Sunday, 30 January 2011

One debate that I was never going to win!

It has been an alpaca filled weekend...without any shifts at the hospital or trips out in the Lake District...but we still have managed to mix work and pleasure.

On Saturday we took a trip down to York to visit Jenny and Graham at Fowberry Alpacas. We had a great day; lots of fleece rummaging and a lovely lunch (thanks Graham!). It was absolutely non-stop alpaca chatter without any need to make any apologies! With two of our elite girls pregnant to Top Account, we were interested to see his cria from this year...and we certainly weren't disappointed. I have the feeling that The Futurity is going to be setting some high standards this year!

Today has been about routine tasks; Everyone got their dose of Fasinex as protection against liver fluke. We do live in a low risk area but generally give it twice during the winter months as a prophylactic. All good as gold again...what's going on!

Robyn and Craig popped round so we took the weanlings out on their halters in two groups of four. They all seemed to enjoy the trip out to the lane end and back. They really have it pretty much perfected now. So no challenges at all today?...well not with alpacas...

Paul and I have been having a debate/difference of opinion/disagreement about how to divide up the latest piece of our land, now ready for fencing. This has been simmering away for some time but the fencing is due to start (well if the ground thaws out) so a resolution was required. Today it ended up with us both making a detailed drawing of our plans...and submitting these...along with an explanation... to the Beck Brow board...i.e each other!

We both are in agreement that we need to create  more areas for quarantine; We have a number of females (from the same farm) booked in for matings with St. Patrick in the summer, which means that not only will they need to be kept separate but Legacy (who will be used as a spit off male) will also need to be quarantined. In addition we also need to be able to quarantine our show team and and any purchases that we may make.

Lots of logistics...the engineer was probably always going to win...although I would like to say that I conceded rather than lost...both systems worked perfectly was just that mine required 10 more gates and two more shelters!!

Taking of separations; we are left with a small dilemma. Having sold all of our boys this year, with the exception of Explorer (who will be staying), Gorgeous is going to be in need of some new buddies (poor souls!). I think that the final decision is that he will go in with Nimrod and Julius (our two wethers). We are also considering moving Anzac Almost Illegal (pictured the summer). He is due to work this Spring, but since the arrival of St. Patrick he has lost some of his ranking...he is now at least third in command...we have decided, after a discussion that we had on Saturday, that it may be better if he were to be placed in a paddock where he is of a higher rank, if we are to get him ready for working that is.

Anzac Almost Illegal (s Cambridge Storm Trooper)...born Nov 2008...due to start work in the Spring

Friday, 28 January 2011

A,D & E...paste or injection?

A quick blog before I start doing something that falls within the category of paid employment (as much as I try to persuade Paul that alpaca care is a chore, he knows that I enjoy it far to much). The problem about working from home is that it does require some discipline to knuckle down to it; especially difficult when I can see the alpacas outside, enjoying what is a lovely sunny day.

Yesterday Amanda and I gave the herd their monthly A,D & E paste. Whilst this is easy to administer single-handed; getting the alpacas into the catch pens is much easier with two. Amanda, who is learning some hands on care before deciding if she wants to take her girls home, managed to administer the paste without any trouble at all. No spitting, no kicking, plenty of 'muddling'; it was a pleasure. They were so well behaved that I was rather proud of them I have to say.

On the subject of A,D & E; I had intended to change to the injectable form when we finished our current supplies of paste. However we do feel that all our alpacas are doing very well with their current regime (1ml per 8kg i.e approx 10mls per adult monthly). Our vet doesn't see the need to change and I can't really find any firm evidence that the paste is less effective when administered correctly. Injections must be much more practical when dealing with large herds and I imagine more cost effective but we are a relatively small herd. I had heard that the injectable form lasted for up to 8 weeks but most breeders seem to give monthly, so no advantage there. Has anyone had an experience of paste being less effective? I believe overdosing of Vitamin A can be quite toxic so don't want to change for changes sake.

Whilst we had all the girls in, we had a good fleece rummage. It was good to be able to discuss the reasons for choosing a particular male over each female with someone else. Time will tell if these decisions are correct, if not we learn and modify! The girls fleeces are looking great, I am beginning to wonder if all of them are still pregnant; well behaved and with such bright healthy fleeces!!...however all were scanned pregnant by the Vet in September...we have discussed buying our own scanner, maybe we need to revisit this...however we wouldn't re mate this time of year anyway, so not a lot to gain at present. 

Favourite female fleece from the rummage?...Silverstream Galaxy ET...her fourth fleece is stunning; bright, fine, and between 10-12 crimps per inch. It would appear that the importation process took it's toll on her fleece last year which lacked some of the brightness now obvious. Her fleece now displays a happy, healthy alpaca! One who is hopefully still pregnant to EP Cambridge Top Account of Fowberry!

St. Patrick's fleece is also growing back nicely showing extreme brightness. He does seem to have settled in very well amongst the boys. He does however think himself rather superior. With Lady Gaga being of a similar belief, I can only imagine how their offspring will behave. Will it be a curtsy or a bow that is required?

Waradene St. Patrick of EPC surveying his land!

The messiest eater?...all of that hay was discarded overnight!

Right... back to the paid employment...what is in essence my FOURTH job after breeding alpacas, creating a knitwear range, working on Intensive Care...I am again doing some legal-medical work preparing medical notes for litigation cases...very interesting but better kept for days when the sun isn't shinning!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Back to weather...whether or not? only joking!

I do try not to over do the blogging...and four days in a row is excessive for me...however I felt I owed every one a thank you for all the comments over the past couple of days. What initially started as a some what tongue-in-cheek blog about building a relationship with your alpacas turned into a very interesting debate about a potentially serious problem; Berserk male syndrome. I will keep it unbiased and leave it to Wikipedia!

The debate has really piqued my interest in this topic and it would be interesting to do some more research. Are some alpacas predisposed? Why are some hand reared alpacas absolutely fine and others not? Is it more of a problem for inexperienced animal owners or does it happen in big established herds as well? Some questionnaires would be a start...unless someone already has already done some work?

I hope that I am correct in summing up the comments:

Imprinting of very young animals (especially males) must be seriously avoided for every one's sake. All alpacas are individuals and need to be treated as such. Be firm but fair; caring but consistent. You are the human. He is not. But most of all we enjoy our alpacas and we believe that they enjoy us too! I think that was how it started out :))

Now then I can't really talk about eggs (our chickens seem to have gone feral and don't lay in the hutch) and the weather is just damp and cold (only three weeks until our holidays...Kerala in India...don't expect it will be damp and cold!) but no more debatable topics (well not ones I dare start) come to mind Dave.

I had set time aside today to look for some articles about fleece (shearing, preparing for processing etc) suitable for referencing on the BAS website. This was my allocated task from the last fleece and fibre committee meeting (could that have been September!). The next meeting is looming and I haven't even got started. Well it appears that this is rather fortunate. A conversation with Cameron Holt last night (Australian lecturer and consultant fibre expert) revealed that he is working on a Code of Practice for BAS on said topic. Well that's got it covered I think. From what I can gather it will be similar to that of the Australian Alpaca Association Worth checking out.

I also got an email from Australia this morning from Sharon at Waradene Alpacas. They have been on high alert due to the dreadful floods but thankfully all is well. Sharon very kindly offered to send us the ribbons that St. Patrick won during his show season down under. Understandably a slight delay due to the difficulties of even getting to a post office but they are now on their way. A very kind gesture and much appreciated.

With no reading to excuses...poo-picking it is!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

A Muddle of an Explanation!

Three blogs on three consecutive days...some people will think that I have nothing better to do (you know who you are!). I thought that I should clarify that I was not making 'light' of the difficulties of dealing with a berserk male (although not common, they can be a real nuisance when it does happen) in yesterdays blog. It was about finding the middle ground i.e in my experience:

  • Alpacas are no different to the majority of domesticated animals i.e they need to understand that they are alpaca and not human. In the same way that a sheep/cow/pony needs to know. Imprinting (that is humanising) of young cria must be avoided. However routine handling and the occasional hug does not turn the average cria into an out of control adult (berserk).

Case study: Explorer was handled at lot from birth, as was necessary for his survival. Plasma, antibiotics, twice daily weighing, eye drops etc etc. Now... Explorer is easy to handle but he is not especially friendly...humanised?...all that grumbling and grumping about?...well now that I have given it more thought...we might have a human living here with similar qualities!

  • Alpacas, again like all domesticated animals (and most children) need to know who is in charge and need to have a healthy respect for their line manager i.e us. Controlled cuddling is fine. Pushing is not. N.B we do recommend castrating the pet boys that we sell but there lies another debate!

Case study: Minnie came to us as a seven month-old cria at foot. She was naturally very friendly (I don't imagine that she had been especially over-handled by her breeder). This was very endearing until she became adolescent when she did start to invade our personal space a little; become rather pushy over food; and generally have a high opinion of herself. A few gentle taps with the lid from the garlic tub and she soon learned her place. In fact she is totally disinterested in us now that she is pregnant. N.B Most farmers will have a tale about being knocked over by a tup who was hand reared!

  • Some alpacas like being handled; others don't. But in our experience it is possible to attain a relationship of some meaning, that makes working together less of a challenge and more of a pleasure. Some alpacas most certainly enjoy human touch.

Case study: Handling of our first pregnant females was something that we tried to avoid at all costs. By the amount of spitting that went on it was pretty obvious that they didn't like us...and to be honest we were beginnings to wonder if we really liked them. How things have changed. We are obviously more confident in our handling of them now but the real difference is that they know and trust us. There will of course always be the occasional Hoity Toity exception...likes attention but no touching thank you very much!

Last explanation; cuddling. I see that some like to call this rummaging or even condition scoring :)) I have decided that it will be called 'muddling' from now on. This is a cross between a cuddle and a massage. It is therapeutic, it works wonders for provider and receiver. I have been teaching Amanda this technique. I gently massage the two knobbly, boney bits between the alpacas ears whilst holding them in what might look like a cuddle, to the untrained that is. It is lovely to feel them relax and breath easily...great distraction technique too. So no cuddling here...that's that one cleared up...just going to condition score he looking a bit thin?!!

P.S What has happened to The Futurity Select Alpaca Auction...they are keeping us it going to be worth the suspense...I really need to know...just in case I need to do some 'muddling' on Paul!!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Cuddles...could it all come back to bite you on the bum?

There seems to be a bit of a theme going on in a number of blogs; admittedly mainly within the content of female authors...but I know plenty of mighty men who do it to...what is this? Alpacas and ...Cuddles! Yes, it's that time of year when it is so easy to get a touch of the winter blues...without an alpaca cuddle to cheer the day that is.

However it did get me thinking back to when our first females arrived, all with cria at foot. I had read so much about imprinting through over handling, that I hardly dare touch the babes at all, other than for husbandry tasks. Cuddling these irresistible balls of fluff was almost certainly going to turn them into unmanageable 'berserk alpacas' who would have no respect for humans...and what's more if I decided to ignore this advice; I will only teach them to tolerate me because they had no choice. They would not have any real affection for me... Poppy Cock!!! ...absolute Poppy Cock!!

Fair enough there has to be some mutual respect, as is the case with all animals, and care must be taken with bottle fed cria to avoid imprinting when they are very young. But at the end of the day every alpaca is individual, some like being cuddled others don't. However you can most certainly build an alpaca / human relationship with some meaning...this meaning will have more depth with some than others...I am still just the provider of food in Bonita's case and the love of his life in Hollywood's.

So I thought that I would put it to the test with this year's cria. The findings of this field study can be split into four groups:
  • Actively seeks cuddles. Impossible not to oblige: Finian, Noah, Nutmeg.
  • Rather likes cuddles but is rather more coy about it: Explorer, Poppet, Roma
  • Needs a little encouragement but enjoys once caught: Kenzie, Lucie, Tabitha
  • Absolutely hates it. Could star in the Exorcist: Parisien

So nine out of ten prefer cuddles...can't be bad.

Hollywood and myself at Northumberland Show love and respect.

Taking of respect or lack of it; Velvet and Tyke have obviously developed a bond that was unbeknown to me:

Velvet who is obviously suffering from a lack of exercise due to leg rest, that combined with too much attention, is a little out of control (berserk?). Today she decided to chase the weanlings...okay she was playing...but she knew that this was out of bounds. So when I caught her I proceeded to bend down and do some serious finger this point Tyke (the miniature Yorkshire Terrier) jumped up and bit the seat of my flesh involved luckily...who to chastise?...sibling love after all...unfortunately I was too busy laughing to sort out Yorkies ever listen anyway?

Sunday, 23 January 2011

All Male and Mail!

We had an alpaca free day on Saturday as we enjoyed a day in the Lake District after an overnight stay...Our Xmas present from Mum and Dad this year was a meal at Miller Howe, a fabulous hotel situated by Lake Winderemere ...Joined by Robyn and Craig we had a lovely time...and whats more Mum and Dad stayed at Beck Brow overnight on dog and alpaca duty...Cheers much appreciated!

So today we felt that we should make up for lost time. A check in the diary; nothing booked in. Nothing due injection nor drench wise. Toe nails checked...only Amanda's two girls to do... and she is going to help with those (concrete floors in all of the shelters does keep trimming to a minimum). We did do some poo picking but we even managed to complete that in just over an hour. Crikey...are we on top of everything...maybe?

That only left our favourite job...halter all of the weanlings are very willing this year it can hardly be classed as a job. All eight have most definitely passed foundation level and most have achieved advanced certificate level today! Having Fin the 'labrador alpaca' does seem to have been the key this year...he loves it.

Explorer and Roma got a trip out to the lane end. They also got a little extra training; as our Futurity show team they also need to stand to have their fleeces examined and in Explorer's case his manhood assessed (the boy is rather well endowed I have to say!!).

Paul, Explorer and Roma (I think Paul actually wins the grumpy award!)...

... a trip all the way to the lane end to see the new mail box.

After Velvet's brush with death, thanks to the Royal Mail, we have put a new post box at the lane end. As you can probably tell from the photo, it is quite a trek from our house...bit of a nuisance... but much safer. 
Velvet is much better and has obviously been getting spoilt by all the sympathy...she has been chastised this morning...serious hen chasing and severe deafness was the cause!

Talking of mail; I received a refund in the post yesterday. It appears that EP Cambridge Navigator is a nominated sire at The British Alpaca Futurity after all...making the entry fee £40 instead of £65...every little helps as they say. With only 11 progeny registered (although I know that EPC have some to register yet) and with the vast majority of those being junior white should be rather interesting.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Cat fights in Intensive Care!

Velvet is doing fine...thank you for your comments...she is trying to run around now. So long as she doesn't give herself a secondary head injury, by tripping up over the bandages, she should be okay! (no breaks Jayne...bendy young bones probably saved her).

She is back fighting with Sam the cat. It all turned a bit chaotic this morning when he swiped her and got his claw caught in her bandage. An amusing sight; a cat and a dog hopping about together on three legs trying to keep up the wrestling. The alpacas didn't know quite what to make of her this morning (out after the post was delivered!). Initially the girls went running off when they saw this strange creature approaching...strange; they obviously didn't recognise her in her hobbling state. The weanlings were also a bit bemused but much braver:

The weanlings checking out Velvet (off camera): Front; (L-R) Explorer, Roma, Lucie. Back; Kenzie, Parisien, Tabitha (Roma has had some fleece trimmed from around her eyes despite appearances)

Roma did oblige by showing off just how dirty her neck fleece is (click on to enlarge). She seems to have acquired lots of moss in there amongst other things. Dirtiest alpaca at The Futurity? Competition for Greeves Rosemary?

Velvet...note dressing still in place without plastic collar!

Paul and I did some condition scoring last night. Despite the dreadful weather we have had, we were pleased with the results. Phoebe is just slightly under and Pebbles is definitely over ideal, but everyone else seemed spot on...better than this time last year when we were feeding up a few of the girls. The only things that we have changed this year from last is to feed sugar beet at night (instead of morning and night) and feed peas and beans in the morning. We also introduced the specific camelid mineral drench (a pain to give but maybe worth the extra effort). We also have weaned a month earlier this year. There are too many variables to be scientific but we will continue with the same regime at present.

I have had a call from Paul at the Halifax Spinning Company this morning. He just wanted to finalise the quantities of each shade before starting the processing our fleece into yarn. We decided to blend all the black with white to create a silver grey and  settled on a blend of 30/70. This means that I will not only be using up a lot of my white, but I will also be ending up with a large quantity of grey, but I am happy with that. This batch of white, grey, fawns and browns will create over 200 kgs of yarn finished as 1, 2 and 3 ply. Very fine but it does create a beautiful end product. I can't wait to see it.

I am off walking with the girls this afternoon (that was meant to include Velvet, hence we are now only going out for a short walk so not to leave her for too long). It is the perfect day; frosty but sunny. I am sure it will finish with food in the local pub. Hopefully a better day than yesterday.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Not the best day...Poor Velvet.

The day set off well...too well. I am superstitious and always 'thank my lucky stars' when things are good. It was another lovely morning and it is so peaceful and beautiful here where we live, that I was thinking how grateful I should be. The dogs were out with me and Velvet, as always was being very entertaining.

As I was sweeping up, Phoebe and Minnie were the only alpacas up by the shelter. So, as I went to put some more hay in the feeder; I turned to talk to them; walking backwards at the same time..."ah Minnie Moo are you with your Mummy, that's sooo sweet"....kinda thing. What I wasn't doing was look where I was going. I slipped on a stone and did this comedy know the one where your legs end up higher than your head and you end up flat on your back in a fit of giggles (I am sure this is a middle-aged thing as I don't remember such indignity in my younger days). Well Velvet was on top of me in no time checking that I was okay, licking my face and urging me to get up. Once I was on my feet she looked at Phoebe and Minnie, obviously thinking that it was their fault and promptly chased them down the field. Not good ...but loyal!

Consequently I love her back equally. So... the end to the beautiful morning? The postwoman...speeding down the lane to the farm...Velvet crossing the lane (i.e on our own property). The peace and quite broken by my screaming. By the thump I really thought that she would be dead. I jumped in the post van and we were taken to the vets (Not thinking I didn't have the car to get home...thankfully my father picked me up). En route I remembered that in my panic I had not closed the feed shed door...H.T and Galaxy like a bit of private dining so I was concerned that they might go in and help themselves...a call was made and it was Amanda to the rescue. I work on Intensive Care...why can't I cope?!!!

I have just been to collect sleepy, very sickly Velvet...but she is going to be okay. Metacam, antibiotics and a strapped leg. She is supposed to be wearing a plastic collar but it wasn't going down well...I am hoping that she is a bit too off colour to be picking at dressings today...anyway it's off for now.

Velvet with her 'bad leg'

Crushed Velvet

A bit Velvet leave it.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

A dry day...Shower free!

I slept in this morning; 08.30 hours was stated by the bedside clock...I am obviously putting in too many hours at the time for a shower, it was straight out to do the feeds. Me?...I grabbed a cold Cumberland sausage from the fridge (I specify Cumberland as I do have standards!) and started the jobs for the day. It was my intention to come back in for a shower after feeding but it was such a beautiful crisp morning that I decided to carry on with a few jobs first...It is now 16.30 hours and I am about to get in the shower...the alpacas come first without a doubt!

Poo picking has been a pleasure today (look I have been on nursing duties!) the crisp morning turned into a bright sunny afternoon. The paddocks are pristine, not a bean of poo was to be seen by the time that I had finished. It was good to see the alpacas looking fairly clean and dry for a change (cria excluded from that clean bit). Lady Gaga was looking particularly regal today. She has this fabulous way of looking down at you but looking extremely feminine at the same time.

Yes Lady G...we know that you are special!

Look at those eyelashes....she could only be female!

The dogs; Velvet and Tyke have also been out all day enjoying the fresh air. Velvet especially just loves being around the alpacas and Willow is equally taken with her.

Willow (right) and Nina close in on Velvet...

...unsure of the best course of action....

...Velvet goes for 'love you too' approach!

It will be back out for the evening feed after a quick shower. I am not going to be very popular tonight as I remembered at around midnight, whilst I was tucked up in bed, that I had forgotten to put the water on the sugar no beet tonight for the girls...whoops. They will have to make do with peas and beans. Talking of which; the weanlings are obsessed. Small amount of peas and beans as a reward for walking on the halter...appears to be doing the trick.

Despite me saying that boys are easier to halter train than girls; Roma was the star today. Roma is not only very willing but does it with style. Explorer on the other hand likes the trip out but grumps along. Some 'head up and walk like a winner' training to be done before the show ring. Bev and Andy's boys (Finian, Noah and Kenzie) also had an outing. All now seem to be enjoying the attention or is the peas and beans!

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The entries are in the post!

Thank you Dave (Apple Vale Alpacas) for inadvertently causing a heated debate here at Beck Brow. Dave kindly pointed out the printing error on the fleece entry form for The British Alpaca Futurity; It is the 6th of February not January as printed.

The debate?...Paul thinks that it is pointless (no pun intended) entering Lady Gaga's and Galaxy's fleeces because of their weight (over skirted to 6 points!). Both got otherwise very good scores at The Scottish National (Cameron Holt) e.g both 20/20 for fineness and handle so no points to be gained there. I weighed Lady Gaga's fleece again...but it is only me who has put on weight over Christmas...still 6 points! Okay so she can't get a red ribbon...but any ribbon would be nice...surely worth a try and good to take part. Next year the scoring system will have changed to have less emphasis on weight, but even so; less zealous skirting required!

I have also put in the two entries for the halter classes. I had to make a decision; they are not going to get any cleaner before the closing date. If we change our minds we will have made a very generous donation to The Futurity fund...£130 as neither have nominated sires...ouch!

It is pouring down here today causing us to wimp out of the poovering. I am quite liking this full-time work at the hospital when it comes to certain tasks; Paul has agreed to do poo duties tomorrow whilst I am working a 12 hour shift...fair exchange I think!

I have been entertaining myself creating tables (as in charts...not four-legged ones) for next year's matings. Everyone has a first and a second choice stud male. For some this will depend on how Anzac Hollywood's Attitude has performed for us and also if any girls pregnant to outside stud males need to return (fingers crossed not).

With four males working (Black Sabbath, St Pat, Hollywood and Almost Illegal) we really could do with more females to choose from (Umm). I think Anzac Almost Illegal will only get a couple of girls until we see what he produces. I know that I am getting well in advance of myself but thinking ahead does make me feel that Spring is on it's way! Willow and Bahati (both empty) will be the first two girls to be mated this year...both down to have dates with Waradene St Patrick. Our first girl due this year is Nina who is at 11-months gestation on the 6th of that I have typed it it does seem ages away!

A rather wet and bedraggled Beck Brow Sweet Willow...due to get a date with Waradene St Patrick

Thursday, 13 January 2011

The British Alpaca Futurity looms...

The closing date for entries for the British Alpaca Futurity 2011 halter classes is fast approaching... I missed the closing date for the fleece section thinking that they were the same date. However, I already know that I have lost too much weight by over skirting, so probably best to leave it until next year! ... Our two possible entries for the halter classes are; Beck Brow Explorer and Beck Brow Fine Romance (Roma)...both white (did I once say I was going to concentrate on fawns!!) so they would be in big classes...big enough that no one might notice quite how dirty their fleeces are?...I doubt it.

We don't cria shear, largely due to having Summer births rather than Spring ones, thus meaning it is a bit late for them to be exposed to our northern weather. A good decision for us this year with the early onset of winter. Unfortunately this means that we have seriously messy cria fleeces...and I do mean SERIOUSLY! It started to go wrong in December, despite my best efforts, more hay seeds appeared in the fleeces daily. With the alpacas more or less permanently in the barn, sweeping up discarded hay became a lost battle.

Beck Brow Fine Romance (Roma) in the foreground

Roma's taken in December

It is a bit of a drizzly day here today. Not great for taking photos, so I have been having a better look through the ones that Paul took at the weekend...initially rejected by quality control...I think that he may have been trying a tad too hard to be artistic...either that or Finian is being a very accommodating model...strange!

I have been watching the boys from the landing window. St Patrick appeared to have been sent to Coventry by the rest of the gang yesterday...I am not sure if he was actually being ostracized or if it was self inflicted exile...whatever, all seems well this morning...friends reunited. Actually I think the problem lies with St. Pat; named such because of his date of birth, he is definitely no saint at feeding time. Despite each of the boys having their own meter long trough, spaced well apart, he does like to cause disagreements due to greed.

Lastly; Paul was obviously having no luck with the alpaca photography as part of his weekend it looks like he turned to Velvet for help. She appears to be being less than helpful...heading out of the cat flap...look at those dirty paw anything clean around here!!

Oh no...I thought that I had missed the photographic competition closing date as well...seems not...have I got time to get some good shots in ... are we going to let them boys win again...I suspect that Dave (Apple Vale) has been practising!...another one for next year I think...I am obviously working too hard!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Holby City meets Countryfile!

I nearly had to find my sun glasses today; it has been so long since I last saw daylight. Sat, Sun and Monday saw me leaving the house at 6 am and returning at 8.30 pm... and whats more I was so tired I didn't even go out to see the alpacas in the barn on my return...that's dog tired for me.

It looks like I will be back in full-time employment on the Intensive Care Unit at our local Infirmary for a while. I won't bore you with all the medical drama, but swine flu has meant that the crisis escalation policy has had to come in to operation. This means that critical care beds have been increased from 8 to 15 in the hospital. All elective theatre has had to be cancelled to provide space and equipment; and all staff with critical care skills have been called upon to help. I have to say we sometimes criticise our National Health Service, but in a crisis (the technical term that they use is when 'poo hits the cooling device'...not sure what they mean!) they really do an amazing job: doctors, nurses, physios, pharmacy, porters etc...the list is endless.

This has meant that Paul has been on alpaca duty all weekend, without any interference from me. Now I know that he thinks that Hoity Toity is a drama queen, and that I spoil her by feeding her on her own in the 'private dining area'. Apparently, he had thought that 6 consecutive feeds would be enough time to sort this out. However, not only has he failed in his mission (HT will not eat if another alpaca so much as looks at her; he now agrees) he seems to have added another member to the dining club...Galaxy...who is quite capable of getting her own share of the feed...she is just naturally now I am going to have to univite her...which isn't very nice!

Actually I should say thank you Paul. All of the paddocks have been poo picked twice (so I could have a poo free day today) and I even got pheasant casserole (Amanda and Graham kindly brought us some pheasants earlier in the week) made for my supper on Sunday night. I haven't yet told him that I am also working next Sunday...roast beef?...I wonder how long it will last! I now have a couple of days off before Thursday night so I will enjoy.

I couldn't wait to see the gang this morning, especially the weanlings. Paul had instructions to give out kisses and cuddles but I expect that that was an ask too far. Halter training had been on the agenda for the weekend (Ben and Craig were at the ready to help) but the ground was far too icey. So training was recommenced today.

The A team: Finian, Explorer and Roma have it cracked completely and are now going down the road. The others are all doing well, and with a little coaxing make it to the lane end and back. No sitters this year...(they are absolutely the worst) training has been pretty easy...helped massively by having Finian (he must have been crossed with a labrador we think!). We are treating Explorer and Roma as a priority...will they or won't they be going?...decisions!

It is a lovely crisp bright day here the camera has been out of course...

Explorer (with Roma behind)...the grump is actually turning out to be gorgeous after all!

Finian leading the gang to ....

...check out Velvet

Weanlings enjoying some decent weather for a change.

Looking like spring might be on it's way?

Now I really must check out The British Alpaca Futurity auction site on the this rate...with full-time employment...I might even be able to put in a bid!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

A disclaimer!

With regard to last night's rushed blog (I was heading off for a night shift) I feel that I should add the following disclaimer: Any insinuation that the writer of this blog, has the talent to spin, weave or knit to a standard deemed to be the 'best possible', was not intended.  She apologies for giving the impression that this might be the case.

Thank you Rosemary for the compliment of misinterpreting that I was actually doing the tasks myself; I can see that it read so. However the clue was in the standard required. Whilst I have done a little spinning and knitting, unfortunately this would not fall into said category!!

I have actually been busy procuring the services of others. I am having to learn a whole new language and understanding of processes I hadn't even considered. Just when I mastered Yorkshire skeins I find out this isn't a universal term...that may seem obvious now... I know. Luckily all of the skilled craftsmen I am liaising with seem to be blessed with not only patience but a desire to share their knowledge. I think it is all just about coming together...maybe for next Christmas!

I seem to be having problems with misinterpretation. Paul rang earlier to say that he had just called in to see Brian and Kim (Town End Alpacas) and had visited their new store. The phone reception was not great, but I did catch that he had bought a surprise...Now, Paul is not one for such I enquired further....what exciting purchase could he have made...turns out that he had said that he had... bought some pies!...well it does rhyme.

It has been a bit of a grey day today with some light rain. Not the weather for poo picking  (well I didn't feel quite that dedicated after a night shift) so after catching a couple of hours sleep, I have spent some time socialising with the weanlings. All of our cria have been well handled since birth which in our experience does help them at weaning time. If you can't have Mum... much better to have someone you trust to give out the cuddles! I have even managed to gain Parisien's trust, not the easiest task (you may remember she spat from day one) but it is just about task accomplished.

Not the weather for photos but I managed this one for Amanda. A head shot of Amanda's girl; Cambridge Caramella. By her expression, I am guessing that she hasn't seen a camera too often before!

Cute nose Caramella!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Wii must make more effort...

It has been a busy couple of days as everyone is back to work after the extended holidays. Spinning, weaving and knitting have been the main items on the agenda. I met with Nicola, our designer, a couple of weeks ago and we have agreed on the final designs for the Beck Brow range. We are so impressed by her work, I do feel that I really owe it to her to ensure the finished article is of the best standard possible...more learning curves!

The halter training is coming on leaps and a figure of speech...not leaps or bounds we are past that stage...we are now reaching cat walk standard! Finian has been promoted to assistant trainer, with Amanda as his apprentice.

All the cria have been down to the lane end and back (a fair distance for those who haven't visited us). The cria who were not initially so keen were encouraged by Finian, who led the way every time...unfair to have him out so often? should try stopping him...he loves it!

In fact if Finian hadn't already found lovely new owners, we would have had him appointed as the Beck Brow promotions manager..he is a little star. I have to say; Alpacas nearly always make great pupils...once you gain their trust, their inquisitiveness usually always gets the better of them in the end!

I have avoided any New Year resolution for 2011. I am older enough to know that I have no willpower. Resolutions that include abstinence are always a no go. So, I usually make some vague effort to add something...usually compensate. So far I have a mechanical exercise horse that only gets used at parties... as well as all the DVDs and last year it was a Wii Fit... Ben is home and enquired if I had been using it much...not that often I I am made to stand on the board..."welcome back Barbara...long time since we have seen you... it has been 362 days!!!"...Thanks...I had forgotten that it grassed you up...but then it has been some time...

I am off to do a night shift at the hospital now...that's today's exercise covered I feel!

Monday, 3 January 2011

Halter Training...step by step does it

Last night brought the last of our festive partying, with a hog roast and jazz band down at the local pub. It was a good night and a little refreshment was enjoyed. However, some of the boys upon returning home, decided that a few malt whiskeys, drank into the wee hours, would be a good probably was at the time...thankfully I did not participate..bad heads seemed to be the result...whatever...shirking morning halter training duties was not allowed!..

 Craig with Noah...just a little push start required

 Noah and Finian on the return journey...cracked it!

Explorer set off a bit grumpy (of course)...

...but soon started to enjoy the outing (Roma behind)

Parisien was rather less enthusiastic but did eventually get going...the look on her face says it all...not best pleased I'd say!

Lucie was even more reluctant to walk but did with persuasion from Craig...much better than her previous outing when she sat and refused to budge for Paul...a little charm goes a long way obviously!

I had to include Craig (with Kenzie) looking like 'catalogue man'...sorry Craig!

The Beck Brow Team...Cheers!

This afternoon's task?...all evidence of the festive season to be removed from the house...decorations to be to be recycled...drinks cabinet to be locked!