Thursday, 29 May 2014

Royal Bath & West Show

"hmm, second...I'll try and do better than that"
Squeezing the trailer out of the drive this morning at 7.30, I clipped the corner of the guttering on the porch....I reversed, but there is a pinch-point with the oil tank on the other side (anyone with a trailer or caravan will know that when a manouevre is a bit tight, it's best to go right back to the start because it only gets tighter)...I eased forward, and this time took the other corner of the gutter off and buckled the length of gutter between...I should have gone back to the instead we un-hitched it and moved it by hand leaving the pieces of gutter for our return! Manouevering a trailer is great for marital 'harmony', so we got on our way, both tense, biting our tongues, not blaming each other for dismantling the gutter...things got better.

Our girls classes were early in the day, and their entry numbers were 4 for Empress and 13 for Elstar, which was to prove lucky. Rosemary's hair was looking fantastic today (you'd need to read her blog to understand the context: www.westhill alpacas.blogspot)
Junior Female Whites began the day, and while seven were entered, three did not turn up, and I was chuffed as she took second place, behind the same winner as at the Devon County Show - that's second out of seven in my book!
Judges apprentice Barbara Hetherington assisting judge, Mary-Jo Smith

Soon it was Junior Female Fawns, and Elstar was in a class of five, the judge Mary-Jo Smith, called for the colour chart and concluded she was brown, so off we toddled having had a taste of the ring experience, which set us up for a polished performance to take first in the Junior Female Brown! A big moment, as it was our first first - and she was our second to be born from a dam born on the farm, Bramley, whose sire was CME Centurion, and her own sire was Van Diemen Qjori of Patou - good work boys.
Despite the expression, I am delighted!
We then had the unexpected pleasure of both girls being in the Championship line-up, rubbing shoulders with the best of all colours - no sashes for us, but we feel our breeding plans are now bearing fruit, after steady progress, and a slow-down while we sought additional land to allow growth.
The next task? to shear those fleeces well enough to compete in some fleece shows later in the summer - I'll need to be concentrating when I shear those!

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Devon County Show

As I write this, it has been raining for 4 hours on what should have been the final day of the show - it was cancelled yesterday afternoon as cars needed towing in and out of car parks. Until then, only a few heavy showers had interrupted the alpaca judging for ten minutes at a time, with otherwise bright and breezy conditions. Today should be the Championships, but as I left last night, a decision hadn't been made, whether it could take place.

Our small, but perfectly-formed team had to travel on two days, coloured classes being day one, lights and whites on day two. Following heavy showers through wednesday night, we had two very wet alpacas, but I had taken a calculated decision, that the first of their classes was late enough in the day for them to dry out, rather than confine them to a shelter, and the stress that might have added to them - I hadn't reckoned on the white Empress rolling on the dry earth floor of the shelter with her wet fleece, as we collected them to lead them into the trailer, so she had become a red-brown for the day!

First-up was Apple Vale Elstar, in a class of 10 female fawns she came 6th with her lovely soft fleece, behind progeny of equally notable sires.

On day two in another class of 10, female whites, I was chuffed, as judge Liz Barlow waved Apple Vale Empress into 4th place, mentioning the good density amongst her fleece attributes, in a class filled with progeny from other high-achieving sires.

The cheery demeanour  of judge Liz Barlow helps any event, and she makes the gathered spectators feel included - unfortunately, I don't have any photographs of ours in the ring, but we are very pleased with the results, and with the trailer already cleaned out, looking forward to the Royal Bath & West this week, where we'll be showing the females again, and Joy will be demonstrating felting on the wednesday as part of  Fibre Focus, led byVal Fullerlove.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

First breakfast - and shearing begins.

Bramley and Elstar both sit for the feed bucket.
It's interesting to study cria as they grow up, and see what traits of their mother they pick up - whether it is instinct or visual. Bramley often sits for her mineral supplement, and rolls the bucket over with her neck. Recently, her daughter, Elstar started this, but hasn't bothered eating it... until today that is, when she had her first manufactured feed.
Is she eating, or looking?
Yesterday the South West Alpaca Group held a "chukka" - a social gathering, with lunch, to kick around thoughts, and ideas for alpaca-related activities for the group.

So today, with continuing good weather, we kicked off our shearing season - we didn't set a silly target, so did the two most heavily fleeced (Juniors excepted, as they have two shows coming up).
Apple Vale Freedom discusses with Joy, what garments she would like her fleece made into.
Empress checks who the 'new' member of the herd is.
...still not sure...
Meanwhile, Scrumpy fancied the look of ladies with a new hairstyle, and his testosterone got going and set him strutting up and down the fence line!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

North Somerset Show

Apple Vale Elstar

Eventually, after months of anticipation, our first show of the season arrived on monday, and we set off for The North Somerset Show. It seemed to have been a long time coming, perhaps being absorbed by the weather, or because we were especially pleased about this years show team or because there have already been several shows - anyway, the weather had been settled for several days before, and was forecast to be good on the day, and it certainly was, being dry, breezy and bright, and occasionally warm.

We had a good day: first up was Apple Vale Elstar, Junior Fawn Female - sire: Van Diemen Qjori of Patou, dam: Apple Vale Bramley (sire: CME Centurion). She was placed second in a class of four, all from notable sires.

Next was Golden Delicious, our first cria from a dam born on the farm - we had taken her as company for the others, rather than as a champion-to-be, and was placed second, with Judge Shirley Bettinson praising her, admittedly few, attributes.

Finally, Apple Vale Empress (sire: CME Talon grand-sire: CME Jaqinto) was in the white Junior Female class of nine, again against several progeny of proven sires - placed sixth we weren't too disappointed, as the judges comments and repeated comparisons showed there was little to seperate the placings, and hopefully, on another day, another judge, she will get better placings yet
Apple Vale Empress