I normally wake on a Saturday morning planning everything around my Winter League golf. This morning it’s been persisting down outside and with the forecast set for it to persist all day so I’m catching up on lots of outstanding jobs – including a long overdue blog.
To be fair we’ve had an incredibly dry winter, aside from the past week or so, and life has been far easier than dealing with deep snow and boggy paddocks. The wind has even been blowing debris from cria fleeces - so no complaints really.
Like other breeders that show our focus right now is on the National Alpaca Championships next weekend. For anyone that doesn’t know the show is at Telford International Centre and will feature c. 630 alpaca. Not to be missed if you are into alpacas! In advance we’d like to thank the few who put so much work into staging the show – we know it will be as superb if not better than ever.
We are in the final stages of halter training four juniors – the weather lately has been a handicap but we are confident they’ll be there or there abouts by Friday. Again if you’ve never tried it there’s a lot of fun to be had convincing cria to walk on a halter for the first time. A few are naturals but most take a great deal of patience and encouragement.
Having said the show is our focus we have ten alpacas to deliver to three separate new homes before then. For three different reasons the new owners have not been ready to receive them but now they all are. Tomorrow I’m off to Cheshire with two pregnant females and another proven mum. I’m going to take the opportunity to visit eldest son Jack and his fiancé Becky. Less than three months now til their big day.
On Thursday I’m heading to the Borders with 3 pregnant females and a weanling female. In between times there are three pet boys to deliver just up the road. I’ll spare you all the detail but these two runs have been delayed by frustrations getting our new van fully lined and sprayed to facilitate cleaning.
For anyone that missed Kathryn’s pics of our new van I’ve attached another. We’re expecting our extra long wheel-based Peugeot Boxer with accommodate more alpacas and provide greater fuel economy for our busy and growing mobile stud services.
To complete the vehicle story, in buying the van (big thanks to my bro Nick for getting me a stonking deal) we have traded our pick-up and Fiat 500, sold the trailer to another alpaca owner and bought a 2-year-old Ford Ecosport as our family car. Not looking to miss an opportunity this too has been liveried today – see pic.
This brings me nicely on to Alpaca Encounters, our newest alpaca venture. Both Kathryn and I have loved introducing lots of visitors already to the herd, mingling, feeding and walking. We have our first wedding and care home bookings and we are confident this will provide an ongoing additional income stream, now we no longer have the B&B.
Going back to our breeding business, with all the sales above, another 3 pet boys to go and a young stud male to deliver we would be down to 27 alpaca just 14 of whom will be breedable females this year. Of those we believe all 10 that were mated last year have so far held their pregnancies.
We have however concluded we need some new breeding stock and have also been looking for a new stud male. So far we are delighted to have bought a pregnant female and a very exciting junior female from Caroline at Sheriff Alpacas. Mated to our own Nero Black Shadow – Blue Rock Kate is a beautiful strongly conformed female, herself sired by the renowned Lavender Park Tulley. A nice pic of Kate and Arazona is included.
In our search for a stud we’ve seen some lovely boys but none of the mature options have ticked enough boxes for Kathryn (The Boss). However we have returned to our good friends Mick and Liz at Houghton Hall to make an investment for the future. Those that know us well will remember we bought Cosmic from them as an intermediate. This time we’ve bought a junior, Houghton Savoy. Of course there is a lot of water to flow under the bridge but we love him and believe he will prove to be an astute investment. The pic of the boys is not great but hopefully shows Savoy’s stature at just 10 months.
Our search for a mature male continues but we are also exploring options for a few outside matings to freshen our genetic pool.
In other news – Hannah our daughter has started her new swim teaching job and is settling in well. Will has graduated from RAF Halton and is now 3 weeks into Police training near Portsmouth.
We had a special midweek recently when our great buddies from High Wycombe, Brian and Jane, visited the Log Cabin for the first time, with Bella their dog. Beach walks, pub lunches and lots of laughs were had :)
Well there’s a scrumptious afternoon of live rugby, FA Cup Football and maybe the odd beer to be had. Hope everyone has a great weekend and we’d like to wish all our alpaca showing friends a safe trip to Telford and a fun, successful weekend – really looking forward to catching up with you all. ... See moreSee less
Unbelievably, well for us at least, we are in our mid 50’s now – and living the dream!
It has been a beautiful day up here – very cold but dry and bright. Having started with a bit of admin and extra animal duties due to the weather Kathryn and I decided to walk the dogs through the fields, down to the town. The jacket I was wearing is older than Will, so we popped to Hubbuck’s for a new one. Then we went for “dinner lunch” with a couple of drinks!! We’ve just walked home, fed everyone and here I am – keyboard at the ready and hot coffee beside me.
We started with alpacas over 12 years ago. For many years they have been there but my work, bringing up our beautiful children, running a B&B and then moving/building a house all got in the way. No more!! Today was just like a normal couple’s Saturday or Sunday I guess, but we had the chance to do it on a Wednesday.
What makes the day even more special was everything else that has happened – concurrently with us enjoying ourselves so much.
However, before I share all that with you, we are also constantly reminded of how tough life can be! We have two very close family members receiving crucial care from our brilliant NHS just now. We have ongoing concerns for two parents with dementia and the other parents lovingly but struggling to care for them. Then we have other friends recently diagnosed with illnesses. Our thoughts are with you all.
Before moving back – since I last blogged - we have also lost Nero Black Roma. She was the cria who in my last blog I gaily reported had recovered from pleurisy. Sadly, I was premature and despite our ongoing conviction that she was so much better one morning Kathryn found her dead in the paddock. A PM was totally inconclusive.
Whilst we were both devasted about Roma we have to be aware of the realities of animal breeding and, the challenges our friends and family currently face bring all these set backs into a realistic perspective.
So back to the Pub at lunchtime. Unusually, whilst we were there Jack our eldest rang. He gets married in June and had some exciting news about the wedding venue. Whilst I was on the phone to him Hannah tried to ring. With me engaged she rang her mum – stating first off “I’m pleased someone wants to take my call”! Understandably she was madly excited about a new job opportunity that she’d just been interviewed for. We were probably only saved from Will ringing us too as he’s currently “incommunicado” on Operation Blue Warrior, as he approaches the culmination of his RAF Basic Training.
The reality is the three of them are now all independent, carving out their own lives – but it’s great to keep in touch with all their adventures.
When we go to the pub as a twosome, we also kid ourselves that it doubles up as a “board meeting”! However, this lunchtime we did make some important decisions - between the “American Food”, drinks and phone calls! We always find it difficult to attend as many alpaca shows as we’d like but this spring it’s even more challenging. The upshot is we’ll attend the National Championships, NWAG and Northumberland.
We’d have liked to go to HOEAG but its too far and too soon after the Nationals. Then I’m at Jack’s Stag Weekend when Scottish Champs are on, plus we have a commitment to the Hexham Spring Fair the same day which Kathryn will fulfil. Sorry to our friends in Scotland but we’ll be back next year we promise.
As if that was not enough, we’ve arranged for prospective buyers to come to see an animal next week and sold a duvet.
In brief, in other news, Kestrel has seen her new suitor Stig and hopefully will have pups in March. Alpaca Encounters goes from strength to strength with three more visits booked. Our annual holiday has been finalised – a week in a beautiful cottage in Norfolk, next September with our buddies Jane and Brian. Halter training of weanlings going well.
Sat now in our cosy new log cabin – Life is good. Hope it is for you too. ... See moreSee less
Wishing all our family, friends in the alpaca community and everyone beyond all the very best for 2019 - really looking forward to catching up with many of you in the months to come.
Regular followers will be aware of a momentous 2018 for Kathryn and I. Moving to our new home in late May was the culmination of 4 years of hoping, planning, negotiation and upheaval. Seven months on we could not be happier. We’ve had a fabulous family Christmas in our new home with lots of family visiting. Our herd are generally flourishing and we have so much to look forward to. Our lives revolve around our family and our alpacas - Life is good!
In a quick further review of 2018, aside from “Hillfield” our name for the log cabin, highlights include:-
Our first purchased stud Houghton Cosmic taking National Coloured Herdsire Champion
Lots of healthy cria births, all bar one being black.
Nero Black Mountbatten taking Supreme Champion at the Northumberland Show
Launching our new Alpaca Encounters business - the start-up was steady at best but momentum is now strong - in the run up to Christmas we sold over 50 gift vouchers and love introducing alpaca lovers to our herd as they graze.
Now looking ahead alpaca-wise, we are still actively planning our 2019 show schedule. We are already committed to the Nationals in March and are finalising our booked show team of 6. We have an exciting crop of cria but as you will see from the pic taken at breakfast time this morning they are all well thatched with hay :( I’m delighted to report that Nero Black Roma who was laid low with pleurisy seems to have made a full recovery now. We also have a couple of Intermediates to add to the mix.
We always attend our local show in Northumberland but before then there is also the HoE Spring Fiesta, NWAG and the Scottish Championships. It’s impossible and too costly to attend them all - much as we’d like to. Jacks stag do (in Portugal) clashes with Scotland for me but that may not stop Kathryn attending?
As mentioned in my last blog we have lots of alpacas to deliver to new homes in early 2019 and the list has grown longer since. That said we still have 10 pregnant females retained and look forward as ever to the birthing season that will start in April/May. This morning I took the above picture of the pregnant mums advancing towards me as I went to feed them. They are accompanied by five intermediates awaiting mating in the Spring.
Away from the alpacas we have Will’s graduation from RAF basic training to look forward to in February. As I type he’s half way through and whilst it has been incredibly tough he seems to be more committed than ever. He has been lucky that Christmas has given him an un-typical 2 week break - but he still has a tough 5 weeks ahead. Beyond that he’ll head to Hampshire for 25 weeks Police training. His lovely girlfriend Lois has given him further strength and motivation despite them being apart making life seem more tough.
We’re now less than 6 months from the wedding of Jack and his Fiancé Becky down in Cheshire - in an amazing coincidence our last sale of three lovely females will be heading to the neighbouring village in February. The whole family is incredibly excited for the wedding - particularly Hannah who will fulfil a lifelong ambition to be a bridesmaid. Of course the big day will be in the middle of our birthing season but we are incredibly lucky to have our good friend Jane booked to come and house/alpaca/dog sit.
In the meantime Jane will hopefully be helping us with halter training of the weanlings in the coming weeks, as will lots of the lucky recipients of Alpaca Encounters Gift Vouchers. Let’s hope the rest of the Winter stays as dry as it is at present. We just need more wind to blow the debris out of the fleeces!
Alongside the pics already referred to I have attached a few of our home in the New Years sun and our great new house sign, kindly bought for us by my parents and made locally by Blossom Hill Engineering.
Your blogs are always so interesting to read Paul. We wish you and Kathryn every happiness in 2019 and trust all your alpaca dreams come true. Lots of love xx
Great update Paul. They are always interesting. You should both be very proud of the fab house you’ve designed and created and how well your business is flourishing due to your hard work. Your children are onto their next chapters and are a great credit to you and themselves. Wishing you a fab 2019 and look forward to seeing you both soon! Xx
Thanks for the update, all looks great going forward! See you soon (request is in) x
Happy new year to you both the boys are doing fantastic David And judith
Happy new year to you all
Hope to see you next time I am heading south to dads - would love to catch up and see your new home x
Exciting times coming up in 2019! Enjoy and wish you all the luck in the world. Hope to see you both at the National xx