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 8 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.

Thursday, 31 December 2009

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Happy Christmas

As the snow still lays thick all around we are obviously going to have a white Christmas tomorrow.  Temperatures were down to -9c this morning so were obviously colder during the night. At Aviemore, not many miles away,  the temperature dropped to -16c last night and the forecast is for it to be another cold night tonight.  The boys were covered in frost this morning but seem to be doing OK in the cold.  We cleared some snow to reveal the grass and they were delighted with this.  The top photo of me with some of the boys was taken just before the really heavy dump of snow.  Can't resist putting up another shot taken from the house looking up the drive, following the heavy snow. I'd like to wish all my blog followers (Debbie in USA, Joyce in France, Rolf in Norway and Iain and Ann on the Isle of Lewis), all family and friends, and alpaca lovers everywhere, a very happy Christmas.  Take care and have a lovely time.

Monday, 21 December 2009

White stuff

In my last post I showed a summer photo - now we are in the depths of winter!  Over the last two days we have had significant snowfalls - a real knee high dump which is likely to stay with us and give us a white Christmas.  Top photo is of Gaucho looking for more hay having already consumed one lot of haylage, and to examine the camera.  The other photo shows Gully in front, with Fidget behind and Faro the brown fella at the rear.  Several of the boys have been running around and jumping in the snow so they obviously like it.  Unfortunately there is no grass for them to graze and unlike sheep, we find that the boys do not scrape the ground to find any.  They are using their shelters a lot but still manage to look wet most of the time.  We change their drinking water daily, remove the ice and snow, and find that they do drink it probably because eating nothing but hay, haylage and their supplements, makes them thirsty.  The weather forecast indicates that this cold spell will last for several days.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Sand (s)pit



Its not that we pamper our boys (much!) but they have a sandpit in each of their paddocks.  During the winter they don't use them - but the rabbits do!  However, during the rest of the year they love to just lie in the sand or roll about in it.  Even on the hottest days the sand is cool, and after a feed they chill out.  The photo (above) was taken shortly after the boys were sheared and shows Fyta (left) and Fergus - both showing off their cool haircuts.  During the present freezing weather I think it is nice to see a summer photo.  We are often asked if the boys spit.  Alpacas do spit at each other, especially when there is food around.  Our guys are no exception to this and often we hear a spitting noise then a fine mist flies through the air in the direction of another alpaca.  Sometimes it is more than fine mist and lots of chewed up grass ends up on the back of an animal's head!  This spit smells awful, like a really bad case of halitosis and if a human gets in the way, then a good wash or shower is needed.  Unfortunately the animal which spits, and the spat upon animal end up being unable to eat anything for around 10 - 15 minutes.  Their lower lips droop, they often have a drip of green saliva falling from the lip and they look thoroughly miserable.  They look like the Donkey in the Shrek movies with their teeth bared and droopy lip!  A couple of the boys go and grab a mouthful of hay and stand there waiting for the taste and smell to disappear before their systems allow them to chew and swallow again.   Sometimes one of the boys will sneeze, and if it is close to one of the other boys, the same symptoms can appear.  First time we saw this was on Fergus, a couple of days after we got the boys in 2007 and we thought he had been stung by a bee!

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Rug hooking & cold weather

Whilst we were at the Feil Maree in Dingwall during the summer (see older posts) we met a lady called Brigitte Webb who is a rug hooker and was interested in using alpaca fleece in her work.  We gave her some fleece and she sent us a gift of a piece of rug with an alpaca image hooked into the rug.  It looks great (see picture above) and even has a fleecy 'bonnet' and I have it displayed in  my alpaca workroom. Brigitte can be contacted on brigitte @hillhousestudio.co.uk . The weather has gone quite cold here over the past few days with -7c last night and barely above freezing during daytime.  There was more than an inch of ice on their water buckets this morning. We've started feeding the boys haylage to supplement their hay as grazing is difficult for them.  They have their daily ration of Alpaca Mix as well as apples and a turnip now and again!  The two youger boys, Gully & Gaucho held back from the haylage at first but after watching the older boys, got stuck in too!  The boys have two large field shelters to choose from and they go in when they want to. They like the shelters and use them often but during clear, frosty nights they like to sleep outside and are usually covered in frost in the morning!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

All muck and magic

One by-product of Alpacas (and all animals) is their dung and we use this on our organic vegetable plots.  The dung is stored for up to a year before being spread although can probably be used sooner. It is mixed with their old straw bedding.  The parsnips (photographed) have been terrific this year, both in size and taste.  The second photo shows some of the veg plots with the parsnips in the foreground and turnips (swedes) and leeks in the background.  Cabbages are at the rear left with a dug over plot rear right.  Two new strawberry beds are at the rear in front of a composting area.  Whilst it can be hard work collecting and barrowing manure, it clearly gives some beneficial results in the garden.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Pastures new

Today the boys were transferred to the lower paddocks and as always when they change, they were very excited.  Plenty of 'humming' noises then Faro led the charge onto new grass.  We usually change them from one set of paddocks to another every 6 weeks which gives the old paddocks a chance to recover.  The boys seem to know when the change is about to take place and line up along the gate, humming and jumping.  We've had very wet weather of late so a change to (slightly) drier ground will be good for them.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Necklaces

I've been making necklaces this week.  The photo shows (left) a necklace of Merino and Alpaca felted balls.  The middle one is Merino and Alpaca swirl.  The necklace on the right is from Turkish and Gotit's felted fleece.  I've also been spinning Ardo Hamish's fleece and it is brown and very soft.  He is being sold by Lorna at Ardo Alpacas and can be seen on the Alpaca Sellers web site (http://www.alpacaseller.co.uk/). About a week ago I put out a bucket of Camelid mineral lick for our boys, but as yet none of them has licked it!  Our weather has been quite wet but the boys are happy to wander about in the rain and only use their field shelters when they want to.  Our sheepish neighbours have now moved on to pastures new leaving the boys to look over the fence at an empty field, apart from an occasional visiting Badger and rabbits.  We try to keep the Badger at bay due to fears of the spread of bovine TB which does affect Camelids.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Visitors

We had a great visit yesterday from John McKenzie and his mother Dorothy who have 4 alpaca boys (Jake, William, Luke & Joel) at their farm in Dingwall.  We had plenty of entertainment firstly watching Gaucho throwing a turnip around the paddock as he tried to eat it, then later, Fergus removing my hat whilst I bent down (that's his party-trick!)  We spent plenty of time discussing alpaca things and we haltered our boys in the catch-pen and clipped Fergus's and Fidget's nails.  We managed short 'walkies' but Gaucho continues to be the boy with the least enthusiasm for being led, although is fine having the halter fitted.  Gully had some more cream rubbed on the dry skin on his forelegs and they all had their daily treat of apples as the photo shows.  We have also received the result of the dung samples from the Vet lab and were pleased that no worm or liver fluke treatment is necessary.  We will repeat the test in the Spring and continue with the monthly dose of Verm-X granules.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Sheepish neighbours

One of our crofting neighbours has put some sheep into one of our fields adjoining the boys' paddock.  He does this from time to time and it certainly helps to keep the grass down.  This influx of woolly animals has created a lot of interest from the boys who have given up using their field shelters and now camp out at night near the fence line!  The photo shows them watching what the sheep are up to.  During the past week we have delivered a pooled dung sample to the Vet lab in Inverness and they will carry out a test for worm and liver fluke.  Depending on the result, we will treat the boys accordingly.  Six months ago following the last dung sample test, no treatment was required.  We give them monthly Vermex granules which is a herbal wormer.  Fergus, Gully and Fyta now appear in the Alba Yarns new web site (http://www.knitnaturelle.com/) on the home and gallery pages and we're grateful to Joyce and Gary Thompson, our ex-neighbours who run the sites, for giving the boys their international exposure!

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Nails and things

We put the boys into the catch pen yesterday and trimmed Gully's fringe.  Alpacas are not too keen on having their heads touched so getting the fringe clipped, especially when the fleece is wet, is not easy!  He also has a long term dry skin problem so I rubbed udder cream on his ears and between his front legs.  He was as good as gold whilst this was done.  The two white boys, Fergus and Fidget, had one or two nails each trimmed, and they also put up with it!  The nails of white alpacas seem to grow quicker than coloured animals, and other alpaca owners have also found this.  We always halter the boys in the catch pen as this gets them used to being handled, and we end our session with a wee walk - in Fyta's case this was a very wee walk!  After a couple of yards he refused to budge, spreading his rear legs in the A shape and making it quite clear that he was not in the mood for walkies.  Ah well, maybe next time!

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Dyeing


Last weekend I attended a one day course run by Gill at Artisan Threads.  I took along 500g of spun alpaca fleece which were dyed using natural dyes.  As a result I am hoping to dye more fleece at home soon. I have also wound and labelled balls of Fidget's fleece(see pictures left). We have heard from Marjory Tait who previously visited our boys with her parents and who all enjoyed the meeting!  Marjory has two terrific web sites (Keltickatz & Keltickraft - see links)  and the art work and items she produces are great.
The boys are all well and enjoying getting soaking wet then rolling on the ground and becoming covered in mud!  Not a pretty sight for any visitors.  Gully's fringe is growing quite long as it was not fully trimmed when he was sheared so next time they are in the catch pen, it will be haircut time for him!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

The Highland Guild of Spinners and Weavers

This weekend I attended the Guild's 'Small Felted Jewellery' one day course run by Isobel MacCallum Scott ( see Naturally Sheepish link)and the picture shows the ear-rings I made. I learnt how to make felt balls from Merino tops and hope to use the technique with alpaca fleece. We were also shown how to make necklaces and felted circles.
Our alpacas continue to settle down well with each other and the two new boys, Gully and Gaucho are now fully integrated in the herd. We haltered them at the weekend and Fidget and Fergus had their nails trimmed - and they were very well behaved (for a change!)

Monday, 5 October 2009

Visits


This weekend we visited friends Carole & John in Haddington, East Lothian to see their herd of alpacas - 21 in total - boys, girls and lovely cria. We were also able to see the excellent garments and items produced by Carole from her animals and sold on her Cairndinnis web site. We then crossed to Crianlarich, Perthshire to visit Ian and Debbie who have 4 boys roaming on their 6 acres around their Ewich House, set amidst dramatic Highland scenery. Home then via spectacular Glencoe on a glorious Autumn day to take some photos of sister in law Sheila wearing my crotcheted alpaca hat and scarf from Fyta's and Ardo Hamish's fleece.

Felting

On Sat 26th Sept I attended a felt making class held by the Highland Feltmakers Group, in Dingwall. I made a flat piece of felt from marino tops. I've been experimenting with felting the boys' fleece and was able to pick up some tips at this group.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Knitting and crochet


Last Saturday I attended the Highland Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers knitting and crocheting workshop and learnt to do lobster braid as well as trying spinning from the point on the Great Wheel brought in by Gill of Artisan Threads. I also tried my hand at knitting with giant needles. Yesterday, I attended another knitting and crochet workshop organised by Gill and saw her many fleeces, wools and fibres which she had spun and dyed and all the many items she has produced from them. I came away with many inspiring ideas! (picture shows scarf I produced)At home Gully and Gaucho are settling in well with the rest of the herd.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

The Great Feil Maree (1)


The Dingwall Rotary Club organised a one day festival on 5th Sept and our friend John Mckenzie took along his 4 'boys' (Wlliam, Luke, Joel and Jake) in the large trailer. I took samples of fleece, spinning, knitting and a spinning wheel for effect! We also had a display board showing photos of Alpacas, information, advice and where to see Alpacas locally. Our displays created a lot of interest and we made some useful contacts for supply of fleece for spinning and weaving to individuals. We also had some serious enquiries about owning Alpacas and hope to have some follow-up visits to the 'boys'.

The Great Feil Maree (2)


Just to prove that Alpacas don't scare easily, the local pipe band paraded past the boys several times without incident whilst Shetland ponies in a nearby display pen were upset! John had wisely decided to keep the boys penned in the large trailer as this was their first 'outing!' His mother and sister worked hard all day with the boys spending lots of time with children who enjoyed a bit of hand feeding. The festival was very well attended and lots more people know about Alpacas as a result of our displays.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

We haltered the boys this weekend and found that Gaucho is still a little wary, especially when being led. Gully takes the halter well, and led well. Fergus halters very well but doesn't like walkies too much! The two new boys have settled into the herd now and we had an evening run around the field yesterday, Gaucho and Gully 'prancing' with all the boys in a long line. Had a visit from a friend today who has 4 alpacas and we hope to put on a small display locally at a market day on Sat 5th Sept 09. We hope that this will improve knowledge and the profile of alpacas in this area.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Gotit and Turkish returned home to Aberdeenshire about 10 days ago so the four original boys plus the two new guys have been getting used to each other. They are settling down well, but with no obvious herd leader yet.

'GOTIT' Born: 17th June 2003


He was with us for a year from summer 2008/9 and was the herd leader. He arrived with Turkish.
Both Gotit and Turkish returned to Ardo Alpacas in Aug 2009. They were both lovely boys and real characters.

'TURKISH' Born:1st June 2006


Arrived with Gotit for a one year stay in Aug 2008. A big rose-grey fella who loves humans! Has now gone back to Ardo Alpacas with his pal Gotit.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

'FIDGET' Born:24th July 2006


One of the initial four boys who arrived in June 2007. A quiet and shy chap who is now beginning to blossom. His father is Gotit. His mother is Bozedown Roxana. He is all white.

'FYTA' Born: 15th July 2006

Another of our initial four boys, Fyta was quite reserved at first but over the past two years has developed into a lovely personality. His father is Gotit and is mother is Pie in Ardo of Edenbrook. He is a white boy with black trousers ('fancy.') Since Gotit left recently, we think Fyta will take over the leadership of the herd - reluctantly!

'GAUCHO' Born: 25th July 2007

Arrived in Aug 09 with Gully to join the herd. A dark fawn boy who is still nervous but has plenty of spirit! After Gotit's departure, he quickly settled into the herd. Gaucho's father is Bozedown Orion. His mother was Ardo Chilli.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

'GULLY' Born: 8th August 2007

Arrived with Gaucho to join the herd in Aug 09. He is a deaf boy with blue eyes and Gaucho is his friend and sparring partner! He is light fawn in colour and is a lovely wee chap. Loves his food, already accepted into the herd and keeps himself in the middle of everyone (for protection?) Gully's mother is Bozedown Ariadne and his father is Bozedown Orion.


'FARO' Born: 25th June 2006

Another of our initial four boys. He is dark brown in colour and has a lovely nature, very friendly and always the first to greet us. His father is Gotit and his mother is Ardo Rachael.

'FERGUS' Born: 27th May 2006

The last of our initial four boys, Fergus is the most laid back of the herd! Loves his food and his own company sometimes. Fergus's father is Bozedown Meteor and his mother is Ardo Canna. He is all white with thick fleece.