Friday 30 April 2010

Having a great day!

I have had a great day today, firstly I got to feed all the animals this morning, Steve has been doing them most mornings now he has got to get to work until 9ish now. This morning he was off doing a little job with the mini digger before we loaded up some of the girls to take them up to Lakeham Alpacas for breeding/ spit off's. Our Stud males have been at Lakeham all winter and last week Mike and Liz brought them down to us for our first breedings of the year. Our turn to drive this time, so we loaded Phoebe and her cria into the trailer, she is really easy to handle and just walked into the trailer with her cria. Next off to widecombe to pick up Demeter and Cassini, not so easy as Demeter is a wily old girl and is not easy to get out of the field, but once out she loads easily. Last week Demeter sat but the other two were not having anything to do with Golden Nugget.

This week no such problem, first Cassini with Nugget, the Demeter with Caliban this was a definite spit off, Demeter is always reliable, she is an older female imported in 1996, always produces lovely big strong cria. Finally Phoebe in with Nugget after he had had a good long rest while we had lunch and a cup of tea and plenty of alpaca chat with Mike & Liz. Phoebe seemed a little reluctant to start with even spitting at Nugget but then sat, ............well a girl can't be seen to be too easy can she!
We dropped all the girls including little Mica back in Widecombe which has now become our work in progress fields, anything that has been anywhere of our farm is now in Widecombe so as not to mix with the rest of the herd.
Tonight we had some really good news just to finish the day off, but more of that later.

Steve has gone to get a takeaway and I am supposed to be doing the ironing for the cottages but thought I would update the blog instead.

Thursday 29 April 2010

A Bridge and a Tape measure

In the village we live in we have a small bridge over the West Webburn River it has a 7ft 6in restriction on it and over the years we have witnessed all sorts of vehicles trying to get over the bridge. Since the introduction of Sat Nav it has got worse as now drivers don't read the signs. We have had 56 seater coaches coming through and getting stuck, lorries, white van man who usually tries to get across and actually getting stuck. Even a fire engine which was to wide to get over but yesterday on my way home from the fields I came across the strangest sight! I came down the hill towards the bridge to find a large Mercedes estate car stopped in the road in front of the bridge, I stopped as often holiday makers like to take pictures of their car driving over the little bridge. I was amazed to see a gentleman with a tape measure actually measuring the width of the bridge before deciding if his car would fit! Perhaps lorry drivers should be issued with a tape measure as well as their Sat Navs !
Today we should be going on a llama walk but the forecast is not good and looking out of the window it is clouding up so they might be right. Such a shame for the customers the weather has been so great for weeks.
Never mind I am sure we can find lots of indoor jobs to do, ..........account, housework, ironing, hope it doesn't rain for to long!

Wednesday 28 April 2010

Some days............

You know some days you really think that something is working against you! I have had two enquiries for Llama walks both on days when we aren't available to do them, one is Devon county show time and the other on a day we have arranged to do some breedings. then I get home and listen to the answer machine and there was two enquires for holiday cottages and guess what!......we're fully booked for the dates they wanted.............which is good but frustrating.
Then I look at the weather forecast for tomorrow and it gives some rain, which we really need but we have a Llama walk booked's been dry for at least 18 days why couldn't it wait just one more! We had a spectacular walk planned but it needs to be a really good day, clear and not windy as it it very exposed, not much chance to shelter from the rain. So we need a plan B...............and possibly C.

I was watching the late pregnant Alpacas this afternoon and Marietta who is due in early June is already huge, she is a very compact girl anyway but now she is almost as wide as she is tall.
Last years cria arrived right on 11.5 months.....thats a good seven weeks away. all of the girls are spending a lot of time sitting down chewing the cud...........but then what else is there to do in this lovely weather..............Not a bad life!

Sunday 25 April 2010

Breeding etc

We have sort of slotted in to a routine now of Steve working about 3 days a week and spending more time with the animals, if we can manage on this it will be great. We have got so much done around the farm in the last few weeks, the new dividing fence in the holiday cottage field is up just got to hang the gates now.
We collected the new Chicken house and have now moved the hens over, very interesting last night as we went up to the field as it was getting dark to check that they had all gone into roost. The three new hens were all tucked up in bed but our old hens were all looking longingly at the old house, so we had to catch each one and put them in the new shed, not easy when it is now dark and they can run under the house. Eventually we got them all in so hopefully tonight they will know where to go.

I now have to go and do some ironing as I have just taken a call from some one who wants a cottage for a few nights and I have to make up the beds, so I may be back later.

Wednesday 21 April 2010

I hate to say this but we need some rain

I really do hate to say it but we really could do with some rain, it has been lovely and sunny here on Dartmoor for a few weeks now and our grass is still not really growing. We were out on the moor on Monday for a llama walk and the grass up there is still very dry and brown, even our field which we reseeded last autumn is starting to look very dry and yellow, not good it should be romping away at this time of the year. We spread some fertilizer on it this evening hoping that this will help get it going. i just wish we could arrange for a little rain to fall after about 9pm and finish about 6am so it can dry up before I need to get out for work.

Last September we ordered some Gloucester old spot weaners which were due to arrive early spring but alas we have heard nothing from the breeder and I have not received any replies to my e.mails, so I am now assuming that they will not be arriving. So after several phone calls and e.mails I have now managed to secure 3 Berkshire weaners which will be ready at the end of May. We have had pigs in the past and we really enjoyed having them, they are so intelligent and I can see how you could get attached to them, I thought I may have problems when it came to eating them but our local abattoir did a very good job in sending them back looking like they had come from a supermarket - vac packed and labeled. We did sell some of the meat to cover the costs and we had some very good comments about the quality and flavour of the meat. So we are really looking forward to having pigs again - they don't get names though!

We have been giving our Alpaca breeding program some thought over the past week and I think we have decided on which males are going over which females ... but this may change as we see this years cria on the ground, these will be the first cria from our herd sires - Golden Nugget and Caliban, really looking forward to June when the first girls are due. We are bringing the males down from Lakeham Alpacas where they have been for the winter on Friday to start matings on some of the females which have been empty over the winter, this should give us some early April births next year.

Monday 19 April 2010

The day after the weekend before

Well back down to earth after the SWAG show. We had dropped the show animals off in a temporary paddock last night so this morning we went over to Widecombe and caught them all up. As it was such a lovely day we halter them and took some pics with their ribbons on.

Not a bad bunch really.

Following the photo shot we moved them to their permanent paddock well away from the rest of the herd where they will stay until they go to Devon County show in about a month. I think Titan may need some intensive ring craft training before then as he was still playing up today as in this pic!

The rest of the day has really been a bit of a relaxed affair, part of our new lifestyle, we came home had a coffee before preparing a cream tea for a llama walk this afternoon. I packed up a picnic lunch as well which we took up to the field to have before we loaded up the llamas. I knew those deck chairs we brought at the weekend would come in handy!......

The decision as to which boys to take on the walk, now how to go about that! Today we just opened the gate from their new field and the first three through get to go on the walk, on this occasion it was Polo, Blackjack and Sparky the Alpaca. The others will have to learn to be quicker next time. We had a lovely walk for a couple of hours over the moors, sat and eat a cream tea and then came home again, not bad and we get paid for that.......

We now have two broody Bantams one sitting under the shed on about a dozen eggs half of which we have exchanged for hens eggs so it will be interesting to see what hatches out. The other one is just starting to sit in one of the nest boxes in the hen house and she has about four eggs at the moment, so I am going to see if I can get some hatching eggs to put under her, I quite fancy some Araucanas for the blue eggs, so thats the next job for tonight.

Sunday 18 April 2010

Swag show, amazing weekend

Well we have just arrived back from the SWAG show and what a show it was. Firstly the weather was great, sunny and warm which was a welcome change after two years being frozen to the core at the Bristol venue.

Much to our amazement Midnight our intermediate black female took the champion black female ribbon, the pictures are of me having a little pep talk to Midnight as we waiting to go in the ring and of us in the ring with a bright orange championship sash.

We only had one animal to show on Saturday so most of the day was spent catching up with friends old and new, it was good to meet Applevale Alpacas who were having their first go at showing their Alpacas and we hope they enjoyed the experience.

Today we had the boys, Titan, Atlas and Calypso, Titan was up first so I had the same little pep talk with him before we went into the ring. He is usually a little angel, walks well and doesn't mind being handled, he obviously forgot all about that today. He walk into the ring like a proper little star but then decided to throw himself around, stand on his back legs and generally be a pain in the neck. He stood reasonably still while the judge inspected him and then continued in the same vain. Again I was amazed when we were awarded a third place
rosette. Next it was Atlas's turn followed by Calypso in the very next class, these two had to have a joint pep talk and I think Atlas took it on board especially the bit about behavior in the ring as he walked into the ring very proudly and stood still in what ever position he was placed
and when he was inspected by the judge. He was awarded a fifth place in a very large class of junior fawns, so I was really please with this result. A quick swap of animals and it was Calypso's turn, he is always well behaved in the ring and even though I think he is gorgeous he wasn't placed this time but there was some very impressive boys in that class.

All in all a good weekend 3 out of the 4 animals we took to the show won rosettes not bad when we only have a few animals to choose from and really satisfying to see the results of our breeding program producing prize winning Alpacas.

Can't wait until Devon County show next month.

Friday 16 April 2010

What a morning

Well it has been a bit of a hectic morning, starting with worming the llamas and Alpacas in the home paddocks and moving them to new paddocks. Worming alpacas is no problem but with the llamas they are a little bit bigger and stronger and if they don't want to stand still they won't, anyway all done and not to much coughing up the drench. It always worries me when they stat coughing, not much you can do to help them is there.

Next a neighbour call round to collect some wood chippings for their garden, we had loads as we had taken some trees down last year and chipped up the branches, stored them in Dump bags so they were already to be used as mulch.

Then get the feeding instructions for the animal sitter while we are away. Catch the animals that are going to the show, check them over and try to remove as much debris as possible before they go in a trail with straw and get covered with that!

Then home to tidy up which is what I am supposed to be doing now, before going back to the Holiday Cottages to do a change over ready for guests arriving tomorrow, Steve is going to Widecombe to feed the girls over there.

Finally we will have some lunch before setting off to the SWAG show in Bristol. If any of you guys are there, we will no doubt see you and good luck.

Monday 12 April 2010

Lovely fluffy Alpacas and Glorious weather

Well it has been a few days since I managed to write anything on this blog, as the weather has been so good we have been busy around the fields and holiday cottages. Getting in later in the evenings as it is lighter later now, by the time I have got dinner I usually fall asleep on the sofa as soon as I sit down.

Saturday we had to go to Derriford Hospital for Steve to have a CT scan on his hip which ironically does not seem to be hurting as much now, so hopefully it will be OK. While we were in Plymouth we brought some climbing plants to grow along the balconies of the cottages, some honeysuckle for the scent and a Clematis Montana for some early flowers.

We spent the rest of the weekend tidying up around the fields, moving the chicken houses and runs onto fresh grass and even cutting the grass around the holiday cottages. As we seem to spend most of our time down there we moved all our garden furniture from home to the patio in the cottage garden, it will get more use down there. We also took some of our large glazed flower pots down and replanted them with spring flowers, so it all looks very smart and well kept now just in time for our new holiday makers this week.

All the llamas and Alpacas are looking good, all fluffy and cuddly spending their days sunbathing and generally enjoying the sunshine. Mica our little cria is doing well and today refused to take anything from the bottle and her little tummy was feeling quite full so maybe her mum has finally started to produce enough milk to keep her happy.

Today Steve started the new fence, he has put in the gate hanging post which is huge, he has assured me that he is going to cut the top off it to bring it down to size. We got some old telegraph poles which make great gate posts and strainers but they are heavy. We are splitting out two acre field in half with a twelve foot gate at one end so we can get the big tractor through for hedge trimming etc, the other end will have a six foot gate which will give us pedestrian access. We have the new field shelter in the top half of this field so I think it will be kept as a birthing paddock, we are hoping to put a web camera on the shelter so we can look at the girls from home and check they are OK, this will be very helpful and less intrusive for the girls.

We are off to the SWAG show on Friday so I have been watching the weather forecast to see if this dry weather is going to last until the weekend so I don't have to put the show animals inside to keep them dry. Midnight has had her refresher course on halter training and has been doing really well so has now decided that she no longer needs to go for a walk each morning, she won't come in to the catch pen to feed in the mornings but sort of teases me by nearly coming in then running off just as you think you have got her. I will use the indian rope trick tomorrow and get her into the catch pen for a final training session.

Wednesday 7 April 2010

Is it possible to have a Blonde Alpaca

No seriously I think I have a Alpaca of little brain, nice to look at but a bit short in the brains department. Midnight an intermediate black female who we have entered into the SWAG show has been practicing her halter training and getting on very well I must say.... but this afternoon I went down to the field to check on the cria 'Mica' , Steve had been down earlier and placed the fence posts and gates etc in the filed in position ready to start the new fence. Phoebe, Mica Carla and Midnight started to run up the field to meet me think there must be some food on the end of it... suddenly Midnight screeched to a halt and stood looking at the line of posts... there was no way she was going to cross that line, she walked one way then the other and then decided she wasn't that hungry, she would stay where she was...! Do we really need a new fence? How much easier it would be if we just had to lay down some posts..... see Alpacas really don't challenge fences! I think she will just carry on looking pretty!

Ou new life seems to be going well at the moment, Steve has started being self employed, not having to work for the P....t he was working for is such a relief. We haven't advertised that he is available for work as yet but already have work coming in, I just need to make sure he doesn't take on to much at once. Already he has done some of the jobs that have needed doing around the farm like clearing our the deep litter in the shelter and getting up the hay from around feeders etc. I am feeling much happier about it now so hopefully it will be OK.

Saturday 3 April 2010

New Website is nearly there (I think)

One good thing about not being allowed to do much is that I can sit in bed with the laptop and work on the Alpaca website without feeling guilty. Feeling quite pleased with myself really, I have been working on this site for a little while and it has been ready to publish for about 10 days. I got the hosting sorted and using iweb got ready to publish the site, guess what!!! it doesn't work. I got all the settings, passwords, URL's. FTP's and all that stuff right but no, hosting company said I must have typed it in wrong, I said I needed an IP address(sounds good anyway).
Finally hosting company after a week said "you might need the IP address" ! All I want to do is press the button that says "Publish" I put in IP address, it said the "test connection succeeded" I can now press the button, Hurrah whoopy doo, here goes I thought I've done it. Error message said "please enter correct URL, Password and FTP address" I give up. What did we do before computers? I have managed to publish through a third party, very complicated way of doing it but as hosting company is closed for bank holiday not much choice. it's a bit basic at the moment but at least it is out there.

Meanwhile in the outside world, Steve has managed to bottle feed Mica who seems to be doing well and he has set up the new scales so we will be able to keep an eye on her weight easily from now on.

We have had a couple of llama walk enquiries but the weather is bloody awful, glad I'm not on holiday and we had a call from someone interested in buying some Alpacas, wanted to know why there was such a difference in the prices of alpacas between breeders, not sure where to start on that one!

Just hope I feel well enough to be around when they come round but at the moment I am confined to barracks. So frustrating!

Friday 2 April 2010

No Excuse for not blogging

I really have no excuse for not updating my blog this week as for much of it I have been confined to the house. Following the big birthday weekend I went down with a cold which has now turned into a chest infection with Pleurisy, not very nice. So I have some antibiotics and painkillers and have been told to rest.

This is not that easy when you have all the Alpacas & llamas to look after but there you go!

As Steve has finished work this week it has not been to bad, he has taken over the feeding up but is not so good on bottle feeding the cria. She is still having to be topped up with ewe replacer, Mum has some milk so I am only giving her a bottle in the morning and evening and she seems to have lots of energy and is bright enough in herself. She is the first cria who has willingly taken a bottle from me, no struggling to keep it in her mouth, don't really need to hold her while she drinks, so not sure why Steve has so much of a problem, he only manages to get her to take about 100 ml at a time so is giving her 4 feeds instead of 2.

This week should have been the start of our new life, the one with out regular work, sort of scary really but exciting as well. Our holiday cottages are booked up well for the summer and Steve has some jobs in the pipeline and if I wasn't feeling so bad I might be quite excited about this new life style.

I really need to be better soon as the halter training has come to a halt and the SWAG show is in two weeks! The little ones are doing well, but the intermediate female hasn't had a halter on since September so could be interesting.