Thursday 24 December 2009

Festive Greetings

Steve & Di at Dartmoor llamas wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Peaceful, happy & successful New year to all our friends, followers and customers past & present. We are looking forward to a very busy year in 2010 starting with a half day walk on New Years Eve followed by another one on New Years Day.

Our Grandchildren have just left to go home to bed all excited after having dinner with us. They told us we have to leave a carrot out for Rudolf and a mince pie and beer for Santa, they have some fairy dust which has to be sprinkled outside so the reindeer know where to land and they have got a magic key to leave outside so Santa can get in as they haven't got a chimney. I don't think they will get much sleep tonight.

We have filled all the hayracks late this afternoon so that we can have a little bit of a layin in the morning. All the animals seem to be coping with this icy weather well although they are eating loads of hay and we have upped their ration of concentrate a little. Today they a treat of carrots and brussel sprouts which was much appreciated.

Once Christmas is over we will have the rest of next week to catch up with some training and jobs around the farm, hopefully the weather will have warmed up a bit.

So here's to everyone having a lovely Christmas holiday season and a happy New year.

Best Wishes from Steve & Di

Tuesday 22 December 2009

Two days with Nigella's Christmas cook book

Having spent the last two days making some lovely goodies from Nigella Lawson's Christmas cook book I am hoping to get out today and get some last minute shopping. The roads around here don't get gritted so even though they are open they are hazardous in places. Once out on the main road we are ok.
The llamas and Alpacas are having to have late breakfast as I couldn't get there as early as usual, they don't seem to mind, I think they are just pleased it has stopped raining. They do look so good when they are all dry & fluffy, even Georgina is full of energy.

last night we finally confirmed the order for a lovely new mobile field shelter, this will make us feel better even if the dear little animals don't use it, it is there if they want it. None of our llamas or Alpacas choose to use a shelter unlike Lakeham's Alpacas who run for shelter at the first sign of rain (sensible animals).

Our chickens seem to be coping with the cold weather OK even if some of the older girls have decided to molt, we are still getting a good number of eggs each day, ideal for Nigella's pavlova.

Oh well time to go out and assess the icy yard to see if I can get the car out!.

Merry Christmas to everyone reading this blog and happy and successful 2010

Sunday 20 December 2009

Icy dartmoor

Finally I have time to sit down and write something on this blog, the main reason for not being able to update this being that the rain had stopped and I was able to catch up with all the jobs I had put off during November.

We managed to get the whole herd injected with Lambivac and they all had a ADE injection, which we will repeat again in 6 weeks. I managed to do the llamas and the male alpacas on my own which is a great achievement for me and just proves that constant, consistent handling pays off. I use a small catch pen and halter each animal in turn, tethered them to the post and they all stood still, a little concentrate as a treat and then released back into the field. Feeling pleased with myself we set off for Widecombe to give the females the same treatment. Jazz & Georgina the two llamas were as good as gold and I didn't need to halter them but the alpaca females were a little more stroppy, must have something to do with being pregnant. We have a system, Steve holds them and I do the injections, they are not bad and the younger girls who are halter trained are much better then the older girls.

We have been very busy over the last few weeks with Christmas bazaars, farmers markets and local coffee mornings, selling our yarns, fleeces and UK alpaca socks as well as gift vouchers for our Llama walks. Now these have finished I can get ready for Christmas and guess what everyone is having for pressies? I have a few Alpaca socks left so I am sure that they won't be disappointed.

It is really cold here and our yard was like a sheet of ice this morning, it took us till about 11am to get the car out, luckily the females in Widecombe could be fed up by Mike and Anthea who's land they are on. The Llamas, weanlings and chickens were not quite as lucky as they had to wait until we could get there to feed them, not that they were to bothered they had a good helping of hay last night and the sun was shining and they were all looking fluffy and gorgeous.
We also had to get the holiday cottages ready for the new arrivals this evening, we always leave them a Devonshire cream tea and some eggs as a welcome gift so I needed to get that over there as well. I had put the heating on yesterday so they were lovely and warm for them.

All this and we had to be in Princetown for 1pm for a family lunch. Usually the gritter lorry would have been out and spread salt on the main Princetown - Ashburton road but for some reason today they hadn't, so the journey was a little bit tricky in places. We did pass the gritter lorry on the way but the road was very slippy in places. We all arrived safely and the grandchildren really enjoyed throwing snowballs at us before lunch. We all had a lovely lunch and it was great to catch up with everyone.

I think this cold weather is going to continue for the rest of the week so we may be on for a white Christmas.

Monday 7 December 2009

Christmas bazaar & ADE and the hotel inspector

Saturday saw the annual Christmas Bazaar at our local village hall swing into action, hampers, christmas puds, bowls of seasonal bulbs appeared from nowhere. The ladies who work tirelessly for the hall funds all year really pull out all the stops for the final event of the year. We had left the stall set up from the coffee morning earlier in the week so it only took 30 mins to set out the socks, yarns and hand knits. An enjoyable afternoon followed meeting lots of locals I hadn't seen for ages and making sure that they should be giving socks for Christmas and that they really ought to be Alpaca socks! so we had a very successful day.

Steve decided that going to Tavistock to buy some telegraph poles to use as gate posts would be far better than standing around at the bazaar. Once the rain stops he will get on with putting a fence across the new field to create two paddocks.

Sunday was rumored to be dry in the morning so we thought we would get the whole herd injected with Lambivac and give them all a shot of ADE. I managed to do the llamas on my own by haltering them and tying them to the gate, they were really good and stood still for the duration, this worked well for the alpacas that think they are in the llama trekking team.

We dashed off to Widecombe to do the females, just got set up, rounded the girls up and the heavens opened, oh for a big barn!. the girls were not quite as easy and Steve had to hold them whilst I injected. Great to get the whole herd done in one go, we will give them another shot of ADE in 6 weeks time.

Today I had a llama walk booked for a customer staying in one of our cottages, the forecast was awful but the lovely Met office promised that it would clear out by 12 o clock so we set out at 12 and the rain had eased off. The moor was so wet it is like walking in a stream all the time, we sat down for a lunch of homemade soup and local bread, sheltering behind a rather large gorse bush when the rain came down again but this soon cleared to give blue sky and even a little sunshine. Just as I was coming home the phone rang and it was the Visit Britain inspector. I had got the wrong day written down and she was waiting for me at the cottages. So a rather quick return to let her in, talk about getting caught out, no chance of giving a final check over. anyway she was please with what she saw and we retained our 4* rating. Glad thats over for another year.

Wednesday 2 December 2009

Amazing "Coffee Morning"

Yesterday I had a stall at our local coffee morning which really is an excuse for a social get together, living in a small community in the middle of Dartmoor you can sometimes go days with out seeing anyone. so the monthly coffee morning is a great draw and it is becoming more of a village market, we can buy local meat, jams and chutneys, sometimes fresh veg as well as enjoying a cup of coffee and some homemade cake. As the hall are holding their Christmas bazaar this Saturday it was decided to have the stalls at the coffee morning as well, great! There was a lot of interest in our hand knits, yarns and UK Alpaca socks, we actually sold more things in two hours than we did all day at Widecombe Village Market last week. Amazing!

After lunch I whizzed over to Widecombe to check up on the females in their lovely new field, they are still pleased to see me or rather the bucket of feed but seem less interested in the hay nets. They have much more interesting things to browse on in the hedges and this is obviously more attractive than a bag of hay. I have tried to do a video clip for weeks and this is my first attempt. Just need the sun to come out and I can have another go.

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Fluke & ADE

This morning I have been to give fluke drench and ADE to some animals we sold last year. I wish mine were that easy to treat. Alfie & Iggy just took the drench as if it was milkshake. I had been waiting for the rain to stop long enough for their fleeces to dry out as I wasn't looking forward to grappling with sopping wet animals.
The rest of the morning was spent writing christmas cards for all the holiday cottage customers, this is the first thing I have done towards Christmas and it is only three & half weeks to go.
This afternoon I am setting up the stall for our local coffee morning tomorrow. Christmas is just starting to hit Leusdon, Coffee morning tomorrow, Christmas Bazaar on Saturday then the hall is given over to our local Pantomine group to get ready for their week long production. The Panto is very popular with 6 nights of performance, tickets are sold out as soon as they go on sale.

Just got the post and another request for our Llama Walks gift vouchers, so tonight I will spend a couple of hours making cards to send out as our gift vouchers. I quite enjoy getting out the scissors and glue, if I had time I would quite like to make Christmas cards for the family as well.

Monday 30 November 2009

There's something strange in the sky

Yesterday we had moved the females in Widecombe into a new field and at the same time decided to wean two more Cria, so we brought them back home along with Carla one of our older females (AKA Spitty) She seems to feel the cold more than the others and had been shivering, so she is looking after the youngsters and has the opportunity to use the field shelter.

I woke up this morning with a migraine, such a shame as there was something strange happening on Dartmoor. I think it is called "Sunshine" it is something we haven't seen here for about a month and something else had happened it had stopped raining. I am assured by the Met office that this "Sunshine" will not be here for long as tomorrow the rain shall return.
I quickly took some tablets to get rid of the migraine and went up to the fields to feed up. all the animals were looking happier in the sun, all dried out and looking gorgeous. After they had their food it was time to check over the cria we brought back yesterday and to give them a short training session. I always start halter training as soon as we have weaned them, just a few minutes each day, first I introduce a lead rope and just lay it over their back and say "stand" just doing that two or three times on the first day. Then I put a halter on Titan (the older cria) and Sparky (trained Alpaca) then for a short walk up and down the lane. So much nicer in the sun, Titan has really taken to his halter and seems to enjoy going for a walk, this is only the fourth time he has had the halter on. I have also been training Titan to lift his feet when asked, this makes cutting toe nails so much easier. Hopefully the two little ones will be just as easy to train as Titan has been.

Saturday 28 November 2009

Cold & Wet again!!

Spent the day at Widecombe village market which is held in the ancient Church house owned by the National trust, consequently it has stone floors and no heating, thank goodness for Alpaca socks !. Customers were very few and far between and who can blame them, it was dull, cold & wet more importantly there was rugby on TV. The brave soles that did brave the weather did buy some socks and wool so not a total loss. I got talking to some people interested in keeping Alpacas so they may come back to see some animals once the weather improves, you never know what will come from just being there!.
I then dashed home to get a meal ready for guests which I stupidly arranged to come for dinner this evening. Not that I mind having people around but I like to have time to cook and try new things and I didn't have that today. The meal was a great success and all home grown including the pork which is really satisfying. Any way guests have just left, dishes in the dishwasher, wine to finished off and we are now going to watch the Rugby that we recorded earlier.

Thursday 26 November 2009

Day off!

Why when I have to go to Widecombe Village Market on Saturday and I have to get ready for that did I decide to invite people for Dinner on Saturday night!!! must be mad. So today I am going to prepare as much as possible for the dinner, tidy up the house as well as cleaning the chickens out, feeding up as usual, go to a customer and help give their alpacas a dose of Fluke treatment, and if I get time go to the holiday cottages to get them ready for a booking next week. Friday is my day off!

Yesterday I went into Newton Abbot to pick up the samples of the logos for our Llama Walking coats and fleeces so we should have them next week. The weather has been so wet recently we decided to buy good waterproof clothing, fleeces etc. So the weather should be improving from next Thursday.

Alpacas and Llamas were looking much fluffier yesterday and the youngsters were having a great game running up into the hedge where there is a large chunk of granite for them to leap off, great to watch but there fun will be short lived as we will be wean one of them this weekend, he will join his older chum who has been wean for about a month now and is being halter trained.

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Socks & more socks

Well if you are going to give socks for Christmas they really should be Alpaca socks! Today I went up to Coldharbour Mill to collect an order of socks & yarn from UK Alpaca. We are going to Widecombe Farmers market on Saturday so hopefully there will be lots of people doing their Christmas shopping and they will all want to buy socks. The A38 was horrendous as usual not only road works with 50 mile hour average speed limit but two breakdowns one in each lane, not helpful, at least it had stopped raining for a while.

Had to go into Exeter for a visit to the Apple shop genius bar to sort out a little problem with my website, they are great in there so helpful. I called in to see Lakeham Alpacas on the way home and to leave some socks with them as they are going to have a stall at Winchester School this weekend, so I should think that there will be a lot of people having socks for Christmas up there too.

All the Alpacas & Llamas are looking a little happier today as they have dried out, I nearly got mugged for the bale of hay this morning. Little do they know that if it stays dry tomorrow they will be getting their routine injections!!! Looking at the weather forecast it may not happen.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Wet Alpacas, Wet llamas wet, wet, wet everything


Change of venue for my diary, hopefully this will work better than my last attempt, you can still see what we have been upto in the past on this link

24th November 09

I shouldn't be moaning we are a lot better of then the poor people of Cumbria but I am so fed up with this weather it is either raining , just stopped raining or just about to rain. The animals look sodden, although they seem happy enough and it is surprising how quick they dry out between showers.
I went over to our fields in Widecombe this morning with a bale of hay for the females, I nearly lost most of it just getting to the hayrack the wind was that strong. I am waiting around until they have all finished eating so as to turn over all the buckets and troughs, this hopefully will prevent any badgers getting into the feeding troughs.

Following the meeting of SWAG last Saturday it is becoming more apparent that we need to up our bio security with respect of TB. Not only on farm but with outside breedings and shows. We have had many discussions as to whether we should be showing next year or not. If we don't we lose the opportunity to meet prospective customers, keeping in touch with other breeders apart from enjoying the whole show scene. Obviously if everyone decided not to show it would be really bad for the whole Alpaca industry and that would not be good for any of us.

We have decided that we will probably show next year but the animals that go to shows will be kept completely separate from the rest of the herd, probably on a different farm. Whether we all have to go down the route of testing is a whole other matter and one that will be the source of much discussion over the next few months.

This still leaves the question of outside matings, we have our own males but would have probably sent a couple of our black females out to stud, we will have to think about this over the winter.