Tuesday 30 December 2008

All's well

Today has been a better day, thankfully after aborting her pregnancy last night Alice passed the plasenta over night. I had her shut in with one of her friends Angelus, just to make sure all was ok as it took her a little while to pass it. To be honest I think they both enjoyed filling their necks on hay all night!

Alice is none the worse for her ordeal yesterday and has been running the fence line clucking at Golden Guinea who is a couple of fields away. It really does amazing me how they can be so keen on boys so quickly after giving birth - must be mad!

I have had the preliminary post-mortem report back from the vets on the cria that died last week and there were no obvious reasons for the death. The final report should be back later in the week.

On a much brighter note, regular readers will recall that I had said it wouldn't be long before Aria would be eating from my hand. Well today she eat from my mums hand, she had to fight her way in because Angelus thinks that she is the only one entitled to hand feed at the minute.

Monday 29 December 2008

Ever get the feeling somebody has it in for you?

Just when you are already feeling things are not going your way, why it is something else comes along to slap you in the face.

This evening, one of our girls decided that for some reason she was going to go into labour, at six months gestation. I'd gone down to feed and noticed that after having her tea one went to lay down and just looked uncomfortable. She sat on one side and stuck her legs out, but when I wandered over she moved on and looked ok.

Then shortly after she was sat down again, I thought maybe she had a touch of tummy ache or colic. I was just about to go over again when I noticed as she lifted her tail her back end was slightly distended and she soon wandered over to strain over the dung heap. It was then obvious that she was actually in labour.

At six months there was really no way the cria was going to be viable but I sent mum back to the house to get the birthing kit just in case. Sadly just over half an hour later she gave birth to a stillborn tiny baby boy.

Hopefully after a year of not very nice luck for not only us but a few of our friends we are certainly hoping for much happier times next year.

Sunday 28 December 2008

Making the most of the weather

Hopefully everyone had a good Christmas and Santa was kind to you all. Paul & I got some excellent walkie talkies which will be a great help when one of us is in the paddock - they have been very handy to order cups of tea from my dad over the past few days too!

Despite the festive period we still have lots of jobs to get on with, and with the weather being dry for a number of days now we have certainly made the most of it.

The whole herd have had their vitamin AD&E paste which is vital at this time of year. Some are much easier to deal with than others, Gabby and Loki love it and would happily eat the whole tube given half a chance. Then you get others who think you are trying to poison them so injectable AD&E will be required there. If I can give it in paste form I would rather do than that give them an injection, but on occasions an injection is either best or the only way to ensure they get it.

I did every one's nails too, that was 256 nails to check and almost of all them needed a little trim or in some cases a lot of a trim. Again some animals are more co-operative than others, Blossom & Kate are always difficult and all of the boys are very well behaved. Kate takes her spite out of everyone else and was spitting at anyone that came within a few yards so in the end we had to put her out.

It is amazing how much some animals change, when we first got Willow she was an absolute nightmare to try and cut her nails but she now tolerates it well, albeit usually whimpers and sits down. Angelus, one of the pregnant females we have for sale, is another that was very nervous when we first got her, she completely trusts me now and she stood quite happily whilst we did everything that was needed. She was the first of the sales girls to eat from my hand.

Alice is another of the 'sales team' who has gained enough confidence to eat from my hand, I'm sure Aria won't be much longer either before she is eating from my hand. Another of the sales team Molly is looking very pregnant. She is pregnant to EP Accoyo Remarque and only has about 12 weeks to go now. She will be the first of our births next year unless she has gone to her new home before then. Molly, her sister Millie and their friend Aria would make starter herd, all are pregnant and are due to birth early in the spring.

Tuesday 23 December 2008

A sad day at Barnacre

This morning the realisation of what happened last night was beginning to hit home. We lost a female cria, all very sudden with no real warning.

When I went into the field yesterday morning I thought that she had spent the night on her own, still asleep away from the main herd. However she got up, albeit a little stiff, and went and had a drink of milk from mum and had her usual good appetite at the trough. I checked on her on a number of occasions during the day and she was happily munching on the grass.

The herd are due their AD&E vitamins so I gave her hers a couple of days early just to be on the safe side. Everyone else will get theirs at the weekend - I can't manage the likes of Blossom on my own, and I hid the tube from Gabby who loves the stuff (If you've not seen it there is a photo of her taking it on the photos page of the website http://www.barnacre-alpacas.co.uk/page_1172869167515.html ).

She had tea with everyone else and all seemed to be fine. But for some reason last night after dark, I decided that we should go and check that she'd not been left on her own to go to sleep. She had and things were not at all good, shortly after the poor little thing died in my arms. Not a very nice experience at all, and not one I ever want to repeat. I am currently awaiting the results of the postmortem.

On a much brighter note everyone else is full of the joys of a sunny winters day - obviously hoping that Santa will bring them something nice.

Sunday 21 December 2008

Fantastic fleeces

The winds have continued to be strong the last couple of days, but all our hard work in the recent field shelter construction obviously paid off because all are still standing and still have roofs!

The good thing about the winds mean things are drying off, including the alpacas which is nice. We have been able to admire some fleeces - seems a while since we were able to do that on fully dry animals. Legend of Spartacus really stands out, the brightness and crimp in his fleece is fantastic and goes from head to toe. I really can't wait until the spring to get him working on our girls.

Gianmarco's Masterpeice also has a superb fleece which is very different in character to Legends. Loki is also showing great promise, he is still only 18 months old so time will tell if he will go on to work for us. Golden Guinea is in a seperate stud field so he missed out the on inspection.

We then moved into the girls field, Chiquita's fleece just blows me away. Every time I look at it I am amazed at it's brightness and the uniform crimp running through it. We only have four months to wait for her mum Willow to have her next cria so fingers crossed it will be as impressive as Chiquita.

Friday 19 December 2008

The wind and rain returns

My word what a difference a day makes, the cold, rain and wind are back. In fact is is very very windy, I can hear things banging about outside that shouldn't be banging!

As the weather has turned the herd have headed back into the shelters. They are very predictable, slightest bit of cold and Mary heads in, closely followed by Duchess and her cria Mallika, then go the Ozzy girls and so on. If you set a camera up I'm sure I'd be able to get most of the entry order correct.

The weanlings seem a bit happier today, Barnaby decided he would have some tea today which was good. Since they have been weaned only Sienna and Aodhfin had been eating the supplement so it was nice to see Barnaby tucking in again. Whilst the three of them were eating their tea, Lualeni and Horatio where chasing round the paddock like mad things, then we had a lovely pronking display. It is the first time I'd seen Lualeni 'pronking' she never quite seemed to get the hang of it before now.

Thursday 18 December 2008

Grateful maure collectors

This morning we had visitors, new manure collectors, it's great to see how pleased people get over paca poo! The were pleased to get to meet the generous providers of said muck - Horatio enjoyed a bit of attention.

Talking of the babies they are all going ok without their mums milk, although they are still quite vocal. Their mums have already moved on and appear to have forgotten about their babies already. Nefertiti is the only one who seems to be at a bit of a loss without her daughter.

I had had a delivery of the worlds largest round bale!!! Alan,our farmer friends obviously saw me finishing off the last bale yesterday and deposited in it's place was a fresh one this morning. He's great, it saves me having to store them. As regular readers will remember I had a garage full of the rectangular ones back in the late summer. How quick they vanish in this weather though.

I know exactly who the main culprits are. I have a few of, what Rob from Wellground would call rotund, whilst the Patou man Mark would say Lardy girls. Particularly Little Miss Irraquoy who may as well move into the hay manger she is there so much. I have a couple of girls who could do with some of her bulk as being pregnant and feeding cria is taking it's toll on their condition score.

The last minute shoppers are still out there I have had a couple of phone calls today plus an on line sale so it's off the the post office for me in the morning. I bet that will be a long queue!

Wednesday 17 December 2008

I braved Tesco

I thought that I'd better pluck up the courage to brave Tesco this morning, it was manic, I dread to think what it will be like next week. They are only shut for one day for heavens sake! The lady on the checkout was saying that they'd had to call the police because there were two people fighting over the last large turkey, can you believe it!

I spent the afternoon cleaning paddocks again, I'd much rather do that than go to Tesco that's for sure. However at the rate the muck collection is growing I'll build a wall to Tesco!!

My mum makes a fantastic Christmas cake, and this year is no exception, we have a Barnacre Alpacas Christmas cake. I've not seen it in the flesh, or should I say icing yet, but here is a photo. Doesn't it look great - thanks mum it must have taken you hours.

Tuesday 16 December 2008

Golden Guinea is happy again

This morning was a morning of major cleaning. The weather has been either wet or snowing for days, I've not been able to get out with the paddock cleaner and the fields were in need of cleaning.

First was the sales girls old field, I have put them in with the main herd now over winter as the main herd have a much larger paddock with more grass. It has to be said they are much messier than the other groups so theirs is always the worst to clean!

Over three hours later I'd done two stud fields and the girls and needed a cup of tea! I now have a mountain of muck but thankfully have a new collector coming on Thursday - hopefully with a very big car boot.

Since moving the sales team Guinea has been missing his girls, so I have moved him up a field. He is now closer, but not to close, to his beloved girls. He is such a character I love him to bits. I let him have a munch in one of the channels whilst I was cleaning the stud field he came out of which he liked. He went to say hello to Imala who is still looking for Aodhfin; Imala soon told him what for - she's holding her pregnancy then!!

Monday 15 December 2008

Poor little babies

My poor little (or not so little) babies are missing their mummy's. I hate weaning time, a necessary evil though and I know they will soon get over it.

I do find it amazing how very brave youngsters turn into not at all brave humming weanlings the minute they are taken from mum. Even Horatio is not happy and looking for his mum to cuddle up to. It is nice that they see me as the mother figure, all five come running the minute they see me clucking away, Aodhfin is glued to me, I'm sure he would climb in my pocket if he could. Even Sienna who wouldn't normally come within six feet of you unless absolutely necessary is my friend.

Thankfully, as I expected Horatio took everyone into the field shelter last night and they snuggled up to the hay - it's the next best thing to mum you know!

The mums, with the exception of Mary who was far too interested in the freshly filled hay mangers, went back to the gate to look for their babies after breakfast. They soon moved on to eating though, so no worries there.

Sunday 14 December 2008

The nasty lady

I feel like the nasty lady today, we have weaned the first batch of this years cria today. It's a job I really don't like doing, I remember how much I missed my mum when I moved away!!

As I expected the girls made the most noise, Lualeni and Sienna didn't want to leave their mummy's. It was also the two girls mums who were the most concerned by their daughters being taken away. We have also weaned Horatio, Barnaby and Aodhfin who were slightly less bothered initially. I'm sure Mary will miss Horatio tonight as they always snuggle up close.

The cria have gone back into one of the paddocks behind the house for a week or so, so that I can keep a close eye on them. They were happy munching the nice grass when we first put them in there but by mid afternoon they had remembered that they wanted some milk and were all humming away. Lualeni and Aodhfin were chasing round looking for their mums. Aodhfin came to see if I had any milk when I went to give them their tea, having checked round my legs he thought he would try my nose.

By the time it was the main herds tea time the respective mums had all seemed to have forgotten they had youngsters this morning. They can all now concentrate on the babies growing inside them.

We have finally got the roof on the additional shelter we were building. It is now fully function albeit still needing a few finishing touches. With the very short days and Paul working all hours I'm not quite sure when said final touches will get done.

Saturday 13 December 2008

Snowing again!

Can you believe it, I've just opened the door for Twiggy (one of the cats) to answer a call of nature and we have about an inch of snow! It's been absolutely chucking it down with rain all day, there are rivers running all over the fields and now we have snow.

Roll on Spring!

I think the whole herd are living in their respective shelters constantly as this afternoon when we went to feed everyone all the shelters were rather dirty, so after another night in them with no one stepping outside in the snow they wont be very pleasant in the morning - first job cleaning shelters then!

Angelus, one of the Ozzie girls we have for sale, has finally plucked up the courage to eat from my hand. She has been thinking about it for a little while now but at last she taken the final step and done it. It's good because it allows me to give her that bit extra as she has lost a bit of condition with feeding her very demanding cria and also being pregnant again. Her cria, affectionately known as Munchkin will be weaned soon, so that should also help.

Thursday 11 December 2008

Page 3 model

No not that page three! Hughie and I have made page three of this weeks Morpeth Herald, we also got a mention on the front page. It's quite a good article even if I do say so myself. It talks about Barnacre Alpacas and alpaca farming as a solution to the credit crunch.

I had to drive into Morpeth today to deliver some knitwear that had been ordered, I walked round waiting for somebody to ask for my autograph; but alas there were no requests!

Wednesday 10 December 2008

BAS Wall Planner

We have just received the BAS Wall planner which we placed an advertisement on, so there will be a fair few posties who will have had a laugh at Chiquita and I would have been looking back at them through the plastic packaging.

Ours will have pride of place in the utility, with all the girls due dates marked on there. I work out every ones individual average gestation period which so far has worked well for us. With the exception of Gabby who hung on much longer this year than she has done in the past!

I have been doing some much needed paddock cleaning today, the ground was still frozen though so it wasn't the easiest job in the world scraping up poo which was welded to the ground! Needs must.

We have an enormous mountain of manure at the minute, so I think I will have to put another advert on freecycle to all those keen gardeners as the regulars are struggling to keep up. It's a great way to get rid of it and helps out the local veggie growers too.

Monday 8 December 2008

The Christmas rush

We have had a fantastic run on the shop over the past couple of weeks, so much so there is very little stock left. Great news for us as it proves what fantastic garments we are producing and how very sought after they are, not so great news for those of you with your shopping left to do. Don't delay get in there quick to avoid disappointment.

I have also taken a couple of orders which will clear out all the remaining earthen brown yarn, this was a one off mix so will never be repeated. There are the last few bits of brown in the shop but once they've gone they've gone.

I had to hit the dreaded shopping centre today to get the last few bits I needed, I really don't enjoy it these days. I'd much rather be at home with the animals!

Sunday 7 December 2008

Time with the animals at last

We had nothing booked in today so we planned to get on with building another shelter; yes I know we're always building, but when you rotate fields and in the wet horrible weather you can never have enough!

We still have frozen snow on the fields, in fact our little lane is a sheet of compact snow and ice in places so it wasn't the best weather for it. It was nice to be working with the inspection team on patrol; Blossom, Horatio, Ursula and Imala to name the front row. They now have sides but no roof yet. I need to go and get a bracket as we are one short for some reason so we came to a premature halt.

With all our Christmas fairs over and done with now, hopefully I will have a bit more time to get prepared for Christmas at home and do some ironing, I have to have the biggest ironing mountain the world has ever seen!!

Saturday 6 December 2008

Morpeth Farmers Market

Up and out early again today, Paul has had to get up earlier the last few weekends than he has during the week (and he doesn't like getting up)!

I did wonder if we would managed to get the trailer off the drive this morning as we still have the snow which has then froze, it was like sheet ice. We knew that once we got to the main roads it was OK but we were very careful and very slow but we got there without any issues - other than passing the gritter lorry down one of the little country lanes. It was worth it because he's been gritting.

The animals certainly went down well, as one would expect Hughie was in his element especially when the cameras came out. As you will see from the video clip a local reporter took he didn't miss out on any photo opportunity. Don't laugh at me, I hate doing things like this - public speaking is Paul's job!


It was a good day all in all and we were very grateful for all the people who complimented us on our animals and finished goods. With plenty of warm clothes on and my alpaca hat I didn't feel cold at all, I even had to take my hat off at one point.

Legend and Gianmarco's Masterpiece were glad to see Hughie and Loki back this evening, I'm sure Marky thinks that every time somebody leave the field it means this have a 'business appointment' if you get my meaning (!!), he doesn't like to think someone else is serving his ladies :-)

Friday 5 December 2008

The snow remains

Well despite the weather forecasters saying the snow would be gone by today we still have it here, the animals are munching their way through loads of hay and getting all excited when the uncover a bit of grass.

Oonagh has been rather naughty today or last night, not sure when. For whatever reason, she decided that she preferred the look of the shelter in the field next door - probably due to the hay I had stored in there in case of more blizzards this morning. She had somehow jumped the fence that has kept everyone in since the word dot, I could see her footprints in the snow and it looked like a clear jump and perfect landing.

I put her back where she belonged and gave her a good telling off, she was still in the right place this afternoon so fingers crossed it was a one off.

I've been having a chat with another journalist today, that's two in three days; we're in demand! We are taking the boys and our knitwear to the Morpeth Farmers Market tomorrow and the local newspaper were interested. You can read the article : http://www.morpethherald.co.uk/news/Angerton-alpacas-bound-for-Morpeth.4765952.jp

Thursday 4 December 2008

Life's too short

I had a really sad phone call this morning, a lovely man I used to work with died of a massive heart attack last night. He was only 53, and leaves behind a wife and three daughters, my thoughts go out to them. It really does make me feel so grateful that I was able to follow my dream and pursue something I felt very passionate about. I have become a great believer in the saying 'life's to short', so take a chance.

On the subject of taking a chance, nobody this morning wanted to take the chance of getting covered in snow! As I had predicted to Paul before he left for work Mary, Horatio, Ursula, Geena and Gaussian didn't even leave the shelter for their breakfast. They preferred to hang on in the hope of waitress service - they know me too well!!!

By the time the snow had stopped this afternoon everybody did pluck up the courage to venture out and I was able to snap a couple of shots.

Gaussian managed to find himself a patch of grass to guard.

As you can imagine with most of the grass under snow we have gone through a tremendous amount of hay today. I seem to have spent all day filling mangers and hay nets.

The on line shop continues to attract sales, so I got some wrapping and packing to do. Although I'm not sure I will be able to get to the post office tomorrow. DHL were supposed to be coming to collect a parcel today but couldn't make it through to snow!

This was the view from my study.

Wednesday 3 December 2008

All change and Mary gets excited

We woke to snow still this morning, in fact we had had another light sprinkling over night. Most of the alpacas were in the shelters, well with the exception of the main herd who were all sat in the snow!

Mary seemed cold again, so I decided that I would swap everyone round before the heavy snow arrives that is forecast tonight. The sales girls stayed where they were, but all the boys moved to make way for the girls. Hughie, Loki, Legend & Marky have much better sheltering facilities (until we finish the last large shelter in the girls field) and I know Mary has been dying to get back into their shelter - they used that field last winter.

Golden Guinea had to move first, I don't trust him next to Ursula, he seems to remember that she gave him a good time and he is somewhat obsessed with her and tries to get over the fence when he can see her! He is now in the sales teams resting paddock with the other boys in the stud field next to him.

As usual everyone got very excited exploring their new fields, the cria were very taken with the lambs in the neighbouring field which pleased Mia! Poor Gaussian got left behind when the stampede began into the new field. He is far from bright bless him and needed some encouragement to go through the gate.

Tuesday 2 December 2008

Another wintery morning

We got up to a covering of snow again this morning, it had fallen on the already sheet ice so it was treacherous.

Mary seemed to be feeling the cold, not that it stopped her wanting her breakfast. I think she remembered it was the day for her cream and she didn't fancy it. She's pretty good really, I'm trying 'Stop it' cream on her bald patches to see if it works. If it does I will try it on Duchess too. Thankfully Mary is quite cooperative and I manage to do it on my own in the open field. Surprising what the promise of a little extra food will do!

The hay consumption is on the increase again, I don't think they have seen the grass without thick frost or snow on it for well over a week now. The sales team virtually live in their shelter or snuggled round the hay manger, they are so predictable. Angelus' cria temporarily named Munchkin is getting very friendly with me. She comes to say hello every day now and we exchange a little nose nuzzle and hum.

Talking of the sales team we recently got the fleece stats back for Katia. Her second fleece was a very impressive 21.1 micron (SD 3.7 & CV 17.7), with fleece stats like that and with her first cria due in May she would be a fantastic addition to anyone looking for quality alpacas.

Monday 1 December 2008

November record

Having been at the Hexham Christmas fair over the weekend and all the preparation involved I don't seem to have found time to do the routine jobs for ages. So this morning I've been doing some catching up.

The good news is that November was our best month yet for sales, with the fair and the online orders coming through the stocks are going down so get in there soon for your Christmas presents before we sell out of your favourite items.

The second bit of good news, just over a week after Barnaby was brave enough to try the camelibre supplement we feed the herd he's decided he loved it. Today he was the first one to the troughs and was helping Duchess clear up long after everyone else had moved off!

After the weekend off from the knitting I have picked up the needles again this evening. we have a stall at the Morpeth Farmers Market this weekend, so thought I'd get at least some gloves done. We are also taking along Hughie and Loki to show people where the knitwear and jewellery comes from, so if you live locally come and say hello and show your support.