Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Wet sausages?

Yesterday we had a barbecue planned. Nothing major, the massed ranks of the Inca and Patou Tribes together for some nosh and a glass or two of vino collapso. Cue rain, cue wind, cue unseasonably (and unreasonably) low temperatures. Still, freezing conditions have never stood in the way of a good barbecue, not if I have anything to do with it. A good time was had and despite the weather I think we all enjoyed it. Check out the layers of clothing involved though!

The sons and heirs to the two Mighty Alpaca herds (you don't have to be big you know) ate sausages and then kicked a ball around in the rain. Marvellous.
Young Oliver Hey downing some sort of drink.

And young Angus Steele polishing off his pudding.

Today preparations are underway for a 6am departure tomorrow as we head off to the Royal Bath and West Show, our nearest show and one of the big ones. We will be travelling with a full show team and are looking forward to it, we always have a good time there, although it's only 45 minutes drive away we will be packing the tent and the barbecue and assorted comfortry (is that a word?).

We have a couple of housesitters booked, Lucinda is a fully qualified vet and her partner Chris has spent several seasons lambing on a sheep farm. I think the lardy ladies (I am forbidden from calling them 'fat slappers') are in good hands!

And finally, for I have much work to do, a couple of pictures of our beautiful little Sirrocco (the wind, not the car). Her name has been shortened to Coco and she is doing very nicely thank you.

Just how gorgeous is she???????!!!!!!

And also in profile!

Right that's it, I will now be running silent until Saturday when I will post about our showtime exploits.
Adios amigos.

Friday, 27 May 2011

The future is indeed brown!

I have just completed a run of late shifts and now have two weeks away from the day job. In other words the day job is now how it should be, alpaca breeding!

Anyway, yesterday morning at about 6am I was lying in bed in a state of semi-conciousness when I became aware that Sue had arisen and left the bedroom, the chickens were making a racket and the dogs were stirring. After my late night however, I was keen to get back to sleep for another hour. I was drifting off when I heard what I can only describe as Sue galloping back up the stairs. Now I know that Sue is not a horse but 'galloping' is the descriptive word that truly conjures up the urgency in those footfalls. My eyes opened wide, my senses were instantly on full alert, for Sue does not gallop up the stairs unless there is important news to impart. Was it good news or bad news I pondered as my brain urgently sent messages to my still slumbering limbs telling them that very soon there was going to be some physical action one way or the other. Sue reached the top of the stairs with a whinney, alright there was no whinney, but she came into the bedroom and breathlessly declared 'There's a baby!'.

Now at this point people I may point out that there are certain times when I can move like greased lightning. I recall being chased by a ferocious German Shepherd once, I was definitely shifting there. I was pursued by a housemaster at school on more than one occasion for committing some heinous offence or other after lights out, my feet skipping across a scorched earth as I blazed away from his schoolmasterly shouts of 'Stop you horrible child'. I once gave chase and caught a very quick night time burglar, yes, I did. Hard to believe looking at me now, but still, when the time calls for a rapid response, over ever decreasing distances of course, I can muster some pace. This was one such occasion and in something approaching 3 or 4 seconds I had fired out of bed, donned trousers and was on my way downstairs. At the same time questions were asked of Sue as to which entry portal into the world had the baby come from? Poppy? Fantastic! Poppy!

Angus was being roused by Sue as I flew out of the house, collected the birthing case from the shed and roared into the field at maximum thrust.
Indeed it was Poppy and the cria was dry, the placenta was out. Probably about an hour old. The cria was brown, which was a great start and on closer inspection it was a girl! Fantastic! She was in a cush, she had all her bits and she felt strong. We did the necessary and left mother and cria to themsleves. It was a ferociously windy morning but Poppy had her down the hill out of the worst of it.

I returned a while later to witness the little one feeding. Check out those milky lips!

After she had fed she lay down and was properly mobbed by the rest of the herd who all wanted to come over and say hello.

She is the perfect start to our birthing season, she was 'baked' for 330 days and weighed in at 8.5 kilos.
Her mother is Patou Poppy, an ATA Cambridge Centurion girl, and her father is our own Cambridge Columbus, or Clump to his friends.

We have named her Patou Sirocco and she is lovely.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Devon and beyond!

A thousand apologies for the delay in posting about the Devon County Show. I know you have all been sitting, staring, forlornly and exhaustedly at your computer screens, your little fingers pressing the 'refresh page' button every few seconds or so and each time it has failed to bring up my latest offering it has plunged you further into the deep dark abyss of despair that you sink into between my meagre postings. Well fear not my little fluffy bunnies for I have returned from the miserable day job and have forgone nearly all my chores to sit here tapping away in order to brighten your otherwise unfulfilled days. The time for my report on the show has come. Sadly the photographs are not up to scratch due to me having to fly solo at the show, I did take some but couldn't figure out how to take some of myself in the ring without arranging some sort of remotely controlled camera on a wire. Not only that but I just clean forgot to ask anyone else to take any of me and the Mighty show team.
Yes, I spent three wonderful days at the Devon County Show, a 4am start on Thursday meant I was there nice and early to bag a splendid outside pen in the sunshine to dry off some rather wet dewy alpacas.
The whole show team was to enter the ring on Thursday, coloured alpacas day. We were in business and with well over 200 alpacas entered we were in for a fight for those rosettes.

First up for us was The Mighty, the Gorgeous, the thunderthigh, walnut cracking Patou Ruby May in the black Intermediate female class. Ruby turned 12 months old a couple of weeks ago and as a result moved up an age group. As usual with any black class she was up against two girls from the Incredible Inca Tribe. Inca Blah blah and Inca Doodle doo (their names have been changed for security reasons) narrowly took first and second and Ruby snatched the third place rosette. We were up and running.
Next up was little (but Mighty) Patou Rico, our smallest alpaca, by some margin. He was up against it in the junior black male class and he followed Ruby's lead by snaffling third place. We had two rosettes but we were hungry for more.
Next up was the utterly beautiful Patou Reeya in the junior brown class. I had high hopes as she was looking magnificent. Unfortunately our judge, the emminent Val Fullerlove didn't see it my way and Reeya was unplaced, a dissapointment but I am a firm believer in the saying 'The judge is always right', we didn't cry, sure I was a bit like a stunned mullet for a few seconds but we moved on. I am not a judge and Val is a very good one, and that's that.
All this time the big boy was calmly getting himself ready in the far corner of the Alpaca tent. He was looking good, he was ready to take on the competition. It was soon to be my favourite time in the whole wide world of alpacas IT WAS QJORI TIME!!!!

Whenever I lead that big boy anywhere I get goose bumps, seriously, I actually get goose bumps. Goosebumps and I also get strangely emotional. I simply can not tell you how much I think of the big brown fella. What was absolutely lovely at the show was that Diane Hey was over from Tasmania and she was able to see her boy for the first time in about 18 months. I think she was impressed with him, I hope she was.

Anyway Qjori time was approaching and I was puffing my chest out as he did his little bouncy trot at my side. We went in, he was judged and he was awarded first place in the adult brown male class. Nice. Our judge commented that he was a 'really super male'. That will do it for me! Now just as I am writing this I have received two photographs of the moment from good old Timo! I did have to pester him a bit but they arrived in the nick of time. Thanks mate!

How good does he look! I am biaised of course but it's my blog etc etc........... And now for one with his rosette! This is my impression of someone looking very cool by the way.

So a first place meant that me and the big boy were in the Championship on the Saturday. Yikes!
In the meantime we had a couple of days to talk alpaca with the great british public and relax in the evenings (I'm good at that).
Here are the Mighty Show Team sunbathing outside with a group of people that I wheeled in for the photograph, no seriously I had just had a double expresso and was 'buzzing' a bit (I have told you how caffeine affects me haven't I?) so I grabbed agroup of show visitors and got them to pose at the outside pen. Thank you people whoever you are!

Fabulous setting for an alpaca show by the way, we looked down on the whole showground. Alpacas on top of the world, sounds pretty good to me!

So there we have it, a great show, well organised by Gary and Peter and enjoyed by all and sundry.

What? What's that? What happened in the Championship on Saturday? Oh I almost forgot.
Right, first up I was in with a lovely grey female called Inca Dubonnet in the grey female championship. She nailed it, Champion!
Next up I was in with an absolutely gorgeous Inca Anais in the black female championship, she nailed it too, champion!
Then I took little Amiryck Elmer into the ring for the black male championship, nice little boy but my luck had run out.
Finally it was the brown male championship and that meant it was goosebump time again. It was close. It was very close. It was very, very close. But the Championsip went to Classical Mile End Prometheus and Qjori picked up the Reserve. He beat us at SWAG too, grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Right, let me tell you something now. All is not lost, reserve champion is good and we have one more shot at the big one. In eight days time we will be heading off for The Royal Bath and West Show, an absolute behemoth of a show spread over four days. We will be there. I will be there with Qjori and my goosebumps. Qjori still only has 8 months fleece growth on him, he hasn't peaked yet, he is getting better and better. He will do battle once more. We don't give up, ever, we'll be back!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The tension mounts.

Things are moving forward at a pace here in Patouland. Well, some things are, the alpacas, the large pregnant alpacas, are not moving very much at all. In fact a fairly accurate representation of what they are doing most of the time is pictured below. Bobby, who has given birth at 311, 327 and 330 days is now at 315 days. She is as wide as a house and is 'getting ready'. Although now that I have said that she will probably break all records and give birth in about 6 months time. No, she's fit to burst, she won't be long.

The rest of the big fat lazy mothers to be are doing the same, here are some of them sheltering in the shade of the big Ash tree. They occasionaly stand, stretch, raise their tails, do what comes naturally and then collapse in a heap again. I feel so at home walking amongst them.

However, life goes on and today I will be loading up the trusty Discovery with tent, barbecue, mobile hot tub, inflatable bar, latrine, shower tent and the essential ingredients for a two night stay ready for a 4.30am departure tomorrow morning to the Devon County Show. A first trip to the show for me and I am looking forward to it, although you can keep the 4.30am departure time, not looking forward to that. Must get an early night, up the apples and pears to bedfordshire straight after The Apprentice.
I managed to snap a nice photo of Patou Rico prancing around in the sunshine yesterday, he is coming to Devon and if I can get him in the ring looking like that..... who knows......... although we will have to have a good look around for his left ear before we set off.

News has arrived from the west, the Mighty Amiryck Alpacas had a birth yesterday, a repeat mating between Ronnie and Columbus has produced another beautiful brown girl! Good on Clumpy, he is throwing his colour well, we have nine girls due to him this year and nine brown girls would be good!
The Clumpmeister has been somewhat eclipsed this year with the arrival of the super cool, super looking, Australian boy, Qjori. However, Qjori's cria will not be here until next year, this year is the year of the Clump.

Mind you Qjori will have an army of cria next year, we will be using him over all 22 of the Mighty Patou herd and he had his first away day mating yesterday. He faffed around a bit in strange surroundings but after a little pep talk and a rest he performed his job. He has plenty more 'away days' booked too and will be having a busy summer. That's my boy!

Finally a photograph illustrating how stupidly endearingly stupid dogs can look. Josh and Kira here staring intensely into a patch of nettles. Why? I have no idea. There was nothing there but I guess something must have been there recently. Muppets.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

A quick one.

Just a quick blog today, after trying to blog unsuccessfully yesterday, when I had the time, I felt I ought to whack something on today even though now I am pushed for time. Not only that but I was up all night hiding in a barn and have not had much sleep since, splendid, off to work again shortly for another late one.
Still the massed ranks of the Mighty Patou herd do not require much from me at the moment as they gather themselves for the rapidly approaching 'birthing season'. The girls are all lounging around for most of the time and soon will be readying themselves for the final push. We're getting very excited as usual here as we await to see what the girls, with a big help from the boys involved, will produce for us this year. Jack of Spades and Cambridge Columbus are in the frame this year. We await with eager anticipation!


I had no warning (sorry, enough shouting) and I have no idea what these updates are. Not a clue. If anybody can throw any light on the subject I would be interested to know.

Right moving on. Next week I will betaking a small (but perfectly formed show team to the Devon County Show). Sue and Angus are staying at home so I will be throwing the tent and the barbecue in the back of the Discovery, along with enough provisions for me and the team for three days and off we go. Heading up the Team will be the team leader, Qjori who is just getting better and better as his fleece grows. He looks great.

He has now covered 5 females in the Patou herd and all five are spitting off nicely. The boy seems to be hitting the spot! All but one with just one mating.

Lastly a picture that I have been trying to squeeze in for a while of the egg production unit here in Patouland.
Patou Lulu (well why not), Patou Doodle and Patou Dottie, on the front doorstep demanding their evening treat of mixed corn.

Yep, life is looking pretty good here.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Bums backsides and bottoms.

Mrs Steele was doing something called 'hoovering' this morning which meant there were two reasons why I had to leave the house. Firstly, I was in the way of this 'hoovering' and was therefore told to vacate and secondly, by crikey it makes a racket!
So off I trotted into the alpaca field (I didn't actually trot, more of a prolonged stumble) with my camera for some close up and personal stuff with my girls. Or so I thought. I went down to the main shed to get a camping chair and then positioned myself in the field so that they could all come over and say hello whilst I took wonderful head shots for todays blog. I had an idea you see about my ideal head type on an alpaca and I was going to post various pictures of alpaca heads and my thoughts on them. Mike Safley said that head type was very important in an alpaca and I agree with him (well why wouldn't you?) It is something we try to get right here in the magical kingdom of Patou. Get the head right and other good things tend to follow.
So there I was, sitting in my chair, the sun was shining and everything was just perfect. Well almost everything. I managed a couple of 'head shots' from various angles and then realised that I would have a far higher success rate if I were to be photographing alpaca bottoms as that is what I was mostly presented with.

Now that got me thinking about something a visitor to the farm said a few weeks ago. She was amazed at how I could recognise each individual animal by looking at it's face (she wasn't an animal owner) which I suspect we can all do. We only have 30 odd alpacas so it is very easy for us. Anyway looking at all these bottoms I realised that I can not only recognise them from the front end but I could also recognise them from the rear end. I suspect that I am not the only one. And as they are looking at their fluffy best at this time of the year I thought I would share some rear-end views of the Mighty Patou. Well why not? Head types will have to wait for the time being. I don't propose to name them all on here (I could!) but here are some of my favourite fluffy bottoms!

A heavily pregnant and therefore very wide Patou Poppy.

Ruby May, Roger Resilient, Edwina, Bobby and Runa.

Fluffy bottoms on the move, was it something I said?

Runa, a beautiful pair of black bloomers!

A collection of colourful bottoms.

Some youngsters on the move, Edwina, Runa, Rosa, Ruby and Minstrel.
With bums like that you just know the heads are going to be right!

Of course there was one alpaca in the herd who was on my wavelength from the start. One girl who was just too close to see her derriere. She just couldn't resist the urge to come over and say hello!

Who was it? Patou Lily, my favourite.

Monday, 2 May 2011

An interesting weekend!

This weekend The Mighty Patou have done something that we have never done before. No, no, we haven't been racing camels around Regents Park or doing dolphin impressions in the local fish and chip shop, neither have we been running naked through the streets of Nairobi nor attending a Royal wedding. No, it was something to do with alpacas ....... and it wasn't rude.
We have been to an alpaca auction. Not only that but we went with a very small budget, and when I say small I mean small. Actually we weren't expecting to bring any alpacas home, we had gone to experience an alpaca auction, nothing more. But the story doesn't end there people, as it would be a very dull story. No, although we had very little money and no expectations of buying we did end up with two female alpacas. How did that happen?  

Firstly, it would be impolite not to mention that the Alpaca auction was the dispersal of the Collabear herd. Now I dont know David and Elaine very well, we have spoken briefly at various alpaca shows over the years, nothing more than that, but I think I know good people when I see them and I know that they are good people who have taken extremely good care of their alpacas over the years. You see people handling their alpacas and you just know. I also know that they are the very proud owners of Collabear Albert, who has one of the best coloured fleeces I have ever seen. I know that because a few years ago after he had won somewhere (I can't remember where) I went over and had a look at his fleece. So I knew that they were keen coloured alpaca breeders. I also knew that we would not be buying Albert for two reasons, firstly we had no hardly any money and secondly we have our own brown boy, who we happen to think is rather special.
So why did we go? Well we were invited to go by friends Ivan and Gill from Old Stour Alpacas. In fact we all went up the day before and stayed in a rather decent pub nearby. Good nosh and wine was consumed.  We all scrutinised the auction catalogue and marked the alpacas we would love to have, the ones we would like to have and the ones that we would be happy to take home at the right price. The tension mounted. The following day over 50 alpaca breeders turned up. There would be competition. Bugger. 

To cut a log story short we came away with ten alpacas between us. I have to say that Ivan was a joy to watch as he bid for and won several nice alpacas. I did bid, successfully, through Ivan, for a brown female and a brown female with a nice fawn cria at foot (we get the mum, Ivan and Gill get the cria, it was spur of the moment deal type thing). You really have to think and make decisions quickly at an auction I can tell you!
Here is a picture of the collection of alpacas in quarantine back at Old Stour Alpacas. A nice looking bunch I think you will agree.

Now, to the two brown females that will be joining the Mighty Patou. Firstly there is Collabear Victoria. She is on the right in the below picture. As you can see she is medium brown but with a white 'scarf' and a white leg. 'Are the Mighty Patou (you know it's great writing your own blog because you can write words like Mighty as many times as you like!) going in for multi-coloured alpacas?'. Well, no, we are not, for Victoria is quite an interesting female in that she is the mother of Collabear Albert. She has always thrown solid coloured cria and at the price we got her for I thought she was an absolute bargain. In fact I thought that it was a pretty shrewd move. Doesn't happen often, me making shrewd moves, you need to be quick to see them. We will have to wait and see what she can produce for us next year. She was mated just prior to the auction so we will have to see if she has held that. Otherwise we have just the male for her.

The other brown girl is called Joy and has a lovely little Albert cria at foot with a very dense crimpy fleece. Joy, weirdly, also has a white leg (no, I stress again that we are not trying to breed multi's!). Joy also produces solid coloured cria. I saw these two in the ring and saw the price they were going for and just felt a strong urge to bid for them, a nudge to Ivan and he was off, his arm up and down like a piston, a short time later they were ours, job done. Joy is empty which suits us perfectly.

When Ivan had finished and the number of bought alpacas had grown to ten he was literally forced to leave the hall by Gill. Then we had the problem of how to get them home. Ten alpacas in the trailer was a bit of a squeeze especially with a cria, there was a real danger that she would get squashed. However, with a bit of quick thinking and some improvisation they were all skipping around on some wonderfully lush pasture at Old Stour Alpacas just over an hour later.

David and Elaine, if you read this drivel, please be assured that these girls will have a lovely life and will be very well cared for. It must have been a very difficult day for you both. You have our admiration for the way you handled your selves.