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, 26 February 2012

Mild weather

We moved the boys into the top paddocks this week which always gets them excited.  When it comes to feeding time, it doesn't matter how quiet we are when we approach the paddock from behind the hedge, they always seem to know that we are coming with food and this is the scene which meets us.  Ah, bless!
The boys coming into the fresh grass, although there is very little of it around the gates where the drainage has been put in.  Fergus at the front, with Rufus, Wee Eck and Gully behind.
Even before we get the straw down, which we normally do before the boys get in the paddock, the boys started rolling in the shelters.  They do this every time they come into new paddocks - straight to the shelters for a roll!  Here is Fidget getting acquainted with this shelter again.
It might appear that Fergus has fallen asleep here, mid chew, but he is just enjoying his supplement!  All the boys like to lie down from time to time whilst eating, whether it is their supplement, hay or haylage.  They always look very contented when they do this.
Gully has just had his roll in the shelter and is going to join the other boys.  He has fleeced up nicely over the winter, including his furry ears which were bald when we first got him.  He had some skin problems at that time but he's turned into a bonnie boy with lovely fawn fleece.
He's at the drainage again!  Having moved the boys out of the lower paddocks Robbie has been putting in more  6 inch coily pipe to try to keep the steading area better drained.  Another 6 barrow loads of stones finished this part off.  One further trench has to be dug and piped in this paddock then all of this digging practice will come in handy when it will be time for the veg garden to be dug over!  No rest for the wicked! 
And finally.........I took this photo of a rose at the back of our house this morning, a sight that we usually associate with summer.   With all the very mild weather around just now, insects and birds must be very confused by it all - I know that the humans around here are!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Work in progress and rainbows galore!

Over the past couple of weeks I've been experimenting with my spun fleece to see if I can knit some alpaca images.  These knitted squares can be stitched for instance onto cushion covers.  The squares are knitted using yarn from Fidget (white) Gaucho (brown) and Rufus (dark brown)  and these are just laid on a cushion for effect, they are not stitched on. 
This is definitely 'work in progress' but I think you can see what the finished square will look like once the lettering is finished and the ends stitched in!
This probably gives a better impression of what I'm aiming for.  For those interested in this type of work this was knitted using Fair Isle technique whilst the previous picture of the alpaca head was done using 'Intarsia' technique (you can Google it!)  I got the alpaca ideas from the web site:  http://www.mountlehmanllamas.com  which shows some vintage camelid photos, knitting, toys etc - a very informative web site.
Outside in the paddocks the weather has generally been kind to us over the past week.  There is a heavy dusting of snow around today but the sun will soon shift it.  One day last week, under a threatening sky a rainbow appeared in the bright sunshine as a shower of rain passed.  Here are, from the left, Gully, Rufus, Fergus, Fidget, Wee Eck (front) and Gaucho.
Gully (left) and Fergus
From the left, Gully, Fyta and Faro
"ello, 'ello, 'ello - wots goin' on 'ere then?"    If there was a prize for nosiness, Wee Eck would win it every time.  As soon as a camera is produced he has to stick his nose and dental features into the aperture!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Good weather and 'skirts.'

We've enjoyed a week of really great weather, frosty at night but beautiful during the days.  There is something very odd about looking at the weather forecaster's charts on TV and seeing the whole of the south of Britain bathed in frosty blue with -10 etc and the north of the country at +7!  No snow here thank goodness, apart from on the hills, so hope that those blog readers in the south are getting around OK in the cold weather.   Here are some of the boys coming up from the bottom paddock early one morning this week to see what is going on.  Fidget is in the front followed by Wee Eck and Fyta.
Gully arrives followed by Rufus.
Gaucho.
This was such a lovely morning that Fergus started paddling in the water trough - unfortunately the picture of that didn't come out, but here is Fyta standing over him with Gully watching in the background.  We take the water trays in for the winter and only leave the troughs out but as the weather  gets warmer the trays will be deployed.
Fergus and his pals waiting for their feed in the late afternoon.  All the boys have dirty knees  and some, especially Gully are still covered in dried mud.  They all still enjoy using their rolling spots, especially when the sun shines, but at this time of year the rolling spots look more like mud baths.
Rufus with Faro, Gaucho and Gully behind.  At this time of year the boys' fleece is very dense and several of them appear to have 'skirts' - you can see this on Rufus.  This is mostly guard hair, tough outer coating to the finer fleece underneath.  Faro's fleece is shorter and he doesn't have this skirt but Fidget has a really thick one.
And finally..........alpacas often have a superior look about them, as if they are looking down their noses - especially at humans!  Fyta takes this to the extreme however!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

It's an ice-age thing!

In last week's blog I described the drainage trench which Robbie was digging in front of the field shelters.    On the next day he hit this massive slab lying at right angles to the trench and blocking the route of the coily pipe.  Speculation was rife as to whether it was the 'lid' of an ancient burial chamber, perhaps there was a gold or silver hoard buried under it or perhaps it had some other ancient purpose.  One thing was for sure, it was too heavy to move by hand.
Enter our farming neighbour Willie, with his digger, in front of an expectant audience of  Robbie and the boys in the other paddock.  No problem for this machine.
The slab is lifted out, sadly no gold, silver or skeletons underneath - just clay!  The boys have lost interest in the background too!
And here is the 'precious stone' - somebody has been promising me one of those for years, but not this big!   So it looks like this slab was 'dumped' here as the glaciers retreated at the end of the last ice age, a sight which can be seen on many mountains and hills in the north.  Now several thousand years later it is likely to be cleaned, up-ended and used as a house sign.  The 'ancients' would be impressed!
Also this week we had a welcome visit from Sue and Sonia who came to satisfy their  curiosity about all things alpaca. Look out locally, I can see more 'fleecy beasties' appearing in another part of the village in the future!
Faro gives Sue and Sonia a look over and hopes there will be snacks for the boys (there was!)  Fyta is on the left and Rufus on the right.
And finally..........not quite from the last ice age, but a sight which will be familiar to most alpaca owners recently in UK as the water troughs freeze up.