Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Rain and a rumpus within the herd.

Well folks the computer seems to be behaving once more, actually it's not the computer it's the modem or the phone lines or something. I have to tell myself that or I would have raised the lump hammer which is just to my right and allowed it to land with great force in the middle of the screen I am looking at.

I might, just might, put it back in the shed tomorrow.

Anyway we got thoroughly rained on here today like most around here.

Drowned rat syndrome in the field.

The alpacas don't seem to mind that much though. They hunkered down when it was really lashing it down but when it was just raining they carried on as normal. When we had a break in the weather I whistled them and as usual they came charging up looking for food.

We are experimenting at the moment, we recently tried Fibregest mixed with Camelibra. We have now gone back to Alfafa pellets which we also mix with the camelibra which they seem to prefer. It's difficult knowing which is best.

What I noticed this afternoon whilst leaning on the fence watching was how the logistics of the herd is changing. The young girls, notably Patou Poppy and Tisbury Bella are asserting themselves.

By asserting themselves I mean they are 'having a go' at the herd matriarchs. Obviously they aren't challenging the undisputed heavyweight champion of the herd Coolaroo Judah, no that would be madness, she would eat them up and spit them out.

They are, however, having a crack at the next level of seniority. Milarka and Priscilla have been challenged, much spit has been swapped, lips have been low and quivering, there has been a lot of standing around pretending nothing has happened.

Bella is obviously destined to be a herd leader one day, her mother is a herd leader and she is not frightened of upsetting anyone. She is 18 months old so you can understand her reasons.

Poppy however is only 10 months old and having been 3 weeks premature she is smaller than her peers. By crikey she has some serious attitude though. She has been barging her way around the feeding paddock as if she owned it. She is a right stroppy tart. I will be watching her closely, she can however be forgiven most things as she is one of the most gorgeous looking alpacas I have ever seen. If only she had a fleece to match.

Some friends of ours the Daktari people, Karen and Chris sent me a funny some time ago and I have forgotten to include it in the blog, here it is, it should raise a smile!

World Perspectives on Alpaca Ownership:
A CHRISTIAN: You have two alpacas. You keep one and give one to your neighbor.A COMMUNIST: You have two alpacas. The government seizes both and provides you with fleece.
A FASCIST: You have two alpacas. The government seizes both and sells you the fleece. You join the underground and start a campaign of sabotage.
A REPUBLICAN: You have two alpacas. Your neighbor has none. So what?
A DEMOCRAT: You have two alpacas. Your neighbor has none. You feel guilty for being successful. You vote people into office who tax your alpacas, forcing you to sell one to raise money to pay the tax. The people you voted for then take the tax money and buy an alpaca and give it to your neighbor. You feel righteous.
DEMOCRACY, AMERICAN STYLE: You have two alpacas. The government taxes you to the point you have! to sell both to support a man in a foreign country who has only one alpaca, which was a gift from your government.
CAPITALISM, AMERICAN STYLE: You have two alpacas. You sell one, buy a stud, and build a herd of alpacas.
AN AMERICAN FARM: You have two alpacas. You sell one, and force the other to produce the fleece of four alpacas. You are surprised when the alpaca drops dead.
A FRENCH FARM: You have two alpacas. You go on strike because youWant three alpacas.A JAPANESE FARM: You have two alpacas. You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary alpaca and produce twenty times the fleece.
A GERMAN FARM: You have two alpacas. You reengineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and shear themselves.
AN ITALIAN FARM: You have two alpacas but you don't know where they are. You break for lunch.
AN INDIAN FARM: You have two alpacas. You worship them.
A RUSSIAN FARM: You have two alpacas. You count them and learn you have five alpaca!s. You count them again and learn you have 42 alpacas. You cou!nt them again and learn you have 12 alpacas. You stop counting alpacas and open another bottle of vodka.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Computer problems

Computer problems...............back soon...............I am getting the hammer.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Sneezefarting, a phenomenon.

Firstly thanks to those who were concerned about my ability to travel 2 and a half miles across country to collect Angus and return with him, Josh (mad lab) and myself intact.

In short it was a beautiful sunny day and we all arrived home safely, as if there was any doubt.

Yesterday was a herd check day. Sue and I rounded all the fluffies up and got hands on checking the usual things, condition, jaws, eartags, toenails, and for any signs of mites. All received a clean bill of health which is always splendid.

There was, however, a large amount of sneezefarting on display yesterday.

Those of you with alpacas will be aware of this highly amusing phenomenon. Those of you who don't have alpacas, sneezefarting is almost a reason in itself to buy alpacas. It occurs when an alpaca, usually female, usually pregnant sneezes and simultaneously performs a comic fart.

Alpacas, in my experience only do comic farts, real good loud raspberries, excellent stuff. No matter how many times I hear it I fall about laughing, simply can't help it.

It is pure schoolboy humour at its finest, I wish I had owned alpacas when I was a schoolboy as I am sure I would have been headboy. That is the power of the sneezefart.

Our two top performers are Judy and Priscilla, two mature and productive ladies, always fall pregnant after one service, always eat everything in sight and always cause a fuss at toenail time. In short they are champion sneezefarters.

On another note the Patou Chariot returns today with it's new gearbox and clutch so I will once again be free to roam the wilds of Wiltshire outside of my self imposed 3 mile protection zone, yippee.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Back with the blog but feeling trapped!

We have had telecommunication problems here with our wireless router and phoneline crashing simultaneously. Anyway after about 17 hours on the phone to a very nice man in Mumbai I am now back up and running.

Thanks to Karen (one of my 5 official documented friends) for saying I was missed, nice to know, hope all is well down at Winterhead.

I have been reading the reports of the show over the weekend on Bobs blog and Rachels diary. Seems like it was a terrific event, another supreme champion from the Centre of Excellence, well done to Bob and Lesley, easy with whites though isn't it?

If that doesn't get a reaction I'll eat my trousers.

Actually we would love to have gone to Purston Manor but the world was really against us.

The judge, Tim, who seems to have done a terrific job knows the Patou herd very well. We use his males and are following the word according to Inca as our model. It didn't seem right to go.

All immaterial anyway really, we are in the protection zone, Sue was working, I have no car and the alpacas are resting, gathering themselves for the big one.

We have daily pep talks, a huddle in the field like a cricket team before the batsmen arrive, we are talking tactics daily, planning battle lines, drawing up hugely complicated masterplans, we are mustering along the midge border daring the zones to change, waiting to be unleashed to create havoc.

The last paragraph is of course nonsense and a reflection on the fact that I have been having in depth conversations with a chum about the second world war. He's learning me about hitler 'n' stuff.

Today I am still stranded at home without a car. Sue is off midwiffering again and Angus is at school.
His school is approximately 5 miles away by road and I have said I will pick him up on foot this afternoon, goodness knows I need the excercise.
I do have a cunning plan however, I have had the Ordnance Survey map out and I reckon if I go cross country I can halve the distance. So sturdy boots and rucksack will be donned later and with Josh the mad lab at my side we will head off after lunch to pick up son and heir.

It's all about timing. It's only 2 and a half miles but it is unchartered territory for me and there is a very big hill and some thick looking woodland to traverse. I'll either be early and have to loiter or be late and be in deep, deep pooh. I think I will be bang on time actually, red faced maybe but I'll be there on time.

I'm considering taking power tools with me.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Facebook and fed up.

Sorry I have not blogged for a while reader, I have had a lot on my tiny mind.

Firstly, the chariot that carries the Patou Alpacas team to shows, the chariot that tows the Patou Alpacas to those shows, the chariot that takes those Patou alpacas to appointments with stud males for 'you know what' has a serious and expensive fault. Essentially the gearbox and clutch have decided after many years of flawless service to pack up.

These things happen I understand, the old chariot is after all 11 years old, she has performed well and I was hoping she was going to continue doing so. I shelled out rather a lot to get the old girl through her last MOT and now she repays me with a major fault.

Much umming and ahhing has been going on over the past few days. To repair or replace?

Anyway the decision has been made and next week she goes under the knife for major surgery. Gearbox and clutch out, replacements in. Job done.

If she breaks down again I shall, make no mistake, take my shotgun to her and fill her full of lead, enough is enough.

Anyway whilst my brain was numb from learning the price of reconditioned gearboxes I found myself aimlessly surfing the internet. For some reason Facebook came up and after a minute or two I realised I had become a 'facebooker'. Why? I have no idea. I had heard people mention it............................... young people.

Shortly after joining I had of course made a complete hash of it.

Firstly, I apparently moved to Cape Cod in Massacheusetts and joined their network. It took me five whole days to figure out how to move back to Wiltshire.

Secondly I unintentionally asked several people, well quite a lot of people actually if they wouldn't mind being my friend. Some of them were old friends from Cape Cod of course but the rest were existing friends or acquaintances.

Thanks very much to Rob, Louise, Karen, Debbie and Dave 'Squidge' Hay for accepting me as a friend.

I now officially have at least five friends

It says so on Facebook.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Tanks, more tanks and two friends playing!

Today was a bit of a family day out.

Angus (5) has been bashing on about going to the 'army man museum' for ages.

The 'army man museum' is the Tank Museum at Bovington. His grandmother took him there last year and bought him a model tank. As usual Angus smashed it to bits within hours of getting home and he has craved a replacement ever since. Today was replacement day.

What I didn't realise was that to Angus it meant going to the 'army man museum' to buy a new tank and then come home to play with it. Entrance fees, tank purchase, refreshments and petrol meant it was inevitably going to be a very expensive tank.

To cut a long story short, Sue and I had to speed read everything as we were whisked around the museum towards the shop. He didn't need to see anything again, he'd seen it all before after all.
Anyway, new tank bought, we could all come home.

We came home to the alpacas and peace. Actually the alpacas looked like they had been waiting for us..............well not us exactly but the contents of our bucket........... food.
After food we were privileged to watch Orchard Apollo and Mr Bo Jangles play fighting.
Apollo is owned by friends Charlie and Louise Maidment and he has become great friends with our little bundle of trouble Mr Bo Jangles.

They are inseperable and are never far apart. They have started to play fight on a regular basis and it is great to watch. They are fabulous together. Great friends.

They were playing for a very long time which is just as well. I had been watching for 5 minutes or so when I thought I should take some photos.

I waved at Sue who was watching through the kitchen window and gesticulated that I would like the camera. She came out and delivered the camera, I got in position and ..........................the batteries were flat. A trip back into the house for more batteries and I returned.

Thankfully those boys love each other so much that they were still going strong and I managed to take some photos. The pictures are for Charlie and Louise really, their boy is having a good time and they should know he's as happy as a happy alpaca can be!

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Naughty, naughty, boy!

When we bought our foundation herd of three pregnant females we had a wether thrown in free. He was big, white, strong and a real wimp. His name was and is Jake.
Jake has been great, although a little hard to deal with at toenail cutting time once he knows he isn't in charge he settles down and is a real character. He has always watched over the herd. He is always last in at feeding time, he hangs around scanning the horizon just to make sure it isn't some cunning trap with some awful ending.

He challenges the big strong females but never really succeeds in winning, those big girls always seem to have the last word, or spit, or screech. I think he has a go at domination and then gives up when he realises the female he has picked on will stand there and argue back all day.

Although he is a wether he can be useful in letting us know when a female has lost her pregnancy, during the summer 'mating and birthing' months he will jump on anything empty and we then know that we need a remate, very useful. He's not up to spitting off though, too much testosterone required and as I said at the beginning of this piece he is a real wimp.

Anyway yesterday he made me really, really angry.

We welcomed two new alpacas to the farm on Thursday, Valley Farm Emma and Valley Farm Sheba, two lovely young alpacas from Sue Lucas at East Knoyle.
Sue who has had alpacas for nearly fifteen years has decided that she would like to sell her small herd and asked us if we could help with Emma and Sheba.

Emma and Sheba are lovely looking girls and are now on the website for sale. There was the usual swirling, prancing and sniffing that greets any new addition to the herd and then they settled in very well.
Yesterday morning however, was not so good. For some reason known only to himself Jake seemed to take a huge disliking to Sheba. He was chasing her, no not chasing he was running her down and pouncing on her, he was also biting her. Being much larger than her he literally flattened her. Poor old Sheba was doing nothing to intimidate him, she wasn't even near him. For some reason Jake didn't like her.
It made me mad when I saw him run her down and I lost a little bit of sense to be honest.
I charged him, I tried to run him down, which was ridiculous but I had lost it. I was running round a five acre field after an alpaca waving my fist at him like some crazy man. It must have looked great to any neighbours that may have been watching. A redfaced middle aged man of, shall we say portly build, charging after an alpaca who was merely gliding to keep ahead. Not only that but I was shouting some not very nice things at him, there may have been mention of an oven and mint sauce...................I really had lost it folks.
Anyway once I had calmed down they were all rounded up and the herd has been split.
The paddock that we were keeping clean as a maternity paddock now contains Jake and a few robust females who will not put up with his antics. Sheba is now very happily grazing the larger paddock with a nice group of friendly females and weanlings. Jake has had a severe talking to and is now on a final warning.
It is a complete mystery as to why he should take a disliking to Sheba, he has never behaved like this before.
Another lesson learned in the great wonderful world of alpacas.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Sunshine, mowing and lambs bits and bobs.

Another great day today and I spent most of it outside which was splendid. The alpacas seemed to have spent most of the day lying flat out. Every time I turned round it appeared that half the herd had been wiped out by some far off and unseen sniper.

More progress was made in the jungle, I mean garden. I mowed the grass for starters including the large area that was left at the end of last summer, rather lazily labelled 'The wildlife garden'. That put the mower through it's paces but because I had bought the biggest most powerful petrol mower I could lay my hands on a couple of years ago it was easy peasy. I'll mow it all again in a couple of days and that will be it, along with most other people, mowing every week until next winter. That could be a long time or a short time who knows?

Being surrounded by animals we are undoubtedly surrounded by their waste. We live on a sheep farm and so every field in every direction has some sort of poop making machine in it. We also have two chocolate labradors who love nothing more than to be amongst other species poop. The roll in it, they sniff it and above all they eat every bit they come across. They are quite simply the most disgustingly loveable creatures I have ever met. If I walk them round the alpaca fields they eat as much as they can. It is really a bit of a frenzy. No amount of shouting stops them. If we walk them round the sheep fields it's even worse. Not only do they eat every speck of poo they see but they have discovered a new delicacy this year.

Lambs tails and nadgers.

We have had over a thousand lambs born so far this year, yes there's more to come. All of them have a ring put on their tail which causes it to die and drop off. The same goes for the male lambs. Although they get the added bonus of having a ring put over their scrotum and that in turn falls off after a couple of weeks. The dogs have recently discovered this culinary delight and hoover them up. Quite how we allow them back into the house every day escapes me. Angus rolls around with them daily; they lick him and nibble his ears, he loves it. What can you do? Thats what living in the countryside is all about I suppose. He's hardly ever ill, has been sick once in the last 4 years and that was chicken pox which is compulsory I understand.

The real downside of all this extra curriculum snacking is that the dogs, I will now name and shame them, Bryn (11 year old puppy) and Josh (1 year old puppy) have stepped up their own production line. They are taken out for 20-30 minutes twice a day religiously come rain or shine and normally that is enough. Now they have to wake us up in the middle of the night to slip out for yet another dump. Sorry folks but dump is very much the correct word in this instance.

As a result sleep is interrupted to the extent that I have threatened them with banishment to the field shelter. As I recall when I issued this ultimatum this morning Bryn yawned and Josh farted........noisily.............again.

Has anyone got any ideas about how to stop this feasting?

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Rambling drivel.

A daily posting, that's what I said initially.

I have found that it is harder to do than it sounds.

I am after all only a part time Alpaca breeder, and with a herd of only 22 beautiful fluffy creatures, (alright there are a couple who have been belted over the head with the ugly stick) but inwardly..........actually no... that's not right either. Moving on.

With only 22 alpacas and 5 acres of land there is only so much to do. Writing about watching alpacas is fine but to hold someone's attention takes some skill. To keep people reading you need to offer more, humour, excitement, drama.

So today I knew I was on to a winner. I spent the day with good friends, the team at Inca, helping out with general husbandry. A cracking herd of black (mainly) alpacas numbering in excess of a hundred need takes some looking after and it is always a pleasure to help out Tim if and when I can.
Met some very nice people, worked hard (for alpaca breeders) and had a nice lunch. It was hot when the sun shone and not so when we were being hailed upon, but a good day was had by this Patou warrior. Afterwards Timbo was good enough to bring over two males for some matings and an 'optic nerve' was cast over the herd.
A big thank you to Tim and Tracey, I think they even read this rubbish and for that I am very grateful.

Later as I now write this drivel I sit quietly contemplating our herds progress so far. I attempt to cast ahead to see how we will do over the next few years, (cast ahead? sorry I have just finished a Wilbur Smith novel) we are slowly building a herd of quality alpacas. We are doing things the right way, this I firmly believe and I think we will have a very nice herd of alpacas when we make the trip south to the Pyrenees.

Yikes getting far too serious there nearly had a nosebleed. We had snow the day before yesterday and 1.5 seconds after the following photograph was taken I was wearing a snowball facepack and boy did that sting! Got a hell of a throwing arm that boy and he always brings things firmly into perspective!

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Brambles, power tools and swirling girls!

Today was a day of attacking a large bramble patch in the garden.

First up though was a visit to some friends in Tisbury.

Liz Curzon and her daughter Leo have a small herd of alpacas on the edge of Tisbury and this morning we paid them a visit to help with some husbandry.

Liz had rounded them up and after a bout of vaccinations, wormings and toenail clippings (and checking of jawlines for abscesses of course) we had a nice chat over a coffee and a chocolate biscuit. Peter, Liz's husband, said some very nice things about the website and flattered us personally......we really must visit more often....very good for the spirit and lovely people.

Upon our return the bramble patch looked menacing and I kitted myself up with a power tool. Always the best answer to a problem...........throw a power tool at it at maximum revs and noise and who cares if the problem is solved, I have recharged my testosterone reserves with some good old fashioned power tool action. Anyway large cutting blade (new and shiny) fitted to the brushcutter and away I went.

There is now a large hole in the garden where the bramble patch was and the roses can breath again. Well most of them can, some of them got in the way and were well and truly mullered. Apologies were issued but happily having known me for over 20 years Sue understands that these things aren't done deliberately. I just can't help myself.

The rain and wind then came and when the sun reappeared we were treated to a real show. The herd decided that it needed to expend some energy by running around the field with what appeared to be great joy. Much swirling, prancing, charging, and general merriment for 2 or 3 minutes. I don't know why they do it but they really do look like they enjoyed it. So did we, it's what its all about!

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Show, Burst, Poop and sunshine!

Well what a weekend! I travelled up to the Bristol Sales Centre on friday evening with the massive show team (2 girls and a boy) in convoy with Ben Hey who was at the helm of team Inca for the weekend. The weather was quite staggering, approaching the M4 from the south the wind and rain was lashing in from the west and the going was slow and careful to say the least.

Still we arived in one piece and bedded the alpacas down for the night in a super big airy barn with very generous pen sizes, then .........off to the pub!
It was a miserable Saturday as again the rain lashed in sideways and everyone was looking decidedly underdressed. Having gone for the lightweight underwear and the uniform of the Patou Warrior I was jibber jabber freezing all day and at one point seriously considered setting fire to myself.

I did however have a blog reader identify themselves and as a result was forced to find a quiet corner in order to burst as promised...........thanks Leslie, what a mess!

Patou Poppy, Patou Lola and Orchard Apollo were outstandingly well behaved in the show ring and even Charlie did what he was supposed to..........I had serious doubts about him...........a bit of a scamp I reckon. Seriously though it was very good to have the team bolstered by Charlie and Louise, there were more of us to huddle together for warmth! Sadly the dynamic trio were not what the judge was looking for and we will regroup and plan ahead for another bash another day.

Sue and Angus and Charlie and Louise all left on Saturday ................oh, I see, it's just me then?

Nothing else for it really off to the pub with Ben again!

Sunday was the real business end of the show and it was great to see the quality animals on display, it has really given me a lot to think about as we strive to build a herd with all the animals having that perfect look that we are after. Slowly, slowly catchee monkey..........or alpaca..........you know what I mean, we are hopefully doing the right thing and we'll get there one day.

Whilst sitting like a real old 'Billy no mates' watching the show on the Sunday it was a pleasure to be disturbed by the daktari people. Karen and Chris, I'm sorry guys but daktari has just stuck in my mind, they coaxed me away into the canteen for a cup of coffee and a chat about their future plans......boy have they got some future plans! France, alpacas, properties, renovations. Good luck guys it sounds great and you know we'll be here ready when you are! Still have that lovely grey you know, Bella is her name, she won't be here for long!

Finally got back at 6.30pm on Sunday and life in Chicksgrove has resumed as normal. Today was a gloriously sunny day and we have been outside all day mainly dealing with poo! The field shelter is now spotless, the top paddock you could eat you supper off and we are all bushed.