, I'm absolutely bushed after getting next to no sleep.

MGB telephoned first thing to let me know that the girl that was worrying us was a lot more comfortable after the vet called yesterday and gave her an injection and she has been getting up a bit more. She even let her cria feed from her even though she has next to no milk.

Ollie and Phil have been fitting more top rails today and tomorrow they will be doing more dismantling of unwanted fencing. I'm glad we had the contractor here on Wednesday as we heard this evening that he went down with swine flu yesterday. We all contracted it earlier in the year so should have immunity from it now, at least we hope so as we have never felt so ill.

I refilled all the hay bags and the alpacas all came running as soon as they spotted them. They do love anything new. It's really strange though, I could have sworn we had mainly white alpacas but they seem to have disappeared and been replaced with mid fawn ones, they're all the same shade as the clay soil we have here. Although the weather has been beautiful today the ground is still really muddy and with more rain forecast over the weekend they may clean up a bit.

Thursday 19 November 2009

Take My Breath Away

We've been battered by gales again so much so that when I went out to do the morning feeds I could hardly breathe. The wind was so strong it felt as though it was taking my breath away.

The pigs couldn't be tempted out of their ark. That is most unusual because they are normally out screaming and grunting at the first sound of somebody with the feed bins. I think they were really disgruntled. I went and collected some nettles for them to cheer them up and they were soon back to normal. Their usual supply is now almost replete so I will have to start searching further for them.

Mimi had managed to get into one of the new paddocks on her own and had to be coaxed out with the feed bucket. She was soon back with the rest of the herd but it is a bit of a worry as she had been cushing against the fence with Merlin on the other side. She absorbed her pregnancy last year and has been mated 4 times this year, she has even been flushed by the vet. She does seem to be getting pregnant, as she spits off for about a month, but then absorbs it. We will have to start all over with her again in the Spring.

Paddock cleaning is absolutely horrendous with the amount of rain we are having and a paddock cleaner is very firmly on the wish list. The boys went out to put some more top rails on today but found that Si had gone off to the office with the saws in the back of the car. I think we will have to check the car every day before he goes.

We've just checked the weather forecast for tomorrow to try to plan what we can do outside but as it says that we have heavy rain at the moment and there isn't a drop falling I don't think that we can rely on what it says for tomorrow. We will just have to look out of the window when we wake up.

Deja Vu and Post Natal Depression

Mark the contractor was here bright and early this morning with his post basher (actually it wasn't that bright) he worked really hard putting in those great big gate post things and then set about making the chase. It rained on and off all day but that didn't stop him and you could tell he was a tough farmer type as he only had on a short sleeved t-shirt but Si was wrapped up in waterproofs.

The alpacas seem to be getting really excited about the new layout. They have all been pronking on and off all day it's as though the older ones have rediscovered their inner cria. It's wonderful to watch and cheers everybody up even though the days are grey at the moment.

Si phoned me from one of the paddocks to ask if I had seen the goats. I went into panic mode thinking they has escaped but it was just that Sweetheart was trying to mate with Cherub. He no longer has the necessary equipment and they are far too young anyway but nothing was going to put him off. He even started to take a run up before jumping on her. It was really funny to watch but I was worried about Cherub getting really fed up and stressed. I telephoned MGB for advice and they have reassured me that it should only go on for about 3 days or so.

One of our girls, who only gave birth about 4 weeks ago, appears to be ill. There is nothing obvious, she just keeps sitting down a lot and her milk has dried up. No worries there though because her cria is feeding off one of the other mums. She has been seen by the vet who can find nothing wrong but if she is still bad tomorrow then blood samples will be taken. My idea of post natal depression wasn't even considered. Why can't alpacas be hormonal too?

Si and I dashed to the shops about 6 tonight and when we got back Top Gear was on TV again with the two boys sprawled on the sofa. Is this programme never off? They watch repeats of repeats and then there is also the option of watching them again on +1. I was having none of this so promptly switched over. Guess what? While I was washing up after dinner they managed to find a repeat of a programme that had only been on once before (This week's Top Gear which we missed on Sunday. Si). I'm blaming Rob at Wellground. They seem to think that alpaca farmers have to have a perverse interest in fast cars and other dirty oily things like dirt bikes, quad bikes and tractors. I can see this is all going to cost me a fortune.

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Pronking Ghosts

Been off-line for a few days as dongle for mobile internet access broke. Si took the dongle into the Orange shop in Exeter and was told there was nothing wrong with it and we needed a new computer. He phoned the service centre last night after 6.30pm and they couriered a new one to us first thing this morning. Really impressed with the excellent service, just a pity it isn't backed up by the assistant in the shop.

During the stormy weather we have been having we actually started to use Alpaca Manager, we downloaded it last week but took laptop and alpaca records to bed with us last night and started to input all the info. You can tell we have been together a long time from that sentence. I remember the days .......................

Fencing is coming on and tomorrow more posts should be going in. The ground is really slippery at the moment and when I was pushing the wheelbarrow today after doing the paddock cleaning I slipped and fell right into it. Thank goodness it doesn't smell and it soon washes off and looking on the bright side I had a really soft landing. I would have been really upset if I'd just cleaned the pigs out though.

Ollie and Phil fitted some of the top rails this afternoon while we went shopping so I was really pleased with them. They couldn't do any yesterday as Si had driven to the office with all the nails in the back of the car.

Spoken to MGB a couple of times today trying to arrange another get together and to get to see the girls and babies they are looking after for us. I'm also planning on getting another goat from them but they aren't due until February or March so it feels like a long wait but with so much work still to do I'm sure it will soon pass.

Si was still working outside when it got dark tonight but opened the door to tell me that all the alpacas were pronking around the perimeter. I love watching them pronk so dashed out without a coat to watch, it was so funny. I could just see white shapes bouncing around, they looked like fat ghosts. We still have so much grass that they are a bit on the large side but, hopefully, it will keep them a bit warmer until we get a barn to give them extra shelter. Ms Humphreys is huge as she is due to give birth at the beginning of spring and she wasn't shorn this year so her coat was flying up and down as she pronked.

Friday 13 November 2009


We had really misty, wet weather all day.

I went over to feed the girls and out of the mist came a man wearing long white robes with a scroll under his arm which had instructions for building a boat, he introduced himself as Noah (people who keep goats eh Rob). The rain really has been that bad and is due to go on for the next few days at least.

We were due a gas delivery today which was a bit of a relief as the gas in the fire ran out last night. By 11 I was dancing to 'Beat It' by Michael Jackson on the radio wearing Ugg type slippers and my woolly hat to try to keep warm. What a sight I must have looked. I remember the days when I never went over the door without wearing makeup and shoes and bags always had to match, now I look like a bag lady.

My feet were sinking into the mud fast at the gateways and the holes I was creating quickly filled with water, it wasn't so bad as I was well wrapped up but Chance, who loves cuddles, came up next to me while I was putting the feed in the troughs and ran her neck and face all over my face; she obviously felt in the need of some affection. This would not have been so bad but she had clearly been rolling in mud and because our soil is heavy clay it stuck to me. I wish the girls at least would go into the shelter but they seem quite contented getting wet and muddy.

We've been listening to branches hitting the roof all day because of the gales and apparently it is going to be worse tomorrow. Good news on the fencing front though, the man phoned today full of apologies for forgetting and said that he could come out on Wednesday so Si is going to change his office days this week just so we can get the work done.

I Know What I'm Getting For Xmas

Had some great news today. I woke to a 'phone call from the company that is going to fit our barn and they said they could do it in 3 weeks time. Just need to level the land, dig it out, get hardcore delivered and levelled. So I'm getting brieze blocks for christmas and I've told Si I want every one gift wrapped and tied with a red bow.

The bad news is the man with the pole basher didn't turn up this morning, so that is probably going to delay proceedings.

The living room is looking a lot smarter now after the boys put the new sideboard together and in to place. All the rubbish is behind closed doors.

Next job on the horizon is to get a log burner fitted. I've been looking on the internet for instructions for making Alpaca poo bricks without much success. I think I can workout how to make them, I just don't know how long they take to dry.

Been stuck inside most of the day as the weather has been horrendous, even had difficulty connecting to the internet since we only have a mobile connection. It has been nice this evening seeing how many foreign visitors we have had reading this blog. I've spent most of the day relearning how to crochet and doing my nails after seeing how beautiful Rosemary's were.

Wednesday 11 November 2009

Unwelcome Visitors

Miserable weather all day so we have only been doing what was necessary.

We were waiting for deliveries of a new washing machine and sideboard so I was watching out of the window on a regular basis when I heard bugles at the same time as I saw a large van go past the end of our lane. My 'phone rang and it was the delivery man asking exactly where we were so I told him to turn around and gave him directions. Our dogs suddenly started to bark and riders on horseback dashed past our gate. Luckily I went to the other window to make sure the alpacas weren't being scared when I saw two of the hunt dogs in the distance only a few feet from the herd heading straight for them. The alpacas were staring and screeching. I slipped on a pair of shoes and shouted to the boys to come and help. We ran across as the dogs raced past us, wagging their tails and slunk under the gate. A couple of the riders were on the other side of the hedge blowing their horns, I can't tell you where I wanted to shove them. The boys handled the delivery of the washing machine while I then replaced muddy shoes with wellies and went to check all the alpacas. My heart was in my mouth because I thought I could see our only dark cria, Temple, not moving. I took the feed bucket thinking that I would try to pacify them with food while I checked them all. Temple was fine, what I had been looking at was a full black hay net; I really must go for an eye test. I'm sure it had me more stressed than the alpacas. They just acted as though nothing had happened and followed me and the bucket quite happily.

Tuesday 10 November 2009

We're in the Money

We had visitors this morning who had a good look around the farm and alpacas. We were discussing the merits of always choosing the best quality stud males to use on our females, which I am sure we have by using Wellground's boys and M and M's. We feel as though we are wishing our lives away as we can't wait to see what this years matings produce next year.

We made a mad dash over to Exeter after we had finished the chores here and didn't get back until it had already gone dark. Luckily Ollie had already fed all the animals, I think this was more in anticipation of what we had been shopping for in town, xmas is almost here and he and Phil have been dropping so many hints. We bought an advent calendar for Ollie and then decided that Phil would be insulted if we bought him one because he is 20; apparently not, he now wants one. I had a lottery ticket to cash in, I never used to do the lottery but decided to start when we moved down here and I was really surprised to have won £54 in October, I never remember to check them and then end up with loads of them cluttering up my handbag.

When we got back we had about half an hour to get ready to go to the monthly quiz night at the White Hart in Wilmington. It is always good fun and I am happy to say that we came third so qualified for a prize. We're rich we won £8. This is all practice for the millions I am going to win in the next few years.

I came on here once we were back from the pub and found a really funny photo my cousin had sent via a link on facebook

Monday 9 November 2009

Just Chillin'

Even though we had thick mist here this morning it soon lifted and I got on with putting out fresh hay for the alpacas, they're really getting through it now. They all gathered round on either side of the fence, ate their fill and then sat around chewing the cud and just chillin'. All was obviously well in their lives, they looked really content. I then got on with cleaning out the pigs and giving them a couple of bales of fresh straw. Every piece I had put in must have been in the wrong place because they then got to work pushing it around with their noses until they were satisfied they had a comfy carpet of it. Even though it was really cold I took a cup of coffee out just to sit and enjoy watching the animals for a while.

It really brightened up this afternoon so I got on with paddock cleaning while Ollie and Phil dismantled some of the fencing that we no longer need.

We've spent the evening making a shopping list for a trip to Mole Valley tomorrow. We're going to order some alpaca hurdles and apparently we need some more 12ft gates. Not exactly the most exciting shopping trip I've been on but it has to be done and it is nice to buy things that will make life easier.

Sunday 8 November 2009

Mistaken Identity

Well, I went out this morning to look at the work that had been done yesterday and I have to say that I was really impressed with how much had been done in such a short time. The place is starting to look really different already. Si and Ollie started the actual fencing today and because Rosemary's men had worked so hard the other day it put them to shame and they also worked after it had gone dark by the lights of the car (thank you, Rosemary) the only problem was they did it a bit too long and the battery went flat. Si then had to jump start the car as he needs it to go to the office tomorrow.

While they were doing that I did the evening feeds but struggle with the gates and obviously hadn't closed one properly. The next thing I knew all the girls with this years cria had got into the paddock with the two year old boys. I had a terrible time trying to separate them, I kept getting them mixed up. I realised I had got one of the boys into the girls paddock (I only did this by practically bending double to look underneath them) then Si came to help when I had almost sorted them out. He then let one of the boys into the girls paddock so we were back to square one. I did what I used to do with the children when they were small, I resorted to bribery. The girls will always follow the bucket but for some reason the boys don't.

We're sending the contract off for the barn tomorrow along with the deposit so it is really getting exciting. Si may end up spending his Xmas holidays doing blockwork etc but at least things are moving now. He did mention something about hardcore but I think he means stones and things on the ground.

Saturday 7 November 2009

Nosey Girls

We've had lovely blue skies today which was really lucky as the contractor came out to put the posts in for the new paddocks. We didn't have proper gate posts in before so he fixed those in first and the girls were so nosey they had to come over to have a look. I thought the alpacas would be nervous of the tractor and a stranger but that wasn't going to stop them. As soon as the first post was in they walked over and started to sniff at it. He was a lovely man and really interested in the animals. Alpacas do seem to have that effect on people, don't they? He'll be back on Thursday to do more, weather permitting. He didn't finish until it had gone dark so I haven't been able to see properly what he has done but I will be out there tomorrow morning to have a look.

Ollie and Phil built the shed that has been sitting in pieces for a couple of weeks, they have really started to get motivated now that they can see the place coming together. They were full of enthusiasm when we first moved here but as things dragged on they started to get a bit bored of just living in a field in the middle of nowhere. They are planning where everything is going to go now and will be fitting the actual fencing to the posts tomorrow and hanging gates. I must admit the part they are really looking forward to is getting the digger back to flatten an area for the foundations of the barn. There are probably more technical terms for what they are going to do but I don't know them and I don't really want to know them. I still call that big metal thing for the fencing a post basher and I think that is perfectly adequate, it explains exactly what it does, although I am always being corrected.

OD* (I will probably have to stop calling her that soon) has started work. She has been walking around Liverpool for weeks handing out her CV and finally it has paid off. She now has 2 part-time jobs as well as Uni so she is going to be really busy. I'm so proud of her because she didn't give up when she kept getting told there were no vacancies. Even with the job she has just started she was told there were no vacancies but they telephoned her half an hour after she had given them her CV and invited her for an interview. I can't see her having much of her wages left though because it is in WHSmith and the temptation will be too great, the pair of us have a 'thing' about pretty stationary.

The rain has absolutely poured down tonight so it looks as though it will be another muddy and slippery day tomorrow. When we first moved down here I loved having to wear 'wellies' because I hadn't worn them since I was a child but the novelty is starting to wear off now that we can't take a step outside without them.

*Si just pointed something out. I'm not pregnant, just that she will no longer deserve the name Overdraft so I will start to refer to her as DD (Darling Daughter).

Thursday 5 November 2009

Can I Have My Money Back Please?

This evening we all sat down to watch Countrywise on ITV because we had read that there was an item about alpacas. We laughed at some of the claims that were made but now I have decided that our alpacas must be 'seconds'. Our fibre can't stop people from sweating as claimed on the programme so there must be something wrong with them. There's only one thing for it, they'll have to go back to make room for 'proper' ones.

Apart from that we have had a really good day. We have had showers on and off but mainly sunshine with lovely clear blue skies. Si started off by cleaning out the pigs then giving them 3 bales of straw to play with and keep them warm. I collected nettles for them as they absolutely love eating them but they leave the stems lying around, I don't know why they won't touch them. Si filled up all the hay bags and the alpacas followed him around with them. He looked a bit like the Pied Piper with 18 animals chasing him round the perimeter of the paddocks.

Si was still working when it got dark getting everything ready for when the contractor arrives on Saturday morning to get the fence posts in. It's pathetic how excited we are about this after waiting so long for our planning and then to actually find somebody local willing to do it.

Wednesday 4 November 2009

Slip Sliding Away

Every time I got my outdoor clothes on today the heavens opened. I pulled up my collar to go and do the feeds and my hair was catching in the velcro on it causing quite a bit of pain. Once I'd put the feed in the troughs for the alpacas they obviously decided it wasn't enough and a few of them decided to follow me trying to get their head in the bucket. The ground was so muddy and wet that I was sliding down hill trying to get away from them. They couldn't really understand as usually I like it if they follow me and a few of them will stand and have their necks stroked but not today, I just wanted to get warm and dry again. I usually feed the pigs first but decided to leave them until last, they saw me with the alpacas and screamed and screamed until I gave them their food.

Twice during the afternoon I put my outdoor clothes on again to do the paddock cleaning and the rain started up. As soon as I had settled to do some chores indoors the sun would come out. All the animals got their evening feeds early as it got quite warm around 4pm.

Tonight it is bright, with a large moon, dry and warm so I really hope that it holds on for tomorrow because there are so many jobs we want to get done before the weekend.

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Alpaca Racing

Grim weather to start the day again but I suppose it is to be expected at this time of the year. It brightened up for a few hours this afternoon so we managed to get the paddock cleaning done. The sun came out and it got really warm. I had donned hat and waterproofs but had to strip some of these off as I was melting. It didn't last long though, but at least we have clean paddocks.

I have a facebook page to keep in touch with family members and a few friends. Somebody put a picture on of (supposedly) an alpaca dressed up. It was actually a llama. Never mind, we'll forgive them as you don't get many of either on the streets of Liverpool. It has now started a debate on whether you can ride an alpaca or not. I have told them it is impossible but now my daughter's ex has said that he has researched the subject intently and found that they can be ridden by somebody under 30kg so is now going on a diet.

The birds are making full use of the feed we have been putting out. It took them a bit of time to find it after we had to move their table when we sited the park home. Today we have had Great Tits, Nuthatches, Robins and on the ground picking up the crumbs Thrushes. We were also relieved to have had a visit from our friendly Pheasant after all the gunshots the other day. It costs us a small fortune to keep the birds fed, it is a lot cheaper than theatre tickets but just as entertaining.

The rain is absolutely hammering on the roof at the moment and the forecast for tomorrow is rain all day, not even a small window for me to get out to work. It will be a quick feed and check in the morning then. I'm just hoping that they have got the sense to get in the field shelters tonight but because we have an (almost) full moon we can still see the white alpacas sitting out.

Monday 2 November 2009

Training - it works

We've had rain for the past two days accompanied by high winds. I've been really worried about the animals but it doesn't really matter, they've got us well trained now. I was looking out of the window yesterday and said to Si that they had all crowded around the gate at the top of their paddock again. They obviously wanted to get out and I felt guilty but didn't want to get wet again; I sent Si. See, they've got us trained in a matter of days, clever girls. They walked right round and started peering through the window at us but I didn't feel so guilty that we let them in. What do you do when you've got those large dark eyes pleading with you? Ah well, I took them some diced apple to make amends as though I was responsible for the rain. Even Ms Humphreys came out of the field shelter and risked getting wet. She obviously enjoyed her treat as she then rolled in a mud bath. What a delight she looked, she already had a coat full of leaves.

We had a surprise yesterday morning. We have been trying to get fence posts put in for the past few months and finally a contractor returned our call from weeks ago and has promised to come out next Saturday to make a start. If we get the new paddocks done we can then finally get the barn built. The boys can't wait to get diggers, tractors and other boy toys here to play on.