Tuesday 29 December 2009

Nosey, cosy,Rosey, 'mosy', posey,

"Happy New Year" to anyone who hasn't already received it from me in response to their blogs. As with all breeders it's been (and still is) a period of keeping up the feedstuff - no snow here but the ground is constantly frozen, and the grass is about a centimetre long, but the pacas still manage to nibble it. To that end, Mrs. Smallholder offered me the use of the 'orchard' at the end of the alotment, so I dismantled the fence rails which were protecting the trees planted last year for the glade in the main paddock, and fenced off the alotment from the orchard (six apple trees!) - the girls loved that, so much so, that they crawled under the lower rail to munch the grass around the alotment and a wander amongst the sprouting broccoli, savoy cabbages and spinach! Next day I added a third rail - I could read disgust on their faces when they next had a look.

I've wanted to view the field from a vantage point across the vale for a long time, so one afternoon I wandered up there with the camera and took the 'aerial' view shown here - our plot runs left-to-right in the picture, with the 'pacas at the far right on the ridge at out boundary, and our neighbours sheep beyond - the polytunnel and animal shelter are central with our garden to the left - only the roof of the house is visible.

We've had two of our fleece products arrive, the tea-cosy made with odd cuts, and a hat, modelled here by Rosey from Greenock, our knitter.
Our daughter made the lovely mosaic sign for the house.

I gave the girls ADE paste today - I do wonder though, when putting my fingers in their mouth to find a way in for the applicator, am I risking a bite injury? Should I only push them in from the side which is more awkward and seems more brutal?

Reflecting on our first 18months of breeding, it is often said that breeding and caring for alpacas is easy, which I would disagree with - but it is a pleasure, and when was anything worth doing easy?

I was also given the enormous Hoffman Alpaca book, a training dvd, and on a lighter note, the very tasteful Lady Farmers calender! Now to find the time to read and watch that lot.

This year, instead of a family board game, we held a DIY quiz - we each had to set 20 questions on a subject - mine was music, and we also had, cooking, science, sport, general knowledge, and picture rounds, to reflect everyones specialities. We saw in the New Year at friends' in the village which was fun - but I drew short the straw being nominated to sing Dolly Partons 'Nine 'til five' - I was more suited to Tears For Fears' 'Everybody wants to rule the world' and performed it better.

We are exploring alternative and renewable energy sources, and so I got an instrument for recording wind speed and sunshine and gave it to Mrs Smallholder wrapped as a Christmas present! Don't worry, I did give her stuff she could be pleased with. I must get on and erect it so we can start recording. Once you've got the data, you can download it to a p.c, then upload to a web-site it to assess the most suitable turbine etc.

Random thought for the day: Aren't coat-hangers annoying?......

Best wishes to you all for 2010, and particularly better times for those who had difficulties last year - hope to meet up at meetings or shows - I'll be the one looking slightly shy and self-conscious - come over and give me a poke, unless I get to you first!

Tuesday 22 December 2009

No room at the inn...

Since we moved to this village, we have been holding a pre-Christmas drink round at ours on Christmas Eve - it's a chance for neighbours and friends to occupy the children for a while, effectively shortening the evening, and for parents to unwind before the big day, and perhaps escape their relatives for a while (!) Entry by invite, or membership of BAS (!)

Yesterday we had Minnie scanned, and as expected it was negative.

We've escaped the heavy snow, but on sunday we had a very heavy hail shower, like polystyrene balls, late in the afternoon, which froze and has left a layer of ice, persisting in all shady areas. It's fascinating to see the different weather conditions and their effects around the country - but it's frustrating for a country that's renouned for talking endlessly about the weather, that there is so much ignorance about why our weather is so variable, what causes the variations, how geography determines the consequences, and why it's impossible practically and economically to beat the weather - and the greater the possibilities for all modes of travel in good conditions, the bigger the disappointment when it is thwarted, and the greater the consequences at the bottlenecks.

Well, rant over,

Christmas Greetings to you all!

Sunday 13 December 2009

Scoop: string and sing...

A little fright the other morning - while the other girls were feeding, Autumn Gold was nosing around in the shelter and curiosity got the better of her, when she got a piece of baler twine caught around her ear tag, the other end being hooked around the hook it was hanging on in the shelter - fortunately, I was there and she sat down without struggling, so I was able to lift her and un-tangle it with no damage done. I've heard that the Queen saves used pieces of string to use again, so I thought I was in good company saving twine, you know to keep my trousers up etc., and it was hanging tidily behind a grain bin, but the lesson is obvious - alpacas are curious and need protecting against themselves.

Readers of my second post in January will be familiar with the two varieties of alpaca poo that were known to mankind at the time, coffee beans and dumplings - well today I can reveal discovery of another - soft-scoop, not through ill health, but through persistant rain.

While writing this, Mrs. Smallholder has plied (pled?) Moiras fleece into two-ply - bless her, (Moira that is) she's our matronly companion in the herd, and has the finest fleece, albeit very short.

Yesterday I was singing in performance with Jazz m'Tazz the vocal harmony group in Glastonbury High Street at the Frost Fair, and on sunday 20th we'll be singing at the Festival of the Voice at Stourhead National Trust House - maybe see some of you there. It will be the shortest day then, and spring will be on the way...

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Web-cam antics.

Yes we're all moaning about the relentless rain, but...there's dry weather on the horizon! And haven't we all forgotten the dry September? Perhaps we'll all get our cameras out this weekend when our 'girls' and 'boys' are tidied up.

At the weekend, I gave the monthly ADE paste, tried on a couple of halters for familiarity, and then planted a 10foot sapling to give shade in the summer - awful conditions for planting, but has to be done when they're dormant, and this one was a replacement for one that didn't take very well this year - it's nice to be making preparations for next year though.

I've had a wireless web-cam for some time which I was given for watching wildlife in the garden after one of those BBC Springwatch/Autumnwatch series - I'd only used it for watching our barn cats, since we never see them, and wanted to be sure that it was them eating their food, not someone elses cat!

Anyway, I set it up in the alpaca shelter, since I only see them in the morning for 10 minutes at feeding time on these short days, and knowing that with more rain due, they would be keeping dry tonight. This evening I settled down infront of the screen to watch a bit of the " 'paca Channel", and would you believe it, there they were sat around with all the straw bales spread out, playing cards in hand, little dishes of Camelibra and Fibregest finger food, 'shots' of ADE paste, a bucket of water and individual portions of finest meadow hay...they all looked relaxed, and appeared to be chatting about babies, pregnancy and looking forward to the spring...