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.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Boys, bobbles, birds & cat!



This is the normal sight at the gate for the 8.00am feed of haylage!  Wee Eck with his prominent dentistry waiting to pounce on his pile of feed, with Faro and Fyta behind.

The weather has been less stormy this week but the temperature has dropped further.    Each morning the ice has to be removed from the water troughs and by lunch time it is normally frozen over again, albeit with thinner ice.
The clear frosty nights are enjoyed by the boys who spend them lying out in the open.  This is the site of melted patches in the frost which we normally find in the mornings!  At least when the weather is like this the boys go to the toilet outside - when they are bedded down in the shelters, the morning requires another poop-patrol!
Like many bloggers I find that knitting takes up a lot of spare time during the long evenings.   I've just finished a hat and maxi scarf with big bobbles, courtesy of Fidget's fleece.  Interestingly I've been using some of his second cut fleece and it has knitted up OK although smaller sized needles might have been better.
Have you noticed the horrendous cost of bird nuts these days - apparently the Chinese are buying them up wholesale and getting oil from them.  Can you believe that?  We have a bird table at the back of the house which operates like a mini Heathrow with hundreds of arrivals and departures during daylight hours.  Normally a feeder full of nuts will last several days and the one on the right of the table with a Blue Tit on it shows the 'normal ' level.  The feeder on the left is a lot emptier because of the Coal Tit inside!  He/she does what Coal Tits are famous for and that is that they carry the nuts off and store them in various locations around the garden to be eaten later!  The feeder has a 'dodgy' top so the Tit pushes it aside, drops in, pinches a nut, flies off and stores it and within a couple of minutes has returned to repeat the procedure.  It had emptied the feeder a couple of hours later!  We should call him/her ' Tesco Tit' as I'm sure it is running a store for the birdies around here!
And finally.......our ageing pussy cat, Pansy Potter who is now 16 years old.  She is slowing down quite a lot these days and prefers to spend most of her time under the radiator in the kitchen where it is nice and warm.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

'Gael' force winds!

Bit of a stormy week just gone but no damage done thank goodness.  We lost our electricity for nearly 24 hours but don't you just love those electricity linemen when the lights come back on?!  We find that snow on the ground means a lot more work with the boys.  They get bored quickly when they can't get at the grass so we tend to make a 'track' through the snow in the paddocks so that they can have a nibble.  Unlike sheep and deer who 'paw' at the snow to get at the grass, the boys don't seem to do that at all - wonder what your experience is with them?  This is Rufus having some cold grass to eat!
Morning haylage time and Gaucho likes to lie down and enjoy the moment!
Fidget looking a bit wet and dirty.  On Thursday, as a prelude to the gales, the ankle deep snow melted very quickly helped by heavy downpours of rain and sleet and this flooded parts of the paddocks.  All our hay, straw etc stored in the Steading is on pallets so survived the water flooding over the floor.  The boys were wet, dry, wet, dry all week as the weather changed but were none the worse for it.  They had Verm-X worming granules in their feed all week with Gully the only one who takes a bit of coaxing to eat them.
In the hen house, Dunc was being a bit of a 'Jessie' and refusing to leave the comfort of his surroundings and venture out into the snow!  The cold did not stop him feeling a bit amorous however and having chased the two brown hens out of the door he turned his attention to the Maran.  Here he is 'cock-a doodling' like a cockerel possessed with the Maran ready to close her eyes and think of Scotland!  We've had half a dozen cockerels over the years and every one of them has hated snow and ice but Dunc has taken it personally and has only ventured out today now that the snow has gone.
We mentioned Faro's left eye in last week's blog.  Repeated saline bathing failed to stop the 'gunge' from coming out of the eye socket so we applied Orbenin ointment which we'd got from the Vet.  Pleased to report that his eye is now a lot cleaner and drier.
And finally......... snow or no snow, when you've got to go - you've got to go!  Scruffy looking Fyta doing the necessary with equally scruffy Fidget and Gully looking on.  The snow has now cleared so the 'poop patrol' will take longer than usual today I think!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Hurdles and snow

The boys are still in the top 2 paddocks at present but due to the very boggy area in the 3rd adjoining paddock we haven't allowed them in there.  We have plans to get some drainage organised but in the meantime we decided to buy some more sheep hurdles to allow them onto at least part of the affected paddock.  The grass there hasn't been touched since summer so there should still be some goodness in it.  Here are Gaucho (right) and Fidget (rear) waiting to get into the new area of grass. Fyta's black 'trousers' are on the left!
Also waiting at the gate (from the left) Fergus, Rufus, Wee Eck and Fyta.  A certain  amount of spitting had been going on just before the photo was taken - you can probably tell!
Fyta (left) and Fergus enjoy some fresh grass in the sectioned off part of the paddock.
After a long day in the howling gales and driving sleet the boys settle down after their late afternoon feed watched over by Faro (left) who is on permanent sentry duty!  Pity about the shiny eyes on the photo.  Speaking of eyes, Faro has had a runny left eye this week so we've been penning him and bathing his eye with warm saline.  It has improved greatly but we're keeping a close watch on it.  He has had this winter problem before, especially when it is very windy.  Antibiotic cream has not really helped in the past.
It's been a fairly wild week weather-wise with 3 days of continuous gales.  The snow started to appear mid-week when this photo was taken and the hills started to take on a blanket.  Today, the snow is falling thick and fast as I type this and the next couple of days don't look much better.  The boys will be looking to pack in as much haylage and hay as they can now as their new grass  - after all the fuss with new hurdles - is now covered in snow!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Dunc at dawn

Thought I'd give Duncan (Dunc) top billing today as he is looking good again after his recent moult.  This was taken just before 8.00am today and he looks surprised to be met by a photographer after stumbling out of the hen-house for breakfast!  Dunc is a Buff Orpington, a lovely cockerel and very good with his three hens all of whom have been going through their moult over the past few weeks.  The Maran still looks like she has been 'dragged through a hedge backwards' but her feathers are at last coming back in.  No eggs at this time of year from the hens, it's usually early Spring before they start laying again.
An uneventful week for the boys - no visitors, no penning, just ever watchful for signs of humans approaching with apples, carrots, haylage etc.  Another week of really good weather for the boys including frosty, clear nights which they all enjoy.  Fidget looks as if he needs an appointment with the clippers to even up his fringe.
Fergus bearing the brown spot on his right cheek which he inherited from his mum.  He's about to give a warning spit up in the air as Wee Eck approaches him.  Fergus cannot tolerate Wee Eck being anywhere near him (herd dynamics again, Barbara!)
Gully wearing his quizical look.  He's always interested to see what humans are up to!
Fyta, a lovely natured alpaca.  He does not welcome stroking or hugs (unless he's standing in the water tray) but stands close and is not nervous.
 Gaucho, a wary 'paca who tries to keep clear of trouble!
And finally Wee Eck - we should have called him 'Fearless Fred with the curly head!'  He has curly cheeks and a mop of curls and although the smallest of the boys, fears none of the big fellas!  Enjoys it best when he is in the middle of a scrum, creating mayhem with the big guys.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Heavenly haylage!

Another week of unbelievably good weather with plenty of sunshine to please the boys.    Here are, from the left, Fidget, Gully, Fergus and Fyta enjoying the November rays.  This time last year we'd already had snow to contend with so this spell of weather shortens the winter for us.
We started feeding morning haylage to the boys this week - well it is winter, regardless of the summer weather! They really love the smell and taste of the 'Silvermoor' haylage and as soon as they are given their individual 'pile' most of them lie down and contentedly chew it.  Fyta is at the front, then Gaucho the Fidget at the back.
Fergus prefers his own company but loves his haylage too.
Rufus (front) and Faro enjoy that chewing moment!
This clear weather is giving us some amazing dawns and sunsets.  This was taken just before 8.00am on Thursday, looking to the south east.    If you look closely you can see Fyta in the foreground.
And finally...........an atmospheric shot, taken in the veg garden about the same time but looking towards the north west with the full moon still in the sky.  Dung has now been liberally applied to the plots,  the final total from last week's 'barrowing blog' was 47 barrow loads.  Thanks for the wave of good wishes for Robbie's sore back after this task........well, thanks to Barbara (Beckbrow) and Jayne (Zanzibar) anyway!   'Barrowman' is still lying in a dark corner somewhere!!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

'Dunbarrowing?'

We've had a week of really good weather, frosty at nights but sunny and warm during the days.  It's unusual to be able to do lots of work around the garden at this time of year, but thats what we've been doing.  We also penned the boys, haltered them and gave them a check over.  We cut Fidget's and Gully's nails and they were both well behaved.  Wee Eck has some small spots appearing near this mouth so I've applied 'Ruggle-it' with a base cream - that should give his food a peculiar taste for a day or two!
A nice head shot of Fyta with Wee Eck in the background.
Having cleaned up the veg plots, Robbie has been barrowing dung from  the composting area up to the garden.  This excellent dung is over a year old and looks a bit like the peat bank we had when we lived up in Caithness some years ago. 
The barrow - described by Robbie as one of man's better inventions - loaded and ready to go!   Twenty loads yesterday with even more to go today.  He is threatening to save up his pennies from his old age pension starting next year and buy a quad bike with an attached trailer, which should 'help the aged' with this job.  It will either be a very small quad or the Chancellor will have to do something about the state pension though!
We also had a visit from friends Ann and Duncan, who are visiting in the area for a few days.   Ann is giving Fergus some carrot with Fidget, Wee Eck and Faro waiting patiently.
And finally.........we have lots of Blackbirds around the garden but one came to grief a few days ago when it was targetted by a Sparrow-hawk who frequently patrols the area and suddenly appears and disappears in an instant.  This time he obviously found what he was looking for and this scattering of feathers was all that remained of the Blackie.  That's nature I suppose.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Carrots and rainbows

Rufus earlier this week as he waits for some carrot.  When he joined the herd last summer Rufus was quite shy and wouldn't come too close even at feed times.  He would never try carrots, apples or any other tit bits which were offered at first but was always interested in why the other boys were munching these strange things!  Since then he has grown to love any snacks on offer. 
Fergus on the other hand was never a shy lad when it came to food and here he is leading the queue for carrots.
If you enlarge this photo you'll see that Gaucho has a piece of carrot and is happily chewing it.
This trio, from the left Fyta, Gaucho and Wee Eck, all trying to get the piece of carrot on offer...Eck won!
Gully (left) and Gaucho.  These two boys joined the herd two years ago and are firm friends, often having a wrestle or nipping each other's ankles.  When it comes to food however they will still growl or spit at each other if there is any stealing going on from the food bowls!
Early one morning last week the variation of sunlight, shadow and the appearance of  a bright rainbow made for an interesting photo.  Pity about the limitations of our camera (and the male photographer!)
Wee Eck - "Rainbow?"      "What rainbow?"

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Sunday Post!

It's been a week of really dismal weather, lots of rain making the paddocks very muddy, gales, some sun and earlier in the week, a heavy dusting of snow on the hills.  This morning dawned brighter with Fidget up and about early on for a nibble on the grass.  He takes on this quizzical look when the camera is around, unsure if it's something to eat!
We've also had frosts this week as can be seen on Wee Eck's back. 
Gaucho standing near the catch pen and showing off his lovely colour.  It's good to see that the boys' fleece is now thickening up nicely for the coming winter.
Fyta and his Bermuda shorts!
Gully with his two-tone coloured top knot.
Next door to the boys in the bottom paddocks are the chicken runs.  Now that the weather has turned much colder, the birds have decided to moult and the chicken house is full of discarded feathers.  It happens every year and the hens start to look like a sorry bunch with one losing it's tail feathers completely.  'Duncan' doesn't look at his best now but he'll be resplendent in the new year ready to show off to his ladies.  The Maran (top left) is a young bird but the other two hens are now 8 years old and have taken on a new lease of life since Dunk arrived in early summer.
And finally........ adding a splash of Autumn colour to the garden is this Acer tree with the remnants of the Crocosmia (Montbretia) plants beneath it.