Sunday, 22 February 2009

Fresh Start

Well the dry bright weather certainly makes things seem much brighter.

I went to a dog competition near Preston at the weekend and was really pleased that out of two runs per dog my two little stars had a fifth and a second place. This was our first show of the season and last year I just could not get it together and did not get any clear rounds or places until well into the year. Millie, the brown collie, had a fifth place and would have done a lot better if I had not had a huge hesitation. I should think we lost a couple of seconds at least which considering the timing goes in 100th of seconds could make a lot of difference. With Romie there was a small hesitation at the end of the run which probably cost us the first place, but at least we have started with some clear rounds. Romie's problem has been knocking poles down so any clear round is a bonus with her.

All animals and humans doing well. Mother was looking a lot brighter today but seemed less able to speak. I left a letter for her consultant asking her to be transferred to a hospital nearer home as soon as she is up to it.

We had our first double yolked egg today. The master of the house had it for his breakfast.

Kittens are still ruling the roost.

I took some photos of the pashminas and scarves that we had made in Chile and David put them on the Alpaca-stuff website. When we went to Chile to select our alpacas one of the Indian farmers sold us some pashminas and hats. His wife made them and they were beautiful so we asked her to make some especially for us. We have been selling them at fairs and in our shop but have only just put them on the web.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Half Term

We have not had many farm visitors during the recent bad weather but they have made up for it this week. We have only had a few sales in the shop because most of the visitors have been families coming to look at the alpacas and the children have enjoyed playing with the kittens too.

There have also been at least two potential buyers of alpacas who have seen our website and called in to see what we are about. One family already has some land and the others are hoping to move to the area shortly.

I have found a lady who does machine knitting at home and she is going to make us some plain jumpers to sell along side our hand knits. I have just sent her a sample of the wool so that she can test it on her knitting machine.

Everything else is more or less back to normal apart from Mum still in hospital and making little progress.

Alario has had to be sent to Coventry again because he has been bullying one of the weanlings quite badly. He is now going to remain in the smallest paddock (known as the pig pen because it was originally intended for our Kune Kune pigs who never arrived!!) on his own. The halter training was interrupted because we thought that after the stress of the Alario incident the weanlings should be given some breathing space. The four boys are doing very well though and are walking on the halter quite politely. A few more sessions and they should be fine.

I am off to a dog agility competition near Preston tomorrow, which is a long way but will make a pleasant break.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Catching up

The weather is much improved this week and yesterday I made a start on clearing out the barn where the alpacas have been sleeping for the past couple of weeks. We have put an advert in the local village shops offering the bedding as garden manure that people can come an collect. It only cost 20p per week in one and a donation to the air ambulance in the other, so it won't break the bank if we don't have any response.

Although they were weaned quite a while ago the young males have remained in the main herd and their mothers were separated. They have all been back together for quite a while now and at the weekend we took the three older boys and Esteban, the youngest, and put them into Alario's paddock. Alario has been on his own for some time as he fights with the other males - mainly Pedro, our brown stud male. We have tried re-uniting them on several occasions with no success,but thought as a last chance we would see how he got on with the weanlings. He seems to ignore them - in fact they pester him more than he them. We shall be keeping a strict eye on the situation as when the testosterone kicks in with the youngsters there might be trouble. We are hoping that they will sort out a workable pecking order, as he used to live quite happily with the other boys until Pedro grew up. The weanlings are all for sale as non-breeding males so he probably won't have their company for too long anyway.

Having had a few days of dry weather we are able to get feed to the bottom paddocks now and David and Mike managed to get the landrover out of the mud where it has been stuck for weeks.
Our thinking is that even if the weather does take a turn for the worse again, it should just be normal winter weather which the alpacas are more than happy to cope with. If we do get more blizzards, snow, deep frost, etc: we will still have the option to re-instate the barn as a night shelter.

What with regular trips to the hospital to see Mum as well as everything else, halter training has gone out of the window, but as the young males are easily and quickly accessible now they will be first on the list for some intensive work.

I had a meeting with my mother's consultant yesterday and it seems (as was already obvious to me) that the physiotherapy has not improved her condition very much. She is propped up in a chair for about 2 hours a day and she is now able to take a little nourishment by mouth. It has gone up to 5 teaspoons 3 times a day and the rest is still by tube. If she makes any further recovery she will be able to go to a nursing home but at the moment even that looks unlikely, so we will just have to continue to wait and see. She cannot go to a nursing home until she is able to take nourishment by mouth. When I visited her yesterday she was asleep and although I woke her up she could not stay awake. The Dr. said this is probably because she is tired after being up in the chair in the morning. As visiting is only in the afternoon I do not see her at her best, apparently. We are hoping for the best outcome with as little discomfort as possible for her.

The injured kitten has made a complete recovery and has joined her twin in being totally out of control, demanding, naughty but quite affectionate (as far as cats are).

Chickens still laying well. Mike's family came down for Sunday lunch and it was nice to be able to give them fresh eggs to take home. Our latest grandson was a delight. He is going to be 1 year old next month and already he is taking swimming lessons!! He cannot walk yet but we are hoping that walking will catch up with the swimming soon.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Rainy Sunday

Although we do not really notice weekends are any different to the rest of the week, we do tend to start a bit later on Sundays and, as this morning, have a farmhouse breakfast including eggs from our own free range hens of course.

Yesterday morning I beat the bounds with the dogs as usual and noticed two foxes in an adjoining field. Our neighbour, Rodney, often stops for a chat when we are on our walk and I mentioned the foxes. He told me that they feed the foxes as they like to have them around to keep the rabbits down. They run a nursery (specialising in helibores) and so do not like their stock being ruined by the bunnies. He also told me that renard had taken one of their ornamental ducks recently.

Imagine my horror this morning when I looked out of the window on the way to make our morning tea. Bold as brass was a fox sitting outside the henhouse. I rushed out in my PJs and shouted at him and he dived through the fence and down the field but then stopped. I thought I would let the dogs out of their kennel (a converted lorry unit) as they usually rush out full of noise and excitement. Of course this morning they just came out really calmly and quietly.

Still the fox moved off anyway - obviously thinking the odds of a chicken dinner were poor now.

I am always careful to lock the hens in at night but I shall be even more careful in future and have a good look around before letting them out in the morning. Whilst I have no particular affection for the chickens individually, we really enjoy the lovely eggs they produce and the undemanding way they live their lives - except when they think their food is coming - then they dance on my shoulders and weave in and out of my legs.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

What Snow?

The alpacas don't even seem to notice the snow any more. They spend a bit of time around the hay racks in the morning and then disappear down to the bottom paddocks.

There is hardly any grass showing even in the middle of the day when some of the snow starts to thaw. Even the males who don't have the luxury of going into the barn at night do not seem to be eating quite as much hay so presumably they are finding something to eat under the snow.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

There must be some grass here somewhere

We were really quite concerned when the bad weather was forecast as we were running out of hay and straw. Our normal local suppliers had run out or only had the huge bales which we do not have handling equipment for. Luckily our trusty friends Lynsey and Ian from Dreamfield Alpacas came to the rescue and delivered 50 bales of hay on Sunday and Bob and Phil from the village brought a few bales of straw.

Their farm is in Chardstock and the building of drains for the new school has meant that they were trapped and could not get their tractor out. They came to the rescue on Friday and delivered 5 bales in their landrover to keep us going and then delivered another 20 on Monday. This meant that we had enough to even though the weather came in with snow, winds, and freezing temperatures.

The alpacas are happy in their routine. They disappear to the bottom paddocks during the day and at about 4 p.m. they mooch up to the yard for their supper and at dusk I let them into the barn and the chickens waddle over to their hen house.

We have even managed to keep up with paddock cleaning thanks to the dedication of my friend and neighbour, Pam, and the fact that the snow has come in installments and melted between times.

The alpacas seem quite pragmatic about the snow and simply seem to believe that there must be some grass there somewhere, or else just give in and spend most of their time around the hay racks.

Colin Ottery, the shearer, is coming on Saturday to tidy up the 6 cria that we have selected to show in the spring.

Mike is recovering well and doing more each day although he has bouts of quite severe pain from time to time still.

They are keeping my mother in Musgrove in Taunton for another two weeks to give her physiotherapy and other treatments to help her maximum recovery from the stroke. She will then be assessed and her future will decided. She may have to move to a nursing home but at the very least she will move to Chard hospital which is much nearer to us and easier to visit, although they will not have the same treatment facilities.

Last Monday I had an appointment to visit Mum's Consultant, but the weather was too severe to risk the journey so I spoke to her on the phone at the appointed time. When I came off the phone Mike showed me Polly (kitten) who was breathing badly and was obviously in distress. Her sister was hissing at her - possibly because she did not understand the new behaviour. They had been in the house at 3.30 p.m. so she had suffered some sort of trauma within an hour or so.

I rushed her to the vet - including a huge detour because I followed diversion signs which brought me back to the closed road (due to drainage work) in Chardstock. I started out again and finally arrived at Coombefield Vet Hospital where Tina, the Vet, confirmed that she had suffered some sort of injury. Neither the dogs nor the alpacas were near her so we are assuming she either jumped or fell and accidentally landed on something.

She had air leaking from her lungs into her chest cavity and this had to be drained. She had Xrays and treatment and stayed in overnight. The "free" kitten has now cost us about £200 so she had better start catching some vermin soon. She seems fine now, although her sister was very hostile when she first came home. Perhaps she smelt of the Vet's. The sisters seem to have bonded again and the injured kitty seems fine apart from a bald patch on her side where they put the drain in.

We are hoping for an extremely uneventful time from now on - although David, my son, is going to try and tow the landrover and trailer out of the mud tomorrow so that might be quite dramatic.