Tuesday, 19 January 2021

More Rain, Wind and Mud


 Everything is going smoothly but to be honest it is not much fun.  The fields are sodden and I would like a £1 for every time I have de-mudded and dried the dogs.   They need to go out for exercise and the obvious necessities and they enjoy it, so I don't begrudge  the extra work and washing!

No news on Avian flu restrictions being eased.  The hens are becoming more and more reluctanct to return to their quarters after I have cleaned up.   They really enjoy the fresh air and time spent outside in their run.

Mike has finished renovating a pretty cupboard which we use as a bathroom cabinet and I have brought parts of my old dolls house down from the attic to start restoring it now that the so called "office"  space is free again.  I think it was made by my great grandfather and has fallen into disrepair over the years.  I have been looking online to try and find something similar as a guide but have not found anything like it to base my work on yet.  Maybe it is a one off.

I seem to remember my father painted it when I was a little girl and the colours are just what he had available at the time (would have been the 1950s).  I  think the interior is original although there are some broken banisters and suchlike.

The alpacas are all looking a bit bedraggled as they are nearly always wet at the moment even though they  have access to shelters if it rains.  Their fleece is very thick and the top acts almost like a thatch when it is wet.


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Sunday, 17 January 2021

Dry Weather and alpaca escape

 At long last a couple of dry days.  It make such a difference.   We spend the best part of most mornings cleariing the paddock where the hens and female alpacas reside.  

 

The hens are still confined to barracks and are just allowed out whilst I clean up.    They are getting more and more reluctant to return to their indoor quarters and even resist Ted's attempts to get them indoors again sometimes meet resistance.   Can't blame them really, especially on nice sunny dry mornings.  Sadly the rules are still in force and I cannot allow them to free range which is what they are (or were) used to.  The Defra Website is not very easy to navigate.   It refers to a Surveillance zone but my searches do not reveal any information about the zone.

Otherwise we are runing quite a happy ship at the moment.   Freddie and Inchic seem very happy sharing the back paddock with my agility training area and we have quite a lot of flexibility to give them extra grazing when they have cleared an area.  

 This morning when I went up to clear up in their paddojk I found that Freddie had entered the agility area.   There was a barrier up to the shed but it looked as though he might have just walked up to it and found it easy to push out so that there was just enough room for him to walk through.   He went back in happily enough when I opened the proper gate.  Inchic was oblivious to the whole episode.

I think I have now secured it so he can't get through again.

There is still some stock available on our website www.alpaca-stuff.co.uk


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Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Help is at hand!

Nick, who has been our once a week helper and guide to all things farm related works with Mike on Tuesdays.  As they are always outside or in the barn  they minimise the risk of Covid 19 infection.   At tea break we stay outside on the "patio" as we call it  when the weather allows.   This time of year we are sometimes coming into our "kitchen" which is our only downstairs room and very big - so we can still social distance.  I clean all surfaces frequently and especially after tea break.

Today Mike and Nick are making a handling pen so that we can carry out husbandry such as cutting toe nails on the two males, Freddy and Inchic who now live in the paddock at the back of the house.  When the weather improves I will take photos!  We are also going to extend their grazing area as they have neatly mown their present area.

Tomorrow Mike is going to travel to Ilminster for his Vaccination.   As he is 82 he is lucky enough to have it early.   I will be in the next group whenever that is.

The hens are still shut in most of the time but I let them out into a netted area whilst I clean out their living quarters and to give them some fresh air and exercise.   They get VERY excited when I open the door but are easy to entice back with the fresh straw that I scatter around as they love finding all the seeds.   Ted, my trusty farm dog, explains that they have to go back inside when told or risk a severe herding!  He is very good at getting them out of hiding places - e.g. behind hay bales or trailers!

Remainder of Alpacastuff stock is still available at www.alpaca-stuff.co.uk/

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Friday, 8 January 2021

As Normal as Possible

 

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We are very lucky because our days are much the same as before Covid.   We are very careful when we go shopping which is less than once a week except for a daily trip to the village stores for the paper and essential supplies such as milk.

Like everyone else we wear masks when we are near others and our spectacles get steamed up as soon as we enter the shop.

The hens are still in lock down because of avian flu but now have a secure run so that they can go out of the shelter once a day to enable me to muck out properly and thus help prevent health problems.   Nick says that they are looking very good and healthy and they are certainly laying well.  Ted, my trusty farm dog, is very good at rounding them up when it is time for them to return to their cell.  He even manages to get to the back of the straw bales which are stored inside the run under a tarpaulin  and where they love to hide and peck at the seeds.
 
Freddie and Inchic - our only remaining male alpacas were living in the bottom field but it made it difficult for Mike or Nick to top the field when the grass was too long and every time we wanted to go through the gate they seemed to be at the entrance looking for the opportunity to exit.
 
We decided that it would be more sensible to use the paddock at the back of the farmhouse - making it easier to keep an eye on them and also saving a lot of walking. Mike and Nick made a fence out of hurdles and there is still room for all my dog agility equipment so I can train Ted - although who knows when dog shows will be back on the menu.
 
 



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Friday, 25 December 2020

Christmas 2020 Version

Today was a very different Christmas Day due to the strict rules preventing the usual Christmas celebrations within families.  We normally meet up with our families in Salisbury and sometimes they come down to Devon.

We did the usual farm chores of course - the alpacas, hens, dogs and cat did not know it was a special day.

The hens  love their new shelter even though they have to stay indoors all day at the moment because of bird flu restrictions.   We managed to source some straw from farmer friends in the village and the girls had a whale of a time running through it, spreading it arround and rummaging for seeds.  The noise of the excitement of 31 hens romping and scratching around in the straw was deafening.

 It will be a lot easier to keep their residence clean now. 

Mike and I decided to have our own Christmas Dinner despite being just the two of us.   We are both getting on a bit and Mike has had some health problems in the past which makes him a bit more vulnerable.  I cooked a free range chicken with the usual roasties and fresh vegetables from the farm shop next door (almost).  Mince Pies and Ice Cream for pud.   (no such thing as an ice cream-free desert for me!)

At 4 p.m. we took part in a pre-arranged Zoom get together with son, David, daughter-in-law,Jane and grandchildren Zach and Tara - both young adults now.  It was nearly as good as having them in the room and we all found plenty to say.

We had some lovely thoughtful presents and plenty of "goodies" too.


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Sunday, 6 December 2020

Avian Flu

 

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Unfortunately there have been cases of Avian Flu (Bird Flu) and at the beginning of November there was a governemtnt warning that chickens and other poultry would have to be shielded from wild birds who carry the virus.  Their feed and water have to be kept under cover to prevent contamination by wild birds and other animals.   This was not really a problem for us as we have always fed them under cover.   There is always a drinker in the hen house but there was another drinker out in the field.   We have now brought that under cover too.

There is now a new notification  and all poultry has to be housed indoors.  I should think there are some really big free ranging flocks who cannot possibly be brought in under cover.   We have decided to move the hens to a large  shelter (originally built for alpacas when we had a much bigger herd)

On Tuesday when we have help on the farm Mike and his merry men will be making the new hen house secure and the old hen house will return to being a field shelter for the alpacas.  They will have to put up high fences around the area and roof in as much as possible.  Defra have allowed up to the 14th December for poultry keepers to comply.

It is especially unfortunate for us because we only keep the hens as a hobby and the proceeds of egg sales go to a local charity so any money we spend is just lost.

I have nearly sold out of socks left over from the days when we had a farm shop selling alpaca products mainly - socks - hats - gloves etc:  There are still some hats, mittens and gloves available - ideal Christmas presents !
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Saturday, 28 November 2020

Hens and things

 Well so far no news on the trees to be pruned by Hi Line.  Probably much more important jobs - or maybe they have decided that no work necessary after all.

Bad news - there is an outbreak of  avian influenza (bird flu) amongst wild birds and some big flocks of domestic poultry in the UK so we have had to keep our "free range" hens under cover and make sure that they have no contact with wild birds and that wild birds cannot access their feed or drinking water.

They are used to being completely free  in their field in the daytime and only being shut in at night.  They seem to be quite happy at the moment and even when I go through the gate into their pen they don't really make much effort to escape.

 Keeping the hen house and pen clean is more difficult than usual because there are 33 chickens to work round.   So far no real problems but also no idea how long the nationwide restrictions will be in force. 

Everything else seems OK - apart,of course  the restrictions due to the Covid 19 pandemic.  We are very lucky that our lives have not changed very much as we spend most of the time on the farm and all the usual chores still need doing.  We miss going out for the occasional meal or  trip to the seaside but it is a small price to pay compared with the problems some people are suffering.  One of us does the weekly shop and we have a local village shop and a small farm shop close by.  Because of our age we are advised to minimise contact with other people so cannot be much help to others.

 

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