Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Where did it all go?

Good morning all. Today was a reflection on the Christmas festivities and whilst we all had our challenges, the holiday break was most enjoyed. Our son bless him, treated us to a sumptuous meal on Christmas day and since Sheila had volunteered to drive, I had the opportunity to indulge in a couple of bevvies! The festivities also embraced the obligatory TV viewing and we had the luxurious "feet-up" experience which comes with every Christmas time.

Now of course, we are several days from the Christmas break and we don't know where the time went.....talking of disappearing acts; our resident "Reynard" despatched yet another two chickens again. We are now down from 9 to 5 chickens. Despite what they say about alpacas protecting sheep, chickens, etc,.......they don't!! We have had three taken from within the alpaca paddocks and all within spitting distance from them. I have resigned nyself to building a "run" so they will have to forego the experience of being free range but at least they will be safe!

We are currently spending a fair amount of time sourcing tradesmen for the cabin build and whilst this has become a priority, we are still battling with the inclement weather which poses the constant quetion of "do we bring in the alpacas tonight or not"? The snow has almost disappeared from the paddocks now but in it's place, we are having a fair amount of rain and the poor alpacas really look sorry for themselves having now to "weather" the rain and mud after the snow!

Well I am off to do a bit of poo picking inside the barn now.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Winter challenges!

Good morning all and may we wish you festive greetings!

Things have been a little challenging for us here at Easter-Wood just lately as we have suffered the fate of frozen water pipes, loosing another two hens and struggling to keep warm......We are however still very bouyant as the temporary "living in a caravan" will soon come to an end and our Log Cabin will occupy the space of our static in February. Another "Cold" view of our farm below.

We are still bringing in our alpacas at night during this cold and snowy weather and it is very satisfying to almost hear their sigh of relief upon entering the barn! The frozen pipes however are not just resigned to the static, our two exterior taps on the barns are equally prone to freezing up and we have to be inventive to ensure that our alpacas get their water.

Since the loss of our last chicken (we are now down to 6), we experienced a strange thing this morning.........upon letting them out of their coop, we collected 8 eggs!! We are certain that there were none in the nesting boxes when we put them away last night so we either have chickens laying more than 1 egg or maybe the "lost" chickens are coming back to lay their eggs in the coop before wandering off again.......strange!!

Over the last few months we had received emails from Dianne Summers alerting us all about the bTB disease in alpacas and this has now been supported by BAS who have advised us to attend the bTB meetings that Gina Bromage will be talking at. Easter-Wood will certainly be attending the nearest venue in January next year.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Another day, another loss and more snow!!

Following in the wake of a snowstorm yesterday, we decided to bring in the alpacas for the night. As we had lost one of the hens the previous day, we also made a point of doing a role call prior to putting them in for the night and would you believe it.......... another one was missing!! I made the usual searches in and around the field shelters, etc but could find no sight nor sound of her. If it was the old fox up to his tricks again, I would of thought that we would see some evidence of a struggle (feathers, etc) but nothing was found. Maybe the culprit was one of the Buzzards we have nesting locally! We shall see what tomorrow brings!

As the day started with a clear, sunny sky, we turned out the alpacas who welcomed the chance to frolic in the virgin snow (that is apart from the foxes footprints!). With the temperature staying below freezing for most of the day, it was a good day to be active outside. Interestingly, no sooner had I re-filled the water buckets they started to freeze over again. In this weather, they most certainly welcome the haylage which they devour with relish!

Signing off for today to have a shower and clean up!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

A loss at Easter-Wood!

Having spent most of this afternoon rounding up the alpacas into the barn for the night as the weather is set to be pretty apalling, I had delayed putting the hens away and with the light fading quickly, I approached the chicken coop only to find a couple of them still wandering aimlessly around in a somewhat dazed state. I soon realised why! My eyes detected a brighter patch on the track running alongside the paddock and upon inspection, found it to be a pile of feathers. As it was almost pitch black, I immediately fetched the torch and subsequently found a trial of feathers which led me to the decapitated body of one of our lovely hens. It was quite clear that the nasty old fox had dragged the body away but couldn't get it out through the stock fencing. It is a lesson well learnt.....don't delay in putting the chickens away for the night!

Back to happier topics and we have an appointment with our roofer tomorrow in preparations for the cabin build. We have also taken another decision about the cabin..............We had discovered that builders seem to be quoting us incredibly high quotes to finish and project manage the team required to complete the internals of the cabin, so I will now be finishing off the internal elements myself with the help of my brother in law who is a competent builder himself. We will source our own plumber and electrician and I am sure that we can save a considerable amount by going about it in this way (I hope!).

Signing off for now and will be back soon.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Another spit-off day

What with our on/off mating programme of late, we checked our recently mated girls with Cambridge Ice Cool Lad today (EP Cambridge Olympus and Yuralee Sunrise of EPC) with another spit-off and we had a great result!.... It looks as though they are both holding their pregnancies (thank goodness) and so we now have all of the elite girls pregnant. Later this week we will conduct the final couple of spit-offs for the other group and finish with a Lambivac session!!

Our male elites have now been seperated off and Easter-Wood Metisha, out of EP Cambridge Neptune has been put back with the other elite females. I keep promising to post some photo's of this group and once we have a day which is dry and bright, I will do so.

We had the final meeting with our Log Cabin man today and completed the signing off process with the necessary manufacturing deposit so it's full steam ahead with a build date commencing February 2010........Can't wait!

Be back again soon.

Friday, 11 December 2009

The start of a production line!

Today was a bit of a milestone for us as we have now purchased a Spinning Wheel and as we had always intended to produce our own alpaca garments, this will enable us to get started. Sheila had been talking about sourcing one from ebay and a couple of days ago, she found one for sale and we duly put in a bid. Some couple of days later, we found that her offer was indeed the winning bid so today, we trekked over to Thornton Heath to pick it up. After a welcomed cup of coffee and a general chat with the lovely couple who sold it to us, we headed back to rural sanity. I had totally forgotten how congested the roads around London are and how  frustrating it is to drive in amongst so many vehicles without moving very far!

We now need to source a drum carder to complete the mechanics of fleece processing on a small scale!

Since the weather appears to have dryed up now, the alpacas have been released from the barn and are now back on the grass day and night. I hope that the rain keeps away for a while now as the paddocks have suffered over the last couple of weeks.

The haylage we purchased in the summer has been well received by the alpacas and they simply cannot get enough of it.

Our elite youngsters, Navigator, Polaris, Sundown and Metisha have now been away from their mums for 4 weeks now and this weekend, we will be seperating the boys into their own paddock with Metisha going back with the remainder of the Elite Australians. We had a chance to examine all of their fleeces during this seperation period and we are simply delighted about the superb fleece they are exhibiting. When we next get a bright day, I will take some photo's of them and put them in the Blog.

We also have some Lambivac injections to do this weekend so it will be a busy Saturday and Sunday methinks!!

Signing off now but will return soon.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

More mating and plans for 2010!

With our continuing program of mating throughout the winter, we set "Cambridge Ice Cool Lad" to work again today, this time with a Spit-off on "Black Magic" followed by a mating with "Snowflake". She has always presented a bit of a problem with us in the same way that "EP Cambridge Olympus" has. A boost with "Receptal" soon after mating seems to be the answer! A sound bit of advice from Rob at Wellground, so thanks Rob!

Our herd has now managed to get into a good routine of coming in for the night whilst the wet weather is continuing. We don't really want this to go on for too long however as they most certainly miss the grass even though there is not much of it around now.

We have now "broken" into the haylage we purchased earlier this year and the Alpacas most certainly love it. Mind you, I can fully understand this as the aroma is simply wonderful! As the amount of hay we normally feed them on is almost twice the volume of haylage, it is well worth the added work in trying to break up the compacted haylage in order to feed them!

The one thing that we have learnt during our relatively short time as Alpaca breeders is the constant need to update and modify our farm through simple, pure experience. As a result of the need for herd movement recently within the farm, we have decided that a number of fences we erected could have been better positioned and certain gates could have offered a better access! The work that we have planned for 2010 therefore will include a slight re-design of the paddocks.

Talking of 2010 and since we have now received the "Green Light" from the Local Planning Authority, we will be making a presence at a couple of local agricultural shows during the year in order "raise our profile". We do not however plan to take any of the Alpacas as we are still very cautious of the bTB and until this is satisfactorly addressed, we will only be marketing Easter-Wood through showing fleeces and introducing Alpaca breeding by photo's and discussions. My previous experience as a Sales Director should help in this case! :o))
Well, I am off to put the hens away for the night but will return soon.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Warm comfort again

Because of the most appalling weather we are having, we have taken the decision to move all the alpacas into the barn for the time being. It at least gives the poor things a chance to dry out and warm up! Our furthermost paddock on the farm was almost completely underwater on Monday and the remaining paddocks also had a considerable amount of surface water.

The task of designing the sectioning off the various pens inside the barn was conducted by Sheila who I have to say has incredible "vision" of how practical it will be! Once this was agreed (actually, I didn't dispute any of Sheila's suggestions!), we brought each of the alpacas in, group by group. I can honestly say that you could sense the relief from the alpacas once they were comfortably settled in.

Our plans are to keep them in until the paddocks drain off and we are hoping that we do not have a repeat of the atrocious weather for a while yet! Whilst we couldn't bring Cambridge Ice Cool Lad into the barn, we cleared out one of our stables, put a nice bed of straw down and brought him in as well. He looks more than happy to be in, away from the poor weather.

Despite the temperature drop and the constant rain of late, our hens are still laying their regular quota so at least we are never short of eggs.

On a final note, we have now committed to our Canadian Log Cabin as we have paid the first deposit!! The build is expected to commence at the end of January and be completed (we hope) by late March. Can't wait!!! As promised, there will be a pictorial record of progress.