Sunday, 29 November 2009

Weather drives Ambrosia nuts...

The whole family (8 of us) had a weekend away in Manchester, visiting our son in our annual pre-Christmas shopping get-together - I love the city, it has stunning architecture, and the canal basins are fascinating, cut into the red sandstone, with huge mills alongside, now converted into offices and apartments - but I had enough of the incessant noise of people and the city for a while, despite growing up in Bristol.

With such foul weather, and being away, there's not much alpaca news to relate - nationwide, we are all suffering from mud or standing water - and no matter the size of your herd and acreage, we deal with the issues in a proportionate, way - large herd, many acres, move them to better-drained or rested paddocks, or into barns -major exercise. Small herd, just an acre as in our case, and we have to have every part constantly serviceable - though it is divided into paddocks, there's one shelter, one entrance, so I spread a bit of gravel and sand to give the ground a bit more body where the foot traffic is heaviest - higher up the field, where I put the drain in, the grass is holding up well.

Ambrosia has started on the hard feed supplement recently, which is good, as I need her to self-wean, and if Minnie is pregnant she'll need to be keeping her energy for the new cria.

When I got back today, I was lucky to spot the nut off the gate hinge lying on the ground - I had spotted Ambrosia nibbling at it a few weeks ago and I tightened it up, but she had obviously got bored with the rain, and decided to fiddle with it again - now I like a girl that can use a spanner, but I'd rather it was in a constructive way!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Twitcher, poo-picker spots 'pecker...

Here is the next item in our 'autumn collection' - a scarf - o.k it's only big enough for Oscars 'chicken', but it's a scarf. More fleece has been carded and spun here this week, and I've heard that there's a tea cosy on the way, from our expert out-knitter in Scotland! Also, our expert out-spinner in Norfolk has been spinning for us today.

Today I collected a barrow and a half of 'paca poo, that's about one weeks worth from all paddocks - very satisfying to have clean fields, until you look up and see them repleneshing the latrines with more! I must look into testing for worms as my next new husbandry technique. Ambrosia and Pelachuta had their halters on for familiarity while I clipped a couple of odd-looking toe-nails.

Pela' was scanned on monday, and the result was positive, so we look forward to the patter of tiny feet next year. Minnie is 3 weeks behind, if she took at all, so we'll be scanning again soon.

Yesterday, a Pheasant chose to wander around the garden, giving the garden an air of 'grand country house' for a while, then today, I saw a Woodpecker in the young Oak tree. It made me ponder: why did they have to be called a 'Wood' pecker? were there other 'peckers, like stonepeckers or mudpeckers that became extinct? I'd used the binoculars for a closer look, and using binoculars always makes me laugh, as I expect to have two rings of soot around my eyes when I take the binoculars away, as a result of that old cartoon prank - hilarious!

Readers of last weeks blog may be pleased to know that the flagstones were primed and waxed this weekend.

Pixie the Shi-Tzu has joined in with a photographic entry to the 'Readers Dogs' section of blog-world - she shows no modesty as she relaxes on the settee dreaming of alpaca poo and the pheasant that got away - but then, she does have a fleece to be proud of.

And a final thought: is the reading of others' blogs, a form of 'virtual curtain twitching'? or is writing a blog a form of cyber showing -off? You decide.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Autumn collection preview...

Due to over-whelming demand I have had to release this preview of our autumn collection! It is the first item made from fleece produced at Apple Vale Alpacas, and so could be highly sought after in years to come. A simple felted brooch made from the odd cuts, it is modelled here by the donator of the fleece, Minnie - she is a bit grubby having had a roll to celebrate the passing of yesterdays storm. Minnies facial fleece is returning nicely.

Not only that, but Mrs. Smallholder spent a day with Amanda Poyner of Barton Alpacas near Glastonbury, learning to spin, and came back full of enthusiasm and has already put into practice her new-found skill.

I got the girls together this afternoon for a bit of bonding and check over - Minnies daughter, Ambrosia, has a beautiful fleece - she was shorn at seven weeks, and it seems to be paying off.

Today I installed a second water butt beside the shelter, so we will be better able to meet the water demand from poultry, alpacas and the vegetables next year. It was a pleasing way to rescue a day that started badly - I'd intended oiling the flagstone floor in the Dining Room, and had moved the furniture, scraped and swept the flags in preparation the night before - on reading the instructions this morning, I discovered that I had to prime the floor first, but since the oil comes from a specialist in old building materials, on a sunday I was stuck - it was then that I put on my stroppy pants... I don't like wasting time and effort, and the day was dry and bright which I need for ventilation and drying. Hey ho - I got over it by luchtime!

I've just heard we are scanning tomorrow, so that will be exciting.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

A laurel, laurel laffs.

A pleasant rain-free day today - last nights rain draining away slowly. Spent some time clearing nettles and levelling some uneven soil - the girls found the work intriguing, and as soon as I'd gone for lunch, they were taking advantage of the more-accessible hedge, with the nettles out of the way - this meant the Laurel was reachable, so with it being poisonous to alpacas, I had to be ruthless and sawed it off. Alpacas are very observant of changes in their surroundings - and of course, they always notice if a gate has been left open, even when they are a hundred yards away. It's interesting that they seem to avoid nettles, when they're used to spikey plants in their native habitat.

Gave the girls their ADE paste. Minnies face is growing fleece nicely.
An interesting piece on Countryfile about an alpaca herd in Suffolk tonight. A good advert for the industry, I thought.

I've heard of alpacas killing foxes, but has anyone heard of an alpaca killing a badger? I realise they're not as carniverous as foxes, but with the apparent upsurge in bTB, there'd be some kind of serendipity, if badgers do in fact spread it of course. I gave the girls a bit of halter familiarity this afternoon, but bTB precautions may restrict showing possibilities next year.

Now I know it's not on a par with breeders who also produce knitted garments from their herd, (and we are working on the spinning, knitting process), but we do have our first home-produced item - a felted brooch! hooray, I must get a picture posted.