Tuesday, 26 April 2011

No such thing as a free lunch!

Yesterday we drove about as far as it is reasonably to be expected to drive for a free lunch. We drove from Wiltshire (home of the Mighty Patou) through Dorset, Somerset and then Devon to finally cross the Tamar Bridge into Cornwall. Can there be a more dramatic entrance to a county in the UK? I doubt it. The sun shone on the Tamar estuary and Isambard Kingdom Brunel's bridge looked magnificent.
I have been to Cornwall before but took the northerly route in to Bodmin Moor last time. I think there should only be one way in and out and that is across the Tamar Bridge. You have a real sense of arrival when you see that bridge. It is like entering another country, which I suppose is what a lot of Cornish people may dream of, the Kingdom of Cornwall? Maybe, but from my point of view it was and is a splendid way in to Cornwall. The £1.50 exit fee is a bit cheeky though!

Anyway enough waffle, 'why were you going to Cornwall for lunch?' I hear your mutter disinterestedly.
Well, we had very kindly been invited to Popham Alpacas near Saltash for a barbecue lunch.
I think we sneaked onto the guest list as a result of our resounding thrashing of the Popham herd in the junior brown male class at the SWAG Spring Show. Regular readers may remember that last year a challenge was issued by Gary to The Mighty Patou to find a contender to compete in the aforementioned class. We declared our challenger early, The Mighty Roger Resilient was paraded and we positively oozed confidence from the start. The mental games had started. Gary had three early contenders, all who sadly fell by the wayside as the year progressed. Samburu turned grey, Commander turned fawn and Dino who has a truly super fleece was let down in the teeth department. Still, C'est la vie, we'll take the win even if all Roger had to do was turn up. Actually as previously reported Roger took second place in a competitive class of around a dozen brown boys.

It was a marvellous lunch (superb boerwurst), fantastic location (what a fabulous set up, very envious!) and great company. Thank you Gary and Felicia. I'll leave you to report further.

I took the camera out with me this morning when I walked the dogs around the alpaca field. There was much lounging around in the early morning sun. Priscilla and her weaner Rosa posed nicely for me.

Actually I then realised that they were not posing but watching the dogs as they sniffed around for the right dollop of poop to munch on. They really are disgusting. Some of you may think that it is not a very good picture because you can only see the back ends of the dogs. Well you would be wrong. The photograph has been deliberately taken so as not to offend, both dogs have hideously disfigured heads.

And finally, a photograph for the benefit of Ivan and Gill of Old Stour Alpacas (not that they ever read this!) and someone in Kent who may be interested!
Here is the utterly gorgeous Edwina, (owned by Ivan and Gill) who has been billeted with the Mighty Patou show team this year. Edwina, sired by Eringa Park The Commandante took first place in the junior fawn female class at the SWAG show and Reserve Champion fawn female and will be travelling with The Mighty Show team to the Bath and West Show in June. Doesn't she look lovely? Not brown enough, obviously, but pretty nonetheless.

Right enough of this I have a helicopter to catch.

Friday, 22 April 2011

The Orgle has landed!

What another glorious day here, it was up to 26 degrees yesterday and was certainly not a day for trousers. Today is a Bank Holiday and as such I am at home and the trousers are off! Hurrah! I am working tomorrow and Sunday but then have next week off, Double hurrah!!

We were up reasonably early this morning so that we could get all the alpaca chores out of the way before it got too hot, some of those big mothers out there are getting a little bit hot and bothered.
One of the chores was Qjori's third mating. He had a date with Priscilla who had been left empty over winter. Priscilla would be a real confidence boost for Qjori as she is prone to 'hit the deck with a resounding thud' at the merest hint of an entire male in the area.

This morning she didn't disappoint. I ran her into Qjori's pen and he took one look at her. She immediately turned so that her 'docking station' (sorry Angus has been forcing us to watch the Star Wars movies recently) was in his face and then her legs promptly disappeared from under her. Down she went. As Priscilla is the mother of the 'hair-trigger spit monster' family she went down with just one beligerent flourish, a mouthful of spit heading my way as she was in mid air. Nice. It does make you wonder though? What on earth was going through her mind at the time? Was there anything going through her mind at the time? Anyway I digress.

As you may have read from previous blog entries Qjori has so far been 'silent running'. In other words we have only heard the distant murmurings of an orgle. The merest hint of a childish, burbly, breathless, dribbling orgle. As if someone in the next room has a small baby orgle nesting in straw in a tupperware box and keeps opening the lid to have a look at it (what?). It is almost as if he has been a bit embarrassed. It seems as if he thought it was a bit wrong, somehow he was doing something that he shouldn't be doing. Like he thought it was all a bit, I don't know, dirty, shameful, as if he was giving in to instincts over which he had no control, which I suppose is what it really is. I felt for him, I felt that I was intruding on some sort of teenage naughtiness, bless him.

However, today it seems all ideas of bashfulness have been despatched elsewhere, all thoughts of wrongdoing have been banished forever, for today good people, the orgle arrived! And once it had arrived it just grew and grew and grew. A beautiful melodious orgle had arrived. I actually made two people listen to it down the phone it was that good. He is a wonderful orgler!

Whilst Priscilla was 'docked', (and she was for 25 minutes, not bad for a third go?) a small but orderly and slightly worrying queue formed next to the mating pen. Two females who should be very pregnant had arrived and stood nearby. I waited for them to drop but they didn't. Good. Just to make sure I ran them in to Qjori when he was free to see how they behaved. Minstrel went beserk, trying to jump out of the pen, no problem there then, straight out with her and Connie entered turning the air green as she did so. Splendid, straight out with her too. Interested bystanders only. Had me worried for a second there.

Right enough of that I must crack on with the rest of the chores so that I can earn myself a nice spot of luncheon.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Silent running

Somehow I have been away from the day job for two weeks. It started off with days off, followed by a severe case of Manflu. I don't use that term (manflu) lightly here, it was touch and go at one point, seriously, lesser men (and women) wouldn't have pulled through. It was knife edge stuff. Anyway after that followed a few days leave, then that s**t of a thing gout hit me again. That dovetailed nicely into days off again and here we are, two weeks since I have had to grace the doorway of the 'day job. Nice.

All that changes tomorrow of course as I am back to work. Having just looked at the calendar though it seems not for long, we have a cluster of Bank Holidays coming up and then I am into days off again. How cool is that. Might as well not bother really, would they notice?

Anyway yesterday Sue and I designed and built a new alpaca handling area using alpaca hurdles. We recently bought a dozen more as they are always handy. It was designed specifically with spitting off and mating in mind. We are getting to the business end of the year where we have to start thinking about next years cria drop. Qjori will be in pole position for most of the next few months. He carried out his first mating 12 days ago. He didn't have the easiest start. The lovely Dee, who is fourteen years old had been left empty over the winter for this very occasion. She is never the quickest alpaca to go to the floor and almost looks like she is spitting off. In fact for an alpaca who rarely spits she was literally spitting at poor old Qjori. There then followed what I can only describe as a 'joint mating. Together we muscled poor old Dee to the floor and Qjori quickly assumed the position. Once everything was underway Dee seemed to enjoy the experience and put up with Qjori chewing her ears and generally behaving like an over enthusiastic teeneager.
The result is that Dee genuinely did 'spit off' this morning! Excellent news, could have hit the spot first time!

Anyway using the new handling area everyone else was run past Qjori to check for pregnancy. Everyone who should have spat, did indeed spit and so as not to put Qjori off we had saved a little beauty for him at the end. My most favourite alpaca in the whole wide world, Lily, had also been kept open this winter. Again for this very occasion. Lily was a little easier for Qjori to get to the floor and eventually after the big lad fiddled and faffed around he was able to get in the right position. With a little help from yours truly I was able to confirm that the right thing was in the right place and away he went again.
Now I'm not sure if Qjori is unusual or if this is normal for young males just starting out but he was virtually silent throughout. There was a bit of huffing and puffing but just the merest hint of an orgle, sort of like a large bumble bee thinking about getting into a jamjar but not quite risking it. It was quite surreal. He did make up for the lack of noise with quite a lot of drooling and ear chewing though. I'm sure the orgle will be with us soon. One thing is for sure, he's keen!

Friday, 15 April 2011

Moving on now.

First of all may I say thank you for all the lovely comments on my last blog post. I have been very excited all week and have just about calmed down, finally.
I would also like to apologise for perhaps not paying enough attention to what other people were doing at the SWAG Show. In case you are interested, here's why. I was totally consumed with what I was doing. Including the three championships I was in the ring 10 times last Saturday and that was whilst I was in ever increasing pain from gout in my big toe. Now it may interest you to know that I always get gout in the big toe of my left foot, my good foot. My right foot, ankle and shin have been operated on many times following a sporting injury many years ago that I now have arthritis in my foot and ankle. In other words my right foot is my 'bad' foot and I sometimes limp as a result of it. As I had gout in the 'good' foot I was standing on my 'bad' foot a lot. Consequently by the end of Saturday I hobbled out of the show ring for the last time, limped (which foot to limp on?) to the car and that was the end of me. Home, drugs, foot up, rest. Sadly no hope of making it back for the second day of the show. I understand it all went very well.
So I had that on my mind and the fact that it was a big weekend because it was Qjori's first UK show outing. Now I know I have said this already but it was important that he did well. I know he has tremendous qualities, my faith in him has never waivered. Others have said he looks great and has a fabulous fleece but I needed a judge to see him and say it in competition. We have committed to using Qjori over all our best females this summer, all of them, that is how highly we rate him. So the tension I was feeling when we were in the ring together was amazing. I really could have peed myself quite easily. I didn't obviously, what do you think I am? So the relief when Kathy Lloyd said all those wondeful things about him was overwhelming (hence the 'big fairy cake' tears). She actually said, and I didn't put this in the last post, that 'putting your hands into his fleece was like putting your hands into butter'. Bless you Kathy, very kind words. Right, that is my final word on the occasion, honestly, no more. Finito.

So moving on, we are starting to look forward to this summers birthing. And as a result we move onto the forgotten boy of the Mighty Patou herd, The Clumpmeister himself, Cambridge Columbus. Columbus was a busy boy last year and we have nine females due to give birth to little Clumps over this summer. It is his time to shine. He has been used over blacks, browns, fawns and whites so the results could be quite interesting. He only had four cria last year who were all either brown or dark fawn so fingers crossed there will be a wave of brownness at The Mighty Patou this year.  We have also got three of our top girls pregnant to the awesome Jack of Spades, so this year is looking good here in Patouland.

Anyway as The Clumpmeister was feeling a bit left out I took some photographs of him yesterday. He is a bit of a poser as you can see.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

What a day!

Yesterday we attended the first day of the South West Alpaca Group Spring Show, a high quality show with 300 or so alpacas entered. The first day was the coloured alpacas day. The Show Team was ready after much thought in preparation.
We had decided to travel up on the morning of the show. It meant getting up at 4am but we wanted the alpacas going into the ring in tip top condition and this seemed the way to do it. They were a little damp on arrival but soon dried off in the warm spring sunshine in the outdoor pen we made next to the Mighty Incas.

They looked good. First up would be Ruby May in the junior black female. I was excited, so excited I could hardly contain myself. Ruby looked fantastic. It was a big class and I was in good company, sandwiched between the glamour girls of Inca, Karen and Tara, with Euphoria and Enigma respectively. Three Jack of Spades girls the first three into the ring.

The anticipation of the competition as Tara and Enigma set off first.

In a quiet moment I share a few words of inspiration with Ruby May. How good does she look!

So, the first three in, became.....THE FIRST THREE! Second place to Ruby behind Euphoria with Enigma in third! WHAT A START!!

Next in was little Patou Rico, again a big class, stiff competition.

We took a moment to pose for the camera as the Show Judge, Kathy Lloyd examined a fellow combatant. No picture of the awarding but little Rico picked up a fourth place!

Next in was Reeya, junior brown female. Reeya is beautiful. I think she is the best we have ever produced and despite her fifth place at The Futurity I believe she is better than that, she is a star.

Again a big class and Reeya was awarded second place. Once again splitting the two Inca girls, Inca Elise and Inca Encore. Fourth place for Amiryck Evening Primrose who was expertly handled by Isla May!
For the Patou, Inca, Amirick triumvirate it was turning out to be a pretty good day!

Roger Resilient was up next, sadly, as I was in the ring practically all day, Sue was running around getting the alpacas lined up for me and couldn't photograph Roger as he competed in his big class. Regular readers may remember that this was to be the big Patou v Popham clash, the battle of the brown boys. Unfortunately Gary's boys have fallen by the wayside, his final contender being bumped to fawn at The Futurity. Graciously Gary conceded defeat and Roger was able to focus. I have to say he looked as good as he ever has as he went in, and bugger me he snaffled second place! I have to say I can't remember who came first, I can't even remember who else was in the ring. My mind was on other things. My mind was on the big one. I could see Sue waiting in the holding area with the big boy. Van Diemen Qjori of Patou was about to make his first entry into a UK show ring. It was the moment that I have been waiting for. I could feel the emotion building, I am welling up writing this, how ridiculous is that?


Here he is, the moment in my memory is all a bit of a blur.

Kathy having a good look at Qjori, who's name caused a bit of a problem with the ring commentator!

Qjori was awarded first place and in this picture you can see a large brown alpaca next to a large bald man quietly blubbing away as tears of joy hit the show ring floor. Just prior to that shot I had looked up and seen Angus leaping about with joy in the stands. It was the one that really mattered. It was the big one. We all knew it. I couldn't help myself.
Next was the Championship. I had already been in for the black female Championship with Ruby, the brown female Championship with Reeya and now I was in the brown male Championship with not only Qjori but also Roger Resilient. Luckily I had already anticipated the problem and Gary from Popham kindly agreed to take little Roger in. How ironic? Thanks Gary.

Roger with Gary far left and me and Qjori far right as Kathy judges the brown championship.

Again I'm afraid it is all a bit of a blur as Qjori was awarded the Reserve Champion Ribbon. The winner was a an intermediate male, Classical Mileend Prometheus, who I have to say looked very nice. A bit more fleece on Qjori and who knows? It was bloody close though and some of the things that the judge (did I mention that Kathy Lloyd is my new favourite judge in the wholewide world?) said about Qjori really were absolutely fantastic. She actually told the audience that they should all experience the feel of Qjori's fleece, the handle, she said, was stunning.

On exiting the ring something happened that has never happened to me before. Qjori and I were surrounded by people wanting to have a look at him, people wanting to touch him, it was extraordinary. A fantastic feeling that I would very much like to experience again!

It is 17 months since Sue, Angus and me saw a young Qjori in a field in Tasmania. We saw in him something special and simply had to have him as part of the Patou herd. Earlier this week he carried out his first mating. Yesterday he repaid our faith in him. He will  be competing at The Bath and West and The Devon County and if I'm honest I can't wait.

So to sum up, a great show for us, 5 animals entered - 1 x Reserve Champion,  1 x First, 3 x Seconds and a fourth. It is a splendid venue and splendidly organised by Lyndsey Skinner. We will sadly miss the second day as I am laid low with a gout attack.

I also had the privilege of taking Old Stour Edwina's Journey into the ring. She is a gorgeous little fawn girl who has been living and training with the Mighty Patou Show team this year.
In a very large class she took first place and then went on to take the Reserve Champion ribbon. Congratulations to her owners Ivan and Gill who were very very happy with their first big win and also to Sara and Morris at Appledene Alpacas, who are the owners of her sire Commandante and I know are equally happy with the result!

And finally.... congratulations to Dave and Joy from Apple Vale on their new purchase!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

2010 cria update

Sue and I had a few little husbandry tasks to carry out yesterday and somehow, for some reason, all eleven of last years cria seperated from the adults and wandered into the little paddock which is right in front of the house. All the adults stayed out in the main field apart from Lily, who being the most wonderful alpaca in the world was probably just making sure they were alright. Anyway, so as not to spoil a photo opportunity I asked her to leave and we closed the gate. I thought you might like to see how 'our mob' are getting on.

What a lovely row of fluffy bottoms! From the left, Rory, Edwina, Flora, Fernando and Runa.

The others, sensing there was something interesting over that wall, went for a look.

There was nothing there except some fat bloke with a camera!

Ok, testing me as some are only presenting distant buttocks, but from left to right - Runa, Fernando, Edwina, Rory, Roger Resilient, Ruby-May, Flora, Reeya, Rosa, Rafiki and Rico.

After all that they had some hay. Runa, Rafiki, Edwina, Ruby-May and Rosa.

Right, now get back to your work you lot, you don't get paid to look at pictures of alpacas!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Emerging from the murk.

Good morning everyone! I am feeling pretty damn chipper this morning it is almost as if I have been reborn!

Patou Rico, a lovely friendly little fellow.

If I can explain: I have been in the tight, pale green, all-encompassing grip of the dreaded manflu for the past few days. My last posting four days ago shows that I was not well. I have just read it again, it is dull and uninteresting, the only blog posting I have ever posted not to receive a comment, hopefully not my usual fare but you see I was not myself people, I was possessed by the God of cold sweats and jelly legs. For the last three days I have been as weak as a newborn cria, I have been absolutely pathetic. The tiny little mewing noises have been interspersed with the hugely loud and wet sneezes, every movement has brought on a little groan and a sigh as I have grumpily carried out the bare minimum of chores and tasks. Much crap television has been watched. Soup, and spoon food generally has been consumed, we are now major shareholders in Lemsip Maximum Strength. Every lap of the fields to check on the alpacas has felt like a marathon. At one point I felt like lying down in the field and giving up, letting the persistent evilness that is the Lord of Manflu take me away to his green and unpleasant land. But I didn't.......................ok enough of this drivel. I have had manflu, I was a pathetic sight but I am now out the other side. I am still full of snot, had a marvellous wife waking coughing fit at 4.30 this morning, but the weakness has seemingly gone. I am feeling better! Time to think ahead!

Patou Rafiki, eyes newly trimmed, can see again!

As I write this the rain is coming down, well across a long way first but eventually down as the stiff winds hurl it across the fields. The alpacas are fine, they are very well fleeced  and the rain will do them good. It is not cold and they need a wash to get the dust and sweat out of them. This weekend we are off to the SWAG Show near Bristol. Surely too far away for those show-offs from up north to travel!
The SWAG show is normally a very high quality show, the South West houses the largest proportion of alpacas in the land and I expect there will be 300 plus alpaca competing. I am looking forward to it. I have though, learned my lesson about pre-show boasting. Although two rosettes were bagged at the Futurity, I had perhaps set my sights a little high. Still, the Mighty Patou Show Team has been asked to rediscover it's crimp and go once more in to battle. This time the massed ranks of combatants will be bolstered by a big boy. Not another junior, nor an intermediate, no, this weekend will be the first outing at a UK show for Qjori. He has only got 6 and a half months fleece on him but he grows it quickly and he does, well I may have mentioned it before, look pretty magnificent to me! Ruby, Roger Resilient, Rico and Reeya will also be going. It will be nice to meet up with people again and will be nice to cast an eye over some pretty good alpacas. It will be a 4am start on Saturday morning and we are going as a family, even Angus who varies between extreme alpaca boredom and mild disinterest has asked to come (pound to a pinch of doodah he'll be fed up by lunchtime). It should be fun.

(Early readers of this blog may have noticed the lack of pictures and the proliferation of spelling mistakes. I pressed the wrong button and it published when I hadn't finished. Then AOL crashed. Then I had to do the school run. Then AOL crashed again. I can't tell you how close I was to doing something very silly with the laptop!)

Friday, 1 April 2011

One small drive for man, one giant leap for alpacakind.

Today was the day that Sue and I decided that we would move some of the Mighty Patou herd into the new field. It's not very far away but requires a short trip in the trailer of about 200 yards. We discussed it and decided it would be good to move all the rather 'portly' mothers who are almost off the top end of the conditoning scale. We could then feed up the ones who need a bit of a boost in the 'home' field.
The 'portly' mothers group included the entire 'Hair-trigger spit monster' clan. Priscilla, Bobby, Poppy and Penny, listed in ascending order or unpleaseantness. Ruby-May who would be the latest in the line seems to have broken the mould and is lovely.

Loading up that lot was not as simple as it could have been. There was much barging, spitting and general alpaca 'shouting'. I may have had a minor tantrum at one point. Not something I am proud of.

Anyway here they are after their short trip up the road. They were soon off exploring their new temporary home.
Then they caught sight of where they had come from and could see the adoring crowds on the other side of the fence!

There was much general staring and a small amount of humming.

After a while the 'portly' group wandered off to graze.
Two fences, a twenty foot drop and a bridleway seperate the mighty herd. Not quite sure how I feel about the move but we have outgrown the field and expansion must continue! 

Now the day job beckons. Arse to that.