In a bit of a pickle!!

I’ve had a few requests to add to my blog and I realise it’s been a while. Some might think that this silence is due to having an idea about what I’m doing now, therefore, less awkward moments to write about. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Although I have learnt so much since we took the plunge to live in rural Ireland, I continue to get myself into a pickle rather frequently. I’m almost the ‘Queen of Pickle’ (not the relish kind), I’m just a really busy Queen of Pickle/predicament/trouble/mess/problem/dilemma/crisis….

So here goes. My latest ‘pickle’ occurred yesterday.

It was an absolute gorgeous day yesterday. Still February but Spring was in the air. On days like this you get all hopeful, positive and enthusiastic. So, Stuart and I decided to get a few alpaca husbandry jobs done. Toe nails needed to be cut, fringes needed a trim and some vitamins were due. We started with the boys and despite a little wrestle with the odd few, all went well. As we walked up to the girls field we praised ourselves at how we have become more confident and able with all this alpaca care.

We got to the gate and made our way into the next field. We currently have 3 girls and two young boys in this field. Reuben and Samuel are in the process of being weaned from their mums and will make the permanent move to the ‘Big Boys Field’ any day now. They are just so adorable. Everything that needs to happen in this field takes twice as long as they pop over to see you, give you kisses and become a rather pleasant distraction. Not today, we were focussed. “Come on girls” we shouted as we made our way to their shelter with an orange bucket. The orange bucket contains a small handful of pellets and a perfect way to get our alpacas where we want them. They totally know whether your visit is a sociable one or a husbandry one. Even if we approach them all cool, no equipment and like we have all the time in the world, but secretly need to vaccinate them. They Know!!

So, the orange bucket is magic. No matter what, they will follow. I suppose it must be like someone shaking a Dairy Milk box of chocolates at me. I will get there and I will get one, no matter what…

We get them all in the shelter without any hassle. Mary always looks startled, she has this ability to make me feel really guilty about everything. She just stands and looks at you as if to say “just leave me alone will you”.  Rosin has this quirky walk and just makes you smile. She had rickets as a young alpaca but since moving to us she totally enjoys life to the full. She will always be a little underweight so we put a coat on her at winter to help her maintain heat. Agnes is our old girl at nearly 16 years of age. We have mated her a couple of times but she never takes. It’s such a shame as she is a great Aunty to the young ones. She is a real character though, her personality changes between a lovable cuddly alpaca to a ‘get out of my space now’ alpaca. Stuart might say she is a bit like me but he has learnt to withhold these comments after several years of training. The thing with Agnes, is that after mating and the following 11 months she is rather grumpy and I suppose protecting her baby. Unfortunately, she isn’t pregnant though. Once she passes what would be a gestation period, she becomes really friendly and cuddly.

So, we get them into the shelter without problem. Stuart realises that he needs a different oral syringe and makes his way down to the stables to get it.  I feel rather lucky to be the one to stay and get the opportunity to spend time with the girls and two boys. So, I’m faced with 5 alpacas. Agnes looks really pissed off with me, Mary looks as startled as always and making me feel really guilty about god knows what, the two boys are frustrated as they wanted to play in the field and Rosin is posing in her height of fashion coat. Stuart seems to be taking forever. What’s he doing down there? Has he got distracted again and forgotten what he was doing or is he actually walking 5 miles into Oughterard to collect the bloomin syringe from the vet!!

“Okay, crack on” I think. I’ll take Rosins coat off as it is really warm today. …This is the moment where I should have decided to stop and simply admire the view of Lough Corrib instead.

I approach Rosin and start undoing the Velcro, she is obviously unhappy with this as she begins to scream at me, Agnes decides that she really likes the coat as she stands tall behind me making very excitable grunts, I lift the coat from Rosins back and let it drop to the floor as I need to slip her back legs out of the elastic straps. Agnes decides to lay on the coat leaving rosin stuck, the two boys think this is great fun, Reuben decides this is a great time to give me some kisses and Samuel takes this opportunity to have a drink from mum (Rosin). To do this he chooses to put his head between my legs and then reach up to his mum’s teats. Rosin isn’t in the mood for this (obviously) so drops herself to the floor. As I balance myself, with rosin below me, Samuel between my legs, Agnes behind me wanting the coat and Reuben totally in my face, I look up and Mary looks as startled as ever wondering what on earth her ‘Human Mum’ is doing this time. I hear the gate open and Stuart walks through oblivious to what is happening in the shelter. “Stuart”, I giggle. “I’ve got myself into a bit of a pickle”. He didn’t look surprised as he shook his head. Anyway, all ended well and no alpacas or humans were injured in this moment of madness.

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DIY Website

Another thing I can add to my list of ‘things I’ve learnt to do myself’. Who knew making a website could be so complicated. But I did it and I’m rather impressed with myself. (I’m getting better at this self praise thing aren’t I)

Since changing my career and lifestyle I have learnt so many new skills. Its funny how we always feel the need to stick to what we are used to or stay on the life path we some how found ourself on. It’s a shame really, because if we don’t make changes, take a risk or choose a different life path, we will probably never discover what we really are capable of. Live life, do something different and surprise yourself….

https://www.curraghduffalpacas.com/

 

Renaming the Cock!

For those of you who follow the blog, it will be of no surprise that we are a bit of a soft touch with animals, whilst not really having a clue about farm animals. We are learning though and each event, mistake, disaster or accident provides us with much needed learning opportunities. We have had plenty of these opportunities so far, therefore our knowledge should be as vast as Wikipedia, although I fear it’s more at the level of an Old Macdonald picture book!

We love chickens and our growing flock really is down to Charlie. He most definitely takes the lead in being Chief Poultry Expert.  Before we moved to the farm, I had this fantasy of being completely self-sufficient and planned to eat our free-range chucks. However, this is becoming very unlikely. I mean, who knew chickens had fabulous personalities. Especially when you raise them from eggs, watching for signs of hatching in the incubator, seeing these alien like creatures climb from their shell, then suddenly becoming fluffy balls of cuteness. As they grow they develop a love of routine. They lay eggs in the morning, go explore the farm, have a dust bath early afternoon, root around for snacks (usually in the flower beds), follow us around a little, tease the dogs, play with the donkeys, have dinner, then off to bed. What a wonderful existence.

We have had a chick live in the house with us. A recent batch of Swedish Flower Hen eggs resulted in only one chick. I didn’t want it to feel lonely out in the brooder, so decided it would be best in Charlies bedroom. She loves Charlie and I am quite positive that ‘Jem the Hen’ thinks she is a person. She completely relaxes when you stroke her feathers and has a little snooze perched on your hand. She obviously means a lot to us as we named her after a very special friend from England who surprised us recently with a visit. Love you Jemma.

The first batch of eggs we hatched were a mixture of Bantams, Silkies, Rhode Island Reds and a Sussex. However, once hatched, we had no idea how to tell what sex they were. Because they were different breeds, they all looked different. After a little while we decided to have a local come sex them and take away the cockerels. We agreed to keep one cockerel. I quite liked the idea of hearing our cockerel singing in the morning, like on a proper farm. Turned out that out of our 11 chicks, 6 were cockerels.

One cockerel stood out from the rest. A very handsome Bantam who we decided to name Nando. Yes, this is the name of a very popular restaurant chain who specialise in….‘Chicken’ ….but it seemed appropriate at the time. So, we had to say goodbye to 5 of our babies. Charlie hung his head with embarrassment as I became a little emotional. He tried to convince me that they were going to a good home and not necessarily ‘The Pot’. Nando was gorgeous. It’s like he knew we chose him. He happily followed us around the farm as we went about our business and he greeted guests with his little ‘cockadoodledooooo’.  Unfortunately, as he became more confident with his role of being ‘The Man’ around the hens, he became less, well, pleasant with the men on the farm.

I would often catch little glimpses of Nando chasing Stuart and Charlie as they ran to safety, Nando puffing his chest out to show them he was rock hard. I chuckled as I saw how sly he was with our friend Tim. Nando ran towards Tim whilst Tim walked with his back to Nando, as soon as Tim stopped and turned, Nando would stop and turn the other way. This continued across the whole yard, I nearly peed myself laughing.  He didn’t do it to me though, I felt rather smug that Nando loved me.

Turns out Nando doesn’t love me!!!! I was minding my own business, emptying the wheelbarrow of alpaca poop (alpacas poop A LOT) and I found myself face to face with Nando. The area between the wall and the gate suddenly felt smaller than usual as I struggled with the wheel barrow. Nando looked different. He looked a bit pissed off that I dared be in his presence. He had this kind of look in his eyes that made me feel a little uneasy. “Im being stupid” I thought, “Nando loves me”. “Hiya Nando” I said in an over enthusiastic, high pitched but a little shaky voice.  He just kept looking at me. I wondered when Nando had gotten so good at staring you out. Like, he didn’t blink once. I was about to turn and it was at this point I realised that this wasn’t an innocent game of blink but more like a fast draw shoot-out that you see in the cowboy movies. I moved first…. Nando responded by puffing his chest out, flapping his wings, shouting, like really shouting COCKAFLAMINDOODLEDOOO!!!!! Then he jumped up with his spikey, sharp, fighting claws and stabbed me in the leg.

It’s funny how names evolve in time. You know, like nicknames, pet names and alter ego names. We don’t always intend to change names it just happens….

At Curraghduff Farm, Nando is now more commonly known as ‘Piss Off Nando’!!!

 

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Country Girl

Once we decided we were going to move from the busy town in England that we had always lived in to relocate to a rural farm in Ireland; I’ve had this fantasy of being completely at one with nature, become self-sufficient and naturally transform into a ‘country girl’.  As I daydreamed at work, I had images of me walking through meadows, with that healthy glow ‘country people’ tend to have from being outside so much in the fresh air.

To be honest, the transformation of becoming a ‘country girl’ hasn’t gone as smoothly as I had hoped. The reality of living in a rural area isn’t as simple as one would assume with no experience and can be rather challenging at times. The dreams of being self-sufficient have partly come true. We have a fabulous vegetable garden that we made from scratch and the use of alpaca poop has been a real success in the growth of our crops. We have even managed to sell some of our produce to a local grocer to supplement our tiny income. Unfortunately, I seem to fall in love with every animal I come into contact with and as a result, I am completely and utterly unable to eat my chickens. They currently have a wonderful life knowing that they are safe in the care of the crazy lady of the farm. I have this problem of naming everything I see; frogs, birds and even the odd insect have been adopted into the family, whether they like it or not. I will never make a proper farmers wife. So, although we are self-sufficient with fruits and vegetables, the local store continues to be the supplier of our meat!

The dreams of me walking through meadows in a pretty summer dress, with the sun shining down onto my skin and my hair blowing in the delicate breeze are rather amusing to me now. The reality is very different indeed. Yes, you can often see me walking across my fields with my gorgeous alpacas; but I’m usually in my wellies scooping up alpaca poop, stuck in the mud, in the rain, soaked to the skin, with my hair all mattered from the high force winds.

Despite all this, I actually love my new life. It might not have been a natural transition from townie to country girl but I’m loving the challenge and I’m loving the place I can now call my home. Oughterard, Co Galway.

The Oughterard Agricultural Show was the first event we had attended when we moved here a year ago. I loved looking at the animals, listening to the farmers talk with real pride about their livestock and the domestic arts competition in the community centre was a dream. I remember watching Kirsty Allsopp on TV some years ago, in some program about entering into country fair competitions. I loved it, along with the sense of community it represented and I hoped that one day I would have the time, energy and inspiration to attempt something new like this. I was hopeful that I would have some sort of involvement in the 2018 show.

A year on and we had in fact been invited to bring our alpacas to the show, we managed to sponsor one of the kids prizes and I had entered into the domestic arts competition. I was so excited about attending the show and being a part of the community. With a real buzz in the air about our alpacas, this helped make the day even more rewarding for us at Curraghduff Farm. The first hour passed very quickly and I sensed it was going to be busy. We brought two of our boys Alfie and Little John and they were great. I remembered the pride I observed from the local farmers last year and I too felt proud of my two boys. At this point, I got a phone call from a friend that was looking after the farm in our absence. “I think you need to get back Ruth, there’s something happening to Roisin, she looks distressed”.  Roisin was pregnant and due anytime over the next couple of weeks. So, after only one hour at the show, I had to leave Stuart and Charlie at the show to go check on Roisin. The poor girl was struggling and this labour was definitely not text book. I missed the whole event with our first cria (baby) as Mary decided to give birth when I went to shops, after a month of bottom watching. I got back to the farm and it was all over, I just saw this little face looking over at me, waiting to be introduced. So, this time, I rang an experienced alpaca friend for advice, and decided to get the vet to come and have a look, even only to reassure me. I was so happy that we did as the cria had his foot stuck and it wasn’t going anywhere. With assistance from the vet, out he popped. He looked so tiny but it felt so magical to be involved in his birth. I loved him instantly and had a name picked out for him already. The vet went and I began to observe mother and baby to ensure he suckled from mum. As I sat on the wet grass, my bottom soaked to the skin and completely in love with this little fella, my phone rang. “Hiya Mum. I’ve been to the Community Centre to see how you done in the competition, your felted hedgehog didn’t win anything” he shared. “Never mind” I’m no Kirsty Allsopp anyway I thought. “But you got first prize for your card” he declared….

At that point, I decided I was indeed ‘a proper country girl’. Not the rose-tinted image of living in the country but the real, no frills but extremely in love with my new life country girl.

 

The Next Chapter

We have nearly been here a year. I can’t believe how fast this time has gone. In the moment, some parts seemed to drag, these were usually difficult times and mainly in the winter. Those moments when you naturally think ‘why me’, ‘give us a break’ and ‘what the hell have we done’. These moments felt like the earth had swallowed us up whole and ‘it’ was waited to see how we would respond. We have definitely been challenged on our journey so far and overall, I feel we have survived. Not only survived, we have become more resourceful, learnt to truly appreciate the basic things in life and not fear failure. Failure isn’t the ‘dead end’ I once viewed it to be, it’s an opportunity to learn and discover something new, something better. I once felt a failure in my past life as a nurse in the UK, being overwhelmed with high caseloads, unachievable targets, stress and anxiety; these were a sure sign of failure to me then. Now, I see that difficult time as the opportunity to learn more about myself and discover something new. It wasn’t a ‘dead end’, it was the doorway to something better.

Here we are, about to start up our Alpaca Experience on the farm. We had no previous experience with farming, no previous experience with alpacas, no previous experience with starting up a business or being self-employed and we didn’t know anyone in the Republic of Ireland. Google is a wonderful thing. The amount of times I’ve googled my way out or into something is unreal. “Google, how do I fix a frozen pipe?”, “Google, how do I make a compost toilet?” and “Google, how do you harness train an alpaca?” are just a few. So, the love of getting back to the basics in life is something I treasure but I must salute technology for what it is. I am sure the Oughterard library, although well stocked, wouldn’t have had the literature I was looking for at hand.

People are amazing though aren’t they. I once felt that I couldn’t ask for help as this would show weakness. Even though I ‘helped’ people in my profession, I struggled with this myself. The people in the local community here have been so supportive of us. I mean, granted, they probably think we are a bit crazy. Fair play to them, they probably are a little right. This hasn’t stopped them helping us though. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness at all, it’s a sign that you want to learn, move on from this stumbling block and progress. There’s something special in helping each other when it goes both ways.

So, the next chapter of our life is about to begin. Some negative thoughts still pop up in my mind like, what if people don’t like it and what if people expect more. However, I’ve learnt not to get hung up about this stuff. I can’t control those things but I can take pleasure in the moments that do go well. I simply just have to stop and compare my life to a year ago and that is all……

The Miracle of Life

 

The girls were already pregnant when they came to live with us in Ireland. Although, we were present at conception. We visited the farm they were temporally staying at until we figured out where we were going to move to. This was our first experience of breeding and we didn’t know what to expect. I remember the girls all standing in the pen together, then Harvey (owner of the farm) brought in one of his stud males. Hercules was his name and he knew he was a stud muffin. He hummed calmly (obviously using some super alpaca chat up lines) then watched as the girls all sat for him. What a stud! The whole process was problem free as Hercules gave all the girls a ‘special’ cuddle. However, it was slightly awkward for a time as he became rather excited and his calm humming became louder and louder. I remember not being able to look at my teenage son as he stood in shock, wondering if we should leave them to it.

The girls were put to the test a week later – the pregnancy test. No, they didn’t pee on a stick and wait a few minutes. In the alpaca world, a pregnancy test is a very different experience indeed. The girls are introduced to the stud again. If the girls fall for his sultry hums and sit for him again, it is considered that she is not pregnant. I suppose it is possible that she wants a little more action but let’s go with a negative pregnancy result. If the mating was successful and the girls are indeed pregnant, she simply turns to the stud, looks in his direction and spits at him. Yep. She totally rejects him, he served his purpose and now she has no interest in him anymore.

So, the girls got a positive result. Hercules must have had a tough day being rejected by all the girls. But, the boy done good.

Alpacas are pregnant FOREVER, it’s the longest wait. It didn’t help that I got a little mixed up with the dates. We got estimated due dates at 11 months. So I kind of assumed 2 weeks either side. I know, I know, do the research! The thing is, I did, on reflection I think I blocked out the fact that pregnancy could go on for up to and over 12 months. Imagine being pregnant that long. I couldn’t drive my car at 6 months pregnancy, my bump was so big I couldn’t reach the pedals. I’d have looked like Harry Potters Aunt as she blew up like a balloon and floated away. Although, some might say I did!!

I was on bottom watch for a month. Looking for any potential signs of labour. Sitting with them for hours, willing them to give birth. I questioned whether they were pregnant and felt sick with the thought. It finally hit me that I needed to relax a bit. This could go on for quite some time. What will be will be…

I checked very briefly on the girls before I went to work on Thursday. Charlie was at home studying for his exams so I knew they would be in safe hands. I finished work at 12.45 and wondered whether I could fit in a grocery shop before I came home. I rang Charlie. Charlie explained that he had just checked on them. “Something might be happening with Mary” he explained. “She’s walking around with her tail up and looks like she can’t get comfortable”. “What’s her bottom looking like?” I asked. I’ve become obsessed with their bottoms I know. “No different” he said. The girls have presented like this a few times so we decided that I would have time to pop to the shops to get groceries and Stuart would be back home soon anyway. I wanted to get the shopping in so that I wouldn’t miss a thing if we had a birth this weekend. So off I rushed to the shops.

I was on my way back about 45 minutes later. My mobile rings. “It’s too late to make orders” I thought, “I’ve left the shop”. I pull over and answer.  “Hi, I’m on my way home. Is everything okay?” I ask. “We have a cria” replied Stuart. I literally screamed. “Is everything okay” I blurted out excitedly. “Yep, just come home”.

That journey took a lifetime. I must have got stuck behind every tractor in Galway and with the odd sprinkling of lost tourists. I couldn’t believe that after all that bottom watching, I missed the main event. As I got closer to home, I began to think that it all probably worked out for the best. Poor Mary just wanted some peace to give birth as I would have been anxiously watching and counting hours throughout the whole process. The drive was good. It helped me realise I just need to let nature take its course and simply embrace what comes my way. Except this tractor, this tractor needs to do one and pull over!!!!

I finally made it home. I parked the car, jumped out the car and ran over to the field almost losing my shoe. As I got closer, I could see his little head popping up from the grass. Mary stood close by keeping him safe.  My eyes filled with tears.. What a little miracle of life. Our first born on the farm. Purely beautiful in every possible way. Mary honestly looked proud. She was calm and happy for us to sit with them and admire her son. She did it, all on her own, and what a fabulous job she did. A first-time mum and a complete natural.

Agnes walked past, as if to say, time to watch my bottom…..

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   Mary and Reuben

The Great Escape

 

The donkeys have loved living outside since we transferred their feeding and sleeping area from the stable to a shelter just outside the cottage. It’s been lovely seeing their little faces looking over the garden wall at us in the morning and their “Heehaw” to remind us its breakfast or cuddle time. Obviously, if the weather gets too bad they will return to the indoor stable at night.

Anyway, I was wondering whether animals have an ability to sense when something is about to happen. You know, like a vet coming to cut your balls off…. We have been talking about Finn needing to be castrated as soon as he is old enough for obvious reasons but the vet said he was too young when he was last here.

So, Finn and Doris have been living happily outside exploring their new field. I noticed Finn starting to, let’s say, wanting a ‘piggy back ride’ from Doris but he didn’t quite know what to do. I popped into the vets a few weeks ago and confirmed his age and it was agreed that he could ‘get the snip’ now. However, it depended on the weather. Who knew that it could be too hot or too cold to have one’s crown jewels removed. Imagine the NHS waiting list in the North East of England for similar ‘human’ operations. It’s always too cold there. Blimey, there mustn’t be such a thing in places like Russia in the winter with temperatures as low as -50.

We had to wait for the temperature to be just right, with regular phone calls to the vets to consider the forecast. To make matters worse. Doris must have come into season as she began to act really weird around Finn. The poor lad didn’t know what was going on.  Flirting in the donkey world is rather different to us humans. Or, alternatively I have got it completely wrong for all these years. However, I do vaguely remember some odd behaviours in the nightclubs as a teenager but I just assumed they were wrecked due to vast amounts of cheap plonk…. Yeah, so Doris began to place herself in front of Finn, making uncomfortable groans whilst foaming at the mouth.

It was a race against time to ‘bag the balls’ and I couldn’t bear to separate them as they get stressed if not with the other. Finally, it was confirmed. Thursday this week, the deed would be done. A sigh of relief for us. We looked out the window at them on the field…… Oh dear….. It seems that Finn figured out what to do. He finally got the ‘piggy back ride’ he’d been waiting for!!! It’s like he could hear his ‘Manhood’ clock ticking. Something definitely happened as Doris has no interest in that game anymore and the flirting has completely stopped. Oh well, what will be will be, but we still planned on going ahead with the procedure.

Wednesday evening. Forecast rain. “we will have to bring them in tonight” Stuart said. “So that he is dry and clean for the snip tomorrow”. They weren’t keen on coming in but they did and this was rewarded with a few oats and some fresh hay.

Thursday Morning. Vet definitely coming today as the weather is perfect. I think Finn knew something was going to happen. I was at work this morning so I quickly jumped in the shower. I had a lovely shower thinking about the arts and crafts that I’ve tried out recently and what else I’d like to try out. I get out the shower, dry off and shout “Charlie, bathrooms free” like every morning. No answer. I shout louder “Charlie get out of bed; the shower is free”. No answer. Wrapped in a towel, I walk into his bedroom to get him up but he’s not there, not in the toilet, not in the kitchen or anywhere in the cottage. I panic as the alpacas are due to give birth anytime. I pull on some clothes and make my way down to the stables.

Alpacas were all fine but no sign of the donkeys. Confused, I turned and saw Stuart in the van and Charlie looking rather flustered and then Finn and Doris looking VERY sheepish. Apparently, Stuart had gone into the stable to clean it out and hadn’t closed the door properly and the gate to the farm was open too. Finn made a run for it and Doris followed. He attempted to get into his field but that gate was closed. So off they went down the lane too quick to catch. Stuart shouted me for help but I hadn’t heard as I was in the shower. Finn met horses, sheep, cows and another donkey on his adventure to escape the vet. By the time I got there, Finn was back and simply nudged me with his nose as if to say “sorry mum, I’m in trouble aren’t I”. We got them safely back in the stable, charlie got ready and off we went to work and school.

Charlie and I chuckled in the car as I said “imagine if that scene had a soundtrack”. Picture it: – Me happily getting ready humming to Norah Jones; calm and peaceful. Cut to outside – Keizer Chiefs ‘I Predict a Riot’ with Finn running down the lane and Stuart and Charlie being dragged along; Chaotic and stressful. I had no idea of the events that were unfolding just outside in the yard.

I got home about 1.30pm. Doris stood by the stable door. Finn laying on the floor. He heard my voice and struggled to get up. Eventually he got up on all four legs and simply rested his head in my hands. He didn’t move as he just needed his Mum. Completely off his face, sore and probably no idea what just happened. Ball-less, crown jewels stolen, balls bagged, snipped, castrated…..

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Poor Finn recovering

RIP Little Moya

 

Such a sad day here at Curraghduff Farm with the loss of one of our alpacas. Moya, who was 13 years old, had been unwell and losing weight for a while but despite our best efforts, she went to sleep forever last night.

Moya and her 4 friends came to live with us in November 2017; but we had owned them for many months prior to that. We bought the small herd together when we still lived in England, as the owner was unable to keep them due to a change of circumstances. The fact that we didn’t have any land at that time didn’t seem to be a problem for us as we knew we were moving to a place with land. In fact, at that time, we didn’t even know where, but we were determined to start a new life in the country… somewhere. Thankfully we had met a lovely couple at a recent Glamping Show who knew what they were doing when it came to alpacas and agreed to take care of them for us. We visited a few times to get to know them and learn the ropes but to be honest, it wasn’t until they came to live with us full time, that we completely and utterly fell in love with them.

They had a long journey from Ilkley, England to Oughterard, Galway. We were so excited to finally have them with us but suddenly it felt like we didn’t have a clue. I can compare it to when I became a mum for the first time. I had researched everything about having a baby, read every article and asked a thousand people a million questions. I couldn’t have been any readier for my bundle of joy to arrive. Except, when he did, I was clueless. I had no clue what so ever, I just stared at him… but I knew that I loved him and that was enough. So, with the alpacas, we researched everything, read the books, joined alpaca groups, went on courses and built up contacts. Here they were at my farm and I just stared at them, clueless, again.

All 5 of the alpacas were very shy and avoided us like the plague. I just wanted them to love me. I would stare at them willing them to understand that I wouldn’t hurt them. I remember getting eye contact with one of them, as we gazed at each other, I was sure this was it, I was bonding with them. She responded to this by lifting her head and spitting at me. I learnt then that, my idea of lovingly looking into my alpaca’s eyes was in fact more like a fixed death stare to them. Handy to know.

The first time we tried to get them into the stables was eventful too. We ran around like a bunch of twits, just like on those Carry-On films, realising later that it was probably better to have the field cordoned off into smaller areas. Again, handy to know.

They soon accepted us and it was Moya who led the way. She was the first to get close to us, eat from our hands and chat to us by the stable door. She loved Stuart and would always make a point of giving him a little sniff as she walked past. Moya was a lady. She would walk so gracefully from her stable to the paddock, stopping to notice her surroundings and nibble on tasty bits of grass. She had this ability to look at you and make you melt. We always felt so blessed when she allowed us to get close to her. She loved a good old back scratch. It became a daily routine for her to rub up to a bush outside of the cottage. However, this gentle rub became more vigorous until she eventually began to simply throw herself into it. Moya 1 Bush 0. The bush has never recovered as it sits there looking all squished and broken. A part of me doesn’t want it to grow back, it reminds me of Moya, it’s a memory of Moya’s ‘Bush Hugging’.

As with all animals, alpacas can give you so much love. The trust that develops between you is simply heart-warming. They have different personalities, different likes and dislikes and can be won over by a little hand full of food. Unfortunately, this love means it’s devastating when they have to leave us. Heart breaking in fact.

I will always miss Moya, my little lady. I’ll miss her little face looking over the stable door, I’ll miss her little hum when she came over for a chat and I’ll miss watching her looking across the lough. But, we have got to be thankful that we had her in our lives, she taught us so much and we are honoured that she grew to love us.

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Goodnight Moya x

If Its Yellow Let It Mellow

My Mum had just left after a short visit to the farm. I was left with so many lovely memories from her stay here and looking forward to her next visit. Mum was worried about her journey home as the weather forecast predicted heavy snow fall across the UK and Ireland. Thankfully, she got home safe and sound before the first snowflake arrived. I was hoping that the spring had arrived as we were keen to start planting in our new Polly Tunnel but once again the weather had other ideas.

The snow came, stuck to the ground and froze. It was bloomin freezing…literally. -3 with a wind chill of -11. However, we stayed positive as we could see from the news and facebook that other parts of the country had it much worse than us. Since moving here, I have been determined to see the positives in everything… I have been severely tested on this by Mother Nature and I am expecting my Degree (with commendation) to arrive in the post!!!!!

We got the fire wood ready, shopping in (minus the bread: seems to be a shortage of bread, where on earth did it all go) and decided to use the ‘snow days’ to chill (see what I did there). We got a lovely visit from the lady down the way. This is the lady that spooked me on our first meeting as she waved enthusiastically through the window, in the dark with her head torch on full beam. She came to check how we were doing and handed me a bunch of daffodils she had growing in the garden. “Shame to have them go to waste” she said. I couldn’t resist giving her a big hug as I thanked her. As she walked down the path she spoke about all the “drama about nothing with the weather”. I agreed politely and closed the door, welcoming the heat of my kitchen.

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I found my vase and went to fill it with water as I admired the flowers. I turned the tap on and the water kind of trickled out slowly, then became more like a drip until, nothing… “STUUUAAART” I shouted! I broke the news to him. Seems the frost got the better of the pipes. No water!!!

Family meeting; Stuart confirmed that we didn’t have any water, which meant using the little water we had harvested until he could get some more from somewhere.  I remained positive, we can do this, right? Stress makes me need to wee, always has. As I approached the toilet Stuart announced that the new rule was “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if its brown flush it down”. His words seemed to slow down as I suddenly had a flashback of T in the Park Festival. There I was, standing in the porter loo, desperate for the loo and greeted with a smearing of all kinds on the walls, on the seat and on the floor. Hadn’t been flushed all weekend. I seriously learnt how to squat during that festival. I snapped out of it; with a cold sweat, I looked up at our bathroom ceiling. The still plastered ceiling from the tree fall on the roof earlier in winter was a reassuring sign that I was home and not in that ‘communal poo box’. See I’m being positive.

Our lovely farming friend loaned us two 5 gallon barrels and let us use his water from the tap outside his house. So, this was our supply sorted. We managed to heat the water on the Stanley as the fire was on anyway. Still had to ration the toilet flush and had no shower, but we tried to remain positive (through gritted teeth). We used this same water for the animals too. They were all tucked up in the stables. We had to check the water several times a day as it froze over really quickly. Our bedroom windows froze both inside and outside. Although, I was reminded by my mum that this happened all the time when she was a kid. Oh, how it was to live in the ‘olden days’ (she will kill me for that).

 

Day One – Feeling Positive, we can do this.

Day Two – The novelty wearing off a bit now

Day Three – Cabin fever…We really are starting to whiff

Day Four – Had a shower at a friend’s house, positivity starting to wobble

Day Five – WHY THE HELL DID WE MOVE HERE!!!!!!!!!!! AAAAGGHHH!!!!

The snow melted, temperatures raised to above freezing and everything was looking back to normal. Except for our water situation. Someone suggested we get a had pump, to pump out any air locks that may have occurred during the big freeze. We borrowed one from another friend. It didn’t work. It would make the right noises, fill us with hope, then simply stop…. Panic began to set in as we considered the potential cost of sorting this. That night we all sat in silence as we individually pondered over this move.

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Next day I was back at work. Feeling tired, emotional and totally fed up. Work was a great distraction though.

On my way home, I saw two magpies. It’s funny, if I ever see one magpie, I franticly look around for another one to make it ‘two for joy’, and when that fails, I tell myself to stop being stupid, how does seeing one magpie signify sorrow. But, if I see two. That totally means joy, why wouldn’t it!

I drove up our lane and feeling rather sorry for myself. I see Stuart and his mate, Tim, looking rather pleased with themselves. Like two school boys getting the Head Teachers Award. “We done it” Stuart declared. I must say, I am rather impressed with their ability to ‘think outside the box’ and most definitely deserve a Blue Peter Badge. They used a 30euro hoover (Tims), removed the part that collects the dirt, used tape to attach a plastic bottle and fixed this onto the pipe near the cottage. After about an hour of ‘pipe hoovering’ we had water. I hysterically hugged them both as a thank you and I silently thanked the two magpies, I drove past earlier.

Toilets flushed and shower on, life really is an adventure isn’t it.