Monday 31 December 2012

Happy New Year

Thank you for your comments on my last blog; they did make me laugh and the pills seem to be working Shirley!

2012 looks like it is going to go out in the same manner as it maintained for much of the year; blowing a gale and pouring with rain. I did pop out at 5am this morning ( well I was awake!) to check that the weanlings were in their shelter...they were! Despite the heavy rain we did manage a little halter training on Saturday. As Carole and Clyde, from Prince Bishop Alpacas in County Durham, had arranged to call in to see their two weanlings ( Lullaby and Topaz), it seemed like an ideal opportunity. Unfortunately, what started as a little drizzle, turned into a torrential downpour when we were half way down the lane. The mud and rain is impeding training this year...but Sox halter trained at 3 months is a record for us...although she has to be in the lead all the time and pushes her way to the front...she is going to one with an eye on that red rosette that one!p

Carole and Clyde have five of their females already and are really enjoying watching the herd dynamics develop within the group. They have a great mix of females with a good range of genetics from males and females that we have chosen to be in our core herd. When we had our herd assessed by Dr Jim Watts from Australia (SRS) and Tim Hey (Inca Alpacas) in the Spring ; two female lines scored especially well: Blueberry Samauri Bahati and Morden Hall Honaria and it is offspring from these lines that are forming the base of their core herd. And with Beck Brow Explorer (dam Cambridge Camilla and star of the herd assessment) also in the mix; Prince Bishop Alpacas will be one to watch.

Taking of Bahati, I have been getting a little worried that she has not held her pregnancy (it took numerous attempts to get her pregnant when she normally takes first time ) and as one of our top females, this would be especially disappointing. Bahati has been coming over and actively seeking out being stroked....she even puts her head on my shoulder. Now, this is normal for Chaska for example, but not Bahati, who used to be liable to catch you out with a good kick when she first arrived. She has got much friendlier over the years, but this cuddling in is new. Could it be a lack of pregnancy hormones?  So she has been spat off ...Explorer got it...yes she spat (pregnant). My theory is that she knows that we saved Lullaby for her...I have seen it before...they are amazing animals...who cares if I am obsessed!

Well I am VERY excited about 2013...could it be that we are going on holiday (good but not a very)...we will get to see Cambridge Stargazer when she comes to the UK from Australia (exciting yes)...we have the potential to have 30 births (getting close)...BECK BROW EXPLORER WILL HAVE HIS FIRST CRIA (I am to be a grandmother!!)...either that or it's the pills but I am certainly EXCITED!

I will leave with one of my favourite photos of 2012...Beck Brow Snooty Boots...newly shorn and looking rather shy!

Beck Brow Snooty Boots

Wishing you all a Happy, Prosperous and Dry 2013...have a good one!

Thursday 27 December 2012

Dear Agony Aunt....

Dear reader,

I write in hope that I will find confirmation that I am not alone with my problem. I am an alpaca owner and I am obsessed (normal) I also dream a lot, especially after eating too much cheese (normal). I woke up at 4am on Boxing Day, I am perspiring, my heart is pounding (reasonably normal for many I guess, depending on what has been consumed) I am not sure if my dream is for real or not, hence the anxiety...I have lost Foxy Sox (not an unreasonable worry as she is a rejected cria)...I have lost her in Marks and Spencer's Food Hall (well I do spend a bit of time in there)...I am racing up and down the aisles, stopping other customers "have you seen an alpaca" now, you might think that would be enough information...but no...I go on "she is this big (hand held out) she is fawn and very, very cute"... no one has seen her, they try to reassure me "she won't come to any harm in here, we will find her"...but this doesn't I explain my concern "but she doesn't know how to cross the road on her own" !! (mad as).

I would like to know if I need treatment or if other owners also demonstrate such signs of extreme obsessive behaviour?

B of BB Cumbria.

Foxy Sox (milk chops) safe if a little blurred!

We have mud everywhere and the ground is waterlogged. None the less, I have been out with the camera this morning; my mission was to take some photos of Bendrago and Marco for their new owners. However it seemed that the blacks had missed me being out with the camera...

Ardo Jet who has decided to get extremely friendly of late

likewise Burton Constable April

out of the way April...

there he is Beck Brow Marco! (also blurred)

We have weaned another couple of cria this morning; Beck Brow Advantage and Beck Brow Topaz. But not before we moved the existing weanlings on to dry land. Their paddock has so much standing water and mud that it wasnt very pleasant for them. Unfortunately their new paddock has trees overhanging into do they get so much debris in their fleece so quickly?

Beck Brow Topaz

This is the mud in the gateway of the girls field...they hate the mud but have to come through it to be fed

mud, mud, and more mud

somehow EP Cambridge Lady Gaga always manages to stay clean...and look down her nose!

Monday 24 December 2012

Sox saves the day

I found myself at a bit of a loss as to what to do yesterday... No more Christmas fairs to do, decorations up and presents delivered, alpaca husbandry up to date...phew...maybe we could go out for Sunday lunch. The Heather Glen (5 mins away) does a fabulous roast beef dinner...I had this idea whilst still in bed and my mouth was already watering at the thought...the hotel would be looking all festive, and I could smell the burning logs mingling with the smell of roast dinner.

What I actually had was humous on toast ...because Paul decided that he would rather pressure wash the barn. I wasn't best pleased...I think he realised that when he had the cheek to come in and ask what was for lunch...I believe he made himself a tin of soup! Obviously realising that I was feeling a touch rejected, he then decided to make an effort...would I like to drive the quad bike whilst he did some poovering...err let me think...NO!

Of course a bad mood never lasts for long around alpacas. Out I went to chop up some carrots to feed to the girls. Celestrial is getting braver everyday, I reckon that the lure of the carrot is getting too much and she will be eating out of my hand by the end of today. I have only failed with one alpaca, and that is Metisha who still likes to keep her distance.

The biggest smile of the day was given to Foxy Sox...who gets more amusing by the day. She loves sugar - beet and tucks in with gusto...then about 15 minutes later she is like Mario after a power up...she races around as fast as alpaca fast can be...then does a couple of laps of pronking...then back to power up. Unfortunately it is too dark for photos...but very entertaining.

Today I will be losing two of my little 'fixes'. Synergy and Alfie are going to be making someone's Christmas very special but I will miss them. I think Explorer will too...they are part of his gang of five...he loves bossing them about.

I am already making plans for next year. We shall be turning more of the land over to the alpacas and building another shed. This has a lot to do with the amount of mud this just you watch with any luck we will have a dry one next year.

I have even been looking ahead as far as next September and can confirm that Dominic Lane ( Anzac Alpacas)  has kindly accepted the invitation by the Westmorland Show Committee and will be judging the alpacas there in 2013.

Having come back to bed  ( love my iPad! )  after doing the bottle feeds, its now time to get out I will just wish you...

A very Happy Christmas...rejoice and be merry!

Friday 21 December 2012

Festive Sugar Beet

A quick blog before I go to work (at the hospital that is) I have lots of mucking out to complete before then! I just thought that I would post a photo of our Christmas tree as I think I was a bit bar humbug in the last blog.

Luckily Ben has been home, so after numerous comments about no decorations (don't adult offspring want home to be as it was as a child at Christmas) he decided to start the job himself. He put on some  seasonal music, gathered all the decorations in from the barn...and before long he had me in the Christmas spirit too. I did resist the temptation to interfere...well nearly...Ben went for a less is more approach to tree I wasn't sure if this was because he got fed up with the when he was out of the room I added a few more lights...which he promptly announced made his efforts look like something from the Poundland down they came!

As this is meant to be an alpaca blog...and just to prove that they have not been is the sugar-beet soaking in the boot room sink...they will have course have to share with the reindeer...

A festive boot room sink!

The reindeer

Ben's Christmas tree (most of the decorations are back in the barn)

Maybe Ben has decorations at the other end of the room took 2 mins to complete...looks okay with the lights out and candles on!

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Three French Hens; Two Guinea Fowl; and a Partridge in a Pear Tree....

Another busy few days; starting with me working a night shift on Friday night. Some of you may recall that three years after leaving my full-time position as a Sister (within critical care) to look after our alpaca business; Earlier this year, I decided to go back to nursing (just 12 hours per week as a Staff Nurse on the Coronary Care Unit). However, I usually opt to work a night shift as this doesn't impede my availability to care for the alpacas. What it does impede my ability to sleep all night and stay awake all day. Thus, having been awake been the hours of 2am until around 5am, I wasn't impressed when the alarm went off at 6 am on Monday morning.

Paul was trying to do his best impersonation of someone who considers himself to have a glass half-full...

"Come's the last more left after this!"

Why did he remind me of market trader selling turkeys? Oh yes...I's because on a wet Monday morning... I was going to be just that (well scarves not turkeys...but it wasn't tempting me out of bed). I hadn't realised when I booked the stall that it wasn't actually a Christmas fair, but just a dozen of us local producers placed around the Market Hall. 

Well, despite my reluctance, we were pleasantly surprised, and sold out of hats on day one. Then out of all of our knitwear on the second day. Yesterday saw our highest takings of any day at a fair (one scarf away from achieving our normal weekend target in a single day).  What was especially nice was that a number of customers came back for more scarves on the second day, having already purchased on day one.

As always I was keen to recycle some of my takings...but with only a dozen of us stall holders my options were limited...none the less, I managed to come home with...24 home baked mince pies; 3 boxes of handmade chocolates; 8 jars of home produced preserves; a muesli loaf; and 2 boned and stuffed guinea fowl! 

Today I have posted off a couple of orders and delivered seven scarf orders. That's it now, I need to concentrate on getting ready for our Christmas. The tree is still in a bucket of water in the garage. Tonight is the night decorations up and presents wrapped.

On Sunday we had a lovely day as we delivered some alpacas to their new home. The girls ( a group of seven, making a fantastic starter herd with some great genetics, including...fingers of the first Beck Brow Explorer cria to be born) have gone to a lovely couple. The new owners (forgot to ask if they wished to be named) have a great setup for the alpacas, with fantastic purpose designed accommodation. I have never seen alpacas settle in and investigate their new quarters so quickly. We also got looked after very well with a lovely lunch and a glass of sparkly to celebrate. Cheers!

Right, I started this blog at 11am this morning...I had every intention of getting the tree out of the bucket of water in the garage and up and decorated tonight. It is now gone 8.30 pm and the decorations are still in the barn... and the tree still in the bucket. Maybe tomorrow. I have never been this late with the decorations before...and now I have agreed to do an extra shift at work on Friday...aarghhh.

No time for proper photography today but I did catch some weanlings on my iPad....

Shackleton, Sox and Lullaby...all competing for the starring position

Got there Shackleton...unfortunately not a good look...I think Lullaby takes it!

I have just organised for a rather big package to be collected tomorrow...a chance phone call has resulted in someone going to have their Christnas wishes come true...lets hope TNT dont let us down...not many days left to get there in time!

Thursday 13 December 2012

A hand required!

We have had a few lovely frosty days so far this week...good for the spirits after the rain and mud. On Tuesday I did some halter training with Amanda and Carole (actually the halter training was with Lullaby, Lexus and Lula...Carole and Amanda were trainers rather than trainees). The girls did well for their first time out...but more practise still required. Sox was itching to be out with the I think she will be cute will she be halter trained at 3 months!

Yesterday I gave myself a few hours off to go shopping (I only get four hours between feeds). I came back quite pleased with my purchases...not so many presents...but lots of stuff for Paul and I. Now, I am pretty sure that Paul is a 'glass half empty' and I am "a glass half full'...we are opposites in many respects... I had this though confirmed this morning... when I gaily commented:

"Isn't this weather just really cheers you up"

Paul's reply:

"Don't get used to it it's going to rain tomorrow"

Anyway, that kid of sums up the difference between us. Hence, whilst I was excited that I had spent so much money in the outdoor clothing shop, I had been able to negotiate a free shirt (they also threw in a free scarf but I thought I wouldn't mention that...having 200 of our own to sell!)...Paul on the other hand didn't appear quite so impressed. It didn't help that I got the wrong size trousers for him...he said 34 x I got him 32" waist and 34" leg...seems that he is not so tall and slim as I had thought....hem wrong way round!! (lets hope the free shirt new coat does! I wonder if he will even notice.)

Today I have been trying to get a few photos for the on-line shop. We really have very little hand-knit stock left and I expect that we could sell it all at our next (and last) Christmas fair. However, we have had a number of requests for items, so I will put our last two hats and a small number of gloves on the site tonight. I had to enlist Robyn to give me a the glove model!

The latest design going in the shop later

I always find it so time consuming , hence not getting round to doing it is not helped by the fact that Velvet always has to be in the thick of whatever is going on.



Just a couple of photos; firstly Paulo who is very cute...and unlike his namesake looks on the bright side (that will be the other side of mum Renatta)

Lastly we have Burton Constable April, who arrived very timid, but now is at the front of the queue to be hand fed carrots...a very sweet girl...who will be having our first Viracocha Black Sabbath cria in the Spring.

Burton Constable April

Sunday 9 December 2012

It's a secret...don't tell!

For most of the time I think that we are blessed to be living in the beautiful Eden Valley in Cumbria. We have peace and quiet, and amazing views; unfortunately we also have the slowest broadband ever. IT tasks that would take me five minutes at work, take me half hour at home. If I am lucky! Hence, when I eventually got round to putting Synergy and Alfie on the for sale list on Thursday, this was accompanied by much cursing. In the end I gave up, and left Synergy with just a head shot. It was at this point the telephone rang "I was just wondering if you had any boys for sale and ready to leave...."

So the boys were sold without anyone seeing my efforts on the 'for sale' list. It is all rather exciting. The boys are to be going to live on a farm, with a family who have lots of livestock experience...the exciting bit?...they are to be picked up on Christmas eve... and are a surprise for their teenage daughter, who has all but given up hope after years of wanting alpacas. She will be coming for a husbandry day in the New Year so I will get to meet the lucky recipient then. Although I think mum and dad are just as keen. I always find it amazing how farmers come along and can point out your best bred alpacas in the middle of the field!

The weather has been cold and wet. No change there. But poor Legacy of  Purston, who we think is 15 years old (Peruvian import, so can never be sure), is feeling the cold. I am not sure that he is very grateful about it, but he is now wearing a rather fetching coat. This has caused great amusement amongst the other alpacas as he struts about.

Foxy Sox checks out the new attire

Soon a crowd begins to gather.

The next photo is for Judi, who often comments about how clean my alpacas are. Well, I have lost the battle with the mud. Beck Brow Lexus (on the right) seems to have got especially black. Lexus has one of the best (if not the best) fleeces of the cria born this year. She has been sold, with a mating to Beck Brow Explorer next I mad?...possibly, but I own her dam; Morden Hall Honaria, who will have the first Explorer cria born.

Beck Brow Lexus (right) with Beck Brow Finesse and Beck Brow Sophie (left and middle)

As is the norm with us alpaca breeders; I am already getting excited about next year's birthing season. Having sold more alpacas than we had born this year, it is just as well that we are hopeful for over 30 births. I admit the fact that Explorer will be having his first cria in 2013, plays a large part in our high hopes for a great crop of cria, but we have females pregnant to an amazing list of stud males:

Beck Brow Explorer (white)
Viracocha Black Sabbath (black!)
Waradene St Patrick of EPC (fawn)
Lillyfield Jack of Spades (black)
EP Cambridge Fortitude (white)
Fowberry Nobility (fawn)
Bozedown Omen (fawn)
Bozedown Patriot (white)
Lavender Park Zarathrusta (fawn)

Fingers crossed for plenty of females. We have sold all of our females born in 2012, with the exception of Sox, who Paul has decided is going to join the core herd (because she is so good he tells me... nothing to do with being smitten of course!). I realise that she features in more blog photos than any other alpaca...but she is rather photogenic. Take Coco for example, she is a lovely looking cria with her nearly black face and ears, but she always puts her ears back and stands in a heap just when I decide to take a Sox steals the show again!

yes, another photo of Foxy Sox (Wiseman Sweet Coco behind)

Yesterday we gave the herd a dose of Fasinex, along with their monthly vitamins. We don't live in an area troubled by liver fluke, but after such a wet year we decided to take no chances. Everyone behaved so well. I kept saying to Paul "she can't be pregnant...she is so friendly" but by the end, I had to assume that either no one is pregnant (well maybe Snooty Boots...she was a bit...well snooty) or they are just very friendly girls.

I should have been at a Christmas fair today, but it seems I was too late with my booking. So only one more fair to go now. Actually I am rather glad to have a weekend off from selling alpaca wear. Much prefer enjoying the alpaca chores.

Thursday 6 December 2012

It's snow fun...brrr

Just a quick update on the weeds (as we always call our weanlings for some reason). we only have one who is being a little bit of a cry baby, and that is Shackleton (Chaska's boy) but that is only when he first sees us and he does a little "please can I have my mummy... pleaseeeee" act.

Thankfully they are using the shelter as it is bitter today, with a  freezing cold wind. I love snow, but ours is a bit of a disappointment...wet snow that gets you all soggy kind of snow...I want crisp dry stuff! I am pleased to say that the harder ground has helped Finesse who is now walking much better without all the slippy mud.

Here are the weeds in the shelter from right: Lexus, Lula, Shackleton with Finesse and Sophie behind

What is bringing them out of the shelter? Clue Lullaby (left) and Foxy Sox are leading the way...

Yes, bottle time with Robyn...(note alpaca hair band knitted by moi!)

As you can see wet snow...

Beck Brow Topaz...rather damp

As you can see not nice snow...just cold, wet and windy

The girls are curious to know who the text is from..."come on Robyn do share"

Adelle (pregnant to Explorer) comes to check out what's going on...

and little Marco still manages to look super cute in the storm!

I went Christmas shopping yesterday. As well as presents, I have two large freezers packed full of delicious food, an order for a free range turkey ( feeds 10-12) an order for a piece of 28 day hung sirloin (feeds 8-10) as well as seafood and pates on order. Nothing wrong with that you might think...other than I have offered to work on Christmas day, Craig also offered to work, so Robyn did the same. Paul will have plenty to share with Velvet and Tyke! I jest... we will be having our Christmas dinner... on Boxing day... and the rest of the contents of the freezer we will be eating until the end of January!

Monday 3 December 2012

100% British Alpaca...

Apologies Dave, the title of my last blog did suggest that I was going to avoid all mention of the weather..and then I slipped a comment in there...but it was about the weather in Scotland rather than in Cumbria! Well, I am going to start by discussing the weather today then it is over with...I have mentioned the rain a lot this year...and some of you from drier parts must wonder how wet can it be...well wet enough to turn an alpaca rusty...that is how wet it can be..

Our Beck Brow Alpacas farm need of some paint

Actually the weather has been glorious over the weekend. We have had frost, sunshine and a dusting of snow. It has been minus three degrees, but nothing a pair of alpaca socks couldn't cope with. We were at the Hawkshead Christmas Fair at the weekend. Hawkshead is set in the centre of the Cumbrian Lake District near to Coniston, it is a lovely village with cobbled streets, fabulous shops selling local produce, and awesome scenery. 

We had another amazingly successful weekend, again passing our four figure target for takings with ease. Amanda came with me on Sunday and proved herself to be a very good sales woman, but the prize has to go to Beck Brow Snooty Boots. We have definitely found that sales are better without the actual alpacas with us, but photos and cards featuring Snooty Boots, and the association with our products, does help sell. 

Although it obviously good to make a profit, the most exciting thing about the fairs is the demand for our products, and the compliments that we receive. The fair closed at 4 pm, but we even had a sale of two scarves at 4.15 pm whilst we were packing the van! Being able to say that all of our products are 100% British alpaca and knowing the provenance of each item, does seem to be key at the fairs that we have attended.

We are sold out of most of our knitwear now, I have taken a few orders, but that will be it for Christmas now. Today I need to get some photos of out woven scarves and wraps for our on line shop although we are sold out of some designs already.

As much as the fairs are fun, I do miss the alpacas when I am busy all weekend. We need to catch up on some husbandry tasks this week. We have decided to change to oral Cydectin as a wormer. I am not sure if drenching will be quicker than injecting (it is a large volume dose 4mls/10kgs) but as we have had three injection site abscesses following injections of Cydectin 2% we have decided to give oral a try. We also have our monthly AD & E vitamins to give. 

Well, it's bottle time for the babes so I better be off. Sox is now three months old so I think we will reduce feeds to four hourly from now. Lullaby needs to be weaned from the bottle, but it feels mean to feed one with out the other, so we are slowly reducing the volume.

Beck Brow Foxy Sox looking a little frosty!

Young Punk Alfie who will be going on Alpacaseller with Beck Brow Synergy later today

Burton Constable Sophia...just because she was looking pretty!