Tuesday, 28 August 2012

It's all change!

When I was born I had a full head of wonderful dark brown hair. I know, I know. I just did. Stand by for the real shocker.
As a toddler my dark straight hair had been replaced with beautiful blonde curly locks. I know this is a real stretch of the imagination for those of you who know me, but it's true, my parents have photographic evidence. I may even post the evidence if there are too many non-believers.
With these sun like golden curls I was cooed over and generally adored. I was also, allegedly, commonly mistaken for a little girl. Ahem, all right that hasn't happened for a very long time.
But in the pictures that I have seen, in my humble opinion, I appeared to look like a baby Greek God, all pureness and general baby-godishness.

As I approached school age my golden curls changed back to the glossy straight brown hair that I kept (in various styles from No1 crew cuts to as long as I could get away with) for all my school years and in to my early twenties.

From there on in it all appeared to go a bit awry and I am now at the stage where, depending on the light, my haircut or the presence of CCTV cameras and tall people I am anything from a third to two thirds bald. But that's fine, I'm happy with that. I am content with my level of baldness. I wouldn't win any awards for hair, or even hairstyles, but I am happy, that's not why I am here, to win prizes for my hair, or fleece (can you see where I am going with this now?).

So why the follicular history? Well, we have been observing cria fleeces this year, probably more attentively than before, because of the Qjori factor.

For example, Truffle. I wish I had photographs of all this but it's been difficult this year.
Truffle was the first Qjori cria and was born in appalling weather (weren't they all?).

A slighty damp Truffle this morning.

When Truffle eventually dried out her dark fawn fleece had the tiniest tightest crimp I have ever seen, you may remember I wrote a blog about it. Well that got me excited but then no sooner was it there but - whoosh, her fleece had changed and was straight and fluffy and crimpless. I was dissapointed to say the least. But the story continues. We have just weaned Truffle at 4 months old as her mother Dee is just too thin and her condition needs to improve before winter.
As a result we gave Truffle a good inspection, so we can keep an eye on her condition as she switches from mothers milk and a bit of nibbling to full time grazing. We looked at her fleece (having paid it no attention for 6 weeks or so) and were blown away by the transformation.
The colour has changed as if it has been dyed, it is now a medium brown and the crimp has returned in bucket loads, tight, bright and gorgeous. I know you are probably saying "Well let's see some pictures then!". Sadly I am home alone and am not even going to try to 1) Catch Truffle 2) Hold Truffle 3) Open up Truffle's fleece and 4) Take pictures of Truffles fleece whilst still doing 2) and 3)!

If it is dry when Sue returns we will give it a go.

But it is not just Truffle. Young Toddy, the Toddster has changed dramatically too.

Little Toddy drying off in the sun earlier this morning.

Todd is our little pie-face. His mother is white with a white pedigree. Toddy was born brown with a white face and two white front feet. He is a little cracker and a real favourite. When the Toddster was a week or so old I looked over his fleece carefully for any sign of black or white fibre. Was he just a brown pie-face or was he rose grey? No, it was just brown, nothing else.
Well yesterday I looked at Toddy again and blow me down his fleece has changed colour completely! The first inch or so is brown but the next inch is dark grey! Not only that but his neck seems to be getting lighter. Is he turning into a grey? Goes this happen with grey alpacas? We have never had one before so don't know!

Taz has also changed dramatically. He has always been a rich chocolate brown and still is but for the first month of his life he had a fleece with no character to it at all. Yesterday when I looked, (Sue had told me to check him out as she had seen some change) his fleece is now becoming all crimpy. It is a big bold crimp but from dead straight to big bold crimp in a month is impressive. Not only that but he is now finally starting to grow into his nose!

So far all of the fleeces that I looked at that I was disappointed in are improving, they are not show-stopping stunned mullet creating fleeces, far from it, but the change has been dramatic.

The only thing is, having looked back at my own dramatic 'fleece' changes, I am dreading the bald phase!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012


It has all been a bit stressful here lately. Many of you may know that we moved to the current Patou HQ almost a year ago as we had outgrown where we were, we needed more land. We were lucky enough to find the cottage and then discovered that the ten acres surrounding it was also available to rent. Marvellous. 
There had just been a couple of horses on the land prior to our arrival and we were invited to do what we wanted in the fields. Field shelters were erected, hurdles and troughs were installed and fences were repaired and reinforced. And then it happened. 

We were visited by a group of men, representatives of the estate (we are on the beautiful 9,000 acre Fonthill Estate), the farm manager and someone else who I cannot remember. I have to say that they were all very friendly but their message was a bit of a surprise.

The conversation went a bit like this:

'Did you know that these fields are in an HLS scheme?'
'No. What's an HLS scheme?'
'It's a Higher Level Stewardship Scheme which means there are strict rules governing it's use'
'Meaning what?'
'Well what would you do if we said you couldn't feed your animals on this land?'
'I would feed them in the dark when no-one was about'
'I thought so'

And so on........

Basically the estate get paid a large sum of money to keep the landscape to certain environmental standards. The rules are very strict. 

We have been very nicely 'told off' since then several times and after a visit to the estate from the head scrutineer of this HLS scheme we have been put under a bit of pressure. At one point I did lose my cool a little bit as I explained how frustrating it was a) not to be told about this in the first place and b) to not be told what the rules were after that.

It felt at one point that we were under fire from all directions and would have to move. Which we really don't want to do.

Since then things have improved dramatically. The estate manager and the farm manager have been brilliant. We have been offered more land, we have been offered 'feeding areas' which would be made by cutting through into other fields, or into the woodland. Now we have been offered a whole field of hay. I have to say that having felt a bit unloved we are now feeling pretty good about life!

Anyway enough of that old twaddle, yesterday I was out with the camera getting some shots of the girls we are going to put up for sale (decisions have been made). Whilst there the cria were bimbling about as usual getting in the way of everything.

Then the sun came out and there was a mass snooze. Todd and Tsar buddied up together

Behind them Thor (God of Thunder) and Talisker also crashed out.

And finally..........................

I have exciting news from Karen at Amiryck Alpacas about another female Qjori cria. Just have a look at the beautiful brown girl below with her mother Moselle!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

The balance is tipping!

There has been much ribbing about our lack of female cria this year (I could say Qjori's lack of female cria but this is Team Patou, we take the blame, praise, biscuit together, as one). 
All sorts of things have been suggested as to why this has happened and I'm afraid I have refuted them all. You may know that the lovely Mrs S is a midwife and has been for a long time so she knows a thing or two about babies and the things people do to try and influence the sex of any offspring. Human babies I know, but the same applies to most species and definitely to alpacas. Every birth there is a 50/50 chance of a male or a female. It will all even up in the end.

Well I might just take this opportunity to point out that the balance is tipping. The girls are turning up.

Firstly I have news of two more Qjori cria from Andy and Viv at Reddingvale. Firstly a brown boy out of a white dam, as yet unnamed, when I spoke to Andy yesterday he was still being known as 'Brown Boy'. Come on Andy you gave Quintus such a splendid name what about another Q name?

Secondly, and also out of a white mother, a gorgeous smoky brown female, currently called Reddingvale Cappuccino (sounds good to me), nice job on the colour Mr Q!

I also have news from Snowdonia, new home of Karen and Crispin at Winterhead Alpacas who have also just had two Qjori cria. Firstly, the wonderfully named McCrimmon who is as cute as a button.

Secondly the beautiful SarahJane, pictured here with her mother against a super Welsh backdrop.

I have also received news of female cria down at Snooks Farm Alpacas and another female over at Old Stour Alpacas. 

There are still plenty of Qjori cria to come, how many more girls is anybody's guess but I'm feeling a lot better about it all now!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Patou Update

I was reminded the other day that I had not 'blogged' for a couple of weeks. What was wrong? Had we done a runner? Had we been abducted by the Galactic Fairies? Had we been swallowed up by a giant wall of raspberry blancmange? No, just been busy and lacking in inspiration.

I have tried to blog a Patou cria update and have been out with the camera, but recently I have been suffering from a bad case of weatheritis. When I am at work, at the day job, the sun shines. Conversely when I am at home it is generally raining, windy, cold or just dismal. It should definitely be the other way round. As a result getting out with the camera opportunities have been minimal. Yesterday the weather was okay, so I went out. 

The problem is that when it is raining the mother and cria herd tend to stick themselves together in a group under some sort of shelter. The same can be said when it is sunny, stuck together like glue they take cover. In short they don't make it easy. My plan was to photograph each cria with it's mother. The plan (one should never have a plan when dealing with animals) was doomed from the start. The sun came out and like iron filings being attracted to a magnet they shuffled into the shade. In fact the Patou herd is more like a shoal of fish than a herd of alpacas. Except they don't scatter when I walk into them, they just look at me, ears twitching to keep the flies fit, the odd hum, the odd comic fart, but to get them to move I have to physically push them and who wants that?

So this was the initial cria and mother picture. 
The cria on the right is Talisker, his mother is nowhere in sight. The little cria in the shade is Tsar, his mother, Millie, is behind Talisker. With me so far?

Having given up I plonked a chair in the field and sat waiting to see if anyone would venture out into the sunshine. Gradually things picked up. First to come over to investigate was the incredibly cute Todd, Toddy, The Toddster. His mother though, was nowhere to be seen.

Next to wander past was Troy, now he has a seriously interesting fleece. His mother, Patou Penny, is a Canchones Witness girl, she is one of our top brownies and Troy has a dense, soft, bright, and crimpy fleece. One to watch, definitely.
And before you say, "Hang on a minute, he's fawn!",............. he isn't........... well alright he might be, but.............. he might not be................  just leave it! Once again his mother was nowhere in sight. 

Then one of the darlings of the herd wandered past, with her bat like ears, little Tabitha. She is utterly gorgeous and definitely not fawn! I don't recall where her mother was at the time.

I then returned to the shed as the mother cria combo I really wanted to show you was Millie and Tsar. They wouldn't come out of the shade so here they are resting in the cool. Tsar is our little bottle boy. He was losing weight in his first few days and we just didn't know why. Millie had (and still has) masses of milk and we had seen him with very milky chops on day one but for some reason he stopped feeding well and started faffing about under there and not getting stuck in. 
We started bottle feeding him and he took to it well. 
The problem is, as you all probably know, there is a very fine line between over bottling and therefore getting them reliant on it and under bottling, meaning that hunger will keep them trying to feed naturally. Thankfully we seem to have got it about right and he is taking less from us and more from Millie. Hopefully in a week or so we will be able to withdraw completely. He is a little cracker.

Lastly, a photograph of Tarquin, The Mighty Quin, who is never far away when the camera is about. What is it about these light coloured show-offs?

And that's not the only photograph I took of him yesterday, I have enough for a whole portfolio. one from every conceivable angle. Bloody show-off.