Saturday, 21 May 2011

Well I never expected that

When we set up this blog I said it was to record the impact of alpaca ownership on our lives.  Well two months have passed, and it's time for a review, so I thought I'd relate some of the things that have taken me by surprise.

Things like farting, I never expected that.  I mean if someone had told me alpacas fart I wouldn't have been surprised, after all they are animals, vegetarian animals, and ours are all male, seems only natural.  But I was unprepared for the first fart, or for the quantity to follow or for the volume or the frequency.  I now know to get out of the way when Noah goes to scratch his tummy with a back foot.  And if we both happen to be in the confines of the shelter it's time for me to head out.
Fart Warning

I never expected to get attached to the boys so quickly and so completely, and to see them as such individual personalities.  I must confess that when Andy and I went to see the boys at Beck Brow we couldn't always pick them out of the pack of cria, and there were only 8 or 9 to choose from.  But as soon as they arrived we could see how different they are, and just the other day we were saying that now we can even recognise them from behind!  Of course it helps that Fin is fawn, but Noah is the short wide one, and Kenz is - well actually I suppose he's just 'non of the above' - from behind anyway.
Andy, Fin, Noh and Kenzie - nice bums boys

I really didn't expect to worry about them so much, and I never expected Andy to worry as much as he does.  Whenever Kenzie sits down Andy thinks something must be wrong, and if he tries to have a snooze Andy goes over to make sure he's not not expired.  Poor Kenzie likes to maintain some distance, his own personal space, so Andy's approach means the poor boy has to get up and move to another spot for a snooze.  At least this movement reassures Andy, momentarily anyway.
Nah, Fin has his own way of checking
Then there's the horseplay, alpacaplay?, play fighting, ankle biting and general mutual pestering, any of which can sometimes lead to spitting, sometimes nose to nose, very unpleasant to watch, and it all ends in horrid dribbling lips..  Is that just immature boys being boys? sorting out the pecking order?
Kenz pestering/challenging? Fin
Ankle attack
Fin having none of it
Get out of that then
Three way ankle biting

I have a theory that they are trying to bite each others ankles, and they all do it, because it's the only place the fleece is thin enough to make contact.  So I'm wondering what is going to happen when they've been shorn in a couple of weeks, it could all end in tears.

At the other end of the scale there's lots of kissing and ear nuzzling and complicated 3 way neck entwining and a great deal of time spent just sitting together companionably.  I never expected I could watch for hours, and my favourite moment from the last two months was when they were all dashing all over the field one evening full of joy and bouncing along heads held high in a strange four feet off the ground prance, like some cartoon character I can't quite recall.  I guess those who've seen it could tell me if that's what they call pronking, and those who are cartoon fanatics could tell me which cartoon character I mean..

One of the least expected things is how I've taken to being outdoors so much.  Andy's favourite description of me is "Bev doesn't really do outdoors", and I definitely don't do rain.  But now you can see me rain or shine out with the boys, though I may be wearing 5 layers and looking like the Michelin man.  My headgear is very embarrassing, and it ruins the blow dry, it consists of a felt hat pulled down over my ears, the hood of my fleece over that to keep it in place in the wind, and the hood of my quilted coat on top of that to keep me dry.  Barbara was once daft enough to call me stylish, well now look what she's done to me..
You didn't really think I'd let myself be photographed

The final thing is poo, so much of it, that was unexpected, we may need to expand our midden area, or pile it much higher.  But even more unexpected is how I've taken to poo picking - because I'm not normally very comfortable with dirt - but I do wear gloves, and how satisfying it is to have a nice clean field after the evening's poo picking.  Fin likes to 'help', and when I bend over to rake poo he gives me a kiss on the top of my head, at least that's what I think he's doing, hard to tell through 3 layers.  Noah likes to stand right in front of me, protecting the poo I'm trying to pick? Hard to tell with Noah - he's my adored baby of the herd, but I have to say he's a simple soul, really as daft as a brush.  Mind you he's the only one who's been seen to poo in the poo collection bucket for us, good boy.

Finally finally, I'm surprised to be contemplating spending the obscene amount of money it costs to buy new wellies these days.  The wellies I've been wearing are at least 25 years old, they aren't worn out yet, but they are so perished that they will no longer stand up on their own, making them very difficult to get on.  I bought them for an Eric Clapton concert in a park somewhere long forgotten, in those days there were no 'festival' wellies, only black or green wellies.  How do you make a pair of wellies last 25years?  it's easy if you don't really do outdoors.  I may offer them to Hunters for their museum, or maybe for their marketing department - 'Hunter wellies are cheaper than you think, you can spread the cost over 25 years'
Sad wellies can't stand up - but look at those soles,
another 20 years wear left in them

Monday, 2 May 2011

A funny thing happened at work last week.

Alpacas, have been in the background of my life for the past 10 years or so.  I used to work in Salts Mill, Saltaire.  Totally ignorant of what this place was and what it was founded on when I moved to take up a job I started to notice a few odd things.  What was that strange Animal carved into the keystone ?  Why is there a Llama thingy in the stained glass at work ?  What was this vast mill used for ? - I will save you the detail for now save to say both Bev and Myself work in Saltaire, a town that was built on the back of Alpacas (there is more to come on this later).

Sitting in my office last week, one of my colleagues popped into the office and said - Is that one of yours outside ?

Kenzie ? Noah ? Fin ?

No, not an escape.  Saltaire village was running a special event to celebrate the Alpacas contribution of this world heritage site. My office looks onto the tow-path and for some reason this was what I saw.  Perhaps next year we will have the required trailer, etc etc to join in with the real thing... who knows.

Kenzie has changed his demeanour. Could it be that the extra time we have spent with the boys over the past weeks has socialised him a little more ? Could it be that Barbara and Paul's visit reminded him of times past ? Perhaps its our confidence that has increased ? Whatever, it was he has spend some time getting just that little bit closer and letting us get a touch every now and then. You need to plan things a little and make your move confidently, but  he is really very obliging when we need to handle him.  This weeks halter training was less of a tug-o-war than we feared.

 The boys - Post halter training - This week the paddock - Next ?

We had noticed that as well as being somewhat more reserved than the others, Kenzie has some other behaviours that were different.  For instance standing facing us and lifting his head to 'sniff the air'.  What could this mean ?  Is it a bid for dominance ?  Is he sensing danger ? Do my wellie socks smell bad ?  Or, just perhaps you have noticed the problem in the picture above ?  His fleece has grown over his eyes and  had to lift his head so see out.  Out with the scissors today to give time a bit of a trim.

The result is that Kenzie can now see out, but has been left with a look I have not seen since I lived in South Florida where over enthusiastic plastic surgeons would leave people of a certain age with a look of permanent astonishment.  Poor Kenzie - We will get better at this, promise.