Sunday 23 December 2012

Christmas stodge!

No, I've not started over-indulging, yet - the title relates to the state of the ground - our property has a rounded ridge, with a northerly slope and a southerly slope - after rain, it stands on the top and on the slopes - water is defying gravity now! Needless to say, we have no white alpacas for the time being. Since moving them to the new paddock, we've barely had a night when I've not brought them back to the shelter to avoid heavy rain. On the positive side, we are past the solstice, and the days are lengthening!

Mrs. Smallholder spent an evening explaining colour genetics to me - very worthwhile, and we looked into the BAS pedigree database to test the theory - there IS complete logic to colour genetics after all, it's the ancestry that can create uncertainty.

Cake by Mrs. Smallholder, Marzipan and Icing by yours truly.
Fortunately, my son took this picture today - the clean part of Autumn Gold:

"can we come in tonight?"
Wishing a Happy Christmas to you all, from Dave and Joy.

Sunday 16 December 2012

Ten, Tango and a Triangle.

We've been busy in the last few weeks using every spare daylight minute, and days off the day job, fencing one of our new paddocks to see us through the winter - yesterday, we released the herd into the paddock:
The charge of the light (and some browns) brigade.
Today we gave them all ADE injections.

They now have a south-facing hill.

"Race you to the top!"

Discovery galloped, pronked, and threw sideways 'shapes'

I collected Camelot from his agisting farm yesterday, and he met the herd from a distance - we're very pleased with his fleece too:
Camelot stays in his quarantine paddock, while Discovery checks him out.
...and the title? All ten of the herd are together again - the new paddock is a triangular because it suits the final layout of lanes and paddocks - and the tango? I'm 'Strictly' settling down for the dancing and Sports Personality!

Most fields in an agricultural holding have names which the farmers through history have evolved to identify them. When you divide a field, you then have to come up with new names - we currently have the Orchard Paddock and the Top and Bottom paddocks (creative aren't we?). The new field we will be dividing, but so far only has a triangular paddock, which we have ended up referring to, as 'the pi-angle'...have you some 'interesting'names for your paddocks?

Monday 3 December 2012

'Movember' rain.

One of the roads out of the village lies under this water.

View towards the Quantock Hills & Exmoor beyond.

View towards the Blackdown Hills.
Fortunately we are located way above The Levels, so the flooding is just a picturesque inconvenience to us, but many others have suffered worse. We had Camelot castrated a couple of weeks ago on the wednesday when the flooding began to hit, and I couldn't get to the farm where he is agisted, due to flooding 2 miles from the farm - very frusttrating and disappointing not to be with him (the vet had to delay his trip until the afternoon, by which time I was 35 miles away). Then I was unable to get to the SWAG AGM on the following sunday, after more torrential rain the night before. We've put in the fence posts for the first paddock in our new field, and I've installed the gate connecting to the field - 3 more gates to fit, and then the badger-resistant fencing. Joy had seven ladies visit for a felting class on saturday, preceded by a couple of evening classes last week. I grew a 'mo' for Movember and before shaving it off, I offered it for spinning or felting but apparently it was too coarse, too short and with no crimp...

Monday 19 November 2012


At the weekend, I noticed a damp patch on Bramleys' right shoulder - now with the recent weather it's been difficult to find a dry patch, so it wasn't surprising, but it wasn't the usual knee or elbow joints, so at first I thought it a bit odd, but perhaps she'd rubbed or rolled on 'something' wet - I caught hold of her, rubbed it and smelt it and there was no smell.

The following morning it was still there, so I knew it needed to be dealt with - she is pregnant, and has changed from being everyones favourite to 'cuddle', to a complete 'madam', and she wouldn't let the two of us look closely at it without a fight, so I got our neighbour (who has sheep) to hold the back end - with a lot of spitting and shrieking (not my neighbour) we concluded it was fly-strike, however we could find no sign of skin damage - now my understanding, is that a fly lays eggs on a wound or damaged skin to feed the larvae - I thoought it might be the ADE injection site, but that was done three and a half weeks ago, and I believe that the larvae hatch in a day or two, so it can't have been that - anyway, we sprayed it straight away, nothing emerged, but there were some small objects like hay seeds, so we thought we'd caught it at an early stage, but I'm still puzzled that there seemed to be no damaged skin.

I do know there have been a few cases in alpacas this year, so wondered if anyone has any clues?

Thursday 15 November 2012

Post post

Have gate post, will travel.

The poover trolley found a new use today...

As promised last night, Phase 1 of the new paddocks began today, by moving the fence and gate posts to the field - for reasons I won't bore you with, it was easier to manhandle them up our existing field into position - well alright, I'll explain: the delivery lorry wouldn't fit up the lane, so it was dropped off at the house, and until we've improved the lane and field access, our trailer wasn't practical, so we both had a good work-out!

Debbie, a photograph can be deceiving! including our current field, we'll have just 3 acres, so could probably fit into your new barn, but it has tripled our size - now for the herd!

 Sorry, no pictures of alpacas today.....oh, alright then, some taken on a brighter day:

Golden Delicious

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Excitement bursts!

Wot, no alpacas? Looknig from our original field into the new field.

After three and a half years of waiting, we have completed the purchase of a large, south-facing field behind our property! as recently as July we were told that it wouldn't be sold, and we should make other arrangements for our herd, so we are delighted that events turned in our favour, and we can now look forward, make plans for the development of the herd, and feel assured in having adequate grazing to allow for resting, and our own supply of hay.

As I said in the previous post, we had a truck-load of fencing posts, gates and mesh delivered in anticipation for phase one, but I wouldn't announce the purpose until the ink was dry, and the wax seal had hardened!

We have been sketching various layouts of paddock and laneways, and have now settled on a plan.

We've been planning hedge trimming, tree-planting, forming a parking/turning area, shelters, water supply, soil testing and bio-security measures.

Paddock divisions might allow for quarantine, open males, whethers, pregnant females and a nursery.

Looking up to our original property, the alpacas are just visible to the left of the hedge on the brow.
For now, phase one is to form the link between our fields, with one paddock to see us through the winter - phase two to be steady development of the remainder. Phase one begins tomorrow!

Sunday 11 November 2012

Advantage, alpacas.

We finished fencing the old tennis court this morning, so it is ready for weaning or quarantine purposes, and we had a truck-load of fencing, posts and gates delivered for a future project, which we had to move

The herd have spent the weekend in an adjoining paddock of lush grass, and Golden Delicious found it so appetising, she refused her bottle both lunchtimes!

Today has been gloroius, and we've had two dry days, so I cleared the bedding out of the shelter, and the 'squelch' has gone from the paddocks.

"If I've got this wrong, I'm in the *#*#  !"

Wednesday 7 November 2012

'Dyeing' to tell...

Well, the title may have duped you into thinking that we had an announcement about an exciting development... but not 'that one' yet - no, this is to show the results of our colour breeding programme that has been going on in secret, and so for an evening class that  Joy is running this evening, she has released this picture of her coloured fleece.

Trivia: today, took the train from Taunton to Truro via. Tiverton, Teignmouth, Totnes...took t'ree hours...

Sunday 28 October 2012

Moonlight shadow.

Night-cap for Golden Delicious.

With a 'spare' hour last night to say goodbye to British Summertime, I took tripod and camera up the hill for some experimentation. these pictures were taken between 11.30pm and 12.15a.m - it's amazing how much 'light' the camera absorbs (the sky did look black), and how many stars, more than I could see!

Orion grazes the horizon, with Jupiter above.
Principally, good breeding relies on selection of suitable genetics, deliberate breeding choices, considered and programmed  husbandry, and well-managed grazing and housing - but there are in-between times when you just have to be out with your herd, and if you can share a hobby with them, day or night everyone's happy! It was freezing cold of course, and it took about two hours to warm up afterwards!
With Orion off to the right, Castor and Pollux, the heavenly twins float 'above'
Autumn Gold with Golden Delicious in her shadow.
Yesterday was clear and sunny all day, with a fierce northerly wind, which helped dry the ground, so I got the paddocks cleaned, and drove (manually) fifteen fenceposts into the tennis court paddock - the alpacas enjoyed the dryer conditions and had a mass gathering in the rolling pit -  this morning, rain is lashing down, and I have to go the office and do the VAT return...back with more news soon hopefully.

Sunday 21 October 2012

Someone takes offence.

Feeding time.
 We spent a bit of time preparing 'the tennis court' today, a little paddock we are renting, which is a bit of secure space we can use for weaning and other purposes - we'd flattened a lot of ant hills and re-seeded them, and the grass has sprouted, and we've cut back a lot of bramble - however, I had stacked 30 fence posts behind a hedge three weeks ago until we are ready to do the fencing, and today I noticed that eight were missing... in a sleepy village with no pub, street lights, or until now, I thought, crime... so I told Mrs. Smallholder, and over lunch we discussed the possibilities - I headed back to carry out a thorough search and ask the neighbours if they'd, 'seen anything'... as I approached, I noticed an apple-pickers step ladder leaning against a Chestnut tree in a  thicket by the paddock, hidden by brambles, and saw a fence post leaning against the ladder...I went in, and saw three posts lying on the ground near the tree... I looked up, and fifteen feet up in the bows of the tree I saw the remaining posts lashed together as the commencement of a tree-house! My daughter says someone needs to tell Kevin McCloud that he is taking this 'off the grid' thing to an extreme! I say they'd been 're-purposed' before I'd even given them a bloomin' purpose! 

"hmm...which is the smallest hole my head will fit through?"

While I was digging out some weeds from Mrs. Smallholders veg. garden, Discovery lived up to his name and got his head stuck trhough the fence again - I had to pull his body back while Mrs. S threaded his head through.

Golden Delicious
Later, we went out with a 30m tape and did some measuring... and it wasn't fleece we were measuring...
Darcy Spice - a mummys boy

Sunday 14 October 2012

Chip & pin

Mud management has been a phrase on my mind and I'm sure every farmer and smallholder in the country. I opened up the hay barn to allow the herd more room to spread out beyond the shelter in the wet nights, and they made the most of  it as you can see in the picture, where 9 of them have squeezed for a sit down or some new hay. Our village is approached via. Ford Lane, and as the name implies, there has been a ford - however, in 10 years living here, it has only risen over the road three times, until this autumn, when it has been flooded at least 6 times.

We had a visit from Colin Ottery to insert some micro-chips and ear-tags, and do some teeth trimming, which he did with his usual no-nonsense and very efficient approach - we had Bramley and Ambrosia scanned, and unfortunately Ambrosia is not pregnant - we had our doubts, as Bramley has turned very feisty, yet Ambrosia, hadn't changed behaviour noticeably - should have checked sooner, but there you go, coulda', shoulda', woulda'... 

It has been dry and sunny this weekend, as you can see from the misty cob-webby morning photo', we even had a thin sliver of ice on the water buckets, and with a couple more dry days forecast, a chance for the land to recover a bit.

We do have a very exciting development, which is so exciting that I daren't let on what is so exciting, but suffice to say, we are excited about it, and if it happens, I won't be able to contain my excitement and I may tell you about it...

If you've got an itch, scratch it!
Golden Delicious continues to gain weight steadily though the rate slowing down, probably converting her intake to energy for warmth rather than growth - we know we're giving her enough, as she has started leaving a little occasionally - this perhaps concurs with research that I read recently by Bozedown Alpacas I believe, who noted that cria born later in the year gained weight more slowly.

By the way, on Kevin McCloud's, Manmade Home tonight (C4 8.00, he makes a bathrobe from alpaca fleece - courtesy of Tai Wind Alpacas I believe.

In the absence of fluffy alpacas at the moment, I'll leave you with a picture of autumnal leaves on the house - Virginia Creeper last week, before the wind and the pruners got to it today.

Time to give baby her bottle.

Sunday 23 September 2012

Rainy day musings

! Autumn Gold has that light-bulb moment !
Yes, a hot air balloon went over and landed on the edge of the village a few nights ago, and the following night two balloons went by - there have been very few balloons around this year because of the weather, no doubt.

I've spent the day working out how much temporary fence we need for the little extra paddock, catching up on some much missed guitar playing, and satisfying the inner nerd with some statistics - yes, it's been raining.

I was curious as to how much poo an alpaca produces, and since our herd is of a modest size, I can clear all latrines in a session, so I weighed the bins as I emptied them. Making allowance for the tiny amount that the cria currently produce, and the small amount collected by hand each morning in the shelter, I can reveal that our adults have produced approximately 6kg each in the last week. I guess this might vary seasonally, and of course nursing mums may eat more than others, but there you have it, a statistic to use as you wish. You might also be interested to know, that I could collect it on one tank-full of petrol, with it running out with one 'deposit' to clear (0.32litres, 0.07gallons apparently).

That reminds me to mention some good service from Paul Helps - the suction hose had split, and so I requested a new one, but Paul suggested that at 18months old, the hose on a hand-pulled 'poover' shouldn't have failed, so he negotiated a replacement under guarantee. Thanks Paul

Captions on a postcard please...
I've also plotted the weight development of all of our cria on a graph, in order to compare Golden Delicious' slower growth,and hoped to include it, however, I haven't the skill to post it in this blog...

Sunday 16 September 2012

Comfort in various ways.

Golden Delicious continues to gain weight steadily, and we have increased her bottles to accelerate the rate - meanwhile she continues to feed from mum, Autumn Gold, which is comforting. I was wondering, when other breeders have asked, 'is she a first-time mum?', implying that short milk-supply is not unusual in first-timers, do they usually continue to breed from them without milk-supply problems in subsequent years?
It's funny how pregnancy can change the behaviour of a female - we decided to do some toe-nail trimming today, and Bramley was having none of it - she used to kush but would sit quite happily while you worked around her, but not today, and she even spat - comforting in one way - smelly in another!
We were invited to the Ashcott Harvest Fayre, so last saturday we took Autumn Gold and Golden Delicious, along with Appleknit products and advertising for the spinning and felting evenings.
We have negotiated use of a small paddock across the road, which will be useful for weaning and keeping the boys in - we've pulled out some Ragwort, and have a bit of bramble clearing and fencing to do before we use it, but it's comforting to have arrangements in place.

Monday 3 September 2012

Eventually, you will need plasma.

My last post was announcing the arrival of Apple Vale Golden Delicious - she is now just over three weeks old. After the expected first day loss of weight, she also lost weight on the second day (alarm bells rang, we got some goats milk in), and then was just about the same for three days. We were sure she had suckled frequently during the first day, though she was slow to start, but perhaps on reflection, she wasn't getting much milk. She's always been active, and bright, so we feel confident that she had taken some colostrum. So we have been giving her a bottle morning and evening, and she has gained steadily, albeit not at the rate of our previous cria - we haven't increased her bottle quanitity much, as we don't want to reduce what she does get from her mum, as that will still be better than milk suuplement. Eventually we had her IgG measured and this was found to be very low, so we asked the herd for a volunteer blood donation - since three are nursing mums, two are pregnant, and three are cria, the short straw was given to Moira, our maiden companion, by default. Since Moira is not halter-trained, and is a large animal, I decided we would use the shearing restraints to be more sure of a successful outcome - apart from a bit of squealing and spitting, the task was trouble-free, and a good 350ml bag-full came forth. The camper-van 'fridge' was brought into service, a quick trip to Classical Mile End, and their while-u-wait plasma-spin had me back on the road within 45 minutes. Our vet then came, and we found another use for the garden table, as it became the 'operating' table for Delicious to receive her plasma.
We also have some in the freezer now, in reserve. I've known that it was a good idea to have plasma in store, but the logistics put me off - another experience gained.
mmm, Delicious.

The evenings, when the cria are more playful, have often been gloomy, and so there haven't been many photo-opportunities.
A piano has not been air-brushed from this picture.

We have managed to secure the use of another small paddock near-by, which will assist with weaning the boys and getting Camelot back - we have a bit of fencing and bramble-clearing to do first, to make it secure.
"so, you want an alpaca scarf, do you?"

Friday 10 August 2012

50 shades of...

Now that got your attention, didn't it?

I was 50 miles away on a building site this morning, when Joy 'phoned to say that Autumn Gold was in labour - nothing I could do, so she 'phoned around a couple of friends for back-up. 45 minutes later she 'phoned to say we had a cria, that was Golden, AND Delicious - that meant she was a female, and the colour we expected, as her Sire is fawn, (Ashill Fandango) and her grand-dam is fawn (Pelachuta).

With this years names being apple varieties beginning with 'D', we had decided that  (Golden) Delicious would have to be for a female - we'd had two males Discovery and Darcy Spice, and so had used the suitable names for males.

The head and feet had been out for around 30 minutes, and Autumn was kushed, when Joy decided it was time to assist, and with Di and Chris (who had never handled alpacas) at the front end, Joy pulled to ease the shoulders out - Delicious has been feeding steadily, and running around this evening. Autumn Gold looks a bit 'raw' and open at the back end, so we'll check on that in the morning, and hopefully she'll heal overnight.

The class of 2012

Saturday 4 August 2012

Going for Gold

What an evening infront of the telly!!!!