Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Looking at the bigger picture.

Sue and I have been talking again, I know, in a marriage it can be dangerous, but still, we have been and gone and had another conversation.

You may remember a previous blog posting whereby I was facing extreme danger and yet was still thinking about whether to take a pregnant female to the Futurity next month. The female in question was Reeya, at the time of the show she would be 8 and a half months pregnant. We discussed it and ultimately I entered her into the show.
Since then it has been gnawing away at me day and night. Was it the right decision? Was it in her best interests or mine? Obviously it is not the ideal way for her to spend time in the last three months of her pregnancy. Today, after another conversation, that decision has been reversed. It is as if a great weight has lifted. I knew deep down that it was the wrong thing to do for Reeya. She is carrying precious cargo, a Qjori cria and everything must be done to ensure its safe arrival here on planet earth.

But in some way I feel that I must try and justify why I wanted to take beautiful Reeya to the Futurity.
This afternoon we took some fleece shots and once you see them you may understand why, for a few days, I put the search for glory ahead of her welfare. She would probably have coped without a problem, she is a lovely calm girl, but, if anything had happened I would never have forgiven myself.

Nice eh? 

So the rest of the team have a lot to live up to and today we have been out halter training again.
Angus and Woody are coming along marvellously, they are forming a bond and it is wonderful to watch. Woody, is such a calm, quiet little fellow and Angus chats to him the whole time like he is his best friend.
In the background is Woody's father, Herr Clumpernickle.

As Reeya was removed from the show team we needed a replacement. Step forward Patou Sabrina, full sister to the mighty and awesome Ruby May who did so well for us last year. Sabrina has been a slow starter but her fleece has changed dramatically over the last couple of weeks. Not only that but she is utterly gorgeous, as is Mrs S!

The other weanling in the team is young Sultana, a lovely little brown boy who was in the wettest paddock over winter, as such the fleece on the bottom of his legs has disappeared. The rest of it though is rather lovely.

So there you have it, an update from Patouland. The shows are approaching we, collectively, are girding our loins. Bring it on people. We are nearly ready!

Monday, 27 February 2012

It has begun

This weekend we finally got our halter training underway. Not only that but we moved all the youngsters into our 'weaning paddock'. It's the first time they have all been together for a while and it was lovely to see them reacquainting themselves. We have left three adult females in with them on 'Matron duty' to make sure all is well. The pictures aren't fabulous but look at the beautiful sea of colour! What a veritable spectacular vision of brown!

From left to right for your information is: Sahara, Dilly (White, Matron No1), Sebulba, Skye, Saracen, Scout, Sandstorm, Spirit, Sirrocco, Sherwood, Sabrina (black), Sultana, I mean Sultan and Reeya (Matron No2).

I have no other pictures to post. I did take the camera with me but as we set off with the first four weaners on their first tour of the field (more of a drag actually) things didn't quite go to plan.
Sue led the way with Skye and Sabrina who were both doing remarkably well, they are both calm alpacas. Angus was next in line with Woody (Sherwood) who is the chosen one for Angus's foray into the world of Junior handler later in the year. Both Angus and Woody were great, a couple of minor 'throw downs' but generally Woody got the hang of it quickly. 
I was bringing up the rear which was where I intended to take the photographs from. But, I had chosen (they made me do it) to halter train Sirrocco and Sirrocco had other ideas.
For Sirrocco is the latest in the line of the 'hair trigger spit monster family'. Her mother, grandmother, great grandmother and Aunt are all complete and utter monsters. It is always a wrestling match when dealing with any of them with spit and feet flying with a great deal of recklessness. Sirrocco, bless her for she does not know what she does, is no different. Despite my gentle words of encouragement, all manner of soothing noises and very sympathetic haltering manner Sirrocco glared at me with murderous intent as she spat and flung herself round the field. She is such a sweet looking girl as you can see below. She is the one staring directly at the camera, still muttering all sorts of alpaca swear words and wishing ancient debilitating pox ridden curses upon me.

We will be trying again today when Angus gets home from school and I hope we will see some progress!

Right down to business. This morning, in my capacity as organising committee member for the Alpaca 2012 Show, I have been sending out e-mails.
The Alpaca 2012 Show (14th/15th April, The Hand Equestrian Centre, Clevedon) is set to be a fantastic  event. Coming two days after the World Alpaca Conference it has the potential to have the biggest audience of overseas visitors ever amassed in this country. Organised by the South West Alpaca Group (www.swagroup.co.uk) we are hoping for a big turn out from breeders in the South West and the rest of the UK. 

Anyway, my job on the committee is to organise the advertising in the show catalogue. A job, I think you will agree, that requires precision, technique, experience, dedication and a whole lot of other skills, all of which I possess in massive and complete abundance. Or not, maybe.

It is going to be an A4 sized Full Colour Glossy Catalogue and the rates are thus: Quarter page - £35, Half page - £60 and Full Page - £100. How's about that for a bargain. 

If you haven't received an e-mail from me and you are interested please e-mail me patoualpacas@aol.com or ring me on 07880542260 and I will furnish you with the details.

Don't be shy now, I am aiming for a finished catalogue at least an inch thick!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Going through the change!

There was some talk on the blogs about how fleeces change as alpacas grow and it got me thinking about who has changed the most in our herd. I think it is probably Rafiki.

Rafiki was born at 7.15pm on the 12th of June 2010. I remember it well because it was my birthday and we had a garden full of friends who had been filling up with beer and wine since lunchtime. It was Tracey Hey who, ever observant, (and one of the few sober guests), mentioned that one of the alpacas was behaving strangely. This was Bannock, one of our founding females and mother to my favourite alpaca in the whole wide world, Lily.
She was 363 days pregnant and we had been watching her for weeks. She was indeed behaving strangely and it became quickly obvious that she was going to give birth. This was marvellous news as I could now provide evening entertainment for all my city slicker townie friends who had never seen anything with four legs give birth. I went to have a look and as a large fawn head appeared I was finding my disappointment hard to hide. Bannock, black as the Ace of Spades had been mated to Jack of Spades and a black female had been ordered, not a fawn!
The cria was huge and Bannock required some help to give birth to our heaviest ever cria, weighing in at 11 kilograms. Not only was the cria fawn, but the cria was a male. Exactly what we didn't want. However, no matter what colour or sex, all cria are treated equally here and after a shot of Oxytocin for Bannock (it was getting late) we made sure the big fellow was feeding well. He had masses of fleece and it was long, in fact to me initially he looked like a Suri.

Here he is the following day, as you can see he was big and strong. It's funny because my memories of him as a cria was of him being a big ugly cria but looking at the photographs it appears that my memories are incorrect. He appeared to be handsome all the way through!

At three months old he was growing into the big nose that he developed soon after birth. He still had masses of long straight suri like fleece but was rapidly becoming a favourite in the herd.

At four months of age he was already over 35 kilos and was developing a lovely friendly character. With his 'odd' fleece he was destined one day to be a lovely pet for someone.

He continued to grow nicely and so did his fleece, he had more than any other cria.

At 11 months of age, Rafiki was a huge bundle of fluff but by now his fleece had changed. It was now crimp from the skin to the tips. It was a mess but it was full of crimp. This was when we started to wonder if we had been a little hasty to write him off as a pet quality male.

When he was shorn a very handsome light brown male was unveiled! It was the surprise of the day. What a transformation! Not only that but his fleece stats were one of the best in the whole herd. Very interesting.

We gave him a run out at the Romsey show last year, a short fleece show, it was last minute decision and there was no halter training at all. We just put it on and off we went. We have never done that before. He is just so calm and friendly. Here he is with Roger Resilient, they were 2nd and 3rd in the intermediate brown male class.

Again at the show, one of my favourite pictures of Rafiki, such a handsome boy! (Please allow for some degree of Patou biaise!)

To bring the transformation bang up to date I have just been out in the mud and drizzle to take a photograph of the big 'un. It is not a very flattering picture I'm afraid but he is one of those alpacas who is always too close to photograph. He just will not stay away! Here he is on the left standing next to Qjori, who he is petrified of. One look from Qjori and the tail goes up and he squeaks!

So there we have it, 20 months in the life of Patou Rafiki (he who should have been a she, a black she). Against all expectations he has made it into this years show team and will be having his first outing at The Futurity in a few weeks time.

If you are going why not come over and say hello to Rafiki, he loves nose to nose contact and likes nibbling!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Man time!


Last week was school half term week and coincidentally I was off for most of the week too (Woop woop!). Anyway this meant that it was a good week for me and Number 1 son, Angus, to spend some quality time together (actually he is number two son as well, we don't have a spare).
So at precisely 9.01am on Thursday morning we set off from Tisbury, in rural South Wiltshire, on the train to London Waterloo. Our ultimate destination; The Natural History Museum.
Now I don't know about you but if there is one place in the world that makes me feel like a complete and utter country bumpkin it is good old London town.
It wasn't a good start. As we left Tisbury station we were standing. There were no empty seats on the train. Some people got off at Salisbury (the next stop) and we managed to bag the seats in the bit by the doors before the droves waiting to get on did so. Not the most comfortable seats on the train but we remained there, me with the Daily Telegraph and Gus with his DSi, until Clapham, when numb bum cheeks and stiff knees got me, and the boy, upright.
We negotiated our way through the masses at Waterloo Station and were very excited when we realised that the coin operated entry to the toilets was broken! We could piss for free, just like at home!
A black cab then swooped us across London to the Natural History Museum which I hadn't been to since a school trip about 35 years ago! I don't know who was more excited, me or Gus! En route we passed the house of Parliament, The London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Harrods and loads of other central London stuff. Our cab driver, realising we were not from London, gave us a guided tour on route, what a gent!
When we arrived at the Natural History Musuem our hearts sank as we saw the queue to get in. There was a queue to get into the queue! However, fortunately and very surprisingly the queue was rather fast moving and we soon approached the grand entrance to the museum. It was at this point that I looked down, I was wearing my hiking boots (anticipating a lot of walking), a rather nice pair of Scarpa's. These boots, rather than my wellies, have been worn a lot recently to feed the alpacas when the ground has been frozen and when I looked down I could see a few bits of straw sticking out at right angles. I obviously picked up this detritus when I went into the barn and trod in some alpaca 'droppings' amongst the straw, it must have then dried hard within the tread of my boots.

I looked around and no-one seemed to be watching me so I trod on the ends of the straw with my other boot and stepped forward. By this time we had reached the entrance.
As Gus and I walked through the doors I looked back and could see, there on the pavement outside the most visited museum in the greatest city in the world, a small clump of Patou Alpaca Poop! We had left our mark!

Here are some pictures of our trip.

Gus pointing out exactly where we were in the guidebook.

An elephant and me, yes I am the one at the front!

The blue whale, a favourite of ours was photographed from every angle, it was huge!

The dinosaur collection was the star attraction for us and was amazing!

A 'bigbadripyourarmsoffasaurus' or something like that

This was a real giraffe that followed us everywhere!

Buckingham Palace, flag up the pole, the Queen was in. We nearly stopped for a coffee!

A large statue, emnbarrassingly I don't know what it is nor where it was.

So there we are that's what we get up to sometimes!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

My return

I apologise for my blogging silence but I have been busy on important 'day job' business for the past few weeks. The force have finally fully utilised my unique skill set by sending me deep undercover. For the past couple of weeks I have been Felicity Maitland, a 14 year old girl attending a mixed grammar school in South Wiltshire, as I investigated a serious tuck shop fraud. Whilst 'on plot' I stumbled across a deeply disturbing underworld of gobstopper dealing and sherbert dip pushing. Whilst infiltrating this mercillous gang I was introduced to and became seriously addicted to Pear Drops.
Naturally I was extricated before things got too out of control and before I was compromised. I then spent a week in Sweet addiction rehab where I was made to eat nothing but sour fruit and mouldy biscuits. Last night I managed to complete my tunnelling and made it across the wire in the early hours of this morning where I have apparently (looking at what I have just typed) drunk too much coffee!

Anyway, enough of that nonsense. This afternoon I have been out photographing members of the mighty Patou Herd. This time though, instead of parading for you the Mighty Show Team I am allowing you access to those members of the herd that haven't quite made it into the team but are nonetheless simply gorgeous.

Here for instance is the heavenly Patou Rosa, a beautiful light brown Columbus girl. Sadly she didn't fall pregnant last summer so will be canoodling with Qjori a little later in the year.

Here is one of the walking haystacks, Patou Scout, as cute as a button and as untidy as a 9 year old boy's bedroom (yes, I can speak with some authority on that subject!).

Another of the mobile hayblobs is Patou Sebulba, devilishly handsome and a complete ringer of his father Herr Clumpmeister.

Next a challenge. Is it possible to be any cuter than sweet little Spirit? I don't think so. Another Clump girl with a great look. Seriously, she is going to be a real stunner when she grows up.

Now for something really special, Patou Reeya, darling of the herd, a Jack of Spades girl due to give birth to a Qjori baby in June. If I could have 100 Reeyas I would be a very happy man! (She has made it into the show team for the Futurity only)

And now for something completely different! Two muppets behind a gate.

Right thats it I'm off, I have to draw a picture of a yellow horse wearing a stetson for strange man who is visiting me this afternoon, otherwise he'll be angry and he'll make me do things I really am not comfortable with.

Note to self: No more coffee.