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, 30 September 2012

Water fowl

Soggy Fidget!  Like most of UK we had a couple of days of wild weather this week and we got a good soaking, although not as bad as some parts of the country.  Our field shelters are all open so the boys suit themselves as to when they will be inside, or out and about.  During the heaviest of the rain the boys were in but boredom set in and they went out to graze with the result that they too got a drenching.
The heavy rain is reflected in the spots on the photo as the boys get into the  big, dry steading and get stuck into their hay.
A couple of days ago, about 7.30am Robbie let the hens out of their hen-house and saw that all the boys - except Faro - were lying next to each other in a line in the big steading, all chewing the cud and totally relaxed.  Faro was lying nearby in front of the field shelter.  A good photo opportunity so Robbie came back to the house and collected the camera.  The boys were still in the same positions but just as a photo was being lined up, Hunkey Dunkey the cockerel in the nearby hen compound decided to grab one of his hens for his morning 'constitutional!'  Delilah the hen was having none of his early morning amorous advances and started shrieking loudly.  Faro the guard jumped to his feet on hearing the commotion followed immediately by the rest of the boys who ran out of the steading to see what was going on.  A good photo - op missed but here is the resulting one with Faro on the extreme right, tail up and ready for action!
Yesterday we got three new chickens to add to Dunkey's harem.  These young birds came from a breeder in Skye who comes to the mainland several times a year and it's always interesting to see a line of people with their boxes queueing for their new chickens with the children especially excited.  From the left they are a Black Rock, a Light Sussex and a Bluebell who will now spend a couple of days in their new home getting used to their surroundings before going outside into a secure cage before venturing into the compounds.  Dunkey is patrolling in the next compound and he can hear the occasional 'Cluck' from the new birds so is eager to introduce himself!  The two older hens are unlikely to be pleased to see younger birds though so there will be a bit of 'hen-pecking' going on before status quo is restored.
On one of the few nice mornings this week, the view from the veg garden was great!
And finally.............Clematis 'Tangutica' on the fence still giving a great display of yellow flowers before turning into those fluffy, silvery coloured balls.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Wassup?!

It's a typical group reaction by alpacas when they see something interesting or something which could be a threat.  One animal spots it and within seconds the others are looking in the same direction.  Up go their ears, and sometimes their tails as they 'lock on' to the potential threat.  We have no experience of female alpacas to know if they have the same reaction, but it is certainly true of our boys.
Hidden in the middle of the group is Wee Eck, smaller than the other boys and just behind Rufus, but just as interested in what is going on on the other side of the fence.
The view as seen by Rufus!  The item of interest being watched by the boys is a flock of sheep being rounded up by our neighbouring crofter and his dogs.  As if a flock of sheep isn't interesting enough, dogs running around accompanied by shouting and whistling from the humans certainly are!  In the distance, between Rufus's ears is the flock of sheep!
Even Fergus is wondering what is going on in the neighbouring field.  He is one laid back alpaca, preferring to chew the cud and let others deal with problems and seen here with Fidget behind him.
The daily 'poop-patrol' has arrived and Gully (left) and Fyta decide to check out the contents of the barrow.  No surprises in there then!  Faro is in the background. This, and the foregoing photos were taken yesterday morning which was crisp and frosty following a pretty cold night.  Ice appeared on the water troughs and earlier in the week we had the first dusting of snow on the hills - and it's still only September! 
Earlier in the week we had a great visit from two old friends, Albert and Tia who had their first alpaca 'experience' on a trip to the frozen north from the balmy climate of Edinburgh!  The boys were in good form and here Faro the guard gives them the once over and declares them to be of the friendly human variety!
So now more boys come to have a look at the visitors.  Faro at the front, Gaucho behind with Fergus behind Tia  - hoping that visitors might mean food!  Gully is looking through the fence on the left.
And finally.............the view from the new house site, across the top paddocks to Ben Wyvis in the distance.  The boys can be seen in the middle of the picture -  with a bit of magnification!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

This is a typical Fyta pose - head into the bowl at feeding time.  He's already finished off his supplement and gone around most of the empty bowls, hoovering up any grains that are left - here he is in Faro's bowl.
Meanwhile Faro has dared to go near to Fidget's bowl which spark's an immediate reaction  - neck out, camel noises and working up a spit!  Fyta (with black 'trousers' at the rear) continues with the hoovering and Gully (front right) wonders if there is more.  The boys have had their daily dose of Verm-X over the past 6 days so they will have one more dose tonight. 
In the compound next to the boys are the chickens and Gaucho (L) and Rufus give Hunkey the cockerel and  Delilah one of the hens, the 'once over.'  The hens usually patrol the fence line when the boys are fed in case any scraps should get thrown their way - and they usually are.  We've ordered another 3 chickens from the breeder in Skye so we'll get them in 2 week's time.  We will get a Black Rock, a light Sussex and a Bluebell as we've had them before and they are all nice, colourful fowl.  Hunkey will think all his Christmases have come at once!
Fergus often likes his neck rubbed vigorously after his feed and here is Robbie obliging him.  We penned the boys this week so that we could put some cream on dry patches on Wee Eck, so Fergus had his nails trimmed at the same time.  He was not exactly a happy bunny - but his pal Fidget put up with the procedure much better.
For those interested in the garden, this is the view looking inside the Keder greenhouse.  On the left are  Runner beans, not normally in the Keder but we thought we'd better plant some inside in case the bunnies ate all the outdoor ones!  French beans are on the immediate right, then carrots and one of the two vines at the bottom.
No need for management at Cotes Du Rhone to panic just yet I think, but at least we are pleased that we get a picking in these northern climes.
And finally........for Barbara and Judi and anyone else interested in the house build, this was taken yesterday - you might need to magnify.  Blockwork and quoines all completed with harling starting this coming week.  The garage has been started on the left where the fork lift is parked, so we should see a big difference in the site shortly.  Inside all the stud walls are up and plaster-boarding almost complete.  The kitchen/dining area has a 'cathedral' style ceiling so that is taking a while to complete but should be finished in a couple of days.  Ames Tapers in during this coming week and kitchen fitting in a couple of weeks.  Good eh?

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Pits and spits

The boys are not early risers but one of the first to get going in the mornings is Rufus.  He is often to be seen getting up on his feet in the shelter, going outside to do the toilet then returning for another snooze.
Wee Eck, always curious as to what is going on when humans are around and not shy to have his photo taken.  Faro is in the background.
Faro again, trying his best to look macho with his tail up!
It's almost as if Fergus (left) is saying to Fidget, "Was it something I said or do I have to change my toothpaste?!"  With a sand pit each the two boys can enjoy their own space, something that both of these white guys like.
See what I mean?  Rufus has decided that he will join Fidget in the sand pit, but Fidge has other ideas about that and starts moaning like a camel and working up a spit!  Rufus takes evasive action from the green stuff that might be heading in his direction!
Remember these three swallows from our blog of a couple of weeks ago?  At  that time they flew the nest and we thought we had seen the last of them but they have been returning to the shelter each night with Mum and Dad, not to the actual nest but roosting in the eaves of the shelter.
And here's a lovely Lily still displaying vibrant colours although it is quite late in the growing season for them.
And finally..........despite the best efforts of the bunnies we have managed to  salvage a reasonable crop of veg again this year.  The onions are drying in the sun and wind and their skins will turn to a golden brown colour as this happens.  The basin full of pea pods produced the peas in the yellow tub whilst the pods will be emptied into the compost bin.  This is the first of several basins full of peas, broad beans and runner beans which will find their way to the freezer.  Calabrese is being eaten by us now whilst the bunnies ate most of the early cauliflowers with only one surviving  - fortunately the second planting will survive.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Hay bucket time

I suppose that we all have differing feeding times and routines for our animals.  During winter months  our boys have hay 'on call' all the time but during summer months we tend to only give them hay during the evening as there is more than enough fresh grass for them to eat.   The exception is when it is really foul weather and they are inside, then we fill the hay buckets for them.   We find that during the summer if hay is 'on call' then they pull it about and waste such a lot.  They get their daily bowl of supplement in the afternoon then we fill the hay buckets in the evening.  The boys love their evening hay and get stuck into it as soon as it arrives.    Here are Wee Eck and Fergus at the rear of the shelter, Gully and Faro at the front of the shelter and Rufus and Fyta outside.
Fidget here getting stuck into his ration which he usually prefers to eat outside.
This is Fyta, not looking for a 'needle in a haystack' which the photo might suggest, but burying his head into the bucket and pulling it all out!
Fyta is joined by Rufus and Faro
Next door in the other shelter is Gaucho, also enjoying a bucketful.
Fergus being told that he's a "good boy" for eating his hay nicely!!
And finally............ before moving the boys later in the week down to the lower paddocks, we checked out the swallow's nest in one of the lower shelters and found that the 3 youngsters were just about ready to fly the nest.  In fact yesterday they had disappeared from the shelter so they have obviously taken to the wing.   It's been a great summer for swallows, lots and lots of them around the house and garden which is great.    We love to hear them chattering to each other as they fly around getting in practice now for their imminent long flight south to the sun for the winter.