Friday, 29 November 2013

Christmas Shopping

With the Christmas season nearly upon us the alpacas' wool and the garments we make from them are at their most popular.   Our online shop is doing well and we expect the Christmas Market on Sunday 1st December will give us a kick start in the farm shop.

The weather should be dry for Sunday, so fingers crossed we will have plenty of visitors to make it worth while for the stallholders and, of course, for our own shop.

The barn will be full of interesting stalls from pottery and handmade walking sticks to soap and goats cheese with patchwork, bunting, natural Christmas decorations, fabric goods, cakes and preserves and more in between.

As we do not dye our own alpaca wool, we have introduced a range of fair trade alpaca throws, scarves and shawls in vibrant colours to complement our own classic and practical hand knits.   Our alpaca socks are, as always at this time of year, selling well and now that most of our building work has been completed the farm is looking quite neat and tidy.

Monday, 25 November 2013

It's Official!

Our farm shop is open weekdays 11.30 - 3.30 p.m. except Wednesday and we are closed on Sundays notwithstanding  unforeseen events.   Today I had very few customers but just before I was about to close a car pulled in and four young men emerged.  They wandered down the drive as I wandered up and I made the observation that I presumed they were not interested in the shop and they confirmed that they were more interested in the alpacas.

As usual when visitors particularly want to see them the alpacas had removed themselves to a lower paddock, so I offered to bring them up so they could see them at close quarters.  They were really pleased and so I called Dolly the dog out to help me move them.

As luck would have it Dolly acted like a participant in One Man and His Dog on this occasion.  (Sometimes of course it can go horribly wrong)!  She listened to my voice and whistle commands and casually herded the eight young males up the paddock and through two gateways.  She then lay down to block the second gateway whilst the visitors took photos and generally enjoyed the experience.  When I felt that the alpacas had settled down I called Dolly back and raised my hand in a wave as Dolly and I walked away.

One of the boys waved back and shouted "I have got to say that your dog is  awesome." so what I always knew is now official!!

Jake, Mike's dog, still retains the title of "The Saint" as he can do no wrong in Mike's eyes, but as I said repeatedly until Mike told me to shut up, "awesome" is much better.

Preparations are going ahead for the Crafts and Gifts Market at the weekend.  Mike is still in the barn as I am writing this at 6.20 p.m.  He is pressure washing the floor so that it is fit for humans.  Tomorrow he and Nick will be putting up temporary fencing for the car park and for Animal corner where we have a few alpacas, sheep and chickens for visitors (particularly the children) to see.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Tidying Up

We are making the most of the weather to prepare for the winter ahead.   We sent the three older male alpacas who normally free-range around the house and barn areas down the race which separates our paddocks from the perimeter fence.  The grass was in need of a trim up and the boys enjoyed the fresh grazing but after a couple of days they kept coming back up to the gate in the hope that they could access their normal shelter and, I think, be part of the "family" including the dogs and chickens.  They are now back in their home territory  and enjoying being Lords of all they Survey again.

The chicken run was very muddy and unpleasant for me when feeding and cleaning them, so I went to our local sand and gravel merchants, who normally supply our scalpings etc: and chose some gravel which Mike spread around their run.   They free range during the day but are shut in for their own safety overnight.
They were so pleased that the cockrell (see photo) was even contemplating a bit of agility!

Millie, our oldest Collie, likes to feel that she can mingle where she pleases and on the whole none of the other animals seem to object.  We have to keep an eye on her because she is not averse to pinching the occasional egg for herself.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Pedicure Time

We have been gradually working our way through the routine husbandry for the alpacas and finally finished by trimming their toe nails.  It was a nice easy job as they are all well behaved and the wet weather has kept the nails soft and easy to cut.   Sometimes in long spells of dry weather the nails seem to be as hard as stone.

One of the young males had a strange foot problem which we treated with  antibiotic spray and an injection followed by regular checks and further application of the spray.  The treatment has obviously worked because, apart from pink feet where the spray has weathered, his feet look quite normal again.

The hens are starting to produce fewer eggs with the days being shorter and several have decided that the hay rack in one of the shelters is an ideal nesting spot, which means that we have to remember to check it daily before any other animals accidentally crack them.

This evening when I shut them in I found the cockerell with his wing over Chicken Licken (the old pet hen).  I do not know whether he was cold or he thought she was but it definitely explained the expression "to take someone under your wing".  Unfortunately I think I disturbed them, but I like to think that they snuggled up again when I had done my head count.

With our Christmas Market coming up, Mike is going great guns at clearing out the barn and neatly stowing away the dangerous farm machinery, which he loves.  I have been labelling and arranging all our alpaca products  and have bought some extra stock in ready for the Christmas "rush".

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Not just a fluke

With the wet warm weather that we are experiencing, the warnings are out that liver fluke is becoming a problem for sheepand alpacas in the area.  The liver fluke is a flatworm with a complex lifecycle which relies on moisture and warm temperatures for survival, 

Acute infestation can cause livestock deaths if the parasite is left to multiply unchecked. Sheep of all ages are equally susceptible, with the most acute forms of infestation observed during the autumn.  Alpacas can also carry this parasite, especially if they are grazing on wetlands .  We have a spring in the winter paddocks and quite a large marshy area, which is particularly attractive when the marsh orchids are in bloom.

As a precaution we drench our alpacas against fluke three times over the winter, starting in October and the last dose in April.   With our smaller herd it is an easy job for me to do without any help.   Today was the turn of our females and I was really pleased at how well they behaved.  Even Perdita, a well built but sometimes unco-operative young female, gave way gracefully.

The Gotland Sheep were also more helpful than usual.  I think they have decided to take a lead from the alpacas.   The goats are quite easy to deal with but you just have to watch out that the horns are pointing the right way.

The next drench will be ADE paste which is a sugery paste as a carrier for essential vitamins, especially Vitamin D which is very important for alpacas who originate in South America where they are exposed to higher levels of sunshine with less filtration from the atmosphere.    I intend to start this on the next dry day. 

The Christmas Market is now fully booked with no more stall holder spaces available.  I have put out posters and advertised the event in the Marshwood Vale Magazine, the Parish Newsletter and on our website.  It now just depends on the weather so that enough visitors come along.