Tuesday 22 September 2015



When we first came down to Devon we started to explore the area but soon got bogged down with setting up the alpaca herd, getting to grips with reclaiming the jungle that used to be Laurel Farm, and, sadly, looking after my Mum in her final years.

We managed to get ourselves on to a self inflicted roundabout, which, although enjoyable, we are now ready to  change.
Today we went to Seatown, which is on the way to Bridport.   It is a stunning  bay with wonderful views of Golden Cap.

We had a lovely walk along the beach, with a short break sitting on a big rock which presented itself just when we felt like sitting and watching  the sea for a while.

On returning to the car park we visited the Anchor Inn which is a characterful pub at the site.  We had a welcome cup of coffee and enjoyed the autumn sunshine for a while, vowing to return and treat ourselves to lunch from time to time.

Image result for photos of seatown

Monday 14 September 2015

Farm Shop Re-opens


We had a very successful day at Chardstock (our village) Street Fair last Saturday and we are re-opening our farm shop from now until Christmas.   We shall probably close then until September as there really is little interest in "woollies" oveer the summer.  It is lovely when families call in to look at the alpacas but it can be very time consuming, and of course, we have heard the questions that people ask many, many times.

At the Street Fair I used a FAQs sheet which was very useful, and the public seemed to find it helpful.

Had a good day at Blackdown Dog Agility Show on Sunday.  Dolly had a 6th and a 9th and Charlie had a 2nd - his first trophy for a long time.

They could both have done better if I had been a bit clearer and quicker with my commands, but even so, I was very pleased.  As it was a local show Mike came over for an hour or so in the afternoon and caught up with some old friends and enjoyed watching the dogs compete.

Monday 24 August 2015

Garden in Crisis


We have made a start on the garden at the back of the house.  Mike designed the stone garden using rocks found on the farm.  We are trying to create an attractive jungle with areas of  more common plants.

I went to the garden centre yesterday armed with some vouchers we had been given as presents, one dating back to 2008, which luckily they accepted.  I bought rockery plants to go behind and between the bamboo, whilst it is growing up, some herbs including Mint, Ladies Mantle, Lavender and Thyme and some Agapantha and Mombresia.  Previously we went to a nursery called "Desert to Jungle" and bought Bamboo, Fatsia (not sure if that is how you spell it) and some other jungle plants.   We will also be transplanting our Honeysuckle, Hydranger, and some other shrubs from the area which used to be the garden when we had behind  the log cabin.

Thursday 13 August 2015

A day in the life of........


Jax, my son's dog, is staying with us for a few weeks while the rest of the family are on holiday in their French holiday home.   She is a retired working sheepdog (David used to have a small flock) and so when she comes here she likes to organise the alpacas.   To start with she was moving them around so much that I decided to move them to a different paddock so that they were not disturbed.

They are now back free-ranging and Jax, for the most part, leaves them alone, but it seems she cannot resist the temptation to tidy them up at least once a day.
The cria are getting more independant day by day.   The love taking the high ground of the earth mound outside the barn.

It is also a great suntrap for them.

Wednesday 12 August 2015



Mike is now on the waiting list for a double heart bypass and replacement mitral valve.  He is glad in many ways as he is beginning to feel short of breath and tires easily.

I have sold the Gotland sheep and they have gone to two very good homes, I believe.   Apart from cutting their toe nails, when I need someone to hold them, I can carry out most husbandry on the alpacas myself, whereas I needed help with the sheep.

I have 3 x 2k bags of fleece available to hand spinners at £18 per bag..   All our alpaca fleece has either been sold or gone to the mill for spinning.

Wednesday 8 July 2015



I am just coming to the end of sorting the alpaca fleece from shearing at the end of May.  Despite having a much reduced herd the yield has been very good.  When we sold off part of the herd we kept the youngest and best and this is beginning to pay dividends.

Annie, my favourite cria from last year (pictured on our website as a baby) has produced the most amazing fleece but sadly she managed to get lots of vegetation in it.   This needs to be cleaned or the fleece discarded as the mill cannot spin contaminated fleece.   Their machines will only  remove a certain amount of vegetation.  The time I spent cleaning her fleece was not cost effective, but there is nothing more pleasing than what is called a "baby" fleece i.e. the first fleece from a young alpaca.  The finished article is a bag of almost clean fleece which is a lovely fine light fawn and has lots of crimp.

The job is also very dusty so I try to do it at the end of the day so I can jump in the shower straight away.  Only two bags to go and next week it will be ready to send off for spinning.

Monday 6 July 2015

Teaching the children in the garden


So this is how the next generation of alpacas learn where to find the best grass and how to prune hedges and shrubs - at mother's knee.

 All the cria seem to be thriving.  They are growing fast and getting very lively - chasing each other round the paddocks and up and over mounds.

I have been taking advantage of the good weather to bath all my dogs, except old Millie - it really would not be fair to expect a 15 year old to take a cold shower.  I have suggested to Mike that we have a bath and electric shower in dog room but am still waiting for an answer!!!

Wednesday 1 July 2015

Keeping cool dogs


The weather has been lovely today but rather hot for the animals.   The alpacas have been rolling around in dried mud areas and making them into dust baths.  Unfortunately they tend to stop rolling when I approach with the camera.

The dogs, on the other hand, have no such inhibitions and Mike took these photos of them helping me to fill the water trough outside the barn.

Friday 26 June 2015

Diggerman strikes again


Mike is finding lots to do with his digger these days.  He and Nick (when he is working here) are clearing the boundaries and digging out the ditches and Mike has also started on the sunken garden at the back of the house.

He assures me that it is not hard work, although he is quite tired by the end of the day. 

We now have quite a flock of sheep but I have decided that, fun though they are, they are not really for me and they are up for sale.  We had 4 ewes and they had 4 ewe lambs and 4 ram lambs between them. 

I am really enjoying the alpacas again and after downsizing we now have a lovely young herd and so far 5 cria this year, so it will not take long to get back to a commercial quantity.   We downsized partly to help finance the barn conversion and also because of Mike's health and our age, but hey, we have to graze the land (too much for the lawn-mower) and we do not fancy renting it out and having to worry about the dogs and giving access to a tenant all the time.

Sunday 21 June 2015

New Life


Whilst all the recently born cria are running around enjoying their new little lives, we have started mating the lovely young adult females who now comprise our herd and are looking forward to more delightful youngsters next year.

The ewes are coping well with the growing lambs, although the one with triplets is looking a  little world weary.   We are expecting some rain over night which,  combined with sunshine should reinvigorate the pastuire and give all the grazers a boost.

We set up another handling area in the sheep paddock and Mike took the tractor over to transport some hurdles.   As soon as he stopped the lambs jumped on the topper he was towing and started playing noisily - jumping on and off and chasing each other around.

Wednesday 17 June 2015

Who'd have thought it?


Regan who is a beautiful very dark brown female is usually very nervous and even shakes when we catch her to trim her nails or carry out any other husbandry but this morning she really surprised me.
Two of my friends from the village, Nicky and Lynne, had asked if they could come and see the cria and we arranged for them to come this morning at about 11 a.m.

They were enchanted and all the mums behaved nicely and did not try to rush away.   Whilst chatting I noticed that Regan was looking very uncomfortable and I mentioned (out loud apparently) that she looked about to give birth.  Of course Nicky and Lynne wanted to stay and watch.  Luckily it all went very smoothly.  Regan, although a maiden, bonded immediately with her newborn and later when he was trying to suckle she even let me test that she had milk.  She just looked strangely at me and continued caressing her new baby.  No shaking or nerves at all.

The new cria, black male, called Cusi (Inca for Joy) was soon suckling and having been investigated by all his new aunties,the other alpaca mums, settled down for a calm introduction to life from his lovelyYummy Mummy.

Monday 15 June 2015



The alpacas were shorn today.   Luckily, although it started out as a very chilly morning, by the time they had lost their fleece the sun had come out.

It took a while for the cria to work out which mum was which, but it looks as though they have sorted it out now.

Whilst I was with the shearer and his assistant keeping things tidy and making a rough grading of the fleece, Mike did all the day to day jobs indoors as well as his regular one of cleaning out and feeding the hens in the morning.

Thursday 11 June 2015

More New Arrivals


The day before yesterday Perdita gave birth to a pretty little light fawn female and at 7 p.m. (very late for a typical alpaca birth) Valentine also gave birth to a female - this time really white.

Sunday 31 May 2015

First of the Few


Pauline and I went to River Cottage last weekend with three of our male alpacas and asome of our UK and Peruvian stock of garments and gifts.  We had a great weekend and the weather was kind this time.

The day before yesterday Silvia ( a large brown female) gave birth to a lovely black cria by Pedro.  He needed quite a lot of care and attention at first.   I noticed some movement in the long grass and realised that she had given birth.  His neck was twisted and he was unusally floppy.  I patted and moved him around but it was several hours later and a shot of glucose followed by some artificial colostrum which revived him enough to start acting like a normal cria and suckiling from his Mum.  This morning he is running around so fingers crossed he is past the crisis.

In contrast I went to fetch the paper and some milk this morning and when I got back Viola had given birth to a brown female cria, also by Pedro.   In a very short time she was up and around.  Mike had already cleared her airway and sprayed her navel and as soon as her Mum's afterbirth came away, she was trying to suckle.   Girls Rule OK.

Thursday 21 May 2015

Bottle Feeding


I noticed that one of the sheep  triplets was looking a bit out of condition and Nick agreed and suggested bottle feeding him to give him a boost for a while.

On the first morning he was keen to escape being caught but once I was holding him and offering the bottle he decided (after spitting out a couple of times) that it was quite nice.  Today is his third day and he is still hard to catch, but once caught latches on immediately.  He drank twice as much as on the first day.

All the animals are enjoying the lovely weather and are looking good.

Tomorrow we are off to River cottage to set up the pens for  the alpacas we are taking along to their wweekend Food Fair (not to be eaten - just as an attraction).  We will also be taking some of our products, and my friend, Pauline will be coming along to help.

Wednesday 20 May 2015

Naughty Little Lambs


The lambs are growing up fast and into lots of mischief.   They found a hole in the side of one of the shelters where some things are stores under cover and decided to use it as a playground - climbing up and sliding down and Mums are too big to follow them through the gap!!

Well - what changeable weather we had yesterday!!  This is a photo of the lovely double rainbow which formed during the mixture of sunshine and heavy downpours during the day.

Wednesday 6 May 2015



I was intending to go to the Severnside Dog Agility Competition with Dolly and Charlie on Bank Holiday Monday.  Everything was going to plan.  I was ready to leave on time.  I drove up to the gate and was about to leave when I had a pang on concience and decided to have a last minute check on the ewes and lambs.

A fatal mistake - I found the last ewe to lamb had produced triplets.  If it had been twins I would probably have gone ahead but in all fairness I could not go and leave Mike with three to look after.  Having dealt with alpacas for so many years we are only used to singletons and it is a bit of a culture shock having twins and triplets.

They are all doing well now and are out all day playing and giving their mother a hard time.   We are keeping the triplets inside for another day or so as they are a little small.  All three are ram lambs so we have four of each sex.  

Tuesday 28 April 2015

Bad Day

Sadly I had to deliver a still born cria this morning.   The dam was Nina, who belongs to my friend, Pauline.  She has been at livery with us for many years.  We had noticed that she was not herself a few days ago and I was concerned that with only a month to go in her pregnancy there was no sign of movement.  I gave her some antibiotic and kept her in the barn overnight with her yearling cria for company but last night we left her out because she seemed a little better and she had been  quite stressed being shut in when the rest of the herd went outside.

When I looked out of our bedroom window this morning I realised that she was giving birth and threw on some clothes quickly so that I could get out and attend to her.   I soon realised that she had stopped her contractions and that the cria was dead.  I won't go into any more detail.

She is still looking lost and trying to find her little cria, but she has steadily returned to normal as the day goes by.  Obviously we will be keeping a close eye on her for the next few days.

Nicko, the only male cria from last year is starting to take an interest in the ladies he lives with so this afternoon Nick and I took him down to join the rest of the males in the "Winter"paddocks. We sprayed him with vinegar which helps to cover his natural scent and make him more acceptable to the other males.  As we have a much smaller herd, he was the only male to join the batchelor herd.   In past years there have always been several so they were able to start off in their own mini herd before joining the big boys.

On a happier note, the four lambs are doing well and getting into lots of mischief.   Still waiting for the other two ewes to give birth.

Wednesday 22 April 2015

New Arrivals at Laurel Farm


Our first Gotland lambs have arrived.   On Monday we had twin boy and girl and this morning when I went to check on the ewes at about 5.30 a.m. I was just in time to catch the birth of the second girl of twins.   Two more ewes go go!!

Friday 10 April 2015

Ladies in Waiting

The ewes are nearly ready to pop!!  It is exciting and worrying.   We have birthed alpacas for years, but we have had no experience with sheep,so fingers crossed all will go well.

This is my first attempt at the blog since buying a new PC.  This one does not take half an hour to boot up and is really wizzy, although some things seem a little strange and I keep losing files which pop up later in unexpected places.   On the whole, though I like it.  Windows 8 is a very big upgrade for me - I think I missed quite a few rungs on the ladder!

Sadly the sick hen had to be despatched as she seemed to be in pain and we had tried everything we could think to try and help her.  Nick thinks something fell on her and injured her neck, although I cannot think what it could have been.

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Poorly Hen


One morning recently I found one of our hens lying on her side and apparently unable to rise.   On examination she appeared to be injured but it was hard to tell where or by what as she had been in the clay mud that prevails here and her feathers were very matted.

Eventually Mike held her flat on our picnic table to enable me to examine her properly.  She had a strange congealed wound, a swelling and her wing feathers on one side were broken (possibly by attacks from other chickens.  They are not kind to the sick or dying.)  I cleaned her up, removed what I could and treated the wound area with anti-biotic spray.  She is now recuperating in the farm office and I give her physio during the day which means that I hold her up whilst she walks around the grass outside the back door.    She falls over if I let go.

I am hoping that it is just a matter of balance and that if and when her wing feathers grow back properly she will return to normal
Every morning when I come downstairs I am expecting to find that she has gone to the great hen coup in the sky, but she seems more lively and chortles when she hears me come in, which is sweet.

Obviously if I was a serious chicken farmer it would have been curtains for her straight away as it is not cost effective to treat a hen in this way, but hay ho - they are pets to us and they pay for themselves and provide us with lovely eggs so it does not hurt to give a little extra time occasionally.

The shop is still going well and our lovely colourful alpaca socks are still really popular.   We also sell them online, so it is worth a look, even if you cannot make it to the shop.

Wednesday 11 March 2015

Hedgerow Deadline


Nick and Mike have been busy tidying up hedges.  Nick is a traditional hedge layer and is making a beautiful job.  All work has to stop at the end of March to allow all the birds and small animals to nest, and reproduce.

We have also started on another leg of building works.   We now have a patio and at last the water feature which my friend, Pauline, gave us as a house warming present about 18 months ago, has been installed.  Unfortunately there is no electricity yet so the water pump does not work!!!

We are now trying to work out a way to keep the alpacas off it whilst still allowing them to free range - which we love to see.   In the past they have chosen to spend the night in front of our french windows.

The website revamp is now complete and apart from adding a few more products, is looking good.   Our excellent Alpaca Walking socks have been reduced to £12 per pair.   They are ideal for walking and hiking at all times of the year.   They have cushion soles which help to preven blisters and sore, tired feet.

Monday 23 February 2015

Back to Normal


I have been involved in having the websites revamped.   Take a look at our our new image websites!

Mike and Nick have nearly finished removing the rotten fencing and the farm looks much more open now. We have a much reduced herd and so do not need the smaller paddocks any more.

The Christmas period was very busy in the shop so we are busy getting stocks up to normal levels again.  Socks are still selling well.