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 March 2013

Easter visitors

You just can't keep Gully away from the camera!  We note that he is growing a 'Goatee' beard - should be quite long by the time shearing comes around.  Another week of deep overnight frosts but sunny by day - warm in the sun, but when the sun sets, the chill starts.  The wind is still from the east ('the beast from the east' it's being called!) so it really is cold at times. At least the boys are dry and well fleeced up, sleeping outside each night under the stars and not concerned by the cold.
We had an enquiry this week via this blog from a local family interested in learning about alpacas.   We were pleased to welcome Graham, Kirstie and the children today, a fine day for checking out the beasties.  Faro makes the initial assessment of the visitors whilst the others hang back.
Fergus is not a shy, retiring sort of 'paca and if there is the slightest possibility of food, he'll want to check it out!
We've noticed in the past that the animals are intrigued by children, and often stare for ages at the 'little humans' in the paddock. From the left, Fergus, Fyta, Faro and Fidget get interested.  Hope you enjoyed your visit folks, good luck with your plans and haste ye back any time.
Faro the guard does not like paparazzi!  When Robbie tried to take the photo of some of the boys in the sand pit, up walked Faro to do his blocking action................
.........but a neat body swerve by the photographer gets the shot of Fergus, Rufus and Gaucho in the sand pit whilst Faro looks on!  Hope the weather in your neck of the woods is getting better and if you had snow, that it is now melting or gone completely.  No sign of the Daffs flowering here yet - even the Rhubarb is refusing to break the surface.  Hope you all have a very happy Easter.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Trying to stay warm!

It's a touch of "Halt - who goes there?" from Fyta who was on gate guard duties one day!  Not a lot has been happening this week as animals and humans kept a low profile trying to avoid the raw, bitter easterly wind.
This was taken on Monday and was the only snow we saw this week - unlike many of you in the south, and especially Cumbria who have had to endure the blizzards.  One again we seem to have escaped the worse of the weather - touch wood!
This tranquil scene was recorded about 6.00pm mid week and the boys had settled down for the evening.  Unfortunately they were in the wrong paddock so they had to get up and be moved - accompanied by lots of moaning and camel noises!
Another day, another lie down.  Rufus is nearest to the camera with Wee Eck just behind. These two were the last boys to join the herd a couple of years ago and they have frequent spats and stand-offs as they square up to each other.  But just as frequently they can be seen lying next to each other, chewing the cud contentedly and happy with each other's company.  Eck doesn't do neck wrestling because he is so much smaller than the others, he just does the full body slam!  Males, eh?!
And finally..........Faro has a lie down watching his pals with the nearly completed house and smaller garage/workshop behind.  The forecast is for more cold weather and perhaps snow in the week ahead leading up to Easter.  This time last year we were in T Shirts - what a difference!

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Mixed weather again.

Monday's weather came as a wee bit of a shock - back to the white stuff which blanketed the green stuff, much to the displeasure of the boys.  They get bored very easily when they can't get at their grass!  With magnification you'll see them in the middle of the picture just outside of their field shelters.  This photo looks north.
There is a certain beauty in undisturbed snow in a garden - this is the Phormium plant at the back of the house before the sun was high enough to get a melt started.
Mid week and the warmer sunshine had returned allowing the boys to get back to nibbling their grass.  Mid afternoon and they go for sunbathing and chewing the cud - all except Faro the guard who remains on his feet.  This photo looks west.
Gully enjoying  a bit of sunshine and a mouthful of supplement!  Gaucho is behind him eating from his bowl.  These two are great pals but it does not stop the occasional serious neck wrestling and spitting between them which happened shortly after this photo when Gaucho tried to pinch some of Gully's food!  Bad move.  They were soon up on their hind legs, 'chesting' each other and spitting for about a minute before peace returned.
This is Fidget showing a clean set of teeth.  Not the quickest boy in the herd, in fact he is always trailing behind the others, but he is a lovely chap.
Rufus, bedecked in hay after a rolling session with Gaucho behind.  The boys have all had their Verm-X granules in their food over the past week.
'Waste not, want not' down in the chicken compound as Hunkey Dunkey and his hens get stuck into a couple of  cabbages which makes a tasty change from layers pellets, mixed grain, grass and grubs!  Cabbage flavoured eggs anyone?
And finally.............to end the week yesterday, the Crocuses put on a colourful display.  No daffodils in flower here yet but plenty of shoots ready to open when the weather gets milder.  For those of you who attended this weekend's Futurity in the south - hope your hangovers are lifting!

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Winter fleece and Spring chickens!

The weather is 'Baltic' but at least it's dry so the boys are able to show off their fleecy coats this week.  This is Gully who should have been named 'Dyson' for his ability to polish off his own food then tour the bowls for the leftovers.  Gully doesn't like his fleece to be too clean, preferring to cover himself in dust or mud depending on the weather conditions.
'Big boy' Fergus has a dense coat on at this time of year too.  When he is completely dry he is white all over but when he is damp there is an area on his back where the ends of the fleece are pink coloured!  Strange.
Gaucho and his lovely coloured fleece.  None of our boys would win any prizes for the quality of their respective fleeces but we don't mind and I am still able to spin and use fleece from most of the boys.
Wee Eck has that short, thick fleece which obviously keeps him nice and warm but is not much use to spin and any garments made tend to felt easily.  He looks a totally black boy (apart from one small patch of white behind one ankle), yet the tips of his ears and the ends of his top knot are ginger coloured.   Cool!
Rufus also has some interesting fleece around his head.  The combination of a white, over-layered with brown top knot is attractive but his white tipped ears are special.
A 'chicken and egg' story now!  'Buttercup' our oldest chicken at 9 years has always taken to flying over the 8 feet high compound wire during Spring and Summer to lay a clutch of eggs somewhere around the garden.   She doesn't sit on them for long but adds to them on a daily basis and it takes us ages of watching and searching to see where she is laying.  We normally remove the eggs when we find them as we don't want them to hatch, even though they will be fertile as a result of Hunkey Dunkey's actions!  Recently she has started flying outside again and we knew she must be laying away somewhere.  Yesterday I happened to find her, under a Leylandii hedge not too far from the compound and if you look closely you can see her red comb as she watches me with her beady eyes!  She was bred here, her parents were a Welsummer cockerel and a Sicilian Buttercup hen and she remains in excellent condition regardless of her age.

And finally..........this is what she was doing - laying her eggs in a natural nest of dead leaves and twigs!  There were five eggs in this clutch and you can probably see them left of centre in the photo.  One year we discovered a clutch of 22 eggs which she had laid, day after day!

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Dinky nails!

Time for some toe nail clipping.  The weather has been good during the past week, the boys are nice and dry so time to see if they are in an accommodating mood!  Firstly they are all put in the catch pen for a quick check over.
There are usually one or two unruly guys, like Rufus above, who we let out of the pen firstly, but we usually keep 3 or 4 in the pen whilst we clip. We do ours by standing next to them and lifting their feet, I handle the neck and head and Robbie clips.  I usually either use the 'bracelet' hold and/or the Camelidynamics neck rub whilst speaking to the boy.  We did Fergus and Fidget our white boys, and Gully who is fawn coloured and they all behaved perfectly - but it does not always go so well!  Julie Taylor-Browne (www.carthveanalpacas.com) has excellent information on nail clipping (click on Magazine Articles) and the bracelet technique.  There is also an instructive US video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=uluc7hRMpdw showing the leg lifting technique. 
We also let the boys into a part of an adjoining paddock, sectioned off with gates, to get some fresh grass.  This is the view looking down on them and away in the distance you can see the heather burning on the far hill line - to allow fresh shoots to grow for Grouse feeding.
Yesterday we let the boys into the rest of the paddock and this is the charge to new grass - instantly recognisable to alpaca owners!
No need to ask who will be first to sample a back scratch on Robbie's freshly laid stone chips at the entrance to the paddock - Gully!
And a sight to lighten the heart after a long winter - a Crocus or two appearing surrounded by Snowdrops.  The sacking at the top right is the winter cover over the Gunnera plant crown and it will be removed during late April when the worst frosts will/should be over!
And finally...........a sight to get Dave at Apple Vale Alpacas excited.  These are the 'Dinky toys' in use at present on the outside area of our house build - the big digger, road roller and dump truck.  Any use for the entrance work to your paddock Dave?