Thursday 21 January 2010

The field shelter that didn't arrive

We had been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the new field shelter, It was scheduled to arrive yesterday and we had thought it may be delayed due to the weather over the last few weeks. We were assured that it was going to arrive, so Steve took a day off work and went up to the field with my mobile phone to await the call to say they were 30 mins away form the site. Well he waited and waited, phoned up and finally about lunch time they phoned to say they had broken down. I do wonder why it took so long for them to decide they wouldn't get here as they should have arrived about 10am so at what point did they break down. I do get mad when people let you down especially if you have taken time off to wait for them, Steve wasted half a day just waiting around, couldn't do anything else as the mobile signal is very patchy around here and he would have missed the call when it finally arrived. So hopefully our lovely new shelter will arrive on Friday, we will wait and see.
Today Dartmoor is shrouded in grey mist and it looks like we are in for some rain, I am off to Exeter to take an elderly neighbour to an hospital appointment and go to the Apple shop to work on our Alpaca website which is looking good and should be ready to launch next week. I might find time to do some shopping for my Ski holiday which is only 15 days away now, might even need some sun cream, just heard another friend is coming, she managed to book the same flight and hotel, can't wait.

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Gardening & Weanlings

I finally managed to get a whole days gardening today, I am sure my customers had thought I had emigrated or something. I think it was mid December that I last did a full day in the garden, mine my muscles will be stiff tonight. Once finished I met up with Steve at our fields and got the three weanlings in for a check over, Titan the oldest looks huge with all his fleece but once you get your hands on him we found he was very thin. I always worry about weaning the little ones at this time of year, he seems to be feeding well so we will keep an eye on him, do some poo samples to see if he has a worm burden, in the meantime he has had a dose of Fasinex in case of fluke and a dose of ADE. Not sure what else we can do apart from keeping a check on him.
had an e.mail about the Futurity today to say they had reduced the entry fee for animals who's sires had not been nominated, a good gesture I think,but I am not really sure why you would want to enter anyway if the sire is not nominated as it is the herd sire with the placed progeny who wins. Apart from the experience of showing there seems little point, so I think we will wait until the Spring Show in April especially as little Titan is underweight. We will still attend the futurity as it is a good show and I don't need an excuse to spend a whole weekend with other Alpaca people.
I am sure Steve will be ready for a weekend away as he is not coming skiing with me so will be in sole charge of Alpacas, Llamas, Chickens, Holiday Cottages as well as a full time job. He's a star.

Saturday 16 January 2010

Yesterday we had a thaw in the weather and for the first time in nearly a month we had no ice at all. I had to feed up sharpish this morning as I was off the Exeter to have an hours, one to one session with one of their experts. This time it was Data bases etc as I have just set up herd records instead of having Paper records. We covered this in plenty of time to have a go at editing some Video we had taken, so I should be able to put together some video clips which I can publish on here once finished.

As the snow has now all gone it is time to get away to where they really know what to do with the white stuff, they provide lifts to take you back up to the top of the mountain, restaurants with fantastic views where you can sit and admire the white stuff whilst drinking Vin chaud which vastly improves the skiing afterwards. So 3 weeks today I am off for a weeks skiing with a old friend and one of my daughters, I will probably mention this several times before them for which I am not going to apologies.

Now the weather is warmer we have put the llamas back into their field, Georgina has had her foal coat taken off to be cleaned & aired so as to be ready for the next period of cold weather. The weanlings went back out this morning and were really happy to see some grass. I hope it stays mild for a while so we can all get over the last month,I feel really sorry for everyone in the North of the country who are probably still covered in the white stuff, hope it goes soon.

Thursday 14 January 2010

Icy, Icy, Icy

We still covered in snow and this morning it is very icy on the roads due to the thaw yesterday. I was hoping to go to a meeting in Honiton this morning but have got out to feed the animals yet so will have to miss the meeting.
Not much happening here apart from the daily routine of feeding it is much easier now all the animals are inside. The female alpacas are still not happy at coming in each evening, they would be much rather stay out, but they are knee deep in snow and I feel better if they at least have a dry place to settle down for the night. So we have a routine, I rope of the route to the stable, then I take the reel of tape and walk round the herd playing out the tape at this point Demeter the oldest Alpaca runs off to the furthest point in the field so I have to follow her, once I have got around the back of all of them I can drive them towards the gate at which point they decide maybe the stable would be a better option and run straight in, leaving me to wind up the tape from the whole length of the field, I can then shut the stable door and say goodnight to them, take down the rope from across the yard and go home only to repeat the proccess the next day. Funny they don't need encouraging to go back to the field in the morning, just open the stable door and the gate and off they go.
Georgina & Jazz seem to be coping with the cold Ok, I built some defences around the field shelter to stop the snow blowing in. Pieces of corrigated metel tied onto the hurdles and put in an L shape around the entrance stopped the snow drifting into the shelter. Georgina has her foal coat on which seems to be keeping her warm , she doesn't have as much fleeces as Jazz.
As I can't go to the meeting I might do some halter training with the weanings as they are in the barn already.

That's when I can get out.

Tuesday 12 January 2010

Alpacas are tough on Dartmoor

When I thought I had got it sussed with getting the female alpacas in for the night they decided that it wasn't that cold last night so they really didn't need to be in. No amount of calling or tempting with a feed bucket was going to persuade them that the barn was a better option. So out with the tape reel and a walk around the back of them with the tape to drive them though the gate. I find the reel of tape really useful as I can hook the reel to the gate and just walk around the herd and drive them in, I can usually manage to get the whole herd in on my own this way. Once through the gate they knew they had no choice. The weather forecast was really bad for today but seems to have changed now but I think I will leave them in today.

I was looking at my gardening work calender and realized that I hadn't done any proper gardening since the beginning of November, it was so wet before Christmas then we had the freezing weather and now snow. It is a good thing we had some very successful farmers markets in the run up to Christmas and I have sold quite a few Llama walking gift vouchers. So I will be very pleased when I can get back out to work as all the autumn work still needs to be done.

Sunday 10 January 2010

Sensible alpacas

The alpacas in Widecombe have soon realized that it is better in the barn at night than in the field. There was no repeat of the shenanigans of last night in fact Demeter was one of the first to the field gate this evening.

The llamas are happy in their barn and are eating vast amounts of hay, the weanings are in their barn and sitting as near to the gate as possible so they were covered in nearly as much snow as if they had be outside, I am sure they will get the hang of it soon. Carla one of our oldest female alpacas is sporting a very large dog coat as she was suffering from the cold a little and Georgina a female llama is modeling a lovely well padded foal coat for extra warmth. The weather seems set to continue for a while yet so I think they will all be in at night until it warms up.

We went out today to deliver
the Grandchildren back to Teignmouth and came back over Haytor, you should have seen it up there it was like a where's wally picture of a ski resort, I wish I had got the camera. The police had put cones along the road to stop parking, these had been move to make room to park their cars, there was kids on sledges hurtling down the slopes on about half an inch of ice, cars stuck on the verge, traffic at grid lock. When we finally got past that lot and the gritted road came to an end we got to follow or meet the 4x4 drivers who think because they have the vehicle to negotiate these sort of conditions they really need to prove that they have the ability drive on them, mostly they haven't. Of course we can not forget the drivers who think that just because they haven't got a 4x4 they should really try to drive down Ponsworthy hill with their two wheel drive people carrier with the brakes full on. Exciting to watch as long as you give them plenty of space to clear the bottom of the hill
before you try following them. It was OK though because they stopped to get a carrier bag of grit from the grit box at ht top of the next hill, I am sure that will have really helped.

Got back to two possible bookings for the holiday cottages so someone must think this weather is going to get better.

Hope you like the blog Ricki please do try to keep up.

Saturday 9 January 2010

Alpacas & Llamas all in last night

We decided yesterday to bring all the animals in at night until the weather improves. We have a forecast of bitterly cold easterly wind and although most of the llamas were ok some of the alpacas and Georgina were shivering. We are trying out a foal coat on Georgina which seems to work OK. We do not have barns of our own so with the good will of our neighbours we have access to some buildings. So they are all in tucked up with loads of straw for bedding, hay racks full and plenty of water, we are hoping to let them all out for a while today as our animals are not used to being inside all the time.
Getting the female alpacas in was quite a difficult experience, they are over in Widecombe so I went over in the morning fed them and prepared an old stable , which involved clearing away all the clutter accumulated over the last summer, putting up a hay rack, bedding up and finding the water trough. Late afternoon we went over to get the girls in, all went well until the old girl Demeter decided that the stable was not a good option and escaped from the herd and headed up the drive. She then leaped over the cattle grid and was now heading for the road. followed by my daughter with a feed bucket, me with a rope and Steve in the discovery. Demeter by now had reached the road and was heading for open moorland, luckily she took the next left hand turn into a neighbouring driveway but over another cattle grid. We managed to herd her back to where she was meant to be this time using the gates at the side of the grids. Now how to get her into the stable with out letting the rest back out. With three of us blocking the exits the door of the stable was opened a little and she calmly walked in.

Demeter has always been cautious of anything different but this is the best yet, hope it isn't like this tonight, not sure we can cope with the excitement. Thankfully she didn't reach the open moor as I am not sure how we would have got her back. It's snowing again now so getting to the fields is going to be an experience.

Wednesday 6 January 2010

The winter weather has arrived in the South West

We have had the cold and the ice, but up to now we have escaped the snow until today. It isn't that bad to be honest. we managed to get the trusty Discovery out of the yard at 7.30am this morning and were the first vehicle to go down Ponsworthy Hill, Steve dropped me up at the fields before going on to work. We are lucky that Steve actually works for one of our neighbours as Estate Manager so he can walk to work if needed.
We have a booking for the holiday cottages coming tomorrow ( if they can get here) so I first went in there to get that ready, just need to put the Cream Tea, eggs & milk in tomorrow.
Then up to feed the Llamas and weanings. It is bitter cold in the wind but the little boys were tucked under the hedge and all looking happy with life, with a covering of snow on their backs. I am so glad we didn't have any of them shorn last summer, something we considered as we are hoping to show a couple of them this year. I do wonder how cria which have been shorn are coping with this cold weather, I suppose it is OK if you have the facilities to bring them in during the worst weather but if not, well I don't know I am sure there are many different views on that subject.
The boys Llamas all seem to be coping OK they are in a really sheltered paddock with lovely large overhanging hedges to shelter from the wind, they have a full hay rack and are on double rations during this snowy weather. Jazz and Georgina are tucked up in the field shelter with some hay nets which they seem to sit next to constantly munching.
It does amaze me in this country that a few inches of snow can bring the entire place to a standstill. It was forecasted so why is it such a surprise when it arrives, for some reason they have not gritted the main road over the moor which has always been gritted in the past. At the risk of sounding old now I can remember living in Princetown as a teenager and having several feet of snow and at the most the road was closed for a couple of days, everyone helped clear roads and paths, people don't seem to want to do anything for themselves these days.
We live on a hill, to get to our stock we have to dig ourselves out of our yard, take a shovel out to the road and clear as much as possible then throw grit on it, if we waited for the council to do it our animals would stave.

I have just turned the TV on and the BBC have put on a special News Bulletin just about a few inches of snow, I am sure in other countries they would just be getting on with it.
Any way enough of my ranting I am going to make a curry for dinner. Before I go I thought I would just pass on something my Grandson Charlie aged 4 said this morning after being told that his school was closed because the teachers couldn't get there, he said "well them can come here then" hew was really upset he couldn't go back to school today.

Sunday 3 January 2010

Happy New Year

Well Christmas is over for another year, we had the usual bugs that go around at this time of the year but we are all better now. It is cold and icy on Dartmoor and although it looks beautiful in the sunshine the ground is like iron. I really feel for the people who have had all the snow and are having to go out to feed up their stock. Our animals are eating loads of hay and we have upped their dry feed as well with Alfalfa. The female herd over in Widecombe all look great all dry and fluffy, they still have the hedgerows to pick at but the grass is frozen solid. The llamas and the young male alpacas have moved down to the bottom field which gives them much more shelter and the female llamas Jazz & Georgina have moved into the yard with the field shelter, they are getting on a bit and really appreciate having the use of the shelter at night, during the day they get the run of an area which isn't normally grazed around our shed and the chicken run. They seem to be OK but we have taken to giving them two feeds a day as they were losing a bit of condition.

We went on a llama walk on New years Eve which was really good, cold but very enjoyable, we took a route from our fields and out on to a Dr Blackall's Drive and down to New Bridge car park where we had left the trailer in position to bring us back. It work really well being able to do a one way trek means we can cover different areas of the moor.

We were going to do another walk on New Years Day but it was very cold and really not suitable for young children so we have put that one off till better weather.

It's back to work tomorrow something that Steve is not looking froward too, If this weather continues at least I will be able to finish the decorating in the holiday cottages ready for the summer season.

We really should start planning what we are going to do this year with shows, breeding,s and sales. We have to decide if we are going to show at the Futurity or just go and watch, I may be very thick but I couldn't find the nominated sires on the website so I don't know which alpacas I could enter, I will have to study it again later. On breedings, our first cria is due at the end of March and we have a couple of maidens which can be breed in the spring so we need to decide if we will use our studs or go out for breeding with these. We do need to sell some females this year as we are short of space, but how do you decide which ones to sell, maybe I am to sentimental but they all have their own personalities. It is very difficult!. We will also have some very well train young males for sale as we are using them to go out with the llamas for walks on the moor, all this helps with handling as they are so used to being haltered, feet checked etc.

Any way better get the dinner on or I will be in trouble.