Monday 28 March 2011

Plans passed, pasture planned.

Our plans for the fleece preparation workshop and studio were passed last week, so now we're chasing builders - Mrs. Smallholder took the roof off the cattery building, and a lady who breeds Maine Coon cats in the village has collected all of the runs and pens, which is great because they were in good condition and now have a new lease of life.

The girls were to have gone on their 'holidays' at the weekend, but a delay at the holiday pasture has put it back to next weekend. I am more convinved that Minnie is pregnant, as she's entered a feeding shy stage just like when she was expecting Ambrosia.

We gave them all Lambivac, the last ADE of the winter, and a pedicure - it's been a busy couple of weeks with paperwork, getting show entries worked out, considering the breeding programme, getting a ticket to Glastonbury Festival (yesss!), and learning a difficult guitar part for the Kings of Leons 'Sex on Fire' for this weekend.

Meanwhile, I particularly enjoyed Question 17 in the Census...

I've not even had time to whip out the camera, so here is a picture of my favourite structure while I listen to the new albums by REM and Elbow - far better than The Test Card and some 'light music'.

Sunday 20 March 2011

Shiny Happy 'pacas (or, "can we have the paddling pool out?")

For a day that was forecast to be dull and damp, it has been fantastic, with warm sunshine - so much so, that I spotted one of the girls trying to get her feet into the drinking bucket! Hint taken, I pulled out the water trough, not used since last autumn, and had barely turned on the hospeipe when I had a queue of jostling alpacas - Pelachuta was in it before the water had reached the far end!

Minnie sat down ready to be splashed by the others, but instead, when the trough was full, I sprayed the hose and she and Autumn Gold stood in the spray. It was a bit like an alpaca version of 'phone box cramming, or Mini cramming: how many alpacas can you cram into a foot trough! Having had their bath, they trotted off to roll in the pit, getting dirtier than before! But I could see that they were 'happier' for it.

Bramley has been weaning for two weeks, starting at six and a half months, and because we are sending them up the road for a holiday to rest our paddocks, we wanted to be sure she wouldn't sneak back to Mum once they were out of our sight, so yesterday brought them all back together - there had been a clear paddock between the groups for one week, then due to grass pressure, we let them into adjoining paddocks, so there were some kisses through the fence, and finally we put them together yesterday afternoon - after one attempt at the milk bar which brought a few kicks and remonstrations from Pelachuta, she has kept her distance, and we've been able to keep a close eye on them.

"Race you to the rolling pit!"

Sunday 13 March 2011

Smallholder to Stallholder

Mrs. Smalholder became Mrs. Stallholder at The British Alpaca Futurity - we took part by taking a Craft Stand, as shown above, with our knitted and felted garments made with fleece from our own herd, hand-spun and felted at home (with knitting by Joy's sister Hilda)  - other producers of excellent alpaca fleece products attended too. A large and high quality entry of animals in the show ring was accompanied by a shorn fleece competition, a fibre craft competition, and photography competition - one of my entries, a picture of an alpacas eye with another alpaca reflected in its eyeball, won a First in its class. Once I'd had the idea, and taken this picture, I tried to improve on it, but after several hundred attempts, this remained the best - Moira, whose eye is in this picture, was very wary of me getting too close, and either backing away, or constantly moving her head, looking around, or there wouldn't be an alpaca reflected, or there would be too many, or the others would come and put their noses up to the lens to see what was going on - some have said I obviously have too much time on my hands, but then any owner will agree that there are few better ways of passing time, than with your animals, is there? It was good to meet existing friends and make new friends with breeders from the alpaca community across the UK and Europe.

I had looked into getting a paddock cleaner while there,  but was 'trumped' when Mrs Smallholder revealed she had bought a weaving loom, and after carefully assessing the back of the car (an estate), I conceded that it wouldn't fit along with our luggage, the stall products and the several bags of alpaca feed that I had already bought, taking advantage of the Show discounts on offer.

So on return this afternoon, I cleaned the paddocks with the existing paddock cleaning equipment: trowel, scoop, bucket and barrow - job done - healthy exercise, no fuel emissions and no money spent (well not by me).

Returning to our hotel after the Fashion Show and dinner, I was amazed to hear in the hotel car park, a blackbird and other birds chattering away at 1.30a.m! -  must be the street lighting (no it wasn't the effects of too much liquid refreshment!).

Bramleys weaning continues, and I led her by halter for some lush lawn grazing with Minnie and Ambrosia, while letting the other three into the big paddock - this means they are now in adjacent paddocks, but after a little re-union kiss through the fence, they settled down to their own grazing and haven't shown any signs of distress - I checked at dusk and I'll look out again and check by torchlight soon.

Sunday 6 March 2011

Hats in the ring.

Above, Bramley and her mum Pelachuta, enjoy their last evening together for a while.Yesterday we started Bramleys weaning - she is just over six months, and with a settled spell of weather, pressure to moveall the girls and rest the paddock, and show-time looming, it was time to act. We've divided the herd, keeping her group in the paddock with a shelter - they stay a way from the shelter though, opting to stay as close to the other group as possible. This paddock is also next to the garden, so we have started her halter training with visits to the lawn for good grazing, and to take her mind off mum. We are hoping that Minnie is still pregnant, and so she is in that group, and can get some good grass too.There's been a bit of pacing along the fence line and  humming, but that's true of several of the group - they don't like being seperated.

I was bent over poo-picking yesterday and Bramley came up to me and ducked under me looking for a suckle - I couldn't help though!

I've packaged my photo's for posting to the Futurity tomorrow, and checked that the suit trousers still fit. 'We' are taking a craft stall there, which Mrs. Smallholder (Joy) will be 'manning', under the a.p.p.l.e brand name - she's been very busy making all sorts of items for the stall - so do stop and say hello - I'm looking forward to every aspect of the show - if you  read this blog but you don't have alpacas yet, it's a great way to spend a day, with the seminars, the show ring, the fleeces, crafts, trade stalls and breeders to talk to - then later there's the fashion show, auctions and dinner -it's a great weekend absorbing all things alpaca -(11th & 12th, Stoneleigh, Warwickshire) - last year we missed the first day, as I was 'trapped' doing jury service.

We've had a letter from the Planners with queries about our project, referring to our "flock"!

We cast a critical eye over over Ambrosia (above) and Autumn Gold to see whether they should be shown this year, and we have reservations about both, but Bramley will definitely be putting her hat in the ring - meanwhile, hats made with Ambrosia's fleece and Autumn Golds' fleece WILL be on the craft table!

To finish, here's Pixie surveying the garden: