Sunday 25 January 2009


The ground is saturated after heavy rain on thursday night, and showers at other times. Moving around is difficult. Of course farmers have more sense than to try and do jobs on the land at this time of year - it's only part-time (weekend) 'farmers' such as myself, who are limited to weekends who spuddle around in a quagmire - emergencies excepted.

The alpacas have signalled how they are fed-up with the rain, by spendng thursday night and friday night in the shelter -the first time they have resorted to the shelter, other than at feeding time.

I've got some sheep hurdles so that I could divide the shelter to make it easier to catch them - and it was much easier - I caught each in turn, and tried checking for mites, though it's not easy on your own - I put some Sudocreme on Moira's nose - a little bald patch she has - so she went off looking like a cricketer protecting from sun-burn!

I didn't get around to collecting alpaca poo today - but I have developed a line from the song from the musical Oliver! "'ve got to pick a bucket of poo"...

Sunday 18 January 2009

Coffee beans and dumplings.

Well we escaped last nights stormy weather fairly unscathed - the field was soggy, but nothing blew away - the tool shed slid a foot across its slabs, taking all the contents with it (including the branch shredder!). The alpacas toughed it out, sitting half way up the hill, with their backs to the wind. I think the shelter gives them the spooks when it's windy, with rattling roof sheets, flapping tarpaulin on the hay etc.

I began by forking over the ground to help drain the pressure points in the gateways, then spent an hour or so, poo-picking, and collected three heaped bucketfulls from the top paddock. It's quite 'therapootic' as it requires no thought, and so I've noticed that most of their poos are like piles of coffee beans, though occasionally, you find large balls like dumplings. Alpacas do their business in discrete latrines approximately 2 metres wide, not randomly, so they
keep the rest of their grass clean, though they will make several latrines in the paddock - I don't know if they have individual ones or communal. Though the grass is very short and bare now, they spent all day grazing as usual, without coming to the shelter for hay, except at breakfast time when they got their feed supplement. Bulbs are shooting out of the ground, so it's comforting to know that spring is on the way, and grass growth will begin.

In comparison to an industrial process, the alpaca machine seems to work like this: put grass in at one end for twelve months, with occasional granular and hay supplements - 'machine' extracts nutrients for growth of fleece, and deposits by-product of coffee-beans from other end. After twelve months, remove fleece, and convert into hats, scarves, etc. Start process again.

They've just finished a bale of hay in two weeks, while the previous one took three weeks. I've noticed they occasionally take a nibble at the small conifers which we've planted (they were ornamental and had outgrown the containers, so we've planted them out for future fuel for the fire.

Just tried to pay the final instalment of my Glastonbury Festival ticket, and input the card number wrong - so now it won't let me 'proceed'...

Saturday 10 January 2009

First Post

Yes, this is my first post - glad you could join me on the occasion. I sat thinking about it for a while, but I'm sure that misses the point - in my profession I have to be accurate and considered in my opinion or decisions, so my instinct is to think carefully about what I'm going to write, to check it as I go, and then proof read it, print it and then read it again for typo's - hey ho, that won't apply to a blog or it'll become a full-time job!

If a blog is a running documentary, a diary, I just thought that the writer should set the scene in an audible way for his/her posting - assuming we're sitting at a laptop or p.c at home, and not sitting in silence, riding a horse or on a running machine - so I'm listening to an album by REM, Automatic For the People, flames flicker in the inglenook fireplace, warmth aginst the last night of a long frosty spell - oh, and there's a dog asleep infront of me.

I've had alpacas for just over four months - three females, two are pregnant to deliver in May and July, one is a bossy matriarch as companion. They are fawn, white and black, one and a half, three and a half and six and a half respectively - Minnie, Pelachuta, and Moira - the white and fawn being pregnant. The fawn, Pela' is very friendly - she'll eat from my hand, and is always stood first by the feed buckets while I get their breakfast. I started halter training her over the Christmas/New Year holiday - putting the halter on is straight-forward, now I need to train her on the lead...

The name of the 'herd' came (of course) from our location here - we sit in a little vale, south of the A39 between Bridgwater and Street, which was filled with apple orchards until a few years ago when market conditions reduced the demand for apples.

Today I went to a meeting of the South West Alpaca Group (SWAG) - my first chance to meet a few more breeders, and renew aquaintences with those who had been kind enough to spare me some time when I was considering entering the world of alpacas. They were a friendly bunch, and I felt welcome, picking up some useful tips along the way.

After the meeting I had an hour or so of daylight to fill outdoors, so I trimmed some branches off a tree we had pruned, so that I can use them to clad the side of the animal shelter. If you've been to Hestercombe House near Taunton, and you know the Witches Hut, I've built a shelter which is a mix of modern and ancient, with posts of small tree trunks and two walls clad in branches.