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.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas greetings to our dear reader!!

The boys send their festive greetings to all blog pals.
Couldn't resist sending this shot of Wee Eck sorting out his bit of swede! 
And finally (just before Rudolph appears) .............this was taken at 8.10am on Tuesday.  Note the full moon still in the sky.  Every morning this week has been the same, bitterly cold with the moon still glowing.     'Outa here - have a great Christmas.  Later,  'gators! 

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Can we have more hay please, Mister?

When the thaw set in last weekend we took the opportunity of moving the boys down to the lower paddocks where the steading and field shelter are deeper and the boys can get right out of the weather if they want to.  There was little snow on the ground when this was taken but the frost was severe and the boys kept filling up on hay.  When the steading door is opened the boys put on their most appealing looks to get more hay. Front to back we have Rufus  at the front, then Fyta, Faro, Gaucho on the left, Wee Eck, Gully, Fergus and Fidget.
Beware  -  intruder!  Fyta knows that the hay is stored in the steading and when Robbie's back is turned decides to sneak in and grab a mouthful!  Rufus is the lookout!
Our two white boys, Fergus (R) and Fidget.  These days they are more of a dirty grey than white!  Like the other boys, they like to lie or roll on the ground.  Lately with the severe overnight frosts they like nothing better than to lie outside getting covered in frost and when they stand up there are melted body shapes on the ground.
Wee Eck (Echo) giving a typical toothy smile whilst eating his hay.  We keep the open steading clear of straw but it soon fills up with unused hay and the boys seem to like lying on the bare floor.  The other field shelter close by has thick straw on the floor and the boys decide which one to use - if at all.   Democracy in action!
Peek-a-boo, Faro!  Being the guard, Faro always wants to know what is going on.  If  I go into a steading or shelter, he will follow to see what is happening.  Thats what he's up to here.
And finally..........more necklaces, some pure alpaca fleece and others mixed with Marino which I've been making whilst sheltering from the wintry weather. 

Sunday, 14 November 2010

More knitting and stuff!

Bad weather this week meant more time for knitting indoors!  This shows a neck band (top left) and a cable scarf I've knitted.    Fergus's fleece was used for the scarf whilst the neck band is Fidget's fleece.    The scarf is completely reversible and has a loop to hold it in place if necessary.
We moved the boys to the top paddocks this week to let them get at the better grass before winter really hits us.  Here are some of the boys with the Highland cattle Lola, Freda and (wee!) Hamish further up the slope.  Faro is approaching and displaying his usual recognition signal when he sees us of his tail thrown up over his back.  The reference books say that this is also a sign of submission, and/or aggression but Faro doesn't present either a submissive posture or aggression.  Being the herd's guard this signal is obviously also for the other boys' information as well as a sign to us.
A rear shot of Faro with his tail flicked over his back again.  Rufus is also in the photo and you may have to magnify this to see it more clearly.  Faro is the only one of the boys who uses this tail signal, we've never seen any of the other boys use it.
And finally......... I think Robbie could have used a different camera setting when he took this photo which would have lightened the scene a bit.  However, perhaps a bit of magnification will show the boys in their paddock (middle left) with the Highlands lying down in their part of the field (middle right).  The shot was taken facing west towards Glen Strathfarrer, Strath Glass  and Glen Affric with patches of mist rolling up the hillsides.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Autumn colours

Faro, with Rufus behind waiting for their halters to be fitted.  Of all the boys, Faro has the least bulky fleece but I can still spin and felt it although it has to be washed and carded first.  He's a lovely chap, always on guard but also very friendly.  He's also the chief apple cruncher!
Here are the boys being herded up to the catch pen for some halter work and nail clipping this week.   They were still damp from lying outside in the overnight frost.   The routine pooled dung sample analysis carried out by the Vet lab was satisfactory and no worming is required.  We have this test  carried out twice a year and only worm when necessary but are diligent in giving them monthly Verm-X and cleaning of their paddocks and water/food trays. 
 
The boys like to have a handful of hay in the morning, especially a crisp, frosty morning!   They have a handful of hay last thing before dark and their hay buckets are filled for overnight.  Like cattle, they can be quite wasteful with their hay leaving some of it lying around uneaten so a handful suits them well.

I made Robbie a pair of felted slippers which he has been wearing for a few days (indoors!) to try them out.  I need to make a few adjustments to the next pair e.g. thicker soles, slightly wider.  Robbie says that a matching pair would be handy......cheek!
And finally.......the colours this Autumn are terrific and the recent gales have only partially bared the trees.     This is a view of a beech hedge we planted some years ago leading down to our wee orchard.  The boys are not allowed into this field otherwise we would have no hedge or apples!                     

Saturday, 30 October 2010

What's up, Doc?

Fergus giving the photographer the quizzical look so familiar of alpacas.   He has a brown mark on his right cheek which his mother 'Ardo Canna' also had and which distinguishes Fergus from Fidget, our white boys, when they've been sheared and we have difficulty telling the difference between them for a while! 
We've had more visitors staying with us this week, and this time from Norfolk.  The boys must be the most photographed herd anywhere!  Here they are looking at the strangers coming into their paddock and it's interesting that they group together as if for protection - with the exception of Fergus of course who prefers eating to guarding!  We've had a lot of visitors coming to see the boys, apart from friends and family we've had over 20 people who are interested in alpacas coming to see them during this summer alone.


This is Hannah taking a photo of an approaching Fergus with Wee Eck also getting in on the action.   Hannah panicked a bit after this as all the boys advanced towards her so she ran behind her father and granny who were standing nearby!  It will be interesting to see if Hannah's photo comes out OK.  The boys are always very curious about children, possibly not being able to understand who these 'wee people' are.

And finally........... someone needs a manicure after all the spinning, knitting and crotcheting!!  These are wrist warmers which I've crotcheted from Fidget's fleece.  These are quite easy to crotchet but I think I will extend them next time and make them into mittens.  

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Uh oh - snow!

As soon as I appear in the paddock with the camera, Wee Eck appears as if by magic!  He loves to pose for  photos and usually ends up licking the lens.  He's got the biggest ears in the herd and he likes to show off his dental arrangements when he can.  His father Gotit, also has protruding teeth and he looks, and acts, a lot like him.  There are two very black eyes under the fringe somewhere but you have to get up close to him to see them!

The first snows of the winter appeared on the Beinn this week and this together with the lovely autumnal colours makes for a good shot.  We moved the boys into the bottom paddocks this week so Rufus takes an opportunity to pose in front of a different backdrop.  Rufus continues to settle into the herd, eating apples as if they were going out of fashion, and he does not hum as much now.  He is 'pushy' with his food though and once he finishes his bowl of supplement he tries to muscle into other bowls - unless the owner is Fidget who takes no prisoners when it comes to his food!

Looking north this time. Behind Gaucho is snow covered Ben Wyvis, a Munro at 3432 feet, but you may have to magnify this to see it.

The boys grazing in the early morning sun.  Looking west in this photo.  After taking this photo the boys were penned and we did some vitamin/ mineral drenching and nail clipping.
And finally........I felted this small bag this week from Gotit's fleece (Ardo Alpacas) and I needle felted the red Merino wool flower onto it.  The centre of the flower is fleece from Gotit and Fyta.  I've added some sparkling beads onto the flower.  The handle is adjustable and the fastener is a felted ball.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Pampered boys

This week we had niece Judy and daughter Amy visiting from Cornwall.  This is Amy feeding Wee Eck his apple slices with Fidget behind.  Amy is wearing a knitted headband secured at the back with a handmade birch button.  I hand spun and knitted the garment from Fergus's fleece.
This is Judy also feeding apples to the boys with Fyta (L), Eck in the middle and Faro (R).  Judy is wearing a curly wurly scarf which I hand spun and knitted from Fergus's fleece.
Judy and Amy also made some jewellery using felted alpaca fleece and marino wool linked with wooden beads.   Amy is wearing the necklace which she made.
The boys like a bit of personal attention from time to time and here are Fidget (L) and Fergus  licking the bowls at the end of supplement feeding time and looking for more.
And finally.....at the end of a busy week of posing, being hand-fed and generally pampered, the boys get stuck into their  daily bowls of supplement yesterday.  With 8 boys having a bowl each it's a good job we don't have 20 boys or we would run out of bowls!  They have had their Verm-X granules added to their feed all week and next week we will get dung samples prepared for testing at the Vet lab.  We had a short visit from Lorna and Sandy of Ardo Alpacas yesterday as they were in this area and they dropped off a camelid drench for the boys.  With more visitors due to arrive from Norfolk at the end of next week, the boys are looking forward to even more personal service! 

Saturday, 9 October 2010

A busy week

On last week's blog we started with a photo of Fidget absolutely covered in mud.  Just to show that he can be a nice, clean boy (after several showers of rain) here he is again looking like butter wouldn't melt!

We've had a busy week, mostly alpaca related.  We visited Liz a friend who lives near Nairn and she has 4 boys, Ragnar and Hector who are both 10 yrs old and Hamish and Torquil who are 2 yrs old.  Liz has owned Ragnar and Hector for 8 yrs, as well as other alpacas,  and took delivery of the other two boys this year from Ardo alpacas.  This photo shows Hamish (left) and Torquil under the crab apple tree.  Now, our blog readers will know that we give our boys slices of apple daily at this time of year as our wee orchard provides us with more than enough apples.  Liz though goes one better because she shakes the branches of the crab apple tree, the apples fall to the ground and her boys start eating them!  Thats what Hamish and Torquil are up to in this shot and it really is great to see the boys 'hoovering' up the fruit.  The 4 boys get on very well together despite their age differences and Liz says that her old boys are much calmer and approachable now that the young boys are with them.   

We had a very interesting visit this week from Jane Tyrer who is a vet as well as an alpaca breeder in South Africa (www.harmoniealpacas.co.za).  This is Jane giving our 'beefy boys' a professional look over.  She is finding quite a difference between the size and colour of her alpacas to those she is seeing in UK.  On the whole her herd is taller but UK alpacas seem to be generally heavier, apparently.  Jane is very interested in fleece and spinning and she brought along some scarves and waistcoats made from her animals' fleece and they were really lovely.  Accompanying Jane was Isobel Scott (www.naturally-sheepish.co.uk ) who taught me to spin so you can imagine that the conversation was intense and most enjoyable and could have gone on all day!
And finally........ this week has seen lots of fine weather and hot days so the boys were up to their normal tricks in the water trays.  Robbie had just scrubbed and filled the trays when Fyta decided he would take over with the brush!  Fidget is on the left and an amused Fergus on the right.  Wee Eck, our black boy is behind with Gaucho at the rear.  The coming week promises to be busy as we welcome my niece and her daughter to the Highlands.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Rain and rainbows

We've experienced quite a bit of rain recently and some alpacas just love to get themselves into a mess on the wet ground.  This is Fidget,  having got himself thoroughly soaked then proceeded to roll in the dry dust inside the field shelter!  Not such a cuddly boy when he looks like this!
Last Wed evening we had a heavy shower of rain followed by strong sunlight from the West.  The result was a perfect double rainbow but unfortunately I could not get the whole arch in one photo.  Wee Eck as always likes to be the first to check out the camera so his black face and prominent ears usually appear at the front of our photos! 

The cattle at the other end of the rainbow - but no pot of gold (unfortunately!)

Some of the boys getting into a 'Spot the rainbow' mode.

And finally.... I've been busy spinning and crotcheting recently and these are  3 curly wurly scarves I've made.  They are each about 130cm in length.  The outer one is Fergus's fleece and the contrast colour has been achieved by dyeing green (sage).  The middle scarf is from Gully (fawn) and Gaucho (brown) whilst the inner one is from Rufus (dark rose grey) and Turkish (light rose grey).  Turkish is from the Ardo alpaca herd.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Scotch mist

Lots of mist and fog around over the past week or so with one or two stunning days as well.   Here are the boys having been moved to fresh grass in the top paddocks.  Due to the amount of rain we've had, a lochan (small loch!) has appeared at the bottom of one paddock so we fenced it off to stop the boys getting into the water and making a mess.  Before we could get the fencing up Fyta was paddling happily in the water generally splashing around and looking for an opportunity to lie down in it!!  The fencing can be seen behind the boys.
Here is Fidget looking over the fence at the water wondering if he should attempt a leap into the lochan!
And here comes Wee Eck wandering through the mist and wanting to join the fun at the new oasis!
And finally.....Hamish is growing into a big strapping chap and not in the least concerned about howling gales, torrential rain or thick mist.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Do I look like a Camel in this?

Gaucho presenting his best camel-like features! Fergus just behind him and Rufus is in the background.  Not a lot to report this week, sunshine has been in short supply, plenty of rain, gale force winds and dropping temperatures.  Oh dear, winter is coming again!
Gaucho in profile.  We have had him for just over a year now and he is well settled into the herd. Gaucho is 3 yrs old.
Fidget, one of our original 4 boys who has been with us for over 3 years.  Always the one to hold back but he knows exactly what is going on around him and doesn't like to be 'crowded'.  He's got a lovely nature with humans but won't stand any interference from herd members.
 
Rufus, who has been with us since July this year. Still a bit of a 'hummer' but the longer he is here, the less he is humming.  Likes to scoff his own bowl of supplement then quickly move on to the others, which doesn't always go down well with the other boys.  Spends most of his time on the edge of the herd but, like the rest of the boys, can now tell feed times without the need of a watch and queues up patiently, and on schedule!
And finally............ siesta time.  Wee Eck (front) with Fergus outside the shelter and Fyta (L) and Faro (R) rummaging in the hay buckets behind!  Eck came with Rufus, but unlike Rufus, he settled into the herd immediately and now competes with Faro the guard to be the first to do things, see things and eat things!