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Sunday, 30 November 2008

still below zero

It is still very cold , and we have had to think about extra heating , we haven't given in yet , but re-distributed the heating so that we have a little upstairs . The temp dropped in the bedrooms to just about10 degrees , and so we have a heater on the landing and it is feeling much better.

The cold has bought out , or should I say up , the moles . We have loads coming up in the front fields and they really offend my sensibilities . We have tried mole traps , and had no success , and the mole catcher is really expensive , so I shall have to live with them ! Eventually when the weather is better and the grass is starting to grow again , I shall get the mini tractor out and harrow the ground which will smooth out the hillocks .

Dh is detailed to get hold of some straw , which is in short supply this year due to the disastrous summer , and we don't grow our own. Thick beds of straw for the alpaca since the cold spell is supposed to last for another week or so !

Saturday, 29 November 2008


I have just discovered a fab new hobby! Jigsaw puzzles ! Very absorbing and so good for relaxing and clearing the mind . To those of you have already done some puzzles - why didn't I ever do this before!

roll on christmas - I am ready

i am beginning to get impatient for Christmas ! I have been pretty sensible this year and done my gift shopping steadily for the last couple of months . A trip for a day of shopping with girlfriends , and liberal use of the Internet( good for my green footprint ) means that almost all the gifts I need to buy are bought except for DH and also myself ( many years ago I discovered that DH was not good at gift buying , and so to ensure a happy Christmas for all I generally buy myself a couple of books ) DH wants cycling goods so which will be pretty straight forward .

Food is also under control . Christmas cake and pudding are ready , if push came to shove we could eat our own pork from the freezer ( although' the boys want lamb this year instead of turkey , it just won't feel like Christmas) so I say - bring it on and lets get all the school dramas over with !


Last night it was truly freezing ! and so it has remained all day , at no point has the temperature risen above zero , it has been absolutely beautiful , a very heavy fog last night has meant that everything is covered in a thick frost and that includes the alpaca . The black animals look very striking , with little icicles hanging from ears and tails . But don't worry , it means that they are not loosing any body heat through their very thick fleeces.

All animals are on extra rations of hay and dried foods since the grass is frozen , and the hens are getting warm water . If this carries on then the alpaca will be on warm water too.

Athena in her snowy look !

olive eggs

I have been having a very exciting time with my hens recently , last week 'somebody' laid an olive green egg! with brown spots! I have had a small dream about being able to breed hens who produce such an egg , but haven't manged it so far . However, until now it hasn't happened , but now we have had 4 eggs all the same colour , so it is not a fluke . I cant work out which hen is responsible for this , probably one of the ones we bred this year , a cross between a barnevelder and a cream legbar , but she looks just like a barnevelder , so I cant be sure.

The picture doesn't reallt do it justice !

Sunday, 23 November 2008


Well , we survived a particularly cold weekend without any serious extra heating - that said we did light both log burners! I will admit to feeling slightly chilly at some points , but I combated this with a bit of serious(!) hard work , namely digging over a bit of the veggie patch , to let the frost get at all the bugs and also dig up the last of my parsnips , they were some very oddly shaped veg but boy were they tasty! Also , I did spend some time ferrying small children hither and thither , and my car is very warm!

Very exciting - I have bought my first riding hat - I did feel a bit of a twit walking round the shop with said hat on for 10 mins to ensure a proper fit , but it is worth it !!

One of my hens is causing me a great deal of amusement, she seems to have lost the ability to tell when she is going to lay an egg , consequently I am finding eggs all over the place , just in the middle of the path or by the back door . It makes me chuckle to think what goes through a hens mind when she is caught short - is she embarrassed ? does she care ? But on a positive point we are getting 3 eggs a day , and building ! One of my blue egg layers has also had this problem , but she seems to be getting the hang of nesting .....

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

the weather is coming...

the latest weather reports suggest that the cold weather is coming soon and could last for a week or two . I love cold and crisp , but this could seriously challenge my minimal heating regime. Yes , we are still managing on log burners and not much more , but I have almost reached maximum dressing and if it gets as cold as predicted then I don't really know what to do next. We are already using hot water bottles at bedtime with hot chocolate ( in mugs , of course ) and there is no heating in the bedrooms , kids are already thinking about bobble hats except for #3 son who insists that a dressing gown sans pj's is quite sufficient . Even DH is wearing full length trousers which doesn't normally happen until Dec!

The animals should be fine , alpaca are OK until it hits about minus 6 , and the chickens will just huddle up more with extra straw at bedtime .

Pretty determined not to give in on the central heating front , but ask me again after the weekend LOL.

Back in the saddle at last

I finally got a riding lesson in today ! I haven't had a lesson for nearly 4 weeks and I do miss it . I rode a different horse today and she was great , at my age , learning a new anything is not a very common occurrence , and I really enjoy the fact that I come away from a lesson with a real sense of achievement as well as having had at least an hour thinking about nothing except my horse and whether I am doing what I should be doing to the best of my ability . Sometimes that sort of time out is essential for healthy sane living ! It is a tribute to the skill of my teachers that I always end on a positive note , wondering where the hour has gone - I usually have a sneaky look at the time and they have never cut a lesson short ( quite the opposite ) but it goes so fast , I could do another lesson straight after!

Hens are still tickling out 1 or 2 eggs a day - we will never be rich at this rate ! and the alpacas are not showing any signs of illness after their jabs . Tomorrow I have the vet coming to microchip Athena - I really won't be flavour of the month after that . Then comes the task of halter training - the theory is good but sometimes the practice is hard , I hope that she will be a doddle since she is very calm and not too big yet - famous last words. Also the task of weaning Artemis and Acantha looms high on the horizon , really needs to be done before the really cold weather sets in , I wonder how it will be with Artemis who , being bottle fed, sees me as her major provider - harder than usual I suspect .

Monday, 17 November 2008

A little bit wiser ( but not much!)

Vaccinations went smoothly - too smoothly for Dh , who was seen to 'ski ' behind a couple of powerful girls before getting a good hold , luckily he skiied throu' the poo on his feet not his face as in all good vet shows , but nonetheless quite entertaining .

Took thee oppurtunity to do a couple of preg test and got one definte positive ( West is nursing a sore jaw after a particulaly well aimed kick from Cerys , she was such a nice baby) and one positively negative from Hermione who showed way to much interest in West and was very quick to sit for him when the time camr - littel hussey. However, seriously , that isa disappointment but not an unexpected one , she didn't hold a pregnancy last year and we put it down to being a maiden and possibley not too much effort at the stud . I am convinced that she has been pregnant at least twice this year and re-absorbed on both occassions , so next spring she will be back to her breeder for investigations and either a firm pregnancy or a swap for another alpaca . The breeders won't be too fazed by this , they are a big farm and it happens occassionaly , but may be simple problem easily fixed with a hormone jab ?!


Sunday, 16 November 2008

Vaccination day!

The weather is OK , and I cannot wait any longer - today we must vaccinate the alpaca. For the babies it will be their first injections and for the rest of the herd it will be annual boosters . Whilst in theory it is not a difficult thing to do , as always , the practice is usually harder.
The weather is better , but the ground is still slippery and undoubtedly DH will take several tumbles as he wrestles with 60 kg of unyielding alpaca . Not surprisingly he hates these jobs ! He has had a couple of black eyes in the past , but hopefully today will be calmer. I am slightly concerned , not with the procedure , but 2 of the animals we are going to vaccinate are pregnant - advice is split on this ( as always) , some say only vaccinate when they are open then no fear of pregnancy problems , others say it makes no difference. We have always vaccinated with this annual booster when the females are open , however, Blue Tongue vaccination took precedence this year and they were all vaccinated but this did clash with mating times and we had to stick to the schedule or next years cria would be born too late - now we shall see if either school of thought has precedence , but I am unhappy that we may loose 2 pregnancies......wait and see.

Yesterday the girls had the run of the garden all day , and thoroughly enjoyed mowing the grass and pruning anything they could reach . At bed time they decided that the patio looked like a good bet , and for a while they all sat and contemplated the view , all they needed was a gin and tonic and they would have been set. Since this was not forth coming , they did eventually amble back to their field , but it was a mild night and so they sat around all over the place instead of close to the hedges as has been the style recently.

Friday, 14 November 2008

at last!

My hens have started laying ! just an egg or two each day this week , but it is a start , and hopefully we will soon be hauling in a dozen a day.

The weather plays a crucial part in day to day life here, and recently it has been wetter rather than drier and this has slowed things down . The change in hour makes a real difference to me , I would prefer that we don't change the hour in October and have a bit more light to work with at the close of the day . Whilst as I have previously said , I do like dark nights when it is cool and crisp , there is something deeply depressing about getting soaked to the skin in the dark! Somehow , it doesn't feel half so bad being wet through when there is still daylight to do chores in. The dark evenings means that the hens are in bed earlier and earlier and we have to be more aware of the fox . So far , 5 lost this winter to date , we always loose more birds in the winter , partly because they go to bed at about the time that small children are being fed supper . Likewise , Artemis' days of bottle feeding are numbered for similar reasons.

Athena has settled to life away from mum at last , and seems quite content in a field with her newly formed herd mates . soon she will be joined by Artemis and Acantha who are fast approaching 6 months ( weaning age ) . On Wednesday the vet is coming to microchip Athena , not a job I have yet mastered , and then I will start her halter training .

My birthday this week was marked by a visit from my sister , who I haven't seen for far too long , so it was fab to catch up. I also haven't had a proper ride for 3 weeks and I am missing it badly .

Lets hope for some drier weather .

Monday, 10 November 2008

now I know how Noah felt...

well, it has rained and hailed and generally blown a hooley for the last 2 days .Yesterday evening we had thunder and lightening to cap it all off . I went out to feed Artemis at about 6 ish , and found a veritable torrent of water rushing past the front of the house past 2 main doors, within millimetres of getting into the house , so i set too with a stick and started to clear cattle grids that have become blocked and were passing the water straight on to the house , and the gulleys taking water from the fields were all running high , so they were cleared as well. DH came out to help and in the midst of the storm we worked hard to divert the water , and after 45 minutes the waters were receding from the house , and we were wet through to the skin !

The alpacas were all lying low to the ground against hedges and praying as much as we were that it would pass over us quickly , it did pass , but It reminded us all that we still have plenty of things to do before we are ' winter safe ' . All the garden furniture and boat are away in stables or garages , bikes and play equipment are taken apart or put away - anything that can be blown away is safely inside or tied down.Here 's hoping...

Now we need a couple of dry , windy days to dry the ground a bit , and allow the Rivers to drop and we will be happy - if not a little chilly . My new log burner is going great guns , luckily.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

DH nearly killed me !

Yesterday started slowly and I got up with a touch of asthma . I was going to take it slowly since the boys were still off school , but DH had other ideas - he went off to work and within 30 seconds was back , yelling about alpacas escaping , nearly on the road - serious stuff . I shot out of the house at his instruction and dashed up the field parallel to their escape route , expecting DH to be taking a similar route up the other side of the driveway . I got to the gate onto the road , barely able to breathe , did a passable vault over ( more of a fall actually ) and jogged up the road to the drive way to cut off their access , all this in my PJ's ( shocking pink ) and crocs!

The alpaca were quite unconcerned by all this , I could barely stand , but was very relieved to have got to them before they got to the road . Slowly we all walked back down the drive to the yard and they ambled back into their field and I shut them in carefully . At this point DH STROLLED from the house with briefcase in hand , and proceeded to get into his car for work , muttering that maybe I would learn to shut gates more securely in future , if I had been able to speak you may be able to imagine what I might of said ! but as it was I couldn't speak , in fact I could hardly stand - but hey the alpacas are fine and DH lived to see another day .

I blame our adopted lamb for all this , the alpaca are being led astray ! they never behaved this badly before . The lamb appeared one day with its mother and stayed in our fields with the alpaca for several weeks . Mum decided to go home about 3 weeks ago , but lamby stayed and is now an honourary alpaca . I don't really like sheep much , so when she goes that will be fine , but currently she shows no inclination to go home and her owner shows a similar disinclination to reclaim her ....

I also got one egg today - the first for 2 weeks !

Sunday, 2 November 2008

dark evenings

I am probably in a minority here , but I really love the dark evenings . I love the calm at the end of the day when I go out to put everyone to bed , I love the time by myself to put the chickens to bed , to chat with the alpacas as I feed Artemis her supper , to enjoy the crisp night air . The alpacas also seem to like cold and crisp , although we don't enjoy driving rain quite so much! The alpacas new shelter is looking good and they are getting used to it during daylight , none of them have tried it at night of course , preferring to sit under the trees . However , they are getting more adventurous during the day and eventually they will sit in their shelter at night too.

Athena has accepted her lot away from her mum and is now quite calm , unless she catches a glimpse of Bijou , and then she gets a bit anxious . Bijou on the other hand is more than happy not to have the extra responsibility! Mothers!

Like many people , we are also trying not to use our heating quite as much , and so far have heating for one hour a day - in the morning , so that it is not quite freezing when we get up , the rest of the day we have a log burner going when the children get back from school , and I have a portable gas heater which keeps me toasty as I do my indoor chores .Everyone has hot water bottles and extra fleeces at bedtime , and so far we are warm enough .But , when we have guests i do allow myself the luxury of putting on the AGA!!
Finally , the boys go back to school on Tuesday , and I can honestly say that the half term has gone really fast. Not that it hasn't sometimes descended into chaos , but I think the good bits have far out-weighed the bad . 3 boys have done sports activity days , we have been to Stratford on Avon and Warwick Castle ( highly recommended) #3 son has done his first day out on his horse to buy fish and chips with his riding class , all of us have ridden out with friends and had a thoroughly enjoyable hours' ride on a cold , crisp mountain; we have been to see 'Ghostbusters' at the local village hall ( how fantastically 80's ) and had friends for Sunday lunch - we have had a good time .