Sunday, 4 October 2015

Well, I nearly made a mess of that!

We were moving llamas today, with the forecast of some bad weather coming our way, it is time to think about bad weather and whether each field has enough shelters for the llamas.

We had 14 llamas (including this years two cria) ....


...in one field but that field only has one shelter big enough for just 6 or 7 llamas, whereas in a smaller paddock we have just 4 llamas and the shelter can take at least 10. We also have an empty field that can also take 6 or 7 in its shelter, so....

First up was to move the 14 llamas into the empty field - easy - but I had forgotten to close the gate at the bottom so instead of the 14 llamas stopping in that field while we did the next bit, they went on through that gate, round the side of our land, went up the side of the 4 llamas paddock, through a side gate (open because we had no reason to have it shut), they carried on and found our new hedge and decided to stop there and start munching it.

Panic stations as there a few poisonous plants in that are as well!

We managed, easily as it turned out, to get them to join our three llamas (not yet mentioned) who were living in the pond field (keeping up?) and as it happened were destined to meet up with this lot anyway.

Of the 14 llamas, only 13 of them went that way, there was one - Llancellot - who decided that there was a short cut, mainly because he saw his old enemy Nazca (one of the three) and was giving him some nasty snorts and spitting across a fence line - we caught him, Llancellot - and coerced him back to the empty field, no mean feat, as he clearly didn't want to go. He tipped me up once, or at least made me slip in the mud, but he went, but was very unhappy for a while as he was on his own.

So, at this point we have Llancellot on his own, 16 llamas in our small paddock, the pond field, and the 4 boy llamas who were wondering just what was going on.

These 4 were the next to be moved, as they were in the field with the big shelter, and as they are readily halter-able we planned to walk them on their lead ropes. First up was Wilbur & Gallahad, and as Gallahad hadn't really been walked before we took them through the empty field (Llancellot - his dad, was in a pen, rather than the field) and with a bit of tugging they both walked very well and were put into the bigger field that the 14 llamas had just vacated.

Next, Buster & Cusco, we decided to walk up the lane to join them, the thought of walking them past Llancellot wasn't worth thinking about. That went smoothly, so we had one set of llamas in the right place. Those four had a bigger field but a shelter that would comfortably accommodate them. This will be their home for the next six months, at least until spring.

Now, to split up the 16 llamas - we needed to put at least 6 of them back with Llancellot, so we chose Lima, our first llama (the matriarch) along with Princess & Tallara who were the other two of the three, who needed a bit more space, we put Clara, Bella & Evelyn who are three of our oldies as well. It took a bit of sorting to get them into two groups, but once done they were run back to the empty field to join Llancellot, who was a much happier llama.

So that left just 10 llamas, both sets of mum & cria, along with Poppet, Guinevere, Cola, Llatte & Wispa and of course Nazca, who all need a bit of extra training (except Nazca who is well trained already) and where better to do that but in the paddock closest to the house. It will be good for the youngsters to see the older ones being trained so that when it is their turn it won't be a surprise.

Phew, that's that done, but it wasn't the way we planned it!




Thursday, 17 September 2015

It's been a busy old time!

No excuses really for not keeping my blog updated - all good intentions to write at least once a week just goes out of the window when other things come along.

There is plenty to blog about too!

We have ten acres of land and we are not making best use of it, so we have decided that we need to make the land more productive. Some big decisions needed as it means more work is required to be done outside, and that has meant that social time is impacted as i still have a business or two to run too!

Earlier last year we decided to stop breeding llamas, we are finding it difficult to make the llamas pay for them selves as we struggle to sell some of our youngsters off. In December we had Nazca, our older entire male castrated as he had failed to produce any youngsters for two seasons. Nazca is a great male, well trained to the halter, you just have to show it to him and he puts his head in.

Anyhow, as we couldn't put him in with the other entire male Llancellot we put him in with a few females, thinking that he hadn't done anything the past two years, he won't do anything this time - how wrong we were - look what he produced:-


Misty on the left and Happy on the right (short for Miss Take and Miss Hap) and Happy really does take after her dad Nazca!

When we were breeding - haha - we had four  large enclosures built, with small shelters to keep the stud males in - at one time we had three studs - and we also used them as "sick bays" or as "maternity wings" depending on what was happening, but with no studs left, we do have the ability to keep most of the herd together - with the two new arrivals we now have 21 llamas - but as is the way, the ex-studs still fight and have to be kept apart, and Wilbur doesn't get on with either of them, so he has to be kept apart too, so we still have three groups, but we do not need all of the enclosures, so we have bought in some of these fine creatures:-


Boer goats - these are four young doelings - just weaned from mum - two pairs of twins, and we hope to start breeding from them next winter (2016/17) and will be on the lookout for a buckling in the spring!

These now live in one of the enclosures, the one with the biggest shelter, and they will live there in the summer months. In the winter, our billies will live up there as they are a bit hardier and these girls will share the space around the workshop where our girl pygmy goats live.

One of the other enclosures is being fenced up to take a variety of chickens, the first one is up and has Light Sussex in and next year I hope to add 2 or 3 other varieties - particularly interested in having some Rhode Island Reds and some Cuckoo Marans, and maybe we will have one enclosure of ducks too!

Well, that's this weeks update, follow us on Twitter at @llamakevin for daily updates on what is going on at Ashwood Llamas.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Remembering to put the chooks to bed!

OK, so I don't lock all my chooks up every night.

In my main run, where we have two large coops, one broody coop, and one small isolation coop (this is for a broody and her young chicks before they get let loose with the grown ups, a way of introducing the little ones so the resident hens are used to them and don't bully them when they are let out) - we currently have 10 hens one brood of 3 youngsters that are now around 12 weeks old, one brood of 5 that are around 9 weeks old, a brood of two that are around 4 weeks old, and a another brood of two that have just hatched out.

This run is a very large area, about 50 metres by 30 metres, and has a 4 foot high fence with a single strand of electric fencing running along the top and another running along the bottom. It is a main unit so there is a good wack if anyone or anything touches it (it is not mains electricity, it is a small DC current, run off the mains) and gives a constant level of power as opposed to a battery operated unit that gets weaker over time.

This has been in place for two years and just once over that time have I lost any chickens, and that was on a really wet and windy night, when my llamas were sheltering in their shelter, oh yes, my llamas have access to the next field and guard the fence line on two sides, the two sides where predators, mainly foxes are likely to approach my land.

In this run, I do not go down and lock the chooks up, I leave the guarding to my llamas.

This year we decided to breed a few pure Light Sussex, I had 11 chicks hatch out and they are now around 12 weeks old, we think we have 7 pullets (females) and 4 cockerels which have been split up into two groups. The 7 pullets have had a refurbished coop, and a 6' high enclosure built around them, they too have llamas guarding one side, but as they are youngsters and not wise to the ways of the world they need shutting in at night, no electric fence up there as way too far away from any power.

The 4 cockerels are also in a coop away from all the others and only has a small fence but are closer to my office and have goats on two sides (not sure how effective they'd be against a fox, and in any event they are all locked up at night.

So, a new routine, these two sets of chooks need locking up at dusk, and whilst I have remembered most nights, I have forgotten once when a glass of wine seemed to ruin the memory, luckily nothing happened but I must not forget again, must I?

Friday, 14 August 2015

Changing mobile phones!

What a pa lava!

Our contract is coming up for renewal and it was time to look at upgrading my phone.

The main aim though was to try and save ourselves a few bob, after all these top of the range rockets cost an arm and a leg and at the end of the day they are just a mobile phone. OK, they are a mobile phone that you can send and receive emails, you can tweet away, or check out Facebook, you can upload pictures that you have taken on your phone, and you can even take videos.

Well, on researching, there were a lot of smartphones out there that will do all that the top of the range models do at a fraction of the price.

I had an iPhone - cost was around £500 - they said it was free but I have more than paid for that during the 24 month contract I had to sign up for, and if you deduct a cost of a SIM only contract then that is what I paid for it.

So, this time I have gone for an android, cost just less than £90, and I will be going on to a SIM only contract when the current contract expires - I should save myself over £20 a month, so the phone will have paid for itself in four and half months and the most amazing thing is that this phone does everything that I ever did on the iPhone.

There, I feel better already!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Another broody!

Yes, we have another broody!

This is our 4th - the first successfully hatched 3 chicks, the second 5 chicks and the third just two.

In between times we hatched out a big batch in the incubator. 15 hatched, and 11 have survived so far!

Trouble is with broody number 4 is that our eggs are no longer fertile as we had dispatched the cockerel, so a quick shout out on our local Devon Smallholders Facebook group and I found someone local who had some hatching eggs. So, a quick dash up to Woolsery and I bought 5 french maran eggs. The lady I bought from said that a broody will sit on an odd number of eggs, so I couldn't have six, I had to have 5 or 7, so 5 it was!

Who knew!

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Ticks!

Blooming animals are forever picking up ticks - just found a fat juicy one behind one of Lladdies ears. The 50p tick remover that we invested in several years ago has well and truly paid for itself. I think this year that is Lladies second, Gizmo has picked up four, Pepper one and Hilda the cat has picked up three.

Luckily though, no humans have picked up any - always wearing boots or wellies and jeans, very rarely have any bare skin showing. If you do get bitten by a tick be aware of Lymes disease - Many people with early-stage Lyme disease develop a distinctive circular rash at the site of the tick bite, usually around 3 to 30 days after being bitten. This is known as erythema migrans. Follow the link to the NHS website for further symptoms and as long as it is picked up early it is treatable.

However, it doesn't appear to infect the animals - it is just an irritant whilst it sucking their blood.

Monday, 13 July 2015

We have rain..

In fact we have loads of rain, the type of rain that gently comes down and soaks everything. It's good because it soaks into the soil instead of running off and flooding places, it's also good as we fill up our water butts with, in some case much needed water. It's also good in that the vegetable plot won't need a good soak for weeks, but....

It's not so good, because it is summer, and we need sunshine to ripen my tomatoes, amongst other things, so please can we have some more sunshine!

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Two's company, three...

...is a crowd.

Until recently we had 4 dogs and with the recent passing of Cookie, our 14 year old Samoyed, we now have just three.

Lladdie & Gizmo (a border collie and a springer spaniel respectively) are both three years old and have plenty of energy and while they do not always get on, do play and race each other around our fields.

This chap ...

Pepper, our 10 year old springer X is feeling a bit left out - poor thing. He misses Cookie dreadfully as she has been there all his life until 2 weeks ago, and he has no one to play with.

I actually feel really sorry for him!

Friday, 3 July 2015

I think we are winning the war against rats...

..at least in the meantime!

This warm weather has seen an explosion in our local rat population. Whether we like it or not rats (and mice) like to live close to us humans as we regularly leave food out for them to eat. Whether we feed the wild birds, leave cat food out for the cat, or drop some rubbish near our bins, all of these things attract rats.

In our case, it's our chickens!

There has been the odd hole appear in their run (they have a large outdoor run, some 40 metres by 20 metres) but this summer they seem to have multiplied out of control.

They didn't seem to like the poison put down for them in the run and seem to avoid going anywhere near the bait stations. The rats then seemed to build a nest in one of our clumps of pampus grass which is just outside the chicken run and we seemed to have two populations, so something had to be done.

We changed the bait in the bait stations, we moved them closer to the pampus grass, the dogs got a few as they seem to be very bold in coming out to scavenge, and a friend in the village lent me their air rifle. Yesterday we had someone come around and remove the pampus grass, and that seems to have reduced the numbers still further.

A few dead rats have been picked up and disposed of - Pepper managed to kill a rather large one last night - but the sight of them scurrying around when we go in to feed the chickens has stopped. phew....

I didn't manage to shoot any with the air rifle, I am obviously a bad marksman, but I got close a few times and that scared them.

Our baby chicks are safe as they are small enough for a large rat to decide to have for tea!

Monday, 29 June 2015

In North Devon - come and say hi!

Do you fancy experiencing some time with our llamas?

What we offer –  Up to two hours of our time, both Vicki & Kevin will show you around our smallholding, and giving you the opportunity to get up close and personal with some, if not all of our llamas.
  • First, we’ll do a short introduction, including the essential health and safety rules. We’ll give you some history of llamas in general, some useful facts about the way they will behave, and what you should expect from handling them.
  • Next, we’ll bring some of the llamas up to the holding pen, where you can all get to say hello!
  • Here, we will show you how to halter the llama, and each member of the party (one at a time) can groom a llama and have that one to one photo opportunity.
  • Next, we will take two llamas for a short stroll around their field and you can have the opportunity to lead them.
  • On our return, it will be treat time, the llamas will be rewarded and you’ll have the chance to give them their treats.
  • Then, a chance to wander over and see our other llamas, our goats, chickens, and we may even be joined by the cat!
  • A quick, but thorough wash of the hands and it’ll be time to say goodbye!
Who do we offer this to? – We can cope with a minimum of 2 people and a maximum of 6 people. Any child under 16 must be accompanied by a full paying adult!
When do we offer this? – We offer this experience on weekday afternoons, except Mondays, although during the summer holiday period we are happy to do this at weekends. Booking is essential! The experience is, I’m afraid, weather dependent, if it is too wet, neither the llamas, you, or indeed us will enjoy it, so please bring some nice dry weather with you!
How much? –  £15 per person, children under 16 will cost £8 each. Please note that children under 10 will NOT be able to fully participate, they will only be able to groom and feed the llamas from outside of the pen and through the fence, and will not be able to walk their own llama (they can walk with the llama while a responsible adult holds the lead).
How to book? –  Check out our website - www.ashwoodllamas.co.uk
Essentials! – Please come prepared, it doesn’t matter what time of year it is but sturdy walking boots, trainers or wellies will be required – no flip flops or beach shoes – if a llama steps on your foot it will hurt!

We’re ready – are you?
Llama experience

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

14 chicks have hatched so far....

3 weeks ago, I set 24 eggs into my new incubator.

The eggs just fitted in, and here we are on day 22 and we have 14 chicks hatched out.

5 of the eggs were not fertile, a poor showing really by the seller, who I will contact, not that I expect replacements, but at least she will know that I wasn't happy.

14 of the chicks hatched out, so far, with one having juts pipped, so I hope that will be 15 at least.

7 hatched out yesterday, on day 21 and have been moved to the brooder.

You can see 5 of them here, popping out to see the world. The other two are under the brooder (the big yellow thing at the bottom) - this brooder can take up to 20 chicks so, the rest will join them later.

The other 7 or 8 are still in the incubator where they will stay until they are all dry and fluffy. Chicks can stay in there for over 24 hours with no food and water as the yolk is still giving them sustenance and the incubator warmth will ensure that they are kept at the right temperature until they are strong enough to check out the real world.

Those born under the broody - we had two broodies this year, one hatched 3 and the other 5 - would stay under mum for those 24 hours before popping out.

In some respects those born in the incubator have a cosier life than those born under a broody, but at least mother hen knows how to look after them.

The 4 eggs that have not yet pipped will stay in the incubator for another two days to see if anything happens, if not they will be presumed dead in shell :-(

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

RIP Cookie

Cookie, seen here last year sticking her tongue out to the world, passed away yesterday.

She came with us to North Devon as a puppy in 2002, she would have been 14 later this year.

Cookie was a Samoyed - The Samoyed is a breed of dog that takes its name from the Samoyedic peoples of Siberia. These nomadic reindeer herders bred the fluffy white dogs to help with the herding, and to pull sleds when they moved. (source Wikipedia) - who have an average lifespan of 12-13 years, so she was on the upper side of that.

Her back end was wasting away, she had lost most of her muscles in her back legs, struggled to stand, although once stood she could plod along for a walk around our fields. Despite the drugs keeping the pain away, the vet as well as ourselves decided to make the decision for her to be put to sleep. Trust me, it was a hard decision, but we are firm believers in not making the dog suffer just because it would make us feel better. She went very quickly and peacefully and I really do think that she knew what was happening and was quite glad.

She will be greatly missed as she was such a good dog, well behaved and well mannered, she was a good ratter and I think if she had been younger we could have used her to round up the llamas.

Pepper, who is 10 this year, will miss her most as he joined us as a puppy to keep her company after we lost Tasha our previous Samoyed, and he will now have to put up with being the elder of the pack and take on the responsibility of keeping the pups in place (Lladdie & Gizmo) who are now three years old & doesn't time fly.

It'll take us all a few days to figure out our new routines as we no longer have to take account of the "old girl", but I did miss her greeting this morning as I came downstairs. The other three will make sure I don't dwell too long!


Friday, 12 June 2015

Blooming rats!

A very pleasant evening out in the garden on Wednesday, despite the chilly wind, drinking a glass or two of beer while playing with our dogs, when out of the corner of my eye I saw a creature move along the hedgerow.

I didn't believe it at first but it was quite a large rat - the dogs didn't seem to be taking any notice and I was prepared to just let it go, and then it turned right and headed across the lawn towards the chickens. With 3 young chicks still only a week old it wasn't the wisest thing to let rats get a sniff of them so, come on Pepper, lets go chase it off.

Pepper is our Jack Russell X,
There he is, in a more relaxed mode!

Anyway, it didn't take him long to realise that there was something in the shrubs that needed catching, and it didn't take Lladdie long to realise there was something up either. Lladdie spotted it first as it made a run for the pampus grass, and got to it before Pepper, but dropped it as Pepper got there. The dispatch process was amazingly quick. Both Pepper & Lladdie had a sniff and left it.

Along comes Gizmo the retriever and he picks it up and takes it off up to mum, who wasn't happy.

Lots of fuss made of the dogs for a job well done when Pepper wanders back to the pampus grass and finds another one, 2-0 to Pepper.

Thinking about it, Pepper had dug a few holes along the fence line where we saw the rat and he had obviously sniffed it out before, but no luck on those occasions. A much swifter demise for the rat than putting poison down.

Monday, 8 June 2015

A lame llama





This is Wispa, she's a bit older than this now, in fact she must be around 4 years old now, whereas in this picture she is closer to 4 months old. She is daughter to Willow, and sister to Cola & Llatte.

Yesterday morning she seemed to hobbling a bit, but she readily came up for food at breakfast time as usual, and she could obviously put weight on her foot, so we knew that she had not broken anything and we decided to leave it as we can all sprain a muscle (Gizmo the dog does it regularly) and within 24 hours it is right as rain again, and at tea time yesterday she fair jogged up the field for her food.

But, this morning she was even worse and so we called the vet out. Yes, she has just sprained her ankle, and apart from some antibiotics and some anti-inflammatory pain killer there was not a lot that can be done. She was given a good examination and feet checked for splinters or thorns, and so she is on rest and has been put into a smaller paddock away from the rest of the herd, but with her two sisters as company. She has further pain killing injections to have, lucky me, I get to administer these, 48 hours apart.

Let's hope it's a straight forward recovery!

Friday, 5 June 2015

Something is spooking our llamas!

Llamas have fantastic eyesight, they can see for miles.

They have near all round vision as well, having the ability to see what is going on behind them.

They have a whinnying type of alarm call, which they make when one of them sees something they are not sure of, all the llamas will look in the direction of where the calling llama is looking.

Yesterday afternoon, we heard the calls and decided to investigate but we couldn't see anything even with binoculars, but there is definitely something over there spooking the llamas.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Lucky is giving good voice today!

Lucky is one of our nanny pygmy goats, she is a little over two years old and her two youngsters this year were her first.

Two very healthy boys born and at 12 weeks old now have headed off to a new home here in North Devon.

The boys will be pets and as such are wethers, which means that they will not grow large ram horns and they won't smell during the rutting season, which can be pretty disgusting.

Poor Lucky though is missing her boys and is shouting out for them, in between munching on her hay. It will take 2-3 days before she will fully realise that they are not coming back, by which time her milk will also be dried up.

Although goats can have two lots of kids per year we don't allow that here at Ashwood Llamas and so she will be put back with the billy this autumn and so more kids to arrive early next year.

In two weeks time, we will be saying goodbye to two more young boys but their mums won't be as upset as we will be keeping their girls.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

..and another one goes broody!

Another of our hens has gone broody!

This one though chose one of the main coops to be broody in, and yesterday she was sat on just 5 eggs, today she is sat on 9 - every time she gets up to go for a drink or something to eat one of the other hens comes along and lays another egg in her nest!

So, she had to be moved into her own broody coop, or maternity wing, and the logistics of moving both a hen and her eggs means it is a two handed job.

First up, we made a new nest in the new coop, then I picked her up and Vicki picked up the eggs, all nine carefully moved and re-laid in the new nest, unfortunately she (the hen, not Vicki) panicked and broke one egg when being put gently on top of the eggs.

Still, that left eight, and the egg had hardly developed so I don't feel too bad about it.

She left the nest immediately, which is a worry and it was a good two hours before she resat on the eggs in the proper manner, but I have read that the eggs can be left  to go cold for up to 3 hours with no adverse affects, so time will tell. A short time as it takes just 21 days from being sat on to hatching out, so in 3 weeks time we'll know for sure.

#fingerscrossed

This is an annual event, last year we had three hens go broody, two were moved and both hatched out some nice baby chooks and I am sure we will get quite a few from this hatching!

Oh what a mess!

Last month, I fired up the incubator to hatch some new chooks!

We keep a few hens, we have 11 at present plus a cockerel, we are getting 6-8 eggs a day which is quite good, we sell what we don't eat to friends & family, and that just about pays for a bag of feed every month, but hens get old and need replacing.

Of our 11 hens there are two real oldies that are probably not laying but I am not one to cull, I am quite happy for them to enjoy the rest of their lives with us, we also have 3 or 4 that will be oldies next year, and we have 5 youngsters who were hatched out last year.

To keep the supply of eggs coming we do need to add new hens and that is where the incubator comes in. Another disaster for us this year, a crow has been nipping in to the workshop and eating the cats food, and on day one of the incubation the crow had a go at getting to the eggs and smashed them and did its best to break the incubator.

The incubator is fine albeit very messy with eggs inside the workings and as it is an old incubator I am not sure it will be re-usable. The good folk at Brinsea have sent me instructions on how to take it apart and put it back together again, so another chore added to the list of things to do.

Thanks to nature though, we did have a hen go broody, and she is much better at the job than I am, and we have 3 very healthy baby chooks running around in their little pen.

I think you can just about see them!

Monday, 1 June 2015

A right old ding dong!

Over the weekend we moved our llamas around.

Firstly though, it is over a month since my last blog and that is just not good enough, other work commitments seem to have taken over to the extent that blogging was very low down the list of priorities, and so my apologies, those commitments seem to be behind me now, so time to start blogging again in earnest.

Our llamas are normally in 3 groups, the girls, the mums & babies and the boys.

Once the babies become teenagers (well around a year old in llama years) it is time to start integrating them with the older llamas. Last year we had two cria (name for baby llamas), a boy and a girl and we deal with each a little differently.

Mum Tallara and her daughter Guinevere were the easiest pair as they went straight out to join the girls, they integrated very quickly and settled into the bigger group with no problem.

Mum Clara and her son Gallahad were a little different. Gallahad would not be allowed to join the girls for obvious reasons (he was getting to be a big boy now and we didn't want any accidental cria turning up) and so we brought down first Wilbur & then Buster to join the pair of them. Wilbur had a week by himself and then Buster joined for another week or so before it was time to take mum out and for her to rejoin the girls.

She was treated like a long lost friend and she settled into the girl group very quickly.

We therefore had three groups still, two lots of boys and the girls, so what to do with the three big boys.

Our stud boys had both had "the operation" a while ago, and although they were living together (that is Nazca & Llancellot, there was an uneasy truce in the field. Llancellot is a very head shy llama and would be no good as a walking llama (our walking llamas are all well trained to have a halter and to be walked down our country lanes with paying guests) and so it was decided that we would let him join the girl group as they also did not do any walking.

So, Nazca & his older brother Cusco, both of whom are old hands at walking were to be brought down to join the other boys, and once they were together the girls would be moved as a whole group to join Llancellot. The plan being that our llamas would be in two groups going forward - our working, walking boys and the girls with Llancellot.

So, Cusco & Nazca were haltered and walked down the lane to meet the three boys Wilbur, Buster and young Gallahad. Well, that's when the right old ding dong started.

Nazca took a dislike to Wilbur (they have never really been mates but they have tolerated each other in the past) and beat him up, no damage done although Cusco got a fat lip for his pains in trying to split the fight up.

Buster, bless him took Gallahad off to a corner of the field and kept well away from the action.

So, Nazca couldn't stay with Wilbur.

As I said earlier both Llancellot and Nazca had an uneasy truce, so we thought (somewhat naively) we would put them back together, but of course Llancellot was surrounded by girls, oh whoops, and I mean a big whoops. Although both boys had been castrated they both knew what it was like to be a stud and so only one could be in with the girls - luckily no damage was done but seeing two full blooded males screaming at each other in the field was a scary sight, unfortunately we didn't have time to take any pictures or videos as we had to split them up!

Nazca, being the one that could be haltered and walked, was surprisingly easily persuaded to leave the scene, and was put into the field vacated by the girl llamas which is where he still is and sharing it with our young lambs.

So, he is on his own for a short while, or it could be a long while. We are sort of hoping he might take to being a guardian to the lambs, five of which are going to be long term grass mowers. He can still see the other llamas, and appears very calm in his environment.

We will keep a careful eye on him, and make sure that he does get plenty of attention - a job for me will be to walk him a little on his own, and maybe we may, just may put a couple of girls in with him to keep him company, but which ones.

Plenty to think about!

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Cusco, our first!


Looking back, it was 2005 (July) when we first became interested in llamas and we went ahead and bought Lima & Inca, and it wasn't until 2008 that we had our first cria (baby llama) and as you can see Cusco was born on 15th August.

His younger brother Nazca came along a year later!

We have made the decision not to breed any more, but it is something that we will definitely miss!

Cusco & Nazca are still with us and have a great temperament and are always willing to halter up and go for a walk with willing guests!

Would you like to be a willing guest? Ashwoodllamas.co.uk

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

2015 - the year of the vet!

Our vets are doing well out of us this year.

All of our domestic animals have been, the cat was bitten by a dog (not one of ours), Lladdie has been sick, Gizmo has been limping, Pepper was injured in a fight with Lladdie & Cookie, bless her  is getting old.

The farm animals have also been a bit poorly, mainly goats, in fact I'm not sure we have had a vet out to a llama yet this year, we have had one goat Jedi, put to sleep as he was in so much pain and the vet could not fix the problem. Flo, our old goat is much the same as Cookie, the kids all needed assistance arriving.

We also have 3 poorly lambs, and it makes it all the galling when you come out to feed the lambs to find one had just "died" overnight, and one of the more healthy ones. This is the second one we have lost this year and talking to vets and other sheep farmers we have just been lucky in the previous years.

Yesterday was also a bad day, as Cookie went for her quarterly check up and the vet advised that her days were numbered - she said it a bit more kindly than that, but her back end is wasting away, she has very little muscle left around her back legs and thighs and struggles occasionally to get up. The vet was astonished at the change in her in just over a month (she had a problem a month ago unrelated to her regular check ups) - as we see her daily it is difficult to the see the change as it is so gradual.

The quarterly check ups are now having to be monthly going forward because if the deterioration continues at the current pace .... the less said the better, but I am sure you get my drift.

She is 14 years old this year and as Samoyeds have an average lifespan of 7-8 years I guess she hasn't done bad!

We'll still be sad though!

Monday, 20 April 2015

Llamas on a sunny day - spot the dog!

What a glorious weekend weather wise - you could see for miles.

Our lamas are certainly enjoying the fine weather, although it is rather a nuisance that they are fussy about what grass they will eat as in our 3 acre field where we currently have 11 llamas, they are probably eating just half of the grass that is growing, the other half we have to get out and cut.

In the above picture you can see 9 of our llamas and Lladdie the dog. At the front is Lima, our herd matriarch  and she is very much the boss, she was also the first llama we ever owned and so it fits well with us that she is boss. She has given us 3 cria, Cusco our top guard llama, Nazca our biggest llama, although one of our nicest and Tallara a young female who herself is now a mum to Guinevere who was born only last year.

We have a plan to control the grass, and that is where the lambs come in - I'm hoping they're not so fussy!

If you want to come and visit us and our llamas you can - check out our website - www.ashwoodllamas.co.uk  - thank you!

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Our Welsh Twins!

These two lovely goats are just over a year old now, bought from Richmor Pygmy Goats in Wales, hence the Welsh Twins.

Nugget & Noodle still live together in their own accommodation and are not quite full sized yet, but come the autumn will be old enough to be put with the billy goats and start their working life with us. We currently have four breeding nannies & two stud males, so these two will bring our breeding herd up to six. We also have three retired nannies and a wether who keep the two studs in their place.

This year three of our nannies produced seven young kids, two sets of twins and a set of triplets. One of the triplets is being bottle fed as mum cannot produce enough milk for all three. We had 4 boys and 3 girls. The girls will be kept and increase our herd still further, and with two studs they will not be interbred. We have been lucky and sold the four boys, one set of twins, and one each from the other two will be going to two new homes where they will be treated well and kept as pets. Both new owners are experienced farmers/smallholders which is great.

We offer a chance to come and meet our llamas and other animals via our website Ashwood Llamas, so if you would like to meet Nugget & Noodle please check out the website. Thank you.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Gizmo


We own four dogs, or should I say they own us?

Lladdie, our border collie & Gizmo our springer spaniel have been with us coming up to three years now and are about a month apart in age. They are both from working stock and the idea was that each dog would be a companion for Vicki & I while working out with the animals. Lladdie is my dog, and spends much of the day with me, even when I am working in the office, whilst Gizmo spends the day with Vicki.

Having said that, there are times when I'll take all four dogs out for a play and a run around, and one of those times is part of the morning animal rounds, they get to play while I bottle feed the lambs and feed the goats. The other two, Pepper (Jack Russell X Springer) and Cookie (Samoyed) get sent back when I head out to feed the llamas, Pepper being a small dog is afraid of the llamas, and Cookie is just too old to be knocked about. Not that the llamas would knock her about but she is totters a bit and can't get out of the way as quickly as she once did - she is now 14 years old.

Gizmo is the funny one, so much character, loves to chase the ball, loves to swim in the pond and loves to pick up sticks/stones and carry them around. He even picks up dogs bowls, gloves, slippers, shoes etc..., all for a bit of attention.

Why not have an afternoon llama experience when you also get a chance to meet all our other animals, including Gizmo!

Monday, 13 April 2015

Don't say it out loud!

The vets have been booked to castrate some of our animals.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your point of view we have been unable to sell our young pygmy goat kids as entire goats. We have had two sets of buyers who each want two wethers (castrated goats) as pets. I am sure that in their new homes they will be very well looked after.

Young goats who are castrated lose not only their manly bits, but this also stops the hormones that grow large male horns, they will end up much more like female horns, smaller and shorter. It also stops the urge to wee on themselves which in some way makes them more attractive to the girls.

Both Galloway and Nero, our two stud males have a horrid smell during the autumn rutting season when they try to attract the calling of the girl goats.

This is Galloway one of our stud goats.

This is Jedi, one of our wethers, I think you can just about see how much bigger Galloway's horns are.

The other animal booked in for the chop, is Llancellot, our stud llama. He has been for sale for a while now and with no takers, he will join our other gelded males (and females) with no chance of breeding.

We have decided to stop breeding as it is becoming harder to sell llamas, and we do not have enough land to keep on breeding.


Sunday, 12 April 2015

Lamb update

We have 14 lambs, 11 can be seen in the above picture enjoying their lunch the other day.

We also have 3 lambs in sick bay, 2 lambs came to us very young, just hours old I think and were very weak, and despite having them for nearly 3 weeks now they are still not strong enough to fight their corner when it comes to drinking from the bottle. The other poorly lamb has pulled a ligament in one of its front legs and can only walk on 3 legs, very healthy & fit despite that but again cannot cope with the hustle & bustle of the rest of the lambs.

We have two sets of lambs, 5 are 2-3 weeks older than the others and this weekend they were taken down to the big field (albeit in a small-ish pen) where they will live until weaned when they will be let out to join the llamas. One of these 5 lambs is a bit smaller than the others and will stay with the younger lambs until it has put a bit of extra weight on.

The younger ones will stay in the old "goat" paddock and once weaned they will be able to join the bigger lambs.

I was amazed though at how much more civilised feeding time is now that they have been split up, and the older ones are no longer there to push the youngsters off their bottles because they can drink faster.

All in all a good move methinks.

If it stays civilised I may well let the 3 out of sickbay and join the others in the hope that it will aid their recovery but will keep a careful eye on jostling as the youngsters will need some protection to ensure that they get to have enough milk.

You can find out more about our smallholding at www.ashwoodllamas.co.uk


Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Pygmy goat kids for sale!

They won't be ready until the beginning of June when they are around 12 weeks old.

You will need a "Holding number" which can be obtained from Animal Health/DEFRA and unless you already keep goats you will have to buy them both!

Obi & Onyx are male pygmy goat kids (twins) and are currently entire so can be sold as stud males, but if we have no takers then they will have the snip and be sold as pet kids, suitable for a small garden, or as part of a petting section in a holiday attraction, or even a larger paddock to keep a lonely horse or donkey company.

If you are interested please check out our website and contact us over there.

Many thanks

www.ashwoodllamas.co.uk

We are based in North Devon, UK and the goats will need to be collected.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Lladdie, our border collie.


For a bit of fun I have been playing with an online photo editor, and here is a nice shot of Lladdie, our border collie. I have only cropped and added a few text lines, as I am hoping to sort a few photos out to add to mousemats and the like to sell as souvenirs on our www.ashwoodllamas.co.uk website.

It's a case of watch this space!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

We are very busy at the moment!

As are most farmers and smallholders, spring is the busiest season with plenty of offspring turning up to add to the headcount.

This spring we have had 7 young goats born, mum Lucky had twins, mum Munchkin had twins and Breeze, bless her gave us triplets. In total we now have 19 goats!

Here are the triplets, just a week old and already causing mayhem!

We are not expecting any new llamas this year, but we have bought in 15 young lambs, all either orphans or unwanted triplets. Aged between a day old and 2 weeks old when they arrived they are all doing well, except for some that need a heavy dose of antibiotics to get over an ailment called "joint ill" which is something they can get shortly after birth when they do not get colostrum in time, or are born into mucky surroundings. Something that is all too common in orphan lambs and in a wet spring where the weather does not do anyone any favours.

So, a headcount, 19 llamas, 19 pygmy goats, 14 chickens, 15 lambs, 4 dogs and a cat! No wonder we're busy!

Next up, get the incubator going and let's have more chooks!

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

We have lambs!

Our first batch of tame lambs have arrived, 6 altogether and between 1 week and 3 weeks old.

Our llamas are fussy when it comes to eating grass, and there are huge areas which we have to cut, and so these lambs will be saving us some petrol and wear and tear on the ride on grass cutting machine.

For the next 4-5 weeks it will be bottle feeding though.

3 times a day!

Having had a big lunch this lot are now trying to find a cosy corner to have a lie down.

They have this shed to live in for a few weeks until they are used to us and their surroundings, they have an outside area where they can get fresh air and have a jump & play, and then they will be let loose in a small enclosure in the "lambs field" before then having the run of the whole field.

We hope to be able to get another batch in around two weeks time, and when large enough 4 or 5 of them will join the llamas to help them eat their grass.


Sunday, 8 March 2015

What a weekend of spring weather!

What a weekend of spring weather!

Well, apart from Sunday morning when it just rained.

Saturday though was great, wall to wall sunshine for most of the day, and today, Sunday the sun came out again in the afternoon, so we managed to get a lot done in the garden. We also managed to get some farm stuff done - the pygmy goat kids got to see sunshine, llama poo got picked up and mulched around the blueberry bushes, hay got shifted between barns, chickens coops got cleaned out, and a hay rack got lowered so the nanny goat didn't have to jump up to reach it - but the focus on the weekend was the vegetable plot and plants.

Great to see one of these today enjoying the warm sunshine as well.

A sure sign that spring is on its way!

The big job though was this:-

These last leeks had to make way for some new planting - the leeks would make a great addition to this evenings dinner as would these that are also starting to show, albeit just one or two.

Purple sprouting broccoli - a favourite.

After much back breaking the leek bed looked like this:-

And a row of peas sowed it looked like this:-

We also managed to pot up 80+ dahlias, sow lettuces, cucumbers, sweet corn in the propagator and sowed carrots and spring onions in a raised bed.

Time for a beer now!





Friday, 27 February 2015

New arrivals!

The vet finally turned up to vaccinate everyone, but at 2:30pm little Lucky, the pygmy goat, had her first born stuck, head was out but he had forgotten his feet, and so the vet had to push him back in and re-organise his presentation - it probably only took 2 or 4 minutes but it felt like half an hour.

This was important as he had already started to breath and he had to hold his breath for all that time, and needed some help to start breathing again.

The vet thought it appropriate to help his twin out and he was in much stronger condition and was bleating and looking for food within 20 minutes.

Orio, the first one - yes, he has a name now - had to have his first meal tubed into him as he had a swollen tongue and needed the colostrum quickly - thank goodness the vet was there as that is one procedure we are not confident about.

Mum was soon up and about licking them clean, and was given a painkiller to give her some relief from the vet's intervention.

After this we went out and vaccinated everyone, and when we came back all was good.

At around 9:30pm Vicki went out and took some milk off mum and bottle fed both the youngsters to ensure they had a good feed to see them through the night.

Obi, the second one, has learned where the milk bar is and was feeding well this morning, but Orio hadn't so he was shown where the milk bar was and was made to stay there until he had a good feed, so we know now that they know where the food is.

They'll be kept in the pen for up to a week now before they are introduced to the outside world, and we will be keeping a regular eye on them to ensure they feed.

Munchkin is up next, due Sunday, and then Breeze in around 4 weeks time.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Vaccination day for the llamas & goats!

We vaccinate our animals twice a year, we use lambivac which is essentially a vaccination for sheep against various forms of clostridial - a nasty disease that our goats and llamas can also suffer from.

But.... the weather was against us this morning, fair chucking it down with rain it was, and whilst our goats are all tucked up in the dry, the llamas tend to live outside and get a tad wet in the rain. The vet, whilst not afraid of getting wet herself, suggested that the damp weather could cause an infection at the injection point and it would be better to complete the exercise in the dry!

At around 10:30am the rain stopped and whilst there is plenty of cloud around the sun does pop out occasionally, and the strong wind is also quite drying, so we hope that when the vet coming back around 3.00pm the animals will be dry and we will be able to have a go at completing the exercise then.

All this hanging around isn't good for the animals as they have been confined to shelters since we rounded them up this morning, I think they sense something is going on and getting quite anxious. Still, a pile of fresh hay has calmed them down!

Monday, 23 February 2015

A darn fox got some of my chickens

Yesterday was a really miserable day - weatherwise to start off with!

From around 10am the rain started, heavy rain, and it continued all day. Everywhere became sodden very quickly. The animals, even the outdoor loving llamas, were all tucked up inside shelters  and nothing wanted to come out.

It was a good day to catch up on chores indoors, and one that had been bugging me for a few months was to update our www.ashwoodllamas.co.uk website - the home page, the about us page, llamas for sale all got updated and changed. A good day really.

At around 3:30pm it was time to go check up on the animals, the goats needed more hay and to be penned up for the evening, the chickens needed corn and eggs needed collecting, llamas hay racks needed topping up and a little bit of feed required for each of them. The boy goats in the top field also needed fresh hay and some feed.

The alarm was raised when we (that is me and two dogs) found  a chicken in the wrong place. It needed coaxing to get back to its run, and when we got there we discovered 3 dead chooks, one headless, and one had disappeared completely.

The workings of a hungry fox - a rare daytime raid - we have been lucky that it has been 2 years since our last raid - and the fox managed to climb/jump over the fence which is electrified at the top and bottom. The chooks have a very large free range enclosure with trees and hedgerows, as well as three coops to live in, and so I was lucky in that the fox only got four and the other 14 survived. As is often the case you can lose the whole lot.

For the next few days extra care will be taken to ensure that the coops are locked up at night, but there is little extra we can do throughout the day! We may well have to bring our boy llamas back down to live in the enclosures surrounding the chooks and hope that they are better at guarding than our girls.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Our hens are starting to lay again!

We have a small flock of hens, plus an obligatory cockerel.

Actually, it's not obligatory to have a cockerel, but when you hatch your own, you are nearly always bound to have at least one. At the moment I have 17 hens and a cockerel (hatched last year, along with 4 hens - a good ratio methinks as it could have been the other way around).

The winter months have been quite scarce for eggs, we would be luck if we would get 2 a week, but with the new hens plus our oldies chipping in we are getting anywhere between 6 & 9 a day now.

We sell the surplus at the "farm gate" for just 10p an egg, or £1.20 a dozen - I know we could get more, but most of our buyers are friends and/or neighbours.

In the mornings they all come to greet me at the corner of their run to see if I am bringing any tidbits - which I never am. I feed the hens plain layers pellets that they have access to all day, and then in the afternoons they get treated to a handful of mixed corn.

My job in the morning is to give them fresh water, but I do throw out a few layers pellets for them to scratch around for. The cockerel, being a young chap is very wary of me, checking to make sure I'm not going to harm his girls.

It will soon be time to see if the cockerel has been doing his job, and to take half a dozen eggs and get them into the incubator - it will be good to get some youngsters into the flock for next winter - we might just get more than 2 a week then!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Unlucky 13!

On Friday we had to put our young male goat Jeddi to sleep.

He was born on a 13th, he was tag number 13 in our herd and he died on a 13th.

Not that I believe in any of that stuff but a coincidence none the less.#

Jeddi, along with his twin Jabba, were the first two goats that we can say were bred by us. His mum is Frostie, one of our retired girls, was one of four bought in girls, and Titan our first stud.

Jeddi was only 5 - a very young fit goat until last week, and in the space of two days, three visits by the vets (the last visit was with two vets) - he sadly had to be put to sleep. It appeared that he had crystals in his bladder and one was blocking the whole system causing great pain and distress.

The animals that remain are all in good health, although we have a few old girls that have typical old girl ailments. We have three girls in kid and hopefully by early March we will have a few youngsters bouncing around outside my office and that'll cheer me up no end!

Monday, 9 February 2015

Cola & Llatte for sale!

No, no, we haven't got into the drinks business.

Cola & Llatte are llamas, young girl llamas, and they are for sale.

They are full sisters, Cola is the older sister born in April 2011 and Llatte a year later in July 2012.

This is Cola, a dark llama, her dad was Pepsi & mum was Willow. Don't laugh at our naming but Pepsi Cola was such an obvious name for this particular girl. As a complete surprise was her sister..

Llatte who turned out completely white, same parentage!

They both get on so well together, not halter trained, but both like to be handled and will eat food from your hand. It would be nice if they could go together!

Please contact us via our website www.ashwoodllamas.co.uk if you are interested in these or any other of our llamas that we have for sale.


Sunday, 8 February 2015

Cleaning up the polytunnel

The new polytunnel is now up and is in the same place as the last tunnel. The last one tore sometime late last year and not only was the cover torn but the frame had come apart and some of the hoops were twisted. Today I gave the tunnel a good clear out as both weeds and winter debris had made the inside unworkable. This is the after photo, I really should have taken a before photo.
 These raised beds look untidy and need to be weeded and filled with fresh compost ready for tomato crops - I have some Ailsa Craig seeds already springing into life in the propagator and I hope that I will get 4 plants (2 per bed) in early next month. I will then get 4 cherry tomato plants and 4 more large tomato varieties in sometime later in the spring/early summer so that we will have a succession of tomatoes hopefully through to late in the year!
The big bed on the right is full of strawberry plants - I plan to dig them out - add fresh compost and then replant the stronger plants/runners. I should get three rows of about 20 plants in there. The small bed had a pumpkin plant in last year and we got two nice sized pumpkins, one in time for Halloween, and the second had to be ripened off in the greenhouse after the cover was torn off. This year, I think I'll use this bed for some cut and come again lettuce!

At the end of the tunnel, is another tunnel of similar size and I plan to grow things in the ground rather than in raised beds. Haven't yet truly decided, but I bought some early potatoes on a whim today, so I guess I'll be starting with them.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

What great weather we had today in North Devon!




...and it was a Saturday, so no office work today!

On Friday we got the covers on our new polytunnel, and although I didn't have much time to do anything inside them, it was a nice enough day to get loads done outside.

We repaired the two greenhouses - both had broken glass - one from wind damage in a storm before Christmas, and one with a stone whipped up from a strimmer. They both need clearing out now as we need to make space for the seedlings that are already germinating in the propagator.

We also fixed the fencing in the boy pygmy goats new paddock - they'll finally be moved in the morning! they'll be well away from the girls then, as at the moment they are far too close. The girls will be kidding in the next few weeks, so not a moment too soon!

One raised bed was cleaned out of weeds, and another was cleaned out of last years runner beans and canes. Weeds seem to be mainly stinging nettles that have taken hold, I have dug them out and left the roots laying on the grass as we hope a frost will kill them off before adding them to the compost bin!

I hate to say it but the grass looks as if it could do with a cut!

Friday, 6 February 2015

We have llamas for sale!

We have decided that we are no longer going to breed llamas.

We have 19 llamas, including one stud male, and it is time to downsize the herd and focus on providing experience days for the public, both locals and holiday makers.





This is Llancelot our stud male - he is a proven stud having produced two cria in 2014, Guinevere by Tallara, and Galahad by Princess Clara. Llancelot was born here at Ashwood Llamas in 2010, son to King Arthur, a LLamalland stud and our own Katie.

He is very head-shy and dislikes having a halter put on, but he will tolerate a neck collar and walks well. He is quite a gentle llama and enjoys standing on the mound guarding everyone else.

He would make an excellent addition to any breeding herd.

Unfortunately, we are unable to deliver, but visitors are welcome to visit, walk him and get to know him before making any decision to buy, in fact it is a must really. Please contact us, either here or via our website www.ashwoodllamas.co.uk for more information including price.

We also have 5 or 6 very nice young girls for sale - details will also be on our website soon, and I'll blog a little about them as soon as they are up on the site.

Please spread the word!

Thank you!

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

A sunny day - let's work in the garden!

It's a very pleasant winters day here in North Devon, the sun is shining, very little wind and the birds are singing, almost as if spring is here, but we know it isn't.

Today, I have too much office work to do, including writing this blog, to do much in the garden, but with some help we have replaced the frame for our little polytunnel. Tomorrow, the same help is going to put up a second frame and then we'll get the covers on!

Woohoo, that means that I will have somewhere to work outside when the wind is blowing and the rain is pouring! I can't wait.

Last winter I lost two polytunnels to the weather, one was an old one that before the storms came that just needed a new cover, but the cover was on and the storm ripped it off and twisted/broke the frame.

The other was an even older one that had a new cover put on, but it was not put on tight enough and the same thing happened, the frame ended up twisted and the new cover ripped to pieces.

This year, we have waited a bit longer and with some nice quiet settled weather, now is a good time to get them set up, so by next week, I hope to start clearing out the ground to get ready for some early sowing!

Can't wait!

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Oh dear, a lot of poorly dogs!

We have four dogs, Cookie our 14 year old Samoyed.
Pepper our 9 year old springer X.
Gizmo our 2 and a half year old springer.
And last but not least Lladdie our 2 and half year old collie!




This winter they are all poorly one way or another, we have Cookie who is on regular medication for getting old, arthritis is her main ailment but she is also suffering with incontinence and appears to have a bladder infection.

Pepper has just had a major bout of food poisoning, and had to spend a night in hospital being rehydrated, he is also a grumpy dog and has a bad back which no one can really do anything about. We think the painkillers he was on contributed to his food poisoning issue, giving ulcer-like symptoms.


Gizmo is a clumsy dog and is forever twisting or hurting a foot, it always seems to be healed the next day, but the day after he is limping again - just one of those things.

Lladdie, he is a fussy eater, and on occasions will eat something that doesn't agree with him. This morning he was a sick and his breakfast didn't stay down, too much llama poo for starters I think! He's bright enough in himself and tonight he'll be ravenous and carry on as if nothing had happened.!

The vet fees do mount up on occasion :-(

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Another poorly dog!






This is Pepper - a poorly springer X jack russell!

On Friday evening he decided to eat something in the fields that he really shouldn't have and on Saturday morning he was so poorly that a visit to the vets was called for.

Exactly what was wrong with him was unknown, he had been sick and was pooping blood, he was dehydrated and needed fluid except he couldn't keep anything down, so he was admitted to hospital - luckily our vet is also a veterinary hospital - and he was put on a drip to get his fluid levels up, had blood tests to ensure he hadn't eaten anything poisonous and to ensure his vital organs were all working, which they were, given antibiotics as his white blood cell count was high.

Today, Sunday, he is back home feeling very sorry for himself, taking his medicine as he should and on a diet of bland food (boiled chicken and rice).

An expensive weekend!

Ouch!

Friday, 23 January 2015

Brrr, a cold start to the day here in North Devon!





The morning animal rounds always seem to be that little bit harder when the weather is really cold.

The animals are all extra hungry - grass not available for grub, plus they use extra energy to keep themselves warm - so it's extra rations.

They are thirsty as well, as all of the water buckets are frozen over, the ice needs breaking and they need topping up as well. Luckily for me, it wasn't that cold as the water butts were not frozen, so I was able to top up water without having to carry buckets from the house to the fields - now that's a job that really does take some time!

Thankfully, I didn't have to that today!

Sun is now warming up nicely!

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Today we have a poorly dog!





This is Lladdie, our border collie.

Last night he ate something that really didn't agree with him.

He didn't wine or grumble, but he made a mess in his crate. This morning hew greeted me but looked very sheepish, as if to say sorry. He must have been standing for hours as it was only his feet that were dirty.

Poor thing is absolutely exhausted today.

He has been fed a very bland mix of boiled chicken and rice and tonight he'll get the same.

Hopefully a good nights sleep and back to normal tomorrow.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Time to start planting the seeds!

I know it is a bit early, but here in North Devon we have a milder weather than most, so I thought I would start the 2015 growing season by sowing a few seeds.

Tomatoes are a good one, last year I was harvesting tomatoes quite a few weeks before my neighbours and local friends, and so I hope to be doing so again this year.

I sowed the whole packet of Ailsa Craig, 20 seeds in all, and because of the early start I hope that I will get at least 6 plants although knowing my luck they will all take.

I also had a packet of "All Year Round" Cauliflower and sprinkled half of the packet in another seed tray and hope to get a few early cauli's as well.

Are you sowing your seeds yet?

Friday, 16 January 2015

The downside of a biomass boiler!

Actually there are two points to be made here.

Last year we had one of these installed:-

It's great, very efficient, despite having to manually load the pellets into the top. However, that is not really a downside as it is no worse than having to haul logs in to light the wood burner.

However, today we had a pallet load of 10Kg bags of wood pellets delivered, normally the driver drops the pallet on to our driveway and at my leisure I store them away to be brought into the house when we need them.

Today however, the driver couldn't use the tail lift to get them off the lorry, so today we manhandled all 96 bags of pellets off the side of the lorry and stored them away. Not really what I had planned but I guess it will save me a job over the weekend.

Yes, that is one downside, having to man handle the pellets off the pallet and stack them away.

The other downside is purely a green consideration - I now have 96 plastic bags to dispose of!

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Wet dogs!

No sooner do they dry out when they get wet again!

I guess the only way to keep the dogs dry is to not let them out, but trust me, working dogs like to be out whatever the weather, and do not seem to even notice whether it is hot, cold, wet, dry, windy or still.

With so much lying water on the ground, often in areas that are muddy the dogs are permanently dirty & wet.

I guess the only time they dry out is in the evening when they get to lie in front of the woodburner!

The only dog that doesn't enjoy this is Lladdie the border collie, he prefers to go to sleep in his bed and ignores the comfort of our living room!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

No snow here today!

There is no snow here today, plenty on the high ground on the moors apparently (Exmoor & Dartmoor) but none here.

Today is actually a nice day, some blue clouds, some wind, no sign of showers, but it is blooming cold out there.

Vicki & I are both suffering with colds, and have no intention of doing anything outside other than the bare basics, so a day in the office beckons.

Snow can be quite a tough time for us, less so for the animals, as they congregate in their shelters or stay in the indoor pens, but ensuring that they all have fresh hay to eat and fresh water to drink can be extra difficult to get done. We have been lucky this last year or so (better be careful what I wish for) with just wet & windy weather to cope with, no frosts to talk of either.

The frosts are the worst as we then have to carry water from the house to the animals as all the drinking water butts become frozen as well.

Roll on spring is all I can say!

Sunday, 11 January 2015

The pigs are almost done!

After a 10 year break we thought we'd have another go at keeping pigs!

We have had them for around six months now and they are ready to head off to the  slaughterhouse & they have their appointment tomorrow - Monday - so today they have had a very large breakfast, as they will be getting no tea tonight! This will make them amenable to being loaded in the trailer tomorrow!

During their 6 months with us they have turned over 2 paddocks from being just grass to being just a muddy mess as you can see in the picture!

I think I may of underestimated the amount of work to put the paddocks back to rights, but he ho!

They have been hard work and it may well be another 10 years before we give it another go!

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Building a pond - day 1.

Today after the 4th attempt the delivery company finally turned up with my pond liner (and free underlay) so it was time to start work.

The pond is going to be just beyond the path (going left to right in the middle) and in front of the fruit cage. The pond is going to be about 5 metres by 2 metres and at its deepest it will be about half a metre deep. It is going to replace two thin raised beds which have not been very productive recently and the wooden sides are starting to rot in any event.

I have just started to remove the rotted wood and lifting the slabs used as a walkway between the two beds in the above picture, but it gives a good idea as to length and width of the new pond.

The slabs have been moved to create a walkway between the pond and the fruit cage - we have quite a few raspberry canes in there - the drop in height from the path to the slabs is about half a metre and this will give us the depth. I have to build up a bank with the soil dug out of the middle to create the edges of the pond. The wood in the foreground is my level and I have just about got the bank done along that level and about 2 metres down the long side.

Back breaking work but I'm looking forward to having the thing finished in 2-3 weeks.