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Monty is a lively, intelligent alpaca. His mind is rather finer than his fleece, but that suits him. He works as spokesanimal for Winterhead Alpacas of Snowdonia, and acts as lookout, guard, fixer and companion for the celebrity super stud Fowberry Morgan. This blog offers a glimpse into life on a hillfarm, in the beautiful Welsh mountains; the alpaca farming year; the social life of the herd; the harem and sometimes the humans who live there.
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Let me get this out of the way first. Yes, I admit, I have been sheared. I tried resisting, on principle, as I find that works best for most things, but the shearers were too quick for me. Still, I have been told that no other alpaca in the herd made such a noise and commotion as I did, so that’s something. I almost hit him with a good lump of the green stuff too. Next time.
No, I’m not putting up a picture. I’m almost naked.
Instead, here are a couple of before- and after- shots of young McCrimmon. Yes , this really is the same alpaca!
And then there was the aftermath...
Or should I say “wethering,” since it’s me writing this?
Last Wednesday’s big storm, with the Red Alert for high winds right over us, was an adventure. It was one of a succession of storms before and since, so we alpacas know the drill very well. As the clouds gather and the wind grows, we watch for the humans to appear off their usual schedule. There’ ll be extra goodies in the barn, which will be all cleaned out with fresh bedding. The girls get the main barn, Denby and the young boys head for their substantial field shelter, which has so far proved impervious to the weather. My companions and I have been given access to the last bay of the old L- shaped barn, where the repairs the humans did to the roof last year seem to be holding. His Nibs’ field shelter succumbed to the storm before last. That was its second and final collapse and the humans are having to have a re- think about his field. Morgan loves all the mounds, where he can keep an eye on things, but when the wind blows there is nowhere safe to put a shelter! Shockingly, in the collapse a couple of weeks ago, the poor lad was inside it at the time. He was limping for a couple of days afterwards, though if you ask me the second day he may have been putting it on a bit as he was getting a fair old pampering in the barn. Anyway, now when the weather turns bad, it’ s straight into the barn with him too. The humans have set him up an area to one side with a gap to separate him from the girls so he doesn’t get too excited.
The winds this week were quite extraordinary. 106mph just down the road from here, they said. There were lashings of hail, which I have to tell you is quite loud under a metal roof. The humans worry that some of the girls may have gone deaf as they pay no attention at all sometimes. I haven’t the heart to tell them they’re just being ignored. They’ll figure it out eventually. With the winds coming on top of weeks of heavy rain that’s left the ground completely saturated, we have lost a great many trees. They mostly don’t break , just topple over heaving their roots into the air and leaving a wet crater. Further down the hill where there are more trees, even more have fallen, a disproportionate number of them landing across roads. Clearing the roads seems to be a very neighbourly activity here, people bond over their chainsaws and divvy up the firewood!
Here on the farm, one of the more visible casualties is a Western Red Cedar, of all things. It landed partly on the greenhouse, but the male human’s re- build last year held firm. With the cedar down, however, I now have a clear view from my barn to the farmhouse, so I have a much better idea what the humans are up to! They are apparently coping without many of their usual amenities, such as electricity. That’s what usually provides our light in the barn, I’m told, and it is indeed staying dark now. The first night, the humans lit lots of small fires throughout the house – very dangerous if you ask me. There was also smoke coming out of the chimney. Day 2 they got as far as running long cables out of one of their vehicles into the house, and there were much brighter lights for a while, until something went bang. They apparently have no water in the house, as it too needs electricity to bring it to the taps, so I have observed the humans hauling bucket after bucket from the stream. “Flushing toilets”, they said. I suppose if they had someone like humans to clear up after them, they could just used the ground the same as we alpacas do. It would be much more convenient for them, but each to his own.
There is something of an obsession with hot drinks in the house, probably due to it being barely above freezing, the central heating being off, and the poor humans being completely fleeceless. (I wonder sometimes if they’re really suited to non-tropical climates.) This obsession manifested on the first electricity-free day in the form of a pan of water, balanced on bricks, being assaulted from a distance with a flamethrower. This apparently works, but is not wildly efficient. Day 2 saw some design changes. Day 3 saw them coming back from town with a small camping stove: cooking dinner in the kitchen seems to be making them a lot happier.
I shall post this when I can, i.e. when BT find the break in the phone line or when the humans next take the laptop down to the coffee shop, whichever comes sooner. In the meantime, stay safe everybody!
I’m back! I’ve had a delightful Summer patrolling the mountain with my good friends Vladimir & Jasper, making sure the foxes don’t get any ideas about moving in before the girls come back here next Spring. We’ve chased off a few , between us. it’s been good, but it has kept me away from the old keyboard.
Now I’m here for a spell, let me give you an update on the rest of the herd.
First: the Hunk. He has apparently had a marvellous summer impressing the ladies. When they lost interest in him, he just shrugged and turned back to his other love: hay. He has another gelding keeping him company now: Inca Denby, moved over from the yearling boys’ paddock as they are all plenty big enough now not to need an “uncle”. Denby looks a bit of a softie to me, I’m sure he can’t be as firm a minder as me, but he’s friendly enough company I suppose.
The humans put up an astonishing amount of new fencing last month, so we have access to whole fields we’ve never been in before. Morgan & Denby have part of the new space, sharing a fenceline with the younger boys. Both groups have a mix of terrain, from rocky outcrops to marsh. There are some surprisingly tasty plants on the drier bits of marsh, they say. Personally I’ve never liked getting my feet in the mud, but the younger boys all seem to think nothing of it. Kids today!
The crias have all shot up while I’ve been away on the hills. The brown boy, Falstaff is a strapping lad, with a very sweet face. He’s very bold and curious, always in the centre of things, rather like me, in fact. The three girls are all different. Twiggy, the oldest, our little TV star, is still very quiet and tends to hang out with the adult females. Beverley Pippin, Olivia’s little fawn girl (have I mentioned her before?), is a lively lass. Meanwhile Katya, the youngest, has been through a lot, poor thing. Her mum, the rather beautiful Moomika, died suddenly six weeks ago. Everyone was very upset. The vet couldn’t say why, these things do just happen sometimes. Meanwhile little Katya had to switch very suddenly to getting milk in a bottle . The milk comes from Blossom & Boo, two lady goats who live half a mile or so down the hill. We’ve all very glad they’re there. Katya was still not keen on the bottle. It took the humans about three weeks of being very patient before she really got the hang of it, but now she has, and she’s eating solid food too. She’s back on her growth curve and looking lively, following her half-brother Falstaff everywhere he goes.
I had better update you on the new arrivals, before I lose track. We had a little gap after the arrival of young Limbertwig (Twiggy), but they’re coming thick and fast now.
I haven’t been blogging lately because it’s been TOO HOT to do anything much . The UK is officially having a heatwave. It hasn’t rained for weeks and the temperature just keeps rising, around 32°C today (90°F). We alpacas cool off by sitting in the stream – most refreshing – and staying in the shade. It has , however, been perfect weather for making a delicious dried grass treat called hay, and I was very pleased to note that the humans have been taking full advantage of the opportunity. The last two summers have been so wet, almost no one got to make hay in this part of the world: we lived on haylage all winter, mostly out of plastic bags. Well, no more! The neighbouring farmer has been round and round the lower fields with his tractors and whirly things, and then the big box that (rather alarmingly now I come to think of it ) munches up all the dried grass and drops bales out the back end. It was a joy to see the humans working hard, sweat pouring down their backs, loading up all the bales, hauling them back to the barns and stacking them up for later. Job well done, people! Now can we please get on with the shearing? It ’s great that you’ve done all the pregnant girls and the Hunk, so he’s ready to work, but why am I always last?!