Wednesday 28 December 2011

Only visiting honest!

Christmas has been a bit of a none event for us for one reason and another, none of which I really want to go into on here, but after blood, sweat and tears things are starting to take shape on the hill.

I thought I'd share a quick blog with you as we've called in to Carol and Dave's this evening to have a bath; just when she thought she'd got rid of us!  We still have no hot water on the hill and you can only cope with so many cold wash downs.

Life on the hill has certainly been blowy the last few days, the alpacas have had a wash and blow dry and on occasions have actually looked quite clean.  I've not bought the camera with me so can't share the proof.

The littlies (alpaca weanlings) have christened the barn.  I took pity on them on Christmas night as it was wet and windy and they were looking rather wet so in they came.  They seemed to like it especially Nadia who is a real people paca.  Each time she saw movement in the caravan we heard her shout us.

The boys are all getting on well (she says with fingers crossed), even Golden Guinea seems happy enough sharing a field with everyone else.

As for the girls, they are stuffing their necks as quick as their little mouths will let them.  Poor Willow has had an abscess on her face which has needed some attention but it is now drying up nicely.

Thursday 22 December 2011

Alive alive-o (Paul)

Hello all - just a very quick blog as we pass through a wi-fi hotspot!  The great alpaca migration was completed with support from Trigger and Dave.  All 51 of the Barnare Alpaca herd are now on the hill (doing their best to eat all the grass as quickly as possible of course!) to keep the 138 black face sheep company - just the chickens to go (thanks Colin for feeding them this week)...

As for the house...don't go there or we might just explode!

Happy Christmas all

Sunday 18 December 2011

Movement complete

We have had a major movement operation on today.  All the alpacas are now on the hill and we are in caravan mark 2; for hopefully only a few days before the house is habitable.

The weanlings were very well behaved and were so much better than I was expecting.  They aren't haltered trained but because we are in the process of fencing they needed to be lead up to their new paddock.

They were all fantastic and despite the snow and ice walked well, the star of the class had to be Emery, our grey girl who we expected to be a nightmare.  You may recall we once failed to halter train a cria, that was Midnight Star, who is Emery's sister.

We can never begin to thank Carol and Dave for everything they have done for us, particularly in the last two months.  Dave has been helping us all weekend again with Carol keeping us supplied with food, drink and still knitting!

It just leaves me to wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year as until BT get their act together we are without a phone or broadband connection so hill updates will be by twitter only (see the left hand panel on the blog).

Friday 16 December 2011

Snowmen, where's the carrots?

What a day we have had today.  We woke to a sprinkling of snow at Scots Gap, over at Angerton there was just frost, then up on the hill there was a covering of snow.

We were busy fencing again ready for the arrival of the alpacas on the hill.  As the morning progressed so did the snowfall, it got heavier and heavier. By lunchtime fencing was proving rather difficult, the builders had left and we were resembling snowmen.

Then we had a visit from Animal Health, they were a really nice couple of chaps who actually came to look at the sheep but were very interested in what we do with our alpacas and were fascinated by our shed and the way we follow the whole process through with our alpaca business.

Thursday 15 December 2011

Aga sneak preview (Paul)

It has been a rather challenging day at the hill today.

Progress on the paddock fencing was steady but not great as Trigger and I did a great days quarrying (digging out stones) and not a huge amount of fencing.  As he said to me, if it wasn't for the stones, bumps and trees fencing would be easy - wise words indeed!

There are tradesmen all over the house (but not the shed which still remains unfinished) and some working through the night - can't fault the commitment of some of them.

The blue submarine (our new water tank) was 'sunk' late yesterday and to everyone's amazement actually filled up overnight - 10,000 litres filled up overnight - blimey!  No wonder the land is wet as this comes from just one of the 3 springs (that we know about) on our land.  I'm sure there must be an opportunity for a commercial spring water facility (Peckham Spring?!) - I'll have to Google that one and have a word with the farm diversification people...

Right picture time and something vaguely to do with the title.  Remember the Aga arrival picture from a few days ago?
Well just for you, here's a sneak preview of what it looked like less than a day after it arrived and the super Aga people at Walter Dix waved their magic wand:
What do you mean you want to see more?  Stay tuned for the grand unveiling!

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Green nudgy smoke (Paul)

Hi all.  Yes, Debbie is still about, I'm blogging for a couple of days whilst she writes Christmas cards and is currently having a sneaky little snooze - I just nudged her so she is awake again...she is complaining that she is tired because she has been moving fence posts and rails around all day and I have been "in my cosy tractor" - well my tractor doesn't have heated handle bars does it!

Any way, it was great to see and read all the comments yesterday about the solar pv - I did wonder if the blog posting would prompt any interest and clearly it did!  Di (at Llama Karma) I wouldn't mind details of the bluetooth thingy if you don't mind? There are so many green energy options to choose from and as ever the devil is in the detail.  If anyone out there is considering ground source heat pump or solar pv just drop us an email or give us a call and we will happily share our experiences.

(just nudged her again)

We spent all day at the hill (again) today fencing with Trigger and (carding) Dave.  We now have one paddock totally fenced and gated, with number two not far behind - I'm sure that will be tomorrows reported success!  On the flip side the poorly maintained land drainage systems are showing their age and sections of the land are really wet and muddy - Trigger tells me that is a summer job, but to remember where the winter water was - not sure my memory is that good!


Yesterday I mentioned a few of our planned heating components, like our stove (multi fuel fire) and today we were met by Steve, our lead builder who wanted to show us what the stonemasons had done with some of the stone Debbie and I had collected of our land.  We were absolutely delighted with the fireplace so far - what do you think?

Tuesday 13 December 2011

1.7 ton picture (Paul)

After the 'very' easy clues yesterday, I'm sure eveyone (except Jayne) knows what Barnacre Alpacas latest venture is?  To be fair, Jayne is more used to wind, rain and snow - so guessing that we now have a solar photovoltaic (solar pv) system was probably a little tough!

Debbie and I had many 'debates' about this, although it was something I really wanted us to do.  We are not green nuts or anything, it should give us energy security, avoid crazy oil and heating bills and (unsurprisingly) should be a great investment.  All was going well until the Government kindly made changes to the Feed in Tariff part way through our project - requiring me to spend the last month pushing and organising about 6 different companies to do their bit (including installing new power lines!) as it happens we got everything done with a couple of days to spare - good job as the new Feed in Tariffs are some 60% lower and they last for 25 years!

For anyone that doesn't know, there are a couple of types of solar installation.  There is solar thermal which is usually a couple of panels on the house roof - these warm up the water passing underneath to give you warm/hot water.  Solar pv, which we have invested in, is different.  Solar pv or solar photovoltaic is a number of panels - in our case 40 of them in two arrays 21 metres (70 feet) long and 3.5 metres (11.5 feet) high.  They sit on the south side of our new shed which stands nearly 5 metres high at the apex.  The solar pv cells on the panels capture sunlight and the silicon they are made of then create an electrical field which produces electricity.

The system should produce around 8,000 Kilowatts of electricity and we should only use around 3,000 so we will be putting lots of 'green' elecricity back into the grid.  We will also save over 4.5 tonnes of CO2 (carbon dioxide) - very green!  On the financial side, we get paid by the electricity company for every kilowatt of electric we generate - we will be smiling when the sun is shining!

As a result we do not have any gas or even an oil tank on the farm and the only electric we will 'buy' will be some cheap rate night time electricity.  Combined with our new house build insulation, ground source heat pump, electric Aga and stove (maybe I'll save those for another day) even Debbie should be warm enough!

Anyway, enough words, here's the picture that reveals all:

Monday 12 December 2011

1.7 ton quiz night (Paul)

Thanks Dave for your guesses of the 1.7 ton new purchase for the farm - unfortunately both are wrong!

Here's a few 'helpful' clues for you and the other blog readers:

1. I love it - Debbie hates it
2. It is nearly 5 metres high
3. Mad dogs like it
4. It keeps me fit
5. It is nearly 21 metres wide
6. When I'm asleep it is useless
7. You might think it is lazy because it doesn't even move when it's working
8. Although it is green, it is so shiny you can see your face in it

How easy! More guesses please - picture to follow...

Sunday 11 December 2011

A day of rest???

I'm not quite sure where the day has gone today, Paul had added an sneaky extra 15 minutes onto the alarm this morning so that's where 15 minutes went but as for the rest of it I have no idea.

After the morning feed round, which for the first time in about a week was actually in daylight we headed off up to the hill. 

There were a few jobs that needed doing and we wanted to round up the sheep again for the tups, although looking at the colour of the sheep's rear ends the tups have been doing a fantastic job - lets hope they are all pregnant; scanning early in the new year will reveal whats going on there.

This afternoon I had a scarf to deliver to a lady in Morpeth and I have packaged up a couple of other items for posting tomorrow.  The stock levels are looking rather depleted now so any last minute shoppers better get in there quick!

Talking of shoppers, Paul's latest purchase for the farms weighs a staggering 1.7tons; any guesses?!

Saturday 10 December 2011

Mud and miles of fencing

I failed to blog last night due to exhaustion; we'd spent the day on the hill and not only were Paul & I struggling to stay awake so was Dave who'd come along to help too.  I did try to convince Paul it was his turn to blog but it didn't work!

The house is coming along nicely, we have electric (mostly) and nearly have water, the ensuite is almost tiled and the bathroom has been started, the cooker has been built..........

The fencing is growing too, Dave and I were moving the posts and rails whilst Paul & Trigger were knocking in posts.  There was one incident; Dave decided to have a mud bath at one point and I got the blame.  It wasn't my fault honest, I was just trying to unstick myself and I didn't know what was happening behind me; I didn't mean to laugh!

Today we have been at Seaton Delaval Hall with the alpacas and our knitwear.  The alpacas drew a huge crowd as usual and the knitwear was going down very well.  There was a mix of people buying Christmas presents and treats from themselves.

You need to get in quick if you have your eye on something before it's gone.

Thursday 8 December 2011

Damaging gusts

The weather has been and still is terrible, the rain was battering the windows during the night and it was still pouring when it was time to get up.

Many of the girls were in the shelter this morning waiting for me to arrive to provide breakfast.  By the time we'd finished feeding we were already soaked.

Unfortunately the weather meant that the fencing had to be postponed today, in fact most of the action on the hill had to be postponed.  At one point a big plank of wood flew up from the ground almost decapitating one of the builders.

My cooker has arrived though, well this is supposed to be my cooker!
By tea time the wind had gathered even more speed, the troughs were blowing all over the place and some of the littlies were struggling to stay one their feet.  As for the chickens, they decided the safest option was to go too bed early.

Maybe I should follow their lead and go to bed myself.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Work or play, you decide

We have been on the hill again fencing today, whilst I was moving posts and rails from the bottom of the hill to the top Paul and Trigger were knocking in posts.  Here is Paul moving one of the telegraph poles yesterday which we later cut into a gate post!
Whilst we were busy at the top of the hill the builders were busy at the bottom working out how to move our blue submarine.  It's our water tank, , it's rather large don't you think, we will be using spring water off our own land.
This water will come in very handy for our partly tiled en-suite wet room.  The tiler has done a great job today.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

The post office queue

Its been another full on day today, we could do with a few extra hours of daylight as there is still loads to do.

After the morning routine we headed up to the hill as we needed to see the electrician and clarify a few other points with the builders.  By the time that was all done it was back to Carol and Dave's to warm up the girls sugarbeet on the way to Morpeth to post another online knitwear purchase.

You would not believe the size of the queue in the post office, it's only the 6th of December, imagine what it will be like next week!

Once we were back from Morpeth it was fence dismantling at Angerton in readiness for more fence erecting tomorrow on the hill.  Then this evening I've been knitting away as I need to get a pair of flip top mittens finished for Saturday to take to Seaton Delaval Hall Christmas Fair.

It's all go here!!!

Monday 5 December 2011

Divven dunch the tractor

We have spent the day on the hill today and are bushwhacked!  We had arranged to get some help with the fencing, Trigger who works for Alan amongst others was coming to sort out the poorly tractor and show us how to use the post knocker.

Typical, we woke to snow; not a good start to the day as we were going to pick up caravan mark two which Ken and Sue Bell had kindly been storing for us (thanks Ken and Sue if you are reading this)!

Despite the snow we did manage to get the van to the hill, albeit a rather slow journey slipping and sliding and dodging a car which had bounced off the crash barrier protecting our fence before going through our neighbours fence and ending up in his field.

We did need Trigger to pull the caravan up the last bit of our 'drive', but it is now in situe and almost ready for occupation.  With the caravan tucked up we moved onto fencing.  I think Paul was having a great time 'playing' with his tractor and new post knocker.  I did take a photo on my phone but for some reason I can't download it.

Instead I took a photo of our new power line, not the nicest view I know but it's very important so we keep admiring it.  I'm sure the novelty will soon wear off! 
And this one is looking to the west

We came away with a number of fence posts and cross bars put up and a few strainers in so things are starting to take shape.

Whilst Paul and trigger were post knocking Dave and I were traipsing up and down the hill with posts and cross bars.  At one point Dave said to me 'Divven dunch the tractor' I think the cold must have gone to his head and he'd switched to some foreign language.

The house is also taking shape, this is the kitchen which has now been painted; things are starting to get exciting now. 

Sunday 4 December 2011

First snow of the year

It has been a busy day again today, this morning we were moving some hay that we manged to buy in the summer but had nowhere to store.  Now we have an almost finished shed we have put it in there.  It looks rather lost in the huge space, we are used to having to squeeze things in.

The mezzanine is now up in the shed and looks huge (photo below).  Hopefully it will be used for hay storage amongst other things.  I think we need some steps though as it's a long way up and the ladders I found didn't feel very secure.

When we arrived up at the hill there was an army of NEDL (Northern Electric) workmen, vans and machines sorting out our electricity line.  All being well we will have electric to the house in a few days.

Whilst I was moving and stacking the bales of hay the boys were getting the fencing materials ready for the morning.  As is always the case Paul was sat on the quad whilst poor Dave was having to run behind; at least it's not just me he treats like that!
Whilst we were up on the hill we had the first snow of the season.  It was absolutely freezing, all I can say is I hope our heating is good because it is going to be a cold up there.

Saturday 3 December 2011

Frozen to the bone

It was a freezing cold day today at Morpeth Farmers Market.  We were up and out in the dark so the girls were still in bed when we arrived, it didn't take them more than a few seconds to jump up and beat me to the feed troughs though!

Then we went down to the boys field to feed and pick up three volunteers for the day at the market.  As usual there were plenty of boys wanting to run into the trailer, they do like a day out, probably due to the fact they get the best hay, carrot treats and lots of attention.

With Ochre, Pearson and Minimus loaded Paul tried to reverse the car up the channel to the trailer, however the car had other ideas, it was slipping and sliding all over the place.  With the help of some wood and lots of welly he made it.

It was a well worthwhile outing, we sold lots of knitwear, educated lots of people and created lots of interest.

The only downer on the day was that I have lost my mobile!  I'm hoping that in daylight tomorrow I will be able to find it in the field somewhere.

Seeing as we still haven't thawed out yet I think we deserve an early night, I might even have to take my (alpaca) hot water bottle to bed with me.

Friday 2 December 2011

Jack frost pays a visit

We woke to a very frosty start this morning, here are some of the girls (and Brinley) waiting for their breakfast.  From left to right we have Palm-Olive, Piccolina, Chiquita, Lucia, Kate, Brinley and Geena.
Briney did have a coat on when I left him last night, but if you look closely in the next photo you may see it keeping the wheel on the hay heck warm! 

Progress on the hill is coming on nicely, with the exception of the fencing and we have a poorly tractor (again) today.

Tomorrow we are at Morpeth Farmers Market with our knitwear and some of the alpacas.  Hopefully it will prove to be a very successful and enjoyable day.

Thursday 1 December 2011

Fence or foe

After collecting our post knocker this morning Paul had the slow job of driving the tractor over to the hill in readiness for the arrival of our fencing materials.  Which is the next job.

The fencing arrived, or should I say some of it did, the rest is now arriving next week.  Don't ask!

As you can see there is rather a lot of it, we were expecting it to arrive on pallets so we could use the forks on the tractor to unload it.  Unfortunately it wasn't on pallets so we had to resort to tipping it off the waggon.  There was at least one crack and snap.

We then planned to move to to where it is going to be erected.  After dropping one bundle of cross bars onto Paul's foot, breaking the pallet we tried to load them on, loosing a pin off the post knocker, wading through mud, mud and more mud we decided to call it a day and return to the alpacas to feed them and remind ourselves why on earth we are doing what we are.

We are now planning an early night in the hope that tomorrow will be a better day!