Thursday, 22 December 2011

More damage and two 'camels'.

Once again people I must report on a 'Well that's another fine mess you've gotten us into' incident.
And once again I must take the blame on the chin.

It began with an e-mail a few weeks ago. A Christmas pageant was being held in a small village with a big heart called Allington, just west of Salisbury. They were having a walking pageant whereby the villagers would be visiting three 'stations'. The baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph in a barn with some sheep, then the playground where the Three Wise Men would be with some camels and finally on to the church for the grand finale. We were to be involved in the Three Wise Men section. Alpacamels were requested. We had attended the village's summer fete and went down very well. Now we were in demand again, although the boys, Roger and Rafiki (Rico has moved on to a life of luxury) would be required to act like camels. Marvellous, we can do that I replied, what time do you want us?

The Pageant was due to start at 5pm, we were asked to be there by 4.30pm, plenty of time to get everything organised. It was about a 40 minute drive, nice and relaxed, what could go wrong? To be on the safe side I built in an extra half hour. We would leave at 3.15pm and be there by 4 to soak up the atmosphere. It would also mean the boys would be there in the daylight to begin with so they could familiarise themselves with their surroundings and practice their camel impersonations.

At 2.45pm precisely I sauntered over to the Land Rover to drive into the field to fetch the trailer. Angus opened the field get and in I went. At this point something like this went through my head ' Oooh that's a little bit slippery old boy!' The entrance to the field is on what I can only describe as a multi-faceted slope. It is uphill and slopes right to left, then right to left again a tad before a huge swing from right to left again. On the way out it is uphill then downhill and left to right etc. In other words, looking back on it now, it is a ridiculous field entrance and should be banned. It is an arse of a field entrance.

Anyway hitching up the trailer went without incident. The plan was to exit the field with the trailer then walk the boys down and load them on the road, which is relatively flat. Angus was in charge of the gate, I would be piloting the Land Rover trailer combo and Sue would be overseeing from the rear. Off I went along the flat bit, started to power up the incline before glancing in the door mirror where I saw Sue flapping her arms and running after me. Something was obviously very wrong. I stopped, on the brow of the uphill bit. Oh you foolish, foolish boy. I was only about ten feet from the gate and so far it had been ok. Sue told me that one of the wheels on the trailer was not going round, the brake had obviously stuck, even though it hadn't been on, strange that. How does that happen? Anyway after hoofing the wheel several times I got back in and set off...................sideways. I wasn't quite on the downhill stretch but was on the severe left to right gradient and so that is the direction I went, left to right. So far left in fact that I came to rest on the gate which was wide open and up against the fence. And there ladies and gentlemen I came to rest. Wheels spinning uselessly, engine screaming pointlessly as I dug myself in. Now I've been 'dug in' up to the axles before (that's another story) and it's not good so before it got to the 'belly in the mud' point I stopped. A nice tantrum brewing I then clambered over the gear stick etc to get out of the passenger side. I may have sworn a bit and kicked a few things. It had come to the 'What the hell do we do now!!!' moment. In fact I might even have said those very words. Even with the trailer unhitched I couldn't move anywhere except to further embed myself in the gate.

To cut a long and tantrum filled story short I managed to get a farmer friend to come over with his Defender which had a winch. The Discovery was towed out to the sound of screeching metal as the steel gate ripped away at the drivers side of my lovely blue (now stripey) Land Rover. The trailer was then winched with me acting as a 'buffer zone' between it and the destructive gate. I now know what it must be like to be one of those fat round things that hangs at the side of a boat to stop it getting scratched on the quayside. It's hot and sweaty that's what it is!

So finally at 4.20pm we had the trailer and the Land Rover out of the field. The boys were still at the far end of the paddock and I was bursting for a wee. I woud like to remind you that the Pageant was beginning at 5pm, a 40 minute drive away. Sue got the boys, whilst I, well you know, and we set off, muddy, sweaty and incredulous as to what had just happened. We spend a lot of time being incredulous these days.

Driving as fast as I could without being silly we arrived just in the nick of time. Having forgotten the camera (typical) I took a couple of shots with my Blackberry, they are not very good but you get the idea of the thing.

Here are the boys, having just been visited by some sheperds, or was it the Klu Klux Klan?

Here are the boys again. Just behind them are the three wise men sitting on a bench talking about football or lego or something. Beyond them, coincidentally, is my 'day job' motor, weird.
And that was that. The trailer is now parked on the driveway and the Land Rover is looking, well it's looking as a Land Rover should, a little bit battered.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Tip Top herd!!

Yesterday was the last major husbandry day of the year. It was time to grapple with the whole herd and get them ready for winter so to speak. I was very ably assisted by young Hamish Davidson. Hamish is the 16 year old son of a colleague of mine and he is studying Animal Management at Sparsholt College in Hampshire. He did a project on alpacas recently and as he is due to handle the alpacas at the college this week he wanted a bit of hands on experience so that he would look a bit of an expert in front of the rest of the course and his tutors. It was just before 8am when Hamish was dropped off at Patou HQ for a busy morning. First up was to wait until I had eaten my bacon sandwich, well it was Saturday!

Luckily despite the weather forecast the sun shone and as Sue disappeared on the first of a couple of 'appointments' with Angus we set off to round up the first group. They were sorted out with a final worming injection and another dose of AD&E. We had wormed about two months ago but due to the unseasonably warm weather we wanted to worm again after the first couple of frosts. I want the herd going into winter parasite free so that they can retain as much condition as possible. We were also microchipping the cria, which is not one of my favourite jobs but it needs to be done.

The first group done we headed off to deal with the boys, or should I say 'the fatties'. The boys have just been having a small amount of feed but because of the late autumn grass are quite lardy indeed. Good condition to be in just going into the cold weather.
We then stopped for coffee and a cake which Sue had thoughtfully provided and then we were off to do the bigger group of girls and cria.
After 66 injections, 10 microchips and all 31 animals getting a thorough going over we were done, just in time for lunch.

The only unpleasant bit were the two cria who bled when I was putting the chips in. Woody wasn't too bad and we stoppd the bleeding quite quickly but poor Sahara bled like a very bleedy thing. It took ages to stem the flow and as you can see from the picture I took this morning she looks a bit of a mess!

She has completely recovered from her breathing problems and despite the wet bedraggled look, is turning out to be a lovely looking female. Her fleece is looking pretty darn good too, could we be entering a fawn in a show next year? Time will tell.

Here is a picture of the large group of girls eating breakfast this morning.
The Mighty Patou Herd is in tip top condition going into winter and that makes me a very happy boy!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

I can see clearly now the hedge has gone!

It has been another busy week here in Patouland. On Monday our second field shelter was finally delivered. Our old neighbour, a splendid farmer with a large tractor, gave me a call to say that the shelter was now on the back of a trailer and was ready to be transported. 'It's a bit wide though' he said. Sue and I toodled over and sure enough there it was on the trailer, and it did look a bit wide!
It is a 10ft x 12ft field shelter on wooden skids but it has a 2ft overhang at the front effectively making it 12ft square. Some of the lanes around here are barely that wide and although it only needed moving about three miles there were a lot of trees to negotiate.
I took the lead and shot ahead, lights blazing, to worn oncoming traffic (there wasn't a lot) and the field shelter began it's (ever so slightly illegal) trip along the country lanes. Before long it was deposited in the field exactly where we wanted it and it was surrounded by alpacas. I say 'exactly' where we wanted it because at the time that was exactly where we wanted it. Today it has been dragged, pushed, pulled, kicked and nurdled into a slightly different position! Not exactly where we wanted it today but somewhere different to where it was. Most unsatisfactory! I have no photographs whatsoever of the trip or the field shelter, so it's all down to your imagination.

Yesterday I was at home and luckily Sue was at home with me. Normally this sort of thing only happens to me when I am alone. I am always telling Sue that being me isn't the easiest thing in the world to be. Yesterday she was witness to how I can get myself into a ridiculous mess in a very short period of time. No pictures again guys so please, if you dare, visualise this:

I attempted to move some hurdles and gates to the top of the boys field using the trailer, as I had already got it hitched up for another purpose. I knew the top of the field was getting wet and slippery but I thought if I took a good run at it I would make it through the open gateway and up the very steep incline to the top. I stuck the Discovery into low ratio, gunned the engine from way back and pointed the front at the open gateway knowing I would have to clear the gateway then turn slighty right to attack the North Face of the slope. It felt a bit 'wallowy' and a bit 'splashy' as I careered towards the gateway but I was committed and we were soon through and the nose of the Land Rover rose as I hit the bottom of the slope. Fine so far.

Alas the summit was never reached. I estimate that I got about three quarters of the way up and then momentarily I became stationary, time seemed to freeze and then we started sliding with  increasing speed and lessening control backwards down the hill. How we got back through that gateway I will never know. A two and a half ton Land Rover, a half ton man and a ten foot livestock trailer fishtailing uncontrollably backwards down a steep hill, boy that was some adrenalin rush. The bottom of the hill came and I could see a fence rapidly approaching in both wing mirrors. There was nothing else for it than to voluntarily enter into a jackknife situation. That did the trick, stopped everything dead in a heap of wet mud. Right, a very opportune time to accompany Sue, who had been watching the 'Frank Spencer' moment unfold, home for lunch.
I won't bore you with the details of how we got out of the mess I had plunged us into, suffice it to say it took a lot of time, a lot grunting, sweating and inch by inch manouevering to achieve. I have now parked the trailer and the top field, middle field and bottom bottom field are apparently out of bounds.  

And just to prove it here is a picture of the trailer parked up for the winter. Which brings me onto the subject referred to in the title (apologies to Johnny Nash). Today the tractor with the hedgetrimmer came past and low and behold we can see more clearly now! This photograph was taken from the back doorstep. Dilly, one of our two resident whitey's dominates but is surrounded by the black girls and assorted others.

The other interesting thing this week was that I attended a presentation in Dorset by the South West TB Farm Advisory Service. What a very interesting couple of hours that was. There was a badger expert who gave a fascinating insight into the everyday life of the badger, it's habitat, it's feeding habits, it's breeding habits, basically everything you need to know about those stripey little buggers.
There was a talk by a vet from Animal Health who advised us on farm security and together with a veterinary pathologist gave us a very good insight into the current TB state in Camelids in the South West and the country as a whole. I can't stress how interesting it was, I actually paid attention the whole way through which is very rare for me!
One thing that came out in the figures (and I think everyone was surprised) was that although last year there were 16 NEW cases of TB in Camelids in the South West, this year, so far, there have been NO confirmed new cases in the south west and only ONE new case in the country. When I say 'confirmed' I mean confirmed by culture growth, or something like that.

Now I know that there is a long way to go and that vigilance must remain paramount but that is very good news as far as I am concerned.

Friday, 18 November 2011

The world is turning brown!

Yes, just in case anyone had forgotten I thought I would reiterate that I believe the future is bright and the future is brown. Not bright brown but rich, glorious,earthy, gorgeous brown. Hang on a minute what's this? Two blog postings in a week, the same week! I know, I know, what can I say, chores done and a couple of hours to go before I have to dress up and go to work so there was nothing else for it than to scoot out with the dogs and the camera into the deepest recesses of Patouland.

For your delectation a selection of Patou 'brownies' to peruse.
Firstly, probably the most important 'brownie' in the herd. The Mighty Qjori, who now aged 3 and a half, is really a very solidly built boy. He has changed so much since he arrived from Oz and I think he looks pretty darn marvellous. The anticipation for next years cria is something that you can touch here in Patouland. In fact the anticipation is so real we have had to put it in a box and stack it on top of the huge box of excitement. I just can't wait to see what the Big 'Un can produce. We have 14 girls carrying little Qjori cria so no pressure then!

Next up is the young pretender, Roger Resilient, who's development we are keeping a very close eye on. At 18 months old he is looking pretty good and his fleece is coming on very nicely. He obviously has some growing to do and we are interested to see what he can do in the ring next year. Him and Rafiki follow Qjori around quite a bit, I think there is a bit of hero worship going on.

And now for some girls, Patou Rosa was our first Columbus cria and will give birth next summer to the first Columbus/Qjori cria. Rosa herself is the spitting image of Clump, an eagerly awaited birth!

And for the future here is Spirit another Clump cria who is completely adorable. Always keen to rub noses and a complete favourite in Sue's books I don't think Spirit will be going anywhere. In the background are our two Collabear girls, Joy and Victoria.

Joy and Victoria are pictured here with Priscilla, all three have a degree of white fibre on them. All pregnant to Qjori it will be interesting to see what we get.

Now on to our most successful brown female to date, Millie. Daughter of Lily she is, in my book the closest we have to my perfect female alpaca. I just think she is utterly gorgeous and her Qjori cria next year is probably the one that I am most excited about.

So there we have it for today, some of our brownies, hang on what's this? A picture of a non brown alpaca?
A black alpaca? It appears to be a picture of my favourite alpaca in the whole wide world, Lily!
I wonder how that got there.

Monday, 14 November 2011

I have answered the call!

Right, the passage of time is ridiculous, I wake up on a Monday morning have a cup of tea and all of a sudden it's Thursday. I know the days are getting shorter in that it is getting dark just after lunch time but it seems like the days really are getting shorter, I mean less hours shorter, and everyone's writing is looking smaller but that just might be my failing eyesight. I have got to the stage now where my arm just isn't long enough for me to get my watch far enough away to get it into focus. What's that all about? Cosmo Smallpiece here we come!

Anyway, what's new here? Well last week I was called to arms. The call came and I had to respond. I have been draughted onto a committee! Never before have I been on a committee and there's probably a good reason for that. Committees are for grown ups, a status that I don't ever feel that I have ever achieved and to be honest I have never really tried to be one. Committees also have to attend Committee Meetings and that just doesn't sound good. Meetings are boring generally, long, boring and they make my brain ache. I have the attention span of a gnat these days and if there is a window with a country view to look out of that's where my eyes will be going at the slightest chance.

However, the call came and I am now part of the committee that is organising the Alpaca Show that will follow the World Alpaca Conference. It is being organised by SWAG members and will take place at The Hand Equestrian Centre near Bristol. The 2011 SWAG show was held there, it was a great weekend but there will be many changes made to how the show was organised. Lessons have been learned and it is set to be a cracker of a show.

We had our first meeting last week and after 3 and a half hours of jibber jabber I was actually quite excited and I wasn't quite expecting that.

We have also started weaning here, we have five cria in various states of wingey whineyness and five mums who don't really look like they are that bothered at all. Poor Sabrina (above) seems the worst affected and runs around a lot shouting. A few days and they will have settled and then it will be time for microchips, ear tags, registering and halter training. Plenty of work still to come and so little time!

Monday, 31 October 2011

Where did it go?

Yes people, where did the last three weeks go? Where? My last blogging effort was on the 12th of October! What? Tomorrow it will be November! Where have I been? Well I have been here and there of course but obviously I just haven't had the time to sit in front of the computer and post a blog. Inexcusable, but since we moved house we just don't seem to have any spare time. It is manic. Either that or I am now suffering unknowingly from Catatonic fits that last for hours at a time.

So a quick recap. Firstly we managed to get the large field shelter across and finally I rounded up a posse of splendid chaps who helped to rebuild it.
How many times was I asked why I hadn't marked all the pieces as I took the shed down? Well I just don't know but it seemed rather a lot and it was just starting to lose its humour value when the final roofing sheet went up.
The two chaps from Devon who built the shed two years ago managed to put it up in about three hours. I reckon, give or take a few hours, it took us three days. Largely, I know, as it was pointed out a few times, due to the fact that I didn't mark the pieces as it was taken apart, stupid boy. Lesson learned there.
Actually when we started to take it apart I thought 'Ooh should I mark the bits as they come off so we know where they go when it's time to rebuild?' Unfortunately I must have been distracted by a falling leaf or a bumblebee or something and that was that, the damage was done.

Anyway as a result if you look closely you can see that it isn't quite as....., well it isn't quite how it was meant to be..........if you see what I mean, and there are holes in the roof where the old screw holes didn't quite line up with the roof purlins............, but hey ho it's up and from a distance it looks marvellous!

So to today, Sue and I have the morning together, sadly the day job beckons me after lunch for an evening of Halloween japes, but we were able to do the morning rounds together. This way please Doctor Patou.

First it was across the road to the field split into three paddocks where we have 1) Columbus, 2) Qjori and his sidekicks Rafiki and Roger and 3) A group of females with cria who get to use the newly constructed shed.
Here are Bannock, Minstrel and Lily running up to the shed having been flaunting themselves cheekily in front of Columbus. Lily's turn of acceleration was so startlingly quick that her right ear simply blew off her head. Amazing. I now have it in a jar in the fridge.

The black girls on the run

And here they are with the others at the newly constructed shed, and no I did not take this photograph with a fisheye lens, the roof is slightly, how shall I say it,............ artistically set.

A slightly non-rectangular shed.

It was then a quick scuttle down the hill to Columbus for me as Sue went up the hill to see the Qjori gang. I had poop inspection duties to carry out. Herr Clumpmeister has been a bit off colour for a couple of days and yesterday he was voiding himself in a rather watery fashion. We gave him a shot of Noromectin yesterday and I was checking to see what effect it had taken. Clump is very much a creature of habit so I went to where the previous days liquidity had been (ok folks you may have guessed I just can't spell diarrhoea) and where it had been (Sue had cleared it up, or smeared it up one of the two) to my delight was a nice brown hand grenade and a bag of chocolate raisins. Splendid, that seems to have done the trick.

What is slighty concerning is that the herd was wormed about six weeks ago. I guess due to the ridiculously warm weather we may have to worm again. We will be collecting some samples this week for testing and so we should know where we are and what we need to administer.

We then went to Clumps pen in the corner of his field and looked across the lane to the other field. Obviously having seen, heard or smelled that it was feeding time the other girls had rounded themselves up and were waiting patiently. Clump's pen is in this corner of his field as he was spending most of his day there gazing lovingly at 'his girls', (he refuses to accept that most of them are now Qjori's girls), so we put up a pen in the corner, no rounding up required as he loves it there.

The view from Clump corner.

Safe in the knowledge that Clumpy is on the mend we headed across the lane to the other bunch. These are the fatties, the hardies, the 'we don't need a shed yet' brigade. A feisty bunch they are make no mistake.
This is nicely illustrated in the below picture as Sue is mugged as she goes through the gate.
There was a right old ding dong going on and Dilly (white, head in bucket) somehow ended up moments later standing looking sorry for herself with a droopy lip. She must have upset one of the 'Hair trigger spit monster family' who are all in this group. It does get a bit messy in there sometimes.
Actually the HTSM family, Priscilla, Bobby, Poppy and Penny are the equivalent of some sort of Mafia hit squad. They don't take any nonsense from anyone and Penny in particular is the expert exponent in the art of the pre-emptive strike. She will walk up to another alpaca and let loose with no noticeable provocation, she follows this up with a slighty maniacal stare that would melt marble and the 'hit' moves away wondering what the hell they did wrong.

A mugging caught on camera.

Finally, as Sue has just taken a plate of scones out of the oven which will obviously need tasting, is a picture of the scruffiest little alpaca in the herd. Patou Scout, son of Fifi and Columbus, is always wet, always muddy and always covered in detritus. Cute as a button, friendly as can be (he is from the 'Space Cadet family') he is a real favourite here.

Scout, a grubby little herbert.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Great Escape!

Time has passed and once again I find myself with enough time to sit at the laptop and rattle out a blog posting. I am now on days off after a seven day stretch at the day job which haven't been the easiest seven days I can tell you. You probably don't want to know and I do not require any sympathy but the 'bug' that I caught in the germpool that is 'The North' developed into something a lot more sinister and I am now a week into the most vile bout of gastro-enteritis that I have ever had. My days have to be very carefully planned out so that I am able to sit down frequently. On the bright side, I have lost nearly two stone in the last ten days and am a mere sliver of what I was last week (alright I am still a pretty darn large sliver) but I am going in the right direction and hopefully I will be able to use this as a springboard to silfdom. No doubt that this time next year I will barely visible to the naked eye.

Anyway, onwards to all things alpaca. The herd was very naughty yesterday, so naughty that I haven't quite decided what form the inevitable punishment will take.

Sue and I manage everything here between us, but most things are done 'solo'. Having the mighty herd, the dogs, the cats, the chickens and an eight and a half year old Jedi Knight to look after invariably means that when I am working Sue is not and vice versa. As a result certain things are handled by one or the other of us and we reunite in glorious harmony for the big jobs.
Well, yesterday was a day when I was flying solo at home. Not a lot to do, feeding went without a hitch, school drop off done, dogs walked, chickens released into the wild, breakfast thought about and then dismissed as a bad idea, you get the picture.
I then had to move a hay feeder from the boys field to the girls new field. I loaded it into the trailer and drove it round to the far side of the field where there is a gate with easy access. I then drove it into the middle of the field where there is a large Sycamore tree where the herd tends to gather, (see above picture). It was unloaded together with an extra half bale of hay which I put at the base of the tree. The massed ranks were already there and there was plenty of rolling and head rubbing and general happy behaviour that manifests itself when fresh hay is delivered. As you can see from the below picture Prisclla, Rosa and Reeya are tucking in.

Then I made a decision that perhaps with the benfit of hindsight was not the wisest decision I have ever made. Rather then exit via the gate I had entered by I decided to exit via the other gate at the bottom of the field which opens directly onto the lane that runs past our house. Next to this gate is a pen where we feed the herd and carry out any husbandry tasks. I drove down to the gate leaving the herd munching on their new hay. I opened the field gate which makes quite a loud screeching noise. I looked back at the herd who by now, although still fifty yards away, were now all staring at me with interest. This is when I should have shut the gate and left the field the way I came in, but no. I returned their stare and as they didn't move I got back into the Land Rover and drove through the narrow gate turning right into the lane. By the time I had sped back to shut the gate it was too late, the herd was moving through like some sort of fluffy liquid. I still can't quite believe how quickly they reached the gate. I couldn't cover both sides of the trailer and I couldn't shut the gate as I was trying to shoo some back in as a result within a minute the whole herd, all twenty five of them were in the lane. That wouldn't be so bad but what made it a million times worse was that half ran up the hill one way and half ran up the hill the other way!

At this point I stood there for a few seconds barely believing what I had done and frantically trying to reason with myself to find a solution to my problem. A few seconds later and all alpacas had disappeared from view. It was as if they had never been there in the first place, it was surreal!
I searched for someone, if for no other reason other than that I would have someone to look inredulously at but there was nobody around.

What happened next as I look back on it with a great hilarity (it wasn't funny at the time you understand) seems to have been reminiscent of some Benny Hill sketch. I ran to get a bucket and some food and headed off in one direction hoping that there were no cars about. I managed to get one bunch back past the field to join the others and then wedged the Land Rover and trailer across the road. There was then a long run up the hill to get beyond the by now very excited herd who were browsing the hedges and generally having a whale of a time. All the time the four boys were charging up and down the hedgeline on the other side of the road winding everybody up. It was almost as if they were encouraging the appalling behaviour, I must have a stern word with them later
To cut a long story short I finally managed to get them all back in, no casualties and no-one any the wiser.

The herd has received a severe talking to and do you know what? I don't think they paid the slightest bit of attention! Might as well have been talking to myself. But then maybe it's me that needs the talking too afterall?

Spirit, Scout and Sultana... I mean Sultan.

Sabrina and Lily.

Today I will be collecting Collabear Joy and Collabear Victoria, two females that we bought at auction six months ago. Again I am flying solo, I may just stay in the field until Sue gets home. 

Monday, 3 October 2011

Blah, blah blah

Ok, have been absent again. Je suis desole.

Quick update.

Girls moved onto fresh lush pasture.

Lily, eating the fresh lush pasture.

Two girls go down with something, obviously in pain. One has pneumonia (Baytril and multi-vits administered) One has bloat (some other drug administered, I don't remember what as I was at work).
The mighty herd, amongst the fresh lush pasture.

Both girls now doing much better.

Sahara (cria with breathing difficulties) now seems to be almost breathing normally, almost. Photograph taken from odd angle for some reason.

Fecal samples show herd is parasite free, we must be getting something right then!

Qjori is still rocking some females worlds as he tops 20 outside matings for the year.

I've been away for a 'boys weekend' in The Lake District, was hungover yesterday,  now feeling afflicted with some bug or other. Lemsip Max has been administered and shivers have been replaced with the sweats. Sausages and Ratatouille should sort that out.

Field shelter is now in the new field, in bits, posse required for reconstruction but day job is interfering.

All in all, everything appears well with the world.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Tired, happy, but now a bit fuming!

Ok so here I am again with what has become a weekly blog posting.
Actually I am in a bit of a mood as I write, in fact I have tried to shake off my ire but it is nestling within me like a bad prawn jalfrezi. I am hoping that writing this blog will be therapeutic and the act of committing some alpacaness to screen will calm me down. If not Sue will badger me into a good mood, she does that you know. It's like being attacked with a large tickle stick, only not with Ken Dodd on the other end of it.

Anyway the title of this particular posting starts with the word 'tired'. I am tired (maybe that's why I am in a strop?) because I was up at 4am to turn in at the day job. This morning at 6.47am precisely the sun rose in the east and caused something special to happen at Stonehenge. I don't know what, I don't much care. Suffice it to say that because of this 'event', known as the Autumn Equinox, several hundred people feel the need to go to Stonehenge and experience the sun coming up over the Heel stone or something and therefore someone like me has to be there in case someone does something silly. No-one did which was splendid, the sun rose, everyone went aah, or started chanting, job done. It was a beautiful morning so there was the screeching of tyres as I set off in search of a nice bacon butty. Marvellous. That's why I am tired.

Anyway the rest of the day flew past (pretty darn busy once the bacon had settled) and because of an early start I was blessed with an early finish. A dash home, a quick cuppa with Mrs S and then it was out into the field to bag a few photographs of the cria in their new paddock.

Here is a picture of some mighty alpaca cria. Aah. Now I almost feel like chanting.

A happy time spent lolloping around amongst the alpacas with the camera, snapping at will.
Now you may have noticed a cria in the above photograph wearing a coat. The reason for that is that the Mighty Patou Show Team has been selected. Yes, selected. Not just, 'Right everyone in who's eligible', no an actual real selection process has taken place here. There has obviously been some big disappointments and some jubilation along the way but all have now resigned themselves to their fate. I did make it clear that just because you haven't been shorn doesn't necessarily mean that you don't go to a show. It sort of gives them all a bit of hope, they bucked up a bit after that.

So, introductions. First up is Patou Sabrina. A full sister to Patou Ruby-May who did so well for us last year, mother Bobby (a Mateus girl) and father, Lillyfield Jack of Spades. Next to her on the right is little Sandstorm, he was a bit miffed to miss out on selection and was less than happy with the 'We don't do fawns' line.

Next is Patou Spirit, Sue's little favourite, mother Patou Fifi (a Wiracocha's Dream girl), father our boy Columbus, Herr Clumpmeister. Spirit is absolutely lovely.

So we've had the two girls, now to the two boys. Some of you may remember Sherwood, aka Woody, from an earlier posting when we almost lost him to a bad chest infection when he was about a week old. Well good old Woody is thriving (despite having  unresolved 'issues' with his mother) and is a very handsome chap with a cracking fleece. His mother is Patou Minstrel, a Jack of Spades girl and his father is Mr Clumpington (Columbus). Woody belongs to Angus, who is going to halter train him and lead him into the ring as a junior handler next year.

Lastly, but by no means least is Patou Sultan, not Sultana, Sultan. He is another Jack of Spades boy and his mother is Patou Penny, a Witness girl. He is the business (please ignore the badly hanging coat), I would actually say that he is the best that we have ever produced. He is a cracker. Watch out people, he's coming to a show ring near you next year. Be afraid, be very afraid, The Sultan, NOT Sultana, is going to cause a scene. Oh crikey now I've done it. Sultana, I mean Sultan also belongs to junior Patouman and will also be halter trained by him.

So there we have the happy but of the title.
Sadly the 'fuming' bit of the title will not be explained, Sue won't let me tell you. She's probably right.
Now where's that tickle stick?

Friday, 16 September 2011

Here we are.........back again!

So I am back with another of my incredibly regular blogs. I appreciate that some of you may have thought that I had fallen off my perch, been carted away by the nice men in white coats or just simply done a runner, well, I haven't. I'm still here and the Mighty Patou herd has settled very well into it's new surroundings thank you very much.
So what have we been up to? Well, plenty really but first a quick report on the Romsey Show.

What a splendid show it was! Expertly organised by Karen Oglesby and Nicki Hayton and very smoothly judged by Tim Hey. Even the rain held off and only chucked it down in the lunch break. It was the first ever alpaca show at Romsey and Karen promises me it will be bigger and better next year! I urge you all, if within striking range, to attend next year. It is a super one day agricultural show in splendid surroundings and a great day out. Suffice it to say that the Steele Family sampled many rather marvellous sausages on the day and came away loaded with bags of goodies, the 'Food Zone' was a very comfortable place to spend time!

We took three boys, the Roger Resilient, Rico and for his first ever outing Rafiki. Actually we completely forgot about halter training him and so we turned up on the day with Rafiki having spent the grand total of about two minutes on the halter! Should be interesting I thought.

Angus and I set off in the dark with the boys whilst Sue remained at home to sort out the dogs, chickens and the remaining members of the Patou herd, more on the 'problems' there in another posting. It was always going to be touch and go whether Sue would make it for the intermediate brown male class, with Roger and Rafiki in the same class I was going to need help. Help arrived, or so I thought in Trevor, father-in-law to the judge. Little did we know that he couldn't show as he was related to the judge, so he was refused entry to the ring. I was already in there with Roger so could do nothing. Rafiki was then passed to Jay Holland who in turn declared himself 'out' on the grounds that he was a judge and therefore unable to show animals, so it was left to Karen Oglesby to very kindly lead Rafiki in. Of course I was just waiting with relish for him to kick off but even with so little training he was perfect on the halter and looked fantastic!

Rico picked up a 2nd place in the intermediate black male class and then Reserve Champion black male. Roger was awarded 2nd place and Rafiki third in the intermediate brown male class, with Roger securing Reserve Champion brown male. A tidy little quota of rosettes and ribbons from our three boys, we were delighted.

Rafiki is becoming more and more of a character and I fear will be going nowhere, ever. He is destined to stay and keep Qjori company with Roger. We need to keep Roger too because when Qjori is away doing that thing that he does Rafiki will need company. We still have hopes for Roger anyway, he will be in next years show team.
Rafiki, as the below picture shows loves me dearly, especially my head. When you have very little hair, like what I do, you don't need an alpaca removing what is already there!

So to today which is one of those sad ones for us. This morning Sue and I will be delivering three young boys to their new home. They aren't going far, less than ten miles in fact, but they are still going and although we know they will be looked after very well by their new owners, it's always sad to see them go. They haven't been before you understand, it's not a regular thing for these boys to go, I mean it's sad to see any of them go. The departing three are the newly crowned Romsey Show Reserve Champion Black Male, Rico and his chums Rory and Fernando.

Patou Rico

Patou Rory

Tisbury Fernando

And so there we have a quick update. Tomorrow will be another sad one for us as four females depart Patouland headed for their new lives with their new owners. Again not too far away, 20 miles or so.
Sad though it may be, that's what it's all about I suppose.

Right must crack on, much to do!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

I know

Look, I know. I know it has been 9 days since my last posting and I should have put something on here by now but, by crikey, we've been flat out busy dawn till dusk every day.

Not only have we been moving house, full time employment has been ongoing also. A ten hour shift means a minimum of 11 hours away from home (did I mention the fact that my route to work is along the A303 which at the moment is full of sweaty city dwellers heading to or from their second homes in Devon or Cornwall?).
Well I'll be glad when they are all back ensconced in Notting Hill or Chelsea or Kensington or wherever else they have come from and we country folk (Oooh aaargh) can have our roads back!

Once I am home from work its back to the old house, we are still bringing stuff over, the house is now empty and the garden will be by the end of tomorrow but I haven't even touched the field. Sure the alpacas are here, the hay feeders are here, the troughs, water buckets and feed buckets are here but I have two field shelters still to dismantle, transport (somehow) and rebuild, plus I have a shed load of fencing and Wiltshire gates to dismantle. Not to mention tidying up the garden and clearing away general garden crap. It is absolutely amazing how much 'crap' one family can accumulate in 6 years!

As well as all that stuff we are in the middle of the busiest alpaca time I think we have ever had. Now don't get me wrong I am not complaining it just all takes time! Qjori has been doing his thing all over the place as the number of 'booked' outside matings reaches twenty. We have people wanting to buy alpacas, in fact we have just about sold all that were available for sale (that all takes time) and we have the Romsey Show next weekend.

Not only all that but Me, Sue and Angus have just been out in torrential rain giving injections to a poorly alpaca, and there's a chicken roasting in the oven!

So, I apologise, I have been slacking, I promise to return soon with pictures and everything, there is so much to tell!

Friday, 26 August 2011

Here we are!!!!!!!!!

Finally after much debate with my new best friend, Ranjit from New Delhi, we have been reconnected to broadband!
What a past 10 days we have had!
To cut a long and very tiring story short we moved in last Friday with The woofters (Josh and Kira). One cat (Belle) joined us on Sunday, the other cat Sebastian was captured on Monday swiftly followed by the chickens, Lulu and Doodle.

The mighty herd, meanwhile, gathered it's collective haunches in preparation for the big move. They knew something was up.

First of all there was much fencing to finish off, fields to top and a lot of general running around like headless chickens, however, late on Tuesday afternoon we were ready.

Four trips in the Mighty Herd Transportation Pod and we were all reunited, three humans, two dogs, two chickens, two cats and 39 alpacas and I can safely say that we all ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT HERE!!!!!!!!!!! (Well the cats and chickens will once they have been released from their respective cages.)

We have a really lovely stone cottage, a super garden and at least 10 acres of lush green alpaca grazing on our doorstep!

We had loved living at Chicksgrove but this is something else, it is simply wonderful.

Not only that but since we have been here I have spent the day at the Gillingham and Shaftesbury Show and two days ago we met a lovely family who have just chosen their three females from the massed ranks of the Patou herd to form their own brand new alpaca herd.

It has literally been non stop for us all and I am rattling around today trying to get stuff done before the day job grabs me again this afternoon.

Right that's enough from me I have to go and stand outside and laugh for a couple of minutes, no reason for it, just really feel like doing it!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

The Twilight Zone!

The big move has begun and tonight is our final night here in Chicksgrove. Tomorrow we will be moving the heavy stuff 3 miles down the road to the new Headquarters of The Mighty Patou.
I need one more clear day of fencing and then we can start moving the herd. Forty one alpacas, 5 or 6 trips with the trailer should do it.
There are no pictures with todays blog entry as we are without computers until BT get all the wires connected. This will also be a short blog as my sausage like fingers jab ponderously at the keyboard of my Blackberry.
In fact I've had enough already.
Next post will be when Broadband is connected.

Now, it must be time for a glass of Vino Collapso!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The eye of the storm.

There is a strange feeling of calm here in Patouland. We have gone from the frenzied all guns blazing attack of searching for somewhere that would accommodate us all to the annoying period whereby we wait until we are given the green light to move in. There are so many things that need to be done and so many of those things that need to be done can't be done until something else is done, if you get my drift.

In true Patou style (or is it just me) having said that we would never move ourselves again, we are doing the move ourselves, with a little help from friends and family of course. The beauty is that we have two weeks in which to move. Of course it won't be enough time, there is undoubtedly going to be a mad panic towards the end, there always is with us. Did I tell you about the time we went to Gatwick to catch a plane somewhere (obviously) arrived three hours early and still very nearly missed the plane? No? The look on that woman's face when we hi-jacked her buggy thing was priceless. Perhaps another time but believe me when I say that we can always subconsciously engineer a last minute rush.

However, annual leave has been requested and people and equipment are on stand-by.

The alpacas, as you might suspect, are completely oblivious and are lounging around doing very little, as usual.
I had a trip out this morning with Qjori to meet a couple of ladies at Reddingvale and upon my return there were alpacas crashed out everywhere. Sometimes I wish I was an animal. Take Josh, our chocolate Lab, what a life he has! He is walked at least twice a day, fed twice a day and spends the rest of the time lying about without having to give a second thought about upsetting anyone by farting or burping. As I write this he is spaced out under the table and the unpleasant odour of fermented and digested alpaca poop is gently wafting up from under his tail. Not a care in the world. Sometimes I am deeply envious.

Anyway, alpaca pictures, a must in every blog, so here are some that I have taken this morning.

Little Sandstorm, he who should have been a brown girl, is first. He is a little Jack boy and has the most splendid head in the field.

Next is a barely conscious Sebulba, dried milky chops and a yawny floppy head, really stressed that boy.

Then the darling of the herd, Spirit. Her mother Polly was originally for sale but once we saw her little Columbus girl she was immediately removed. Spirit is a little cracker and I thnk Sue's favourite. They are both going to be with us for a while I reckon.

Here is Sahara nibbling at some grass, still a worry, still acting completely normally apart from her breathing which may or may not have improved. It is hard to tell but Sue and I both think it has a little.

These fluffy bums belong to Sabrina (left) and Saracen, I crept up behind them to see if I could hear what the were talking about and I was a bit dissappointed really. Grass. How much grass do you eat type thing, very dull but I suppose what else would they talk about? I left them to it.

Sienna, who probably takes the prize for the most elegant cria this year is caught nibbling her foot. She even makes that look elegant.

So there we have it for today. We are now off to measure some fences. The new land is divided up into paddocks but only with post and rail fencing. The land used to accommodate horses and two rails certainly isn't going to keep alpacas apart. There is work to do as I said but before that there is inevitably much preparation to fanny about with.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Finally a probable diagnosis!

We have had a busy couple of days here in Patouland and yesterday was not only busy but very, very interesting. You may remember that Patou Sahara (pictured below) had been suffering from some form of respiratory problems which initially was diagnosed as a possible hole in the heart coupled with pneumonia.

Yesterday I raced home from work so that we could load up Sahara, her mother Dilly and the unilateral calming influence here at Patou, Dee. We all headed off to Endell Vets Equine Hospital just outside Salisbury so that Sahara could have a chest x-ray to see if we could get to the bottom of her problem. We had been treating her with Nuflor for two weeks with no percieved effect. As a result of the lack of improvement I feared the worst, an inoperable hole in the heart, bad prognosis.

We arrived, unloaded and then literally pushed the girls into the x-ray room (they really are getting far too comfortable around us). Before the first x-ray there was much stethoscope action whilst two vets listened to Sahara's chest. Harsh lung sounds but no sign of a heart murmur. Interesting, that was good news.
The first x-ray revealed a normal size heart, a normal abdomen, diaphragm, stomach and lungs. All normal looking, nothing obvious. A second x-ray was taken from the other side and then a third from a different angle. They then took an x-ray from Dee for comparison purposes as they had never taken a chest x-ray of an alpaca before. Dee's chest was bigger, obviously, but looked exactly the same as Sahara's.

Basically everything looked normal and healthy. We had ruled out a chest infection, a heart problem, a perforated diaphragm and any sort of congenital defect in the chest area.
The vets then took blood and analysed it while we waited. Blood results showed no signs of bacterial infection. A PCV level of 14% was a surprise and is still unexplained (it should be higher). We will be seeking more advice on that today.

After much head scratching and summarising the vets came up with a probable diagnosis, Diaphragmatic Paralysis caused by degeneration of the phrenic nerve. Now, Sue had already been researching this on the internet and mentioned it to the vet, who had also been researching it on the internet prior to our arrival. Everything else seems to have been ruled out. There is little known about this rare condition. There is much speculation as to it's cause and not much known about how to treat it. It can be a fatal condition and there doesn't appear that we can do much other than to wait and see what happens. Sahara has a lot in her favour though. She is big, strong and otherwise very healthy. She continues to grow and apart from the breathing problem is thriving. We hope, and believe that it will stand her in good stead. We are feeling very positive about the future.

So, this rare condition. It may well be worth taking a note of the symptoms as it may crop up somewhere else. Lugholes back, here is what we know.

Sahara was a big healthy cria weighing in at over 10 kilos at birth. The birth (first time mum) was normal and she grew very well. In short everything looked normal. She showed the first signs of respiratory problems at 6 weeks of age. By this time she had almost doubled in weight and had been doing very well. The breathing problem was manifested by the abdominal muscles visibly doing the work of compressing the lungs. It was very easy to see from a distance. Her stomach was contracting inwards and upwards in time with her breathing. This was accompanied by flaring of the nostrils. Otherwise she carried on as normal. She was still playing with the other cria but could not sustain it for long. Her temperature was normal, physically she was normal and she was feeding and grazing as you would expect a six week old cria to do.

The vet listened to her lungs and heart. Initially he detected a heart murmur and 'crackly' lungs. She was given an anti-inflammatory (Finadyne) and a course of (anti-biotics) Nuflor. Neither had an discernible effect. She has now been breathing like this for two weeks. It hasn't got any worse, in fact I think it has improved slightly, everso slightly. She continues to behave normally, she does not appear to be in any form of distress, she seems happy and healthy, apart from the breathing, she is, and I know I have overused this word, normal.

We will give her a shot of Vitesel (Selenium/Vitamin E)) today as there is a theory that it may help. Other than that it is very much a wait and see situation, with fingers crossed.

Right, that's it, I'm off, we are walking our new fields this morning, very exciting, more on that later in the week.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

New village invasion planned

Right, I have about 15 minutes to blog before the day job drags me kicking and screaming through the front door. It really is getting in the way at the moment, don't they know that I HAVE THINGS TO DO!!!

I have started to write a blog posting several times in the last week without success, not one finished, this one may not even get finished, in which case I am once more talking (or writing) to myself. The last attempt was written when I did have time for a quick posting. I wrote the blog and then fell asleep as I was reading it back prior to posting. I wasn't tired you understand it was just so bloody boring!
Anyway, here is an another attempt with news from the home of the Mighty Patou Tribe.

Patou Sahara is still having breathing problems, she may have improved slightly but she should have improved a lot more. We are sadly fearing the worst. Later this week we will be taking her to the Equine Hospital in Salisbury for a chest x-ray to see if we can find out exactly what is wrong with her. We can then plan what treatment is possible, if any. We are trying to be positive but realistically her prospects are not good. We will see.

The second piece of news is that by the end of this month the massed ranks of the Mighty Patou will have upped sticks and moved on. Yes folks we have located a lovely stone cottage 2.8 miles away in the beautiful picturesque hamlet of Ridge, just outside Chilmark and have signed the papers. I have even spoken to BT about Broadband connection which is possible and should be quicker than it is here, which wouldn't be difficult, I think I can run faster than the download speeds here and that is not a joke.

We have spoken to the local sheep farmer, who happens to be a friend of ours and he has said we can have enough grazing land to accommodate us all. I will be having a site meeting (well a field meeting really) with him later today to finalise exactly where we will be grazing, I mean I won't be grazing, they will, the alpacas.

So mixed news, everyone else is in peak condition and all the cria are continuing to impress as they grow at a fabulously good rate.

Here is a picture of two of them, Spirit and Scout who will no doubt be part of the Patou show team next year.

Right, time is up, breakfast and then I am off.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Patouland update.

Finally I have a few minutes in which to whack out a blog posting. Things are pretty hectic around here and stress levels are visibly building.

Our house hunt continues and my complete lack of faith in most letting agents grows steadily. I don't honestly know how some agents around here ever let out anything, to anyone, they are complete muppets.
I think if you are a professional couple with no children and have never owned an animal of any sort (or never even thought about owning an animal) you are in luck, but if there is the merest whiff of animals the snottograph goes off the scale and we are practically escorted off the premises.
That said we do have several things in the offing and fingers crossed there may be some news on a property soon.

In the meantime we are very worried about one of our cria. Patou Sahara, who is one of the biggest healthiest looking cria here, has a problem.
Last week I noticed that she was having trouble breathing. She was flaring her nostrils and using her abdomen muscles to seemingly pump air in and out. The vet was summoned and two things were discovered. Firstly. she has a crackly chest indicating an infection in her lungs. Secondly, and more worrying is the presence of a heart murmur, indicating a hole in the heart. The vet has been back after a healthy dose of Nuflor was administered and the murmur does not seem as bad. She still has the crackly chest and she has had another dose of Nuflor.
The vet has two theories. That she has caught pneumonia (there is a lot of it about apparently) and the infection and the strain of breathing heavily has caused the heart murmur. The second theory is that she has a hole in her heart that has in turn contributed to the chest infection.
Apart from her breathing difficulties she is acting absolutely normally. She runs around, she feeds well, she behaves as do the other cria, she is just blowing like a steam train all the time. We will have to wait and see if the Nuflor clears up the infection and then see what's what with the heart murmur. It is worrying, I don't like it.

Here is Sahara nose to nose with her mother as you can see she looks the picture of health. Moments before I took this photograph she felled one of the smaller cria with a mighty headbutt.

Our two newest cria, Sienna (right) and Sebulba (left) continue to thrive, as do the rest and apart from Sahara the herd is in fine fettle, the grass must be good at the moment as some of the thinner girls are really chunking up now. Positively lardy some of them.

Qjori is working well with over 20 conquests so far, but someone is still here, waiting for the phone to ring!


Thursday, 14 July 2011

Columbus - mudslinger for hire.

Sue and I have been discussing what to do about Columbus, Herr Clumpmeister, The Clump.
The problem we have is that we now have eleven of his progeny here and we happen to think they are rather good. Just looking at colour alone he has given us eight brown cria and three medium to dark fawn cria. Now that may not sound like much until you consider the colour of the mothers. Out of those eleven cria four of the mothers are white, two are black, two are medium fawn and only three are brown. The brown cria are all exactly the same colour as The Clump. In my book that is pretty impressive. We asked him to produce us good looking brown cria and he did.
Our problem, and believe me we have discussed this subject in depth, is should we use him again this summer?

Our plan at the beginning of the year was to use Qjori over everyone and following his hugely successful show season we really want to stick to giving him as much opportunity to stamp his mark upon the Mighty Patou Herd. As a result he has already covered fifteen of our females and most of them are now spitting off quite spectacularly.

Our discussions have caused us to stick to our original plan and use Qjori over all our females this year, regardless of how good any of Columbus's cria are. So we have decided to offer up Columbus for lease for the remainder of the summer if anyone wants to inject a really good brown colour into their herd.

I don't quite know how to market him, I think we ummed and aaaahhed about it for too long and a magazine advert would just be too late. We are probably too late anyway but it seems a shame for him to be standing there watching it all go on without contributing.

So, his progeny have been well publicised in this blog over the last few weeks, they are here in Patouland for all to see, they are a very good advert for what Columbus can achieve.

We only showed Columbus once, last year at the Royal Bath and West Show. He was awarded first place in the senior brown male class, which given that he was the only senior brown male was pretty much a given, we knew he was good. However, what stuck in my mind that day was what the judge, Nick Harrington-Smith, said about old Clumpy. I listen to Nick, he knows a thing or two about alpacas.
Nick invited the audience to look at Columbus and observe how 'beautifully balanced' he was. He also went on to say that he was 'fine, dense' and a 'very, very good brown male'. It's funny what sticks in your mind, those words, from one of the top alpaca judges in the world, have stuck with me. It made me feel immensely proud.

Anyway, moving on. Columbus can be seen on our website or here in Patouland in the flesh. The nuts and bolts of it is that for £1,500 he can be leased for the remainder of the summer and used over as many females as you like.

So there we have it, I am using the blog to promote Herr Clumpmeister. If I am met with a wall of stony silence then so be it. If no-one takes up this offer though I will be screaming 'What the bloody hell's the matter with you all!!!'