Monday, 9 June 2014

Stuff happens

A stork on top of the chicks' ark

I really don’t want any more weeks like this last week. There were some good points, like my youngest has settled in well to his new job, which is a great relief and we are very grateful to good neighbours, but some stuff we could really do without. We are a bit fed up with aspects of life at the moment. Don’t get me wrong, we wouldn’t swap what we are doing or where we are living, but such is life, things go wrong from time to time.

Agnese looking super cute
Agnese is still having feeding problems and we are now feeding on a regular schedule, approximately every two hours during the day. She usually tries to feed off her mum whenever we (well Ian usually) go up with her milk and we then have to wait until she is done. We would rather she got all her milk from her mum, but that doesn’t look promising, at least she is getting some. This is now a three month job and our next piece of research will be finding out about when exactly and how to wean her off the milk. One of the biggest problems is having to travel up to our friend’s farm which is 20 minutes away to get some goats milk every other day. We also brought our fridge out from our spare apartment to keep the milk in. Makes life a lot easier.

Snowdrop. She is doing fine after losing the baby, but
she still needs shearing
That trip up to our friend’s one morning coincided with our remaining pregnant alpaca, Snowdrop giving birth. Unfortunately the baby was dead when Ian found it. He was gutted. He said he wanted to be an alpaca breeder, not an alpaca undertaker. Our friend who helped with milking Veronica, came around to help out, as we were worried about the placenta, as that took a while for it to be delivered. I am beginning to wonder if he dreads our phone calls. He thought the baby had probably been breech, as the umbilical cord was ripped quite short and with the blood down the back of Snowdrop, it obviously hadn’t been as clean a birth as the previous alpaca babies. Ian felt really bad, because if he had been there early, like he usually is, there is a chance that he could have helped with the birth and saved the baby. Well maybe and we will never know if that was the case or not. I was meant to be at home that day, but decided my place was with my husband who needed some support and besides it would have been difficult to think straight to work with that news. We named the little one Snowflake, although we didn't think of it at the time, it seems so fitting for one whose life was so fleeting. Why Snowflake? Daughter of Snowdrop!

The fridge now resides in the barn,
where it stays relatively cool
That was the worse catastrophe of the week, but not the only one. The first one happened earlier on when our dear water company, without warning cut off the water supply to our side of the village, so that one of our neighbours could undertake work to his house he is building. When the water was turned back on, it caused the filter to blow in the apartment above our other flat and water started to cascade down. The neighbours at that apartment block saw the problem, as the water was pouring down on the outside of the window. One of them phoned a neighbour to the place where we live, who phoned another neighbour who he thought had our number and she phoned me to tell us the problem (are you still following?). Another neighbour knew someone who had the phone number for our friend who gives us the goats milk and he phoned her and she phoned Ian. Another of our younger neighbours used facebook to contact my young helper who has helped me in years past and made friends with the younger neighbours up there, who then messaged me, but I only found that one out later. One of our neighbours also turned off the electric from the box outside the door, for which we are rather grateful as the water was pouring in through light connections. It might have been a disaster, but at least with concerned neighbours we got to know about it pretty quickly.

Full of the joys of spring
What is it though about alpaca babies and flooding in our other apartment?  For those who remember in early February when we lost the first alpaca baby, born on the coldest day of the year, it was followed by a radiator burst at our other apartment. Our upstairs neighbour came down to look at the most recent damage that had been caused by water cascading down from his apartment and he looked very dejected. He asked us how much it was going to cost and to include the work, his shoulders almost slumping with every sentence. We know they don’t have much and yet they would feel bad if they didn’t contribute something. This is the third time their plumbing has caused a flood in our apartment. Our floors and ceiling are beginning to show signs of the repeated flooding. We are not sure we really want to replace floors and things though if there is a chance of it happening again. We have the dehumidifier on now, working away to pull as much water out of the fabric of the building as possible, then we will see what damage there really is.

Shorn Veronica, letting Agnese feed
All these unexpected problems has meant that I haven’t been able to weed the garden outside our apartments and so that is pretty bad and getting worse. I spent one day trying to find the carrots in amongst some self-seeded chamomile, not an easy task with both having feathery leaves. It doesn’t look like all the seeds have germinated either, or the seed planter gadget I used wasn’t set up right, both possibilities and so there are gaps in the carrot rows. I will give them a couple of days and if no joy will fill in the gaps with more seeds. The sweetcorn hadn’t germinated well either and that could be a seed problem or the cold spell we had. I had one bed covered with fleece and more seeds have germinated in that one, but it still isn’t good. I have already put some more seed in on the off chance there is enough time - in a good year there will be. I still have fodder beet to find yet and then start on the potatoes. At least with those I should be able to straw them up, which will stop some of the weeds from coming through.

Estelle being followed by Agnese
At least we did get some things accomplished this week. I have got some of the cabbages that were in trays planted out, some peas tied up and we also managed to shear two of the girls one day. They are a bit more feisty than the boys and shearing was more difficult, as the cutting comb was obviously not working as well. It looks like we need a new base comb every other animal, especially with those who have the thicker fleece like Tellus and Estelle. It also needs a new top comb with every animal. At least we know where to get them sharpened now. Ian went off today to buy some more combs so that we can finish of the last lady of the herd and have some spares for next week. Ian also planted up some quinoa, amaranth, sunflowers and squashes. We still have some more space to plant up, but that will be with squashes that have self-seeded in the greenhouse and some that have been sown in trays. We are getting there, slower than we would like, but hopefully something will grow.

Tellus in the ladies house
Talking of Tellus and Estelle, we started the process of mating them. We were getting a bit worried after a few hours, they seemed to be behaving like a couple of shy teenagers. They even greeted each other by sniffing noses, which surprised me, as I thought that alpacas just spat at each other if they got too close. Anyway we left them together and eventually they seemed to get the hang of what to do. The males though make a very surprising noise, apparently called “ogling,” it certainly sounded very bizarre. We have to wait though to see if Estelle is pregnant, chances are that she is not this time around. How will we know? When Estelle starts spitting at Tellus to make him go away. We know that Veronica is not ready to be mated yet, she was already spitting in Tellus’ direction, as soon as he looked at her, even though they were separated by a fence.  We still have to decide if we go ahead with mating her again, but since Snowdrop lost her baby, we think we probably will.

The gaffa taped up window
Other snippets from life on the farm is that we have had the first strawberries of the year. I put some plants in the greenhouse and they turned early. They were rather nice, even if there was only four of them. Our chickens have also been plotting their escapes this week. One lot got out of their ark when the door didn’t close properly. Probably because it had just been moved and the frame must have got a bit twisted. The other escapees were the two cockerels we have in the horse box, where they are waiting either to replace the free range cockerel if he doesn’t book his ideas up and stop wandering so much (he has calmed down a lot since we sent the other hens away to a new home, so I think he’s safe), or they will be for the pot, when we find some spare time to do the deed. However, they somehow managed to fly through the clear plastic in the horse box fabric top. It was obviously a bit brittle. At least they were all easy enough to catch, even if the cockerels took a little more persuasion. Chickens are quite easy to persuade to enter something when grain is on offer. As for the plastic window, that has now been criss-crossed with gaffa tape to make sure we do not have a repeat tomorrow morning.

Maybe a bit hard to see, but the black blob is the dead
mole. There is an arc of disturbed ground and that is
the path the beetles took the mole.
The strange thing is that we are usually greeted by cats on arrival to the land, but this morning it was by the two errant cockerels and no cats. This is partly because Sofie has gone on one of her walkabouts again and Bella, we discovered, had managed to get locked into the caravan overnight. Our cats though are usually proving their worth as we see lots of small gifts left lying around, usually voles that are so destructive to trees and vegetables. The strange thing is though that these gifts frequently disappear and we have now discovered this is due to Burying beetles. They literally dig underneath the dead animal and it gradually disappears into the ground, it is very bizarre to watch. We did wonder who the clean up crew were. The beetles did attempt to take on a whole mole, but the ground where it was was too hard, so they then proceeded to move it about 30cms away. Unfortunately for them, I think it was too old by then and flies had found it. Still deep respect for the wee beasties.
Video of Agnese. The end could do with editing
but I'm sorry, no time 


  1. i really love your blog! i'd love if you gave mine a look :) daisy

    1. Thank you Daisy and welcome to the world of Blogdom. It was interesting reading your first post and I hope your wanderlust takes you on some wonderful adventures

  2. Wishing you a better week Joanna.

    1. Thanks Gina, greatly appreciated

  3. hoping things improve for you......don't let the sadness linger x

    1. Thanks Karen. This week has been much better


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