Friday, 27 June 2008

Priscilla catches us out.

Well Priscilla is a crafty old soul. All day yesterday she was lardying about looking like she was about to pop. I stayed in all day virtually as I was so sure she would crack on with it, but no.

I last checked her at 9.30 last night and she had that strange 'I've lost something and I can't remember where I put it' look about her. She was ambling around on her own sniffing the ground from time to time but eventually lay down and seemed to settle.

We were up early this morning due to the calling of the labrador's bowels, they need an early escape these days due to the sheer volume of alpaca poop that they quaff.

Sue likes the early morning walk and left at 6.30. I was doing what I always do first thing in the morning and Angus, who was also awake, was playing airports or farms or something.
My morning read was disturbed as Sue arrived home declaring 'She's had it!'

We all trooped out and we think we must have missed it by about ten minutes. He was still flapping about a bit and we got on and did the necessary. He's a big brown boy weighing in at 10.5kilos. Ok, a girl would have been better but the fact that he is strong and healthy is great.

I have checked him over and he looks good, my latest thing to check for is an anus, sorry to lower the tone but I have recently read that they can sometimes (it is rare) be born without one and that is not a good thing. Anyway he has one so that's good!

He was up feeding shortly after the placenta was passed and things are looking good, no problems.

We have named him Patou Jonah. There are two reasons for that, firstly Angus was going to his friend Joe's birthday party today so he wanted to call him Joe. When I tried to think of a big brown man called Joe, Jonah Lomu popped into my head so Jonah it was.Here he is with his proud mother Priscilla.

Whilst I was out taking a picture of Jonah I managed to snap one of the whirlwind that is Flossie, owned by Sue Lucas at Valley Farm. Although she is not a solid colour she is absolutely gorgeous.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Sad day at Patou

Yesterday was a sad day here at Patou. No, nothing bad has happened, all the alpacas are well, no, it's been a sad day because Sue and I decided, after a lengthy discussion, to sell Mr Bo Jangles.

We always said we would keep him forever but we decided that it would be best to sell him.

Jo and Steve Ings had chosen Orchard Apollo and Inca Bingo to be two thirds of their trio of young males and we knew that they were very keen on Bo. We had said to them several times that he was not for sale. Bingo is black and Apollo is fawn and Jo and Steve were looking for a chestnut brown male to make up their group. Bo is chestnut brown with beautiful white markings on his face, white socks and black feet. In short he is a very handsome young alpaca.

Bo was the obvious choice.

It was a decision we didn't take lightly, we love that little lad, but we had to make the decision based on what was best for him and what was best for Patou Alpacas, the business. We couldn't keep hanging on to males just because we loved them. If we did that we would never sell any of our own alpacas.

So Bo has gone. He is the first member of our own herd, the Patou herd, to be sold. He has only gone 3 miles down the road and we will see him frequently. Jo and Steve have put a lot of money and effort into making a lovely home for the boys and we know they will enjoy their new life where I feel they will get rather spoilt.

It was quiet ride home after dropping the boys off and we shall miss him a lot.

It was the right decision and life will go on here. Soon there will be the next generation of Patou alpacas on the ground.

We wish Steve and Jo great happiness with Bo, Apollo and Bingo.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Stern talking to in the field.

Right the day job will take a back seat now as I have three days off.

This normally means that the heavens will open and I will be reduced to inside or 'dry day' jobs.

However, I think the weather is going to hold for a few days. I don't take any notice of weather forecasts as previously mentioned but I have had a good look around, eaten some moss, pulled a few branches and studied the cloud formations. Job done, prediction is, three dry warm days.

I have just come back from the top 'lardy girls about to unpack' paddock and I have to say we had a bit of a stern chat. I called Priscilla, Judy, Joy and Milarka into a bit of a huddle and we had a few words. Well I had a few words anyway. They mostly looked at me, ruminating, flicking their ears, I was almost waiting for the rear leg lift that precedes the frontal scratch that immediately brings on the comic farting but no, some respect last. They listened or at least pretended to.

Anyway the reason for the chat was to inform them that I would be around for the next three days and I would have my 'birthing kit' at the ready. Furthermore that I was highly likely to be creeping around in the long grass ready to shock them into action, especially on Friday.
On reflection it was a big mistake telling them which day, I will have lost a lot of the surprise factor there.

I hope the neighbours weren't watching. They do you know, they told me. They watch from across the valley through binoculars. That almost curbed our (Angus and myself) habit of freedom weeing. It's a further deterrent for foxes you know, very scientific.

Actually I have three busy days. There are more nettles to strim. I have to arrange for the field to be cut and I have various admin and gardening type jobs to do. I also have to take all the boys over to Jo and Steve Ings tomorrow to get started on eating their grass. I will be flying solo for most of the day but Sue will hopefully be home to help load up.

As I am off I will probably have time to right this blog and might have tales to tell.............mmm....... alright mostly it will be mindless drivel but hey ho its good therapy.

As usual preceding my days off I am far too excited for a 45 year old lump to be.

I refuse to grow up though and no one can make me so there.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Midges midges midges!

We are surrounded at the moment by midges and they are a right pain in the doodah.

Whenever the herd comes up they seem to bring a cloud of wretched midges with them.

I've just been out to check the mighty Patou herd and the midges seemed to have buggered off to wherever midges go when they are not annoying people, or animals.

Poor little Flossie seems to be suffering the most, when she was a day old her owner Sue Lucas came over and had a cuddle etc, we discovered, or rather Sue did that Flossie's ears were full of the little so and so's. We cleared them out, they had been biting her, and we sprayed her with some 'long lasting' fly repellant designed for use on horses.

Well 'long lasting' doesn't seem to be very 'long lasting' as they were buzzing around her again today. At the moment the herd's ears, numbering 46, are flicking back and forth in a blur. The midges are not welcome and I have developed a deep rooted hatred for the little b*****ds.

I only hope they are not of the blue tongue variety, although the herd has been vaccinated (Flossie hasn't of course, the advice is to vaccinate at 4 weeks) we are worried.

I shall be visiting SCATS tomorrow to see of I can buy some stuff to deal with them, or at least keep them off the herd. It is very, very annoying. I want to kill them all, I have never felt so murderous.

Flossie herself is thriving. Last night Jo and Steve Ings came over to look at two wethers that they have just bought, Apollo and Bingo. Whilst here I caught Flossie so they could have a close up of a lovely little alpaca cria. She was easy to catch. This evening I attempted to catch her again. Never even got close, she can run like the wind!

Tomorrow she will be rounded up with the herd, she has grown up so quickly.

Great to see that despite the wretched midges she is growing stronger by the hour.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Yikes! It's started!

Well folks what we were waiting for has arrived.

Our first cria of the year arrived at precisely 4.05pm today after a little help from yours truly.

Valley Farm Emma started showing signs late morning that things might be happening. Sue had come home for lunch from work and was monitoring the situation and keeping me appraised. I was at work and wriggled like a very wriggly thing to get out and on the road at 3 o'clock (in other words I bunked off two hours early............well it was a medical emergency wasn't it?). I was home at 3.30 and was just in time to see a nose appear.

By 3.50 a head and two feet were poking out and Emma was lying down. Fifteen minutes later and I moved in to get her up and as she stood I guided the cria out. She basically fell out but I feel I helped a bit. Out she popped.

She isn't very big weighing in at 6.75kgs but she seems very strong and healthy. She was up on her feet almost immediately. In fact when she was hanging out her head was up above Emma's back line. She was looking around.

Placenta was passed within two hours but in two parts so I gave Emma a shot of antibiotics on the advice of 'he who knows all'.

Shortly after that and she was up and suckling away. She is a very pretty medium fawn girl with white markings on her head and neck.

We haven't named her as she belongs to Sue Lucas at Valley Farm Alpacas who has asked us to sell Emma and her sister Valley Farm Sheba.

We haven't named her officially but Flossie seems to be her temporary name. Well you have to call them something don't you?

Anyway much excitement, worry, excitement, worry and finally satisfaction here in Patouland.

One down and eleven to go!

Monday, 16 June 2008

Waiting for it all to kick off.

I am not working today or tomorrow so I have just been out talking to Emma letting her know that now would be a good time to pop her first cria into the world.
She looked at me whilst I was talking, I was only a couple of feet away. She was chewing as usual but seemed to be listening.
I could see movement in her belly and it appears the cria has moved further back so maybe, just maybe.
As is very often the case when I am talking to the girls they know how to bring the conversation to a close. In this instance Emma looked away, lifted a rear leg to scratch somewhere at the front and raspberry farted. Enough said she wandered off.

Actually Emma who is now eleven and a half months may not be the first. Judy will be eleven months this week, although last year she went eleven months and 9 days.
Priscilla, however, will be eleven months next week and she unpacked bang on eleven months last year. The race is on.

The smart money is still on Emma but Priscilla would be a good outside bet I reckon.
The great thing is that once it starts they should come fairly regularly. I am looking forward to all those little ones charging around getting into mischief.

Of course with unpacking comes remating so it will get very busy around here. I know we are a relatively small outfit and some herds will be having hundreds of cria but we both work, me full time and Sue part time so our 'herd organisation' time is limited. My days off have to be booked up with tasks in advance and sometimes, in fact most times the weather doesn't play fair.

We have both booked holiday to cover the main unpacking period so are relying on the girls to get on with it when I give them the nod. Oh if it were only that simple!

We just hope that at the end of the summer we have twelve happy healthy cria and all the girls are up the spout again. It will be a big jump this year as we will have eighteen to get pregnant.

Today Doreen and John Hurdle visited us. Doreen is a handspinner and has been spinning Bobby's fleece. Today was the day when Doreen delivered handspun handknitted hats for Angus and myself.

The handspun wool is so much softer than the machine spun wool and has a real quality feel to it.

As you can see Doreen has even managed to get a picture of an alpaca on the hat. Fantastic!

I can't wait for winter to arrive so I can go out wearing my new hat. Thank you very much Doreen!

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Shearer? Not yet but I am on the road.

Today was a strange old day. Today, for starters is my birthday. Yes I turned 45 years young today.

Today was the first time that I sheared an alpaca. His name is Forge Pucara a lovely white wether.

I started off this morning at a chicken farm owned by Ivan and Jill. They have twenty or so alpacas who look after their free range chickens. Initially I was sorting and skirting fleeces as the shearing team went about their work. When I say shearing team I mean Tim of Inca doing the shearing and Ivan and some friends doing the rest, dealing with the alpacas, collecting fleece etc etc.

At about 1230hrs it was my big moment. Under the guiding hand and eye of the master I commenced shearing my first alpaca. Forge Pucara seemed, to me at least, to sense that a beginner was stepping up to the plate. He was superb, we met eye to eye, he was of course helpless, being tied down but looking deep into his big brown eyes I sensed his vulnerability, he looked as if he was about to trust me. I held his gaze, it was a bit of a moment people.

I can not tell you how apprehensive I was. Well actually I can I was very, very apprehensive, I was nervous, I was afraid I would slice poor old Pucara to bits.

I started shearing.....................there was no blood. Pucara remained calm, amazingly calm. At that moment I loved that little chap more than I can possibly say. He was an absolute star, I could fact I would have kissed him but it might have been construed as being a little mamby pambyish. My machismo stopped me, I wish it hadn't.

Anyway good old Pucara, newly sheared and with a very strange looking tail (I don't think tails are going to be my strong point) wandered off in the good old alpaca way, i.e. I have completely forgotten what just happened.

We then retreated to Incaland for a pie and more alpacas to shear. My next victim was Inca Angelica a beautiful fawn female. This time I cracked open my brand new shearing equipment. I was to shear side by side with the master. Oh yes another step forward on the shearing learning curve. I felt more confident, I felt less likely to slice Angelica to pieces, I felt better, I could feel her body under the shearing equipment, I felt that I was becoming a shearer.

It was quicker, the tail was much much better and altogether she looked as though she had been sheared by someone who kind of knew what he was doing. I was proud of what I had done to Angelica. I will never forget Pucara or Angelica. they will always be special to me. I know that probably sounds tragically naff but it's the truth, they will.

And do you know what readers, my stomach did not get in the way. No, not one bit and actually having short stubby legs probably helped a great deal.

One way or another I am on the road to being a fully fledged alpaca shearer and that feels great.

Bring it on!

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

A bit of a do!

Stand by for my serious bit.

Well Blogmeister Bob seems to have provoked some discussion about a certain article in the Telegraph. I have to admit I chucked in my tuppence worth this morning and am glad to see that our leader appears to have been grossly misquoted.

I have had many dealings with the press (albeit only the local hacks) in my day job and I'm afraid it would seem the old adage of 'not letting the truth get in the way of a good story' still rings true.

The way reporters can basically say what they like by bending, twisting or simply making up their reports defies belief. If anyone has the backbone to complain then a small apology may be printed on the bottom of page 154 a few days later. Hopeless, the damage has been done.

Sadly these fabrications are not solely the domain of the tabloids. This country has an appalling reputation as far as the media goes with sensationalism and 'celebrity' hounding seemingly important coverage. I think not. It is just contributing to the moral decline of this nation of ours.

There endeth the serious bit.

We are still waiting for our first unpacking of the year. Emma is now 11 months and 12 days so she may have a bit of time still to go but I am so impatient, I want it all to kick off.

We have twelve cria due in total and I really, really want to be here to see all twelve pushed into the world. Sue and I manage pretty well to cover most days between us, if I'm working Sue isn't and visa versa. If we're both working Sue manages to pop in from time to time to check. All the heavily pregnant ladies are right up in front of the house so it is very easy to check.

We will have eight of our own females to get pregnant this summer and quite frankly I am very excited about the prospect. We have decided on using three herdsires.

Patou Lily our Shaft's Dream girl who took 2nd place at the BAS Spring Show last year (against some pretty tough competition I might add) is going to be covered by Koricancha Sinbad. We bid for and bought a mating with him during the Futurity Stud auctions and are vey much looking ahead to the result next year. She is currently expecting a Centurion baby which is also eagerly awaited. She is, as readers of this blog will know, my favourite alpaca in the whole wide world.

The rest is a great big fat secret.

Actually its 10 past eleven, I'm tired and I want to go to bed.

Here's a nice picture of Poppy our recent rosette winner.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Masterclass approaching

I haven't mentioned this on the blog for a while but this year I am to learn how to shear an alpaca.

I have purchased my shearing equipment including combs and cutters. I am waiting for my masterclass.

The day after tomorrow you would think was Thursday, today being Tuesday.

However, the day after tomorrow is not Thursday, no, it is the day I become an alpaca shearer...............the day after tomorrow is....................... Shearday.

I will make the pilgrimage over to the temple of Inca where the great shearing Sensei resides.

I will take him precious gifts gathered from around the world and I will pray with him whilst we bless my newly purchased shearing equipment. I expect that we will drink green tea together. I might be asked to paint a fence.

He will, no doubt, impart great words of wisdom to me. The air will be thick, all else will be nought as our minds focus on the great art of alpaca shearing, all other worldly noises and distractions will be cast aside as the preparations begin.

I suspect that the equipment itself might be annointed with some holy oil, I feel that I may have.................................................................................

No, sorry, I have had to stop as I was getting far too carried away.

The thing is on Shearday.............I mean Thursday I will be learning to shear and I can't wait to see if my stomach is going to get in the way as much as I think it might do.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Double pronged attack at the Town & Country Fayre

What a super weekend. After 6 days of, well lets just call it an upset tummy, I finally recovered and was able to enjoy some glorious sunshine.

On Sunday the Shaftesbury and Gillingham Show Society staged a Town & Country Fayre.

The mighty Patou team joined forces with the leviathan that is team Inca and we offered a double pronged attack on the show visiting public.

In a prime position we pulled out all the stops, at this point I must mention that we finished pulling out all our stops long before the Inca tribe. They looked professional. We looked.............well we looked willing.

If I can use cricket as an analagy, Tim, Tracey (and Oliver of course) were the opening bowlers, sleek, fast, well groomed and looking seriously threatening to the batsmen. Sue, Angus and myself were fielding in the deep, chasing everything that moved and hurling the ball back in with all our might. Keen as mustard we were ready to chase the ball all day just like a pack of young Labradors!

Anyway enough of that tripe, even I can only take so much. Suffice it to say the show was very well attended and we were able to spend the day in good company, although we were constantly interrupted by people wanting to ask questions.

Seriously though I think between us we educated a lot of people and were very encouraged by the positive responses we received from the public.

We even took some animals into the show ring. Team Patou doing the leading while Captain Timbo of Inca waxed lyrical about alpacas on the tannoy system unitil the long shepherds crook appeared from the organisers (metaphorically of course). Great stuff.

I did take some photographs of the day but to get both camps in the viewfinder I had to stand way back and to display the picture here would be meaningless. However, there is one photograph I simply can't help but publish. Come lunch time, cometh the boy and cometh the boy cometh the man size pie!

Thats my boy! Steak and Ale if you're interested.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Hello Earthlings

Wait for it, wait for it.................

I am finally able to make a short post to show you a photograph of Poppy and myself in the show ring at the Royal Bath and West Show.
In the picture you will see a rotund man with a very silly grin on his face next to a small and perfectly formed brown alpaca.

Thanks to Captain Tim of Inca for being there with the camera..........without being asked either..............must be after something.

We have lined up an outstanding looking male for Poppy later in the year and can't wait to see what she can produce for us next summer.

I was going to take a photograph of her today wearing her rosette but Angus has taken the rosette to school for 'show and tell'. I'll try tomorrow.

The whole Patou tribe is buzzing about this first place.

Second dose BTV vaccinations due today so I will be venturing outside. Sadly for me though I still have to stay within a short walk of the house, if you understand what I mean.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Not well.

I have been struck down by some vile bug and being a man have been incredibly pathetic all day.

It has even wiped the smile off my face. I do not do 'ill' very well at all.

I will return when I am feeling better, if I pull through that is!

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Poppy bags a first place for Patou!

Stand by ladies and gentlemen for some good old fashioned trumpet blowing. Metaphorically of course.

This is how it all happened.

On Thursday evening Sue and I managed to load up the mighty Patou show team just before the great rains came. An hour later and we were stuck in a queue to get into the show ground which by now was resembling a lake. There were abandoned cars and soaking wet people everywhere. The main entrance was 18 inches deep in water and the road had turned into a river, the rain was still sheeting down and I was looking forward to putting up my tent.

By 7.15pm I was in the ground and spent the next hour or so getting the alpacas sorted out with clean straw, hay, food and water. The rain then eased off slightly and I was a blur as I put the tent up in record time. Cold beer break.

Undeterred by the weather I barbecued and was joined by some good people for a sausage and glass or two.

Friday morning and it was show time.

Sue and Angus were still at home keeping an eye on Emma so I was a lone Patou ranger and needed a bit of help getting the girls in the ring on time as they followed on from each other.

Patou Fifi who I had literally dragged in to the barn was first up and I was worried I might have to drag her round the show ring. No worries though as she went in like a seasoned pro. I was very proud of her although she wasn't quite what the judges were looking for.

Next was Patou Poppy time in the junior brown female class. Poppy trotted into the ring as if she owned it and stood immaculately, she looked good.
She has the looks of her sire Atlantic Cambridge Centurion but the temperament of her mother Patou Bobby a Mateus daughter.
As soon as she was touched by the judge she turned into a spinning, jumping, whirling thing but she had done enough. FIRST PLACE!!!!!

I could not believe it, I could also not believe how it made me feel. As Val Fullerlove (my favourite judge in the world) walked towards me with the first place rosette I honestly thought I was going to start crying. A great big thuggish looking idiot like me and I was on the verge of blubbing because little Popsicle had won Patou Alpacas our first ever first place. I think I smiled for the rest of the day and I apologise if I went on a bit about it, which I did.


Patou Lola and Orchard Apollo followed Poppy but were unsuccessful, never mind, Poppy carried the team through.

Captain Tim of Inca was kind enough to take some photos of the moment so if you read the blog you will be subjected to the pictures in the next blog.

I was always brought up to believe that its the taking part that counts and not the winning.

It does feel good though.