Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Rain, rain go away!

Two wet best buddies
We have baled about 30 bales of hay, or semi-wet grass, which is not recommended as it is likely to go mouldy. We have put them under cover with plenty of air circulation and so far most of them have not got hot, which would be a sign that they are decomposing rather than drying out, so maybe we have got away with it. The problem is that we have now cut half the hay on the ski hill too. It looked really promising as it was drying nicely and it was a better harvest than last year, but then it rained. Not a tiny little bit like the forecast suggested, but frequent showers through the last two days. We still have more we can cut, but it is not looking great so far. We can only hope that the next few days are really as dry as forecast and any possibility of rain does not turn into a downpour. At least we are not in danger of a drought and the ponds are full to overflowing and even the well is filling up faster now.
Well when they are not fighting that is

Drenched. Fortunately this is not so catastrophic as a few
weeks ago. George is not showing any signs of his poor
start in life and is very active now.
All this rain has turned us into obsessive weather watchers. We lose count of the number of times we check the radar and the weather forecast. It has been so unpredictable that I think it is not really helping. At least with a radar it is possible to see the rain coming, but sometimes that is just downright depressing, sometimes it is the spur to get a job done, but not so much at the moment.
Frederiks reaching that itch behind the ear!

George nibbling on cow parsley
The insects have not been quite as bad for us this year but the animals have been bothered by them. It seems that the mite problem has flared up and the flies have been taking advantage of small bits of raw skin. Ian has been putting fly spray on, but the animals are not so keen and so it is more difficult when they are out in the field. Ian tried to take Tellus and Mr. P for a walk with our young helper but there were too many insects irritating them and Tellus gets really cross with them. It didn't help that Mr. P kept trying to walk through long grass, so they gave up. We have also used Fiprinol on some animals with the mites, which often sorts the issue out, but we are well aware that in itself could become a problem if the mites become resistant, so we are trying to monitor the situation to ensure it does not get out of hand.
Frederiks has been losing some fur from off his nose, so we
are starting him on some cream.
Ian sporting the newest head covering. Our young helper
made the hat for him
As I mentioned before, this year it has been easier to keep on top of the garden and not have unkempt look. I think it is easier because even the weeds have been fairly slow to grow. I bet they are waiting until I am away at a conference to leap forward with wild abandon. One bed did get rather weedy and there wasn't really anything to plant in it yet, so we have planted oats and barley for a green manure and to keep the other weeds in check. They have germinated well, so that is a help. I do plan to sow some autumn crops soon though as well, as I have plenty of other spare places. It is nice to be able to concentrate on the garden on our land and not have to make sure I get the gardens weeded in the village too. Even if it does get in a bit of a mess, at least it doesn't affect my neighbours.
A still heavily pregnant Agnese. Come on, hurry up Hilda
- at least we hope we finally get a girl this time.
Chanel before shearing
We finally got most of the girls sheared this week. Agnese still hasn't produced and so she is still waiting for her haircut. I tried to comb through Mari's hair but there was so much matted fleece and remnants of hay from two years ago that I gave up. With Chanel we decided to give her a shorter look than we would like to give her as she had the same problem as Mari. At least now it shouldn't get so matted. We will sort Mari's hair out at the same time as we finally shear Agnese. Our young helper helped out with the shearing this year and she sat with the alpacas heads on her lap, which they seemed to be remarkably calm with, even our spitty alpaca Chanel, who only spat once and not while she was being sheared.
And after shearing. Sorry Chanel! The haircut was a bit
drastic but it will grow back, honest!
The wood pile is growing
Our other helper has started making an impression on the wood pile. Ian had logged up the wood and the young chap split it. He has to work on his knees as he can't stand for long, but Ian gave him some knee pads and that helped. He worked really hard and even when we stopped for coffee he would get up before us and get back on with the job. It is really nice not to have to insist that someone get on with a job. He was pretty tired when it was time to go home though.
Mari before shearing
And after with the rather funky hair cut. That will be going
We've had a few minor miracles this week. The last large hay bale was split up and mercifully this at least had some good hay in it to use as bedding for the girls. We have had to clear it out again for shearing as it was just too wet. We also saw the fish in both our ponds. We haven't seen the ones in the lower pond since last year. It is hard to see them in that pond due to it being so overgrown but there had not even been a glimpse of them. We haven't seen the ones in the top pond either for over a month and thought that maybe a local heron had managed to get them, despite the steep sides of the pond.
We really do have fish in the pond!
Veronica before
Another miracle is that we also narrowly missed our chicks becoming a snack for our cat and a hawk. They are escaping on a fairly regular basis at the moment and Eyre spotted one and started to go for it. Fortunately she stopped after we started to make a commotion. She never bothers while they are inside their netting. The hawk also made a swoop for them, but I don't think there is enough room to fly in and fly out by swooping and so they are safe as long as they stay inside the netting. I have tried clipping their wings to stop them flying out, but not sure this is having the desired effect. They seem to be able to flap and sort of walk up the netting at this age. Plan B will be a cull of some older birds and make room in one of the arks, then there will be no escaping. Oh yes! And finally, there are 15 chicks and I thought we only had 14.
And after

And finally the two best buddies having a rest in the alpaca house

Monday, 10 July 2017

A little drama!

I am quite chuffed with myself for capturing this shot this
week. Usually Ian takes all the photos but this week there are
some of mine. It was a sheer fluke that I captured this shot
I have to admit.
We have drama again this week, but not due to baby alpacas fortunately. Little George is much better now and beginning to bully Frederiks about, despite his size. We are so pleased he seems to have fully recovered.
A bit of communal time around the water bucket, but those
little ones had best beware, Aggie is not in a good mood

George is a great observer of life. Our visitors loved the little
ones of course
Our crazy young friend hung around till the middle of the week before heading back off on her travels. We are so pleased she managed to make it out to us as it was good to catch up on life since we last saw each other. A lot has happened in the three years since she was last out here. From that perspective it was good that it rained, there is not much else to do than talk, so may as well do that in good company. Although we have had quite a few visitors to see us, we haven't had as many tourists turning up to see the alpacas just lately, but this weekend we had a couple from the local village. One of them we know quite well from a local shop we frequent, which was nice.
Our summer home

Best buddies! Well sometimes. 
Our young helper was also back out to help us this week, but just on her own this time. Mind you, I think we tired her out with a back to back English practice this week. She is still shy and gets a bit flustered about lunch, but we think we have sorted that out now with her mum. We might not be able to talk directly but at least we can talk via email and understand each other - or at least I hope so.
Our chicks are growing up. I do hope they are better layers
than the other ones we have. We had one egg today and we
have 12 hens. Not a good ratio really.

One of our visitors
The good thing about having someone out to help is it keeps me motivated to go out and get the weeding done. It also means of course an extra pair of hands so that my garden is almost looking neat and tidy. I say almost, the weeds still out compete the plants in places and the ants are not helping. One other reason for the tidier garden is only having the one place where I am gardening. We have now got all our planting based here out on our land instead of at our apartments. I have gradually given up those gardens over the last couple of years and it has been much easier for my own peace of mind. It is still hard work of course to make sure there is food on the table, but it is a lot easier when everything is one place.

Sofie on mouse patrol
One of our dramas was Ian waking up at just before 5am and saying he had heard sheep. Sure enough there were three sheep by the pond where there should be no sheep. We were both up and ready quickly that morning. Ian went to check on the fence and I went to make sure that they were not heading off in a direction like my gardens or the road. They were a bit skittish and I wondered is something had spooked them. Eventually I realised that the only way to make sure they didn't go off anywhere they shouldn't was to get them back in the alpaca house they had been in over winter. Fortunately despite being jumpy they still followed me into the shed for some food. There they stayed for a day, as quiet as anything.

Aggie is still keeping us waiting
Ian moved their fence, just in case they were thinking that there wasn't enough grass and I lead them to their new location the next day. Again they followed me for a bowl of food, even though they were a bit unsure of the gate arrangement at one end. By moving quickly through the gate rattling the bowl, they didn't have time to think and Ian came in behind me to close the gate. Done!

Turning the hay with the usual accompaniment of storks
The biggest drama of the week was the start of the hay cutting season. It wasn't a sudden or dramatic drama, but one of those that builds over the week. The temperatures have not been so high this year and so drying hay is taking longer, a bit like last year but at least the days are still longer. We cut hay, turned it and so far so good, then it rained, it dried and we tried to bale, but the bales were heavy and the baler broke - it was probably a good job because if that had happened on the big run when we do the ski hill that would have been a disaster. However it was still very frustrating. The baler broke on Saturday night and so no chance to get to the shops to find a fix. Then it rained. Each time it rained our hearts sank.
All turned and it looked like progress. The hay looked good
and unlike last year there was plenty of it. Then it rained
One stork explaining to another that this was his territory
and he was most certainly not welcome
Finally the rain stopped today and we had some hot sunshine. We had to cool the girls down but we neeeeeed the hay and we neeeed it dry. We ended up turning the hay by hand because the turner was just making grass rolls from the long stringy grass and the more it was turned the tighter the rolls became. We left the hay all afternoon and so I started writing this blog while waiting for them to dry. It did dry out quite a bit over the day but we are not convinced it is enough. I have put the driest ones under cover and maybe that will be enough because those places also have a good air flow and they are not stacked tightly together - that would be a fire risk. I think I will be sore tomorrow.
The broken chain

Fortunately Ian found somewhere that
sold a pin that would repair the chain.
Unfortunately they do not seem to have
robust chains if this one goes. At least
not in this place. Still it is fixed with a
bit of persuasion with an angle grinder
and lots of new oil.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Challenging week

Slightly soggy alpaca crias. I do wish their mums would
take them in
Our week started off rather well as the young lass who was coming to practice her English turned up and worked well at her chores. She is still a bit shy but she loves the alpacas and wants to make friends with them, so that is a good start. She helped Ian for most of the morning before helping me in the afternoon. Ian took her to see the sheep and found that a rather large expanse of their electric fence was down. It was a good job the sheep spent most of their time at the top of the field, otherwise they would have been able to escape easily. Between the two of them they fixed the fence back up with the young lass taking some initiative when Ian didn't have his hammer with him, she found a large piece of wood to bash the wooden poles back in. Obviously used to thinking for herself, which is good.

Long necks are good to catch that itch
The young lass was happy enough that she asked if her cousin could come along later on in the week too. Her cousin's English is more fluent and she helped our young helper to understand more of what we were saying. The cousin is also a bit brasher but pleasant enough with it, so we had fun with some banter too. I introduced them to scones and English style cakes, but they were quite used to licking out the bowls or learnt quickly, not sure which.

At least here he is cushed, but we found him many times
flat out and lethargic
I collected some Selenium injections for our young cria as sometimes they do not get enough and with our youngest cria, George, being a bit lethargic it was wise to make sure his Selenium levels were okay. Later on in the evening though after our young helper's first visit, he was so lethargic he wasn't really responding. We were really worried and asked the sheep camp for some antibiotics. I also gave him some water with sugar and salt in to ensure he got some energy inside of him, but it wasn't really having any effect. We took him into the caravan with us and I kind of kipped out on the floor while Ian went to sleep on the side, we didn't even bother getting changed.

George sporting the latest alpaca style shave. Actually it
was shaved for the cannula
He seemed to settle with me stroking his tummy and if I dropped off and stopped stroking him, he would become agitated. I managed to keep that up until about 4am with the occasional wetting of his mouth with some more sugared solution. At about 4am, he suddenly cushed, which means he put his legs underneath him and sat like an alpaca should, instead of on his side. Whatever was bothering him, was ebbing. I managed then to doze for a few hours.

Although here George is resting in the sun, he spent too
many hours like this, but he is definitely picking up now.
Frederiks at least looks upright and alert here
The next morning we took him into the vets and we have to confess that there were times we didn't think he would see the morning. Ian and our vet tried to get a cannula into George's vein or at least try and work out where it would go, as I pinned him down on the table. Ian had managed before on a previous alpaca. Although worrying, it was also kind of amusing when our vet pulled in one of her customers to help us. Normally the customer worked with ambulance - sort of paramedic type but apparently she was able to get to get a cannula into dog's sometimes when our own vet struggled. It was partly, if I understood correctly, because she also worked on children, who can also present difficulties in finding veins.
Although life can get a bit too much for babies at times, even
the strongest ones get tired

Chilling out together in the sun 
Eventually though it was decided to put a drip in subcutaneously (under the skin) after a couple of failed attempts. It did strike me though that it could only be a rural practice where a paramedic nurse, a vet and an ex-heamatologist try to put a cannula into an alpaca. She sent us back with the drip with instructions to give him another drip subcutaneously early afternoon and then we took him back before she closed for the evening for her to check him over and give him another antibiotic. Although still weak, he was beginning to improve.

Herkules chewing on a straw
We took him back the next morning and this time our vet managed to get a cannula into his vein and he was given another drip. By now he was beginning to look much stronger. He was being picked on a bit by the older cria, Frederiks, though, which concerned us, as did the on and off showers we were having. We couldn't leave George in the rain, but neither would his mum take him in. She enjoyed a good shower and so we would have to coax her in and she was not happy. All the female alpacas were most unhappy about being kept in over 36 hours when we had heavy drenching drizzle and cria health was more important than their playing in the puddles.

Stopping the boys from going into their alpaca house for a
pee. They are not happy about this though
We have been really struggling with the rain this last week. It has meant that many of the outdoor jobs are not getting done, especially haymaking. Our hay stock is just about exhausted now and we have just about enough to keep us going for another week or so for feed (alpacas still need hay, even in summer, as they need the dry feed) but the bedding is a real problem. Because they are inside so much the bedding is getting wet. The boys alpaca house is even worse because the roof is leaking and although we have the roofing to deal with it, we need the dry weather over two days to get it sorted. They all really need their houses cleared out or lots and lots of hay put on top to keep them dry and we just do not have it. We are just hoping and praying the weather improves this next week to get some cut and baled.

Mr. P 
During the week the forestry guy turned up at our farm and tried to tell us something about the forestry certificate we needed that allows us to cut trees above 12cm. Ian had been wondering what had happened to it. The last one was emailed to us and he had been into renew it sometime over the winter. We resorted to the mobile to call our friend to clarify what the problem was. Apparently he had been several times but nobody had been around, which is odd as we are more often there than not. For some reason Ian had to go and collect the certificate before July 1st because there were some changes going on - well that's about as much as we knew. We managed to get our translator friend to help Ian as he had to go to the office in the big town to get it sorted. It turns out the lady who helpfully filled in the forms for Ian, ticked the box that said he would collect it instead of getting it emailed. At least we don't have to worry about that now for another three years.

A still shaggy Chanel
Despite the rain and delaying projects that need doing, we still managed to do jobs like plough ditches to see if they will divert some of the rain off the roadway. It isn't good to have such a soggy roadway with all this rain. I also managed to plant out a load of caulis that needed transplanting and our young chap who has started coming helped me to put a good thick mulch of old hay around the potatoes. The place now looks a little tidier too as we managed to use up some really manky bales of hay in the process.

And a soggy Mari, looking decidedly grubby
The rain does mean that it is not such a problem for getting admin done, the problem though is I managed to get the end of my charger covered in bread dough and it would appear to have corroded the contacts. I am now back on the Nokia phone, but since it is not a smartphone it means I cannot use my internet at the moment, I have to use Ian's on his phone. Not terribly convenient for downloading bank statements and such for the accountant. So annoying!

Our chicks are getting bigger and the next load hatched.
Just to finish up this week and the reason the blog is late I went to pick up friends from bus station, as my young crazy friend is back to visit and she brought a friend with her. We have really enjoyed a good catch up and she and Ian are back to the banter that only good friends can get away with. It is a shame she could only manage a couple of days but with the bad weather we could at least sit around chatting and not feel guilty.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Gosh what a week!

The orchids are out now. I think this one is a Marsh Orchid
if I remember correctly
This is one of those weeks when it feels like nothing much seems to get done that we planned on doing and yet we have been busy. It started off with the need to move the sheep from what has really been their winter quarters for far too long. The plan was to shear the one ewe that we had kept, before putting her and the two lambs over the hill, out of the way. This is so they are not continually making a noise every time we move because they think they are going to get fed. The grass is good enough to eat these days.

The chicks got put outside this week and the new ones have
started hatching in the incubator. We had a broody hen and
this always stops others from laying in the box, so we
moved her out to look after the chicks. That worked quite
well last year, but this year this hen decided that she was
having none of this and eventually started picking on the
chicks. At least it cured her broodiness
Ian tends to get a bad back shearing sheep, alpacas are much easier, still there was only one. He managed to get hold of the sheep okay in the shed where they had been overwintered and start shearing. The two lambs were fine at first, but after a while they started charging around, which was not helping with the shearing. In the end I had to let them out while Ian held onto the ewe. Eventually Ian got to a point where he needed me to hang onto the ewe, which went okay for a while but then she managed to wriggle free and started charging around the shed with half of her fleece still on - she looked ridiculous. Ian was not amused and managed to get hold of her again. This time I basically pinned her down by lying on top, which was not pleasant in the poop on the floor.

The boys have been moved onto fresh grass
The jeans washed okay afterwards though and the ewe didn't look too bad after the haircut. So all was well. We decided to give her a day to recover and a chance to calm down before relocating them. The problem is when sheep or alpacas are sheared the rest of the flock do not recognise them and it takes a while for them to convince the others they are not new animals trying to infiltrate the herd. The following day we managed to relocate them without much hassle, which was a pleasant surprise after last year when the lambs we had then made it really difficult and were chased all over the place to get them in to where they were supposed to be. That was one advantage of being born earlier in the year and Ian having fed them for a while each night.

We've seen a lot of this this summer, a rather heavy shower
At least that was one thing crossed off the list. Another thing crossed off our list was to talk about the possibility of selling one of our apartments. It has been useful having two apartments, especially when people stay, but in the summer that can mean that our stuff is spread over two apartments and one caravan. We sometimes end up not knowing where anything is and ideally we would love a cabin at least out on the land. We have got someone interested and so we at least can now see where that goes.

I'm looking at you.
Other things that got crossed off the list was to tighten the plastic on the greenhouse. It has been a rather cold, blustery and rainy summer for us and that does not do the plastic much good. It is getting older and our cat, Eyre, has not made a positive contribution to the integrity of the stuff. In other words she has been putting holes in it by trying to catch birds on the roof we think. As well as doing that, Ian also got his shears stripped down and cleaned after the shearing of the sheep. Combs and cutters are sharpened ready to do the girls when the weather improves and all have finished giving birth - well that's the plan.

I love rainbows
Alpacas are known to give birth in the morning or early afternoon, which so far has been the case for us, except this week. Late afternoon Ian hurriedly stuck his head around the door of the caravan and said "Come quick! I think Chanel has gone into labour!" Oiks! Not good news! Especially as it can indicate an issue. Sure enough it was clear that Chanel was going into labour outside and was not going into the alpaca house like the others tended to do. She seemed to be struggling with just the head out, so I went to try and get our neighbour. Unfortunately the only thing that greeted me were her two geese who were acting as good guard dogs as they do. I went back and Ian was very obviously concerned about Chanel. She had managed to burst the sac on a stick on the ground and now the cria needed to be born.

Meet Fredriks
The first thing we had to do was catch her, without unduly stressing her. A difficult job at the best of times as she is one of the most stressy of animals as it is. She set off at a bit of a trot with a head still hanging out, but eventually we managed to get hold of her. I held her head while Ian sorted out the problem, which was that one foot was over its head, rather than underneath. He managed to get the leg around the right way and then delivered the baby. He swung the baby upside down a bit to clear its airways as it didn't seem to be breathing properly and thankfully as he did that it started to object. We got Chanel and her baby boy, who we named Frederiks, inside so we could dry him off and ensure that she got started on feeding him before we called it a night.
Frederiks up and about

A very tired Mari
The next day Mari went into labour or at least seemed to. She was very uncomfortable all day and got quite tired. By the evening she still hadn't given birth. She seemed to settle down and we called it a night. Ian had spent all day just watching over her and got nothing done. I got quite a bit done as we had the young chap come and help us again. This time he spent most of the time on his knees weeding first the strawberry bed and then clearing some very weedy plots. We worked really hard all day and the garden is showing improvement. Ian has also managed to mow between the beds today and so it is all looking remarkably neat, just don't look too closely at what is actually growing in the beds but at least even the weeds are mainly edible.

Now meet George
The next morning Ian went to let the alpacas out as usual and found that Mari had just given birth also to a little boy, George. That meant a change to our normal morning routine. Poor Mari looked really tired and she wasn't bonding with her baby. We spent a fraught day watching over the pair and ended up milking her twice to get some colostrum down the little fella. We also gave him a sugar and salt solution to give him some energy. The problem was that he wasn't suckling very well either and there is a danger in giving milk if the suckling reflex is not working. Eventually he started suckling properly, which we were really relieved about.
It is a good job there is a difference in face shape, ear colour
and a shade difference in the brown. We didn't expect Mari's
baby to be totally brown too. Tellus his father is white.

Frederiks and George making friends - well maybe
The next day was a bit fraught too, as he was not doing as well as Frederiks. While Frederiks was bounding around, George was lying down a lot. We let them outside and Mari and George seemed to bond better but still not great and he wasn't really feeding. We were just at the stage of thinking of penning Mari in again and milking her when suddenly she stood still and George started feeding from her. We were so relieved. Still we weren't in the clear yet.

George in his cria coat
He was still rather lethargic today and we were concerned he wasn't getting enough to eat. His mum was still not bonding very well with him but she is much better than she was. Gradually over the day though he seemed to start feeding more often and began running around. The weather hasn't helped, we spent a few times during the day haring up to the paddock to hustle the alpacas inside. They were not impressed, as the girls do not like being penned up in the rain, they would rather stay outside. The babies, however, are not up to getting drenched yet, especially George. We resorted to putting him in a cria coat as he was shivering a bit.
He did rather too much of this for our liking. Crias usually
sit in a cushed position like above. At least he has done
much less of this today and more cushing

Now that is better, much more alert and cushing instead of
We had another visit before Frederiks was born. A young girl with her Mum and the chap who has translated for us at various times. The mother was keen for the young girl to learn English and so we have arranged for her to come and help us a couple of times a week so she can practice. She is used to helping her Mum in the garden, as do many youngsters around here and so hopefully my garden will actually stay under control this year. Now that will be nice. She is also used to being around animals too, as her family have beef cattle. She wasn't afraid of going up to them, but Chanel rewarded her bravery by spitting at her. We had wondered why she was more on edge than usual and now we know that she was probably in labour and that was why she was also moaning more than usual.
Frederiks' ET impression

Cria are so cute

Such a relief to see George feeding

At least Mari has accepted George in his snazzy outfit

No George that is not your mother. Lady V is surprisingly
tolerant of the youngsters, not so tolerant of the adults
though. She didn't tolerate him trying to feed from her

Chanel panics if she cannot see Frederiks

Frederiks and George having a run around