OUR SMALL HERD

Our four boys came from Ardo Alpacas in Aberdeenshire. We are not alpaca breeders and have our boys purely as pets. Our experience is that you don't need to be a breeder and that a 'batchelor herd' can give much pleasure to the owner. We have 5 acres including our big garden and grazing for the boys, 15 miles north of Inverness, Scotland. I spin, knit, felt and crochet with the fleece from the boys.

Clicking!!

Just a reminder that clicking on (most) of the photos will show them greatly enlarged.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

More visitors.

Couldn't resist putting this photo of Faro up first, taken today in the sunshine.  He has that macho look, questioning why a human is in his paddock!   Bless him.
The toileting habits of alpacas are a frequent topic of conversation when visitors come to see the boys, especially when one boy goes to the loo, followed by another, then another etc.  We've seen all four boys going at once, facing in different directions - like points in a compass!
We had a lovely visit on Monday from Alison and Brendan of Seafield Alpacas, Portmahomack in Ross-shire. The boys gave their usual few minutes of attention to the humans and when the carrots were finished - so were they, and they wandered off!
 
Monday was a busy day for visitors because we also welcomed a lovely Chinese family who are touring the Highlands, saw the alpacas in their paddock and came to say "Hello."  Here they are feeling the softness of alpaca fleece. Hope you are still  enjoying your holiday folks - nice to meet you all.
The Grumpy Gardener was busy on Monday organising carrots for the boys.  Fyta is helping himself to some and Fidget wants to share the food. We've had various other visitors to see the boys from our neighbour's bed and breakfast business, but the camera isn't always handy.
Typical of Fidget to 'photo-bomb' this shot by going to the toilet in the background!  Fyta (left), Faro and Fergus near the Gunnera plant.
Plenty of bees around this year but not so many butterflies - until today when lots of them appeared in the sunshine to feed on the flowers.  This Peacock butterfly is enjoying being on the Liatris plant.
And finally...........this lovely cushion was given to us by Alison and Brendan when they visited. It's very colourful and this photo does not do it justice.  Thanks folks.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Hay-ho!

It's evening and Fyta is in the shelter waiting for a human to come and put some hay into the hay buckets. There is plenty of grass around the paddocks at this time of year so we're only feeding hay in the evenings.
Ever alert to the possibilities of food in the area Fergus spots the human carrying the hay bag and heads towards him. We've had several tourists coming to look at the boys this week and I always warn them that the boys will approach, wait for about 2 minutes to see if there is any food, if there is none, they will walk away.  Fergus is the ring-leader in this procedure - he stares intently at the visitors hoping for carrots or something and when there is none, he walks away followed by the others!
"Ah, that's better" you can almost hear Fergus saying as he starts to help himself to fresh hay before it has a chance to be put in their buckets.
Not to be outdone, Faro appears and he too starts to help himself.  The boys have all been on Verm-X granules this week, three of them don't mind the taste and smell of them but Faro is not keen on them at all.
Fyta now decides that he'll help himself from the human's hay bag, with Faro watching on. The boys all love their hay.

Looking out from inside the field shelter at Faro with Fidget coming up the slope and making his way to the hay buckets.
And finally............it's been another nice week, lower temperatures and some rain, but good for the garden.  The white lilies and the purple Liatris (Gayfeather) are very colourful.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Cooler weather - thank goodness!

We've been blessed with cooler weather this week, it makes a change to have cloud cover after the heat of the past weeks.  The temperature has been lovely without the blazing sun to contend with.  The boys enjoyed the cooler weather and are not using their water trays so often.
Last week we noted that the vet had given Fidget a thorough examination after we reported that he had lost weight.  The vet arranged for poo samples to be tested for worms and the analysis came back several days later as showing a low worm count.  Fidget is behaving just as normal but we continue to keep a close eye on him.
From the left, Fyta, Fergus and Fidget grazing in the paddock adjoining the garden with the boys' communal toileting area in the foreground.  The Grumpy Gardener occasionally cuts turf to cover the 'burnt' areas as the grass will not grow in this area.
We're being a bit more careful with our hay feeding during these summer months in case there is a winter shortage caused by the weather.  This is Fergus enjoying hay as always.
Faro also likes his hay in the evening.  The paddock grass has returned to a greener colour from the yellowish look it had for a couple of weeks - amazing the difference a couple of showers of rain can make.
We spent most of yesterday shelling peas and broad beans to store in the freezer.  These were the first two of 4 buckets filled with peas with more to come later this week.  The contents of the pea pods from the right bucket can be seen in the middle container.  Peas and beans are really good value for the gardener.
We have several sunflowers planted out around the garden but this is the first one to fully show it's sunny face.  It's standing over 7 feet tall and attracts plenty of bees.
And finally.............I was sent this lovely glasses case as a birthday present by my niece, Judy.  It really is lovely and makes a terrific present.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Alpacas - and other wildlife!

This is Fidget (rear) and Fergus in the pen awaiting the arrival of the vet.  We have been concerned recently by Fidget's weight loss and going to the toilet is taking him a lot longer than it normally does.  He is eating and drinking well and he appears to behaving normally, apart from the toileting issues.
We left Fergus (left) in the pen with Fidget to keep him company and the other two boys wait in an adjoining paddock.
The vet gave Fidget a thorough examination and he was well behaved only 'kushing' on a couple of occasions.  Fidget is the most timid of the  4 boys and always hangs back from the group.  Faecal samples were obtained for the lab for a worm count as a first step whilst heart rate, digestive tract sounds and temperature were all normal.  Fidget and the other 3 boys are all 12 years old.
Faro (left) and Fyta wait in an adjoining paddock and keep an eye on the vet and other humans dealing with their pals.  We find that alpacas are very forgiving of humans examining them and shoving thermometers in strange places (!) so once the vet has finished the four boys continue grazing.
Dear oh deer, we could do without this chap wandering through our garden as if he owned it, nibbling bushes and shrubs at random!  When he saw the human taking the photo he scarpered!
The Grumpy Gardener is at the hair pulling stage again because not only are rabbits and the deer giving him extra work but one morning this week we discovered that a badger had been at work on an embankment/rockery at the back of the house.  He was clearly burrowing for wasps/bumble bee nests as is their habit but he certainly left a mess.
And finally...................the House Martin families have all now taken to the wing.  There are three nests at the top of the picture under the eaves and the birds enjoy sitting on the wood struts during the evenings.  We have nests all around the house and the garage so there are dozens of birds wheeling around in the air.  Great to watch but creating more work for me in cleaning their mess off the windows!

Sunday, 22 July 2018

A busy week.

Another week of lovely, warm weather.  The sun hasn't always been visible because of cloud cover but the temperature has been great.  We had a couple of days of much needed rain early in the week which has caused all the grass - and weeds - to grow furiously again!  Faro is enjoying just chilling out here.
The sand pit continues to be popular with the boys.  Here are Fyta in front and Fergus behind him.
We stopped cutting all grass a couple of weeks ago because of the drought and scorching of the ground but this week following the rain we've been cutting again.  The boys are on the other side of the fence from the mower but they are not bothered enough to  move.
The tractor mower goes past and the boys settle down in the sand pit again.  From the left, Fidget, Faro, Fyta and Fergus.
Colour is returning to the grass after quite a scorching this summer - it's a long time since we've seen that in this part of the Highlands.  The boys are on the move here as visitors are approaching and that must mean carrots!

This week we've had a visit by a group of Learning Disabled adults and their support workers from Inverness, a lady who came by bus and taxi from Nairn to see the boys that she had heard about and a family group including a lovely baby who captivated Fyta!  These two young ladies were impressed by Fergus who stood still to be petted - having been fed carrots as a bribe!
The veg garden is producing!  These early tatties are the 'Rocket' variety and taste lovely.  The pea pods are now swelling, the broad beans are ready to eat and the runner beans are covered in flowers so they will soon turn to beans. The Grumpy Gardener is kept on his toes harvesting the veg whilst I have filled umpteen containers with rasps and black currants for jam making.  A great season for soft fruit.
And finally........... these irises are a brilliant colour and really stand out in the garden.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Flies and things

After last weekend's shearing the boys have been taking it easy this week, getting used to having lost their heavy fleece and keeping the flies at a distance.  Here they are having their daily supplement feed with added Verm-X granules each day for this week.
It's been another very warm week but with more rain and moisture around which has been attracting the flies.  The boys all having 'coping mechanisms' for flies, this is Fergus lying down so that the flies can't get underneath him, and they make great use of their shelter.
Long-time readers of this blog will know that after shearing we always keep a close eye on the boys to make sure that they don't have any cuts or grazes which might attract flies. We noticed flies congregating on a spot on Fidget's right shoulder earlier in the week so sprayed the area with anti fly-strike spray.  The boys don't like being sprayed so we use them sparingly.  Yesterday afternoon we discovered flies gathering around a black spot on Fidget's neck so we put him (right) and Fergus in the pen to deal with it.
This is the back of Fidget's neck and with magnification you will be able to see at least three flies boring into a hole in the fleece.  We have seen the effects of fly-strike on sheep and we try to be vigilant about the possibility of fly-strike on the alpacas - although many people do not believe they are susceptible to this type of attack.  We are not so sure, so we were able to direct the spray directly into the hole and the flies then avoid this area completely.  We've been checking him regularly and 24 hours later there are still no flies going to this area.
A long distance shot from today showing the boys in their shelter, keeping the flies at bay and trying to keep cool.
A picture of the veg garden for a change.  From right to left there are raspberries, black-currants and blueberries before the veg plots - runner beans, peas and broad beans in the first section, then potatoes in the second section, onions, leeks and swedes in the third section and behind the Keder greenhouse are kale, cabbage and cauliflowers.
And finally.............as promised last week, the Cardiocrinum Giganteum (Giant Himalayan lily)has broken into flower!  Standing at 8 feet tall this plant has huge annual growth with each of these trumpet shaped flowers bigger than your hand.   Spectacular.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Hay and shearing.

Another week of sweltering temperatures and the hay was ready for collection.   We got 42 'square' bales from Dave and Karen's hay field at the Beauly Farm Shop.  We almost ran out of hay over the long winter but were saved by Alison and Brendan at Seafield Alpacas, Portmahomack, Ross-shire who still had some bales from their own hay field. Who is that peeking out from behind the trailer by the way?
It took two runs to the hay field to collect the bales and the boys showed an immediate interest in the cargo!
Here they are sampling the goodies!  The fresh hay smelt lovely and was clearly irresistible to the boys.
The Grumpy Gardener only just managed to get the trailer unloaded whilst the boys crowded around. The hay was safely stored in the store which is part of their field shelter and another job we are always pleased to see completed before the winter.
Today has been shearing day and the recent temperatures have made it a long wait for the boys.  This is Fidget (left) and Fergus waiting (anxiously) for their turn to be sheared.
Once again it was a pleasure to see James Dixon assisted by Ginny getting rid of the fleecy coats.  This is is Fyta being sheared.
And soon it was all over, the boys were happy and obviously cooler as they started grazing - but they still used their water trays and troughs.
Faro looking sleek, with Fergus behind him and Fyta chewing hay further back. Shearing day is always an anxious time for humans hoping that the weather is going to behave - and it did!
And finally...........the Cardiocrinum Giganteum (Giant Himalayan Lily) is now nearly eight feet tall and the 'trumpet' flowers have started to develop.  Another photo next week when all the flowers should be on display.