Monday, 30 March 2009


Well even though the days are longer they seem to go just as quickly and we still don't seem to get everything done as planned.

Yesterday was taken up helping a friend run her dog agility show. Jake, Mike's collie, competed for the first time. Unfortunately I had to run him as Mike's new knee was not up to it. He went very well, although a bit mad. I don't think I was concentrating very well as I was managing a ring and running my dogs in between times - not the best frame of mind for coping with a manic collie. Unfortunately Romie, my best dog, went lame during a jumping round. She seems much better today so I am hoping she will be fit for Easter - the first big competition of the year.

This morning, we had farm visitors who seem really interested in buying some of our alpacas, so that took some time. The alpacas behaved impecably and enchanted our guests.

We have just sent up a payment system on line for our alpacas garments and gifts. Up until now we have been using my son's credit card facility which is making things difficult now that we have more transactions.

We have decided to have a new kitchen installed in our log cabin. We still have 2 years of our 5 years temporary planning permission and we thought we might as well make the most of what we have got in the meantime. The lady from the company supplying the units came to measure up and quote this afternoon. Our neighbour is going to do the work as he is a professional builder.

Halter training is continuing but today the youngsters decided that they had never seen a halter before and that I am their worst enemy. I hope things will go better tomorrow.

Weather is still lovely. There was a frost last night and all the water troughs froze as did the field pipes, but apparently no leaks.

Sunday, 29 March 2009


Although I have not lived up to my own high hopes of getting well ahead with the halter training so that the alpacas we show this year show themselves off to their best advantage and don't get criticised by the judge for bad behaviour (not that this has happened to us yet) I was pleased today that they each walked up the drive to the farm gates and the older ones even walked along the verge next to the road, causing much rubber necking from passing cars. They then had to walk back down the drive, which they did with much more enthusiasm, and into a fresh paddock.

Typically as soon as they were released they got their heads down and start eating again. Not too stressed out then!!

Tomorrow we are at a dog agility show all day so not much will get done on the farm but the rest of the week is fairly free so we will be able to concentrate more. Mike is going to modify our horse box to make it more alpaca friendly. At the moment there is a divider in the middle which often means that when segregating sexes there might be one or two animals with half the room and six sharing the rest. We aim to bring equality into alpaca transport at Laurel Farm.

All is well in the chicken department and we now have quite a regular demand for the eggs. Demand often exceeds supply since we only have 8 hens. We are selling eggs for £2 per dozen and whilst we will not make our fortune they are definitely covering their cost including some of the original capital outlay. They could charge an entertainment fee as well as they are very amusing.

Jake, Mike's collie, split his toe nail at training on Wednesday and on Thursday we decided to take him to the Vet. He cut it right back and sealed it. I was going to compete with him tomorrow but he will now only be able to do the jumping rounds as the agility rounds which include the contact equipment will be too much for his poorly toe.

I trim our dogs' nails regularly but these days they only run on grass and so do not get worn down and I was quite surprised at how quickly they had grown - or maybe it is just that the time since I cut them has flown by.

We have finally finished sorting out my Mother's belongings and took the last fifteen bags to a charity shop today. I took the opportunity to sort out our book case as well as hers and so we still have a few piles of books to dispose of. They will be on the next load.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Fingers Crossed

Everything that follows requires some finger crossing to avoid disappointment!!

We are teaming up with Dreamfield Alpacas who are based near Honiton to have an Alpaca Sale Day here at Laurel Farm on Saturday 2nd May. We are hoping to have lots of interest and even some sales.

The broody hen is laying again and has returned to her usual pleasant personality. I found a stash of eggs in the hedge where I saw another hen disappear. Mike had to get a ladder to climb in to retrieve them (nine in all). This morning the talented Millie Moo went in through the brambles and branches and for a mere half a cocktail sausage retrieved this mornings egg.

We had to keep the young males separate from the older ones due to some bullying but yesterday we put all the males back together again, barring the miserable Alario, and toes crossed as well, all seems peaceful in the batchelor paddock.

Paul West formerly of Little Gem Alpacas and now of Little Gem lots of things took some lovely pictures of Pedro and Chale who are now ready to go on our stud male page. See today's pics. The small fluffy one is Alice who was sired by Wellground Alex who belongs to the West. She is an excellent cria.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Halter Training 2

Well maybe I spoke too soon. Yesterday I really had to catch up with the office work, especially the dreaded VAT return and today we went dog training in the morning and made a bit of headway clearing out my Mother's room when we got back about 2.30p.m. After that I was not in the right frame of mind for it so have delayed until tomorrow, but then I really, really am going to do it every day. Honestly.

We were a bit disappointed that the hens who have been laying well all winter are only laying about six eggs a day now, when they should be laying one each - eight.

I think we have solved the mystery. Yesterday I noticed that one of the hens was sitting in the corner of the barn where they lay their eggs. I checked several times during the day and the same hen was still there. I thought she must either be ill or broody, even though I have experienced neither of these events, luckily.

I decided to pick her up. They are usually quite amenable to this and so I was taken by surprise when she became very aggressive and pecked my hand. I thought it would be a good idea to try and move her to see if she could move around alright so I got a walking stick and poked her. Surprisingly she liked this even less and pecked viciously at the stick.

Mike had the bright idea of putting on his working gloves and picked her up whereupon she squawked, flapped and generally made it clear that she was not happy with us. Millie, my brown collie, came up to sniff her whilst Mike was carrying her and she lunged out and narrowly missed the dog's nose. Millie found this hard to believe as she is usually able to make the hens run away at least, so she tried to sniff again and received yet another attempted peck. It was actually quite funny with Mike looking as though he had a chicken machine gun in his hands with Millie his target.

The good news was that the chicken seemed to be in good health but bad temper, which I thought possibly meant she was broody - recognising some of the symptoms from the alpacas who tend to get bad tempered when pregnant.

I phoned Nick Cox, our Shepherd friend who sold us the chickens. He confirmed that she was broody and said if he had some fertilised eggs she could have hatched them but it is too early in the year for his cockerel to be working. He said it is really hard to get them out of the broody state but recommended isolating her for a couple of days with no bedding,but food and water of course. We put her in a spare dog kennel and I followed his advice. When we got home this afternoon I decided that she should come out as I did not want her fellow chickens to forget her and think she was a stranger in the camp. I thought this might lead to some feathers flying.

I put some food out for all the hens and then let the broody one out - she joined in straight away and so far seems to have forgotten her ill humour, so fingers crossed there will be seven eggs tomorrow.

The second mystery (I think) has also been solved. Some of them used to lay eggs in the hedge and I have been searching in the areas where we used to find them, but this morning when I let them out I noticed that one rushed into the hedge instead of heading for the barn with the others. I could not see exactly where she went into the hedge but it was a lot further down than the previous places. I saw her come out when I was down in the bottom paddocks with dogs so again I could not work out exactly where to look. After a fruitless search I have decided to watch them closely when I let them out in the hope of finding a stash of eggs!!

Monday, 23 March 2009

Halter training

The fine weather has enabled us to get well ahead with the halter training. All the weanlings will now walk on a halter in one form or another. Some pull, hop, skip and jump ahead, some pull back and then rush forwards, some just pull and pull and the odd one or two actually walk very nicely!! Still another ten halter training days until the first show so we hope to get there. Once they are all reasonably happy to walk alongside me I will introduce them to the stock trailer so that it is not too much of a shock the first time they have to travel.

We have just started to separate the earliest due pregnant females so that we can keep a special eye on them and not miss any births. It is important to check them whilst they are birthing and immediately afterwards to make sure that everything goes smoothly, that the afterbirth leaves the mother and that the cria suckles within the first couple of hours thus taking in the vital colostrom which gives it the benefit of its mother's immunity to outside bacteria which he will have been protected from in the womb.

We have checked the birthing box to make sure there are clean towels, cria coats (to keep them warm if the weather is bad or if they are weak), dried colostrum in case Mum does not feed them properly, together with a colostrum feeder to tube feed directly into the cria's stomach if he is not suckling, Terramycin aerosol to spray the open wound where the umbelical cord has broken free, gloves in case any intervention is needed and a book to read if it is a long birth!!

The daily hay run is much reduced now as they are all able to survive better on the available grass which is growing well now. We are still not out of the woods as often the weather can turn wintery again even in April.

Everything seems to be going smoothly at the moment, although Mike is a bit under par, but I am sure he will feel better soon. We are saving on housekeeping money as he is off his food.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Spring is here

Well maybe not spring exactly but the weather has been lovely for the last couple of days.

I lost my wireless connection on the laptop which is why it is so long since the last entry. Still waiting to get it fixed - I probably switched it off accidentally but since it is a second hand laptop I do not have the instructions and I cannot identify the right button!! David is coming down on Friday to help do alpaca toe nails and medication so I am hoping he will fix it.

My mother's funeral went off alright as they say and I have finally started the task of sorting through her possessions. I am just doing a little at a time so that I don't make any rash decisions that I might regret later.

I have finally got back to the halter training and have separated out the young females who are next on the list. All the young boys are fairly well behaved and I will just have to brush up on their halter walking if and when they are sold.

The grass is starting to grow and we are noticing a big decline in the amount of hay being eaten daily. We have closed off some of the paddocks now so that the grass has a chance to get going. In the winter we let the main herd free range most of the free paddocks and the bigger bottom field but in the summer we move them from paddock to paddock so that some are rested and to enable us to separate the Mums who are ready to give birth so that we can keep an eye on them.

Two of the dogs were a bit ripe and Mike told me they needed a bath (I have no sense of smell and so do not notice eau de fox). As it was lovely and sunny I groomed, trimmed toe nails, cleaned teeth, bathed and wormed all six of them. The birds should have a hay day collecting the flying fur for their nests.

Our friends, Paul and Sue West, formerly of Little Gem Alpacas, popped in on Sunday. They brought me a bottle of wine to celebrate my fifth year breast cancer check up which has given me the all clear at last. They were interested to see the cria that their stud male, Wellground Alex, had sired and Paul took a picture of Alice, the female, but Devante, the young male had paddled in the galvanised trough and was wet and muddy, so he was not very photogenic. They were pleased with the quality of both of them. Paul also took some good photos of Pedro and Chale to go on our stud page. They have both impregnated females and we are hoping for some good cria from them this year as well as some stud work for them.

Apparently on Country File on BBC TV there was a feature on alpacas and our neighbours have asked for some alpaca poo to try on their woodburner. Apparently it was recommended on the programme. I did not see it, unfortunately. Perhaps it will be repeated or I might be able to view it on line.

They have agreed to do some farm sitting for us during the summer so that we can get away to dog shows together at weekends.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Back again

Well I don't know if I have any news really!!

Mum's funeral is on Thursday 12th. Seems like there will be quite a few there including some of my staunch friends who knew her. Their support will be much appreciated. A lovely lady, Susan Jackman visited today to finalise the details. She is officiating at the service. We have received loads of lovely cards and letters. I am both dreading and looking forward to the closure which it will bring.

Mike is nearly back to normal except for tiring easily. He is walking well, driving and back to doing his usual jobs around the farm. He is hoping to run his dog at Easter. We have entered Kernow Agility Show.

The kittens don't even seem to have noticed that they have been spayed. Tessa, the head farm vet is coming to do some blood tests on one or two female alpacas who are not getting pregnant as they should. She is going to take the kittens' stitches out at the same time. They are pretty much living outdoors all the time now, but sleep in an old kennel in the barn at night. At the moment there is a cage around it but we intend to remove it shortly so they can chose when they go to bed or get up.

I have been up to Crufts to do my usual stint working on the APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers) stand. This was a welcome way to keep my mind off the forthcoming events. I bought an automated cat feeder that works by battery. The lid lifts when the cat stands in front and closes to keep any left over food away from flies etc: if the cat moves away. Unfortunately because the kittens share a bowl and dance around a lot, it opens and shuts all the time and causes mahem. Lucky it was greatly reduced in price on the last day or I might have really regretted this impulse buy!! There was no evidence of the credit crunch at Crufts. People can still find plenty to spend on their beloved pets. I bought two kongs, five air tennis balls, some vet bed for the caravan, a toe nail file which works by battery (might be another pig in a poke). I was tempted with some really nice Barbour boots but resisted the tempation.

I had my five year cancer check today and was given the all clear but I going to continue my annual check ups. Luckily my son, David, has kept up my private healthcare payments through his company which we started together before I retired.

My consultant is interested in buying some alpacas and says he and his wife will come and see us soon. They are also interested in pigmy goats. We are thinking of breeding them too, so I might contact some friends who have them. We only have four young males for sale so with the amount of interest that we have had I am sure they will sell quite soon.

Whilst I was at Crufts Mike says we had about six inches of snow so everything was harder work than he hoped. Now that the weather is better I have recommenced halter training. Six done so far with another six to go.

Chickens are laying well and we need to put a sign out on the road to dispose of the surplus. Two neighbours already have a regular order. When we feed the alpacas they have to fight off dogs, kittens and chickens now.

I was a little worried because I have been putting garlic in the alpaca food to try and ward off unwanted parasites. I thought the eggs might taste funny but the hens obviously do not eat enough to taint them.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Sad News

Sadly my Mother died in the early hours of Friday morning. It was not unexpected but she had seemed to be improving a little.

The last couple of days have been taken up with the bureaucracy which follows such an event, but life goes on in other areas and all the animals are enjoying this long spell of clement weather as are we.

The alpacas are looking lovely and fluffy instead of wet and bedraggled and even the chickens seem to have more of a spring in their step.

The kittens are going to be spayed on Tuesday because they are getting very brave and wondering far and wide - so far within our bounderies - but we are very concerned that they do not produce a litter of kittens for us to home. They are seriously food oriented so I should think they will be more concerned with the fact that they will not have their usual Shredded Wheat and milk for breakfast than anything else.