Tuesday 25 January 2011

Fasinex finally

We finally managed to drench the last group of animals with Fasinex yesterday, the llama and Alpaca boys.  The rest of the herd had theirs in December but with the onset of the bad weather the boys missed out.  Anyway they are done now, the Alpacas were all little angels no spitting or extreme dribbling in fact Titan seem to positively enjoy his dose.  The two young llamas were no problem but the older ones which we had left til last in the vain hope that they may watch how the others behaved were little b.....rs, Lenny first refused to open his mouth so I had to pries it open and maneuver the drench gun into position to administer his dose which he promptly let drain out as soon as I let him go.  The difficulty for me is that I am only 5ft 2in and I can't reach to hold the head up and squeeze the drench gun, Steve is tall enough but then I can't hold them.  Blackjack wasn't to bad but he doesn't like having his halter on at the moment.  Polo wouldn't let me catch hold of his head collar and somehow ended up kneeling down, which made it easier to hold his head up once I had managed to get hold of him.  I gave him his dose and everything seemed to stay down so Steve released his hold on him for which Polo rewarded him with a full blow sneeze which coated him with a good dose of white liquid.  I wish the boys were like our old female Llama 'Georgina'  we just ask her to smile and she opens her mouth, put the drench gun in and she just drinks the liquid.............. great job done, no hassle!
Whilst we had the boys in they had a ADE shot and we had a good look at fleeces,  Prospect's fleece is looking amazing, definitely the best we have ever produced.
Over all this attention they we all awarded with a little treat of concentrate, just to make sure we had been forgiven for giving them horrible medicine.
This morning we had time for some Halter training with the youngsters, the two Alpaca boys are coming along nicely and the two llamas are now progressing onto walking with blankets and even a training pack.  Murphy didn't bat an eyelid at walking with the packs on but Merlin was not impressed at all, just to prove that they are all different, he will be fine with a couple more training sessions.
Then we decided that we needed to take down a couple of trees along the track down to the holiday cottages. We have a bank on which there are several Sycamore and some Ash growing, as we have a rather lovely stone barn on the other side of the track we don't want to let these trees grow to big as it will be very difficult to take them out.  So with me on the rope and Steve with the chainsaw we had to drop these trees into the track without catching the roof of the Barn.  Luckily they fell exactly where Steve said they would and we now have a stack of logs and kindling ready for next winter.  They will grow back from the stumps so this will screen the rather ugly farm buildings next door and we will take out another two trees next winter.  Good to know that we have our own supply of wood which will continue to regrow for future winters especially as the price of oil is going through the roof.

Saturday 22 January 2011

A few Pictures

As the sun was shining yesterday I took the camera out mainly to take some shots of the boys who are going to Cornwall in a couple of months.  Stephano who has so much fleece has been very messy and dirty in all that wet weather but is now looking all cute and fluffy now.
Atlas with frost on his back is now one of the two boys left in our show team, both fawns luckily with the hot competition going on in the brown classes this year.

 Calypso posing in the sun shine all bravado as he is a bit of a whim especially when being given a pedicure, he whines in your ear the whole time.
Finally Titan with frost on his back and straw in his top knot, he definitely got attitude, followed me around putting himself in front of camera.  He's going to be a herd sire in Cornwall in a couple of months.
Today we have 10 tonnes of scalpings being delivered ready to be spread over the car parking area next to the holiday cottages which will make it look much better since Steve dug a trench right through it.  Once this is done we can get on with connecting the camera on the field shelter in the birthing paddock.  It's so nice to be able to get these outside jobs done now it is dry.

Monday 17 January 2011

Looking for a New Stud

Langaton Caliban
Following on from our sales over the weekend we have decided to look for a new Stud male for this seasons breeding's.  Our two Stud males have given us some stunning cria and we are really please with them but we would like to purchase a much darker male, currently we have Caliban who is light fawn and Nugget is dark fawn ................. yes I know we have just sold a dark brown male but we really would like to introduce some new bloodlines into the herd.
Caton Golden Nugget

So Caliban has gone up for sale at a very sensible price, he is a bargain for someone and Nugget will stay with us for a while yet.  Well as I have just found out  Black/Dark Brown/Grey Stud males are like hens teeth at the moment, Oh there are quite a lot advertised as Stud males but looking at Bloodlines and fibre stats as well as the actual look of some of them,  you soon dismiss them as just not good enough.  So I think we are going to have a bit of a search for the right male.  What really frustrates me is when you think you may have found something and you send a e.mail or leave a message nobody returns the call ........ even more annoying when you here the said same persons complaining about the lack of Alpaca sales!
Anyway thats enough ranting, yet again the weather interrupted work plans again today, Steve had got himself set up for a fencing job this morning but we woke to thick mist and heavy rain, not good for getting landrover and trailer across several steep fields.  So as usual when it is raining we went out to buy materials in readiness for anticipated dry weather.

Our hens seem to think that spring is on its way the older hens are giving us 3 eggs a day now and the point of lays we brought in November have actually produce one egg this week, no ideal which one it was and it must have been a bit of a shock as we haven't had one since.

Sunday 16 January 2011

Life is good

West Webburn Titan
Despite the awful weather we have had a great week, as many of our regular readers know Steve gave up his employed work at the beginning of last year to concentrate on our Alpacas, Llama walks and Holiday cottages.  He also went back to Landscaping on a part time basis, everything seemed to fall into place and we had a very successful year, enough work to keep us going, good Holiday bookings and the llama walks were really popular and we sold some Alpacas!.  We knew we needed to earn enough to take us through the winter if it was bad weather.  Well as we all know the weather has been pretty bad and Steve hadn't work since the beginning of December and we were starting to worry a little bit.  So this week has been really encouraging, we have had rain all week and have had to put work off again so we even got to the stage of clearing out cupboards, so its got to be bad.  Anyway the phone has started to ring with work for Steve, we have taken a couple of holiday bookings and had several more enquires.  Then best of all we had a phone call about Alpacas which has turned into a sale,  so five of our young boys are off to Cornwall at the beginning of April.  Titan our Dark Brown male who won a 1st at Devon County and 3rd at Swag is going to be a herd sire with Calypso as a companion possible stud male and the other three Quartz, Felspar and Stephano are going to be pets.  We wish their new owners who I can't tel you about as I forgot to ask their permission all the best for the future.  
Felspar and Quartz
We are now feeling that we will be OK for the rest of the winter and are looking forward to some nicer weather, this is what life is about, not being tied to a job that was frustrating, we work hard but we work for ourselves, we don't make mega bucks but we have enough to feed, cloth and house us, we live in a wonderful place and we really appreciate it.  For the first time since we have been breeding our Alpacas we can say that we don't have any males for sale so we are looking forward to this years crop of youngsters and then we can decide on what we would like to sell later this year.

We have been halter training in the rain and even if they look all wet and miserable they are all getting used to it and walking fairly well.  Golden Prospect as he is so small was getting covered in hay as he seems to like to sit under the hay bags and the other three, Murphy, Merlin and Stephano eat over the top of him.  Prospect is going into our very small show team this year so I would like him to keep clean.  With this in mind we decided to buy a small hayrack hoping this may help, so off to Mole Valley (as it was raining again) and a 4ft hayrack which fitted nicely into the back of the car was acquired.  It's amazing that the cost of the 4ft is nearly as much as the 8ft racks but they are much harder to move around and it is so nice to be able to put the rack in the back of the car if we have animals in fields over in Widecombe, saves a journey with the trailer.

We are having a proper day off today, well after feeding up,  we are going to some friends for lunch and probably tea, and possibly evening drinks.  They are neighbours and they are very good to us in the summer months as they see us working in the fields from their windows.  So they feel sorry for us and feed us quite often to save me going home to start cooking, ............ which is so nice.  Audrey is also teaching me to weave so I think we may be setting up the loom this afternoon.......... did I say this was a day off!

I have started knitting up some of our wool from the mill and I am really pleased with the results, it knits up so soft and I already have had enquires for some hats.  I am also hatching up a plan, it is very much in the planning stage at the moment. !

Monday 10 January 2011

New Year planning meeting

New Bathroom
Finally the bathroom in one of the holiday cottages has been completed just in time for our annual inspection by Visit Britain.  Usually I have got all the decorating and deep cleaning done in time for the dreaded visit but what with the bad weather, getting married, going on holiday etc etc I haven't even started it. I only hope that the dreaded inspector can see that it is a work in progress and give us our 4* rating.  I have spent the last few days painting some reclaimed furniture for one of the bedrooms, they look really good now, pine with white doors now and I have lined the interior of the wardrobes and drawers with wallpaper to match the wall covering and compliment the bedding.  I really need to update the photos on the cottage website now. See this is what happens you do one job and it instantly creates at least one more.
Bedroom in Robin Cottage

On Sunday we had a new year meeting with Mike & Liz from Lakeham alpacas to discuss what we are doing this year with regards to shows, breeding etc.  As we hadn't seen them for a while we combined this with roast lunch and a good bottle of wine (at least they had wine I am refraining for a while)  We have a freezer full of pork so a good leg of pork was roasted and served with sprouts, parsnips and swede from the garden, not bad in terms of food miles and it tasted good as well!
After lunch and down to business.......... are we showing this year......... yes  what breedings are we doing, are we using outside Studs ? (I have my eye on one in particular)  What shows are we having a stand at ?  Lots of decisions to be made and then onto fleece and yarn, as I had just got my yarn back we had a good rummage with that and looked at the fleeces we had left.  The discussions then lead onto where we go from here................ who knows lots of things in the pipe line so I think this should be an exciting year.

We have decided to run a spinning course locally as we have been asked so many times what we do with our fleece.  I have learnt to spin recently and I really enjoy it so we have booked our local hall and engaged Jean Field to be our Tutor for the day.  Details of the course are now on our News and Events  page on our website.

On a totally different  subject Alpacas and Dogs ............. Steve was down the field this after noon when the females came charging through the gate between the fields............. not sure what was going on he spotted a large black collie dog running up the field with Bramble and Carla in hot pursuit, the dog got to the top corner of the field but couldn't get over the fence ............ frantically looking around he spotted Steve in the other corner, decided he couldn't go that way is only option was to run back down the field............ again closely followed by Bramble and Carla this time he managed to get over the bottom fence ............. just wonder what would have happened if it couldn't have got out !  Good to know the girls were on the ball and when Mr Fox comes around they will deal with him in the same way.  

Wednesday 5 January 2011

Parcel in the night

While I was patiently waiting for my Tesco order to be delivered last night,  I had an unexpected delivery from a courier, couldn't think what it was.  Big box taped up to with miles of brown tape, took some getting into I can tell you!  Finally I was in, my wool and tops at last back from the mill, I had know idea it was on it's way, it was so long ago I sent it off I was beginning to wonder if I would ever see it again.  Usually we join together with Lakeham Alpacas and send a big load of fleece off to the Natural Fibre Company which results in about 25kg of knitting yarn being sent back, we usually managed to sell it within the year but this time I wanted to try a smaller mill and have a selection of colours.  So now I have some of last years grey, white, fawn and black, not bad!
I had sent three fleeces off to come back as double knit yarn and two fleeces into tops, I am really pleased with it, the tops are so soft .... can't wait to start spinning it.  The yarn feels and looks great, I have a black which is really black and comes from our champion female West Webburn Midnight, a light fawn from West Webburn Calypso and a off white from Langaton Caliban.  Now to decide what to do with it all,we only do markets in the run up to Christmas and they were really bad this year due to the bad weather so our next retail opportunity will be the summer shows.  So I think I will try to find some different outlets, we already have a couple of wool shops who buy our wool and we do a lot of our own hand knits as well.  I keep thinking we should put some on the website but to be honest it is usually sold by the time it has been knitted so I have never got around to it.  I now have nearly a year to build up the stocks ready for next Christmas.  We have a couple of interesting ideas in the pipeline so hopefully with some hard work these will work out.
I have started knitting the wool I have just spun and it looks quite good, very soft to handle, I need to spin another skien now as I haven't enough to finish the scarf.  Good job the weather is so wet I have an excuse to be inside by the woodburner with the spinning wheel!

Tuesday 4 January 2011

Are we all halter train and doing Pedicures?

Weanlings meet Llama team
I seem to have read several blogs over the last few days and everyone seems to have started halter training and giving their Alpacas pedicures and we have been doing just that.  We brought all the females back from Widecombe as we had back up feeding lady had moved house and if we had anymore bad weather we may have been in a position of not being able to get to them.  Luckily one of our neighbors has given us the use of a field which is next to our, nice clean pasture which the girls are now enjoying.  Once they were back we got them into the shelter gave them all a check over and cut any toes nails that needed doing, next the scales came out, this is the first year we have had the scales during the winter and it is so reassuring to be able to weigh everyone to check they are doing OK.  With all that fleece it is difficult to see if any are getting thin.  All of them are in good condition considering they live out all the time and have been over on Widecombe hill which is quite high and gets more snow than we do here, they had either maintained their weigh or some had even put on a little, this is very encouraging, most of them are pregnant  and our first ones are due at the end of March.

Merlin & Murphy

We started halter training yesterday morning, firstly Murphy (very special young Llama) he has had a halter on possibly three times before, just for a few minutes so we didn't expect to much from him.  We put him into the catch pen with Merlin and put halters on both of them, no problem so off we when for a walk up the lane, he was very good followed Merlin as if he had been doing it all his life.  This morning we repeated the process this time we needed to push Merlin along a bit so we put a blanket on his back.  Murphy was looking very interested in the blanket so we got another one for him to have a look at, he wasn't bothered by it so I tried to put it on his back,  not a problem, didn't move an inch so we went for another little walk, down the lane this time.  They both walk very well, Murphy if anything is a little too eager and we have to try!  Stefano and Prospect are just at the having the halter put on for a little while and then taken off again.  I think we will try walking them tomorrow.

I have also been doing some spinning and have managed to produce a skein of what looks to me like some usable yarn, so I am going to start knitting it up tonight.  I have only just learnt to spin and have had many failures which have ended up in the bin, some of my early attempts have been used on the peg loom and I have made a cushion cover front.......... if you look closely you can see the improvement in my spinning from the beginning to the end.  I am looking for some heavy fabric to make the back side of the cover then I think I will put it in one of the cottages, cause that will impress some of our regular customers who are always asking what I do with all that fleece!