Thursday, 31 July 2008

A decision to make.

There is a new sport here at Patou; 'Lily watching'.

Lily, as readers will be aware, is our most precious and favourite alpaca. Lily is Angus's alpaca.

She is special to all three of us blah blah blah.

Anyway she has been looking like she is about to give birth for about 5 days. She pees about every ten minutes and then stands there or wanders slowly away holding her tail out as if there is more to come, she is ready but the cria is obviously not.

I can almost see in her face when she sees us watching her that she is saying 'something is happening back there but I don't know what it is '.

This is her first time and she has her mother, Bannock as company. Bannock is due in about two weeks and is as wide as a very wide thing. We quite often see them together approach the poo pile and wee simultaneously, then wander off tails aloft. Apparently this is what Bannock does. Sue remembers from last year, the little minx. Bannock that is not Sue.

Anyway it has created a bit of a dilemma for me. On Saturday I have been invited to, and would very much like to attend, the EPC soiree up near Swindon. However, Sue is working and there will be nobody here to 'Lily watch'. I know we can't spend our entire lives watching and waiting but this is Lily, this is the big one and she is getting very close. I hope that she pops her cria out today. I will have a decision to make early tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Shearing in the wind

I have been learning to shear this year and have to date sheared 27 alpacas, I have 6 more to do. I have bought and acquired the best shearing equipment and have been advised by a master. Therefore the only thing I can blame for the, lets say, 'untidy' alpacas is myself.

If we can say that the reason for shearing the alpacas is to make them more comfortable through the hot summer months, (sorry started to laugh then, we do live in the UK) then I have done a good job, the fleece has come off and the alpacas are cool.

However, as I have progressed I have been through several thought processes. Firstly, I thought that speed was the most important thing. Proper shearers seem to shear an alpaca in no time at all and I wanted to be the same..............wrong!!

I had watched my personal 'sensei' shear at speed, when I say watched I was usually helping out so I was either picking up fleece or holding a head or wrestling with the next victim, not a good position to be able to observe properly.

My whole outlook on shearing changed last weekend down at Inca HQ. Assisting Timbo shearing Jack of Spades and another stud male I was able to watch carefully the little bits that I had missed previously. The stud males were sheared in a more relaxed way, there was no rush, there was attention to detail. There was more time for me to observe an expert at work.

It slowly dawned on me that speed was not important, speed would come later with practice. What I needed to concentrate on was getting it right. I was working from a perspective that I wanted the alpaca to be tied down for the shortest possible time. What I should have been working towards was getting the shearing right so that the alpaca looked good and the maximum amount good fleece was harvested (is that the right word?).

I was able to try out my new and improved method of shearing yesterday. Sue was home and my parents were round to help. The weather was dodgy but the alpacas were dry and despite the wind, yes it was rather windy, I decided we should crack on.

Sometimes you make a decision and realise that it was not the best decision. However, shearing outside in the wind was an interesting proposition. To stop because of the wind would have been easy but the alpacas would still be hot and would still need shearing another day. We weighed it up, yes folks I sought advice from shearing team two.

We cracked on. It was difficult, I was concentrating hard on getting it right and the team was intent on giving me the best possible support. The wind blew, by jiminy it blew.

It seemed to me that I was in some bizarre cricket match at one point. I was joint batsman with the alpaca that was being sheared, we did, Patou Poppy, Patou Lola, Patou Fifi and Tisbury Bella.
The wind was the bowler, stick with me guys use your imagination. The slip cordon was the lovely Mrs Steele, my Mum and my Dad.

We were a pretty shocking batsman. Everything (the fleece was the ball) was nicked to the slips. The wind was blowing everything that I sheared off into the slip cordon who were armed with plastic bags and big 'trugs' (large buckets). I have to say not a lot was dropped in the slips they did a marvellous job. They really knuckled down when I said 'saddle' or 'neck' and relaxed (appropriately) when I said 'legs and belly' or 'crap' as my Dad called it.

Suffice it to say we enjoyed the experience, it was a first time for Mum and Dad and they did me proud, as did Sue, well, she always does.

The main casualty of the whole thing was the prat of a shearer who somehow managed to take the top off his index finger. There was a lot of blood, I needed a lot of aftercare. Once we had finished a lot of alcohol and hot curry had to be administered...........for pain relief purposes of course!

The best thing was that the gorgeous foresome did look great. Heads and tails, where I had struggled, looked much, much better.

The trouble is I now want to go back and reshear all the scruffy ones!

I won't of course but I can't wait until next year!

Monday, 28 July 2008

A thief amongst us!

Yesterday saw Angus and myself trek westwards to the newly established kindom of Inca. I was returning the three big boys, they had done what they were supposed to have done here.

Whilst there it was time to shear big old bearlike Lillyfield Jack of Spades of Inca, jeepers creepers that boy had grown some fleece in the last 12 months.

As Tim got to work, (no I don't think there was much chance he would have asked me to do it, Sue has said I specialise in scalpings and 'tufts', and she is pretty accurate with that comment), it was great to see the big boy lie there and accept the shearing treatment. He was superb, the ropes were not very tight but he was no trouble. The amount of fleece that came off him was simply staggering.

When he had been fully coiffured I was able to take a couple of snaps, what a magnificent looking animal he is.

Sadly my efforts at photographing him were pretty poor, I will blame the camera of course for being rubbish and for the sun being in the wrong place, you just can't rely on that sun to be where you want it!

Anyhow take my word for it, he looked great.

So to the thief in our midst. Upon my return to the mighty Patou yesterday I was out surveying the herd. I was watching a white cria happily suckling under a brown mum when I suddenly realised that the only white cria that we have has a white mum! On closer inspection I saw the cria that should be suckling at the brown mum was round on the other side, they were both having a drink. The mum, Avon Water Monique was just grazing as if it was the norm.

No I didn't have the camera with me so you will have to take my word for it, not a drop had crossed my lips either, straight up, she looked like a long legged, long necked ewe with twins.

After much amusement we then thought this may be a sign that something was not right with someone. Today we had them all in for a thorough check up. All cria weighed (all doing nicely) all mums checked for milk (all full) so all seems ok.

It was only after we had done the checks that we then saw Minna (the white cria) trying to get under another female, this time Joy (black) was having none of it and spat her away.

Minna is just a milk thief. She has also been seen under her own mum Windsong Valley Milarka and has been feeding well. Conclusion; she is a milk thief simple as that.
She is a Kilawasi baby so that figures. Another lesson learned.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

A very special alpaca

Regular readers of this blog will know that there is one of the mighty Patou herd that I favour above all. Yes my favourite alpaca in the whole wide world is a beautiful black girl called Lily.

Why is she my favourite? Why do I (and Sue and Angus for that matter) hold Lily in such high esteem?

Well it's relatively simple to explain and I'm sure a lot of alpaca owners have a similar story to tell about their particular favourite.

Lily was our first ever female cria, born in the summer of 2006. I thought she was beautiful right from the start, a real genuine blue black female, her father was Shaft's Dream and her mother was one of our foundation herd, MileEnd Bannock.
Here is Lily with Bannock in November 2006.

Lily became the star of the Patou herd for many reasons. She came to the BAS Spring show the following year and took second place in a very competitive junior black female section.

You will have to take my word for it that I was almost in tears when she won that rosette, there really was some serious competition.

Lily then came to every agricultural and village show that we went to last year. She was admired by all who saw her, she was so friendly, so beautiful and absolutely enchanting. We were, and are, very proud of her.

At just over a year old she was mated to ATA Cambridge Centurion and fell pregnant first time, of course she did, she is a very special alpaca.

She was so special and built up such a special relationship with our little man that we officially sold her to Angus. I think the deal was for fifty thousand million hundred and fifty hundred thousand and twenty pounds. Angus now tells everyone about Lily and the fact that she is his alpaca, and no, we haven't seen any of the money yet.

He even halter trained her...................mostly in his spiderman suit...........and wellies.

So why tell you all this?

Well it's because Lily is now out in our maternity paddock about to give birth. She is just over eleven months pregnant and is looking like she will burst at any moment. She is still fully fleeced up as I was unable to shear her early and we don't want to risk shearing her this close to unpacking.

We are all on tenterhooks waiting for 'our Lil' to produce the next generation of the Patou herd. Sure we have others about to deliver and Priscilla has already produced a lovely big strong boy.

This, however, is the special one for us. This is the one that we hope goes according to plan. This is the one that none of us want to miss.

We are apprehensive here and we can't wait to see what our beloved Lily is going to give us.

Friday, 25 July 2008

The Four Tops are here! Well most of them.

Busy couple of days for me here. After Wednesdays exertions with the mighty Inca herd I completely forgot to mention that before I had set off with Angus that morning we had a new arrival. I was just doing a quick check round the field when a little wobbly head on a little wobbly neck appeared from beside one of the girls. Avon Water Monique, a lovely medium brown Sinbad girl had just given birth to a beautiful medium fawn Centurion girl.

We must have just missed it but quickly made sure all was ok and left them to it, always best. She has turned out to be a very good looking female. Here she is at a day old with Mum, who can now be sheared in a few days time.

We are waiting for a name from her owner so at the moment she is just referred to as 'the little one'. She was actually a healthy 7.5 kilos at birth and was very quickly up and exploring.

That's five down and five to go for us, girls shading it so far at 3 -2.

Last night the elite boys of the mighty Patou shearing team turned up for some more action.

Charlie and Kevin have been very kind in helping with the shearing, I simply couldn't do it without them. They are very quick to point out the bits I have missed or not done to their satisfaction, very quick indeed in fact. Each animal is scrutinised as it wanders off and I am gently reminded what I have done well and which bits I need to work on.

I have always been a great fan of banter and as a disher outer all my life I always enjoy receiving some back, great fun. Of course they then drink all my beer afterwards and Charlie even invited himself for a chilli supper last night, the flipping cheek!

We only have ten alpacas left to shear now, one more batch of youngsters and then the heavily pregnant girls shortly after they have given birth.

I must say I enjoy seeing the herd newly sheared I think it is when alpacas look at their best. I know its all about the fleece etc but you can really see them, they are velvety, graceful, somehow vulnerable and as cute as buttons. Although I have to say in my first year of shearing (23 alpacas and counting so far) some of them look a little, how shall I put it, alternative. Heads and tails are simply not my strong piece. It takes a lot of practice to get heads and tails right. I think I am going in the right direction but I have some way to go. I need to visit the master once more for more guidance.

We are honoured here at Patou this weekend, we have the pleasure of the company of the mighty ATA Cambridge Centurion, Canchones Witness of Inca and Lillyfield Jack of Spades of Inca. They were dropped off by Ben last night and are currently grazing in our small paddock in front of the house

When I went out a 6.30 this morning to check everyone I had forgotten they were here. I looked into the small paddock and there they were standing in a line facing me. I couldn't believe my eyes. The Drifters or three quarters of The Four Tops were here. All those boys needed was some red satin trousers, flouncy shirts and some microphones and we were right back in the 70's. Set me off on a very good footing for the day. Sadly I didn't have my camera with me and they have taken umbrage at my laughter and simply will not form up again.

After breakfast it was on with some matings, spit offs and scannings. Both Patou Bobby and Tisbury Bella scanned wonderfully positive which was excellent news. We are off to do a bit of mobile mating tomorrow and then the boys go back to the new kingdom of Inca, if I can find it that is!

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Another busy day as a big lorry gets loaded

Another busy day today as Angus and I went to assist with the loading of the mighty Inca herd before its journey to the newly conquered land of Inca.

Tim was moving the entire 130 alpacas in one go and had booked an enormous truck to do the job. When I say 'to do the job' I mean to transport them to the new Inca HQ. That was the easy part. The main part of the job was loading the little darlings onto the truck in the first place.

I had a vision of them happily trotting up the ramp when given a little 'wayup' from behind. I'm sure Tim with his naturally optimistic view on life shared my vision.

In reality it was a very long way from that. The alpacas were sorted out into groups, stud males, mothers and babies, lardy girls (heavily pregnant), and the rest. The first group of 30 animals was mustered behind the truck and the ramp was lowered.

Guess what, not one of them wanted to get on, not one of them even wanted to get near, several wanted to spit, sit, run, jump, fly, climb a tree, anything but walk up a ramp into a cavernous big truck. We pushed, when I say we I refer to Timbo, myself, Trevor (Tracey's Dad) and a very bemused lorry driver, we pushed, shouted, whistled and cajoled to no effect. I'm sure at one point a death threat was issued. We regrouped and somehow the collective team that we had become formed a plan of attack. No-one seemed to say much but we attacked it once again slightly differently. I don't know how it was different, I don't really know what we did that we hadn't already tried but one by one those fluffy bottoms disappeared up the ramp into the void. Spirits were raised, smiles were seen, even jokes were cracked as we realised that this could be done, we would succeed.

The next group were easier, a few were slightly reluctant but slowly and surely the truck filled.

The clever bit that once the truck was fill it was time to raise the whole lot upstairs so that the rest of the herd could be loaded on the ground floor.

I walked to the front of the truck and manfully took the handle of the winching mechanism. Pretty soon my hands were working in a blur, the wheel whirred as I stuck to the task like a man possessed. Beads of sweat formed on my forehead as I worked that winch like a highly skilled winchman on a big racing yacht.
There was the smell of burning oil as the mechanism heated up. The entire floor started to rise, slowly at first but as I settled into a steady rythmn the speed increased and the floor with 70 alpacas on it hit its mark halfway up the wall of the truck. The floor rested back onto its mounts and I fell back off the handle totally spent, I could give no more, the job had been done. A cheer rose from the gathered crowd as..........................sorry couldn't help it, it was Trevors fault.

What actually happened is that the truck driver pressed a button and the floor went up. Not very exciting.

The second floor of alpacas was a doddle, they went in practically jumping over each other to get to the ramp, well not quite but it was much better. Soon the truck was full and we were heading our separate ways. The Inca tribe heading west with the truck, Angus and I returning to the mighty Patou herd.

The truck was awesome. Sadly I didn't have my camera with me so when me and the wee fellow returned home he drew a picture for the blog. He's a dab hand with a pen that boy.

As you can see it was a large red truck, a double decker of course with a large ramp at the back. As you can also see there are some very happy alpacas gaily trotting up the ramp.
Somehow I don't think Angus was paying attention. Or maybe he just sees things differently to the rest of us?

Just too knackered

I am writing this blog entry on a beautiful summer morning.

After a good nights sleep and a breakfast of home laid scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast with a nice glass of tomato juice I am revived, full of energy and raring to go.

A complete contrast to the poor fat old knacker that sat here last night.

I was up early yesterday to help a chum move. The Commander of the massed army of Inca is upping sticks and moving west to take up a strong impregnable position amongst the rolling hills of Dorset. Tim and Tracey have picked a super spot and if the law permitted it, with the help of a decent snipers rifle, they could pick off anyone approaching from almost any direction well before they became a threat. An absolute must in my little ideal dream world.
I hope they don't mind but I took a few photos and you can see from the picture below one of the magnificent views that they have.

Anyway after loading up with furniture it was off to the land with a busy day ahead. Luckily the weather had warmed up so it wasn't long before a lather was worked up, which stayed around all day. Suffice it to say that it was quite a sweaty day yesterday.

I had to finish at four as I had an appointment with the massed ranks of the Patou shearing team. Well Charlie and Kevin to be precise. Two good strong men who are up for a challenge.

I arrived home having been dreaming of a cool shower for several hours. It would have to wait, the team were ready and there were alpacas to shear.

Off we trooped in the Patou wagon to Liz Curzens' herd in nearby Tisbury.

Two sweaty back breaking hours later the job was done, the Tisbury herd were sheared. They looked much happier, jeepers there was some serious fleece on a few of them.
There was also a considerable amount of spit in a couple of them and the big boy Peter must have had a bladder the size of a football. Still we sheared to the best of our ability and hopefully Liz is happy with the way they look.

We packed up and debriefed back at Patou HQ. For debrief substitute cold beer and you get a more accurate picture of what happened.

The guys then left and I dragged myself upstairs for a shower. Down for a lovely supper cooked by the even lovelier Mrs S and then flop down in front of the TV. Shortly after that it was bed, a tired and very red (forgot the sun cream................again!) patou warrior.

A very satisfactory day and no doubt it has done me good.

I have to say though those buttocks are a bit on the stiff side this morning!

Sunday, 20 July 2008

What a great day!

What a great day we have had here in the land of the Patou Warrior.

It has been a day of mixed emotions, highs and lows followed by fantastic teamwork, teamwork that has carried me on a high right through until the end of the day.

Let me talk you through the day as I saw it. If you are not interested in what happened here today you can of course log off and check out what happened elsewhere, your choice.

I had planned for a 10am start today, the shearing equipment was laid out the ropes, the mat, the clippers, the bags, buckets, you name it, I was ready.

10am came and went. I thought a lot about what was going on. I realised that although I was the shearer I was useless without a team. Without help in a major way I was as much use as a third whatnot on a doodah.

I relaxed and waited.

The team arrived, time didn't seem important. Good people had given up their time to come and help, people who had busy lives themselves. As the shearing team assembled I began to feel a sense of comingtogetherness. I know that's not a word but that is how it felt.

Charlie and Louise with their lovely daughter Olivia arrived first closely followed by Kevin, my chief handler.

As I have said before I am a bit of a control freak, I like to be in charge, I like nothing more than to be in charge of my own destiny. I back myself. I trust myself to get on and get stuff done but with alpaca shearing as with so many other alpaca related chores it is not a one man job. No, a team is required, a team of people who know what is required of them, a team that will stand tall and step up to the mark (there should be very loud inspirational music playing in your head here). A team willing to put their life on the line for their leader, a team willing to stop at nothing to achieve their goal, a team willing to follow their leader to the very edge (the music should be VERY loud now people!)

The team of which I talk arrived here in Chicksgrove this morning.

Charlie and Louise, Kevin and Gill, Matthew and Katie and of course the ever lovely Mrs Steele (actually she didn't arrive as she was here already).

At about 11am the work began. By 1pm, which was designated 'beer o'clock' the maternity herd had been sheared. All had gone relatively smoothly, one alpaca had a slight mishap but all went well.

All went well because the team worked like a smoothly oiled oily smooth thing.

The barbecue was lit and cold beer was administered, boy it was a hot one today.

A good time was had by all and I look forward to more shearing next week.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Grey day

What a miserable day it has been. As grey as my oldest pair of underpants.

It has drizzled here for most of the day and that has frustrated me in that I was unable to complete my full list of jobs. All there was on the television was the boring old golf and the boring old cricket. What I have to endure some days, it's terrible!

However, yesterday after three years of alpaca ownership we had our first case of the squits, loose bowel movements, runny bottom, call it anything you like apart from the 'd' word which I seem to spell a different way each time I write it.

Poor old Patou Fifi our fawn Wirococha's Dream girl was horrendously filthy at her rear end. That's her with some old bloke in the little arty picture that accompanies the blog. She doesn't seem to have lost any weight, seems to be acting normally and the rest of the mighty Patou seem fine.

I immediatley investigated in case there was another reason for the state she was in but there was no doubt in my mind. She was clean at the back the day before, her fleece was without twigs etc and it just looked like d......d.......that she had the squits.

Sue was at work so Elvie our 'alpaca watcher' and midwife colleague of Sue's kindly came over to give me a hand. Fifi was washed and trimmed thoroughly and dosed up with Baycox Bovis (coccidiosis), Ivomec Super (injectable wormer), Nuflor (antibiotic) and Kaolin ('firming agent'). In effect she had the works to cover all bases.

I have just been out to check her and she seems fine, still clean and looking absolutely normal. We will keep an eye on her but it appears that whatever nastiness was there has departed. Splendid, I don't like it when they are unwell.

The cria all seem to be thriving I put a coat back on the latest edition 'Minna' to give her a bit of protection against the drizzle but the rest are growing fleece fast.

However, there appears to be a real 'livewire' amongst the fluffy foursome. Orchard Blackjack after a slow start is now a right little terror. He is constantly badgering the others to play with him. Patou Jonah who is almost twice his size is charged at, jumped on, bitten, chased, rolled over and generally harassed until he joins in. The two of them then neck wrestle ending up with the grand finale of standing nose to nose spitting at each other. There's no spit of course just air accompanied by a sort of sneezing noise, highly amusing.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

A birth, sports day and shearing begins.

First of all a quick update on the herd, a new arrival yesterday.
Windsong Valley Milarka a Purrumbete Highlander daughter (very rare in the UK) gave birth to a stunning little white female sired by the magnificently grumpy Accoyo Killawasi.
Milarka is for sale, we sold Milarka's last two daughters on behalf of her owner. This latest cria looks the business and arrived in textbook fashion.

Milarka, pictured here 'well fleeced up' can now be sheared safely and having organised a small shearing posse for this weekend she will be looking much tidier on Monday, weather permitting of course.

This afternoon I attended Steele junior's annual sports day. The sun shone, ice cream was bought and eaten and about a hundred kids ran around having a terrific time. Angus performed very well and came first in a running race. I say a running race because believe me as well as running races there was every other conceivable type of race suitable for primary school age children.
I was a very proud Dad amongst a sea of very proud Dads (lots of bunking off from work going on today).

Here is a photo of Angus winning the running race. That's my boy!!!!!!!!!

Anyway this evening I was off with my chum Kevin to Jo and Steve's where Patou Bo Jangles, Inca Bingo and Orchard Apollo have made their new home, it was time that they were sheared.

Here is a picture of the happy threesome after a considerable amount of fleece had been removed by yours truly.

It was a nervous time for me, those boys are lovely and I wanted to shear them well and I wanted Steve and Jo to be happy with the end result.
The boys were great, yes Bingo made a racket throughout and Apollo was a little annoyed about what was happening to him but my boy Bo was the star of the show. He didn't make a noise, didn't move a muscle and the fleece that came off him looked fantastic. What a fabulous colour he is. What a lovely little lad he is. I am so glad he is just down the road and I am so pleased he has gone to a home where he will be looked after with the care and attention that he and all alpacas deserve. It was good to see him. He really is a special little alpaca. I do love him.
Anyway I can now say with great pride that I have sheared a herd. A small herd I know, but a herd nevertheless.
This weekend the shearing of the mighty Patou herd will commence and to tell the truth I can't wait. I will do my very best for them and hopefully all will go well.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Holiday time is nearly here!

Very excited today folks, very excited. I have to travel the loathesome route to work this afternoon but then that is it for 3 weeks.

Yes, for three glorious weeks I can forget what I do to pay the bills and concentrate on being a full time Dad, husband and Alpaca farmer.

We are not going away anywhere just staying at home and getting on with things, enjoying each others company and hopefully welcoming some lovely little new alpacas into the world.

We also hope to enjoy some quality barbecue time with a few friends where we can talk gibberish after enjoying a glass or two of something nice.

Weather permitting shearing will get underway this week and they will all be done by the time I return to work.

If they are not all done, (barring heavily pregnant girls) I will request a small group of sturdy legged and large footed men to drag me outside to a sheltered location behind the field shelter. Once we are there and we are all ready I will request that they administer a severe shoeing to my posterior.

My last blog seemed to provoke some debate and reaction. I praised, and rightly so in my opinion, the many virtues of Lillyfield Jack of Spades of Inca.

A certain Mr Nonny Mouse was unable, unwilling or just too rude to identify himself (or herself for that matter) when he left a rather derogatory comment on the blog about the mighty Jack (Oh yes, I am on first name terms with the big'un, we are chums).

I have resisted the suggestion to restrict comments on the blog until they have been vetted. I welcome comments, as I have said before I get rather too excited when I see someone has taken the trouble to read and comment on my drivel.

Everyone has an opinion and I welcome that. I would of course rather they identified themselves but there we go, some people would rather hide behind the wall of anonymity, that's their problem not mine.

In the meantime good day to you all, I hope the sun is shining where you are and the hums are happy ones.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Knackered after a busy day.

I sit here writing with a very large cold pimms to my right, just reward for a busy day.

As usual the mad lab Josh woke us at 5.30am so that he could recycle something onto the garden for me to pick up later............git.

After that I tried to go back to sleep but the brain had switched on and the voices wouldn't shut up.

So up at 6 and out for a long walk with the hounds, it was a beautiful morning. On return the lovely Mrs S and I enjoyed a cup of tea and a chat in bed as the boy watched Tom and Jerry.

That was closely followed by a full english fry up, just the thing to get us up and running.

We then set off to Incaland where we collected a simply stunning black stud male, Lillyfield Jack of Spades of Inca.

If you haven't seen this boy and you are breeding black alpacas, or alpacas of any colour for that matter, I would thoroughly reccommend having a look at him. We think he is totally fab and I want my whole herd to look like him in a few years time.

In fact I want to look like him in a few years time ................................................ ok, just went a bit too far with the enthusiasm.

Seriously though he is without doubt my favourite stud male in the whole wide world. We are mating everything we have with him this year and I can't wait to see his cria. Damn, my closely guarded secret for 2010 show domination is out of the bag.

Anyway we stopped off at good friends Liz and Peter in Tisbury where we have our 'rent a wombs'. Liz doesn't want to increase the size of her small herd but feels that a good working womb should not go to waste! Jack was introduced to a lovely Mateus girl called Alice and we had a nice chat.

We then returned to the kingdom of Patou and whilst Jack was regirding his loins we carried out a herd check and did some jabbing etc. Jack then did some spitting off for us and was then back in the saddle with our lovely Priscilla. I then took him home.

After a quick bite to eat it was off to the local village and school fete where Angus and his school chums were performing a maypole dance.

First stop was the Pimms tent where Mrs S was helping out with the cucumber mountain. This was a seriously well attended fete. A quick wander round, purchased a couple of cheap books, cake, chocolate brownies, thank you very much I was off.

Home, grass cut, alpacas fed, chickens cleaned out and that was it 7pm time for a drink.

Must go now, need a refill.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

The alpacas are wet.

It is wet here, very, very, very, wet. Great isn't it. It's the 9th of July, the height of the British summer and it is absolutely hosing it down as I write this.

In fact it has hosed it down all day save for a 30minute break from 5.30 to 6.00pm.

Now that was spooky, Sue has been minding the herd all day as I did the day job thing.
I arrived home at 5.15 in the pouring rain. Time to take the mad labs out for their evening alpaca poo eating session.

Sue couldn't do it as she was feeding Angus and his friend Toby with pizza, Angel delight and fruit. It was up to me and my enthusiasm level was not high.

Bearing in mind the slightly inclement weather I kitted up for monsoon. The full length drovers coat, the wellies, the leather hat and rubber underpants.

When I finally let the canine missile that is Josh (youngest and maddest chocolate lab) out of the back door I was somewhat surprised. I hadn't gone five yards and the rain had reduced to a dribble. Ten yards further on and it had stopped altogether.

By the time I had got to the first gate (only 50 yards people) I swear the sun was shining and I was getting hot. I looked to the sky and I seriously expected to see a big grinning face in the clouds, perhaps even a wink.

That would be totally ridiculous of course. But when I got home and managed to slow the mad labs entrance back into the house to a slow squirm the rain was once again pelting down with great force.

I paused for a moment and one thought entered my mind, 'fortune favours the brave'.

Either that or I am the righteous one, incredibly unlikely.

Another thought has been on my mind all day.

I have never received a comment on this blog from an australian living in Australia or an American living in America. Or for that matter anyone outside of Europe.

So come on you people, don't be shy lets hear you. Is this Internet thing really working?

Or is it based on some poor sod sitting in cellar winding a handle that is blatantly too small.

Is our internet thing confined to Europe? Come on wide world make yourself heard!!!!!

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Warning - this is not about alpacas.

Sue and I came to be parents relatively late in life, indeed Angus was an IVF baby and is about as special as it is possible to be. He is now 5 and a half years old and is excelling at everything he does. I regularly practically burst with pride.

Anyway the reason I mention this is that he still has the capacity to surprise the whatnots off me on a daily basis. I mentioned in an earlier blog that he thought I was the coolest person he knew.

Now folks, you would have to stretch your imagination beyond the realms of all that is factual to reach the place whereby I can be described as cool. Angus, however, thinks I am.
That's my boy.

Last night we were doing what we always do on a Monday evening when Top Gear is on television.

I record the Sunday night show and then Angus and I, father and son, sit down after his bath and watch the previous nights programme.

Angus munches on fruit and cheese, I sip wine, Chardonnay it was last night.

We laugh, we applaud, we shout at the television, we high five, we just love it. Jezza, Hamster and Captain Slow are great entertainment and we just lap it up. We also watch the repeats regularly, we don't mind, Top Gear is fab and we love it. I expect you have the picture by now.

Anyway last night there we were sitting side by side on the sofa watching the programme.

They got to the part when they have two celebrities on to take the crap car round the Top Gear circuit.
Jezza said that he was catering for the minorities as he introduced the two guests as a welshman and a fat man.

Angus turned to me and said 'Dad you're welsh!'. 'Yes I am son and I am also fat, how about that!' I replied.

Angus imediately turned to look at me with a puzzled look on his face. 'No you're not Dad, you're not fat'.

Do you know what, he really meant it when he said it. I saw him look me up and down, his gaze pausing for a second on my not inconsiderable tum. In his eyes I don't think he saw it as anything other than a large muscular stomach.
He looked at me again a moment later, shook his head and said 'No' with a chuckle of disbelief as he returned to watching Top Gear.

So why am I telling you this, I don't know really, it plainly has nothing to do with alpacas. I think it's to share an experience that most, if not all parents can relate to. The bond between child and parent is an amazing phenomena. I am still struggling to comprehend the magnitude of it.

Maybe I'm thinking about it too much. Maybe I think too much, full stop.

Maybe I just like thinking and writing about it because in the world of father and son I am not overweight, no not at all, I am also the coolest person in the world.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Right that's the end of that, Judy is now back with the main herd and we must think what we are going to do with her.
Sue and I have been at home all day so it has rained and the alpacas haven't produced any more cria. At the time of writing anyway. This year seems to be the year of strangely timed birthings. We've had two before 6.30am, one after 9.00pm and one at 4.00pm.
Last year it seemed everyone gave birth around lunchtime. Well we have now learned that we must be on our guard for as long as it is light at least.

It was nice to get an e-mail from Alan and Lorna of Alpacas El Sol this morning. They moved to Spain earlier this year and have had a pretty rough time of it with a mother and cria dying on them. What a terrible start to a life with alpacas. We've only met them once when they came to visit us last year but they seem the sort that will take it on the chin and get on with life. We wish them well. Thanks for reading guys.

I also had an e-mail from Gerry Thompson from Coire Alpacas up in Scotland.
Lost your weather up there? Don't worry we have it here. Nice to hear from you Gerry.

That's the thing about the internet and blogs, you just don't know who is reading. There is no control. No way of knowing who is taking a interest in your life or what you are up to. It's all kind of weird really.

I enjoy reading columns in newspapers as it usually means that the writer is going to reveal something about themselves, it's as if they were talking to you.

It's the same with a blog I suppose. I write it because I have always enjoyed writing and I enjoy life with alpacas and spreading the word about alpacas. I've never really been one for secrecy either so I am able to reveal what I like to the reader. Basically I am a bit of a berk but don't really care.

I would hope that fellow alpaca owners, those newer to alpacas than ourselves may learn something from the blog.

I have certainly learned from other blogs. Rachel Hebditch's diary for instance has recently mentioned about prolapsed anus's (what is the plural of anus? anii? anium?) and prolapsed vaginas. Well hold on, nobody told me about this, it sounds bloody awful!

Bit it means that I am now aware of this phenomena and will know what to do, call the vet.......or a good seamstress.

Anyway back to the 'we just don't know who's reading this blog' thing. I would be as thrilled as a dog with two doodahs if someone left a comment from a long way away. I mean the south of Spain is over a thousand miles away but it can't be that hard to beat, can it?

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Patouland getting back to normal.

I have not written a blog for a couple of days due to feeling pretty miserable.
Although I do tend to look a bit like an ageing thug I have always been the sort to wear my heart on my sleeve. If I am miserable everyone knows about it and if I am happy I spread warmth, happiness and merriment wherever I go, well not quite but you get the picture.

Anyway life will go on here although we are still dealing with the aftermath of Judy's dead cria. She is still clucking over the dead body almost 48 hours later and tomorrow we will have to make the decision to remove him and bury him in the grave I dug yesterday.
It really is sad watching her but today she has been moving away and I feel sure she will have accepted the death tomorrow. She is still pretty aggressive but that is to be expected.

Jonah, Jack and Juno are thriving and it is wonderful to see them running around the paddock together. Jonah is living up to his name (remember he was named after Jonah Lomu the enormous rugby player) he is huge and put on 2 kilos in his first week. The others are also showing a healthy weight gain so thats all tickety boo and fine and dandy.

This week will see the three 'J's and their mums return to the fold of the 'mighty' Patou herd.

The next batch of 'lardies' will be brought up to the birthing paddock so that we can keep a close eye on them. Amongst the next batch is my favourite alpaca in the whole wide world, Patou Lily our beautiful black girl. She is the daughter of one of our foundation herd members Mile End Bannock.

Lily's sire was Shaft's Dream and Lily took 2nd place at last years BAS Spring show and there was some pretty serious competition in the junior black female class I can assure you.

She is now pregnant to Atlantic Cambridge Centurion, one of our favourite males, he is housed at the magical world of Inca and is a teriffc looking male. His show results last year certainly back that up.

We have high hopes for her cria and her unpacking is the one we are looking forward to the most.

We have been treating Lily for a jaw abscess with Nuflor recently and it has meant that we have become all up close and personal with her again. She is such a lovely girl she doesn't need rounding up as she can be caught easily and having spent a lot of time with her last year at Alpaca and Agricultural shows it is nice to be in regular physical contact with her.

She's a beauty and anyone who says she isn't will get a punch on the hooter (metaphorically of course, I am fervently opposed to violence of any sort.......apparently)

Friday, 4 July 2008

A very sad day at Patou.

Some time ago a farmer friend of ours spoke to us about keeping livestock. We were new to alpacas and thought it was all great and fluffy. He gave us a few words of caution when he said 'If you have livestock, sooner or later you are going to have deadstock'. A cheery fellow he was.

I have never forgotten those words and knew that one day his prediction would come true. I hoped that it wouldn't.

This evening I'm afraid it did. We have had three gorgeous healthy cria in the past two weeks all born without problem, all doing well.

However, this evening Coolaroo Judah had a very rough ride. We noticed at 8pm that she had a crias head hanging out. It hadn't been there an hour before and she had shown no signs of being about to give birth all day.

Unfortunately it was quite apparent that the cria was dead. Judy was also very aggressive and simply couldn't shift it. The vet was called and David Hollingsworth our vet soon arrived.

With a little help the dead cria was delivered and thankfully Judy seems ok. It was a very big white male cria, Judy was 11 months and 15 days.

David said that the cria had been dead for sometime before it was born and that there was nothing that we could have done.

Sorry there are no laughs today but as it says at the beginning of this blog it has been a very sad day here in Patou land.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Update on herd additions.

What a nice drop of rain we had yesterday.

No cria born, they're not coming out until it's sunny again it seems.
However, the sun came out in the late afternoon and I spent some quality time lying around in the field with the new arrivals.
Here is Patou Jonah, sired by Canchones Witness of Inca. He is a big boy and towers over the other two.

This is Valley Farm Juno, a gorgeous dark fawn with white markings on her head. Her sire is CME Tulaco Centurion.

Finally (for now) here is the latest addition at two days old, Orchard Black Jack sired by Atlantic Cambridge Centurion. A very handsome little fellow with a very tight fleece.

Shearing time is approaching fast and the next set of dry days when I'm not working we shall make a start. The beauty of doing it myself this year is that they don't all have to be done on one day. We can wait until heavily pregnant girls give birth and then shear. Some people say that you can shear them right up to the day they give birth and maybe you can.

All I know is that last year we had the whole herd sheared on the same day and the two stressiest girls we have both had problems within ten days.
Six days after shearing Patou Bobby gave birth to Poppy at 10 months and a week, coincidence maybe.
We had to bottle feed Poppy until she was able to stand, that meant milking Bobby who I have just said is one of the stressiest girls we have. It was a bit spitty in there to say the least!

Four days later Coolaroo Judy had serious birthing problems and needed the vets assistance to get Sophie out. Again, coincidence maybe.
This year we are not taking any risks and will not shear anyone over 10 months pregnant. We'll see how we go.
The bad thing about shearing them ourselves is that I will be doing it and although I am looking forward to it I am anxious that I don't cut anyone. Still I won't get better at it unless I get stuck in so onwards and upwards etc.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Another early start!

Another surprise this morning in the land of Patou.

The lovely Mrs Steele left to walk Bryn and Josh, the mad labs, at ten past 6 this morning.

The day job means I have to leave early sometimes so Sue has to be back before I go so that Steele junior has company at breakfast time.

Anyway I digress.

Once again Sue returned with news of another early morning arrival!

Wellground Joy had unpacked a handsome little boy at around 6am. His sire is the mighty Atlantic Cambridge Centurion and he appears to have his famous fathers looks even at this early stage.
Joy is owned by friends Charlie and Louise Maidment. The new arrival was already up on his feet when we got to him and seems strong. He was feeding quickly and under Sue's supervision seemed to enjoy arriving on a lovely sunny day.

Charlie, Louise and Olivia came over this afternoon to examine the little chap and have provisionally called him Orchard Blackjack, Jack for short, obviously.

Here are Angus and Olivia saying hello to 'Jack' under the watchful eye of Joy.

What's going on? Three cria so far and two have come before 6.30am!

How early do they want us to get up exactly?

At the moment we get up at 6, perhaps we should get up when the sun rises and the sparrows start to pass wind?

Anyway I have decided that's enough boys, I have had a word and expect girls from the next 9 unpackings. Or else.

Or else what exactly?