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, 28 October 2012

Pumpkins and other stuff!

Only Gully (left) and Fyta seem remotely interested in the pumpkin lantern whilst the other boys prefer grazing.  We made the pumpkin for the Halloween disco which we organise for Learning Disabled adults and their carers (www.corbettvip.btck.co.uk)  and I made soup from the scooped out pumpkin - delicious!
During a misty morning this week we decided to let the boys into some new grass in an adjoining paddock.   As always they seem to know when they are getting new grass and wait patiently at the gate to get in.
When the gate is opened they charge in and start running around in excitement.
In particular, Gully really 'goes bananas' jumping around, rearing up on his back legs and chasing the other boys around.  We tried to get a video of him doing this but it hasn't come out too well.  This is the same Gully who lead all the boys pronking around the paddocks at dusk one evening, but as always the camera is never handy when needed!  This photo is of Gully, not listening for worms as you might imagine but rubbing his neck and face on a big bunch of dead Dock leaves.  Fyta on the left, looks as if he is laughing at him!
A slightly different view of the boys in this paddock taken from the track down to 'Tigh Mhor.'  Note the large pile of shredded bark and branches in the foreground with the large rabbit hole in the middle!  In the middle of the photo is the long hedge which shelters the boys and the field shelters from the westerly winds and rain. During the past week 'himself' has been up the ladder with shears and hedge trimmer trying desperately to get all the hedges around the place cut before the winter weather hits.
We had a visit from friends Ann and Duncan who are 'house-sitting' our neighbour's house for a couple of weeks.  Ann loves animals and in particular Clydesdale horses and other 'heavy' horses.  Duncan reckons that Fergus (standing behind me) would qualify for the 'heavy' alpaca category!   Cheek!
And finally.............a colourful bunch of Geranium leaves, no flowers left now but their green leaves are turning into beautiful autumnal shades. 

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Frosty nights are here again.

Like many of you we've experienced some really frosty nights during the past week meaning frozen water troughs and pretty cold grass for the boys to eat - the hay buckets soon get emptied in weather like that.  Here is Fidget in the early morning not at all impressed by his cold breakfast.  In the background are Fergus, Gully and Rufus.
All the boys have frost on their coats but because of Wee Eck's colour, it really shows up.  He is surrounded by Gully, Rufus and Fyta.
And here is the evidence of the boys lying out all night in the frost.  These melt patches in the frosty grass give the game away.  At least the weather is normally settled after the frost but towards the end of this week we had lots of rain - again! 
We had a lovely surprise visit this week when Joyce, an old nursing friend from Shetland and her sister Kathleen came to see what we were up to.  Joyce is in the middle of this picture with Kathleen on the left and a bunch of expectant boys looking for grub in the background!  Joyce and I were on  Health Visitor training for 9 months sharing a flat in Aberdeen in 1981 and haven't seen each other since although we always exchange Christmas cards.  I hadn't met Kathleen before so it was great to see them both and hear that lovely Shetland accent again.  Alpacas are not exactly unknown in Shetland as there is a small herd to be found there.  'Haste ye back' both, lovely to see you.
More autumn colours from the bottom of the garden with this Cornus (dogwood) bush which is glowing in the sun but still tinged with frost on the leaves.  On the right is a Ginko Biloba tree which we planted about 10 years ago and is only now beginning to grow in size and stature.  In the middle is one of those blue coloured firs which are kept in pots and never usually grow more than 18" - always take  gardening books 'facts' with a pinch of salt! 
Hope you can see some detail in this photo which was taken at 'locking up' time in the henhouse.  On a shelf on the left are the three new chicks - Black Rock, Bluebell and Light Sussex - with their new boyfriend 'Hunkey Dunkey' keeping an eye on them.  The two older chickens are in their boxes on the other side of the henhouse - but they tend to ignore the youngsters and are probably jealous of Dunkey's attention.
And finally...........Robbie had a 'All muck & magic' morning earlier in the week -  remember that TV gardening programme from some years ago?  These are the three poo composting bays, the furthest away being around a year old, the middle about 6 months old and the nearest is the 'work in progress' bay where almost a barrow load of the boys' efforts are dumped each day!  Half of the contents of the current bay have been transferred to the middle bay and shortly the oldest bay will be emptied on the veg garden and all the bays' contents will move to the left ready for next year.  Last year 47 barrow loads of muck were spread - wonder how many 'Monty Don' will manage this year?

Sunday, 14 October 2012

'Drookit' or what?

This has been an interesting week for weather watchers - a mixture of some lovely days and some horrendous days of constant, heavy rain bringing flooding to this area.  The boys got a thorough soaking but they still stayed out grazing in most of it which was a surprise.  Here is Fergus enjoying his hay at the end of a day of rain.  We had a visit from two ladies, mum and daughter during the worst of the weather.  They had come all the way down from the Lairg area of Sutherland to see the alpacas, and after they had previously postponed a visit, it seemed a shame not to visit this time - regardless of the rain.  At the time of the visit we were experiencing some flooding near our house site so Robbie stayed there channeling the floods whilst the visitors went to the steading to see the 'drookit' boys.  Hope you enjoyed the soggy visit ladies!
Some of the boys disregarding the rain and getting on with the daily graze.  The house is coming on apace in the background, two walls now harled, garage built and felted and now waiting for the roof tiles.  We are hoping for better weather in the coming week so that work can continue.
It wasn't all bad weather, as this mid week sunset shows.  It heralded a lovely day to follow.
And on that day we had a visit from sister in law Sheila and brother in law Jim (right) with their friends Marie and Billy who were holidaying with them.  Definitely the best day of the week and even the boys were in fine form - having been fed some tit-bits of course!
An interesting, but typical photo as all of the herd look to see if there is food on offer - except Faro who is always suspicious of anyone pointing a camera.  Just look at how suspicious he looks compared to the other guys who are just thinking of their bellies!  And talking of 'bellies', they have all been having their Verm-X granules daily for the past week.
As all the other vegetation around them starts to die off, the Nerines come into their own and give a lovely splash of pink colour at this time of year when other plants are turning brown or yellow.
And finally..............Faro wants to thank everyone for their kind thoughts and suggestions when he was  unwell just over a week ago.  He appears to have fully recovered, he's back on full time 'sentry' duty and eating all his supplement which pleases us.  Thanks for your thoughts.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Faro, hats and logs!

Faro - one of our original 4 boys and the 'sentry' for the herd who gave us a scare yesterday.   A couple of hours after this shot was taken I found him 'cushed' on his own in a paddock quite a way from the rest of the boys.  I approached and he stayed down, something he would not normally do, he is always the first animal on his feet as soon as anyone approaches.   Robbie approached and he still stayed down, groaned then  he spat!  We'd never encountered this behaviour with Faro so there was obviously something wrong.  We contacted the vet but before she arrived Faro was up on his feet.   We penned them and the vet checked Faro and we all concluded that he may have a Selenium deficiency - he is a very 'picky' eater, often doesn't finish his supplement bowl and we've previously felt the need to give him vitamin gel.  The vet gave him B12 and Selenium/mineral injections and he was fine after that.  He is much more like his normal self today but we'll continue to keep a close eye on him. 
Rufus waiting for the gate to open to get into the other paddock.  He has a lovely face.   Gully, Fidget and Gaucho are in the background.
Also wanting fresh grass is Fergus, waiting patiently for the gate to be opened with Faro at his side.
An innocent looking Gully but who still loves to have a 'rough and tumble' with his pal Gaucho.
The boys are unconcerned as the massive crane hoists the roof trusses onto the garage on the  new house site.  They often stand watching all the activity on the site then get fed up and return to their favourite view - the grass!
Meanwhile, up on the scaffolding and building the garage are joiners Kevin (left) and Lewis sporting their alpaca hats with the boys in the background behind them.  Kevin is wearing Rufus and Fergus and Lewis is wearing Gaucho and Gully.  With all the joiners and builders wearing their hats which I've knitted for them, they must have the warmest heads in the north!  Photo-call is over guys, back to work now!
Earlier in the week Robbie and I gave a talk about all things alpaca to 32 members of the  Highland Branch of the National Health Service Retirement Fellowship at Raigmore Hospital, Inverness.  It was an opportunity for me to catch up with old nursing colleagues and for both of us to meet old friends.  The talk went very well and we were able to show a variety of knitted and felted items.
And finally...........you can tell what 'himself' has been up to all week with the chain saw and log splitting axe.  This is the soft wood pile and there is another 'hard wood' pile in the steading.  The only problem with the logs sharing a shelter with the 'pacas is that in the morning we find logs strewn all over the floor!