Thursday 28 January 2016

A Grand Dam in every sense.

I have delayed this blog posting for a while, in fact that's not quite true I have started it a few times but have stopped for one reason or another.

So here goes, final attempt. I want to tell you all about a wonderful female alpaca called Dee. Her full name is Indira of Cambridge and she is the only alpaca in the Patou herd who was actually born in Chile. According to her pedigree certificate she was born on the 1st of January 1998. Mmm, very suspicious.

We bought our initial three females in January 2006 and in early 2007 I went down to Sussex to meet up with Philip O'Connor to select some EPC females. These half dozen females would come back to our herd and be put up for sale as we had no females of our own to sell. I remember standing with Pip and him asking me which, out of a group of 20 or so females, I liked the look of. I immediately pointed to Dee and was surprised when I was told that she was the oldest female in the group. Even so I liked her and she was soon on her way back to Wiltshire.

That summer Dee gave birth to Fifi and from that moment on Sue and I knew that Dee and Fifi were not going anywhere. A deal was done and we bought them both. This was not how it was supposed to work!

The gorgeous Fifi has gone on to produce her own cria for us.

Dee had the gentlest of natures and has passed this on to all of her progeny. We still have within the herd the three beautiful daughters that she has bestowed upon us. All of whom have been cared for expertly by the 'Grand Dam' of the herd, Dee.

Pictured below with a young Jack of Spades daughter, Reeya, who has done very well for us.

Here is Dee with Reeya, all grown up!

Dee's third daughter is Truffle, possibly one of the laziest cria we have ever produced. Here seen expertly perfecting her laid back method of taking a late lunch.

Dee even featured on the front cover of Alpaca World magazine with Truffle in the below picture.

Dee in a typically motherly pose with Truffle, she adored all of her cria.

On the 30th of December last year Dee was sadly euthanized in the field by a vet. She had seen the vet a few times recently and the only diagnosis was that she was simply dying of old age. We cared for her as well as we could up until the decision had to be made and I cradled her head as she slipped away.

She was a very special alpaca and her mark has been indelibly made on the Patou herd.
We miss her.

Thursday 5 November 2015

Big fish, little fish?

I am an optimist in most aspects of my life. I am also prone to wildly fluctuating moods, one minute the world is absolutely fabulous, a minute later we are all doomed...... then seconds pass and once again all is well with the world.
Generally, however, I am well up for anything, most of the time, facing life head on and never taking a backward step, a sort of semi-permanent personal atmosphere of 'bring it on!'.
Until I am a little bit tired or emotional of course and then I need comfort and rest (usually in the form of spicy food and wine) whilst the batteries recharge.
I never seek or desire sympathy, it is very rarely deserved and although publicly to some it may seem as if I am sulking at times, I am not. I am using the 'quiet times' to continue my plan for world domination,........................ on a tight budget.

So what is the purpose of letting you have a glimpse into my interior world? Well it's the subject of alpaca showing. Last weekend we took a small team to Alpaca Showtime, an extremely well organised and laid on show at the HQ of the mighty Houghton Hall Alpacas. After the National and the Futurity the next biggest show I think? With just under 300 alpacas entered there was stiff competition across all colours with most of the 'big players' represented. Excellent stuff we like a challenge down here in Patouland. So to our results.

Sadly, due to in my opinion a rather silly rule (comments welcome on that one) that if you own an alpaca with a judge you (or any close relative) may not enter the ring with any animal at all, we did not pack our white shirts. However, we had asked Paul and Kathryn from the small but perfectly formed Nero Black alpacas to take our team in and they did a marvellous job, thank you!

Patou Nutmeg, fourth place intermediate black female.
 Patou Pinot, receiving fourth place in the other intermediate black female class.
Incidentally the cameraman in the ring and the big screen was a great success once the cameraman and judges sorted out what was required to get good images up. A welcome addition to shows, compulsive viewing in fact!

Patou Wasimba (closest), a fifth place in the adult grey male division.
Unfortunately I don't have a picture of Patou Primrose, I was slipping into that planning phase as she was given a sixth place rosette. No complaints about the placings and the reasoning behind them was understood, fair enough. We enjoyed the show and the company we kept.
So to the title of this blog, 'Big fish, little fish?' What's that all about? Well, the last show we went to, a small show in the south, three of the same little show team were colour champions. Which was great, fantastic in fact!
But would I rather be a 'big fish' in a small pond? No. Definitely not.
I am happy in the big pond with the big fish and I'll tell you why. 
Because one day, one day, this little fish will be eating big fish for dinner and it will taste soooo good! Bring it on!

Monday 12 October 2015

Favourites? There are no favourites here.

October! 'It's October', someone said just now on the radio? Is it? It can't be, it's sunny outside.

Oh, hang on I am wearing a rather natty hoodie and reinforced undercrackers, it must be October.
It can't be as warm as it looks, winter must be just around the corner.
My temperature controlled instinct takes over at getting dressed time and I subconsciously clothe accordingly, my hands rooting around in the underwear chamber for sturdy garments not the flimsy summer 'smugglers', but the heavy duty four season gear, the extra weight ensuring a toastie feeling. Secure, ready for the icy winds blowing across from Siberia.

Anyway suitably clothed I ventured into the glorious autumn glow to have a look and see who of the shadow dwellers I could coax into the sunlight for some cria update photographs. I have to say they look marvellous, biased I know, but they do. If you want to dispute that come down and we'll have a jolly good argument about it followed by some gentle wresting and then we'll agree to agree over a pint. It's the way things are done down here in the land of the mighty Patou.

Moving on, I was immediately greeted by a rather scrummy trio on one of the Patou slopes nibbling at something tasty. I made my usual strangled chicken noise which attracted their attention in time for me to point and shoot with the camera. From left to right, Millichamp, Crackerjack and Hollister. Actually must have thrown my voice unintentionally on that one, unless there is some hearing deficiency going on?

Once I had chased them onto slightly better terrain with my best and loudest baboon barking I settled down to get some better 'solo' shots. And, ladies and gentlemen, who care to read this tripe, here are the results.

Patou Bollinger (sire Lilyfield Jack of Spades of Inca). Doing well and thriving again after a recent udder related weight loss.

Patou Millichamp (sire Wimmera Skies Class Act of Reddingvale Alpacas, just off the A303 in Somerset on the edge of the village of Templecombe), looking every inch the legend I hope he will be (no pressure then little fellow).

Patou Gilbert (Sire Lilyfield Jack of Spades of Inca) named after the rugby ball being used in this world cup. Big strong, dense...............just like me.

Patou Hollister (sire Wimmera Skies Class Act of Reddingvale Alpacas, just off the A303 in Somerset on the edge of the village of Templecombe).
Now Hollister was named after a trendy clothes shop apparently, unbeknown to me. I have since investigated this emporium and can declare that there does not appear any reason at all why I should darken their door with my wallet clasped in my hand. I don't believe they have suitable attire for, erm, someone like me. Doesn't he look fabulous though!

Patou Tuppence (sire Wimmera Skies Class Act of Reddingvale Alpacas, just off the A303 in Somerset on the edge of the village of Templecombe). She is utterly gorgeous, a real knee weakener, a creator of a trembling bottom lip, Tuppence is secretly my favourite. Oh bugger!

And to finish, my favourites, Tuppence, Millichamp and Hollister, in formation getting ready for their group dance.

Thanks go to Andy and Viv Walker of Reddingvale Alpacas, just off the A303 in Somerset on the edge of the village of Templecombe, oh and some other bloke. I think the balance has been redressed!

Wednesday 2 September 2015

Why 10? I didn't even know how to work 8!

I know it has been a very long since I last posted a blog, way too long. You may be forgiven for thinking that I had 'done a runner' and left these shores to take up the role of a food taster for some nomadic tribe of paranoid pygmies in some far away exotic land. Endless days of running around in a loin cloth eating strong cheese and slightly iffy lamb chops. Sadly, I mean fortunately, no, I am still here in sunny, (finally) Wiltshire. However, I do have a whole raft of pathetic, I mean valid, excuses.

The main reason for my lack of communication is that I have been computing beyond my understanding. I have brought tragedy upon myself.
Let me explain. I used to like Windows Vista, I got very comfortable using it so it was a big change when Windows 7 came out but I embraced the challenge and eventually mastered Windows 7, I even became friends with good old Windows 7.
When my computer went into meltdown 6 months ago and turned out to be irretrievably damaged I was forced into buying a new laptop with something called Windows 8 operating it.

Now Windows 8 was something very different and to be honest I didn't like it, but I could sort of still use it like Windows 7, it was bearable, I got used to it by ignoring most of it.

For some bizarre reason I then upgraded to something called Windows 8.1. Why, I have no idea, not a clue, but I did it. The change was hardly noticeable. I find it hard to notice things when I am not actually paying them any attention.

Having not learned my lesson I was like a moth drawn to a flame when someone in my laptop told me that I could upgrade to something called Windows 10. For free (I think that is what swung it.)

So I once again embraced the challenge and started using Windows 10, albeit by ignoring most of it's functions. However, I liked it. I actually preferred it to the Windows 8.1 thing. It was kind of groovy and did a lot of things for me.

But, and this is a big but, Windows 10 seemed to stop me from uploading photographs to my blog, hence the lack of postings. I tried very many things to try and fix this problem but none were successful. Mostly I was just clicking on random things and shouting a lot. Eventually I decided that I would return to Windows 8.1 (there was no option to return to Windows 7). I clicked the buttons required of me and waited. I waited for a long time before my computer went into a seemingly endless loop of repairing itself or preparing itself to repair itself. It went on for a very long time and was looking very much like my computer was looking before it went into complete meltdown.
However, there was a happy ending to this story because overnight, whilst continuing to repair itself, my laptop has in fact mended itself! I am now back with Windows 8.1 and can once again upload pictures to my blog. So, although I did like Windows 10, be aware people it has a hidded mean streak!

Right, birthing here in Patouland is finally over and due to a lack of blogging there is some catching up to do. The dark side has grown magnificently here over the summer and here are a few of the new arrivals.

Firstly, probably my joint favourite is Patou Hollister. He is Wimmera Skies Class Act boy, his mother being our only Canchones Witness of Inca girl, Penny. He is so handsome, the jury is still out on whether he is black or dark brown, his fleece needs to grow a little more. Very excited about him.

Next is another Class Act boy, Patou Millichamp. He is my other joint favourite. His mother is Patou Willow (can you see where his name comes from?) and what comes from Willow? Cricket bats are made from willow and Millichamp and Hall make some of the best in Taunton. He is very promising.
Now for a Jack of Spades boy, Patou Bollinger, son of Polly a Centurion girl, and another joint favourite, very tight bibbly bobbly fleece and a real character, one to watch, I love him.
Bollinger is looking very similar to Patou Crackerjack who is extreeeeemly handsome! That's Jack boys for you! Here is Crackerjack showing off in front of Jamala and Taffy.
No question about the colour of this next boy, Patou Shadow, another Class Act boy from Patou Whisper (daughter of my favourite alpaca in the whole wide world, Lily.) A real live wire and another of my joint favourites.
And now for some girls, no people it's not all  boys! Here is my joint favourite female Patou Tuppence, a Class Act daughter from Reeya our lovely brown Jack of Spades girl. Tuppence, in her "Does my bum look big in this?" pose, is absolutely gorgeous! No really, she is absolutely gorgeous, totally absolutely gorgeous.
Tuppence has a best friend in Patou Constance, another Class Act girl. They both hang around with Reeya, Constance only nips over to her mother, Patou Fifi when she needs a quick feed and then she is back with her chum. They are both totally gorgeous, although Constance is a bit 'hairy'!
There have been further births since then, in fact the last one of the year was born this morning, but I will save that news for another day. Suffice it to say, we are rather pleased with this year's crop!

Saturday 4 July 2015

Dark storm on the horizon.

*This blog posting was started on Wednesday of this week but had to be put on hold while I obtained the necessary permissions to disclose the contents.

As the temperature has risen today past mildly moist through slightly sweaty to uncomfortably hot degrees I have sought sanctuary in the cool of the thick stone walls of the farm cottage that we live in. I am still fully clothed in case anyone was picturing something altogether more unsavoury.

So with a couple of hours or so to spare I thought that I would turn my attentions to the blog, which if I am brutally honest, has not had the attention that I promised myself I would give it recently.

So, with nothing dramatic to report I will reveal the grand master plan down here in Patouland, in case anyone is interested. Suffice it to say that I am very excited about what is going on and what will be going on as the summer evolves. Next year I will be bursting with anticipation.

'So what is going on down there?' I hear you all clamour impatiently. Yes, I can hear you people.

Well, I will tell you. It is time.

We have decided that we need to do something dramatic in order to take the quality of the Patou herd to the next level. We do well at shows, we produce lovely commercially viable alpacas, our herd quality is rising year on year and we are pleased with the way things are going, but I want more.

We need some new genetics and some high quality input, we need to add something special to the herd. And we have. We have dug deep into our piggy banks and invested in some top stud services and also purchased a share of a seriously exciting male.

So to the details. As I write I am unsure how much I should reveal, I used to be very good at keeping secrets. Sue will say otherwise, but I was. It's just that she is a very good interrogator.......and very persistent................and she hurts me sometimes..............she's stronger than she looks.

At the moment we have a very handsome male staying with us. Now those of you who know me well will know that we breed coloured alpacas, particularly brown alpacas and more recently black alpacas and even the odd grey, but never white alpacas. In ten years of breeding we have never used a white male and have never produced a white cria.
However, we do have a top white male here. We are not breeding white alpacas though. We do have two white alpacas incidentally but neither of them will be meeting our visitor. They will be liaising with the dark side again this summer. No, the females being introduced to our visitor are well and truly from the dark side, with at least three generations of colour behind them we are fighting against the whiteness but embracing the qualities that the white side has to offer (hopefully!). As can be seen below, our girls are not worried about a males colour, it is the quality of the orgle and the awesomeness in the way he moves that has them swooning. A queue has formed.

'So who is it!' I hear you exclaim as you rise to your feet and wave your arms around frantically.
Well, I don't have a photograph of him, but as a clue, he was pictured on the front of the BAS magazine a couple of years ago. Actually (remember I started writing this a few days ago) I do now have a photograph, so here he is!

His grandfather, on his sire's side is none other than Rural Alianza Wiracocha of Wessex, a legendary male who I have been in awe of for many years. Legend is a word that is overused these days but not in this case.
His grandfather on his mothers side is Windsong Valley Mateus, son of the equally legendary Purrumbete Highlander. This boy has some very impressive genetics indeed.

Further clue! He is a bit of a missile!

Oh bugger it, I've crumbled, Hanley Hall Rural Alianza Polaris is his name. Alpha Alpacas is where he can be found.

Now for the biggest and most exciting part of the grand master plan. I know this has already been revealed on Twitface but announcing it again has caused the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up, that's how big a deal it is!

The second part of the grand master plan is a little more predictable seeing as we are breeders of coloured alpacas. We have purchased a share in a dark brown male who's first fleece statistics read as follows: AFD 14.1, SD 2.3. Yes, you read those stats correctly. He was Champion brown male as a junior at the BAS National show last year and again this year as an intermediate. This is a very special male indeed and he has just started working this summer. He will be visiting us later this year and liaising with a bevvy of Patou beauties.

We are very excited and proud to be allowed to buy a share in this male and are extremely grateful for Rob and Shirley Bettinson for breeding such a wonderful animal.

His name is............... Toft Timogen.

Be aware, there's a dark storm coming........

Monday 22 June 2015

A condensed month.

It seems another month has gone by and once again I have neglected the blog. It has been a busy month!
So here is a brief catch up of things going on in Patouland.

On the 24th of May we were visited by Colin Ottery and Rachel for some shearing. Together with some returning local Patou boys we had 60 to do and thankfully the weather held off for long enough to get them all done.

The 'aaahhhh' moment of the day was when little Bijou (almost a year old) refused to leave the shearing mat area until her mother (Fifi) had also been shorn. Here she is watching Fifi getting her 'hair done', they then left together.

I love the look of newly sheared alpacas, gorgeous!

A couple of days later and it was off to the SWAG annual fleece and halter show at The Royal Bath and West Show. A band of crack set-up volunteers made short work of the pre show preparations. Special thanks go to the expert team from Urcuchillay!

A new location, a new format and a new vision for the future added to the excitement this year!

On a personal level we had a great show, the highlight for us being Patou Wasimba following up his grey championship at the North Somerset Show with another grey male championship sash. We also picked up two reserve championship ribbons (brown male and female) and enjoyed the whole event immensely. Bring on next year!

A couple of days after the Bath and West the show team were taken by kind invitation to join the Reddingvale shearing day and Wasimba was transformed! Thank you Andy and Viv!

Having then moved all the pregnant girls into the birthing paddock it became a game of watching and waiting. Particularly Alice who seemed larger than ever before this year. Could it be twins! (We say that every year by the way).

Alice was beaten to it by Minstrel who popped out a very handsome Qjori boy, the power of the white chin giving him the pie face look. Patou Taffy is now in residence.

Before Alice had given birth I made a rapid dash across the country to the Essex/Suffolk border with Qjori for a couple of matings. In particular was a mating to Patou Sahara, now owned by Vicki and Deb at Orchard Farm Alpacas. Sahara is the mother of Wasimba so hopefully this pregnancy will stick and if so will be one to watch!

The following day and Alice duly delivered a brown female in rapid time. Born in less than 5 minutes from tip of nose to hitting the deck the cria was obviously in a bit of shock and was not responding as she should. A temperature of 36.5 indicated all was not well so she was rushed inside and given the full hairdryer and electric blanket treatment.

Half an hour later and temperature restored to where it should have been she was reunited with Alice and is doing very well.

And that is about that!

Tuesday 19 May 2015

The ups and downs.

It has been a strange past few weeks, we have had show success and complete and utter computer failure. So a month of ups and downs, a month of elation and a month of despair, a month of joy and unfettered fury. I'm exhausted really. However, things are now looking pretty marvellous.

I will report on recent events.

Firstly, the North Somerset Show. The weather was set fair and the team was looking good as I set off at sparrow-fart, alone, the rest of the family barely rising to bid me farewell. A thrash down the A303 and a potter along some of deepest darkest Somerset's roads and we were there. The sun was coming out.

As usual, with the grey, black and brown classes following on from one another at the front end of the show I was a blur as I was in and out of the ring all morning. Now this is not a bad thing, a benefit of travelling alone, no-one else to don the white coat, I get to show them off, I love it!
Anyway, we had a superb morning, five animals entered, three first places, two seconds, one champion and one reserve champion. Perhaps it's all down to the handler after all?

The championship that we won was the grey male championship with Patou Wasimba, our lovely rose grey Qjori boy. Special in my eyes as he was the first cria that I helped being born in the most intimate of ways, i.e. up to the elbow! Here he is with his mum Sahara on the day I brought him into the world.
And here he is last month. I know I've posted this picture before, but I do happen to think Wasimba looks great especially as he is being held by number one son, Gus.  
I will endeavour to get a picture of him with his Sash when the weather perks up. I know, aren't you all lucky.
The reserve champion was another special boy, the spoiled brat himself, our resident delinquent drama queen, Tsar, reserve champion brown male. I was very pleased indeed with his result.
The other members of the team did their stuff, Instrumental (joint owned with the mighty Inca) was first placed junior brown male and Pinot and Spitfire both took second places in the junior black classes.

Since the show my laptop has died completely, meaning I have lost all my photographs, documents and worst of all my X factor audition tapes. Luckily I have a lot of pictures on my phone which have just been downloaded onto the new laptop. The old laptop sits forlornly nearby as I hope that one day I may be able to get some life back into it so that I may retrieve my 'stuff'. Still it was 5 years old and I now have a nice shiny new one so it's not all bad!

This week I am mostly preparing for the weekend and next week. Firstly on Sunday is shearing day. Colin Ottery is due in at 7.30am and luckily it appears that the weather gods are on our side. I will be putting up the marquee anyway, just in case. It is always a relief to get that day over and done with!

Then we are straight into set-up for the SWAG Show at The Royal Bath and West Show on Tuesday, my favourite show of the year. Gus and his chum George will be coming along for 4 days of the show and three nights of camping. We will of course be sticking to a strict vegetarian diet whilst we are there and I will be throwing myself into the life of a tee-totaller. Guffaw, guffaw, tee hee.

Right, that's enough of this drivel, I have to give a talk to the members of the Salisbury Poultry club this evening so must do some swatting up.