Monday, 7 December 2009

Another new addition

Not an alpaca this time but a 4 horn Hebridean ram. We took a trip down to see Scalpay Linen at the weekend who have very kindly let us borrow him. A big thank you to Shiela and J.F. He certainly is persistent although I haven't witnessed him actually getting very near any of our girls yet.

Since this is an alpaca blog here are some alpaca pics we took during the sunny spell before the storm closed in on Sunday.

Jasmine with a sticky face from the lick

New girl, Nichole, has been pestering Jasmine all morning, guess she is showing who is the new top dog!

Monday, 30 November 2009

Family Reunion

Last week, despite the weather, we managed to get across the Minch and back in one piece. I'm usually very ill if the crossing is rough however I had taken a couple of SeaLegs and was fine. Although the winds were touching 40mph, the crossing wasn't actually too bad (a few big hits but not too much rolling about) so I'm not sure how effective the pills were but I'll be sure to keep them handy for next time. We all (kids included) had a lovely break at a hotel in Ballachulish and had time for swimming and a visit to the sea life centre near Oban. Anyway, the main purpose of our trip was to pick up 2 new breeding alpacas, Nichole and her cria Nadia - both light brown and lovely additions to our herd. Anne is over the moon and has spent hours out photographing them!

Nichole is also mum to Nicholette who has her own cria Rose. It's great to see Nadia and Rose who are Aunty and Niece instantly getting along and playing together.
New girls, Nichole and Nadia in foreground

Nichole and Nadia

Rose, Nichole and Nadia Nadia and Nichole

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Alpaca Alarm

A few days ago we had a missing dog in the village and despite a coordinated search party the light quickly faded and we had to give up. The following morning as I was about to take our dog out I heard the alpacas doing their alarm call ( , something I have rarely heard since they came here. (They had never seen a sheep before and, in the first few weeks, anytime a sheep came close to the fence they would do their alarm). Anyway, I quickly nipped outside to see where they were looking and right enough there was the missing collie rounding up some sheep in the field across the road. To everyone’s relief the collie was well and hadn’t strayed too far, she was eventually captured later that day.

With Rose being the only cria produced we have been in discussion with our breeder who has very kindly offered us a discount on 2 more females – Nichole (Nicholette’s mum) and her cria from this year, Nadia, who is sister to Nicholette and aunty to Rose. This will be great for Rose since she is constantly pestering the others to play and although Jasmine tries she can’t keep up. Nadia is a little older than Rose but I’m sure they will keep each other amused - can't wait to see them running around the fields togethter.

Progress on the fencing has increased by 300% - 3 strainers now in place!

My parents were up visiting at halloween so we had our bonfire early. Here are a couple of photos.

I’ll post some pictures of the new alpacas when we pick them up in a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Post at last!

No, not the Royal mail, just meant blogger post.


Although we haven’t had a visit from the vet yet it looks like Rose will be our only cria this year as Jasmine and Tara are nearly at 390 days. They are bigger than Nicolette but we now think that that is just because she has lost weight since having her cria making Jasmine and Tara big in comparison. Even Anne who had been convinced that they were pregnant has conceded that it is now very unlikely and that they have probably just put on a little weight since arriving here.

Jasmine and Tara

Rose and Auntie Tara

In other croft news we decided it was time we had use of our barn back from our peacock, peahen, chickens and the 200 starlings that sneak in at night. After placing an advert in the local papers our barn was soon silent although in need of a good mucking out….another job added to the list!

I’ve finally started erecting some fencing that will split our main field which is about 4 acres into smaller paddocks of about 1 acre. This is so we can rotate the alpacas providing them with clean pasture every few weeks and also separate them from our stud who we will get next year.

Admittedly, I’ve not got very far with the fencing!

Friday, 9 October 2009

Will they ever come?

Ok, we are now at 369 days since both Jasmine and Tara were last mated, and with the normal gestation period being 315 to 370 days, we are concerned that either one or both of them won’t produce. We have compared photos of them when they arrived here back in July and they are definitely bigger around the middle but maybe they are just fatter. I have booked a visit from the vet who will hopefully determine if we are to expect anything.

Has anyone else ever hit or gone past 370 days? Here are a few pictures take recently.

Jasmine looking rounded but is it just a tummy full of grass?

What about you Tara, do you have anyone in there?

Our 1st cria and what a cutie, wee Rose at 1 month.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Wind? What wind?

As you can see from the photo below our alpacas aren’t phased by the 70mph plus winds preferring to be out and about. Only very heavy rain sees them return to their shelter in our barn. Both Tara and Jasmine (middle and right) are now at 363 days so we are expecting that they can’t go much longer without bursting. I guess they have been holding out for a calm sunny day but there’s not much hope of that for a while.

View from the beach in front of our croft

The storm having calmed a bit has left its mark.

A journalist from Fios (the local paper here) popped round for a visit last week and very kindly put an article about us. Thanks Hamish. If you click on the below picture you should be able to read it.

In other news from the croft I finally got that last load of peat off the moor but not without a struggle. As I drove onto the now soaking moor in our 4x4 the risk of getting stuck was very high and indeed was realised. Even with both centre and rear diff locks engaged the car just sunk right onto its belly. After spending several hours with a spade and trying to jack up the car to put stones under the wheels I realised I was getting nowhere fast and in fact lifting one side of the car only made the other go deeper into the muck. A call to a neighbouring farmer was required and he very kindly pulled me out with his tractor. Thanks to David from South Galson Farm however my problems were not over. After numerous times going forward and reversing it was apparent that the rear diff lock would not disengage meaning that I had to drop the car off at garage and was not to get it back for most of the week. As Anne needed our other car for work and not wanting our son to miss out on nursery I decided to get my bike out and attached a child trailer we have. Nursery was only 4 miles away and I thought the usual 5 min drive would be a breeze to cycle... how wrong could I be! I soon realised that not only would I have to cycle the 4 miles there and back but would have to repeat the feat again to pick our son up…. 16 miles and 2hrs of cycling in total and mostly uphill in both directions or so it felt! I managed this for a couple of days but with the wind and rain the following day I was glad of the excuse to keep Harris off. Thankfully we got the car back later that day and with Harris at nursery again I took the opportunity to return to the peat although this time I parked at the roadside. The last 18 bags were 200m away and again I misjudged the effort involved in carrying them across boggy ground. Anyway, after 2hrs trudging back and forward all the peat is now down and next year, I'll be sure to have it all done before the end of the Summer.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Quick update

No signs of our other 2 cria yet, Jasmine and Tara are now 4 days overdue so hopefully something will happen very soon.

Sheila from Scalpay Linen called the other day to let us know she had left our alpaca wool that she had spun in our porch ... we didn’t even notice it was there. I’ve never seen Anne move so fast when she got off the phone. Sorry we weren’t in Sheila, hope you didn’t come all that way just to see us. We have seen and felt plenty alpaca wool during our visits to other alpaca farms and we were not disappointed with ours…… thank you so much Sheila for doing a fantastic job. Here is a picture of her hard work.

In between watching out for any new cria I have been busy bagging and bringing all our peat off the moor and finally finished bagging with just a few more runs to collect it. Think I’ll celebrate with a couple of beers tonight before I think about embarking on my next mini project. I have 300m of fencing which needs done before we get our stud alpaca.

I noticed our hit counter jumped about 11,000 overnight. I’m guessing our blog isn’t that popular so there must be a glitch with it. Anyone else experience this?

Saturday, 5 September 2009

1 day old

Here are a couple of pictures of "Rose" who now seems to be feeding well and certainly has plenty of energy. I weighted her in at 21lbs which is at the top end of the scale for a cria.

Friday, 4 September 2009

So far so good

Well, I always said the cria countdown was fairly accurate..... today at 4:15pm Nicolette was in labour and after a little assistance gave birth to a rather large female cria. I'm not surprised she got a little stuck on the way out. So far she is doing well, up on her feet and following mum everywhere. She's still not to sure where to find her milk and its quite amusing watching her suckle at every part of Nicolette except where she is supposed to. We’ve given her some colostrum for now and I'm sure she will get the hang of it soon. Anyway, here is a pic and more blogs to follow.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Busy times

Apologies for the lack of blogs recently, Anne has started back at School and is up to her eyes so has asked me to post an update.

The alpacas are all fine... not showing any signs of giving birth soon. Technically their due dates are somewhere between 5th and 16th Sept so don't expect the cria when the countdown reaches zero. Nicolette (at the back) is definitely the biggest and we expect she will be first. Picture is of them in the garden when someone (clue: teacher) left the side gate open!
Sheila from Scalpay Linen called the other day to say she had nearly finished spinning Jasmine’s (middle) fleece. Anne has a few ideas of what products to make with the wool…. I’m just hoping they don’t involve me learning to knit!

Two new additions to the croft last week… a couple of black bantam chicks. Could be more on the way as another of our chickens has been hogging her eggs for several weeks now meaning we have a bit of a shortage in eggs.

Closest I’ve managed to get to our resident Sammy seal

We saw what looked like penguins through the binoculars but on closer inspection proved just to be cormorants. The fact they flew off before I got anywhere near them was a clue that the weren’t penguins (and also the fact that we don’t live in the south pole or the zoo!)

Anyway, I had better go as I've just had 400 rubble sacks delivered so I now have no excuses not to get the peat bagged and off the moor before it gets too marshy for the 4x4.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Fibre of the Gods

Well, now I really know why alpaca is known as "the fibre of the gods"!

Sheila from Scalpay Linen came to visit today to show me the fibre samples she had spun for us. Wow! I just can't stop touching it - it is unbelieveably soft and looks amazing! Thank you Sheila!!

Jasmine's fleece is the small, golden - caramel coloured sample (Maybe it could be called "Highland Toffee" - remember those chewy bars you used to get at school?)

The skein underneath came from only a handful of Tara's blanket (the best part which is shorn from the alpaca's back), and it is a beautiful, creamy white colour. (Crowdie and Cream??)
A few alpaca fibre facts:
Alpaca fibre is incredibly soft, fine and lustrous and although it is less well known than cashmere, alpaca has all the same qualities that makes cashmere a sought after luxury
It is lighter, warmer and three times stronger than sheep wool
It is one of the strongest natural fibres, second only to silk
The fibre grows continuously, and an alpaca will produce 2-3 kilos per year on shearing
There are 22 natural shades of alpaca, from white through shades of grey to black, and from cream through shades of fawn and chestnut to chocolate brown
Alpaca fibre doesn't contain any lanolin so is suitable for those who have allergies to sheep wool
Sheila has taken Jasmine's blanket away to handspin into yarn - now I need to get my thinking cap on to come up with some super designs and patterns to do Jasmine and Sheila justice!
Just one teeny, weeny problem...I can't knit!

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Alpacas at Sunset

Spent half an hour taking photographs of the girls are a few. Can't wait until I have some babies to photograph too...only about 29 more days to wait! (see the Cria Countdown at the bottom of the page!)

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

A Walk on the Wild Side

Well, we had a couple of wildlife encounters today...unfortunately the first one resulted in a death...
Iain was feeding the rabbits in the barn when he stepped on something...a little baby hedgehog. Now I know we are trying to eradicate hedgehogs in the islands, but it is supposed to be through capture and rehoming to the mainland. Poor little thing.
Our resident buzzard appeared today, but despite Iain's best Simon King impression he only managed to get the picture below.
Meanwhile, now that our alpacas have settled in we have increased their field size, so they had a wander round to exlore their "extension". Took some more photos...also took some of our poor flock of hebridean sheep - think they are feeling a little neglected!

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Feeding time on the croft!

Still getting to grips with how the technology works going to try to upload a video...fingers crossed!

Saturday, 1 August 2009


Little Croft on the Prairie

Well, I still can't quite believe that my begging has finally paid off. But the picture above is proof that, two years after falling for my first gorgeous alpaca, we have the beginnings of our own little herd, on our own little croft.

We brought Jasmine, Tara and Nicholette back from the mainland two weeks ago, and they have settled into their new life very quickly! However, I seem to spend a little too much time gazing at them from the bathroom window...

Anyway, welcome home Jasmine, Tara and Nicholette - we hope you will enjoy a happy and pampered life here at Black Sheep Croft.