Monday 27 December 2010

Friday 24 December 2010

And finally...

Here's the result of an hour with the shovel this morning - I'm hoping it will mature with a slight thaw...I had to stand on the top rail of a fence while holding onto a tree to get a full view - I'll try a Microlight later!

Thanks to everyone who reads the blog, and for advice and friendly comments, look forward to meeting up next year,

"Happy Christmas" everyone, and best wishes for 2011, Dave & Joy.

Saturday 18 December 2010

This blog has some snow in it.

Hi everyone - I make no apologies for attaching our snow pictures -we had 'just' six inches of snow last night, now that's a third of what some readers have had, but here near the Somerset Levels, that was a huge amount, and very rare - for today, we loved it, especially as it had the decency to come over night, and we had blue skies all day - if it lasts for weeks, I'm sure we'll come to hate it as much as anyone who's already had three weeks of it - anyone who has alpacas will know the pleasure that every new situation brings, as you observe and share their exploration of new things (even though, all they really want is some grass to graze on!) - enjoy the pics:

Moira has a snow bath...

Sunday 12 December 2010

Marmite for alpacas?

Sunday is alfalfa day, and it's been a beautiful day here, so it was 'high tea' in the field, which had been completely cleaned for the week ahead. Bramley is having a roll in front of Autumn in the picture. This morning we collected a trailer load of hay, which, with our current stock, should see us through to the middle of April, and we hope to secure another batch to see us through to summer. I gave all the alpacas a drench dose of mineral supplement (marmite for alpacas).
When asked whether she knew anything about some straw going missing from the shelter, Moira had more urgent feeding to attend to rather than own up!

Sunday 28 November 2010

Michael Stipe breeding alpacas?

Well we've only had a dusting of snow, last thursday, and as it is what I call, 'face-grippingly' cold, it is still hanging around, though you'll need to look very closely - but it sounds like most of you don't need to see any more. To supplement the feed, we've made a corral on the lawn to give a weekend treat of lush grass - like all cria, Bramley gets so excited by the change of surroundings, she managed to levitate this aftenoon:

Then after charging around for a bit...
She asked Mum to join in...
"Darling, I'm stocking up to make more milk for you, run along and play"...

We were very lucky in travelling to Scotland last weekend, with good weather, and the highlight of the journey being a break at Beckbrow Service Station -Barbara kindly took a large chunk out of her day to introduce us to her lovely herd, the farm and the charming canines, and also to 're-fuel' us - the 'royal' couple didn't arrive until wednesday, so at least there was no distraction from the core herd - thanks again Barbara.

I was privately amused (and I have to say, thrilled) at another service station, when drying my hands under a hot air blower, and looking at my reflection (always have been vain) in the stainless steel casing, it caused a 'hall-of-mirrors' distortion, and I got Michael Stipe from REM looking back at me! The thing is, if he looked in the same machine, would he see me, and would he know it was me? ...somehow think not.

Mrs. Smallholder held a fleecce and fibre product evening for a lot of girl-friends from the village and surrounds, with wine, nibbles and home-made cake - yours truly was engaged to answer the door, take coats, serve wine and be hospitable - it seemed very successful ( a bitterly cold night helps, though of course the products are excellent) and she's got orders so the spinning wheel is notching up the miles.

I've been at the computer drawing a sketch design for a project which can't be revealed yet, so more on that hopefully in a month or two.

Wednesday 10 November 2010

Animal Madhouse.

No, not here! It was a programme on Channel 4 tonight, and featured a couple of alpacas having trouble getting pregnant - the programmes vets refer to Claire Whitehead for advice. Fellow bloggers may find it interesting. Try to watch again, it was on at 8 o'clock.

Monday 1 November 2010

Small is beautiful.

Like a toddler sucking a piece of spaghetti...
Bramley persists in eating leaves and stems all the way...
Going, going...
Almost gone...

While we search for more grazing, I content myself with the advantage of a small-holding of knowing every square inch of our land and being able to check it for hazards and grass condition daily.

Faecal testing is progressing with comforting results - with hand-clearing latrines I think I can clear 95%, and I'd be interested to know whether 'poovers' can achieve the same level of clearing (poo-pickers elbow excepted).

There is a Eucalyptas tree adjacent to our alpaca shelter, and the girls love the leaves - it's not on the hazardous plant list, and knowing the medicinal qualities of Eucalyptus for humans, I'm assuming the alpacas recognize it too.

Of course, while I comfort myself with the Small is Beautiful mantra, and its benefits, really I'd love to be expanding the herd more quickly, but for now I'll content myself with the intimacy of our small, but beautifully formed (in my opinion) herd.

Sunday 17 October 2010

All clear on the western front.

Autumn Gold in the morning light.
Is that a camel through the eye of a needle?
All together now - munch.
Bramley in the morning light.

With the bright crisp start to the day, it was good to start with the camera, which usually comes out in the evening when the light is fading and the sun at the opposite side of the field. So as I'd cleaned the field and we'd vaccinated and pedicured the girls yesterday, I indulged myself with an hour or so with the camera. It was so clear that shots from the near-by clay pigeon shoot echoed around the hills - with scarcely a breeze, the silence was staggering, a day to just soak in...and then get on with important things... like organizing the new Olympic event: the Individual Faecal Sample Collecting Persuit - where you sprint, keeping a sharp eye on the deposited sample in the grass so that you can sample for parasites and know how each animal is doing...

Sunday 10 October 2010

Toilet training?

Now it's not really for me to query ladies' bathroom habits, however, we only have just over an acre, and my girls have created seven latrines. The biggest problem with that, is that they appear to be growing in size, and we have to maximise the quality (to minimise parasites) and quantity (to cope with drought periods) of available grazing. They have been depositing around the edges of some latrines, hence they've got larger, so this weekend I took advantage of the weather, and after clearing them, I mowed them (by hand mower!) and cleared all the clippings for maximum hygene. Hopefully, they will feel able to go back to the middle, and contaminate a smaller area - time will tell...

I feel we are at the stage of herd development, where a poover and sit/ride mower are becoming necessities. The irony is, that the catalyst for starting a herd of alpacas was the suggestion by one of our sons and daughter, that I buy a sit and ride mower to cut the grass in the field so they could use a mountain board! Meantime, we've been hooked by the wonderful world of alpacas, who now require pastures of the quality that a mower will help improve - and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday 4 October 2010


Enjoying a treat of Alfalfa.

We transplanted some Lleylandii that were in pots when we moved here, intending to let them grow into a supply of firewood. The alpacas love to have a good scratch on them.

Colin Ottery came on friday to scan Minnie, and with his Top Gun / Back to the Future glasses and scanner confirmed a pregnancy - hooray.

Bramley got ear-tagged and micro-chipped, a health check for insurance and weighed-in at 18kg, now 6 weeks old. Her she is, trying the tree scratch-post:

Sunday morning was pouring, and blowing a 'hooley', I went to the shelter to find all six alpacas keeping out of the rain, and in the corner trying to go un-noticed, were twelve chickens huddled together!

We took all the fleece scraps from shearing with two other breeders this year, and put them into bin bags for insulating the roof of the house - we have an old cottage, with part sloped ceilings (skeilings) which had no insulation - so I spent a horrendous 2 hours lying on my side in the tiny attic space stuffing the fleece into the gaps - pot-holing is much more enjoyable, but doesn't keep the house warm...

It's the time of year for catching up with admin', so I've been sorting out invoices and registered Bramley with the BAS. I'm wondering which software other breeders find suits their herd management?

Now, I wonder if Mum has got my milk ready for bed.....................................

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Frivolous photo's

Bramley is 4 weeks old today, 15kg, and as you can see, full of beans.
She is quite inquisitive, and enjoys nibbling a bit of denim, so I tried a bit of 'under-arm' photography!
After the little burst of grass growth in August, we've not had much rain for several weeks, the grass growth has ground to a halt, so tonight I let them into a paddock I had been resting.
Bramley tested this out as a racetrack, and found she could hit top speed even though it is quite small.

Sunday 5 September 2010

8-legged cria?

Here's a few pics to show Bramleys first two weeks...
She's been gaining weight steadily, around 300g a day, mind you, weighing is a proper wrestling match!
Last year, the balance we'd bought was faulty, so I held the cria and stood on bathroom scales - quite straight-forward! However, this year we've got a new digital balance and sling, but getting her in and out of the sling is like wrestling an octopus!
This weekend, I've tidied the paddocks of all Nettles and Docks, topped the latrines, and taken faecal samples from each girl for parasite testing by Mrs. Smallholder - two weeks ago, I re-seeded some bare patches, including half the rolling pit which was getting bigger and bigger as rain washed the soil down the slope, and this weekend the new grass has appeared in spite of the chickens best efforts to eat the seed (I had to fence off with hurdles, and then found the chickens squeezing underneath, and so had to lay some hurdles flat over the seeded area to keep them off!)

Tuesday 24 August 2010

What a birthday present!

Pelachuta's eleven month date was today, my, and my daughters birthday, and seeing a good weather forecast for today ahead of heavy rain tomorrow, I went to work wondering whether she would know that, and take action - she was humming frequently and at ten to twelve a shower had sent them all into the shelter, so Mrs. Smallholder decided nothing would happen for a while, and went off to see to do some work - wrong, ten minutes later, there was a cria sitting up on the ground!
I work five minutes away, so I was home in time to see the first staggering steps of another female for us, Bramley, who we later weighed-in at 7.2kg - she seems to be a beautiful colour of dark fawn or light brown, though I'll reserve final judgement for more experienced eyes later. Her sire was CME Centurion, a dark fawn.

She suckled after a couple of hours, while I held my breath each time she went under, until she came out licking her lips, with the unmistakeable drips of milk on them. Having said that it was a fine day, it was blowing a good'un, but the sun was warming - we've put a coat on now, as rain is due to arrive early in the morning.

When she first stood, she was like a tall, leggy fighting machine from the War of the Worlds, and now she totters around like a drag queen in over-ambitious stilletto's!

It's time for a birthday drink with a mate of mine, Jack Daniels - we're going to share a glass of Coke...