Wednesday, 28 March 2012

A lazy sunny day

I have just finished a stretch of late evening shifts which all ended between midnight and 4am, which is a stupid time to finish work in my book. No lie-ins allowed, due to the school run, and plenty of chores to get on with before setting off again for another late shift. 
But today is the first of two days off so I am having a lazy day in the sun.
I'll be 50 next year and these late finishing shifts really take a cumulative toll on me. In short, I'm knackered. I am looking forward to an evening meal that I can eat with a spoon, a large whisky and an early night. Nine o'Clock should do it. Tomorrow I have a very busy day planned and my batteries will have to be fully recharged.

So taking advantage of the glorious weather I took the hounds and the camera out with me to do the rounds. Dee, currently 334 days preggers was not looking remotely like having a cria so I sat down some distance away from the first group, a mixture of male and female weaners and two adult females, Dee and Dilly. I connected the zoom lens and took some pictures at long range.

Here is Patou Spirit looking positively gorgeous in the sunshine. She is a cracking looking Columbus girl and I am very excited about the prospect of arranging a date with Qjori later in the year. I can almost see the result in my mind. Fantastic!

Next up is little Patou Sherwood, rosette winner at the Futurity and another Columbus cria. He is the chosen one. He will be going into the ring with Angus in the junior handler events later in the year.

I then walked up the hill to the paddock which contained the big boys and four of the little boys.
I took a seat in with me and positioned myself a good distance away to get some of those marvellous long distance shots when the alpacas sort of forget you are there. As I put my seat down I turned round and found a small gathering had materialised behind me. I had to change back to the close range lens to take this next picture!  From left to right we have Roger Resilient, Scout, Saracen, Sebulba and Sandstorm. What a bunch of muppets.

Sandstorm then insisted that I take a photograph of him as he did his best fluffy rabbit impression.

Patou Scout, (yet another Clump boy) with a ridiculous amount of head fleece. Very deep eye holes had to be cut a week or so ago so he could see where he was going.

Whilst I was there amongst the boys, who all (bar one) came over to say hello, I became very aware of the grown up in the field (the one who didn't lower himself to come over and say hello). 
Pacing a short distance away, watching everything that went on in his field and beyond was the big 'un. 
Qjori has grown into quite an imposing presence in the 19 months that he has been in Patouland. He has packed on so much density of bone and a whole heap of muscle. In fact I don't think I have seen a more solid male anywhere. This is going to sound silly but sometimes when I am watching him patrolling around his field with all and sundry paying homage to him and responding to his every glance or movement, I actually get goose bumps. He is so impressive, so dominating in the field, such a Macho. God I love that boy.

Van Diemen Qjori of Patou - utterly magnificent.

Friday, 23 March 2012

And then there was a 5.

Today the lovely Mrs Steele and I have been out doing alpaca stuff pretty much all day. Which is marvellous. It was a positively summery 17C this afternoon and as a result whilst I was handling some of the more 'difficult' alpacas (the hair-trigger spit monster family basically) it all became a little hot and sweaty. For me, not them. Not for Mrs S either who was with pen and paper as chief record keeper!

As we have some boggy patches in our fields we were treating the whole herd with Fasinex to combat the risk of Liver-fluke problems. I have recently stocked up on drugs from the vet and with the Baycox Bovis came a multi-dose drenching gun, a freebie! I just love getting stuff for free and as I didn't actually have a multi-doser I was like a child with a new toy. It is brilliant! Made drenching a lot quicker and a lot less hassle. No doubt the price of the Baycox has gone up to compensate but we haven't been invoiced yet so fiddly dee!

Whilst drenching everyone we were also carrying out our routine checks to make sure the herd is healthy and also to see how they coped coming through winter. Condition scoring is something that we do at least once a month and enables us to hopefully get the heads up if someone is not well.

Well for one thing the herd has come through the winter extremely well, in fact just about the whole herd has come out of winter fatter than they were when we went into it. I fear we may have been slightly over feeding!
I suppose the previous two winters have been long and cold and we didn't adjust for the relatively mild winter that we have just had.

We use the 1-5 scale of condition scoring and I am happy if everyone scores around the 3.5 to 4 mark. However, this year we have large proportion weighing in at 4.5 and we have one, who has become our first ever 5! The tubster is Patou Rosa, our first Columbus girl and a big favourite in the herd (especially with Sue). She doesn't look particularly overweight but when you get your hands on her you realise that you could park a pint of ale on her backbone with no danger of it slipping off! She is on restricted diet (as in grass only) from now on!

Patou Rosa, (or 5 as I now call her) is rather lovely with a fabulously soft fleece.

Mmm perhaps her fringe needs a trim?

Whilst I was out there with the wide angle lens (ooh how cruel!) I took a couple of other pictures.
Here is Fifi, another one of the 'never to be sold clan'.

 And finally here is Victoria, who has seemingly recovered from the loss of her little brown boy last week. Such a shame.

Right enough of this drivel I have to go, I have to plan tactics for the Alpaca 2012 show. With 340 entries I may have to resort to subterfuge and a certain amount of clever trickery. Could always just take some mind bending drugs with me I suppose?

Monday, 19 March 2012

Where have all the staircases gone?

I hate big hotels, absolutely detest them. Stuffy, hot, claustrophobic, impersonal things full of far too many people. The bounciest beds in the world, the tiniest bins, old televisions, deafening kettles and little packets of everything, everywhere. Thousands of uniformed members of staff robotically doing their best to make our stay 'pleasant' and 'stress free'. Oh, and no stairs, just lifts with mirrored walls. When did all the staircases disappear? 
We got a letter in our room from the manager telling us that he had good news for us. The good news was that the bedroom televisions were being upgraded and replaced. Good news? No, not really, because ours hadn't been upgraded. Everybody inside our ancient television was only an inch and a half wide but nine feet tall, everybody. Why tell us that effectively we had been forgotten and missed out on the 'upgrade'. It was a blatant and annoying way of rubbing our noses in some bad news. And another thing, breakfast time. Why, for instance, would you have to queue up so that you could be asked by a woman what room we you in so that she would then know who we were. She then asks another lady to walk us five paces to a table and offer us some orange juice before she tells us where the buffet is and points to table with more orange juice on it. It annoyed me. I don't know why but it did. 

Anyhow, we were in a hotel (it was a Hilton if you're interested) because we were attending The British Alpaca Futurity at something called the NEC.

So to the show, how did it go? Well it was the biggest and best Futurity so far with nearly 450 alpacas entered and the quality of those alpacas was right up there with any in the world. Winning rosettes was tough but with a show team of five we were delighted to come away with four rosettes.

We took a fifth place rosette in the junior black female class with Sabrina which was a great surprise considering she was a late substitution for Reeya.

We took a sixth place rosette in the junior brown male class with lovely little Woody, a Columbus boy. The judge commented on the lack of fleece that he had (he was cria shorn) so I am predicting that he will do better in later shows. 

In the intermediate brown male class we had Roger Resilient who took the fourth place rosette and Rafiki who took third place. Not only that but Rafiki took the unofficial title of the tallest alpaca in the show. 

Even Val Fullerlove commented that she could look him straight in the eye. He was a bit mischievous too and Sue  had a bit of a job keeping him under control, much to the amusement of a group of northern folk!

We are very happy with the results we got and enjoyed the show immensely. However, it may have appeared to some that at the time I wasn't as happy with our results as I am now declaring. 
Allow me to explain.

As soon as the show team was selected I have been fighting with myself.

I have been attempting to keep my feet on the ground and not get carried away with my imaginings. Sadly I have once again failed miserably, its the same every year. At night I find myself dreaming about the team
winning everything. 
When I am awake I am constantly day dreaming about the team winning everything despite trying to stop myself. No matter how hard I try I just can't see anything other than a clean sweep of first places. It is really, really irritating. I even tell people that we won't do well but secretly inside I am picturing myself surrounded by ribbons and rosettes. Seriously, second place never even enters my head!

As a result I am always disappointed if we don't get awarded first place (and I'm sure that I'm not alone). 

It is only when I sit back and think about what we have done, after I have gone round and looked at the
alpacas that have beaten us that I can say be satisfied with our results. And let's not forget there were several show teams at the futurity that were almost double the size of the entire Patou herd!

So we return to fight another day, very proud of our little team, our Mighty little Patou Show team! 

Now to the next show, Alpaca 2012 in a few weeks at The Hand Equestrian Centre. I am already planning complete domination!

Oh yeah, and we're not moving to France anymore....................apparently we're moving to Northumberland!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

A Qjori cria - the first.

With a title like that you might expect good news. However, this is a sad posting I'm afraid.
It will also be rather short. I am not in the mood.

Collabear Victoria who we bought last year at auction gave birth this afternoon prematurely.
The cria born after 311 days gestation weighed in at 6.18 kilos and showed all the signs expected of a premature cria. He was born alive but died shortly after despite Sue's best efforts to resuscitate him.

Looking at the one positive we can say that he is a gorgeous solid dark brown colour and apart from the prematurity aspect he is perfectly formed. We have spoken to the vet, bearing in mind the Schmallenberg virus, but he is of the opinion that it is just 'one of those things'.

Not a good start to the birthing season. 

Saturday, 10 March 2012

An old Chinese woman- I wish she was here now.

Many years ago when I was about six years old I moved, with my family, to live in Hong Kong. I was there because my father, who was an officer in the British Army, had been posted to a remote barracks near the Chinese border. He was in command of several hundred Gurkhas, the fiercely loyal, feared, admired and efficient soldiers from Nepal, high up in the Himalayas. My father used to say that any one of the Gurkha soldiers under his command could creep up behind you and tie your shoe laces together without you knowing. If you did happen to realise what was going on the Gurkha was quite happy to slit your throat before you could complain.
Actually I remember very little about the three years we spent as a family living in the New Territories. 

There are certain memories though that are as vivid in my mind now as they were forty plus years ago.

I remember for instance the night I heard a noise at the window of my bedroom and upon investigating discovered a fully grown Cobra staring at me through the wire mesh that separated him, or her, from me. 
I also remember the day when me and my father trekked through the woods up a steep hill to look down upon the Chinese border guards patrolling the barbed wire fence that separated the state, province, or country of Hong Kong from the massive and scary communist country that was China. 
I also remember the Chinese women squatting to do their business in the gutter and the fact that everyone seemed to spit colourfully all of the time. I can remember the night time in Hong Kong harbour and the evening we spent on a floating restaurant. I remember the guilt I felt having been asked to pick the fish that would be cooked for me to eat which was happily swimming in a basket hanging from the side of the floating restaurant. I remember pointing at a beautiful fish glistening with vibrancy and life swimming in that basket only then to see it being speared by the chinaman who had asked, unknowingly to me as a small boy, to condemn it do death.

However, perhaps the most vivid memory that I have of those three years spent living in Hong Kong is the memory of an old woman called Ah King. Ah King lived with us as an Amah (forgive me if the spelling is incorrect) and that meant that she looked after me and my sister, cooked, cleaned and did other domestic chores. 
Being Chinese, with their preference for male children, I soon became her favourite. I was the only one in the family who was frequently invited into Ah King's living quarters which were in the basement. Whilst there she used to cook me Chinese delicacies and teach me how to count in Mandarin, a feat I can still manage today after all these years. 

But there was another thing that Ah King used to teach me that I have never revealed to anyone. I have never revealed this to anyone because I have never been able to carry out the teachings that Ah King had passed onto me. Late in the evening she used to teach me the ancient Chinese art of mind control. Not only mind control, that would be hard enough, but the art of controlling a living being through another living being. 

It is something that I have attempted many, many times in the past 40 years without success. The amount of times that I have felt totally in control of one of the dogs to such an extent that I feel that I can, through them, perform mind control over another living thing have been numerous but each time I have been unsuccessful,  

Sure, mind control over one animal is easy. This I can do without a a problem. The thing I have been striving for over the years on an almost daily basis is to control one animal using another animal as the conduit. It is incredibly difficult and it is, according to Ah King, something only possible to very few 'chosen' people. To be honest I doubted that I would ever be able to master this highly individualistic and specialist skill. 

However, today, I can reveal that for the first time I have finally mastered the art of ' Bah flung shmoc'.

The following two photographs, which have not been doctored in any way, were taken in one of our paddocks today. The young alpaca in the photograph is an 8 month old male weanling called Saracen. I have been working with Saracen over the last six months. Saracen was assessed by me at an early age using the ancient Chinese art of 'Bi-tchi'. This is the way of deducing whether an animal has the ability to channel forceful and manipulative thoughts and to project those thoughts with sufficient power onto another being to cause a dramatic affect. Saracen is the first animal that I have come across to possess these extremely rare abilities. He is a very powerful little alpaca.

I will say no more other than to ask you to view the following two photographs. The first depicts Saracen in the final stages of 'Bah flung shmoc'. Walking past Saracen is Josh, our lovely chocolate Labrador. I am standing a short distance away channelling my thoughts towards Josh, through Saracen. In short I have control of Saracen's mind and I am attempting to control Josh via Saracen. 

Between the two photographs I fall to my knees as the stress of keeping up the state of 'Bah flung shmoc' for well over an hour take their toll. To be honest I didn't know for sure if Saracen could pull it off. I had been 'channelling' one specific thought to Josh, via Saracen, over and over. The thought command I was passing to Saracen was 'Fall over dog'. I was on the verge of giving up when the most amazing thing happened. 

You can see for yourself in the second picture that we were successful. I now need to sleep, so does Saracen. Josh is already asleep.