Thursday, 31 October 2019

Good Bye Boys

Despite the horrible weather we had a visitor today who is interested in buying our last remaining male alpacas.  They were very wet and scruffy looking (the alpacas not the visitor) but they behaved quite well and it looks as though they will be leaving us soon.

It will be a very sad day when they go as our fields will be almost empty apart from a few female alpacas who guard the chickens.

The rain has been non stop since this morning so I was quite pleased to be going out for lunch with some friends at the pub across the road.  The meal was lovely but we had a power cut which lasted for about half an hour and being a wet and miserable day it was quite difficult to see what we were eating even with the candle light.

Mike is really not well.   He went out with a  friend earlier in the week and thinks that he might have had some undercooked fish.   The nurse is coming to see him tomorrow and he is hoping she will be able to diagnose his problem.

No sign of the cat - she is probably asleep amongst the hay bales in the barn, which is her favourite spot if it is wet or really cold.
Click on the picture to see our remaining alpacas for sale.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Market Day

Usually Mike and I go into Axminster together on market day but since he broke his leg I have been going on my own.

Today it was very misty to start with but luckily it cleared and there was no rain.

The Fruit and vegetable stall is very good and I usually buy enough to last for the week and top up the rest of the food shopping at the Co-op followed by a visit to the farm shop to pick  up chicken feed and other farm essentials.

By the time I got home the sun was shining and I was able to clean  the chicken run and the alpaca shelter in the dry and then take the dogs on a well deserved walk around the whole perimeter of our fields to check on the male alpacas and for Ted to have his daily splash in the pond and stream in the bottom field.
Ted, Dolly and Jake being unusually still for just a few moments.   Click on the picture to see our Alpacastuff Website.

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Simple Solution

Have decided to move the protective electric fence further up the field so that the alpacas who share with the chickens will have a smaller area to graze.  The chickens mainly stay near the top end of the field anyway so they won't notice the difference.   Given that when winter comes in the grass will not be as good the girls should start to lose weight without feeling deprived.

The males are in a field which is lower quality grazing so they should sort themselves out.

Mike had no ill effects from his extra activities yesterday and finished off the mowing today.  I have to leave his crutches in strategic places so that when he dismounts he can support his bad leg. He also managed to get in and out of our old landrover which was failing to respond to my entreaties to start.  Of course he started it first time.

Egg sales are going really well and I am always grateful to the kind people who leave egg boxes so  that I can re-use them.  It is environmentally friendly and also enables me to keep the price down.

Click on the photo to visit our website

Sunday, 20 October 2019

1970s Disco

Despite some improved weather coniditions,  I am still shutting the alpacas into their enclosure at night just in case of unexpected heavy rainfall.  They don't mind getting wet but it just makes more sense to keep them dry.  It is quite unpleasant catching and holding a wet alpaca if you need to.   For example sometimes they get brambles in their fleece and it is as good idea to pull or cut it out before it gets too entangled.   No one wants to buy a fleece that is full of debris and there is also the chance that the bramble  might get in their eyes or some of the unfleeced skin on their underbelly..

As we know the grass on the other side is always greener and they think that too and often like to get really close to the hedge or fence to select the most inaccessible greenery.

Also it helps in my efforts to keep the paddock clean in that their poo  (that is a technical term!) is concentrated in a smaller area for the time they are shut in.

Mike is still hobbling around but is more and more able to add some tasks that he can cope with on one leg.  The latest project is to mow the grass near the house and in the back paddock (the one behind the house.)  I hope he is not being too ambitious.

Livestock must be checked at least every day to ensure their welfare  so I usually take the dogs with me to check on the boys in the lower field every morning.  It kills two birds with one stone - exercise for dogs and a visit to the boys.  Ted (my youngest collie) has learnt that it is not acceptable for the males to" fight" (usually a minor tiff).  This morning  we heard the tell tale noise of the males disagreeing.  With just a "go on"  Ted ran at full speed and by the time I caught up with him he was lying down "holding" them in a group.   End of story and peace reigns.

Last night I went to a 1970's disco to celebrate the finish of refurbishment to the village hall in Chardstock. It was built in the 70s - hence the theme.  It was a great evening and three groups entered a dance competition .  I was in one of the groups and really enjoyed the rehearsals and the opportunity to meet new people.  The group that I was in were such good fun and we all sat together for the meal, which was great because I went on my own of course.  All three groups strutted their stuff with gusto and surprise, surprise, the result on the clapometre for the best group was a draw.  Couldn't agreee more. 
Click on the photo to visit our Alpacastuff website

Friday, 18 October 2019

Dodging the Showers

Yesterday was market day when I go to Axminster and stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables.  As well as the jostling crowds (well a few people) it was a challenge to dodge the showers.  In some ways it was better than usual as it was not so crowded but it was a bit miserable too.  I always combine the visit with a visit to the farm shop to collect chicken feed or dog food if needed.

As the evenings are drawing in I am shutting the chickens in earlier so they are spending longer in their house, which is a bit of a shame.

The shop is starting to get busier now that winter is nearly upon us.   Socks are the main sales but usually hats and mittens start to get more popular from now on.

There is some sunshine this afternoon so fingers crossed a few more people will pop in.
Click on the photo to visit our Alpacastuff website.

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Tuesday Helper

On Tuesdays we usually have two helpers.  Jon comes in for a couple of hours to help me with routine husbandry with the alpacas and any other chores which come under my remit.  Nick works with Mike and is here all day .

Unfortunately this morning Nick texted to say he had a migraine (he is a regular sufferer).

We have to  trim toe nails of the alpacas regularly because they are on soft grassland all the time as opposed to the rough, rocky surface typical of the parts of South America where they originate, which wears their nails down.  So we made a start by bringing the males up from their field into the barn.

Prior to this I had my first lesson on how to drive the tractor.   Mike is still nursing his fractured leg and so could only give directions.   We normally park trailers and other mobile machinery in the barn to protect them from weather when not in use, so I had to back the tractor and topper out and park it together with some other equipment to make room for the boys to come in for their manicure.

All went well and I feel more confident that I will be able to help Mike top the fields in the spring when the grass needs cutting.  I even managed to park it back in the barn afterwards.

I also clean out the hen house every morning and clear up after the alpacas in the chicken enclosure.   This creates two small trailers of excrement a week  to be ferried down to the dung heap where it biogrades into very good compost. Jon and I carried out this unenviable task between us.  A busy two hours (including the toe nails) but very useful.
This is a typical scene when I start my day.  the nesting boxes are lined with hay (we have run out of straw) and when I arrive with the wheelbarrow everyone one wants  a slice of the action!  The cat hitches a ride, Ted (dog) keeps an eye on everything, and the alpacas pinch as much hay as they can before I move on to clean their enclosure.  All of this is overseen by the hens!  Happy families!
Click on the photo to see our alpacas for sale.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Still Raining!

This autumn seems to be all rain and no sunshine.    I like to let the chickens out as early as possible in the mornings so they get maximum time outside but at the moment it is getting on for seven o'clock before it is light enough to venture across the yard in my dressing gown.  The dogs don't mind what time they go out  and the very mention of chickens gets them into a state of excited anticipation of a good chase around and in Jake's case far too much barking for the early morning.   Good job we have no really close neighbours.

Luckily the hens  seem to be laying quite well even though some of them are quite old.

As it has been exceptionally rainy lately I have been rounding up the girls who share the paddock with the hens into their enclosure, which is a small fenced area with a large and a small shelter.
It is also where some of the chickens lay their eggs in the hay racks - a bit of a nuisance but at least the hay is a nice clean place to nest.

After a few days they began to put themselves into the enclosure at dusk so all I have to to is go over and shut the gate behind them.  clever girls!
 Click on the photo to visit our Alpacas for sale website

The boys (alpacas) are in our bottom field which, unfortunately only has a shelter without a roof at the moment.  Mike and Nick stripped off the roof some time ago and Mike was intending to bring some surplus roofing sheets which are being stored at our old Salisbury home but it has not happened yet.  Luckily there are plenty of trees and bushes to give them shelter at the moment and we hope to have the new roof fixed before we get any really bad weather. 

Friday, 11 October 2019

Fighting the Weather

Trying to get the routine jobs done without getting too wet is a bit of a challenge at the moment.

The hen house is a converted field shelter and the alpacas who live in the same field as the chickens often run  in there for shelter if there is a sudden downpour.  It gets pretty crowded and the alpacas don't understand that the hay in the nesting boxes is not for them so things get a bit hectic and untidy at times.

It is difficult to decide what the alpacas consider is heavy enough rain to warrant a run to cover.   Sometimes they just continue grazing in what seems to be quite extreme weather and other times they will take shelter at the drop of a hat.

The chickens are easier to predict - they don't like rain if it is more than a light drizzle and equally they like to go into the shade if it is a really hot day but otherwise they just meander apparently aimlessly around from feeder to shelter to nesting box and sometimes lie in the summer sun with their wings outstretched to keep themselves cool.

This week the alpacas all had their first injection of ADE which we administer every couple of months in the winter as they need more vitamin D than our native species.  We also gave them a dose of medication to prevent fluke which is a parasitic worm which can occur when the weather is wet and not too cold.

Click on the picture to visit our website.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Catching Up

All my resolutions to keep the blog up to date (it would be good to look back on at the end of the year) have fallen by the wayside. Since Mike's accident there has not been much spare time.   Since my last post I had to take Mike back and forwards to Musgrove Hospital in Taunton several times and eventually he was kept in for a couple of days whilst they assessed the situation and fitted a different cast.

He is now at home and has another month and a few days before he returns to hospital to have the final X ray and cast removed (we hope).

He is doing a lot of reading and helping as much as possible - peeling vegetables for dinner, and other kitchen tasks, which is much appreciated, but of course, he is not too happy as he is used to being very active.

We have sold another male alpaca.   The numbers are slowly going down.  I know it is the right decision but it will be strange to be down to just two or three, which is the plan.

Nick is getting on with laying the hedges which is a job that has to be done in winter so the wild life, birds etc: are not disturbed during the breeding season.  Mike would normally be working with him so it will be much slower than hoped.

I will be helping next Tuesday when he comes by clearing the debris of branches and twigs as he cuts them down.   Then it gets put on a bonfire, weather permitting.

I am used to Mike covering the shop if I want or need to go out when it should be open, but of course he cannot do it whilst he is on crutches as it is quite a walk on a tiled floor to get to the shop from the kitchen.  This means that opening hours sometimes have to be shortened if I need to go out.

The shop will be closing permanently after Christmas so I am hoping that we will not lose too much trade.  I will continue to sell online for a while if there is too much stock left over.