Friday 31 December 2010

2010...a review of the additions

2010 has been kind to us here, both on the human and alpaca front, with good health and happiness all round (even Explorer is happy...he just enjoys grumbling!)

We have grown in number over the year, although I did manage to avoid adopting an elephant during our visit to the Sri Lankian orphanage in January.

Elephant aerobics...sorry it's still no!

We had a long wait for our first cria of 2010. Cambridge Camilla kept us guessing but eventually produced Mr Gorgeous himself (aka Beck Brow Explorer) on the 29th May at 385-days gestation. After a shaky start he is now a whopper with the most promising fleece.

Beck Brow born

Our tenth and last cria of 2010 arrived on the 23rd of September. Blueberry Samurai Bahiti did us proud producing her third brown female in a row. Known as Poppet (registered as Beck Brow Paige Turner) she is a real little sweetie and hopefully one for the show team!

Poppet with Nutmeg, Tabitha and Explorer

We also added two fabulous fawns to our herd this year; EP Cambridge Lady Gaga and Waradene St. Patrick of EPC, whose offspring we look forward to seeing in 2011 (enough tempting fate). However our star addition of 2010 was a little black female. She is adorable, her presence is confirmed by the hole in the new bed cover, the cushions without corners, the lovely Moroccan rug without any tassels. Yes...Velvet arrived...and don't we know about it!

Velvet...her love of Oscar just keeps on growing!

As we head for 2011, like all fellow breeders we look forward with excitement to what 2011 will bring us. Nothing beats the anticipation of the cria to be born in the Spring but we will also be launching our knitwear range, another exciting project I hope!

I finish with a photo of Silverstream Galaxy with her cria Beck Brow Fine Romance (Roma). An image which I think just sums it all up.

Silverstream Galaxy with Beck Brow Fine Romance.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy and successful
2011....with lots of fabulous happy, healthy cria too!!

Wednesday 29 December 2010

A Christmas Quiz!

The Beck Brow Christmas Quiz:

  1. It is compulsory to eat and drink during the festive period at the following times
          a. Only when hungry ?
          b. At breakfast, lunch and evening meal times?
          c. Continuously between the hours of 8 am until 8 pm. Thereafter it
               is through choice?
    2.  The only alpaca owners likely to give A D & E paste on Christmas Day

         a. Those who do not celebrate Christmas?
         b. Barbara because it is the 4th Saturday of the month?
         c. Someone who is sadly obsessed?
         d. B & C?
    3. Eight of our cria were weaned during the Christmas period who
         suffered the most stress?

        a. Explorer & Finian?
        b. Holly and Camilla?
        c. Barbara?

We have had a lovely Christmas here with lots of food and drink shared with family and friends. We have however still managed to fit in plenty of alpaca care. Yes, we really did give the A, D & E on Christmas day! We had a spare hour when everyone nipped out to visit other family members, feed horses and cats etc, so we decided to use it constructively. Amanda and I had been going to do the task on Thursday but the paste was so cold it was refusing to budge...always best to keep on top of that list of things to do!

The cria have also been weaned. As is the norm, none of the mums were the least bit concerned as they were moved to a new paddock, leaving their cria behind. The weanlings (or weeds as Paul likes to call them) all seem to be coping well. Explorer is being very cool about it all and is obviously going to be leader of the gang. Thankfully they are all good troughers (Cumbrian for being greedy pigs I who does that remind me of!). Obviously the answer to question 3 was me!

The pregnant females have all had a drench of multivitamins. Most are around 5-6 month gestation so an ideal time for a boost. Amazingly they all took the 30 ml dose of the disgusting tasting stuff (I have inadvertently tasted this on previous occasions). Do you think that they know what's good for them I wonder?...yum yum we need some extra zinc!

More poovering today before the next party with friends...four o clock start today rather than lunchtime...I'm quite sad to see the snow go and the mess that is left behind. Mind you, although the water troughs are not fully defrosted, it is nice not to have the frost to contend with every morning.

Well better be off. Paul no longer falls for the...."you just start with the poo picking I won't be long" ruse any longer!

Thursday 23 December 2010

Merry Xmas...Cheers!

With family all arriving tomorrow for our traditional Christmas Eve gathering, I shall be busy cooking, cleaning, lighting log fires, tripping over the dogs and sipping ginger wine (the two are not related...I am always tripping over the dogs). Blogging may be a little difficult to fit in, therefore I will wish you all a Very Merry Christmas and sign off for now.

A big thank you to every one who takes the time to read my drivelling, it is very much appreciated. Also a very big thank you for all of your comments, which are much more amusing / interesting than my actual blog and keep me very entertained and supported when times are not so fun. Have a good one xx.

Anzac Almost Illegal...thinks that it should be (almost illegal) to make alpacas wear antlers

Tyke wasn't playing ball...refusing to be photographed in his santa hat

Anzac Almost Illegal....not sure about santa's little helper (aka Amanda)

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Oh what a beautiful glad I spent it with you...

It is such a beautiful day here. The sun is shining and it is just me; the dogs; and the alpacas, enjoying the peace and the beauty of nature. Not much disturbs things here in the Eden Valley, even the Cumbrian earthquake (reported on the news) must have passed us by...well we certainly didn't notice any shaking, not even a wobble. I have been trying to capture the moment of tranquility on camera with limited success (I am sure Paul will tell me that I was using the wrong lens or setting or something!):

Snow crystals formed on the top of the fencing.

More snow crystals

Lady Gaga...well worth the wait, she is gentle and elegant

Lady Gaga checking out Tyke and Velvet

Beck Brow Paige Turner (aka Poppet)....looking very chocolate when compared to her sister Pebbles

Finian...serial fleece saboteur...this time it's Lucie who is the food trolley!

Looking out of the window, the snow is starting to come down again...I have just had a phone call to say that my free range turkey is ready to be collected from the farm down the be off while the going is's a 10.5 kg whopper...lets hope all the family manage to get here!

Monday 20 December 2010

Finian uses some underhand tactics...

As cria weaning time is here...and over due for some...I have been thinking about how they will all be without their Mums; and who will become the gang leader for the weeds this year? Our two most likely candidates this time are Explorer and Finian.

Explorer has always had the stand out factor and gets a lot of visitor attention due to his fabulous fleece. Finian, on the other hand is a real charmer and is a beautiful golden colour, which means he also puts up some good competition for the attention.

However, lately I have noticed that Explorer is looking particularly tatty...He looks like he has been pulled through the proverbial hedge...only he hasn't been near any hedges. I had been talking to Paul about it...what has happened? Paul had been putting it down to his fleece being too long but that couldn't explain the mess that it is in. Well today I caught him...Finian is trying to knobble the competition...a little chew here and a little chew there... that will soon sort out Mr Gorgeous!!

Finian knobbles his opponent!
Explorer's fleece...not looking at it's best
Paul did some poo testing over the weekend. He choose some random alpacas for sampling, largely based upon what he managed to get 'hot from the bot'. Everyone sampled got the all clear thankfully. Mostly the poo is frozen solid at the moment which means Velvet is struggling to munch on her usual dottle snacks and the poover is out of action. Whilst I was out scraping frozen poo up with my metal shovel (the plastic one broke) I got some head shots:

Beck Brow Pepsi lola...due to be mated in the spring

Morden Hall Honoria...pregnant to Ambersun Baltimore (s. Jolimont Warrior)

Paul popped in for a Nutmeg nuzzle!
Whilst we have escaped the worst of the snow, we have been experiencing some pretty low temperatures; minus 11.5 again this morning. I remembered today...possibly too late...the fate of our bay tree last year when it got this cold...I also remembered the eye watering cost of the replacement. It was looking a little less than perky this it has now got a lovely suri coat on thanks to Snowstorm!

The bay tree looking festive...maybe a santa hat is required?

Friday 17 December 2010

Ready and waiting...

Ever since we thawed out I have been preparing for the next big freeze...the one that is going to last until at least the end of January...the one that is to bring 10 cms of snow in a single day...the one that was meant to arrive here yesterday.

The snow began to fall at around 10 am. I had already started the poovering so I carried on; my hands were freezing; I had an inch of snow on my head; my rear... jumping on and off a snow cover quad...well best not think about it! I was determined...I was going to collect it all before it disappeared beneath the snow (okay, I know at minus 4 degrees nothing will be living in the poo...and this just confirms that I have pristine paddock syndrome...although not officially diagnosed). Anyway, after soldiering on to the point of near pneumonia the snow stopped and hasn't returned!

I am ready. As well as the usual supplies of Camelibra and Fibregest, I have enough oats, sugar beet and peas to last until the end of February, if not March. And today I have been out and bought some serious gloves...well seriously expensive ones, designed for visiting the Arctic or such things...minus 10 is my normal crying point so we will so how they do. Seriously...I am not complaining...I am sure it will come our way, but we have escaped with ice rather than snow, and a comparatively warm minus 3 degrees today.

I threw some hay out for St Pat and the boys (at minus 3 we can assume that eating from the ground will not be a problem!). The five boys live in harmony for most of the time, with food being the only battle ground. St. Pat has quickly established himself as the leader and does get a little bossy around feed time. As you can see in the photo he has managed to hog the biggest pile of hay. Five x 1-meter long troughs, with a minimum of a meter between them, seems to have ended most of the disputes. Long may it last.

I haven't managed to get any decent photos over the past few days. In part because the girls stay in the barn for much of the time; and in part because I have been too busy shopping and lunching. Apart from the last minute stuff I think that I am almost there now. With the threat of the big freeze I have two freezers packed full of goodies, just in case ( in case of what? case we can't get out for two months is Paul's retort!). I have accepted a little help this year with the Christmas dinner preparations. Mainly with the accompaniments that take up so much time.They kindly offer every year and I normally like to be independent...however...with the thought of having to deal with frozen troughs and frozen pipes on Xmas day this year I have given would be churlish not to...thank you Marks and Spencer...

Sunday 12 December 2010

Vest off and Flushing

Just as I was about to go into meltdown myself...we began to thaw on Friday...and what's more...we have a flushing loo and no burst pipes...thank you! Paul was away all week so it has been a tough one.

The alpacas appeared to be equally excited with lots of pronking and racing (our cria like racing this year). Just as was my heart was melting watching them play, it quickly began sinking as I saw Poppet skidding through the slush...ending up with all four legs through the wire fence. She just laid still as I set off sprinting up the field...Now; she was some distance away and sprinting is probably a poor description of what I was actually managing...but Bahati (mum) was there way before me. Calmly she checked Poppet over, spoke to her (alpaca language; not sure what she said, but it sounded reassuring rather than distressing) she then nudged her up. As Poppet stood Bahati put her head down checking all four legs then took her more playing from Poppet...Mum knows best!...Bahati is just one amazing alpaca.

Poppet today...back to a skid free surface.

We went to the North West Alpaca Group Xmas party last night, so we are yet again slightly sleep deprived, although it was only 01.30 am this time. All the same, I always wake up on a Sunday morning planning the week ahead. This morning's 'before we even get out of bed conversation' was weaning. The conclusion...we have decided to wait until Xmas (will they know that it is Xmas that just too cruel?) when eight of the cria will be ready together (just leaving Nutmeg and Poppet). We will leave the weanlings where they are at present and move their mums back over the lane...Well that is the plan, lets see if I weaken!

Even without my interference Camilla has decided that Explorer is getting far too big and strong to have more than the minimal amount of feeds from her:

Camilla and Explorer ...time to get your own tea!

We have managed to get our Xmas tree up and decorated this afternoon, despite help from Velvet. We already have a headless, one legged Santa and a dove minus it's I don't expect it will survive until Xmas if Velvet is left alone with it for long!

Thursday 9 December 2010

The big thaw?

I woke up this morning buoyed by the thought of the predicted big thaw...would it be warm enough to take off my gloves...remove one of my vests...and more importantly would the downstairs loo be back in operation? The answer to all three...No..No... and No! It was still minus 5.5 degrees at 11 am this morning; better than minus 12.5 but far from thawing out. We have just managed minus 3.0 so maybe we will get above zero yet. I did notice on the lunch time weather forecast that Carlisle was the only place with a - in front of the number, and although just 10 miles away, we are always a few degrees cooler than they are.

Looks like I will be able to try out some of the recommendations for keeping the water from freezing over, sooner than I had thought (Many thanks for all your comments and advice). I thought that Shirley's idea of adding vodka to the water buckets had real potential, however, after further consideration I feel the chances of Hoity Toity becoming dependant are fairly high...she isn't a girl with much restraint. I will try adding a drop of oil to one of the buckets to stop the water freezing, as suggested by Hilary, and see how it goes down with them. I wonder if cod liver oil would do the trick and give them shiny fleeces too!

At least the alpacas have all been out today. The hay supplies are very popular with adults and cria alike. If this winter and last are to become the norm, I think that we are going to have to invest in some hay dispensers for the paddocks (normally we have plenty of grass so they only eat the hay in the barn when it is raining or at night time)

Nutmeg holds her own in the hay scrum.

Amanda, whose two girls (Caramella and Stanstead) arrived with Lady Gaga over two weeks ago, has only managed to get to see them once since the day they came, due to the lack of salted roads where we both live. The girls have all settled in really well...I think it was the sugar beet that helped win them over so quickly!

Stanstead (left) Lady Gaga and Caramella

Even St. Pat has been out today...I caught him mid-chew...I am sure he would not be very amused to see the result...but very cute ears sir!

One last photo...apologies for the quality but I thought it was never the less rather amusing; I caught Sam the alpaca cat and Velvet catching the sunshine that was coming through the window into the snug this may have to click on to enlarge but ...Sam is looking mighty cross that Velvet has bagged the remote control!

Girl gets the must be that the cricket is over...anyone know who won?

Wednesday 8 December 2010

A Proposal!

It was minus 12 degrees when I got around to checking this morning. The downstairs cloakroom has frozen, despite extra heating all night, so I expect it may have been even colder overnight. At least the sun has come out today and I managed to tempt most of the alpacas outside for some hay...much to Velvet's delight:

Velvet assessing the Minnie to be trusted?...going right is looking like the better option.

Can a lady not have some privacy and dignity?...

Okay...I'll show you...the grass is under here, you just have to dig a bit (Willow and Nina)

Getting rather brave...Velvet hasn't noticed Explorer approach....

OMG...that's scary...apologies for only getting his neck in the photo, I jumped as well! on photo for close up of full horror experience.

I have given up trying to keep the cria fleeces in anything vaguely near pristine condition. Keeping them warm and well fed has to be top priority in these extreme conditions. I know...I said the same thing last year...if it happens every year then can it still be considered extreme? Anyhow they have managed to get themselves looking like haystacks, despite my best sweeping up efforts. The only solution I feel is to cria shear, but with summer births (to avoid the late spring frost we often get) I would have been worried that they wouldn't have had enough fleece for the November frosts...what to do?

Not only a problem for processing, it also means that we probably won't end up with any cria fleeces suitable for showing. Now, this is where I have a proposal to put to BAS...a handicap system...they are already about to alter the BAS fleece scoring system to reduce the emphasis on weight...they could introduce it at the same time: Any cria who has to endure temperature of minus 10 or above automatically gets the full five points for lack of fleece impurities...sounds fair to me!!

Explorer...that's hay, straw and poo in there!

I go around thinking such silly thoughts just to break up the drudgery of spending day after day...hour after hour repeating the same jobs, with very little new achieved. Every day I try to change my opinion on which of the jobs I hate most...just to reduce the ground hog feeling...yesterday it was carrying buckets of water (which froze again before half of them were drank...then I feel that it is a complete waste of time). Today it is barrow emptying...I lowered my standards last night and didn't empty the wheelbarrows ready for the guessed they where frozen solid this morning...aggghhhh

My thought for today: If only I could invent something that stopped the water buckets freezing...that wasn't called anti-freeze...I could be so rich, as well as making so many people happy!

Monday 6 December 2010

Mouse Party!

It has been back to the morning routine for me today: defrosting troughs; cleaning out barns and shelters (3 barrow loads this lazy are these alpacas...step outside!); and replenishing all the hay nets and bags. Whilst the temperature is so low, the morning feed includes some oats and peas in addition to the usual Camelibra and Fibregest. In the evening the girls also get some sugar beet (instead of peas). Holly hasn't yet figured out the this is an evening treat and every morning she looks at me and then at the bucket as if she is trying to remind me that I've forgotten something! After approximately half an hour of following me around on duty she does eventually give up.

I had the morning off duties yesterday. The mouse party went ahead as planned. We only managed to keep going until 4am (old age catches up) but still a bit late to be ready for the early shift...just as well the cat was home! (we shut him in the snug with the cricket highlights and few Boddys). We did manage a circular walk from home before a late lunch, we kept mainly to the roads as when we did go through fields the snow was so deep that we had to carry the dogs!

We have had no more snow over the weekend but it remains very cold. Thankfully all of the cria come in happily overnight and only venture out when the sun is out. Our youngest cria Poppet, is only 12 weeks-old, but appears to be coping well. She is used to having her ears felt every morning now to check that she is warm. I stuck to my decision not to put her coat back on and she is still keeping very snug. Her dam, Bahati, is a fabulous mother and always has her tucked up out of any draughts. That said we are pleased with our decision to leave Bahati empty and start her on a spring cycle next year. She will be our first girl to get a date with St. Patrick in 2011...lucky girl!

Bahati and Poppet...taken before the heavy snow fall.

Friday 3 December 2010

Weather scuppers mouse's plans...

Another freezing cold start to the day; the kind where your fingers sting so much, despite the gloves, that you really could be excused for being a big baby. I took off my gloves to take a photo of a beautiful pink sky (I think that you can just about get the atmosphere in the photo) which made them sting again for about 10 hoo.

To make matters worse I couldn't find my favourite bobble hat...the warm one...the one that keeps your ears covered as well as your  head. The reason for this misplacement I discovered... was because Paul had got to it first...he soon whipped it off when he thought that he was going to get caught on camera wearing a girl's pom pom hat I can tell you! Although, he did get called out to a job soon after, so got to enjoy the warmth of his car and kindly left me the hat.

I forgot to mention that we got the results back from the VLA for Lady G. She got the all clear with only a small worm count (<20) and was negative for all the nasties. Always reassuring to know. As they have now settled in the girls got their injections of Cydectin 2% and Frontline treatment today. They do seem to have settled well...I think that they have cottoned on that the room service ain't bad!

This weekend is supposed to be the girls Xmas sleep-over at Beck Brow...a yearly event consisting of lots of food, copious amounts of wine and very little sleep. It is carefully arranged to coincide with Paul being in London for the weekend, at his annual works AGM and Xmas party. We have been looking forward to it...we have been practicing...the rules are that how ever much is consumed....however late to bed (usually around 5am) still have to go walking the next day. Well it's all gone pear shaped, as Paul has decided not to make the unnecessary journey in the snow...If the cat's not away will the mice still get to play?...we are reviewing the situation first thing!

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Soft Northerners...

Now us Northerners...and I mean proper North as you get without being in Scotland...we like to think we are a bit hard where weather conditions are concerned...this particularly applies when we compare ourselves to those in the South of the country...I, of course would never voice this thought!...but we do generally get a lot more practice at coping with cold, wet, wind and snow.

Well, I am going to have to eat my hat...and I need them all at the guess was that Lady G and chums would have hardly peeked out of the barn once the snow began to fall (I haven't seen St. Pat out at all today) but no...they are hard girls...a little bit of snow isn't going to get them running indoors...Now the northern girls...where are they...tucked up in the barn!

Lady G. 

One of Amanda's girls looking for grass.

Velvet is 'as nails' nothing keeps her indoors...coat on or she is trying out some snow diving:

Velvet...snow diving

I am having to admit the snow is not so lovely now. We have had 4 or 5 inches today. I expect Paul isn't going to get home tonight. I have had to feed the sheep on our let land as well as ponies and alpacas today. It has been constant defrosting of water buckets and replenishing hay nets.

I was booked in at the hairdressers this morning for emergency treatment; the grey root alert was flashing and the Xmas season is approaching. I classed this as an essential journey and was all prepared...matching underwear in case of accident...heated seats on full...chunky Kitkat supplies (didn't have any Mars bars) but in the end common sense prevailed. I knew I would have got there but would I have got back?...good decision now it hasn't stopped!

Tuesday 30 November 2010

Old habits die hard...for some anyway...

There was a little bit of drama here first thing this morning when I noticed blood dripping from Phoebe's mouth. I hadn't noticed it when I dealt out the food but then I do get mugged, so it is difficult to see clearly. My first thought was a dislodged tooth. I managed to catch her and felt her teeth, all seemed okay. My nurse's brain was thinking; fresh red blood, must be from the mouth (in humans blood from the stomach is dark due to the reaction with the acid). She was still eating okay...even if she was leaving blood everywhere. Second thought was that she had cut her tongue...tongues always bleed heavily.

I decided to wait and see, and it did stop of it's own accord. All the same I thought I would get out the text books to check my assessment...Okay I need to do some more homework... It is only the terminal part of the third stomach compartment that contains the gastric juices in Camelids so my theory would not have applied. Still assessment rather than panic is something! Looks like she did just have a cut.

It's still snowing here, although we are not in the same league as many parts of the country (you have my sympathy Jayne and Debbie). We are still at the stage where I am thinking the extra work is worth the splendor.

The temperature isn't as low today, I am not sure what it is exactly but the ice on the water trough was much easier to break today! I actually threw some hay out in the paddock this morning to tempt the girls outside. It does make life easier not having to sweep out the barn around all those alpaca legs!

 Nutmeg  and Noah (front in photo) ventured out to look for grass. Noah especially was making a valiant effort.

Honaria on the other hand was taking things very easy; sitting down to munch on the supplies and wondering what I was up to.

Nimrod appeared to be the one doing the weather (or should that be wether) assessment for the boys. Looks like he has got the position as St. Pat's man servant!

Talking of which; Paul is in the the bad books... Now, Paul and I are of a similar age when our first cars came without a back window screen wiper, never mind a heated window screen...but we have moved on...well I have. Paul has a new comes with above said items....however Paul prefers to scrape off the snow...old habits die hard. Paul also likes to use my 4 x 4 (even though he claims it to be a girl's version) also comes with said also has a Beck Brow Alpacas logo on the back window screen....make that had...we are now eck Bro acas! Thanks Paul....USE THE DEFROSTING SYSTEM...I have paid for it!

Sunday 28 November 2010

Ear she comes!

More snow overnight and minus 5 degrees...I love it!. I know I won't be saying that if we freeze up again, as we did last year.... but it is so much better than the constant rain that we had at the beginning of the month.

St. Pat is a smart cookie, realising that he is not dressed for harsh winter conditions, he continues to make good use of his shelter. The new girls have also started to come into the barn on a regular basis and are making short work of the hay supplies. The desire for food usually does the trick in the end. The newcommers all got a dose of selenium and colbolt supplement this morning, just to give them a boost. All were all very well behaved with no one trying to spit it out thankfully.

Explorer and Finian are the two hard boys of the herd and have spent most of the day outside. At one point Explorer had lots of little snow balls hanging from his chin but he wasn't for having his photo taken (there's a surprise!) I found Fin still out as dusk was falling, toughing it out next to the sheep:

Finian with only the sheep for company.

The dogs also love the snow. We have had Oscar for a couple of hours this morning. Always good for tiring out Velvet for the day.

Ear she comes...Velvet at top speed.

Oscar and Velvet

Tyke in his tartan Sunday coat.

Our frozen pond.

Despite deciding to stay at home this weekend, we did manage to get in Sunday lunch with Robyn and Craig at the Heather Glen, a hotel and restaurant situated in the village. We had ordered the special xmas menu, nothing unusual, so we were surprised when the owner, who is also the chef, came out of the kitchen to speak to us. "Would you like to try some carrot peelings?" she asks...well we must have looked a bit bemused...and I was just beginning to wonder if they would be roasted or boiled...when she quickly clarified..."for the alpacas!"....not many customers come home with a doggy bag like ours!...they loved them and much easier than chopping them all myself!

Saturday 27 November 2010

Snow Cute!

A little later than for many others around the country; proper snow fell here overnight. It looks beautiful: Crisp, dry snow and bright really is a winter wonderland...we just need Santa now!

I excitedly went out with camera, but bright white snow and bright white fleeces are not ideal subjects together. So some photos of some of the coloureds within the herd!

Frosted gem....Nutmeg with a frosty little nose

Poppet...with Kenzie ducking in for a drink behind.

Nina in the foreground...the others admiring the view!

Pantomime time...It's behind you Lady Gaga!

Ice cool Velvet..."I am simply going to ignore the fact that someone is sniffing my butt!"