Friday, 20 December 2013

Jake bereft

Despite the other four dogs, the cat, the chickens, alpacas, sheep and goats, Jake is only interested in looking out for the return of his beloved Mike.

Mike has gone up to the garage near Salisbury where we used to live and work and usually he takes Jake with him, but today he was loaded up with Christmas presents, wheels from a vehicle he is renovating and as he is borrowing a sporty little car whilst our big van is hospitalised, he has no room for his trusty companion.

Jake recognised all the signs of a trip to the garage, where he is welcomed and spoilt, but was very puzzled when Mike drove off without him.  I may have to book him into therapy.  On the other hand, probably his breakfast will distract him sufficiently to survive the day!!

The weather has been extremely wet and windy down here for the last few days, with a few hours of calm and brightness in between.  Since the alpacas do not get a chance to dry in between I have gone back to shutting them in at night. Until last year we never felt the need to get them in at all, but the winter was so severe that  we had the main herd in the barn. This year with our fewer numbers I am keeping them in their paddocks but enticing them into their shelters with a feed just before dark so that I can at least make sure they are not exposed to the wind and rain over night.  It is not a bad thing as it forces me to go do the rounds morning and night so that I will spot any fallen trees, broken fences etc: caused by the storms.

The upside is that it is no longer a case of chasing stray chickens into their run at night, since the are only too keen to get into their cosy shed and shelter from the rain.   They seem to spend most of the day either in one of the alpaca shelters or in the barn.  Luckily they have not worked out how to get into the hayloft  yet.  No doubt the older ones will remember soon and show them all the way up the ladder.  Although it maybe that the cat is guarding her territory up there and acting as a deterrent.

The goats love being in their shelter and always go in at night and they hate the rain so stay in there during the day if they can.  To start with it was dry and easy to keep clean but the wet weather started to make it rather unpleasant so I am giving them fresh straw every day in an effort to keep them clean, warm and dry.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Cock doodle doos!

Even the alpacas were surprised to hear Victor, our resident cockerel. He has has finally achieved it.   For ages he has been croaking.  Then he developed a "cock-a-dooerrr" but this morning he gave forth a true Cock-a-doodle-doo!  Luckily it was about 9.30 a.m. and even then it was not too raucous, so fingers crossed he will remain conservative in his vocal efforts.  I think it will be a mixture of crowing and croaking for a while yet.

Who needs expensive climbing frames for the chickens when they can play in Mike's yard!!

Having quite a few hens and their feed,  has been an attraction for rats and I have been trying all sorts of things to keep them away.  I sprayed the perimeter of the pens with Jayes Fluid and put concrete blocks all around the fencing of the pens.  It all worked for a while  but the little devils kept finding other ways to raid the chicken feeders, so it was a constant battle.  The final straw was when after several weeks of covering the feeders every night and blocking them off with concrete blocks and wood panels, one came back again and actually chewed the side out of one of the feeders, leaving a neat circular hole.

Now at night  I take their feeders into the shed where I keep the chickens' straw etc: so that there is nothing left to attract vermin.  The chicken are fed outside their pen during the day when the dogs and alpacas are around, not to mention the cat, to deter invaders.

The downside was that the area became very muddy and unpleasant in the wet weather and the feeders also became encrusted with mud not to mention the dogs and me, so Mike has now spread an area with scalpings so that the feeders can remain clean and I can get to the shed and the feeders without sinking into unsavoury mud.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Ex Chicken Licken

Alpacas are our main farming interest, but our other animals including the chickens also have their place.  They pay for themselves and make a bit of profit too.

Chicken Licken (ours, not the story book one)  is now an ex chicken.   The first signs that she was poorly were that she easily knocked over by the other chickens and on one occasion I saw her actually somersault. On Friday she became lethargic and had obviously lost interest even in eating, which was her favourite hobby.   By yesterday she was not really with us and we made a comfortable bed for her in the shed where I store the straw for the henhouse.
This morning I thought she was dead but she chortled very slightly, so I just let her rest on until later when she finally breathed her last.

Originally a battery hen, she was the sole survivor of a fox attack a few years ago (when I accidentally left the door to the henhouse open over night) and my friend Pauline taught her to be cute and feed from her hand.  From then on she thought she should have access to all of our property including the kitchen if we were not careful.  She was often seen riding in the land rover or the back of the quad bike.

All the other hens are all right, but they only lay eggs, they are not friends!!

Weeks ago I sorted out the alpacas that are for sale and put their details on our website, but I just have not had a chance to photograph them.  Either the weather is poor or other pressing jobs or trips seem to prevent me.  The next sunny day will definitely be devoted to alpaca pin ups.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Demolition Day

Mike and Nick have been really busy today.

They have been clearing the ditch which runs down the side of our property and which drains surface water from the main road.   When they got to the old goat shelter, which later became Alario's shelter and was made out of an old pig ark with a wooden porch, they had to take it down to allow access with the digger.

It took several trips backwards and forwards but it is now in the barn being revamped into a garden shed for our sunken garden.  It is quite low and so will not be seen over the retaining wall.  I was surprised that I could not find any photos of it, but I suppose it was not the most attractive shelter so I probably left it out when possible.  It is just visible behind these young males who are now yearlings!!

My pet hen, Chicken Licken, is looking very poorly.   She does not always get up on the perch to roost at night, although she still pesters me for extra titbits.   I will be surprised if she survives this winter.
This is a photo of her when she was in her prime!!  

My first customer this morning in the farm shop asked if he could pay by card and I admitted that he could but that he would be the first person to experience it as the machine had only just arrived.  He was lovely and the transaction went smoothly.   When the second customer arrived I felt much more confident and simply acted as though we had always taken cards.   It is not that it is a new thing for me, but just a really long time since I used one.  Really it would be hard to go wrong because the screen tells you exactly what to do but anxiety is a normal state for me.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Branding complete

Having reduced our herd of alpacas this year we are taking the opportunity to re-brand the business with greater emphasis on the wonderful alpaca products that are available both from our own alpacas and from South America.   Our online shop has been revamped and the Christmas Market was  a re-launch for the farm shop.

We will always have our own alpaca wool and our practical, classic hand knitted products but there is also a place for the lovely bright colours available from South America .

The new borns in the spring will revitalise the herd and continue to provide lovely soft fleece for spinning.  I just love the baby alpaca fleece which is the softest of all.

Last Monday I had a visit from a representative of the FSB - Federation of Small Businesses and by joining I have got some really good deals for the shop.   Special Business banking rates and also an excellent deal on a card terminal.  In the past at shows and on the farm we have lost quite a few product sales because we did not take plastic.   Now we can!!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Successful Sunday.
All went to plan for our Christmas Market with lots of visitors for most of the morning.  The cars started to pour in at 10.30 a.m. and it was really busy up until lunch time when it started to quiet down.   The farm animals, alpacas, sheep and chicken all behaved well and were quite a draw especially for the children.

Our farm shop was very busy and my grand daughter, Tara, spend virtually all day serving customers with only a short break when Jane, her mother, took over.  Yesterday morning when I went to do a stock check it was quite a quick job because she had sold so much.

The rest of the family including son David and grandson Zach helped get everything ready on Saturday and it was all hands to the deck all day on Sunday with jobs varying from Car parking to waiting on the exhibitors with teas and coffees.

Unfortunately it was extremely cold in the barn despite Mike's attempts to make it more comfortable by lining the walls with sterling board and by the afternoon the stall holders were very chilly, but they kept cheerful and most of them seemed quite happy and just accepted the fact that a barn in December is never going to be the most comfortable place.

We hope to have mains electricity in the barn before next winter so we might be able to find a way of heating it.  It would be an improvement if we could just lift the temperature a few degrees.

I had my camera all ready to take photos of the event, but for some reason, it was over before I got round to it.
This morning we finally finished dismantling and packing away all the temporary fencing, signs, tables and chairs etc: