Our Website: www.ashdalealpacas.com

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Cottage by the Sea

Well, we have had a fantastic holiday weekend.  We had been invited to take our alpacas to River Cottage Spring Fair and although they are close to us it was still a lot of work but worth every minute of it.  If you have ever visited River Cottage yourself then you will know that they have the friendliest and most efficient staff and associates.  We had a ball, it was dry and the sun shone for both days although we were wearing alpaca knitwear to keep us warm. 

Diamond, Petronella and Desdemona were really well behaved and people were amazed at how small they were when they put there hands into the fleeces.  None of these little ones have a full fleece yet as Diamond is 11 months and Petronella and Desemona are only 8 months.

Petronella was brilliant with children and was quite happy to have all the attention.

Unfortunately we didn't take any photographs of our stall on the first day so the stock was heavily depleted by the time we remembered to get the camera out.  Customers were really interested in hearing about alpaca fibre and were asking so many questions which we were happy to answer.  I did fall in love though.  A man thought that somebody as creative as me shouldn't really be spending time cooking and cleaning.  See, I was besotted and smiled for the rest of the day.

We also managed to take a couple of chicken houses and kennel with a few chickens.  These also drew the children over even though there were so many other things for them to see and do.

The curly haired god of the good life also made an unscheduled appearance to sign copies of his books.

This is another face that people may recognize as John Wright who gave talks over the two days on foraging and making your own beer.  I saw him leaning over the bridge collecting plants for his talk and wanted to go in and listen as I love seeing him on TV but we were far too busy and Si just had to pop in with the camera to take this shot.  He seems a lovely friendly man, he walked around for the two days constantly smiling and having his photograph taken with admirers, happy to chat and answer questions.  He must have been exhausted at the end of it.

Above is Tim Maddams, one of the River Cottage chefs.  This is another man who never seemed to stop all weekend, giving talks and demonstrations on cooking pigeon, from fully feathered to plate.  The other subject he covered was wild rabbity feasts. The aromas coming out of the kitchen theatre were amazing and made our mouths water as we were right outside. 

People were welcome to walk around the gardens of River Cottage and we picked up quite a few ideas ourselves.  Garden staff were available to answer any questions that people had, this is only a small section.

This was a stall I was absolutely fascinated with, it was set up by Andrea Cunningham of Jacdor just click on the link to go to her website.  She promotes wool from the Jurassic Coast and had beautiful cushions and rugs that she had woven herself, she even gave weaving demonstrations to children on the loom you can see. This is a new business and you can see what a lot of thought and work has gone into it.  Her produce is so professional, presented well and of excellent quality.

A lovely friendly couple, James and Maggie,  did a roaring trade in porridge, mueslis, bread mixes and grains that they grow on their farm. They were milling during the day and were selling breakfast to traders hours before the gates opened to visitors as people knew from previous years how good their food was.

 There was also a variety of live music playing all day outside the soup kitchen, Dodo Bones played on both days and had a drumkit made of pans they had people humming along as they walked past.

We had such a great time that it didn't feel like work at all.  Thank you to everybody at River Cottage for all the hard work that must have gone into making this such a great event.

Thursday 21 February 2013

Leaving Home Ain't Easy

It was an early start for Si on Sunday, he had a special delivery to make to a lovely couple in Torquay. Yes Biffy & Junior have a new home. They had really fallen for Biffy after visiting our website and were truly hooked when they met him in real life last week. Since we wouldn't let him go on his own the obvious choice to go with him was Junior, they have been partners in crime for all their lives having always shared a paddock, they were just as pleased with Junior especially when they saw how relaxed they both are when being handled. We have been taking these two to agricultural shows as an attraction for some time so are used to plenty of attention which I have a feeling isn't going to end any time soon.

As you can see they settled in immediately and I'm sure they'll be spoilt rotten but it doesn't mean I didn't start missing as soon as Si left.

Not that we needed it but this was another confirmation that good customer service will always win through. It's all well and good having a huge number of animals to choose from, but if you don't listen to what a potential customer wants they will look elsewhere, an experience the boys' new owners unfortunately received from a breeder much closer to them.

The new owners felt reassured that we will always be just a phone call away to offer advise or just reassurance.

Monday 11 February 2013

Knitta's Paradise

It has gone absolutely crazy here.  Chickens laying, chicken house orders,chicken sales, alpaca sales, press releases, knitwear and another string to our bow, dyeing.

As proud members of Somerset Smallholders Association we have been working with Rural Focus for some time as they offer some brilliant free training courses in the South West. They helped us a lot when we started the chicken house business and as it has been building up really well they asked if we would be willing to be featured in one of their press releases.  We agreed and they had already sent us a copy by email for approval after numerous telephone calls and a time was agreed for a photographer to come out on Thursday.  We had already agreed for a couple of prospective clients to come out that day too, we had spoken to them previously and had email contact.  It was an early start for us as Si had to find somewhere to put the chicken houses so that we wouldn't be wading through mud for the photographs which meant taking some apart and then rebuilding them on drier ground.  The prospective clients came out at 9.30am and we went to see the two boys that they had expressed interest in.  It did seem a bit unfair asking them to clean their wellingtons  in the disinfectant before we then had to wade through mud to get to the paddocks.  They loved Biffy and Junior and have agreed to take both of them together as they are great friends as they showed while we were with them by staying close together.  

Si and I had just said goodbye to the couple after agreeing on a time to deliver the two boys to their new home, not too far away. when Richard, the photographer arrived.  He had Si posing with chickens, the houses and also getting Ashdale Exhibition to pose with him.  Graham from Rural Focus also turned up and you can see him with Si trying to look casual leaning against the chicken house.  Si at 6'5" is almost bent double in the doorway.  I have to admit that Richard was amazing and some of the action shots he got were brilliant.  I wanted his camera and being a Scouser was trying to work out a way to separate him from it.

 I thought being a photographer would be quite a sedentary profession but he was marching around taking shots from all angles.

Si had to sit on a bucket which collapsed under him and Exhibition was so bored by this time that she just rested her head on his knee and went to sleep.

I have been quite busy myself with the knitting needles building stock for some exciting shows we have planned for the Summer

Although most knitwear customer love the natural blends that we use we have been asked on occasion for coloured garments so I have learnt a new skill - hand dyeing.  The top balls were my first attempts, I started with the deep pink and got so hooked that I ended up doing 5 different colours on my first day.  I have now also learnt how to do variegated by mixing 3 colours at once.  I admit it doesn't look much until it is dried and then reballed.  Next on the agenda is trying to dye some pastel shades for baby clothes.

So with all that has been going on here I think I have had the perfect excuse for lack of blogging.

Thursday 31 January 2013

Feed Me - Little Shop of Horrors

The title will be self-explanatory as the pics reveal the state of the alpacas and ground.  Trying to pull our feet out of the mud is so tiring and making the chores take so much longer; on top of all that it has been blowing a gale too.

 I managed to catch Biffy chewing on hay with his fleece being blown about.  I love the way his topknot looks, it's as though he had put a parting in it.  

Cooper was caught mid-stride.  Why do they always go and kush in the muddiest part of the paddock? Just look at the state of his legs.

Diamond and Desdemona came in early for their dinner and I just couldn't refuse those little faces.  It took so long to get them onto hard feed but alfalfa worked it's magic on them and they are first to the trough until Ms Humpreys sees them off.

Because the sun was shining Cherrybomb took the opportunity to roll in the mud.  Here's hoping it falls off when it's completely dry.

Just in case you thought I was exaggerating about the mud here is the chase near the barn.  The paddocks may look green but we have to wade through all of this to get to them.

The chickens have hardly been outside as they hate the wind, the farthest they seem to venture is the barn and then stay in there all day.  I must admit to trying to find more chores to do in there myself.

Monday 28 January 2013

And now for something completely different ............

I'm not blogging about our alpacas tonight, they are an absolute disgrace with all the mud and I'm ashamed of them being seen in public.

On Xmas Day I got a surprise present of a book.  It was one of those that you can't put down but also don't want to reach the end of, yes, I really enjoyed it that much.

It is the adventure of a couple who gave up their life in England and went off to Spain to breed alpacas.  This is their story and although Xmas Day here was pretty miserable I could feel the heat of the Spanish sun as I immersed myself in their story.

It has raced up the ratings on Amazon and is now in the top ten animal and pet books already.  It is full of joy, heartbreak and excitement.  You will finish this and wish the couple all the luck in the world.  At the side of this blog (and scroll down a bit) there is a link to Lorna's Life in Spain, she is the wife in the story.  Her blog is a really witty tale of a Brit abroad so you will probably enjoy that too.

Friday 25 January 2013

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Even though it was still really cold today the sun was shining so we let the animals out to make the most of it. The rain on Tuesday morning cleared the snow, for about an hour and then the white stuff started to fall again, absolutely huge flakes of it.

The young chickens have a small area that was sheltered from the snow so they have all been trying to find something interesting to eat.

The older bantams weren't as lucky so Si had to clear an area for them. They don't seem to appreciate this view from our door though.

 Eringa Park Lionheart looking confused at just how far away everybody is from him, he has been used to being a lot closer to the other alpacas in the barn. He has also been able to find the mud that was buried.

Ashdale Cooper hardly moved and just stood almost all day waiting to get back inside again.  It's no fun walking around if you can't get to the grass.

We can't really complain too much about the weather as the snow hasn't been too deep and it does get cleared away pretty quickly with all the rain we get.

I have been reading an interesting article today about The Control of Internal Parasites in Ruminants, very informative.  I have added a link to it here if anybody is interested.

Monday 21 January 2013

Long Time No See ...............................

I thought I would get around to blogging again.  The knitwear side of the business really took off and so the blog got put to one side, I was fed up with messing around trying to get photographs to upload and it was taking up valuable time.  We sold so much through the summer and had taken so many orders that by the time they were finished the Xmas orders had started to come in.  We sold our last items at 5pm on Xmas Eve.

It is really cold here tonight and we have a blanket of snow that makes everything look clean and tidy in the paddocks.  The poor animals have been closed in the barn for the past few days but they were allowed out this afternoon while we mucked out the barn.

 The first thing that the girls decided to do when they were allowed out was to go roughly where their dustbath/mudbath is and roll in the snow.

 Eleanor Rigby charged and jumped around the paddock making the most of her freedom.  

Cherrybomb had been pronking but looks as though she had had enough and was going back to the barn.

The boys are not enjoying being in the barn at all and whenever Si goes down to check on them they have a moan.  The girls are normally quite happy in there as long as they have a good supply of sweet hay.

At the moment all the water is frozen but as we have gone through this before we now know to collect as much as possible before it freezes.