Our Website: www.ashdalealpacas.com

Sunday 24 January 2010

Green, Green Grass of Home

Just Chillin'

The girls making the most of the good weather

Beautiful, but muddy, Larra

We now have whole paddocks where our feet don't disappear into the mud when we walk on them. We have been making the most of the good weather to get as much work done as possible. Yesterday we went to order 4 more gates for the new paddocks and look forward to them arriving later in the week. I also bought portable mangers to hang on the gates so that all the food and water is off the ground. They had them in blue and pink so obviously I got blue for the boys and pink for the girls. I asked Si if I had got the numbers right and he said 'No, that is so wrong' so I did a count again and was convinced I was right. He was referring to the fact I had chosen pink and blue ones not the amount.
We took our poo samples to the vet last week and they telephoned Si on Friday morning when he was in the office doing hard sums to give him the good news that they are completely clear of everything. Following Rob and Les's healthcare regime is certainly paying dividends. Regular paddock cleaning and rotation should help keep it that way. I'm being particularly rigorous about the poo picking at the moment because I'm supposed to be doing the accounts. It was funny that everytime I used to have to do my VAT it became really urgent that I cleaned the kitchen cupboards and utility room. Cherub and Sweetheart enjoy helping with the paddock cleaning and follow me round, their little legs must ache at the end of the day. In the top picture they had obviously decided that they had helped enough and deserved a break. They went on to help Si with the fencing after I had finished.
Ollie has carried on ripping out the old paddocks and is really enjoying seeing the place evolve. He had to be practically dragged in tonight, it's good that it is staying light later.
I also spoke too soon about the male cria not crying for their mums. They spent two days crying and pacing up and down at the front of their new paddock, it is just a muddy mess now, but they could see their mums in the distance, they haven't been bad today though. Their mothers have paid them no attention so must have been ready for them to go.

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Got to Pick a Packet of Poo

A really busy couple of days and I'm going to get in the habit of taking the camera out in my pocket.

This years male cria were given their A,D and E and then separated from their mums. We took Junior away from Juno a few weeks earlier than we had planned but when Si body scored her and cut her nails the other day he decided that she was a little underweight. Although the boys didn't want to leave their mums once they were in their new paddock there were no cries from the mums or the boys. So different from last year when I joined in the crying and decided that this farming game was far too cruel. The girls were also put into a new paddock that had grass left in so they were far more interested in that and didn't notice that they had lost their cria. Si put the boys on their halters but they both refused to move and had to be carried. A photo opportunity lost.

Si gave the two males that were born last year a check today and their treatments; I had my head to the grindstone when I heard 'That'll ding, dang, do for me'. He called me over to see what he was going on about. We had a cria born last year,Cooper, the first sired by EP Cambridge Samson of Wellground fame. He was good when he was born but his second fleece is amazing. I thought he looked a bit out of proportion because his neck looked a bit thick, it turned out that it was a really dense fleece, the crimp and staple are really impressive, right up the neck and in his tail. It's a pity that we are not going to risk any halter shows this year but I can't wait for Rob and Les to see him. Don't suppose this is the first thing that people look for in a stud but he's really pretty too. See, I should have taken a photo while Si was leading him across to his new paddock. We then had a discussion about what I had read in Gina Bromage's book about the testicles in a potential stud usually being larger so Si told me to go and feel them. What was I supposed to compare them to? I think I need to do a judging course or something. I've told him we'll have to take a tape measure out to Cooper and then phone Head Office with the size and see what Rob thinks.

I have just been on paddock cleaning duties (why is it always my job?) to make sure they are spick and span. Now that they have all had Vecoxan, and the other week they were treated for Liver Fluke (we just decided to do it because we had read an article in a magazine that farmers who had never had it before had suddenly been losing animals to it) we want to take poo samples to the vets just for their regular check. They are now in much smaller groups so they are easier to handle at feed times and to check for any changes in behaviour.

It has been really windy here today but thankfully, we have had no rain. I think the land is draining slowly but yesterday when Ollie and I put a fence post in we hit the basher thing and water shot out of the ground 5ft high and hit me in the face. It wasn't a good day. Earlier I had been feeding the girls and usually I am in the way when Ms Humphreys enforces her perceived superiority at the feeding trough and get the full force of the smelly, slimey green stuff but I went in and bragged to the boys that I had heard her spit but she had missed me. I then took my jacket off and there it was right down the back, it was also in my hair. Just so grateful that we have water running through the taps again.

I got my new wellies this morning. Nothing fancy, just plain green ones. Sensible really for the farm but I can't help thinking that they could be improved with a few sequins or bugle beads.

Sunday 17 January 2010

Needles and Pens

Ms Humphreys waiting patiently for her turn for a pedicure

Chance and her two daughters, Temple and Cherrybomb, in the queue

Absolutely fabulous day today. Weather glorious for the time of year, admittedly the ground was squelchy but it was lovely to be outside working again and actually enjoying it.

Si and Phil cut the toenails of 18 alpacas, injected A, D and E, and gave Vecoxan this morning and then went on to dismantle some more of the old paddocks. It is a lot easier handling the alpacas now with most of the new layout in, we have proper catch pens with waiting areas. I may have to put in a coffee machine and magazines for the girls. Phil got one almighty kick off one of the male alpacas; I heard the thud and asked who had been kicked. Si said 'Guess'. Poor Phil was cursing, hopping and trying to wipe the mud off his trousers. It was his first time of being kicked so was surprised at how much it can hurt.

I got the ever present job of paddock cleaning although even that is enjoyable on a day like today. We've also noticed that it was still light at 5 o'clock so the days are definitely getting longer. I finally got round to trying the new camera and it works. Next purchase has got to be a new pair of boots for me. My wellingtons are letting in water again, I'm emotionally attached to them though; it was so long since I had wellingtons that the last pair I had I 'grew' out of. I've jumped in piles of soggy leaves and snowdrifts in these as though I was 7 again. It was such a novelty owning them but I will have to let them go. Maybe I'll fill them with compost and plant bulbs in them.

Sunday 10 January 2010

Club Tropicana!!!!!

Temperatures are up to -1 with the forecast later in the week of a rise to 5c. That is almost tee shirt weather after what we have been suffering. Our full time job seems to be breaking ice on top of all the water buckets. The water on the bird table has been freezing within 10 minutes so has only been getting done about 3 times a day. We've been boiling kettles constantly so that we can let the alpacas have warm water and they really seem to appreciate it. They are drinking so much at the moment but that is probably because all their feed is dry and they are getting no moisture from the grass which is still well hidden under the snow. We have had further flurries of it today but nowhere near as heavy as it has been.

I was watching the animals today and noticed a few field mice under the hedgerow, they show up more when they have a white background, they were obviously running round searching for food. I made Si put some of the meal worms meant for the birds down for them. I know they are vermin but they are so cute and don't do any harm.

Before next winter I have to find some warm boots with a good grip. Wellies keep my feet dry, with a bit of help from the puncture repair kit, but my toes still feel as if they have frozen off, even with 2 pairs of socks on.

We still have no water into the house and I am now feeling as though I am living an episode of 'Little House on the Prairie' but without the luxuries. I just need Laura to visit to complete the picture. We can sit and darn socks or something to pass the time, if we knew how to darn.

The weather put paid to all the plans we had for the week. Si had a weeks holiday to be able to dig out for the barn but with the ground being so hard, and buried, that had to go by the by. Hopefully, if the forecast is right we should be able to get the digger for next weekend and the boys will be back to help.

Thursday 7 January 2010

Who Let The Dogs Out?

This snow is giving me a headache, no, really, the glare of the sun reflecting off it has had me running for the painkillers. It isn't really worrying any of the animals, the alpacas are charging round up to their knees in the white stuff. Ms Humphreys managed to find a couple of clumps of grass and looked quite smug as she grazed away in front of the others, she was determined that she wasn't going to share though.

Si took out the Xmas tree this morning ready to go to the recycling centre but the alpacas must have thought it was for them and immediately set about trying to eat it. I wondered if it was safe and thought if it would be ok then we would leave them to it so a quick call to Head Office (Rob and Les at Wellground) was made, they thought that all evergreens would be slightly toxic so we telephoned the vet to find out. They said that it wasn't toxic but it could make them queezy so it was left on the shed roof out of reach of all of them. They're not going to starve with hay, haylage, alfafa, camelibra and the odd apple.

We had to risk a trip out to get more animal supplies and to hunt for more spring locks for the paddock gates. We had a discussion about whether to find out if anybody in the village needed any shopping done or help but chickened out because of the objections regarding the planning permission. It doesn't seem to be the 'done' thing down here which seems a shame. We had found out that gas supplies can't get through this week and we know that the local garages had run out of bottles. We set off down the lane and saw a delivery van heading in our direction. The driver obviously decided that it wasn't worth the risk and then struggled to turn round; the snow wasn't deep but the road was going downhill and was very icy. We took the long way round to get into Honiton and then on to Mole Valley. On the way we saw a woman with her daughter struggling along one of the lanes, we decided to risk it and stopped put the rear seats down and offered her a lift into town. She was amazed and really grateful. I said that I didn't think we were strange stopping to offer a lift to a stranger and she explained that she had only been down here for 6 years and were she was from originally people did it all the time. She said that nobody had done anything like that since she'd been down here so I think we'll offer help again and maybe it will encourage other people to do the same.

When we got home there wasn't an alpaca in sight and I though they had all been stolen. I called them and they normally come running but only Mimi came down to greet me. They were all staying in the field shelters and I must admit they did look snug but once they saw the feed bucket they all raced towards the feed troughs.

The dogs are hating this weather too and are spending most of the day in front of the fire. The smell of singeing dog hair is delightful. They woke me this morning at 5am to go out, well Tilly did and Donder decided that she might as well go too. They went out, did what they had to do and then charged past me. I was freezing and still half asleep and crawled back to the bedroom and there was no sign of the dogs in their baskets. I went back to the living room and thought I'd just missed them in the dark but no sign................... I must have dreamt them coming back in so went back to the door and was calling them outside. Still no sign but my shouting must have woken Si. He said they were in the bedroom. I went back in and still couldn't see them so asked Si where they were. They had charged past me and jumped into the bed and under the quilt which explains why I couldn't see them. They were pushed back out and into their baskets but when we woke up later they had crept back into the bed under the quilt with their heads on the pillow. We'll soon put a stop to that.

But.... looking on the bright side, isn't it easy collecting alpaca poo off snow?

Tuesday 5 January 2010

Red, Red Wine

We had a heavy snow storm this morning so Si suggested that we made a mad dash into town before the road became inpassable. We set off for Axminster with a list and when we got there all they had had was some light rain, we felt so stupid as we were really wrapped up and wearing our wellies. We picked up some haylage for the alpacas and also some guttering so that we can fit it in the new paddocks and feed them off the ground. This was something I read about that they do in New Zealand and well before we had bought our first alpacas off Rob and Les. Si had fitted three gates this morning but we needed to get spring bolts from Mole Avon.

There is obviously something of a seige mentality going on here because when we went into Tesco there were no veg, no bread and hardly any milk. I asked if there was difficulty in them getting supplies but they said that people were panic buying everything. We then set off to Mole Avon and they had sold out of the bolts but were hoping to get some delivered at the end of the week. A bit of a wasted journey but at least we got some decent books out of the library.

When we got back we opened the haylage straight away and the alpacas didn't even give us a chance to get it into the hay bags. They were all eating it out of our hands, it must be the smell that attracted them. The car smells like we've spilt red wine in there now and the alpacas even started to lick at the tailgate finding any strands that we may have dropped. We're working on the theory that the more they eat the warmer they will feel, we seem to be working on the same theory for us too.

Si is most disappointed that he didn't get any sympathy for his bad back and has been moaning that nobody cares. He's right, we don't :) .

Sunday 3 January 2010

Recycling Works

Well it would appear that all the recycling everybody has been doing is working and global warming is over. We have below zero temperatures for the foreseeable future. When we go outside we are so wrapped up that only our faces are exposed. I am becoming an expert at holding my breath; it is so cold that I feel as though my lungs are freezing when I inhale. For some reason the animals are loving it. The sun is shining and the alpacas are looking so cute and fluffy. Si went up to turn off the water at dusk the other night and telephoned me to look out of the window. All the alpacas were pronking, even the older ones. I reckon that the haleage doesn't just smell like red wine and they were having a New Year's party of their own. We tried to get some more haleage and drove around everywhere yesterday but couldn't get any. It's worth the extra expense as they loved it much more than the hay so I'm going to be hitting the phone tomorrow when things are back to normal to try to track down more. They are going through hay at quite a rate but the haleage was like giving chocolate to a child (or woman), not a drop was wasted.

Poor Si is out doing more fencing at the moment. He is in absolute agony, he's managed to injure his back but doesn't know how. He's being a brave little soldier (What does patronizing mean?). He has been spending the evenings sitting on the sofa with a hot water bottle in the small of his back to try to ease the pain. He'll be doing hard sums again tomorrow so will get a bit of a rest in a nice warm office. As he has hardly seen the animals because it is dark when he leaves and comes home he thinks it is hilarious that they know their feed times. We slept in the other day and when he looked out of the window all the alpacas where at the troughs. I was busy cooking and was late doing the evening feed and they all gathered around the troughs again. He asked me how they knew what time I usually feed them. Well, they're either creatures of habit or maybe somebody bought them a watch for Xmas. I'm still amazed at how intelligent they are.

I managed to speak to MGB yesterday, I've been really missing them. We were trying to get together before Xmas but with the horrendous weather down here we didn't so we'll have to try to meet soon. They have quite a few of our animals over there and they are being really well looked after, probably to the extent of pampering. Ours are first into the barn every night and they said that they have started to queue to get back inside in the middle of the afternoon now that it is so cold.

The views here have been wonderful over the past few days with the sun shining and when we are in (defrosting) we are spending quite a bit of time kneeling on the sofa leaning on the back and just admiring the alpacas out of the window. It's funny as some of them come right over and just stare back at us, they get bored before we do though. I really must learn how to use the new camera; I suppose reading the instruction leaflet would help but that's soooo boring and anything slightly technical I put under the heading "boys' toy".