Shearing is always a stressful time here in Patouland because of the great British weather. We don't have the luxury of a large barn in which to house alpacas in order to keep them dry, we are dependant on the weather behaving itself. Which it rarely does.
This year shearing had been organised for Tuesday the 11th of June. Sue and I had the day off, in fact I had most of the week off. Plenty of time for organisation. As usual we had invited the owners of some of our boys who lived locally to join us for shearing. I would collect the boys (16 in total) from three different locations and return them after shearing.
A week before I became obsessed with checking the forecast. It is surprising how much the forecast can change in a week.
It started off well, dry and sunny. Time to relax.
With five days to go it had changed to cloudy. Anxiety levels on the up.
Four days to go and a big blue droplet appeared on the map, chance of a light shower, I start to twitch.
Three days to go and we had constant light rain predicted, I develop several nervous ticks including a particularly abusive form of Tourettes.
Two days to go and heavy rain was predicted all morning, I lose control of my bladder and thoughts turn to running away from it all.
The morning of the day before. It's 5am and I am peering through bloodshot eyes at the computer screen. Sitting in a puddle and twitching uncontrollably I study the maps. The heavy rain has been replaced with light rain. I struggle to smile but all that happens is more wee comes out and I start to feel nauseous.
After banging my forehead increasingly harder on a solid surface I come to the conclusion that the weather will beat us unless I formulate a back-up plan and implement it. A friend offers us a barn about 15 minutes drive away. It will take about 20 alpacas leaving enough room for shearing. Perfect, I change my trousers and spring into action, suddenly a man on a mission.
The afternoon of the day before. All the males are collected, tranported and housed in separate pens in the barn.
The evening of the day before. At home Sue and I put up our 8m x 4m marquee and arrange the hurdles. We have 14 females and 9 cria housed in the marquee and 12 females tucked up in the shed. It's 9pm when we finish but we know that pending horizontal rain blowing in from the east we will have dry alpacas on the day. Large drink required.
Colin Ottery rings, he has seen the weather forecast and is checking that we have some dry alpacas in the dry ready to shear. I tell him that we have and shearing is on!
We have never had Colin before but I can tell you that when he arrived the stress levels started to drop and he was bloody marvellous all day. It was a thorougly pleasant experience from start to finish. It took a while due to the separate locations but by 6pm last night all alpacas were sheared and back wherever they should have been.
The herd is in fine fettle and we have had a couple of surprises as two girls who I thought were empty are very obviously not so it looks like we have another eleven cria to come instead of nine!
Tomorrow - pictures, the Mighty herd revealed!