Monday, 30 May 2016

Still dry!

All shut up for the night
It has been a busy old week again, but for now we have finished doing shearing for others. We are just waiting for one of our alpacas to give birth and then we will shear our girls and that will be it for the year - at least we think it will be. We have had other jobs too that needed doing anyway, such as topping the cow parsley so that it doesn't go to seed. The animals do not like it and they won't eat it so it is taking over, which means we need to get it under control. The girls have not even been bothering to go into the field with the cow parsley as it is taking too much effort to sort through in the heat. Now the flowering stems of the cow parsley have been removed they have been out in the field to eat the grass. It does mean hours of walking up and down with the flail mower for Ian though. I can't handle that machine as it is far too heavy and besides I was inside for much of the day assessing a Masters thesis on urban allotments - a very interesting read.

Such a pretty flower for an
invasive plant
I did get out and do little jobs during the day like planting beans that have been soaking for a couple of days. There is no point in planting any seed unless it has been soaked because we haven't had any rain for over two weeks, it might even be three weeks now - we lose track. It is also my job to feed the chickens since we have gone across to using flour to feed them. I add crushed egg shells, mineral powder and some dried herbs - depending on what I have, then mix it altogether with some water to make a mush. The flour is organic and a mix of different types of grain, buckwheat and I think it has a bean flour in it too. I have even used it with white flour to make bread, after sifting it for some of the hulls that are still in it. Cheaper than buying organic flour from the shops by a long way.

Enjoying the cooler evenings and the shadier spot. They look
huge and I keep teasing Ian that they have triplets. Most likely
they will have twins and by the end of the year we will only
keep four females altogether. 
Ian moved the sheep this week while I finished off planting tomatoes and a friend of ours weeded our strawberry bed - a mammoth task in itself. The sheep have been moved nearer as they are due to give birth too any day soon and we wanted them nearer to us, where we can see them and they will have less of an issue with foxes. I would hope the ram will be useful in protecting the mothers though. Normally we take down some mobile orange netting fencing to pen them in while removing their fencing and then setting up the next stage. This time we decided to buy extra wire and posts and set up the second fence first. Moving them is easy, Ian just rattles the feed trays and they follow him as good as gold. Wish they were that well behaved when we want to do anything with them though.

This was where the boys and the chickens were last year,
the grass is recovering well now
The shearing this last week was a lot less stressful than it has been because Ian has felt more at ease knowing it wasn't the way he was shearing that was the problem, but an issue with dirty fleeces. Some alpacas attract the dirt and it is a particular problem when the ground is gritty and alpacas love to roll. The large alpaca farm has clay and possibly denser fleece animals and so there were fewer problems shearing their animals. Ian has ordered the sharpener now, so hopefully we can avoid many of the problems in the future.

Oak leaves
Again we were fed well and could have spent longer at some places. One place we went to they had a friend around to translate and after one animal we had a break for coffee, well coffee, cakes, some pies made with a bread dough and open sandwiches then we sat and chatted for quite a while about alpacas. The gentleman who was translating was a beekeeper and he had to go and take care of his bees. We only had two more alpacas to shear so didn't take a huge amount of time and at the end we were offered coffee again. Only this time the coffee came with sausages, potato salad and a tomato and cucumber salad. We were stuffed. We got to the next place and set up and again offered coffee only we asked if we could have tea as we were coffee-d out. This also came with bread, cheese, salami and tomatoes. It is a good job I am now in the habit of having to watch what I eat otherwise I think we would have rolled home.

Sunset behind one of our many oak trees.
This was taken at 9:52 and it will stay
light until way after midnight
We had a bit of an adventure on the way to the next place. Twice we have had to brake sharply for wild boar on the road when travelling to places for shearing and several times had to avoid other animals or birds, such as a stork who sauntered across the road, ducks who refused to move and of course there were a few deer from time to time. Our luck ran out though this time and we hit a deer. We stopped of course and we tried to look for the animal but couldn't see it at all, our car didn't look too bad but then we realised that the grill was slightly bent and the fog light was not in good shape. The corner of the car also suffered some damage - not bad but enough to need a small repair. The fog light also needs replacing. Oh well! The hazards of country life.

Buttercups look so pretty but they are not very welcome on
our land too as they are definitely not edible for our animals.
Fortunately I think the clover is gradually driving it out
The last shearing job we did, we got on reasonably well but we didn't finish again. We had set aside two days but the people running the farm were getting busier and busier as more groups booked to tour the farm for the second day. We were already having to take breaks because groups were visiting on the first day and the owner wanted to see the condition of the animals being sheared, rather than just let us do all the work - which we totally understand. It is helpful to see the animal while it is restrained so that the overall condition can be assessed.

Rather light for so early in the morning
In the end it was decided that they would shear the remaining eight animals gradually over time on days off. It was also easier for them for us to set off that evening and so we started off home at 10:30pm. We stopped for a short while to snooze but it was a chillier night that night, in fact there was a touch of frost, so the snooze wasn't quite as long as we would like - or at least it felt that way. We rolled onto our land as the sky was getting light at 4am. We had a few hours sleep because we wanted to be up in the morning just in case our alpaca decided to give birth, which she didn't of course and we caught up with some sleep later on in the day instead.

The boys all shut up for the night too. Their paddock grass is
ever so short but they still like to eat the grass in there. When
it cools down they will be shut out of the paddock for a few
hours so the grass gets a chance to recover a bit, but when it
is so hot, they need the shelter.
We have had a school group in this week as well. We were a little surprised when the coach pulled onto our land - normally they stop at the bottom and people walk on. Fortunately the ground is solid at the moment due to the lack of rain and it was only a 3/4 size coach and not the full sized one. There were about 20 children and they were quite engaged with what Ian had to say and followed along quite well considering that they were Latvians listening to English. I am not so sure that I could have followed along in a different language at their age. The talk Ian gives on alpacas from shearing to product seems to work quite well now and we then take them to see the boys, who are more aloof. The girls, however, are much more willing to come for carrots and apples which the children brought with them and we sliced up so the animals do not choke.

Our pond is receding again due to the lack of rain
Agnese amazed us though. Ian called her over as she is the most friendly of the girls and he took hold of her so that they could feel her fleece. She never bothered at all. At one point Ian let go and she sat down with lots of children around her taking photos and stroking her. She just sat there. She stayed sitting down until the children left. Apparently some of them got some really nice photos where she looks like she is giving a big grin. Some of the children tried to feed the other alpacas and those who were quieter and more patient were rewarded with the animals eating from their hands. Many were just a little too impatient, but some learnt and with a bit of coaxing managed to feed at least one animal.


  1. how lovely to have school children visit your animals....did I read somewhere tat your pregnant Alpaca passed away? I am so sorry about that......

    1. It was nice to see the children enjoying the company of the alpacas. They were relatively well behaved too, the children and the animals. Yes you did read that our pregnant alpaca passed away. I will update the blog tomorrow :(


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