Saturday, 27 February 2010

British Futurity

We have just returned from two days at the British Alpaca Futurity held at Stoneleigh in Warwickshire. Great venue and very well laid out taking all the recent bio security issues, at first I thought the atmosphere was a bit subdued but I think this was due to having so much space which is not what we are used too. There was some very nice Alpacas on show and it was great to be able to have a close look at some of the best animals in the country.

We met a lot of people we haven't seen for a while, caught up with the gossip, looked at all the trade stands and drank numerous cups of coffee as well as consuming some very good muffins. The weekend seem to contain lots of muffin moments as we had some very good ones at the services on the way up and on the way back.

We invested in a set of weighing scales from Alpaca & Llama care and had a good look at the poo picker uppers, may be next year we be able to get one of them.

The seminars by Ahmed Tibary were very interesting and informative and I am even more convinced now that our female who scanned with twins will probably no longer be pregnant, I need to get colin in to scan her again as our males are over in Exeter at Lakeham Alpacas for the winter.

On the way home we diverted in Bristol to pay a flying visit to Ikea, we needed a mirror and a few other bits for the newly fitted shower room in one of the holiday cottages, always looking for an excuse to waste a couple of hours wandering around there. I usually manage a quick visit while at the SWAG show in Bristol in the spring, as I have just been I may just have to visit John Lewis at Cribbs Causeway instead, probably a more expensive trip!

I really need to get the Swag entries in while I am thinking about it.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Well we did make the papers!

With eager anticipation we waited for the Western Morning news to come out on Thursday, and we were not disappointed with the picture they had chosen to publish. A lovely shot of Polo and one of our customers, unfortunately they decided to disregard the information we gave to the photographer and the write up suggested that the picture was of me. Some of the write up was a bit mixed up but we come to expect that when a journalist asks for information about a subject, try to keep it simple and they still get it wrong. Anyway the upshot of it is that everyone thinks Steve has a new women!

Enough of that, today dawned with a dusting of snow which had laid on wet roads and had frozen. We were in Widecombe house sitting so that caused a bit of a problem, Steve had to get to work (only a month to go) so he feed the animals in Poundsgate and I was on site in Widecombe to feed the girls over there. I then took the dogs out for a walk, the moor looks lovely with the snow and the sun came out.

I was supposed to go to the apple shop this afternoon but have canceled that so I will go down to the cottages later and strip out the beds after the guests have left. We are removing the bath and installing a shower in one of the cottages next week so I shall get prepared for that. Hoping the snow won't last long I have had enough of it now and we haven't had as much as some people up north.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Pictures in the paper (hopefully)

I am well and truly back into the round of feed, muck and phone calls. The phone has been red hot with cottage bookings. I have done two llama walks this week and had potential customers for Alpacas, all this points to a very busy year and even more encouraging as Steve is giving up his job.

Yesterday when out on our walk, a car screeched to a halt and the guy wound down the window and asked if he could take our picture. this is something that happens quite a lot as most people do not expect to come across a team of llamas walking on Dartmoor!. Turns out the guy is from the Western Morning News, apparently he had been sent out to photograph some snow, (not sure where he was going to find that!) but he thought Llamas would be just as good. So my customers and I, two llamas and an Alpaca spent 20 mins or so posing for the camera with different views behind us, good job my customers thought it was fun!. This was followed up with a call from a reporter this morning for more details and hopefully it will be in the paper tomorrow, just hope they get their facts right.
Today we had a visit from some would be Alpaca owners, unfortunately it was raining all day and my lovely little weanlings were very soggy. I had put them in but they managed to stand just where they could be in the rain. Hopefully this will not put them off and the little angels behave impeccably when we walked them up the lane on their halters.
All in all a very good day, tomorrow we are going to try out house sitting for the first time and we get to look after two really great dogs, I am really looking forward to taking them on some long walks over the week end.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Great skiing now back to reality

Well I had a great time skiing in Italy the snow was great, blue skies except for one day when it snowed, lots of very nice red wine, food wasn't that good in the hotel but you can't have everything. The temperature didn't get above -3 all week so the conditions stayed good and it wasn't very crowded which is good with my skiing not so many people to avoid!
So now it is back to reality, Steve has been working flat out with his job and taking bookings for the cottages, llama walks etc so he didn't have much time for housework etc. I have just worked my way through the post, answered all the e.mails and phone messages which Steve felt I would be better at and I am now feeling very pleased with myself as I have finished the list.

It was good to see all the animals after a week, they all seemed keen to see me this morning or maybe it was the food buckets that they were interested in. I must say they all look very healthy, cute and cuddly in this dry cold weather. I need to start planning pasture rotations especially for the pregnant female group, our first cria is due end of March an I would really like to have them in our home paddock in plenty of time, they may even get to use the new field shelter.
This morning I got the holiday cottage ready for some guests, made some scones for their cream tea and for the llama walk booked for tomorrow, I hope it stays dry.

While I was away Steve decided to hand in his notice at work, it is something we had been discussing for a while and I am really please as it will give him more time to work with the animals as well as going back to being self employed hopefully for two or three days a week. I know what it is like myself to work for someone who makes your life a misery and it is not good! Steve's boss certainly makes his life a misery, it is very depressing to know that what ever you do it will be wrong and the list of jobs you are expected to do in the time allowed means that you are definitely going to fail. I am not sure I could have put up with it as long as he has, I would rather be broke and have a better lifestyle than have money and be miserable. At the very least he will be able to come to shows with me this year. Can't wait until his last day at the end of March.
While I was away we had a couple of enquiries about Alpacas which is really encouraging and will certainly help with the finances if they come through. So I thought I better add some of the young boys to our listing on Alpaca seller, just need to get some good pictures.
Then perhaps I can start planning next years Ski trip!

Friday, 5 February 2010

New car now back in garage

Unfortunately the new car has had to go back to the garage, we happened to have to take a trip to Plymouth last night so this was the first time we had drive the car on the main road. It soon became apparent that all was not well, a loud humming/knocking noise whilst driving indicated a wheel bearing problem. so today in between taking Steve's mum to town, doing a change over in the cottage as I had taken a last minute booking, feeding the animals and generally getting ready to go SKIING tomorrow I needed to get the car into Newton Abbot. It always amazes me that if I write down all the things I need to do and tick each one off as it is completed I can get everything done much more efficiently. It seems that if I don't write it down I get side tracked and end up not doing much at all.
Anyway got the car into the garage, they announce that it needs to stay there to be repaired which left me stuck in Newton Abbot, a good chance to get the last minute shopping (sunglasses). I finally got a lift back home from my daughter and the Grandchildren in exchange for a roast dinner.
So all packed now, couple of good books, even packed my knitting, I was warned that knitting socks was addictive.
Probably last blog for a week due to the fact I skiing, drinking lots of wine, eating loads of pasta and hopefully sitting in the sun knitting socks!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

New Car now has hay in it.

Firstly I thought you may like this pic of Georgina helping herself to breakfast! Obviously I am not quick enough.

Well I managed to keep the new car clean for three days ut tonight I had to put a bale of hay in the boot. I have a liner in there but hay gets everywhere, we keep our hay in the store but need to transport it over to Widecombe or just up to the top paddocks which usually involves my car.

The llama walk went well yesterday despite Dartmoor drizzle, just two girls who were zoo keepers so lots of interesting conversation. One of the girls was on an exchange work placement from Toronto. we took Polo, Blackjack and little a Alpaca 'Sparky', this was one of the few occasions that we have left the old lead llama "Lenny" at home he has a little bit of arthritis so limps sometimes. We need to get the rest of the team used to going out for a trek without Lenny so that we can semi retire him. Polo takes a pack and can now carry some weight, Blackjack is coming along well now with his pack training, he has had the full pack on and we managed to get one strap done up, a great improvement as he was being very stropy about the whole thing. A little bit of training every few days seems to work with him so fingers crossed we will get him trained and carrying some weight before the summer. Lenny will then be able to just come out for a walk and not have to carry lunch!.

I am busy tonight cooking all sorts of things to leave for Steve's dinners next week while I am away, so far we have Gooseberry crumble, Blackberry & Apple sponge, Chicken casserole and almond buns, but it is all worth it to get a weeks skiing, I have been looking at the webcam each day just to check what the snows like, it's been snowing all week and more expected on Friday so hopefully it will be great snow and the weather will clear up from Saturday. Need to start packing next!

It's a bit like a military operation organizing , Alpacas, Llamas, holiday cottages etc but we have loads of friends who all willingly help out usually feeding Steve as well although he never tells me that until I get back and see all the food I prepared still in the freezer.

Anyway back to the cooking!

Monday, 1 February 2010

Lots of things have been happening!

Sorry for the delay in updating, my only excuse is that there was a strange thing in the sky for a few days last week which I think they call the sun. Anyway this strange situation enabled us to get loads of outstanding jobs done. Starting with the tale of the mobile field shelter that didn't arrive when expected, it finally turned up two days late and is fantastic, very well built by a couple of Polish guys who couldn't have been any more efficient and polite. They had to stay over night in one of the cottages as they didn't arrive on site until 2pm and were still working when it got dark.

We then spent the following weekend looking for a replacement car for me, another Citroen Picasso as the old one had been so reliable and is so versatile, ours gets used as a van most of the time, I have even had a sofa in the back and still managed to get the boot shut, great for kids who move house frequently!

I even got some of the veg plot dug over and loads of Alpaca poo dug in ready for warmer weather, I still have lots of leeks and parsnips in the ground.

Towards the end of last week I had the opportunity to witness a Btb test on some Alpacas, this was a voluntary test before they go to the futurity show. I must admit it was a bit traumatic, there was a Defra vet present as well as the vet doing the test. the injections needed to go into the skin in the shoulder joint which involved getting the animals on the ground, injection on both sides and measurements taken. I understand this is because the skin is thinner there and this is where Defra want it done. Anyway both Vets returned today to check this time managing to check most of them without getting them down. They are all clear, which must be a great relief for the owner.

The whole thing did make me think though, surely if Defra want us to do voluntary tests on our herds it needs to be made to be as quick and efficient as possible, there was four of us to do this test, three to get the animals down and do the test and one to do the writing, getting animals onto the ground to do the test seems to be an un-necessary stress on the animals especially if it is pregnant females. Surely a small shaved area of skin could be used in a position which allowed the animal to stand would make the whole process less stressful and more efficient. The other thing is the cost of each test is this going to put people of showing if you need a test for each show? I am not sure I would want to put my animals or myself through this several times a show season. I am sure I am not the only one with these thoughts, I really enjoy showing and meeting everyone while there, it is not something I would give up lightly.

We have put a lovely new Alpaca coat on one of our older females who feels the cold as the weather has returned to cold and frosty, Georgina the llama also has got her foal coat back on and has retired to the field shelter with several bags of hay while it is so cold.

Anyway on a different note I got the new car today all bright and shiny and smelling new, I am sure it won't stay like that for long but I will enjoy it for a few days anyway. Steve will have use of it tomorrow as I have a llama walk booked so will be out on Dartmoor with some of our llamas, hopefully it won't rain to much.