Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Right to the Heart of England.

Ok, so it's time to put chubby fingers to keyboard and type up a new blog entry.
It has been a busy couple of weeks and in particular a busy weekend at the Heart of England Alpaca Fiesta.
I had never been to this show before due to work commitments but now as my world has changed it has become a work commitment in itself! How very convenient!
I had selected a new show team with three unshown weanlings in it, the two grey boys, Wasimba and Vickery and brown youngster, Umberto. I have only got a small trailer and wanted to see how some others got on. The only remaining member of the team was Tsar and he was joined by Talisker in the intermediate brown category.
As usual I set off with high hopes, my highly competitive nature leading to a three hour trip dreaming of victory in the ring.
In fact, at one point, driving through the Cotswolds, near Stow, I found myself laughing almost hysterically as I mentally pictured myself surrounded by people all trying to get a look at a Patou fleece as I stood draped in all the big prizes. "Oh please, no, it was nothing, seriously I don't know how it happened. Right, form an orderly queue and I'll let you have a peek"
I know it's ridiculous to always have such high expectations but I just can't help it, I try not to but I can't! I suppose it's better than travelling up thinking I am going to come last in every class? Maybe I am too optimistic for my own good? Ah, well, tough, think big, travel fast and take risks!!

 Patou Vickery                                              Patou Wasimba

On arrival there was some luxury accommodation to organise. As I was 'flying solo' there was no need for a hotel. A tent, a barbecue and a cool-box was all that was required. I had agreed to team up with His Lordship Timothy Twinkletoes of Inca as far as accommodation was concerned but when we surveyed the soaking wet campsite at Stoneleigh, in the pouring rain, a campsite suddenly wasn't that appealing. A joint decision was made to strike camp in the shed next to the show hall. A wise choice indeed as it was a rather wet weekend. It was also good being at the heart of things, albeit in what in effect was a large garage. In case you were wondering, there was a shower block nearby.

So, how did we get on? Well, I managed to secure the handling services of the Silver Fox himself, Trevor Selby, collector of many grey alpaca related rosettes, as a handler for the junior grey male class. Vickery and Wasimba were in a highly competitive line up so I gave Vickery to Trevor, (thinking that Wasimba was a bit denser, I sensed glory for myself) and I was very pleased with a 3rd and 4th place.
The Silver Fox, rather too smugly for my liking, took the third place rosette with Vickers. Mmm, what do I know anyway?
The judge, Cathy Lloyd, said some very nice things about them both and they will stay in the show team for the rest of the season.

Umberto and I then did 'the walk of shame', together, heads held high. And.......... move on.

It was then Tsar and Talisker time and having fired Trevor, for being too much of  a glory hunter, I took on Karen, from Amiryck, as a handler. I figured Karen would be much more professional and stick to the script. I had asked her to lead Talisker and I took in Tsar (again, I reckoned on Tsar being better than Talisker, therefore more glory for me). Thankfully this time my new recruit didn't get ideas above her station like her father (Trevor) and she took the fifth place rosette, a respectable one spot behind Tsar. No photos of this one, I suspect Trevor was too busy publicising his slippery performance in the grey class.

And, as is the case when you are only showing darkies, it was all over. I was then able to bask in other peoples glory and talk to fellow exhibitors. I had decided to look at as many alpacas as possible to try and gauge how far we were behind the best and how we could improve. It was all very interesting and thought provoking. In fact it was too much for little Wasimba, who, exhausted after his exploits, nose dived into a sleeping Talisker and went to sleep himself.

The following day was lights and whites day, or something like that, they all looked the same anyway.
So I continued looking at and feeling (in a good way) other peoples alpacas. It was very nice to see some good people doing well with their alpacas, no names, this is my blog!

When I got home I chatted to Sue about what I had seen and felt and where I figured we were in the grand scheme of things. And do you know what? I think we are doing alright.
Stand by folks I feel that I am getting my serious typing fingers out!
We spoke about our breeding plans and the fact that we had stuck to our guns with using dark colours in order to build predictable pedigrees, producing animals that we are confident will produce dark progeny. For instance we have never produced an alpaca lighter in colour than a medium fawn. Having looked at alpacas in all colours at the show I could see that the style of our fleece is more akin to the fleece on the black alpaca. The black alpaca that comes, as we do, from the 'dark side'.
There were some amazingly dense, fancy, twirly, crinkly almost tendril-like fleeces that looked and felt fantastic, and certainly the alpacas that finished above the Patou boys had better fleeces, prettier fleeces, finer fleeces than our boys, I know because I looked at some of them.
But, showing alpacas, after all, is not what it is all about. It is great fun, it is a great way to see where you are and it is a very important place to be to see what everyone else is doing and without it, breeding alpacas would be a lot less interesting and a lot less fun! However, breeding alpacas consistently with the fleece attributes and colours required by the fibre processors is what it is all about, and I think that we are on our way to doing that.

Crikey, after all that pontificating my head hurts!

Everything is still growing like the clappers and as I sit here in the kitchen with a wet bottom (this time courtesy of getting caught in a thunderous downpour) I can notice the visible difference from when I left on Friday.
Yesterday I took this picture of the pregnant females framed by a stunning carpet of bluebells. By the way, anyone seeing two white females and suggesting that we bred them would be wrong, they were given to us and have only produced coloured cria since they arrived!

Right, enough of that, I have things to do, next weekend I am travelling with a slightly different and larger show team to Ardingly for the South of England Show. On the way there I will seriously try not to imagine world domination!  


Unknown said...

Congratulations Mark. I wanted to have a look at the grey team but when ever I went to your pen I couldn't find you. Now I know why...you were in someone else's pen looking at theirs!

I totally agree if you set yourself a breeding plan, and through assessment evaluate your goals and stick to your guns...you will go far!

Good luck next weekend and what a view to enjoy in the meantime.

Rosemary said...

What a lovely blog, Mark!
Congratulations and very best wishes for the next show!