Sunday 1 July 2012

Don't turn your back on pirates or alpacas (Paul)

Evening all,

Me again and another photo fest!  Debbie has had to nip out to the new arrival in the field, more on that later...

Also, apologies up front, I was supposed to be doing a 'North, South, East, West' blog, but today has been so full on that will have to wait for another day, sorry!

Today has been another full on day at Barnacre Alpacas.  We have had visitors here all weekend which is good as an extra few pairs of hands can always be put to good use!

If you're wondering about Friday's little fawn lady, her and mum are still in the shed.  Mum is happy enough and the little fawn lady is much improved.  Mum is letting her drink, she is standing better on her pasterns and starting to skip around the pen.  Still early days and we are constantly monitoring the situation so fingers crossed.

As regular readers will know we are attempting to replicate the construction scale of Hadrian's wall (we are North of it, just 8 miles from the England-Scotland border) with our very own fencing.  The amount of wood and metal required is frightening (as is the accompanying bill) and I filled up the tractor with the next batch and deposited it at various strategic points around the hill (now we're getting in the swing of things we are better at putting the new piles in useful places that aren't in the way when you get to them!).  I'll call this photo 'beware of Pearsons' in honour of our own (unrelated) Pearson army of Carol, Dave, Ross, Taylor and Gill.
If you're trying to count there are 56 12 feet rails and 2 12 feet gates!

Next job of the morning was collecting 'pirates'.  Again, regular blog followers will know that our introduction to 'Blackies' or Black faced sheep has been challenging to say the least.  Despite building new fences and rebuilding walls that they knocked down, some 3 young blackies that we bought were intent on leaving us here at Liberty Hill Farm.  We were informed not to worry and that they would be making their way back home.  If that was the case we thought it odd a few weeks ago that seeing as we bought them a few miles from the East that they set off West - that's Blackies for you I suppose, nothing seems to be done the easy way!

It seems that our 3 Blackies had greater athlectic prowess and constitution than we gave them credit for as this morning we got a call from a nearby farmer who said "I have your 3 blackies in my shed", as he lives 3 miles away with about 10 walls and 20 fences between us, it seems our Blackies should perhaps be entrered into the forthcoming Olymic Games in London 2012! Are there any sheep Olympics?  So this morning we took our (human) visitor friends and the trailer to pick up our 3 'pirates'. This should only be a 10 minutes job?!

We pulled up and had a good chat with our farmer friend and then went to get the Blackies loaded up.  When we entrered the shed our very experienced farmer friend demonstrated his skills with Blackies as one of them kung-fu kicked him, the other ran at him head first and the third took advantage of the general melee and sneaked round the back of him!  Not to worry, they were now in the sheep/cattle pens so we could load them up into the waiting trailer! Wrong!  As we started to herd them through the pens, they ran at us, then the fences/hurdles, they then jumped out of the handling pens, cleared 3 more fences and shot off through some wooldands.  Our farmer friend commented that he built and has been using these pens for 12 years and had never seen anything like it.  Not intending to be outdone by 3 pirate Blackies, our farmer friend drove home on his quad and came back with his sheep dog.  He shot off in the direction that we last saw the 3 pirates running and came back some time later with all 3.  He had collected them some 2 fields and 4 fences later...

The dog and skilled handler then put the sheep back in the pens and I went outside to guard the outer wall (which I have so say, you would need a good set of ladders or pole vault to clear).  Sorted!  Nope, the sheep sprung in to action and 2 of them cleared the wall I was standing next to.  With an athletic lunge (or did I slip) I managed to grab hold of one of the handlebars (they are horned sheep) and although I was only dragged a couple of feet through wire, thistles and nettles, I wasn't letting go.  "pass me that one back and go and get the other" were the helpful words of advice from our farmer friend.  So I gave him back pirate number 2 and set off after pirate 3.  Note to self - tie up boot shoelaces next time you nip out to do a 'quick' job with sheep.

Now it wouldn't be fair of me to take all the glory for catching pirate number 3 so following the lead of my more experienced sheep farming friend I offered some similar words of encouragement to my dear wife: "Debbie it's coming though the woods, get to the other side and catch it".  I then hot footed in through the woods, you know the really nice tightly planted confer woods that rip your face to bits as you squeeze through the branches.  When I got through the woods, sure enough Debbie was there, but no pirate number 3. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Reporting back to base we advised our farmer friend that pirate number 3 seemed to have done one.  Our 3 friends were finding our farming activities highly amusing, but did ask if we staying out all day! Whilst Debbie and I had been hunting down pirate 3, our farmer friend has transferred pirates 1 and 2 into the 'high security' wing of his capture area, T-Rex would struggle to get out of there so I was feeling quietly confident that we were going to go home with at least 2 of our pirates.  Our farmer friend had other ideas though and it seems that he wasn't going to be outdone by one pirate Blackie sheep.  By the way, sorry about the length of this blog and well done if you're still reading, grab another cup of tea and biscuit becuase I'm now in full flow and Debbie has just come back in and made a cup of tea, but she's gone out again to shut the chickens and ducks in...

Were was I, oh yes farmer friend set off with quad, sheep dog and a determined stare in the direction of Blackie 3.  His dog skillfully swept through the woods - nothing.  So he then got off his quad and headed off...tick tock, tick tock.  I'm not overly sure of the time but I guess 20 or 30 minutes later farmer friend and sheep do returned in hot pursuit of pirate number 3.  Debbie, our house guests and me attempted to corner it as it approached us - unsuccessfully of course and it shot off in the other direction - doh!

Farmer friend then jumped on his quad (with dog) and sped off again around the corner of the barn.  Sorry about the lack of photos but as you might imagine we were otherwise engaged, I've broke my Blackberry, and anyway I'm thinking of selling the rights of this blog to a movie maker...carry on sheeping?!  We heard the sound of lots of quad engine revving and lots of sheep dog commands, then a moment of silence.  Shortly afterwards a vitorious looking farmer appeared riding his trusty quad bike, with sheep dog at his side and pirate number 3 pinned on the back of the quad bike in a prone position - one very strong farmer hand not letting go!

As you might imagine Debbie and I were rather embarrased by the whole episode and after one last co-ordinated movement we got the 3 pirates in the back of our trailer.  Our farmer friend had a few last words of advice about what to do with the sheep - children might be reading so I'll be keeping that bit of advice private if you don't mind!

Back at the ranch Debbie and I carefully manhandled the 3 pirates to some new high security accomodation - and here they are, melting butter in their mouths of course:

For a rare change, the afternoon (what was left of it following the 2 and a half hours it took for the 5 minute sheep job) was spent at a country show where Debbie enjoyed the show with our house guests and I entertained the audience (and myself) with a bit of commentary about the show and events - it's the third time I've been invited back to do the PA thing with the microphone so either someone enjoys my ramblings or the volunteer list is a bit on the short side.  Anyway, lots of fun was had and lots of cash raised for a good country cause!

Upon our return home, surprise surprise one of our alpacas had given birth, you can't turn your back for a minute!  That's our 14th cria this year (3 have already been reserved by new owners including one 24 hours after it was born, so if you have your eye on one you had better phone or email us soon!) here at Barnacre Alpacas.  All being well we have another 7 still to birth this year...

So who is the new mummy?  Lots of good guesses have been coming through on Twitter (thanks @giddiupchicken) although I can reveal that the new mum at 347 days gestation is Veruschka!

Veruschka is one of our elite core breeding female alpacas.  She is a very well built alpaca as you might be able to tell from the photos below.  Despite that she is very low down the pecking order and quite nervous.  Veruschka will be 7 years old in August, although her second fleece was placed 2nd to the Supreme Champion (130 fleeces, judge Cameron Holt) at the 2007 Royal Fleece Show. Her fleece scored 89 points out of 100, at the time the second highest fleece score recorded in the UK.  Her fleece is fantastic and she cuts loads of it - excellent for the knitwear range! 

Although Veruschka is quite nervous, and all new alpaca mums like their space, here is a fantastic photo which shows how much trust our alpacas have in both of us, Debbie in particular.  If she is in the field when alpacas are birthing it is not unusual for them to come up and nose Debbie and/or stand right next to her. They certainly know who looks after them!

Barnacre fans may remember that Veruschka's daughter, Barnacre Casiphia (sire Legend of Spartacus, our Supreme Champion) did really well at the 2011 Border Union Show at Kelso where she won 1st placed intermediate white female, white Champion, Best of British and Supreme Champion!  Some female lines stay really close together (like Willow and daughters Chiquita, Layla and Palace) whilst others keep their distance, in the case of Veruschka she usually sends Casiphia packing.  However, it seems that new life is something that alpacas very much enjoy and just to prove it, we caught this brief family get together:

On the left is Veruschka, the new mum (don't worry about the blood, we checked her out and everything seems fine); our new little alpaca baby or cria in the middle (no name yet) and on the right is Casiphia.  "Hey mum, do you think she will be a super star like you and me?".  Ooops, I let the cat out of the bag, yes Veruschka has had a beautiful white daughter.

What was that you said, who's the daddy?  Well if you're looking for an alpaca stud with super genetics and a fleece that holds fineness - look no further than Gianmarco's Masterpiece.  His 6th fleece is 22.9 microns with an sd of 4.9 if you want to come and meet him and his offspring we would be delighted to welcome you.

During the evening feeding rounds I did tell Gianmarco that he is a daddy (again) and he decided that this special occassion required his to strut his funky stuff and he pulled out a great pose and held it whilst I whipped out the camera:
Right, my fingers are now down to the bone and if you're still reading, thank you very much and I hope you will continue to enjoy (and share) the adventures of Barnacre Alpacas at Liberty Hill Farm here in rural Northumberland.  It makes our day when you comment, Twitter, email or come and visit us.  Round off your week, or start a new one (depending on how you look at it) and please get in touch, we love to hear from you.



Anonymous said...

Well done Paul on an excellent blog and photos! And well done Debbie who was still working in the fields!
Lovely to see how well the alpacas are doing.

Apple Vale Alpacas said...

phew! you might have just set a record for the longest blog, and I might have just set a record for reading it! time for a cuppa - never a dull moment at Barnacre Alpacas.

janet said...

Sounds like you have had an exciting day. There is never a dull moment there at Liberty Hill Farm.Lovely photo,s or Veruska and her cria and of course Casaphia. Enjoyed reading the long blog Paul

Zanzibah Alpacas said...

Sounds like another quiet country Sunday !! NOT .......excellent Blog and Congratulations on your lovely new arrival...I do hope the rest of the week is a nice easy one ! Well Done on the capture and containment of those Pirates !! .....Jayne

oak haven alpacas said...

I think your sheep adventures could be an excellent comedy :)

Congrats on the new cria! Always lovely.


Llama Karma said...

Well done, excellent Blog, don't you just love those Blackies, Our problem is keeping them out of our fields as they try to get in off the open moorland! Cria looks great as well

Miriam said...

I feel 'A Day in the life at Barnacre' novel in the pipeline Paul! Always good to read the blog, well done on the stamina required in containing the pirates (very funny read but I guess not for you and Debbie)and goes without saying on the new addition to the 'family', very cute and definitely that ah factor.

Shirley said...

We reckon your pirates are really Jocks from north of the border down on a raid to eat up all the good Northumberland greenery! Great blog, enjoyed the 'War & Peace' saga - wonder if the farmer also has a blog and what he says.........Shirley & Robbie

Bev said...

Great blog, don't know how you find the energy after such a hectic day. Congratulations on the new girls, looking bonny.