Saturday, 30 May 2009

A lamb, a visit to the show and a rosette.

Life has been pretty hectic around here again. I seem to be saying that a lot at the moment but it's true we don't seem to have any time for sitting down and vegetating, a favourite pastime of mine.
This weekend, yes I know it's only Saturday morning but I am losing track a bit of where we are days wise, has been full on.

We have had the lamb here since Wednesday morning, yes she has a name, no that is not a good idea and no, I don't know if she's staying. She has been given the name Missy Rosemary Mint. I have had no part in the naming process and if it had been up to me Lambsy or Skippy would have done. Anyway when Sue picked her up on Wednesday morning she was pretty much dead. She was freezing cold, unable to stand and not very interested in life. Three days later after a lot of tlc from Sue little Miss Mint is becoming a mischievous little scamp.

She has become a favourite of Angus and follows him and Sue around all day. She has now been ousted into the garden and we have to keep the botom half of the front door closed otherwise she's up the step into the house and getting into trouble. The dogs have adapted quickly and decided that she isn't food therefore she is to be ignored. The alpacas on the other hand don't know what to make of her and seem a little bit terrified.

How can she go back to the flock now? Methinks we may have an addition to the mighty Patou?

Yesterday we took a trip to the Bath and West show. We have taken alpacas the last two years but due to my stupid, get out of the way, yes I know you pay the bills, day job we could only pay a quick visit. Obviously I wanted to get to the alpaca tent and breathe it all in and was delighted when I was asked by the Lord Lieutenant of Inca to lead a lovely black intermediate female into the ring. I was given the largest Inca coat available but it simply didn't do. Luckily there are other alpaca owners with muscles and Gary from Popham saw my dilemma and lent me his 'proper man size coat'.

Into the ring and blow me down 'we' won second place. Now I know it was the alpaca winning the rosette but I like to think it was a real team effort. The lovely girl in question, who behaved impeccably I might add, is owned by Lawrence Shapland of Leytown Alpacas. I don't know if you read this drivel Lawrence but I hope you don't mind the mention.

Anyway, a real team effort by Leytown, Inca, Patou and Popham alpacas saw a second place rosette won. I had my alpaca show 'fix' and was able to leave the show a little happier although I would have loved to have immersed myself for the four days. Never mind there's always next year.

A quick drive home then off to work for me for a 5 to 2 late shift. Up at 7.30 due to a small man calling his new friend and I am away to work again in an hour or so.

Ever wanted to shout 'STOP, LET ME OFF?'.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Jack, Columbus, a lamb and a mad lab

We have had a busy few days here as we had a VIP visiting.
Lillyfield Jack of Spades of Inca was here to show Columbus the ropes and liaise with several of the mighty Patou herd.

Now I know I may be accused of banging on about Jack on this blog but I make no apologies. Jack of Spades is a simply stunning black stud male. He is about as handsome as you can get and has huge amounts of amazing fleece. And no, I don't own a share in him, I wish I did but I don't.

Lillyfield Jack of Spades of Inca at Patou HQ.

Anyway he was here for three days and was introduced to six of our darker girls. Columbus, in his first year, well first weekend actually, has been introduced to some of our lighter girls to try and 'brown them up'. We are taking it very slowly with Columbus and he is gradually getting the idea.

Actually he was quite aggressive towards Jack which I suppose is good, he was protecting his girls. He just didn't really know why he was protecting them. Once we had separated them Columbus spent most of the time at the fence glaring at Jack who was calmly grazing in the paddock on the other side of the laneway.

Columbus giving his most menacing stare towards Jack of Spades.

Other news here is that we had an abandoned lamb in the bath this morning. Sue walked the dogs and found a very cold, wet, abandoned lamb in the field behind the house. It was unable to stand and on the way out basically. It was bathed to warm it up, has had glucose solution and has now perked up so much that it is now sucking milk from a bottle. It is presently wrapped up under a radiator in the bathroom.
Lastly a picture of the youngest of the mad Labs, Josh. I don't know why. I just think it is a nice picture. Anyway it's my blog.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

A new herd is formed and we are up and running.

This morning was the day the mating season of the mighty Patou began. The big boy Jack of Spades arrived late yesterday afternoon and we were keen to get him going this morning. Our own Columbus has been a bit slow to show his interest in the ladies so a big serious stud male would, we hoped, get him on the right road.

The girls were rounded up and the boys were in position. Jack of course was straight into action on our resident spit fountain Bobby. She started spitting at him from about 20 feet away and as a result we all got covered, particularly Sue who got a full frontal. Nice. Once she was within pouncing range she hit the ground with a thud (Bobby that is not Sue) and although she spat and screamed all the way through she stayed down until Jack had done the deed. What goes through her mind is anyone's guess.

Whilst Jack was 'busy' we turned our attentions to Columbus who was watching keenly from the pen next door. There was lots of sniffing and rearing and finally he had a practice on Poppy who had hit the deck next to her mother. We were very careful not to let him go all the way (she has a date with Jack later today) but he started orgling which got louder and louder. He will have some more action this afternoon too.

Yesterday we said goodbye to Ruby, Emma and Juno as they headed off to Suffolk with their new owners David and Val. They will form the foundation members of a new herd of alpacas. Emma and Ruby are both due to give birth later in the summer and I know that the arrival of the new cria will be eagerly anticipated.

One of the great things about the alpaca business is meeting people from different walks of life, sharing the love of alpacas and making new friends who share your enthusiasm.

David and Val come from the other side of the country and David's engineering business is a world away from our occupations but we look forward to visiting them later in the year and staying in touch. What lovely people. On a smaller note it's also nice to have new blog readers!

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Busy, busy, busy.

Aplogies once again for neglecting the drivel. I have been busy, not quite sure what with but spare time for blogging has been a bit sparse over the past few days.

We have been sorting and bagging fleeces since shearing and we have more than enough to make several pairs of nice fluffy underpants for next winter. Unfortunately the mini-mill where we normally take our fleece has a 9 month waiting list! What is that all about? We have over 20kilos of good fleece but in four different colours so most mills can't take it. Meanies.

Anyway if anyone out there knows of somewhere that can process the mighty Patou's fluffy stuff please let me know.

Today I have been doing routine jobs, picking up feed, collecting some rather nice hay and wandering about admiring the herd as they bask in the lovely sunshine we are having at the moment. The forecast for the next 5 days is absolutely spiffing with temeratures rising into the 20's and plenty of sunshine promised.

This weekend marks the start of our mating season. The big man himself Lillyfield Jack of Spades of Inca is coming for a few days and will hopefully fire our own Columbus into action. All very exciting, I can't wait to get started!

On an alpaca sales note, we seem to be bucking the general national malaise and thriftiness with the best start to a year so far. We have three girls leaving tomorrow and a deposit on two other girls pending matings etc. If this carries on we will run out of 'for sale' girls before summer gets going! Perhaps it will all stop and that will be that, who knows?

We had the vet out yesterday for a final (hopefully) check on Lily. Lily has put on stacks of weight and is now in ideal condition. She looks fab. In fact hang on a minute I'm going to nip out and grab a photo.
There's my girl, I think you will agree that she does not look like a poorly alpaca. She is gorgeous.
Couldn't resist taking a picture of our dear old Priscilla, one of our foundation females. She is, as you can see, either a big real ale drinker or nearly 10 months pregnant. She has a lovely round tummy which is clearly visible now that she is fleeceless. The two alpacas behind her, Ruby and Joy, have just been taken out by the resident sniper, old sunface. We lose quite a lot to old sunface.
Priscilla is carrying an important cargo. She is pregnant to the aforementioned Jack of Spades. The arrival of the cria, which I have decided is going to be girl, is eagerly anticipated (aren't they all) as it will be the second Jack cria to be born anywhere in the whole wide world. I haven't mentioned this to Priscilla as the pressure would upset her.
Anyway that's the news from Patouland.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

It is done!

The weather gods were smiling down on Patouland today as shearing went ahead this morning. Slightly later than planned and with a couple of rain breaks but the deed is done!
James Dixon and his wife Kim arrived at 0800hrs this morning to be met by a damp looking Patou herd. However, the wind was blowing a gale and they were drying out quickly, a cup of coffee and a chat and we were up and running. Three and a half hours later there was fleece everywhere but on the alpacas. Splendid!

The new look Patou Alacazam proudly strutting his stuff.

Patou Fifi looking gorgeous as ever.

Patou Poppy after a massive amount of fleece was removed.

The herd discussing each others new hair do's.

Friday, 15 May 2009


Short blog.

34 alpacas here now ready for shearing tomorrow. All soaking wet.

The shearer arrives at 0800hrs.

It's lashing down as I write.

We have one field shelter which is 10' x 12'.

I am grumpy. Proper grumpy.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

To show or not to show?

I read an article a week or so ago and it made me quite annoyed. I can't remember who wrote it nor where I read it but suffice it to say that I did read it, I have not made it up and it's probably just as well that I can't remember who wrote it to avoid offending someone in the future.

The article was concerning alpaca shows. The crux of the article was some suggestions to make shows more attractive to the small breeder. It was suggested that the 'big boys' should not be allowed to go to certain shows to allow us 'little people' to have a chance of winning a rosette. Or that the larger breeders should be judged separately or that they should only be allowed to enter one alpaca into each class. This was all aimed at encouraging the 'small breeders' to participate. Not only encourage them to participate but give them a better chance of winning a rosette than they currently have.

The article irritated and annoyed me and has been playing on my mind since I read it so I thought I would share my views on showing alpacas.

First of all I consider that the mighty Patou herd qualifies as a small herd. We have 16 alpacas registered to the Patou name. We have a larger herd than that due to agisted animals etc. but we only enter our own alpacas into shows.

When we first started out nearly 4 years ago we had four alpacas. The following year we had two cria and entered them both into two shows, the BAS Spring Show and the Bath and West show, both large shows. I might remind you that we had a massive six animal herd at this time. Patou Lily took a second place rosette at the Spring Show and Patou Henry took a fourth place at the Bath and West. Why? Because we started off with quality alpacas and we followed, as we still do, a carefully planned breeding plan.
We didn't expect to come away with anything and we would have enjoyed the experience even if we had come away with nothing. We gained from the atmosphere, talking to other breeders, looking at other people's alpacas, watching the alpacas being shown and conversing enthusiastically with members of the public. We enjoyed being alpaca owners.

When I was called forward with both Lily and Henry I was almost overcome with emotion, the joy, pride and just plain brilliance of the whole situation was fantastic. I wish I could get that feeling every morning before breakfast. Crikey that would really set me up for the day, I would be buzzing!

Somehow I think that if the 'big breeders' were not there the feeling would be diluted. In fact if there are shows in the future whereby the big breeders aren't allowed you won't see any Patou animals in the ring, no sireee not us.

It all sounds to me like this ridiculous idea that crept into the education system a few years ago which meant that everyone was a winner. We are not allowed to have losers, that would be negative and would retard childrens development as healthy well balanced individuals. Give everyone a medal.......................even the ones that didn't win.
At this point you must picture me standing up on a chair shouting a rude word. Any rude word
will do, you choose.

The whole point about breeding alpacas is to try and breed the best. There is no point having any other intent. Any attitude other than that is not good for the future of the British Alpaca industry. If you just want alpacas as pets or chicken guards then fine do what you like. If you want to breed alpacas then you must strive to improve the standard each year.

It doesn't matter where you start. Whether you are fortunate enough to buy top quality females at £12k a pop or whether you can only afford a couple of 'older ladies' for £3k each.

What you can't do is put no thought into breeding, take alpacas to shows and complain when you don't win. Shows don't work like that. It would be like me turning up at an athletics meeting having started my own one person athletics team. I enter into the 100metres sprint, finish when the 'athletes' are just getting into the shower and then ask the organisers if we could have a race for fatties only next year as it's not fair with the fast runners in the race. Do you see what I mean?

Anyway I hope that the shows remain as they are. Anyone can enter and you can enter as many animals as you like as long as the show can accommodate them.

To the person who wrote the article I say this 'think like a winner, prepare like a winner and one day who knows you may be a winner'.

Right, soapbox away, I'm off for a bacon sarnie.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

It's all go in Patouland.

Once again circumstances have conspired to keep me out of the blogging chair. Number one job has been full on all week and I was looking forward to a nice relaxing weekend. Unfortunately further bad news from the Patouwagon top mechanic was forthcoming. 'It's very broken' he said. 'Give me all your money and I can fix it' he said. Actually being a top bloke he said 'Get a new one'.
The upshot is that Sue, Angus and myself were traipsing from garage to garage all day yesterday in search of the next 'Patouwagon'. Rather excitingly (it has been a long time) we have found a replacement and I will be collecting it on Tuesday. Obviously another Land Rover Discovery, which in the eyes of Angus and me is a big, big boys toy! He was so excited that he took my mobile phone to bed with him last night because I had used it to take a photo of the 'new' Disco. Ahh bless.

After getting home it was a quick change and then out for the evening. We spent a very pleasant evening with Ivan and Gill of Old Stour Alpacas. Old Stour who, I hear you ask? Ivan and Gill are quietly and carefully building up a very nice herd of black and grey alpacas and they are top people. Even though Ivan cheats at barbecuing with a big flash gas jobby, but hey, so do a lot of people! Very nice nosh it was too!

This week we are into shearing mode. James Dixon will be with us in Patouland on Saturday to shear the massed ranks of the Patou, Tisbury, Glenside and Orchard Alpacas herds. It is the earliest that we have ever sheared and there is a little bit of worry about the great British weather but at the moment the weather is good and if it does turn nasty I will commandeer a nearby barn. The main reason we are shearing early is that we want to start mating soon afterwards. We didn't want to get into mating and then put the girls through the stress of shearing. So it will be full on next week. You may remember that we took most of the herd through winter 'empty' to reset the herd mating regime. Now the day job is really going to start getting in the way, mumble mumble mumble.

Other news here is that we seem to have had a rodent explosion since Bob our cat was put to sleep a few months ago. He must have been out every night slaughtering his little heart out as since he's gone the population seems to have increased dramatically. My suggestion of sitting outside with a headtorch and my shotgun all night has been pooh poohed so we now have to plan our attack.

Operation Rodent Reduction will get into full swing following a visit to Scats for some appropriate poison, traps and hopefully shiny things, with buttons or something, explosives they do rat bombs? Armageddon is coming. I have pinned a notice to the front porch warning all rodents to pack up and foxtrot oscar so they can't say they didn't know it was coming. I have already called in the military for support with Sergeant Angus Steele heading up a crack team of paratroopers. I tell you, don't mess with him he looks nasty!

They won't know what's hit them.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Fab weekend

No blogging over the the last few days as I have been sharing the time with Sue and Angus and we have had a great weekend.

Saturday was a day of pottering around the garden. We moved some big plants around and planted some potatoes and onions. Doesn't sound terribly exciting does it? Well it wasn't but it was enjoyable and relaxing.

Saturday was also a ground breaking day for me and Gus. We took it upon ourselves (actually it was his idea) to bake Sue a cake. Now I have never baked a cake. I love cooking and of course eating but I have never baked a cake. I am not really a cake person. Anyway we found a really nice picture of a chocolate cake in a Nigella cookbook and set about the task. First up we went out to get some seriously chocolatey cake ingredients. Upon our return it was 'lets make a real mess' time. An hour later the cake was in the oven and it looked like some sort of chocolate bomb had gone off in the kitchen. As the cocoa powder settled it revealed a contented father and son licking wooden spoons and rubber spatulas. Mmmmmmmmmm nice!

The cake was a massive success and has, bar one slice, all gone. No we didn't have any visitors over the weekend we have eaten the lot. We might do it again one day!

It was also herd check day. This is something we do every two weeks and should be a routine task for all alpaca owners. It doesn't take long and can save you a lot of trouble in the future. It is vital to get hands on with the fluffsters to check their general wellbeing. A quick condition score and a general going over checking for signs of mite, jaw abscesses and anything else. The mighty Patou is in fine fettle it has to be said. A very healthy bunch of fluff. I took a picture of Penny and Lily, both doing very well. Penny has put on 12.5kilos in 7 weeks from a birth weight of 8kg. She grazes and tucks into any hard food on offer. Lily is also putting on weight nicely and has come a long way from where she was. Great to see.

Sunday was Sue's birthday and Angus's plan for the day kicked into action. Fry up, dog walk, coffee, slice of cake, then off to Salisbury to watch Monsters versus Aliens. Quite the most bizarre film I have ever seen. Amusing (Angus certainly enjoyed it) but very, very strange indeed.

Following the movie we walked across Salisbury to a top notch Indian restaurant for a cracking lunch (please can I go and lie down now, please, type of lunch). Home for more pottering and a slice of cake. I even got to watch some rugby whilst Sue relaxed and Angus ran around.

Monday was more general pottering with some lawn mowing and some rotovating thrown in for good measure. Finished off with a barbecue and perhaps too much gin we went to bed a happy family.
All in all a cracking weekend! How lucky am I?

Friday, 1 May 2009

A sale, a birthday and a curry.

Once again the day job and the part time evening jobs (6yr old son and Alpacas) have got in the way of blog posting.

It has been a busy week one way or another and started on a high note on Tuesday when we were visited by David and Valeria from Suffolk who were thinking of starting a herd of alpacas. Tuesday, as I mentioned, was our wedding anniversary, which as usual I forgot. Anyway we had a chat whilst looking at the alpacas at close quarters and David and Valeria decided to buy three of the lovely girls we have here for sale.
Orchard Ruby, Valley Farm Emma and Valley Farm Juno will be heading off to Ipswich in a week or so to be the foundation members of a new herd of alpacas. Fantastic and nice people.

Deal done we all headed off to the pub for a slap up lunch.
It's always sad to see members of the herd leave but it will be great that they will form the basis of a new herd. Ruby and Emma will both be having cria later in the year so it should be a fantastic start for David and Valeria in the wonderful world of alpacas.
The pub lunch got me out of trouble as well.

Since then I have been nursing my ancient Discovery around until today when some sort of viscous liquid began pouring out of it. Oil I think mechanics call it. Apparently that's not good. Just looked like the old girl was having a wee to me. Seriously dehydrated! Right off the wee wee chart.
Anyway a quick phone call and a very slow drive to Dicky W's (the best mechanic in Wiltshire) and me and the big old Disco have parted company, hopefully temporarily. I am now transporting myself around in something called a Mitsubishi Colt which fits me like a glove, literally.

We now have a family long weekend and have big plans for Sunday which also happens to be Sue's birthday. Angus has decided what we are doing so we are off to the cinema on Sunday morning to watch something called Monsters versus Aliens, which I belive is some sort of period drama, perhaps with a sci-fi horror twist. Following that we are off to the poshest Indian restaurant in Salisbury for a tastebud bursting curry lunch (does a Sunday get any better than this people?).

Hopefully I will also get to have a quick peek at the tv as it is a massive weekend of rugby. Or maybe not, it's not my birthday after all.