Thursday, 29 January 2009

Is my room ready yet?

The girls really seem to like being in the barn at night and although at first I was a bit worried about the overcrowding, they obviously like it. This morning it was drizzling and not very pleasant at all. I opened the gate expecting them to gallop out but none did. They all looked at the weather and decided to lie down or eat hay. Only three left the barn. Eventually I saw them all walk out and then trot urgently into the paddock. I suspect it was the kittens (who seem to worry them) or the chickens rooting about in the straw that made them leave.

I had missed the weather forecast and when I saw they were all in the bottom paddocks this evening we had a debate as to whether they should be left out. They made their own decision however and were soon queueing up to be allowed into the hotel room for the night.

I visited my mother today and she seemed a little brighter, although amazingly the doctors have not retrieved her notes. As she is already being treated for her various problems at the same hospital I would have thought it would be sensible to read her history. She has been there since Sunday and her notes have not arrived on the ward!! I spoke to a young doctor who assured me that they were on the way and I have made an appointment to see her consultant on Monday to try and find out exactly what the situation is as no one has been able to give me much information yet.

We ordered some straw for the barn from Bob and Phil in the village. They supply us with hay from time to time and a couple of years ago ploughed and reseeded several of the paddocks for us. They are a great source of information and well known in the neighbourhood. The new school being built in the village is having its drains built at the moment and so they could not get out of their farm gate because there was a big trench there, but rather than let us down they wizzed round with their landrover with five bales in the back. The rest of the bales are coming at the weekend when work stops at the school. Bob is going to try and drag our landrover out for us when he comes either tomorrow or Saturday. It should be interesting. I am really looking forward to getting covered in mud again.

Not much else happening at the moment.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Muddy Endings

Thanks to everyone who enquired about my Mum. I visited her yesterday and she was able to communicate a little but today she was asleep and although I woke her briefly, she slept through most of my visit. I could not find anyone to tell me what was going on, but the young doctor said that as she had only just moved on to the ward they would not have anything to report until this evening. I spoke to the sister this evening and she said that they are doing various assessments but will not know the prognosis for two or three days.

Yesterday I started to muck out the barn and we decided that the resulting soiled straw should be taken down to the bottom paddock where we have a pile of other rubbish bio-degrading. We have a small trailer and I loaded approximately half of the much on to it. I was really impressed with myself as I managed to reverse on to the trailer, hitch up and then reverse it across the yard to the barn where I loaded the trailer and set off to my destination feeling quite pleased with myself. I turned into the bottom paddock and decided to do a right circle so that I. would arrive next to the dumping area, at which point everything went pear shaped. The ground was so muddy and slippery that the landrover just sank into it and I could not move either way. Trevor, who is helping out from time to time whilst Mike is recovering, came down and we tried to dig our way out but to no avail. At the moment the landrover and trailer have been abandoned awaiting a tractor tow.

As a result I have decided that whilst the alpacas can still have access to the paddock I am not going to risk taking a vehicle (such as the quad bike) down there again until the mud has dried up a bit. This means I cannot take hay or feed down to the big shelter in that field so we have decided to make the barn into a night shelter and feed them in there. Because of the logistics we have decided to use deep litter rather than completely cleaning out the barn each day. This should have the added benefit that the alpacas will have some time everyday when their feet are not covered in mud or water.

This evening was the first time for a few days that they have had access to the barn and I thought I might have to drive them in, but when I got back from the hospital I noticed that they had all moved up to the paddock nearest to the barn and were more or less expecting to go in, so I just shouted "Come on Girls" and they all trotted in as though they thought it was about time too.

Far from going off lay, the chickens seem to be laying more. Yesterday we had ten eggs from eight chickens and most days we are finding at least eight.

The mud everywhere makes life a little unpleasant at times and the dogs have to be washed off every day - especially Jake, who has a very long coat.

The neighbour who helps me clean the paddocks came in this morning after staying away last week with a nasty bug. She brought her dog along, as she usually does, and they all had a lovely time getting as muddy and dirty as possible. We dunked them in an unused trough in one of the paddocks. Although they like swimming in rivers, given the chance, they do not seem to appreciate being washed off just to please me.

Kittens rule OK. When I feed them the chickens try to pinch their food, but although the chickens are about twice their size, they stand their ground and eat with their usual dedication whilst I chase the chickens away. The latest ploy is to feed them on top of the wheely bin which low enough for the hens to fly up to but has such a small surface that their is no room for them to land when the kittens and their bowl are on top.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Shocking Day

It was just another day until lunchtime when I took Mum's lunch in to her. She seemed to be dozing on the bed but when I tried to wake her it was evident that she was not asleep but semi conscious. We phoned for an ambulance and I spent the rest of the day in Musgrove hospital at Taunton. I thought she must have had a stroke as did the paramedics and doctors,but a scan did not show up any sign of it. The doctor said that sometimes if scanned too early the evidence does not show up so they will scan again tomorrow. When I left her she was still out of it and I will have to phone late morning tomorrow to find out if there is any news. By then the consultant will have done his rounds and examined the new patients.

As you know Mike is not very mobile but he managed to get the alpacas into the yard, shut up the chickens and get his own dinner whilst I was out. He is going to the physio tomorrow morning.

Hopefully tomorrow will be a more normal day with some good news.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

The day I nearly lost the car!

Mike came shopping this morning. He walked from the car park to the high street, bought a few things on the market but then felt he had had enough so we went back to the car together and I finished without him. Not bad coinsidering he only had his staples out on Friday and it is only just over a fortnight since his operation.

We needed a few things in Axminster as well, so I dropped Mike off at home and went to get chicken and dog food and a few other bits and pieces. Unusually I did not bother to switch on my hands-free as it was only ten minutes down the road. Of course my friend, Ali, phoned. I was just coming out of town and so I pulled in to a parking spot at the bottom of the hill and phoned her back. Whilst I was talking a lady came up and said she wanted to speak to me about the alpacas ( our car is a sign written Nissan Navara 4 x 4 which doubles as a farm vehicle) as she had passed the farm and wanted to call in. After I had finished my call I got out of the car and started to talk to her. She wanted to come and buy some wool. She suddenly said something like "Ooh your car is moving". Sure enough the Nissan was slowly rolling backwards down the hill. I did James Bond style chase, opened the door and jumped in and put my foot on the brake pedal. Luckily the cars coming up the hill had avoided us and all ended well.

In future I will always switch on my hands free - or alternatively I could put on the hand brake and leave the car in gear when parking on a hill!! Still all is well that ends well.

My friend, Lynsey, from Dreamfield Alpacas came over this afternoon to help me assess some young alpacas I was thinking of showing this year. I am pleased to say that most of her opinions confirmed my own feelings, which is very pleasing as she came top of the recent judging course which she attended.

We have put the alpacas in the barn for the night again as heavy rains were forecast . It is actually meant to give them a chance to have some dry ground for a while, but it also saves me doing the afternoon feed run with hay, alf alfa and supplement as they can be fed in the barn which is only a stone's throw from the house.

The chickens are still laying very well and have finally decided that they will all lay in the same place so they have spoilt our hunt the egg games.

The kittens have mastered the art of roof climbing and use the water barrel to break their fall when coming down.

Apart from fee mud baths, everything else seems to be OK. Even the office work is up to date. This is a bit worrying - I am sure I must have forgotten something!!

Friday, 23 January 2009

Successful Day

It's probably because it was a very pleasant day for weather, but today seemed to go extra well.

I drove Mike to the Surgery for the nurse to remove the staples in his knee. He said that he hardly felt it, unlike previous experience with stitches being removed.

Last night I updated all the information for the Alpacastuff website and David came down this morning to put it on. We have sold out of quite a few things and have some new stock to go on, but I need to take photographs which actually look good. Might need to buy some equipment, but not sure what.

The only fly in the ointment is that I am not 100% sure that the changes have taken, as when I googled the site it had not changed.

In the afternoon David and Mike took a trailer load of scrap to the scrap yard. We have decided to bring the main herd into the barn when there are really long periods of rain, even though it is a bit of a tight squeeze for them, so I needed the trailer empty for mucking out. It would take forever in a wheelbarrow. We don't usually worry too much about the alpacas in any weather but there has been a lot of rain since the thaw and even on our usually well drained paddocks they have not been able to find any dry land for days. When I walk over the top paddocks which usually dry out very quickly, they are still squelching. When they come into the barn we give them free range of the farm yard as well so they have quite a few hours without their feet being in water.

It seems to make a huge difference now that the evenings are a little lighter and even though spring is a long way off, it feels that we are on a downhill slope now.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Farm Alone

Every thing seems to be happening at once. The weather has been really wet so the poor old alpacas never have dry feet or fleece. So far they seem to be bearing up. We have opened up all the paddocks so they can have maximum grazing and roming space. We often have to separate group but at the moment all the cria have weaned. and there are no births due for ages.

On Sunday we gave them all a vitamin D injection as they can become deficient in the winter.
They are all quite lively and we can detect no signs of rickets amongst the youngsters, so the regular boosts seem to be working.

I am having problems with my washing. Because we are living in a park home until we get planning permission to build, my washing machine and tumble drier are in the barn which means I have to go outside to the laundry room like they did in Victorian times. I usually try and hang the washing on the line as the eco friendly way to go and if I cannot hang the clothes outside I hang them in the barn. The atmosphere has been so damp I cannot get it dry either way so have reverted to the tumble drier which has chosen this moment to stop working.

The frost has caused some leaks in our water system which feeds the animal water troughs. Managed to get these fixed today. Mike is using the excuse that he cannot walk through the mud with his crutches to get out of doing it.

My lovely neighblour, Pam, who helps me keep our paddocks clean has called in sick. She has the nasty 'flu bug which is going around. I threatened to dock her wages, but as she does it for love and no money, that did not work!!

One of my Mother's carers also has the bug. She is now off sick but we are hoping she has not infected us all, especially Mum who is quite sick and coming up to 87. Mum has had the anti 'flu jab, though.

The kittens have turned into little demons - they are lively, destructive and noisy!! They wind the dogs up and rush through any door that happens to open, so we spend half our lives chucking them out.

The chickens have decided that they want to live in the porch and take great delight in scratching the straw bales stored in the barn until they disintegrate and fly in the wind all over the place, but,bless them they are all still laying lovely eggs.

A lovely lady from Bridport Knitting club phoned me today to see if I would do a talk on alpacas for them. They are actually going to pay me!! She has also given me a contact nuumber of someone who does machine knitting. As the USD is so strong at the moment we cannot afford to import from Peru so I am hoping we can fast track our plan to have all our garments made from our own wool. Hopefully she will be able to knit scarves and some plain jumpers to give an alternative to the hand made sweaters which we sell at the moment.

Well I am really missing Mike doing all the jobs that he usually does. Makes me appreciate him more than ever, and really,really hope he is back to normal very soon!!!

Two people have kindly left comments recently, which is much appreciated. I will try and give Mike a better mention in future but he is very shy and would be embarrassed to be written about too much.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Shocking find

We have been worried about the dogs and the kittens, especially our black and white lurcher, Maddy. She has been transfixed by them since they arrived and in her obsession she has lost weight and is interested in little other than the kittens. We are now nearly convinced that she actually likes them rather than having a desire to kill them. See the photo above. I had a little circle of dogs sitting nicely for a cocktail sausage each this evening when they were joined by Suki who also sat and took her turn for a piece of sausage. The dogs simply accepted that she should have a turn too.

I have a nasty shock this morning when my friend Pam and I were cleaning the paddocks. She called me over to look at something one of the dogs had uncovered in some hay by the hay rack.

It was a leg, very fresh, with white fleece on it. At first I had a horrible thought that it was from a white cria, but on closer examination thought it must be a sheep's leg. Even so I had a quick count of cria to reassure myself. I think perhaps a fox or some other preditor was carrying it and might have run into the alpacas at the hay rack. Possibly they scared him into dropping the leg. I understand from my neighbour that foxes often clear carion so perhaps it was from a sick,dying or dead animal.

Mike is progressing well but gets tired quite quickly.

The chickens seemed to have suddenly stopped laying. Only 2 eggs today. This has happened before and then we find a stash of eggs somewhere, so we are hoping that they have just moved. I will strip the barn tomorrow so that I can check the hay and straw bales properly.

We are having difficulty in sourcing small bales of hay. It is possible to get big bales but we have no means of handling or storing them. We have managed to buy some from Colin who lives a mile or so away. He normally sells to customers who buy small quantities so has no means of delivering. David is going down there on Friday to collect a couple of loads in our trailer.

Halter training has come to a grinding halt after a promising start. I will have to get going again next week. We have identified 9 alpacas which might make the grade for showing, although our browns are now at a disadvantage because the mid browns and light browns are now classed as fawn which means they are not competing against their peers but against the nearly white and and light fawn alpacas. I am going to try and get hold of a colour card to find out what the new colour classes really are.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

The view from our window taken by Zach

Wrong Decisions

David and Jane and the grandchildren came down on Thursday evening and David and I cut the herd toe nails yesterday. It was quite surprising the different rates of growth between them. They are always cut at the same time but the whites seem to have fast growing nails, the blacks make the most fuss and my favourite brown girls and boys just take it in their stride. They are also due for vitamin D injections but I am hoping that David and Jane will do that tomorrow when they call in to collect their dog and leave the children. Jane goes back to work a day earlier than they go back to school so they are staying with us. I shall be busy collecting Mike from the hospital.

He is looking forward to coming home and is now only taking paracetamol for the pain and is rejecting the morphine.

I had decided to go to the South West Alpaca Group meeting this morning, but was also invited to join family and friends for lunch at the Mason Arms at Branscombe. I could not decide what to do but as I strongly believe that you cannot complain about things if you don't get involved, so I thought it would be a good idea to go to the SWAG meeting and sneak out early.

I got that one wrong because the early part of the meeting which was about the follow ups from last year's AGM took quite a long time. I had planned to leave at 12 noon but as we were in seats near the front I thought it would be a bit rude to walk out during a debate and had to wait for a suitable break in the proceedings. This meant that I left later than planned and arrived at the Mason Arms when everyone had finished lunch and were about to resume their country walk. So I got the worst of both worlds. Still, it beats work!

I have mixed feelings about SWAG. I have never before been in an industry where proprietors of individual businesses have little get togethers with their competitors. The main good thing that they do is organise the shows which raise the profile of alpaca breeding, but I am not sure of what other useful function they serve. I very much agreed with Lynsey Skinner of Dreamfield Alpacas when she said that alpaca breeders tend to keep things close to their own chests rather than sharing information. Possibly a group like this does promote a little more communication about health and welfare issues.

When I got home I caught up on a few things and before I realised it, there was hardly any daylight left so I ended up putting the hay and feed out by the headlights of the quad bike. Oh and you would have laughed. I even laughed myself after i stopped cursing.

I have been driving up and down the A303 visiting Mike at Shepton Mallet and the Nissan was covered in salt from the road gritting. I checked the hosepipe and it had finally defrosted after being frozen up for about a week and so decided to give it a quick wash off to try and save too much damage. Mike brought a new long handled brush to go on the end so that you can reach the roof and put a bit of muscle behind the cleaning. Whilst gaily washing away the brush decided to detach itself fom the hose and I got a faceful of freezing cold water. My hair was soaked too. Luckily my clothes hardly got wet at all so I did not get too cold and miserable.

Happy days!!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Brief Entry

Mike went into Shepton Mallet Hospital this morning. When I spoke to him early this afternoon he seemed drowsy but quite cheerful. By late afternoon he was starting to get a lot of pain, so he is just crossing his fingers to make sure that it is worth while. Thanks to everyone who sent good wishes.

The kittens had their second vaccination this evening. Romie was also due a vaccination so I took them all in together with Tilly so the vet could check her heart rate. The child vet thought they were all well, except Til of course, whose heart rate is still only 30 per minute.

It was a relief to find that it was a little warmer this afternoon. For quite a while now it has been a problem keeping any unfrozen water in the troughs and for the last couple of days the taps and hoses in the barn have all been frozen, which is a double inconvenience because my washing machine is in the barn and we also put up the dogs' food over there and have a sink to wash up their dishes etc: The taps started to run a little this afternoon and we are hoping that if the weather continues to improve we can get back to normal. It is surprising how much we miss mod cons when they are suddenly unavailable.

I have been taking buckets out into the top paddocks because the water troughs have been permanently frozen. The only trouble is that the buckets of water get frozen too so we then have a problem emptying them to refill them again. There is a spring-fed stream in the bottom fields so animals grazing there have no problem with water.

David and jane are coming down tomorrow evening to help me cut alpaca toe nails and administer Vitamin D injections to help them through the winter.

Let,s hope it is not too cold. Even working in the barn it can be very chilly on a bad day.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Monday 5 January

Well everything should be back to normal now. Because every day is much the same for us, we tend to forget about holidays and so on several occasions we have phoned or tried to order to find that the company is closed until 5th January.

We ordered some alf alfa before Christmas and Mole Avon phoned on Friday to say that it had arrived. I went to collect it on Saturday and the young warehouseman managed to squeeze all ten bags in to the 4 x 4 even though we have 4 dog cages in the rear. I had told him that ours was specially ordered and that I was expecting a different make, but he had not listened and so had to find an expert who found the right stuff and unload and reload. When I ordered it originally they said that only one company supplied alf alfa without molassis so I was keen to have the right stuff. It emerged, however, that they do actually stock alf alfa with oil and I did not have to place a special order in the first place!!

I think next time we will order from our normal supplier and get it delivered on a pallet - much less complicated.

Ivan and Gill Hayward called in on Saturday. We have not them before but Ivan collected a stud male we imported. He transported ours and several other alpacas including some they had bought, ,from Paris the port of entry to the EU which saved us quite a bit in freight charges.

They have mostly black alpacas and amongst other things we chatted about fleece and the upshot is that they are going to be our first supplier of fleece as they do not use theirs at the moment. They are also keen to come to ours when we are shearing to see how we sort the fleece into grades.

Everything going well, although, of course, it is freezing cold and apparently set to continue so for the time being. This afternoon the sun came out which improved things a little, but it did not last for long.

David and family are coming down on Thursday and David will help me cut toe nails. {Alpacas< of course}. They certainly need doing.

Thursday, 1 January 2009


Happy New Year to our reader - or readers if there is more than one!!!

Freezing cold and just another day for us.

Looking forward to a great 2009. Hope you have one too.