Monday 30 January 2012

Faecal Attraction.

Joy is busy creating products for the stand at the Futurity Fibre Arts Village. She has posted pictures on Facebook, of some of the collection of knitted and felted bears that will be 'attending' : go to 'APPLE Alpaca Craft',
Camelot has been doing a lot of mud rolling...

Meanwhile, Camelot has settled into his weaning at home with Moira, Autumn Gold and us, while the other four are away at 'graze-camp' up in the village - I cycle over there with their feed in the morning after I've fed the other three, and then drive over from the office during the afternoon before dark to check up on them and deliver their hay-bags.
"...19,20... coming ready or not!"

In the picture above, the hen had just jumped off the gate, so is in mid-flight, though it looks like it is hiding under it's wings.
Last week I met a man with a thermal imaging camera which was very interesting, and I hope to have more on that another time.
"Can't stop, the gate to the lawn has been opened, and there's good grass to be had"
"hey, wait for us!"
We do our own regular faecal tests, and for two of them this will be weekly - having brought Autumn Gold back from 'graze-camp' we are watching to see if she's brought any 'passengers' back, and with Camelot being weaned, we are watching his parasite levels as he adjusts to being without his mums resistance. We want to try and avoid anti-biotic resistance, so will only treat if the tests indicate a need - so far, so good -  which reminds me, I must read Claire Whiteheads article in this months Alpaca World - there's also a good summary of the TB Bio-security Workshop by Mark Steele - (I didn't notice you making notes Mark, so the 'day job' has clearly had benefits in your powers of observation and recollection!). Incidentally, we are spoilt in having such a good independant magazine in our relatively small industry.

And so to accurate faecal collection - remember the 3 S's: spot, sprint, scoop - spot who is doing it and where, move swiftly keeping an eye on it as there will be other piles near-by, scoop it into your sampling vessel (I use plastic party beakers, and you can write the 'doners' name on it - sample collected, now hand it to your laboratory technician (Mrs. Smallholder in this case).
Trivia: Tonights accompanying music as I write this: Moon Safari, by Air - unexpectedly fantastic.

A thought I had the other day: we credit alpacas with being inquisitive, and rightly so - when you compare what I believe to be the average day on the Altiplano: chill air drifting beneath a blue sky, searching for minimal stalky sustainance in dusty scrub, while the (very) occasional Condor wheels overhead, and Puma lurk behind rocks, with an average day on this cramped island: fox, deer, rabbits, badger, crows, sparrowhawk, buzzard, people, dogs, cats, aircraft, cars - it must be like the difference between living in our countryside compared with a day trip to London.

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Cosmic microwave background...

No, I didn't understand it either, but I do enjoy 'Stargazing Live', and astronomy, in a simple way. So lacking photo's of clean alpacas, here is a picture of our young Oak tree in the moonlight a few (very early) mornings ago - I only got up to answer a call of nature and got lured outside in dressing gown, with camera and tripod - just an experiment...

Anyway, I'd mentioned a while ago, that our trailer was trapped in the field, waiting for better weather to allow the car in to retrieve it without getting stuck - so saturday morning I noticed that the level of frost looked capable of supporting the car, but I had guitar-based business to deal with, and decided to get up early on sunday to attempt a rescue - 7.00 sunday morning, went out - no frost - the going was 'good-to soft' is the racing term I think, and no good, even for a Subaru 4 x 4, due to the slope of our hill. However, yesterday, dawn broke with a frost, and I went for it - up the neighbours hill which faces south and is in much better condition, over the brow, into ours, down the bottom, hook-up, foot down, up the slope, bit of wheel-spin starting, turn across the slope to slacken the gradient, and... yes! made it. So today, we started Camelot's weaning, by taking his mum, Minnie, over to the rented orchard at the other end of the village to join the others, and brought Autumn Gold back for additional company, along with Moira who was already here. Autumn is rather large, and yet they all get the same feed in individual buckets, and she isn't a bully, so at least with our sparse grass, she can't gorge on the lush grass of the orchard. Camelot has also started his halter training.

Last thursday morning during the gales, I had just fed the three remaining here at home, when a gust of wind came roaring acrooss the vale, into the open face of the shelter, and lifted the shelter and corner (tree trunk) post four inches off the ground - just as I pondered whether to grab hold to keep it down (!), the gust passed and it settled down - phew! I quickly tied it to the hay shed for good measure.

Regarding the Futurity, we've made bookings, but we've also made some economies compared with other years - it seems that perhaps the NEC's proximity to the airport, and perhaps the large number of exhibition halls means the hotels can charge a premium, so the whole event can be much more expensive - that's not a complaint, because hopefully, there will be a much greater footfall of the general public, with follow-on benefits to all breeders, but it does mean you have to be careful to weigh-up the benefits against the costs a little more carefully.

I've put our expected birth dates into the calendar along with shows, and Joy has some bookings for felting, and is preparing 'goods' for the Futurity, so there's plenty to look forward to.

Sunday 1 January 2012

Hippy New Year!

Here's hoping everyone has had an enjoyable festive period. Once we were left 'empty-nesters' again after Christmas, we gave the periodical Vitamin ADE injections, and then yesterday, we walked our four halter-trained alpacas, two at a time, a quarter of a mile through the village to a lush orchard for new grazing. Camelot has stayed behind for halter training, with his mum and Moira, which began today.
lush new grazing

Further to previous blog - Barbara, you may be delighted to hear that Santa brought me a string of solar-powered l.e.d's, which I've strung through the shelter - post-Christmas it's like a fairy grotto/hippy den!
Moira enhanced her thin coat, with an idea from the  Worzel Gummidge collection.

The previous blog also referred to the newly-launched Appleknit web-site - but what I hadn't realised, as it was 'top-secret', was that the 'incompleteness' wasn't due to tardiness by the web-developer (son), but because our three 'children' had all played a part in secretly creating a short video introduction for the Homepage and Youtube, which was only uploaded on Christmas Day as a pressie for Mrs. Smallholder - Kerry filmed the action sequences and photographed the still shots, Phil' edited the whole, and Ross made it 'web-suitable', each using their particular professional skills. So please have a look, and if you 'share' it on Facebook to spread the word, it would be appreciated greatly!
spoiled for choice.

Talking of Facebook, I have to confess to be dragged screaming and kicking into joining today - I had been registered eighteen months ago, but buried my head in the sand and refused to activate it, and this evening was coerced in a weak moment - due to my wanting to fully support Appleknit, naturally - after all I am a shareholder. Now it seems, every Tom, Dick and Harry wants to be my friend! If you are Tom, Dick or Harry, well sorry, I only have room for one of each, and I'll be holding interviews/auditions for those places in due course...

Meanwhile, it's fun looking forward to the show schedule, conferences, training days, birthing 'schedule', new grass, longer days, and I'm updating up the administration while I've a bit of holiday left. Best wishes for a happy, healthy, safe, satisfying and prosperous year.