Monday, 31 December 2012

Happy New Year

Well the farm looks pretty much deserted now that all the goats and alpacas are housed inside.  Chickens rule OK.

Once again the weather has been appalling today, even though the forecast was for an improvement.   We look forward to that.   I braved the rain to visit a client who has three pet alpacas and wanted help with their toe nails.  The road from here to Chard, three miles away, was flooded in several places and there was single lane traffic because only the centre of the road was passable in quite a few places.   Maybe I have just been lucky, but today was the worst I have seen the main road since we have lived here.

The builders are coming back on the 2nd to do some more decorating and lay the floor,  and then the plumbing and electrics will be finished off.  Not much more to do, but all quite expensive jobs.  

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Roping in the family

David and Jane came to collect Jax, their dog, who has been staying with us for a few days.

Their timing was excellent as we needed to clip the toe nails of the male alpacas and carry out a routine treatment for the prevention of fluke, which is a parasite which thrives in the wet and eventually attacks the animal's liver.

We treated the male alpacas in their shelter and the females and weanlings in the barn.

David is used to handling his sheep so he  has no difficulty with the alpacas and as they were already in the barn it was fairly easy to get a good system going.   Mike was in charge of pushing them into the handling pen and Jane let them out again after David and I had caught and treated them.

It was so quick that the girls were in and out before they knew what was going on.

The weather has improved slightly today, although there have been a number of really heavy showers and the fields are still extremely soggy and muddy.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Given up

We have decided to get all the alpacas in, and give them some respite from the continuing rain and the sodden ground.  We were a little concerned that they would be over-crowded in the barn, and they are, but they seem happier than they were outside.    We can also ensure that they are getting enough to eat when they are totally under our control and not having to use so much energy to keep warm.

Only the sheep and Alario (the male who fights with the others) are left in the open paddocks at the moment.   the sheep have got a good shelter and their hay rack is next to it so they can keep dry when they want to.   Most of the time they just graze on outside.   They are company for Alario but we are not sure if he appreciates them - although he is happy enough to share their feed.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Back to Normal

After a really excellent Christmas day with the family, normal service has been resumed.

We are looking after David's dog, Jax for a few days.  She is used to visiting us and just slots back into our routine without really thinking about it.

With no let up in the rain we have decided to bring all the alpacas in to shelter.   The adult males will be transferred to a double shelter next to the barn.  There are only four of them so they will have plenty of room.   The weanlings will remain in the barn and all the females will join them, divided by hurdles, until the weather improves.   They are really not getting enough nourishment from the grass so they will be just as well off in the barn with hay and alf alfa and at least they will not be burning calories trying to keep warm.

Mike has been trying to dig a few small trenches to keep some areas better drained but it is a losing battle I think.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Watery return
It has been raining here for most of the last ten days.   We moved all the male alpacas, including this year's weanlings, into the barn and all the females have gone down to the winter paddocks which means much less work on a daily basis as there are only two groups to deal with, apart from Alario, the male who likes to fight, and he has returned to his usual individual paddock with its own shelter.

I have just returned from a holiday in sunny India, so it was alright for me!

The photos show the fishing village where we were staying and our house as well as the beach which was just 100 yards away and some of the local fishermen, grannies and children.

Whilst |I was away Mike sold all the Angora does to a farmer from Bridgewater.  Although we loved having the goats, we have not got enough grazing to support them as well as all the alpacas, including the 18 new ones born this year and it is not really cost effective for us to keep them housed all year.  I had great plans of using their fleece, but again, it is expesnive and time consuming to set up that side of things.

We still have the bucks but they are being advertised in this months Mole Valley Newsletter which has proved successful in the past.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Gone Fishing!!

Off to India until the 20th.

Mike will be here to hold the fort and look after the animals.

He says he will appreciate having the place to himself for once!!  He is fully stocked up with dinners I have been freezing for the last couple of weeks if he does not feel like cooking himself.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Christmas Market 2012

Our first Christmas Market was a resounding success.   We were so lucky with the weather,   What with the builders and the bad weather we were way behind with the preparations but son, David, came  to the rescue on Friday and really pulled out all the stops to help us with the many last minute jobs that looked small on paper but turned out to be very time consuming when we came to do them.  He came up with some excellent ideas for making everything more attractive and safer for the visitors and helped us put them into practice.  Big thank you to David, even though he could not attend the actual event.

The rest of the clan, including all our relations in Bristol and Mike's family from Salisbury came along.   Pam and her cousin, Jill ran my stall all day whilst I was busy trouble shooting and sorting out the usual little problems that arise.  Originally I asked Pam if she would relieve me from time to time, but actually apart from selling a few raffle tickets, Pam and Jill did all the work with an hour or two's help  from my lovely friend, another Pam, who lives nearby.   She would willingly have stayed longer, but had her own family commitments.

 A big thank you to her for knitting lots of Beanie Hats and mittens in time for the market.   She is creative and such a good friend.

Next time we will try to get hold of one of those click counters so we have an idea of how many visitors we actually had.

We had and "Animal Corner" with a few alpaca cria, the Gotland Sheep,some Angora goat kids and a few hens.   As a result we have quite a few people interested in buying and  we have acquired a new young cockerell to romance our hens.

We used the living room to be of our new house for the overflow and my friend's son and his band played a few sessions of music throughout the day which added a festive spirit.

Many of the stallholders asked if we would be holding more events, although a few did not do quite as well.

The catering was great with home made soup, lovely fresh rolls and delicious  spiced apple hot toddy.  It was very popular all day, but if we do any more events, I will make sure that the refreshments are available earlier as the stallholders were looking for breakfast before their long stint on the market.

We had a bit of a problem getting the goat kids to leave their mums, even though they have been weaned for a long time.   Even Dolly, the sheepdog, could not get them to come.  In the end Mike and I went up with the landrover and put three of them in the back and drove them down.   I was very pleased with the way all the animals in "Animal Corner" behaved.   None of them backed off from the visitors.  The Gotland sheep and alpacas really seemed to enjoy the company and the goats and chickens were so busy eating they did not even notice.  Definitely no stress to the animals involved in this event.

The dogs were a bit barky to start with as they were in the garden with only a hurdle fence between them and the visitors but after a while they got bored and just continued with their normal doggy pursuits in the garden.

My friend, Pauline, stayed for dinner so we were able to analyse the day's events and came to the conclusion that apart from a few exhibitors having to be towed out by Mike with the help of Chris, who runs the family garage in Wilton, it was very successful indeed.

Friday, 23 November 2012

The South West has been hard hit by the recent rainfall and we have not escaped.   The farm is absolutely sodden and every time we drive the quad or a tractor the ground is torn apart.  After some of the recent rainfall it seemed as though we were actually on a waterfall and in the winter paddocks which are much lower, parts look like a lake.

Mike and Nick have been gradually going round the perimeter trying to clear ditches and cut back hedges but it is like painting the Forth Bridge.  Luckily Mike had dug a new ditch which has taken a lot of the water into the stream which runs along side the lowest paddocks.   Rain from the main road and off the fields above us  runs over our land when the ground is too wet to absorb it.

Five dogs in a small space makes for a lot of cleaning up every day indoors.  Thank goodness they are outside for most of the day.  They even have the sense to go in to their kennel when the rain is really heavy and they are sure they are not missing anything that is going on.

The rain was very heavy the night before last and a gutter broke on the Buck's shelter which meant that they had flowing water running through all night.   They looked rather fed up and bedraggled next day.  Usually, however, the goats really seem to like being shut in their cosy shelters with nice dry straw and fresh hay and water every day.

  Although the alpacas have shelter they do not seem to bother to use it.   Sometimes if it is very windy and wet they will run for the hedge but mainly they just put up with it.

We have weaned quite most of this year's cria now so we have some boys to sell again.  We will run the girls on and either keep them for breeding or sell them when they are old enough to breed from.

The house is coming along quite steadily.   Upstairs has been insulated and plaster-boarded ready for plastering and decorating.   There is a bit of a problem with the stair well.  It is out of line and so the plaster board for the ceiling downstairs will not fit properly.   We are trying to get the company that installed the pre-fabricated insulation panels to come back and fix it.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Goodbye Scaffolding

Well at last we can see the whole building without the scaffolding.  It seems much lighter inside.  I think the house is leaning a little as all the different tradesmen of the building world bring their own music with them which they play all day at enough volume so they can hear it above the noise they make when practising their skills.  It is quite bright and cheerful, as long as you don't have a hangover, and without exception all the tradesmen have been really pleasant, helpful and efficient.

I asked Nick to check the Gotland Sheep as I thought that despite being restricted to a small paddock they seemed to be really fat.   Apparently not - sheep are supposed to be much fatter than alpacas and goats and they are, in fact, not fat enough.   They have been transferred to winter paddocks with the female alpacas who have been removed from their cria for weaning.  That is the only area left with any serious grass.  We are galloping through our hay stores already and  we are feeding the lactating females to try and keep them fit. The grass looks OK but is really not very nutritious.

It was really funny to see how the alpacas reacted to the sheep.   They galloped up to them and then backed off as though they could not decide if they were predators.  The four sheep move around together in unison but I notice that they tend to be nearer to the alpacas than they were at first.

At last the original 6 hens are laying again and we are starting to get a surplus.  I can at least bank on having enough for an omelette when we want one./

We now have 25 stallholders booked in for the Christmas Market, so I am now a bit worried that there will not be enough room for my products!!!   Quite a few members of our family are travelling down from Bristol, and Salisbury respectively so that will help with the footfall and they might even find themselves co-opted as  staff.!! 

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Scullduggery Afoot

In October one of our farm signs which has been displayed on the verge along the farm frontage for years was the victim of a vehicle incident which apparently involved said vehicle scaling our bank and taking the sign and its sturdy wooden supports with it.   We were not sure when it happened or why.  Perhaps a drunk driver or someone having to take sudden avoiding action.  The impact must have been quite severe as there were deep tyre marks and the very solid bank had a big dent in it.   We also found the remains of a number plate  and part of the trim which looks as though it belongs to a 4 wheel drive vehicle.

Although puzzled we did not think much more about it until last week when I noticed that one of the small signs with our farm name on it had been knocked of its post and left face down.   This was obviously not done by a vehicle because it was well into the bank and there would not have been room for a vehicle behind it.

Starting to feel that there might be a connection when a third incident occurred.   The farm sign which matched the first one but at the other end of the farm frontage was also torn off its supports and apparently flung about 50 yards to within 6 feet of the farm gate.

We now feel that someone is actually targeting us either as some sort of twisted prank or deliberately to cause us inconvenience.   Either way it is really weird.

The house build is going well.  Not much point in taking photos at the moment as the scaffolding is still up and hiding everything.  The Scaffolder has been away on holiday but is coming tomorrow to take it down.

We are just waiting for the electrician to do his "first fix" and then the plasterboards can be finished and the project will be nearing completion, although I expect Christmas holidays will delay things somewhat.

All the animals seem to be OK.  We have moved the bucks out of the barn into a shelter next to the chicken shed and the does have gone back to their original goat house in the top paddock.   They are now shut in most of the time but we let them out when the weather looks as though it will be fine for a few hours.

Shutting them in has helped with their poorly feet and as we are now feeding them some goat course mix they are starting to look quite plump and contented.  We have decided not to breed from them this year as we have had quite a big crop of alpaca cria and we are not sure what the market will be like next year.

We are still gradually weaning the cria by taking their mums away to the winter paddocks so at least the cria stay with their friends, brothers, sisters and aunties.

The Gotland Sheep are still in the same small paddock but they are getting really fat. They are only eating grass, which is not at its best this year, so they must be what my Mum used to call "Good doers"

We have run out of available stalls for our Christmas Market on the 1st December although I expect with a bit of re-arranging we could squeeze another couple in.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Winter is incuminin

Well, it has been a bad summer and now we are having a taste of winter!   Today we have had a north wind driving really damp air and drizzle alternating with rain.

Three of the young does have been sold and moved to their new owners in the village.  They live on a hillside so it should suit them down to the ground.

All the other goats have been brought inside and their health and their feet are much improved.  The two bucks have been fighting a little but we think it is partly because they are enclosed in a small area and also they can probably smell the does and it is "that time of year"  for goats and sheep.   We are not breeding from the older does this year and have sold the younger ones who would have been ready.  We will see how things go next year.

The sheep seem to take everything in their stride and are certainly no trouble so far.

Things are getting exciting in the house now.  The outside has been finished apart from where the porch is going.  Most of the internal walls have been plaster boarded and the plumber and electrician are doing the first fix.   The downstairs floor will be done next week.   The under floor insulation is already down.   I am thinking that we will probably not need any heating at all given all the insulation that has gone into the build so far.   I am worried that there will not be enough air getting in for breathing!!  We have chosen  the sanitary ware for the bathroom and ordered the range cooker.  I need to decide on kitchen units so the electrician and plumber know where to put their wires, sockets and pipes etc:

We revisited the flooring company and have chosen a different stone floor.   It is lighter in colour and turns out to be cheaper too, which is a bonus, although the overall price will be the same as we forgot to include the porch when we asked for the quote originally.

We have started to wean this year's cria and seven females have moved down to the winter paddocks.  This number will increase over time as we wean the rest of the cria.  

Sunday, 14 October 2012


Just thought you might like to see the Gotland Sheep.   Three of them are very friendly but one is a bit stand offish at the moment but they seem to be settling in very well.

We are loving the new windows in the "house".  From the attic in the barn part there is a fantastic view of the Devon countryside which is even better than the view over our fields. are getting quite a lot of interest in the Christmas Market which is here on the 1st December.   We have  15 stalls booked and we have enough of our own products to sell to take up another 3.  Now it is just a question of the weather and getting enough customers.  Luckily I have been able to hire some tables from the village hall for those exhibitors who cannot bring their own.   It was a bit heart stopping when the person who organises the bookings for the hall told me that it was booked for a party that day.   Luckily they don't need many tables so we can have them!!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Damp Days
Looks as though I accidentally saved this post as a draft.  It was dated before the photos of the Gotland Sheep.  

Every time I think I will go out with the camera to take photos of the house, or indeed anything of interest, the weather steps in.

The good news is that the house now has a full complement of lovely windows, most of the outside has its wooden cladding on and we are dashing around choosing flooring for the large living room and the porch.

Yesterday we went to collect our new Gotland Sheep from an agility friend who lives near Okehampton.   I had already found a company who sell stone flooring which was on the way - well that is what I call it - Mike is more sceptical and calls it a  big detour - at least that is what he usually says, but this time he agreed that it would kill two birds with one stone and save some fuel.  We were due to collect the sheep at 1 - 1.30 p.m. so only had quite a small window to view the flooring and given the small Devon lanes we had to travel down, that window was even smaller by the time we got there.   We expected the yard to be big (which it was) but most of the space was taken up with stock so we had to park the truck and trailer outside in the lane.

We finally chose Lodge Stone from Egypt, which is apparently a very recent import to this country and at the same time fell in love with their water features which were made of granite and very graceful (this would be for the garden).  They gave us a frightening quote but we decided when we started on the project that we would try and get what we want, even if it means waiting longer.  In this case it cannot wait because the floor is the next thing on the list of building works.

We arrived on time to collect the Sheep but Jenny , my friend, - hope there are no Inbetweener fans reading this -  had had a bad morning so I helped her tag the sheepand she kindly checked and trimmed their toe nails whilst I watched.   They got quite flighty and jumped over the gates of their pen, which was a bit worrying.   Our alpacas never do that and even the goats who can be very naughty only stick their heads through the fence or occasionally get under a gate or through it if it gets left open!!

We are downsizing the goat herd because we have not found a way to make any profit out of them.  I had visions of having the fleece spun and selling breeding stock, like we do the alpacas, but it has not really worked.   We have got our original investment back, and make enough to cover the cost of shearing with a small profit when we sell the fleeces, but I fear that when we feed them through the winter we are definitely out of pocket.

The Gotland sheep have beautiful grey fleece and apparently are good to eat too, so the plan is that the 4 ewe lambs we have bought will be mated this time next year and lambing in the following spring and will provide fleece and meat for friends and family.  We will keep the numbers down so that they are easier to manage.

The chickens are also disappointing at the moment - still only one egg a day and sometimes that goes missing if Millie or Romie get there first.

We have had health problems with all our animals over the past few weeks - worms, bad feet, out of condition Mums and really sodden ground all the time.   It makes everything such hard work and depressing when all the coats are wet, the dogs are constantly muddy and wet, skies are grey.   Still it makes you appreciate the sun when it does come out.  We have brought all the goats inside now in an effort to get their feet in better condition.  Neither of the Big Bucks could walk properly a few days ago.  I cut their nails, dug out the dirt, sprayed them with blue spray and gave them long acting antibiotic and they are at least walking normally now, although their feet still look wierd.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Sad News
On Monday morning I checked on 108 and his Mum, but sadly he had died in the night.  He had taken his bottle the night before, so I was surprised at his sudden demise, although it was always a probability. We will never know what caused his sudden paralysis for sure.

Sandy Maiden died last night aged 18 and a half.   She was a great companion to my Mum when she was alive, and a successful agility dog and loved pet.   She won out of starters at full height twice before Mike started competing at midi height with her.  She always ruled the roost and the other dogs knew not to upset her.  

Thursday, 20 September 2012

108 108

108 is the cria who cannot walk.   We have been trying to keep his limbs moving so he does not lose muscle function and he does seem to be walking a little although he needs support all the time.  He now has swollen knees which means he cannot straighten his front legs.    A friend recommended a physiotherapist who treats humans and animals and she came today.

She has recommended that we stretch his legs rather than exercise them and we are going to try and stretch the ligaments which allow him to put his feet flat to the floor.   She was very helpful and came up with some other interesting ideas to try, including stimulating him before we try to walk him around in a sling made of old towels (which we do now).   She says that patting and plucking gently at his fleece around his back legs will help to stimulate his nervous system and make him aware of his back legs again.   He was a little sweetie whilst she treated him and was more intent on munching grass than taking any notice of being pulled and pushed.

His mother is not longer feeding him because he cannot reach her udder and she is too upset if we try to hold him up to her.   He is now being bottle fed three times a day.    He is two and a half months  old so at least we will not have to do it for too long.   Fingers crossed that eventually whatever caused the problem in the first place will go away.

The SIPS installers have finished after one or two hiccups.   They were a lovely team of builders and always cheerful and polite whatever happened.  Our teabag consumption will go down considerably until the next wave of building works - probably next week when the wooden cladding will be added to the outside.

Downstairs will be one big living space.   The interior photos are of the upstairs.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Lots of things

The build was progressing very well and we have had a really lovely team of builders working on site, but all has now come to a standstill because it seems the drawings did not allow for proper roof support.   So it is "back to the drawing board" until they come up with a viable solution.

Pauline came to stay for a few days whilst the decorators were working at her house.   We visited a nearby poultry farm and I bought another 6 hens and she bought 4.  On Saturday and Sunday we went to River Cottage with a couple of young alpacas (the last of last year's boys) and our stall to sell the alpaca products which we normally sell in the farm shop.   It was a really good event.   Tickets were sold out well in advance and as well as enjoying ourselves (Pauline and I manned the stall together)  we sold a lot of socks, pashminas, beanie hats and knitting wool, as well as the two alpacas we took with us.  They are pictured above.   It was not a misty day - I put the camera in the cold box so it was out of sight and when I took it out to photograph the boys and our stand, the lense misted over!!

As well as craft stalls, demonstrations, lovely food and incidentally good weather there was a Poultry breeder!!  Pauline fell in love with some fancy chickens and decided to buy them and donate the two black rock hens she had purchased previously, to the Laurel Farm flock.

On Monday afternoon Mike was up on the scaffolding when he noticed this little chap was lying in the grass and seemed to be struggling unsuccessfully to get up.   He phoned me and I went to see what was wrong.
He was shaking and obviously in distress.  I did not try and help him but called the vet  straight away.

He came within 20 minutes and could find no obvious reason for the problem.   By this time he had stopped shaking and we had already thought that he must have had some sort of accident.  The vet agreed and the best guess is that he was either running around and injured himself or was kicked by another alpaca.   Possibly he tried to suckle from the wrong Mum or just got in the way.

The vet gave him antibiotics, metacam to ease the pain and reduce inflammation if any.  He told us to contact him after 3 days.  There was little improvement so I phoned and JJ, one of my favourite farm vets, came this time.   He thought the same but agreed that it was worth continuing to try and get him mobile again.  He gave him a steroid injection and thought that we should give it two or three weeks before having to make any decision on his future.    I am giving him physiotherapy  three times a day.   Some days I feel we are making progress and others he seems to go backwards.   Today is a good day and we have put Mum and son outside to give them some fresh air and a change of scenery.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

We're off!!

 After quite a few hold ups directly and indirectly caused by the weather mainly, the barn conversion is now making some rapid progress.  The SIPS (structural insulated panel system) and steel joists arrived this morning and tomorrow work will commence.  When they have finished in just a few days the entire interior of the building will be completed to first fix readiness - i.e. plumbing and electrics can go in.   Our builder, Jon, will be adding the wooden cladding as soon as possible and the windows will go in.   The outside will be complete.  Not sure how long it will take to get the inside done, but at least it will look like a proper home from the outside!

We brought the female alpacas and babies up to the home paddocks so that I could take photographs for the sale page on our website.  I had gaily been removing from sale the  Mums who had female cria and had not realised that it left hardly any stock for sale.  We are going to keep them up here for a few more days in the hope that Jessica (the last pregnant female ) will give birth and then they can go back to the winter paddocks for the rest of the year.

Sadly on Monday morning when I checked the stock I found the little body of number 9 a young male goat  who had been having problems.  We had given him anti-biotics, wormed him, and treated him for cocci and  also some glucose and pro-rumen to try and stimulate his digestive processes.  We thought he was improving but unfortunately he did not make it.

We were supposed to be taking some alpacas and of course our alpaca wool and garments to a local village fete on Monday but due to the weather they cancelled the outdoors aspect and moved all the stalls in to the village hall so we did not take the boys as it would have been a bit pointless leaving them outside in the pouring rain whilst everyone else was indoors.

We had a very small table so could not display our wares very well and we were right by the gap between the small marquee and the village hall so we got the full benefit of the wind and rain that was blowing in.  Luckily it was only a couple of hours and we beat a hasty retreat as soon as the crowds died down, returning to a nice warm evening in front of the TV with a glass or two of excellent port.

On Saturday we are due to make our usual contribution to village life by having a stall and taking some alpacas to Chardstock Street Fayre.   We are really hoping for some good weather (as I am sure everyone else is) and the opportunity to sell some goods.

We have decided to hold a Christmas Market on the 1st December to sell our own products and to add some more interest by having a variety of stalls with different gift and novelty ideas.   I only sent out an email today and so far we have interest from a lady who sells vintage knitting patterns and hand made baby clothes (mainly from alpaca), a talented designer and maker of Christmas wreaths and other decorations from all natural sources,  a jam maker, hand made cards, cakes, someone who makes cakes stands (I cannot wait to see what they are like) and mulled wine.  Visitors will also have the opportunity to meet the alpacas, goats and chickens.