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, 31 July 2011

It's that time of year again!

It's the time of year when the sun is at it's hottest that these horse flies appear in the paddocks.  Thankfully they seem to fly around singly or twos and threes and not in swarms.  The boys don't like these monsters landing on them and they stamp their feet and shake them off.  They are fairly easy to swat when they land on fence poles but it gets a bit tricky when they are on or near one of the boys as the boys think they are being swatted and not the horse-fly!
Apart from keeping cool in the sand pit, the boys know to lie down when there are flies around so that the flies can't get underneath them where it is most irritating.  Here are (L to R) Wee Eck, Gully, Rufus, Fergus and Gaucho.
Another hot day (we've had several this week!) and the sand pit and water trays get full use.  Faro has his tail up and is checking out the photographer whilst Fidget lies on the grass and (L to R) Gaucho, Fyta, Fergus and Rufus are in the pit.  Gully and Wee Eck have wandered into the adjoining paddock.
We had a visit from old friends Alan and Kath this week and here is Alan asking Wee Eck, "Whey, can ye speak Geordie, marra?"    He's deaf Alan - try hand signals!
Guess who has just been spitting?  Several of the boys, if they have been spitting, pick up mouthfuls of hay and just stand, letting the foul taste get soaked up by the hay.  Fidget is doing this having had a slight disagreement with Wee Eck behind.  Unfortunately for Wee Eck, being deaf, he can't hear the audible warnings the boys give each other if their personal space is being invaded and if he misses the visual warnings too - then thats when spitting starts.  Eck then gets the message and usually gives as good as he gets! 
And finally..........all of this sunshine is clearly doing wonders with the veg.  Swedes in the nearest bed, then Rooster main crop tatties behind, peas behind that and at the rear are onions and root veg.  The freezers will soon be bulging with peas and beans after hours spent shelling!  One disappointment this year is in the orchard where we have very few apples but plenty of growth.   Clearly the late frosts have nipped all the buds so the boys won't have so many to eat this winter.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Sunset & halters

At the end of a long day there is nothing the boys like better than to lie down and watch a lovely sunset - nothing as strenuous as 'roamin in the gloamin' for these fellas!    Gully (left) has settled down next to Fergus, which he often does.  Fergus does not mind Gully lying next to him, but he won't put up with Wee Eck, our black boy coming anywhere near him!
Gully and Fergus again with Gaucho lying further away from them and Rufus in the foreground.
Fergus likes his neck rubs, but Gully isn't into that - unless he's in the catch pen!  Fyta has appeared, always the nosey one trying to find out what is going on - and if there is any food about!   Sometimes Fyta will tolerate neck rubs, but just as often he walks away.
We also put the boys into the catch pen this week so that we could check them over and put their halters on.  I put some Neem cream on a couple of bald spots on Wee Eck's ankles and also on Gully's ears which are much furrier than they were but still need some occasional cream.  The flies have been a menace again for the boys this week but the awful smell of Neem does help to keep them away.  Here are Gaucho (right), Rufus (middle) and Wee Eck at the rear, waiting to be haltered.
And finally......Gully, haltered and ready for walkies.  He walked quite well, as they all did but Fidget as always did not like having the halter put on.  He's OK when it's on it's just getting it over his nose which he does not like - obviously a sensitive area for him.  More practice needed by humans in this procedure I think!!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Hurrah - shearing is finished!

James and Kym Dixon have really 'played a blinder' this season for alpaca owners in the north.  Having been rained off several weeks ago they returned north to dubious weather forecasts and to catch up on all the 'stragglers' they had missed.  Today we were delighted when the weather in the morning was lovely and warm and friends Angie and Liz, each with their respective small herds, were due to have their animals sheared.  We went to help Liz with her 4 boys, and as usual, when an alpaca is sheared, the other animals look at them as if they are total strangers.  Here are Torquil (rear) and Ragnar when they see Hector after clipping!  Hamish has already rushed at Hector and a spitting match started.  Only after a lot of sniffing each other was peace restored.  Ragnar (front) is quite an old boy and was in need of a good short back and sides, dental attention and pedicure...............
And here he is - doesn't he look smart after James and Kym have spent some time on him?
Here are Torquil (left) and Hamish, two of Liz's boys waiting James's attention.
After James and Kym had left to continue their work in the north, we went to visit Angie and Ian who had had a visit from James earlier in the day.  This seems to have induced Bianca (left) as she gave birth to Bailey (the same colour as a certain Irish creme!) about an hour earlier.  This was James's second visit and the second time one of Angie's girls had given birth as a result - James obviously has this effect on girls!  Bianca and Bailey were safely inside as thunder and lightening struck followed by torrential rain! 
This is Twix (he takes the biscuit!), another one of Angie and Ian's family.
Earlier in the week we had a visit from sister-in-law Sheila, husband Jim, daughter Pauline and grandson Matthew.  Sheila is trying to coax Gully to come closer - without luck!  We also had a visit earlier in the week from Lorna and Sandy of Ardo Alpacas and the weather for these visits was fantastic.  As the week has progressed, so has the rain and storms.  Really strange summer weather this year.
Our Cardiocrinum Gigantium  ( Himalayan giant lily, introduced into this country by the explorer George Sherrifs) is excelling itself.  It's now about 7 feet tall with these fragrant, beautiful flowers on display.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Heat n' hydro

Those of you with alpacas will know this heart-stopping scene, when you first look into the paddock and there are animals lying all over the place!  The boys are just testing our pace-makers of course because they are all actually sun bathing.  A scorching start to the week saw them all flat out in the sun, using the sand pit, the grass and the water trays to try to keep cool.  Good job they've been sheared recently.  The weather for the rest of the week went downhill rapidly and ended with localised flooding, thunder, lightening and torrential downpours.  Those golfers amongst you may have seen on TV the landslips and damage caused by the weather during the Scottish Open just along the road near Inverness.
We've had a busy weekend with friends Ken and Sandy visiting.  Ken is a great photographer and got shots of the local birdlife, including an Osprey, as well as some terrific head shots of the boys.  From the left, the boys in this photo are Fyta, Rufus, Gully, Gaucho and Fidget's rear end!
Sandy gets acquainted with Fergus and Wee Eck.
On Saturday we all piled into the car and drove the short distance to Dingwall to see friend John McKenzie who is  an alpaca owner - and much, much more!  John has worked hard over the past 5 years to establish his farm and set up a number of electricity generation projects using renewables.  He has a wind turbine on the hill, solar PV panels on the barn roof, planted a small wood for a future renewable wood source, and most impressively, built a dam and uses the water to create hydro electricity!  Over the years he has thoroughly researched these power sources and his farm has now become a source of knowledge and research into these energy uses for farms.  On the animal front John keeps cattle, including belted Galloways, Saddleback pigs, his four alpaca boys and Barclay the black Lab!  The informative plaque above is fixed to a huge  granite boulder near his hydro generation shed.  John is a mine of factual information on renewables for farmers - details on the plaque above.  A really interesting visit John - thanks again.
And finally..... it's getting bigger and the 'trumpets' are beginning to appear!

Sunday, 3 July 2011

A 'harrowing' experience.

The harrow is the latest bit of kit being employed to try to keep the buttercups at bay so we dropped the grass collection box and fitted on the new purchase.  We don't like spraying, so try a lot of different methods, including liming the soil, to try and stop the weed's unceasing march across the paddocks.  No doubt that the harrow does a good job of scarifying and raking, so hopefully this will help - in due course!  We've seen several fellow bloggers harrowing like crazy, so we'll see how we get on with this idea. 
A lazy Sunday morning in the sun for four of the boys.  Fidget is at the back, Wee Eck on the left, Fergus in the middle and Faro on the right.  We moved the boys down to the bottom paddocks a couple of weeks ago ready for the shearing and they like being in this steading as it's deep and dark and the flies don't get in there!
Here they are emerging into the sunlight with Rufus lying on the ground.  The flies have been a real pest this week and the boys don't like them, spending hours lying inside eating their hay and chewing the cud.  They enjoy the cool evenings best when even the midgies have gone.  We've put the boys into the catch pen a couple of times over the past week and lightly sprayed them with fly repellent to help them.  Gully's ears and between his front legs have had Neem cream applied as he has been scratching quite a bit.  Wee Eck also had some applied to bald patches on his ankles.  The cream works, but boy it stinks! 
And now for something completely different.... we bought this Cardiocrinum giganteum 4 years ago from the Explorer's Garden in Pitlochry when we visited on the day before we got our first four alpaca boys.  During the past 3 years it has grown no more than a foot high, been ravaged by slugs, then died back.  This year - probably due to a very warm April - it has shot up to over 6 feet high and is still growing.  If we are lucky, white trumpet-like flowers should appear soon.   Watch this space for  a photo!