Saturday, 30 August 2008

What alpacas do in the sunshine

Well it's a lovely sunny day today. I spent an hour or so indoors this morning making plum jam. My neighbour and champion poo picker told me that Miller's Farm Shop had Victoria plums in stock and I went over there with a friend who was staying for a few days with her husband.

I bought a box of 5 kgs and we all shared some for eating, and I stewed some up for deserts - as far as I am concerned that is just a carrier for ice cream which is my idea of desert!! The rest I made into jam much to the delight of the local wasp colony and of course, Mike, who loves plums.

We now have home made marmalade (nearly gone), apricot and plum jams in the store cupboard. We are expecting our chickens soon and the vegetable plot is well under way. All this combined with the stock of logs we have accumulated from hedge laying, tree thinning etc: should help us be more self sufficient next year. My neighbour also told me about a lady in Axminster who is moving and down-sizing. She has a chest freezer which is free to a good home, so we are collecting that in the second week of September.

The sunny day has given us a chance to air the caravan awning and I mended a loop which had come off whilst on holiday. My little dress making sewing machine found it quite hard going working on a tent!! The next job is to photograph the camper van and get that sold so we can recover from the outlay on the caravan. Better in our bank than parked in a field!!

The alpacas are really enjoying the weather today. It is the first really sunny day for ages. They love to paddle in their water troughs (making them muddy and in need of refreshing in the process) and also to sunbathe.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Back from holiday

Well - we are finally back from holiday. I think it is the first time ever we have had two weeks away. Usually it is a week or ten days.

We were delighted to return to the farm and find that our wonderful family have kept everything completely up to date including mowing the lawn!! Away above and beyond the call of duty.

All the alpacas seem fine and we are back to our normal routine, although we have several farm visitors - all wanting young males - and unfortunatley we currently only have three for sale and they will not be weaned until December. Still, it is nice to know we are in demand.

On Sunday I was doing something in one of the paddocks when I looked up and saw a scary sight!! Two enormous (16 - 17 hands at least) were trotting down our driveway. They were covered from head to foot in protective netting of the type used to protect horses from insects. They even had hoods so they looked very sinister.

Mike removed the dogs from the scene and I hung back until the horses were past the first gate and then shut them in. I then ran up to the road (the main A358) to see a queue of traffic overtaking a small red car with its hazard lights flashing.. The driver waved me over and he was on his mobile phone calling the police. He handed me the phone and I gave them our address and phone numbers.

He said he had followed the horses from The Olde Poppe Inn which is a mile or two away from us and ours was the first gateway they went into. He phoned his sister who lives in the village near the above pub and then drove off. She apparently spread the word.

About an hour later I saw a lady in horsy type attire entire our yard. I waved from the kitchen window and went out to meet her. Apparently she keeps the horses in a field on a bridle path and someone must have left the gate open. She went home and came back with her horse box and between us we haltered them and loaded them. A different experience to say the least.

We think all our females are now pregnant and we have had a new cria (white male) since we got home, with a few more expected.

We now have some old friends staying until Friday and we are looking forward to going to Bovey Tracy Carnival Agility show next Sunday with our dogs.

At last it looks as though we might have a few dry days so we are trying to catch up with the topping and have moved the alpacas around to new paddocks to give them some fresh grazing.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

English Summer

It really has been miserable for the last few days. I managed to cut the lawn yesterday between showers and just as well because it has not stopped all day. Luckily most of our cria are a few weeks old so they should be able to cope with the wet but it is always a worry. At least it is not too cold here.

We have put plenty of hay and alf alfa in the shelters and we have reorganised the herd so that there is a shelter for every group and they are being sensible and making use of them.
When we set up the farm for alpacas we designed our shelters so that they are alpaca friendly. They only have two sides and the top is made from Yorkshire Board - that is where the slats are vertical with gaps between so that they can always see out and do not feel trapped as they can do with three sides to a shelter.

The males are really like a load of teenagers in this sort of weather. They seem to hang out together and in the mornings they just lie around chatting and really don't want to leave their shelter. Mind you they are soon up and alert if they see the girls being moved around. That might mean they can pull.

David, Jane, Zach and Tara came back from their holiday today and collected Jax, their collie dog who has been staying with us. We shall miss her, although we do have six dogs of our own, so I think we'll get over it!! They camped in Spain for a week using David's Mazda Bongo which is his surfing van. Then they joined two other families for two weeks in the Pyrenees where they experienced white water rafting and canyoning amongst other things (including good food and wine, I believe).

They are coming back on Thursday to take over the farm whilst we go on holiday.

Sunday, 3 August 2008


We are going away for a couple of weeks from Thursday so have taken the opportunity this morning to reorganise the herd.

We have moved all the Mums and babies into one of the top paddocks and the imminent Mums- to- be are in another. The younger females who have recently been mated have been moved down to the bottom paddocks. This means that it will be easy for the farm sitters (members of our family!) to know which animals need extra feed and which can just be left to graze happily.

It is important to keep alpacas fit and well with adequate feeding but this has to be balanced against the dangers of overweight which can reduce fertility and, is generally not good for their health. They are not bred for their meat and so can be kept slim and fit. Over feeding can also effect the quality of the fleece so this is quite an important aspect of keeping alpacas.

The grass is looking very lush at the moment due to the rain and warmth, so they should do very well.

All are matings are up to date now. So far we have had eleven cria of which only four were boys.