Monday, 29 June 2015


An eerie light. It was only about 9pm when this was taken,
so quite dark really for this time of year
First of all let's get the sad news over and done with. Our second alpaca baby due this year died during birth. He was a whopping big baby boy for a very skinny mother. Unfortunately his head got into the wrong position and was turned backwards, a problem for the rather long necked alpacas. On reading the alpaca bible, it is more likely if the baby is large and he certainly was at 9kg. Once we realised Snowdrop was finally in labour, well past her due date, we monitored her constantly. She went through all the right stages, but when it came to pushing there was obviously a problem. It was at this stage I went for help. Snowdrop's waters broke as I set off, but it still wasn't right so I carried on to our neighbour, who used to be a vet. Ian did try to feel if the head was in place, but he wasn't really sure what he was doing and so was rather reluctant to try more interventionist treatment. This probably wouldn't have made any difference as Ian thinks the baby might have already died by then, as it wasn't responding.
Thirty minutes later and the sky looked like this

Early morning dew on a spiders web. I have to say Ian took
most of these photos. He was up at 5:20am taking this one
Our wonderful neighbour came down straightaway and she helped to get the baby's head around and got it out. She tried her best to revive it, but it wasn't working. The only good things were that Ian could see how to work on an animal, should a situation be the same again and our neighbour saved the life of the Snowdrop. We named the baby Danny as it doesn't seem right to bury an alpaca baby without a name. He was buried in what will be a new mint patch in our orchard. It seems better to have some sort of memorial plot where we can remember them. Especially these first ones of ours, because those are the ones that have taught us so much
The baby swallows are getting big. They must be nearly
ready to move out. They contributed to the shearing at
times with some bird poo! Not what we wanted
We think one of our chickens who has not got around to
laying, despite being about a year old has finally started.
The tiny egg like the one on the right is usually laid by young birds

Agnese finally seems to have made friends with Brencis.
She almost seemed frightened of him at first, but here you
can see the two of them running around the paddock
It might seem that alpaca husbandry is really difficult, we have lost so many animals over the last two years, one adult and three babies, but all of them can really be accounted for by the age of the Mums and in this case the size of the baby. The first death was due to an unexpected birth in the middle of winter, neither we nor the previous owner knew she was pregnant. That took so much out of the old Mum, she only lasted another 5 months and died at the age of 19. At least as the overall herd age goes down, even if it is rather more gradually than we would like, these sort of incidents should be proportionally less and we will have learnt a lot in the process. At least Brencis our baby born last week, is doing amazingly well and has been no bother at all. Last year we had to bottle feed Agnese, which tied us down a lot. This year, we just keep an eye on Mum and baby and she does the rest. He is putting on weight and gaining balance beautifully.
Looking very cute and fluffy. The problem is that it is very
important not to get too friendly with him, because it can
affect his behaviour and he could become dangerous when
turning into an adult. He has to understand very clearly he
is an alpaca and we are not and there are boundaries. So hard
when he is so cute

Snowdrop and Veronica, just sheared. As you can see
Snowdrop is rather thin. We know she hasn't got worms,
they have only just been tested and they all have the same
food that keeps Veronica at a nice weight and the where
the boys get too fat. It certainly seems the baby took too
much out of her. Good job she gets a year off this year.
Just need to make sure she is kept away from Tellus
Today we got the two Mums sheared, just in time before the expected heatwave at the end of this week. Ian's new shears worked well on Veronica, who we really struggled with last year. Ian used the older shears on Snowdrop because they are lighter and easier to handle over her rather wrinkly skin. Unfortunately we couldn't get milk out of Snowdrop to save for any future deliveries if they need colostrum. We tried to milk her first while she was still stretched out for shearing, but that didn't work. We then tried with her standing but that didn't work either, she kept cushing (basically sitting down). We are going to work on making a sling to stop an alpaca cushing whilst we are trying to work on them. Ian has an idea to use the pulley that he bought when stretching them out for shearing, but that will have to be a project for later on in the year or even next year.
Eyre exploring

Estelle after her teeth cutting
We also managed to get Estelle's teeth cut properly this time. I held a wooden stick in her mouth and that kept her tongue out of the way as well as her head still. Ian was able to cut the teeth in seconds and  they look really neat. At least that is the kind of job that only needs doing once a year. If any need doing again though, we decided that we will definitely use the ropes to keep them restrained, as that also helped a lot with just the two of us. Ian stopped taking Tellus up to mate with Estelle this week. We thought we were getting somewhere when she was being distinctly uncooperative one morning, a possible sign she was pregnant, the next time she was back to her normal compliant self and sitting down for him. If she is not pregnant, it is too late on in the year to try again. Next year, we will hopefully have built another alpaca house nearer to mains electric so we can cope with a young alpaca if they are born later on in the year and feeling the cold.
Veronica after shearing. She looks thin, but her body score
is actually perfect, which is nice after she has carried a baby
to term at the age of 12

Alpaca yoga
We have seen quite a few new birds out on our land this year. One of them we have nicknamed the Golden biscuit. It is actually called a Golden Oriole, which kind of sounds like Oreos, the American biscuits (cookies), hence the name. Another new one to our land were Goldfinches which kind of runs with the golden theme we had last week, with our golden looking alpaca and our new kitten named Eyre, which as I explained last week when it is pronounced in Latvian it sounds like the Latvian name for the Euro. Today we saw a bird with a distinctive red head, but we can't find it in any of the bird books we have, so we have no idea what it is. No pictures either, so no help for you to help us identify it. All I can say is it had a definite red head, with a bit of red down to its chest and rather plain light brown back and paler chest. No distinct markings, other than its head. It was about the size of a finch. So if you have any ideas from that description, I would be very grateful.
Sleepy time. Eyre regularly cuddles up with Ian for an
afternoon nap

I didn't deliberately set out to make a heart shaped scone,
it just kind of happened
One comment I made last week, I wasn't so happy about. I felt it gave the impression that we were almost like trying to be saviours to the Latvian people by showing them the way. I tend to get fed up of people feeling like they have all the answers for those around them, so I should take a little more care in the way I word things. I like a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote which says "Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." The trail though does not necessarily mean that we have made a specific path for others to follow, but part of the number of trails that others can learn from, be inspired by and then go away and cut their own path. We had another visitor this week. It was someone Ian met in the MOT (car technical testing) station a couple of years ago and he came out to visit our land once before. I have never met him, as I was away at the time. He had been hoping to come again, but not had much time. One of the lovely comments he made, was that he was inspired to make a go of the land that he has, not doing the same as us, but cutting his own path, because he saw that it was possible to enjoy working the land and trying the best we can to make it work without waiting all the time for government handouts.
Our potato patch after weeding

Our potato patch heavily mulched with hay.
The theory is this will mean more potatoes
without digging up or hoeing and less weeds


  1. Sorry to hear about your baby alpaca. It does sound like complicated business.

    1. I think animals themselves are always quite complicated at first. Someone fortunately did warn us once that the first two years are the hardest. Hopefully we are on the up now

  2. You are quickly becoming alpaca experts! I see a book in the making!

    1. Not sure experts is the right word :D The book can wait until after my PhD thesis though and then it might be a while till I feel like writing anything

  3. Very sorry about your loss Joanna. We experience that with goats every year and it's always painful. I am glad Brencis is bringing joy to your place.

    I really like your idea of mulching the potatoes like that. It's too late for us to do that now as we've already started harvesting but I'm sure ours would have benefited from it. Next year...

    1. Thanks Bill. It was hard, but Brencis is certainly bringing joy indeed

      The gardener's refrain "next year..." :D That seems to have been said a lot this year around here

  4. So sad about Danny, but all part of the living and learning process I suppose. I suspect it might have helped to have Brencis come first and provide some comfort. He is such a cute little thing.

    It's nice to see the progress you're making after all the struggles.

    1. Thanks Gunta. It was a comfort to have Brencis and to have such a good neighbour


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