Wednesday, 25 June 2008

The Waiting Game

Well, we are gradually arranging for all our females to give birth in the Spring which will give the cria time to grow up and be well set up to withstand the winter. July is going to be a busy month and we have one mum-to-be who is now overdue. She is the brown one in the pictures.

We have them in a separate paddock so we can keep an eye on them. After July we have the whole of August free of births with a few stragglers in September. The plan is that next year all birthing will take place by the end of June, leaving us free to go to every dog competition from then on!! That is assuming we can find volunteers to farm sit!!

Although our log cabin is a temporary solution until we build a normal house on our farm, we are making an effort to make it as attractive and habitable as possible. Mike and I visited Chard Garden Centre in the week and bought some shrubs to make the "garden" a little more visually attractive. We were impressed with the garden centre, which is quite a small enterprise but with plenty of choice and lovely staff. I had to take Mum to the dentist yesterday and could not resist another visit - so now we have about ten small shrubs which will eventually be big ones. We are very pleased with the results. I also managed to buy some marigolds. I really like the traditional English ones but they only had Africa Marigolds. Still at least they are the right colour.

Don Chale of Laurel (known as Charlie) is the latest addition to the herd. We imported him from Chile to replace Don Julio, a very handsome male who unfortunately died about eighteen months ago from ulcers. Charlie has already mated two of our females and as he has a fleece expected to meet SRS (soft rolling skin) criteria we are hoping his offspring withhave better fleece and therefore even better wool than we already produce.

We are supposedly retired but seem to have a very full day every day, so we decided that we would divide our working day between farm (alpacas) and home (everything else). We are trying to get all our farm jobs done by 1 p.m. and the other jobs, such as mowing the lawn as we optimistically call the hilly grass area outside the lodge, making new jumps for the dog agility course, sitting around (in our dreams) training the dogs, cooking the dinner are done in the afternoon. It is working quite well really. Although we are just as busy, because all the non essential jobs are scheduled for the afternoon, we can actually stop when we like, knowing that the alpacas are fully cared for. The other jobs are wannados and not mustdos.

I had a bit of a doddle working morning this morning. Lynsey Skinner of Dreamfield Alpacas has sold one of our males on our behalf. He is a lovely black boy but more suitable as a pet than a breeding male. He did not agree and was exhibiting all sorts of testosterone fuelled behaviours. He paid the final price when Tessa, the vet, arrived on Lynsey and Ian's farm with scalpel at the ready. I went along to help hold him down whilst she removed his maleness. It is not quite a brutal as it sounds. He was doped to start with and then had a local in the dedicated area. He felt no pain and when I left he was still looking quite happy and sozzled.

Of course it was only right that I should fulful the social niceties of being an alpaca breeder so I had to stay for coffee and biscuits and had a mini tour of the herd. Unfortunately I arrived home just after Mike and Pam had finished clearing the paddocks. Oh dear - I was really gutted.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Bikers meet alpacas

Well a beautiful sunny day dawned today. The Salisbury Motor Cycle and Light Car Club were out on their motor bikes and using us as a lunch time stop over. At about 12.30 eight of the bikers arrived, parked up and we all went to our friendly local pub for lunch.

It was a very sociable event and we did the usual farm tour, which also enabled us to check the animals and put out some of their supplement. Everyone enjoyed themselves and took load of photos. We are looking forward to seeing them on the club website.

Tomorrow is destined to be a busy day as we have to administer the second Blue Tongue vaccine to our herd as well as visiting some alpacas who have already gone to their new home. They had one vaccination before they left and we are going to give the second one and show their new owners how to do the injections and give them some other husbandry tips.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

The Day after the Night Before

We went went to a charity ball last night organised (the outing, not the entire ball) by Lynsey and Ian Skinner from Dreamfield Alpacas. We actually managed to be ready on time and amazingly were the first to arrive. First of all the guests, not just our party. This is definitely going down in the history of the Thomas's because it have never been known before.

We arrived at 7 p.m. instead of 7.20 p.m. Mike says I planned it as we sat and listened to the Archers on the radio - a banned programme in our household along with East Enders and Coronation Street!! I do sometimes sneak a quick listen to the Archers if there is noone (i.e. Mike about).

We had a lovely evening but decided to be a bit lazy this morning, and as the weather is rather miserable and wet I took the opportunity to tidy up the shop, order new carrier bags and sew on some more labels to our hand made garments.

I also browsed the www to find someone to make me a stencil for the carrier bags as the minimum order for printed ones seems to be rather large for our fledgling business.

Mike is busy tidying up his workshop - a job he has been trying to get round to for ages. He has been spurred on by the expected visit from Salisbury British Bike Club tomorrow. Mike is an ex member and they are going to ride down on their vintage machines and stop here for a lunch break and to frighten the alpacas and the neighbours!!

Friday, 20 June 2008

Topping day, Farmer Thomas

The picture today is of Mike playing with his Fergie tractor - well he calls it working but I know he cannot wait to get out on the Fergie. It is an ideal size for topping and because we have been busy doing other things the paddocks were starting to look rather unkempt. Luckily the rain held off enough for him to do four this afternoon.

The alpacas do a sterling job grazing but at this time of the year the grass is ahead of them, not to mention the docks and nettles.

Thursday, 19 June 2008


We have several stud males at Laurel Farm and they all have very dense big fleeces. The recent hot weather has been taking its toll and although we are not expecting the shearer until the 3rd July we thought it would be kind to get them shorn earlier.

Ian Skinner of Dreamfield Alpacas agreed to come and do the deed for us, although he normally only shears his own alpacas and does not do it professionally. Although not as quick as Colin, our normal shearer, he made a good job of it and the boys are very grateful.

Unfortunately we did not get a photo of the actual shearing as we were all busy and forgot to get the camera out, but we do have a before and after shot.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Family Day on the Farm

It has been a lovely day in all sorts of ways today.

To start with Mike had to deliver two of our black females to Inca Alpacas for mating to one of their top stud males, Canchones Witness of Inca, who has an excellent pedigree and we hope his genes will enhance our herd. We have already had a beautiful female cria by E P Cambridge Centurian (also standing at Inca Alpacas) from our Reserve Champion Brown Female, Laurel's Saphire and we are hoping that that Witness will provide two more black cria next year.

Whilst he was away, our latest grandson, Josh, arrived with number 3 son and his wife and mother in law. They are staying until Saturday evening and are taking the opportunity to explore the area. They went to Lime Regis today and intend to go to Lynton and Lynmouth tomorrow.

As it was a warm evening we decided to eat al fresco and I cooked a spicy stir fry with rice, jacket potatoes, salad followed by rhubard crumble and ice cream, to appeal to Chris's wife, Aew and her mother who is over from Thailand on a month's visit. They cleared their plates, so they must have appreciated the meal.

Don Alario, our main herd sire, has been getting a little above himself lately and so we have separated him from the rest of the males. He looked so pathetic this evening and stood at the gate of his individual paddock asking to come into the garden, so I let him in. Nothing to do with the copious amount of Brut Cava I consumed whilst cooking the dinner!!.

He immediately started munching on our slightly overgrown lawn and seemed to appreciate the company. After a while he got bored and started humming and so I opened the gate and he trotted back to his lonesome paddock, had a few beers and went to sleep.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Preserving the Countryside.

We love to keep the farm as neat and tidy as possible, although this time of year it is a bit of a losing battle. At the same time we remember that when we took over the land it was over run with all sorts of wildlife and plants because it had remained untended to 9 or 10 years. We, therefore, try to leave some areas untouched and todays pictures show some of the plants along our hedgerow.

Monday, 9 June 2008


It has been really hot today and when I went into the boys' paddock to clean their trough they enjoyed sitting under the spray of the hose. Alpacas really like water and it is a major job to keep the troughs clean in hot weather as they use them as cold dip and of course the mud comes off their feet into the water.

We have some big galvanised troughs in some of the paddocks and it is not unusual to see two or three alpacas lying down in one with a queue of other ones waiting to climb in.

Today is Friday

No, I know it's not but I went away for the weekend to a dog show (no surprise there) and did not do the blog before I went.

David came down and did some strimming for us as the Devon bank at the farm gate was so overgrown that it was becoming dangerous for us and customers to leave the farm unless they wanted to turn left and accelerate immediately. It looks much better now and is much safer, although I have called the Devon Highways Dept. to get them to come and cut the verge which is also obscuring our vision.

As always he gave us a hand with a few other jobs before both of us left for the weekend at about 4 p.m. The picture is of Bono one of our males chosing his bride for the day. They all look pleased to see him!! The other picture is David helping to move the girls from paddock to paddock. I think he is looking for ward to his surfing!!

Mike had a very productive time whilst I was gone and continued with the strimming and topping. He also managed to get some leisure time to enjoy the weather and relax.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Making the most of the dry weather

The weather forecast is variable for this week so we are making the most of every dry moment.

I have just come back from collecting our Blue Tongue vaccine from the vet and it is currently getting towards ambient temperature. We plan to vaccinate the entire herd later this morning so we are getting on with routine tasks as quickly as possible.

We are expecting a visit from our friendly shepherd/farm contractor this week who is going to bring our paddock water situation into the 21st century. He is also supposed to be supplying us with our chickens (Black Rock). Photos will be forthcoming when they arrive.

We have been topping the fields and leaving some areas to conserve the many wild flowers which grow on the farm. I meant to take a photograph today but was rained off, so it will appear in a later blog entry.

Our neighbour, Pam, is helping us clean the paddocks. She says she enjoys it because it is outside, good exercise and she likes to be amongst the alpacas.

We were spoilt last weekend when our friends stayed because they did all sorts of jobs whilst they were here, so Pam is even more welcome than usual.

The pictures show me and Pam with the manual tools and Mike (because he is an engineer) does the technical stuff with the poover.

We put the bags of alpaca manure, as we politely call it, at the farm gate and however many we put out they are always gone within an hour or two. We think there is a jungle drum system in the area, or maybe a Miss Marple character on her bike - peddling like mad to deliver the good news!!! Sometimes when people are collecting their manure they come and talk to us and the alpacas or meet the dogs if they come after about 3 p.m. when they are free ranging. It often leads to a visit to our farm shop where we sell our knitwear and South American blankets and ponchos etc:


Well we did quite well today. We vaccinated the entire herd against Blue Tongue (44 animals) delivered a young male to his new home, did the shopping on the way back and arrived home in time for tea.