Thursday, 29 May 2008
Wednesday, 28 May 2008
The Patou herd remains at home, drenched, really drenched.
The weather forecast says it may be drier tomorrow and Friday, but really, how often is the forecast right?
I know it's difficult predicting weather but quite frankly about a month ago I decided to discount weather forecasts altogether.
Now when the lovely Mrs Steele asks whether she should hang out the washing or not I walk outside, look skywards, pat my tummy and take a deep breath. The verdict is then relayed and washing is hung out, or not hung out. Usually right I might add.
Anyway my day job has been interfering terribly with preparations. Halter training for Patou Fifi has been very brief indeed. There will have to be a crash course on Friday at the Show ground, not ideal but she will be fine. I am bigger than her after all.
The main source of discussion at the moment is who will be staying overnight at the showground. I will be staying because my girls Poppy, Fifi and Lola together with Orchard Apollo are staying. My responsibility.
The problem is that we have our first cria of the year due soon.
Emma (pictured above on the right, with her best friend and half sister Sheba) will be 11 months pregnant on Saturday. We need to put her needs first. As a result we have decided that I will take the show team up on Friday morning alone.
Sue and Angus will come over for lunch as Emma's owner Sue Lucas will check on her in the afternoon.
Then it gets complicated. I am staying in the tent. As to who goes home when at the moment it is anyones guess. Angus wants to stay in the tent, I thought initially to be with his Dad for a male bonding type thing. Alright I know he's only 5 but a man can dream.
That particular dream was shattered today when he announced that he just wanted to stay in the tent and didn't really care who else was there!
So it's all up in the air. The day job has me in its clutches until about 6pm tomorrow so there will be a large session of organising tomorrow evening.
Luckily I have predicted dry weather so thats good. I think?
Sunday, 25 May 2008
Tuesday, 20 May 2008
They were all rounded up and given a thorough going over.
I am a little paranoid about the health of our alpacas at the moment and want to be the first to know if there is anything wrong with any of them. We had a couple of pre-birth Lambivacs to do so it seemed like a good time for a check up.
Condition scoring, jawline checking, ears, eyes, teeth and toes all had a close examination.
Conclusion? A right old bunch of fatties.
That's right the Patou herd is a bit lardy. A bit too lardy in places. A bit too lardy indeed.
As a result, all feeding, bar camelibra, has been stopped. There is obviously enough fresh green lush grass out there to fill up their little tummies and get them putting on the pounds.
We use the 1 to 5 condition score and reckon that a pregnant female (after weaning) should be a good 3. Well let me tell you there are a few out there that left 3, way, way behind. As I went through the herd one by one Sue wrote down the facts.
The good news is that no-one, not even the habitually skinny ones scored less than three. For the first time as far as I can remember there were no 2 and a half's. That's great for the skinny ones who are now scoring 3.
However, there is a certain portion of the herd, and I will say that it is a small portion (is portion the right word here, I think not) that is positively lardy. Two of the matriarchs of the herd were challenging the top end of a 1 to 5 scale............................ seriously.................. they are fat.
As for the boys, Jake in particular, I was even more shocked. I held Jake, our big 'scaredy cat' wether and reached under and patted his huge stomach. It was a familiar sound.
Now I know that some people say that pet owners, be it dog cat or whatever can start to look like their pets, I have even seen photographs that back up this claim. Well here in Patouland I think the reverse might be happening.
I have a sneaking suspicion that the Patou herd is starting to look like me.
The first sign of a bald head out there and we are in big trouble!
Sunday, 18 May 2008
They had just 'finished' in this shot and are both looking ever so slightly embarrassed.
Centurion himself was looking superb...............but then, he always does.
Friday, 16 May 2008
We had given her a painkilling injection and a muscle relaxing drug at 9.00am but by 2.00pm she was still showing mild discomfort.
A whole world away from the pain she was in last night but the vet said she should have been fully recovered by now.
Dilemma time. What to do next. I spoke again to Sue (Emma's owner) and filled her in on the details. I spoke to the vet again who was suggesting taking Emma to The School of Veterinary Science at Bristol (apologies if that is not the correct title).
To be honest if it had been one of my alpacas, erring on the side of caution I would have loaded up and been on my way.
To cut a long boring story short we didn't go to Bristol. After many phone calls we went to an equine hospital just outside Salisbury where Emma was given a real good going over by three vets, one of them an alpaca specialist.
Everything they tested for or looked for appeared normal. It was all good news. They brought a posh scanner type machine in and we could see that Emma's cria was very much alive and kicking but not ready to come out yet. The cria was still up near the ribs and the vulva was only partially elongated (is that a technical term?)
As a result Emma is now back here within the folds of the mighty Patou herd. She is still giving signs that she is experiencing discomfort but is eating well.
We are on a wait and see approach which is all we can do.
I am thinking very positively and I think this particular story will have a happy ending.
Other news; The Bath and West show is back on! I know it was going ahead anyway but now it will be in the protection zone. Bad news I suppose for those in the surveillance zone but good news for us. Oops must get on with some halter training!
Thursday, 15 May 2008
A few minutes later whilst I was still outside I noticed Valley Farm Emma behaving strangely. She is the first due to give birth so we always look out for her first when checking the herd.
She kept lying on her side flat out with her head arching over her back. She was obviously in pain.
Within an hour of the first symptoms the vet was here and investigations began.
Our first thought was that she was in labour. She is 10 and a half months pregnant and a first timer, we thought there was a problem with the unborn cria.
After a thorough going over the vet diagnosed colic. A word that never sounds good. Colic apparently can come in many forms and can be fatal.
As a result Emma has been given painkillers, antibiotics, muscle relaxants and something else which escapes me at the moment. We have done everything we can do for Emma at the present.
The vet left some drugs for us and we will be injecting Emma again at half past midnight and again first thing in the morning.
She is in our field shelter with her best friend Sheba and plenty of dry warm straw, water and some hay. We are checking on her condition hourly and we hope with all our hearts that the drugs have the desired effect.
Angus has even said a prayer. I'm not much of a believer these days but I might just say a little one myself.
Wednesday, 14 May 2008
The girls are as normal, happily grazing, lying, rolling in dust bowls pausing only to visit the nearest poowee pile or to have a little go at someone a little higher in the pecking order.
Spit is flying, there is posturing and there is backing off. All great stuff. All normal herd behaviour.
We have just been offered a 2 acre paddock on a friends nearby farm. As a result the boys will be heading off soon to a new pasture where they will not be distracted by the fancy prancing of the young females along the fence line. It will also free up the nearest paddock to the house as a maternity paddock.
We will bring the females up when they are about 10 and a half months and at 11 months they will move into the smallest paddock which is right, right in front of the house. The other paddock obviously isn't and I apologise for misleading you.........although some of it is. It is honestly!
Major news is that I have today ordered my shearing equipment!
Yes I am to train at the foot of the master, Sir Tim of Inca. He will teach me the ancient art of shearing. We will no doubt spend hours, nay days sitting in the lotus position in a peaceful glade as he imparts his wisdom upon me. I will study hard under the master, my body will be honed, my hands will be like knife edges moving in a blur as I learn the ancient ways. I will try not to dissapoint the sensei.
So by the end of June I will be up and running as a fully trained shearer. No doubt by the end of July I will have retired due to chronic back pain and will lay my new shearing equipment down triumphant in the knowledge that my career was without fatality............hopefully.
Monday, 12 May 2008
The boys have showed no ill effects, well they wouldn't would they, men are after all the stronger sex. I will stand by for a severe clip round the ear later once Sue has read that!
Yes it will hurt.
Anyway it was time for the girls today and whilst Sue wrote the names of the victims down I wandered through a tightly packed bunch of hot ladies administering the vaccine. It is always interesting handling all the animals up close one after the other. You get a real picture of who has the softest, most dense, longest, crimpiest fleece and who has the best fleece overall. It was interesting. You also get a good idea about who is the calmest, the most stressy and the most spitty.
If anyone is interested my findings are as follows:
Softest fleece - tough one, Patou Poppy, Tisbury Bella and Orchard Ruby equal first.
Densest fleece - another tough call; Patou Bobby, Windsong Valley Milarka and Forge Sophie.
Longest staple length - Patou Fifi, Forge Sophie and Windsong Valley Milarka.
Crimpiest - Patou Lily, Orchard Ruby and Forge Sophie.
Best fleece overall - simple one this, Patou Lily.
Well she is my favourite after all!
Calmest alpaca - naturally Patou Lily, well she does love me.Most stressy - Coolaroo Judy, she is the most scarediest alpaca ever, lies down before you even touch her. She had an extra long cuddle today. No, she doesn't spit.
Spittiest - Patou Bobby. Which is a good thing because she was mated to Canchones Witness of Inca three weeks ago and I want her to be spitty, very very spitty.
Sunday, 11 May 2008
Last night we had a splendid barbecue with some good friends, there may well have been some alpaca talk over a glass or two, oh if only I had stopped at two.
Anyway we barbecued several things but the highlight was some lamb from the farm that we live on.
Sue spent two weeks helping out at lambing in March and is now keeping an eye on the May lambs. We asked Alan, the shepherd if we could have a lamb when the next batch went for slaughter and fully expected to pay for it. When Alan turned up with our lamb, 26.5kg in total, we were delighted. When we were told it was in payment for Sue's hard endeavours and no payment was required I was ecstatic. Free meat! Does it get any better?
So yesterday I butterflied a leg of local home grown lamb, smothered it in olive oil, crushed garlic and rosemary from the garden and bunged it on the Weber.
Delicious it was and apparently everyone else thought so too. What a splendid evening we had.
When everyone else had left and Sue was heading upstairs to Bedfordshire I nipped out with the dogs to allow them to do what dogs seem to do a huge amount of the time.
After a couple of minutes stragazing I decided to call the dogs and head home. I whistled, whistled again, whispershouted, whistled again and then properly shouted. Still no sign of those pesky mutts.
Until, that is, I looked down to see two chocolate labradors sitting either side of me. They were both looking at me as if I was completely mad. How long they had been there I don't know. Probably snuck up on me from behind at the last minute.
It was dark of course..................and maybe the last glass was one too many..........ah well I'll know next time.
Friday, 9 May 2008
Readers of this blog will have appreciated that I have been having computer internet connection problems.
Last week I spoke to two men in Mumbai who tried to sort me out. They eventually said it was a problem with the phone line.
Yesterday a man from Tisbury came and fixed the phone line.
Hurrah we all shouted as we danced a merry jig in the kitchen.
Let's log on! We said jubilantly.
I logged on........................or at least I tried to log on. Bottom lip out and quivering.
No the phone line was working but every time I plugged in the wireless router everything went dead. I spoke to a man in Mumbai again. I almost feel that I know them well. They are very friendly. They have become my friends that little band of merry men in Mumbai.
I must go there one day.
The conclusion, after many tests was that the router was at fault. They gave me the router manufacturers helpline number. It was a man from Delhi!The man from Delhi also asked many questions and made me perform many tests. 'The router is not working properly' he finally declared. I knew that.
The kind man from Delhi said that it was still under warranty and he would send me a new one straight away. This was yesterday afternoon. It arrived this morning! How about that for speed of service. I know it didn't come from Delhi but even still, wow!
One final call to catch up with my chums in Mumbai and we are back on line.......................until the next time of course.
Our bedroom is at the front of the house and only 20 feet away from the alpaca field. This morning at about 5am I was awoken by two of the matriarchs screeching and spitting at each other. Usual two so nothing out of the ordinary.
Two hours later I took some photographs as the whole herd was lying next to the fence, like they were made of iron and the house was a huge magnet. What?
Anyway here is one of the photos taken from our bedroom window.
They love me............................. they do.
Wednesday, 7 May 2008
As a consequence, its 6.30pm I am sitting in the garden with a nice glass of Tempranillo. The alpacas are all up near the house and I am sitting within 20 feet of eleven alpacas…….make that twelve, Lola was lurking behind a tree. They are grazing peacefully, I am typing peacefully, Sue, who has taken emotional control of the new lambs (they are popping out on a daily basis) is with her flock studying them with my binoculars, peacefully.
Angus is watching Tom and Jerry prior to his shower and bed, the dogs have crashed out, the cat is still crashed out and the chickens are between me and the alpacas in their own little protection zone. The world is a pretty special place at times like this.
I would like to pass our congratulations to Debbie and Paul of Barnacre Alpacas who have finally persuaded Mary to unpack. Excellent news, looks like a nice little lad too.
We are expecting the first of twelve cria in about 3 weeks and although some of them are for sale the current BTV vaccine/protection zone state means that they will probably all unpack here. Which of course will be fantastic. No summer holiday for me again then. Tee hee! Actually that’s not right. I love holidays, it’s just that I love alpacas more, especially newborn cria.
The boys are still very well so the vaccination of the girls will go ahead early next week,
It seems that the alpacas have suffered no ill effects to the vaccine. The boy’s temperatures rose about half a degree, which to be honest could have been to do with the weather. Average temperatures before the vaccine were 38.3 C and Bo has had the highest temperature at 39.1 C. That seemed to be the peak as he has dropped slightly.
All good news.
Tuesday, 6 May 2008
En route I had to drop Bryn off at the vets. Bryn, our lovely 11 year old chocolate lab was going under the knife and to be quite honest I was worried sick. He had a skin tag on his back leg which turned quite nasty and the vet thought it would be best if it was lopped off. Whilst he was under they were going to give him a good going over with blood tests etc.
After I dropped him off I was constantly looking at my watch waiting for the vet to phone to say he was ok. Bryn is the greatest dog in the world in my book, the nicest natured most handsome chocolate brown critter on the planet, although I am slightly biaised. He is also a poo scooping monster but those of you who own dogs will know that anything is forgiveable for your four legged friend.
Anyway the vet rang, op went well, bloods showed he was healthy and the dosy old sausage is now home and looking completely spaced out. Goodness me I love that dog.
Alpacas are all well and my supper is being dished up. Happy days!
Monday, 5 May 2008
Sunday, 4 May 2008
We read all the blurb that came with the vaccine and it stated in trials on sheep and cattle that a temperature rise of up to a degree was normal.
Yesterday morning we had a temperature rise of half a degree and the boys seemed as fit and healthy as they did the day before.
It was actually nice for me to get hands on with the boys again. Sue was wielding the thermometer at the rear end whilst I got the front.
Mr Bo Jangles was an absolute delight. He has always been a favourite and is always in the thick of everything. He is always the grubbiest, he always picks up the most burrs, he has his nose into everything. Whilst halter training the girls for the shows Bo was always walking in a line with them not wanting to miss out. In short he is a real character.
Today whilst holding Bo I was picking out the various bits and pieces of vegetation which inhabit his fleece. Bo was quite calm and had twisted his head round so that we were eye to eye. There was the faint whiff of spit in the air so I knew he was fully loaded and ready to go but I held his gaze and kissed him on the nose. We held each others stare, nose to nose, me breathing in the smell of alpaca spit, him presumably breathing in the smell of eggs and bacon. It was magical.
Friday, 2 May 2008
I looked out of the bedroom window and saw that the herd was alert and they were all facing the same way, ears up, interested in something.
They looked quite magnificent actually, I only wish I had been standing about 20 feet away slightly to the right of them in the perfect position to bag a cracking photograph. The setting sun was giving them an amber glow, they were motionless and were looking absolutely at their best.
The eastern edge of our field borders an ancient bridleway which is never used and is in a ditch. On the other side of the ditch is a steep bank and I have suspected that a badger sett was lurking amongst the foliage. We have been here for almost three years and have never seen the badger. Well thanks to the 'badger alert squad' when I swung the binoculars up there he, or she was. A magnificent large adult badger. I watched as he went in and out of the sett for about 10 minutes hoping that the rest of the family would join the outing. It was not to be, maybe next time.
Thanks must go to the razor sharp vision of the mighty Patou herd, well done girls!
This morning we had a visit from John and Doreen Hurdle who live nearby in Tisbury. Doreen is a hand spinner and she has been spinning one of our fleeces. She was keen to show us her progress and we were keen to show her where the fleece came from and the rest of the herd.
The herd was summonsed to the top paddock and whilst they were troughing we had a cuppa. I was astounded at the quality of the handspun wool. Bearing in mind we were very pleased with our mill spun wool Doreen's handspun wool simply blew it away.
Putting it side by side you could see that the handspun wool was almost a living thing, it genuinely looked as if it had been produced by a caring living being. The feel was different, it was much softer, much more tactile, it was a complete joy to handle it.
The best bit though, and this is really something big folks. Doreen is going to knit me a hat!!!!! A hat with a picture of an alpaca on it!
Now to you ladies and gents with a full head of hair that may not sound terribly exciting, well listen here, any fellow baldies out there will fully appreciate the need for a seriously warm comfortable hat, I can't wait. Thanks to John and Doreen for visiting it was lovely to see you and very interesting learning all about the world of hand spinning.
I have published a picture of Bobby, whose fleece Doreen is working with. This was taken just after she was shorn so you can see exactly what was underneath it!
Other big news today was the fact that our BTV vaccine arrived today. I know we must be one of the first alpaca breeders to get it and to be quite honest we feel a little 'guinea piggish'.
It hasn't been trialled on alpacas, it isn't licensed for alpacas and although Dave our vet said the manufacturers said it was safe I was slightly apprehensive. A word with The Emporer of Inca and advice has been listened to and taken. He's a wily young Aussie, far more switched on than me and his opinion is always worth listening to.
As a result we are going to vaccinate our wethers tomorrow.
We are going to closely monitor them for a week, taking temperatures daily and observing them as much as possible. I will don a white coat, spectacles and a stethoscope, I will in short become an alfalfa doctor........I mean an alpaca doctor.........for a week. God help those poor fellows!
If they show no ill effects during the week we will vaccinate the girls. If they do then we will re-evaluate. Watch this space and we will let you know how it goes.
There was loads more to write today but, 5 year old needs bathing and story reading prior to bedtime, wife not well and in the bath, alpacas need checking, hens need rounding up, supper needs cooking and I seem to have finished my drink.
Adieu mes amies!
Thursday, 1 May 2008
A good chum of mine Gary came over to help out and Karen who we have known for years popped over to learn more about alpacas. Karen is planning on moving back to Ireland later this year and is looking to take some alpacas with her.
First up was a trip to the fabulous Incaworld to pick up some stud males and then we were up and running.
First stop was at Liz Curzen's for a mating and a chat about alpacas. she had a cria born last week and it was good to check her out. Dilly is her name and mighty fine she looks.
Then it was home to the minor kingdom of Patou where the patou warriors endlessly watch over the mighty patou herd. Sorry the old imagination is running away with me again.
Anyway Bobby, one of our foundation herd members spat off spectacularly which was superb.
I mentally ran across the paddock doing a double cartwheel, followed by a flic flac a triple salco ending with a double back sommersault which I might add, I landed perfectly. Mentally guys, mentally.
Bobby has been a little monkey and despite producing Poppy last June has had problems staying pregnant. She actually scanned preggers twice last summer but managed to lose both pregnancies. We have decided to cut down her spit offs this year as she is a stressy madam and we need to keep her calm. Fingers crossed and we'll see how we go.
Bella was up next and being a maiden looked completely bewildered by the whole thing, Boris was very good and after a little help from yours truly the deed was peformed satisfactorily.
The whole day went smoothly and that was in no small measure due to the excellent help doshed out by Gary and Karen, not to mention Sue.
Karen had a good look at our sales team and has decided on four alpacas. Fantastic news! She has to sell her cottage first (is this a good time to be selling?) and then she can realise her dream. There doesn't seem to be too much of a rush anyway due to those dratted midges so the fantastic four have been provisionally reserved for Karen. We followed up all that hard work with a superb lunch at the local, The Compasses, best pub in Wiltshire.
The boys were then returned and I am now home, the computer seems to be behaving and I have a small glass of something slightly un-non alcoholic to my right. The world seems a pretty good place to be today!