Monday, 31 August 2009

I have a dream

When we bought our first female alpacas, almost four years ago Sue and I had a dream. A dream involving lots of beautful coloured alpacas pronking happily in a field.
I also had a rather strange personal dream. It involved me running with a herd of the finest coloured alpacas in the world down a long sloping meadow into and across a stream. I don't know why there was a sloping meadow and I don't know why we ran through a stream but we did.
It was a dream in slow motion, the sun was shining, the golden rays bouncing off my bronzed naked torso, my long hair flowing behind me like a stallions mane, a smile rippling across my chiselled face revealing a set of perfect 'movie star' teeth. I was running effortlessly alongside the alpacas as they looked across at me adoringly. We chuckled together, we were as one.

Yeah, odd dream, I was wearing trousers by the way it wasn't one of those sort of dreams.

Anyway that second dream will never come true. I am bald for starters. My running style is more like a controlled stumble and I very rarely bare my rather substantial torso anywhere near the sun. The first one though? Well, with the first dream I think we have a chance.

We now have eleven of our own females, two black, five brown and four fawn. Out of those girls seven will be giving birth next summer. Hopefully some of those will be females.
Next summer we will have all eleven hopefully falling pregnant. In other words over the next couple of years we will be expanding rapidly.

So how is the dream (the first one) going so far?
Well as I have mentioned before we have punched well above our weight in the shows we have entered. Not small shows either. SWAG spring show, Bath and West, the Futurity, all shows with well over 300 alpacas.
It goes to show that we are doing something right, our carefully thought out breeding strategy is working.
It's all very well reporting good sales, and yes, we have had a good year but that is not what it is all about. Sometimes we lose sight of what the whole point of breeding alpacas is about. The end product, the fleece.

To that end we are getting somewhere. The cria fleeces we have this year are the best we have seen. We will not be featuring much next year on the show circuit as we only had three cria this year due to resetting the herd 'clock'. It has cost us a year really but in the long run I think it was worth it. Spring births certainly do seem to be the best way to go. Great weight gain and so far, nice fleeces.

We have used Jack of Spades over six of our girls this year. Jack is without doubt the best black herdsire I have seen and I am very excited about what he will produce with our girls next year. Columbus (The Clumpmeister) has been used over only one of our females this year, Priscilla, one of our foundation girls. We have also used Clump over Judy who we look after and he has had his wicked way with four other lovely ladies of various colours. I know he'll produce something good.

So the dream is underway, when the industry is ready, we'll be ready too. You can bet on that.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

A day for a tantrum.

Firstly sorry for the delay in blogging but we have had a busy week here. It's a good job I have been on holiday.

Now this tantrum, I'm not happy about it but I might as well get it out of the way.

Regular readers and anyone who knows me will understand that it is very easy to tell what mood I am in because it shows like a beacon. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve and have problems covering up emotions. I am 6 years old emotionally, or there abouts, sometimes a little younger. I know it's not clever but there we are that's me.

Today was a busy day that had its ups and downs, consequently so did I. An early start and Angus and I loaded up Clump into the trailer and we were off to Old Stour Alpacas for some spitting off. Normally a 15 minute drive. Not today, signs everywhere, road closed. Why? No idea. It said it was closed from 0900-1900hrs but when we came back an hour later the road was open. Yeah thats what I thought, they closed it just for me. They were just putting the signs up as I approached, how suspicious is that? I bet you a pound to a pinch of brown stuff that as soon as I was out of sight they loaded them back into the lorry with a smile and buggered off for a cuppa.

Anyway a 15 minute journey took 30 minutes because every tractor in south Wiltshire was coming the opposite way and the lanes were narrow. I stared at every tractor driver through slitty eyes as they waved at me as they passed. They knew what was going on, sure they did. I tell you it's a conspiracy.

Anyway we got there and Clump performed his spitting off duties very well, an orgling masterclass, oozing testosterone, leaping on everything that moved, good lad. It was then home for some spitting off with the ladies of the mighty Patou. With the herd rounded up I lead the big fellow into the mating/spitting off pen and ushered in the first contestant.

Was there the merest hint of an orgle? No there wasn't. Clump went all ..... well he went all girly on me. I paraded them in one after another and the Clumpmeister stood there like an expensive lemon. Most of the herd have been spitting off well and a few gave him a gobfull for good measure as they walked past. Clump didn't flinch. Metaphorically he was standing there giving it the double teapot. Anyway I gave up and retreated for a cuppa. The herd was released and wandered down the runway into the field. My mood had darkened.

Tantrum rapidly approaching, stand by.

A few minutes later I looked out of the kitchen window and saw the entire herd in a neighbours garden. Angus was playing with the young occupant of the house and they had obviously left the gate open. I rumbled down calling for Angus, but he was nowhere to be seen. I stomped into the garden and tried to stop the feeding frenzy that was underway. The good ladies of the Patou herd were head down and munching on seemingly everything above ground. Not only that but they were ignoring me. I slapped a few bottoms to get them moving but it was like being in a shoal of fish, they moved away from me only to reform behind me. I needed help. Every door of the neighbours house was locked and there was no response from within. By now the girls were tucking into an array of potted plants, probably poisonous, I once again attempted to usher them out, no luck. They were, by now, taking the piss. I was, by now, turning red and increasing my volume towards maximum output. Finally, The resident teenager appeared at the door. I explained the predicament, probably a bit too forcefully and demanded his help. He'd be straight out. Five minutes later I was still running around on my own trying to stop the herd poisoning itself to death. By now of course every plant in my mind had become extremely toxic. It was all a bit surreal.

Finally with assistance I managed to get the herd back into the field but by then I had blown up. I trumped back up the hill and shutting the door behind me slapped myself gently on the forehead, uttering various silent death threats.

Still, I'm alright now.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Time to reflect.

When we entered the wonderful world of alpacas, almost four years ago, we knew that within five years we would be in a position to start selling our own home bred alpacas.
This year that time is upon us.
Patou Lola, a beautiful black Centurion girl (pictured below on the right) is off to pastures new to form part of a brand new herd. Joy, pictured next to her, although not ours, has been part of the herd for well over a year and is soon to be heading north to the midlands where she too will form part of a brand new herd. Accompanying Joy will be Henry, our first ever cria, and Sophie who was born here two years ago. Today we have some people coming to look at our remaining weanling boys, Alacazam (pictured below left), Barney (pictured below, below with his mum) and Reggie (pictured below, below, below with Al and Moselle). It's hard trying not to put potential buyers off, it really is.

Last month we said farewell to Monique, Ronnie and Moselle as they headed west to Bridgwater way (deep in Somerset's bandit country!) They had been here for two years and Moselle was born here last summer.
So why am I wittering on about it? I don't know really. I suppose because this blog, which is supposed to be rambling drivel, can also be wistful witterings from time to time. What?
It's just that even though we knew this time was coming, and we have sold alpacas for the last three years, it's just all getting a bit personal now.

Lola and Henry have brought it all into focus. They have highlighted why we are here and why we are doing this, we seem to have forgotten. When we started it was the beginning of a business. It was a plan for our future, a plan that would kick in big time when we retired from the 'day jobs'.
It hasn't felt lke that though. Having alpacas in our lives has been much, much more than that. We have become 'Alpaca breeders'. Everywhere we go people talk to us about alpacas because they know we have some. If they don't know we find ourselves telling them pretty early on. We are proud to be alpaca owners, we are proud of our alpacas we feel special, we feel priviledged.

Our lives revolve around alpacas, everything we do involves thinking about the alpacas. Sue actually thinks I am part of the herd, she said that recently.
I am part alpaca? Which part?
My fleece is very poor. Although relatively low in micron I have very poor coverage and I don't grow a very long staple length, it doesn't suit me. Conformationally I have a solid heavy bone structure but my legs are way too short, my back is too long, my head is definitely more round than triangular and my ears are more or less not spear shaped at all. If I was in Australia I would definitely be eaten as 'La Viande' or whatever silly name it is they market alpaca meat as over there. I'd feed quite a few too.
It may interest you to know that whilst writing the above tosh I have polished off a plate of Bubble and Squeak and bacon. Splendid!
Oh yes, I almost forgot, in case there are any Australians reading. Terribly sorry about the way the Ashes turned out old boy, dashed good show your boys put on, not quite as good as you thought you were though eh!!

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Isn't life great!

Despite the fact that my Sky box has gone bust in the middle of the last Ashes test I still feel that life is pretty damn great at the moment. I have been at the day job all week (apart from Wednesday) and am now off for ten whole glorious days! How fantastic is that!

On Wednesday Angus and I headed off early doors to the Gillingham and Shaftesbury Agricultural show. It's about 20 minutes away and is a really good day out. We took Al, Millie and Barney and were surrounded all day by smiling faces. Not only that but the sun shone throughout. A long day but a goodie!

As you can see I took a really good photograph of the event! I blame the sun. I couldn't see what I was doing. Its rubbish isn't it, I know but it's all I have.
We also managed to get a full page spread in the local newspaper, The Western Gazzette. They contacted me before the show and I sent them some photographs and gave them the website address. The diligent journalist then copied parts of the website into an article about Patou Alpacas. How could anything go wrong with that you may ask? Nothing could go wrong, I mean I had written the website, it was our story, simple. Well most of it was accurate. Most of it apart from the bit where they described me as 'a village postman!'. Now there is nothing wrong in being a postman, they do a sterling job, especially the village ones, but why did they decide to make me one? There is no mention of postmen on the website? I didn't say I was or had ever been a postman, which I haven't. So where did they get it from? Who knows, that's journalists for you!
Still they published all the pictures I sent them and any advertising is good advertising so thanks to them. Just don't call me Pat.

Alpaca sales are still phenomenal, we have people coming today and Monday to talk about starting up herds and I am virtually sold out. I do have a cunning plan afoot to restock, more about that in a later blog.

The other thing that is exciting is we have a new TV arriving today. I know that may not sound very exciting but it's a long time since we had a new television and the old one is the size of a small car. The new one is black, sleek, shiney and .........well it's black, sleek and shiney, what more do you need!

Right that's it, time for breakfast.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

What a day!

Yesterday was another great day here in Patouland. But it didn't quite go according to plan.
Sue was working so it was Angus and me at home all day.

We had been contacted by a lovely couple from Nottingham who were looking to start a herd of alpacas and were interested in one of the girls that we have for sale. They were going to be here late morning so I thought as soon as I knew they were near (most people get 'near' before phoning for final docking instructions) I would entice the girls up wth a bucket of food and we could peruse the herd. So far so good. The phone call came, about a mile away, bucket rattled, girls came up. Henry didn't. Clump was being obnoxious (he has his moments) and was up at the fence being lairy and poor old Henry wasn't keen to pass him to get to the feeding area.

As our visitors arrived, the Clump and Henry screech and spit show was underway. I explained the situation and we leant on the garden fence looking at the girls in the small paddock as we talked about alpacas.

What happened next was quite extraordinary. The small paddock is sometimes used to contain Clump when we go out, he can't antagonise anyone from there and as such there is peace of mind all round. As a result there is a haynet hanging on the fence for him. This was empty but was still hanging over the fence.
Fifi somehow put her head through the loop of rope that it hangs from and as she pulled away from the fence the haynet flew up at her. Pandemonium broke loose. Fifi was now running around the paddock being chased by this green haynet. The whole herd was spooked but Judy our biggest alpaca and female in charge doesn't take any nonsense and currently with cria at foot went into full attack mode. Fifi was being chased by the haynet and the haynet was being chased, stamped on and spat at by Judy.
To say I had to move swiftly is an understatement. I was through the gate and managed with the aid of a piece of rope to round up half a dozen of the swirling mass of alpacas into the catch pen, including the competely terrified Fifi and the by now fully on the warpath Judy.
I quickly removed the haynet from Fifi but in the process was completely covered in spit from head to toe by Judy who by now thought anyone was fair game for a splattering. I remember that there was a fair amount of farting going on as well, curious. All this happened if you remember whilst two people, completely new to alpacas and hoping to start a herd watched on.
All through this some twenty yards away the Clump and Henry show was still going on, spit, screech, spit, screech etc

I extricated myself and explained the situation (again) wondering what else could possibly go wrong. We retreated to the patio for a coffee and whilst waiting for the kettle I changed into a set of clean clothes, no choice I really was coated. I thought we'd give it half an hour for the herd to calm down and then round them up for a close up look.

Half an hour and many questions later we all went into the paddock and rounded up the girls. Judy was not a happy bunny and the spit began to fly....again. I must point out that Judy is not a 'spitter', big unsociable and terrified but not a spitter. Once in the catch pen she turned on me once more. Fighting against another volley of green I managed to manhandle her (and cria) out of the pen and across the paddock to the gate. She didn't want to go and was kicking and spitting as if her life depended on it. Once again watched by our prospective new alpaca owners. I have never experienced anything like it, it really was unbelieveable!

Once Judy was out of the way all was well and we were able to have a look at the herd who, like me, were mostly green. Not easliy put off my visitors, no, they were still here.

Anyway to cut the rest of the story short, our visitors settled on two females and a wether and we retreated to the pub, where the smell of green hung in the air! Excellent result but hard work, thanks Judy!

Friday, 14 August 2009

Sense has prevailed!

I mentioned (or was it verging on a full blown rant?) that I had heard of a proposal that we should have two show rings at our local South West Alpaca Group (SWAG) show.

The 'proposal' was that 'small' breeders should exhibit in one ring to win the honour of competing in the other ring where the 'big' breeders would be showing. In effect a qualifying round. Sure rosettes would be given in the 'small' breeders ring but the 'real' rosettes would be awarded to the alpacas in the 'big' breeders ring.
As far as I know there was no criteria agreed on as to what constituted a 'small' breeder. Anyone under 4 foot six perhaps? Perhaps there was a weight cut off point....8 stone soaking wet maybe?
In either case I am a mighty large breeder!
Anyway when I read the proposal I was to say the least a little bit incensed. In fact I was fuming, you may have noticed if you read this drivel.
I might also point out at this point that the SWAG spring show is not really a 'little' local show for us numpties in the south west. No siree, the SWAG spring show is one of the largest shows in Europe. Someone will probably correct me but I'm sure there were over 400 entries in this years show. In fact I know there were because the mighty Patou were there.. Not only there but winning the main the same ring as the big breeders..........well bugger me.........we are small breeders and we can do it....................... and we didn't do as well as the mighty Amiryck Alpacas and they are smaller than us, just!

Anyway the point of this blog is to say that I have received news from Di Davies who works endlessly for the cause down here in the SWAG area, organising not only the SWAG show but the Royal Bath and West Show as well. I really don't know how she does it. She is a superstar around these parts, no question. I don't know if either show would ever happen without Di. I doubt it. In fact they wouldn't happen that is how important Di is, she makes it all happen.

Anyway, I sent an e-mail to Di expressing my views and those of the blog readers. The result is that the proposal came from one or more 'small' breeders and that the proposal has now been removed from the agenda. In other words we will all compete on a level playing field at the SWAG show.

Fantastic news and many, many thanks to all those who commented about the 'proposal'.

People power and common sense strikes!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

How nosey can you be?

Our neighbours are having some garden landscaping done this week. The only way the landscapers can gain access to their garden is through the terrain of the mighty Patou herd.

They started yesterday whilst I was at work and returned this morning. As soon as they lorry entered the field the herd was on it's way over. Soon the truck was surrounded. The driver had already exited and was in the garden as the alpacas gave the truck a good once over.

They then decided that the narrow strip of grass in between the truck and the garden fence was the best grass in all of christendom and must be grazed immediately. The whole herd, barring Clump, who is still in solitary confinement marched on this small strip of deliciousness and set about it. They also decided that the grass just on the other sde of the fence was also akin to Ambrosia and heads were thrust through the fence. Some wire fencing........ well let's just say that some wire fencing got slighty pushed out of shape.

Today we are going to try Clump in the role of herd 'spitter offer'. It is not a task he has warmed to in the past but since we last tried him he has bedded several hembras (metaphorically speaking of course) as such we are going to put him in the firing line this morning. In fact we are off to do that now orders have arrived. Back soon.
Right twenty minutes have passed and Clump has had about ten of those minutes on the end of some pretty disinterested pregnant females. All of them made it quite clear that if he so much as tried to stick his nose there again there would be some serious trouble. Bobby made it quite clear that if he so much as looked remotely in her direction he would get another facefull.
Poor old clump. Nothing for him today, which is great news for us but tinged with a bit of sadness in that we have to put him through that without reward. The life of a herdsire I suppose.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Polly and the kittens

Today Angus and I had the pleasure of popping over to see Liz and Peter Curzen, keepers of our 'rent-a-womb' cria, Tisbury Patou Polly. She was due a jab and some worming so I took the opportunity to have a good look at her and (on a very drab dreary day it has to be said) take a photograph.

She seems to be shaping up rather nicely and is piling on the pounds.

After that we had a few chores to do and with very little time left before I have to leave for work I thought a rapid blog entry.

To fill it up a bit a picture of our kittens. Belle (grey) and Sebastian (gingery) are unseparable as the following photograph illustrates. Belle hasn't removed his head, she is just lying on top of most of him. All together now aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

That should do it!

Thanks for all the comments about the 'two tiered judging' proposal guys, massive response, not only in the form of comments on the blog but e-mails and phone calls too..............I've never been so popular!

Everyone thought the proposal was rubbish, not one person has come forward with any form of supporting argument which is great. Hopefully the proposal will be just that, a proposal. Then we can all just get on with going to alpaca shows and competing on a level footing.

We're in a period of quiet here in Patouland, all this years cria have been born. Monique, who was the next one up to the the birthing mat (what?), is now safely ensconced in the Fairytale land of Amiryck. This means that we now must look forward to next spring for our next new arrivals. Due to the 'resetting' of the herd's birthing clock last year we are looking forward to a bumper crop next year. We have 14 cria due, starting in April, which is a massive increase for us.

Maybe if we have enough female cria we at Patou might become 'big breeders'.
Then of course I will be shouting from the rooftops my new proposal to have the smaller breeders show their animals in a separate ring round the back next to the skips. As if they can compete with the likes of me! Its all's all mine you see!!!!!!!!!! (mad persons laughter!)

Right that's it I'm off to lie down in a quiet place.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Very pleased and ready for a fight!

I am very pleased. Why?
I mentioned in my last blog that our handsome brown stud male Cambridge Columbus, or Clump, as he is affectionately known here in Patouland, was going on his very first mobile mating last weekend. It wasn't far, only 5 minutes up the road to Tisbury Alpacas where the lovely Connie waited impatiently.
Connie is the mother of Patou Polly, a lovely medium fawn cria (sire ATA Cambridge Centurion) born a couple of weeks ago from our 'rent a womb' scheme. Connie is a lovely medium brown and Columbus just seemed right for her.
So anyway off we went, me with positive thoughts coursing through my veins and Clump with ..................well lets just say I was hoping he was going to do what he was supposed to do.
On arrival I was met by our good friend Liz who had Connie all penned up ready. I led Clump into the pen and stepped back. He sniffed Connie under the tail, burbled a tiny little orgle that I could only just hear and Connie, bless her, hit the deck with a resounding thud!
Clump then rolled up his sleeves, took a large swig of malt and ...................... well he did what he was supposed to do! Thirty minutes later he looked at me as if to say 'Have you got the ciggies?' and it was all over. Fantastic! Our boy has finally got the hang of this mating malarkey!
So why am I read for a fight?
Well I have just received the latest South West Alpaca Group (SWAG) newsletter. I have an article published in it this quarter which is nice, all about positive thinking and getting off your backside to make things happen, it was published here first (naturally). I hope it helps someone somewhere.
What has fired me up was an article about our (SWAG) Spring show next year. Apparently the 'proposal' is that there will be two rings being judged, one for small breeders (number of alpacas to be decided) and one for the big breeders (bless them, a ring all to themselves). Then the winners will be judged again against each other or something. Sorry but by then I was talking to Sue and she was as incensed as me and we said almost in unison "Well stuff them we won't go".
And that people is how we feel. We just won't go. We'll go for a nice pub lunch instead.
If there are to be two rings, in effect one qualifying ring for the poor little small breeders, the organisers can stuff it. We just will not go. That will not make any difference to the show of course which will still go ahead, and I hope it is well attended and I hope people enjoy themselves. It is about principle. Sue came up with two words whilst we were discussing the article which I wrote down immediately; pompous and defeatist.
If we can't compete on a level playing field (I know I have bashed on about this before but it is worth banging on about!) then there is no point competing. Having a two-tiered judging system is wrong. It is defeatist, it is pompous, it is whingey. It is just about what sums up the way this country is is pathetic! It is time for someone to stop pandering to the bloody whingers and whiners and just get on with things. I understand that this has probably been brought about because some small breeder somewhere has said 'It's not fair, we never win anything', well sorry sunshine you just have to keep trying. It's not easy to win rosettes, that's what makes winning them so special! If you and your kind have their way we will end up giving rosettes to everyone so that we have no losers, everyone is a winner! They tried that in the schools system recently and look where that got us, a nation of children with no competitive instinct!
This has been a Mark Steele production for 'Lets make Britain great again'

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Alright, I've had enough

I have been alone all weekend. Sue and Angus hopped on a train on Friday afternoon and headed off for a weekend in Suffolk with Sue's sister.
It wasn't good initially as I missed them straight away. However, once I had thought about it I realised that there were certain advantages to spending the weekend by myself.
For starters a lot of the usual household rules could be flouted, wellies in the kitchen, beer at lunchtime, food at anytime, Sky sports on all the time! There was also the fact that I was now in charge, noise when I wanted it yet peace and quiet when I wanted that.

I even had dinner guests! I know Graham is a little bit publicity hungry (Oh yes you are Graham) and I think he was a little miffed when he hasn't perhaps received a mention before. So I'll lay it on a bit thick for you Graham to make up. Graham and his lovely lady Lucy came over for dinner and we had a very pleasant evening, very pleasant indeed. Graham is the computer maestro who designed the original Patou Alpacas website. Yes, Graham is the man who started it all. Not only that, Graham was the original Patou Alpacas official photographer. He took some lovely photographs in the early days did Graham. Of course I do both jobs now, Graham flittered off to do other things,
So there we have it Graham, ten name mentions, will that do?

On Saturday I took Monique, Ronnie and Moselle to their new home near Bridgwater. Karen and Richard May at Amiryck Alpacas are fellow mighty breeders and it was good to see where their plan for world alpaca dominance is beginning. What a smashing place, the girls will be very happy there. Thanks for the tea and scones guys, you'll be pleased to hear that the Discovery got me back home in quick time. Or maybe you won't, I don't know, why should you, silly of me!

The trip down there, of around 70 miles, was a nightmare. First of all the Discovery started to misfire, this meant that inside it sounded like an old and not very well VW Beetle. This also meant that the usual smooth power was replaced by something a lot less. In short the Discovery felt and sounded like it had swine flu. It really wasn't interested in going anywhere. It was a battle to get to 60 miles an hour and hills! Hills were just plain embarrassing. Really it was shades on and sink low in the seat time. I would pass as many people as possible on the downhill bits and then watch them all race past me if the incline so much as thought about being uphill.

Not only that but everyone in the whole wide world was on the A303. No kidding, I think London had emptied out for the weekend, well the wealthier parts of it anyway. We crawled along, which with a wheezing, spluttering Discovery is not good. At engine idling speed the vibration was quite startling, I think I must have been a blur to other motorists as the engine tried to shake me to pieces, literally.

Still I was home and after the usual chores, (yes some things still have to be done people even when I'm home alone), it was beer and curry night with the All Blacks and the Springboks on the tv. I stayed up late too!

This morning I am off with Columbus for his first mobile mating (hopefully). He now has four girls spitting off which is great but it has been a struggle to get him going. Today will be a big test for him, I will be taking the ghetto blaster with the orgling CD just in case, I'll let you know how we get on.

Sue and Angus return late this evening, so it will be cricket and more curry later for me. No beer as I have to pick the up from the station, well maybe one, at lunchtime!

To be honest being on my own was great for a while but jeepers it will be good to have them home!