Monday, 9 March 2015

2015 BAS National Show

What a weekend! 

There is always a lot to do before taking alpacas to a big two day show, but then if you are on the organising committee of that show, the forward preparation and workload just goes off the scale.  So now the show is over – hard to believe really after months of work! – we are delighted not just with the success of the show but with the success of our alpacas.  My remit was organising the Fibre Zone area which proved to be a huge success.  We showcased the very  best in British alpaca products including the award winning cloth produced by Doug and Sam Steen of Teesdale Alpacas.

In a change from the usual way of doing things, the females were all shown on the Saturday and the males came along on the Sunday.  This was a brilliant idea as it kept the interest alive for spectators and exhibitors.

Winning rosettes is a pretty tough thing at a national show and up against the “Big Boys”, but we proved that we have some cracking alpacas.

First into the ring was our light fawn female Fallowfield Alicia, who came third but Australian judge Natasha Richardson did say that on another day she might come second if she was more relaxed!  She was just a bit reluctant to walk around the ring.

Next into the ring for Fallowfield was our Intermediate white girl Livia, who looked as if she was about to enter the Strictly come Dancing completion with those nifty little steps.  Livia took a 4th place rosette.

Then on Sunday, Orlando was due to be first into the ring.  I have to say that he could definitely have done with a wee bit more halter training but against all odds, Mike got him round the ring and guess what... he took first place with the judges saying that he was the out and out class winner.  Not bad at all from such a competitive class of 12 alpacas.  Then to put some icing on the cake, Orlando went on to win Reserve Light Male Champion.

So at this point we really were not too bothered whether our adult male Octavian won a rosette or not but he too got a 5th place in an extremely competitive line up.

Needless to say that we are feeling slightly weary today but really pleased that the show as a great success from a personal and from a professional viewpoint.  Huge thanks are due to all those who contributed tot the success of the show.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Obituary to Some Beautiful Beasties

I feel driven to post an obituary about all six of our beloved guinea fowl that have been killed by foxes in the last few days.  These quirky, beautiful creatures had become good friends.  Always hanging around the back door first thing in the morning and then again at teatime to get some corn.  They were real characters – noisy at times if strangers were around, but never digging up the flowerbeds like our hens are prone to do.  They had become part of the family – so to speak – and will be greatly missed.  Having said all of that, Mike was able to rescue a carcass which we will be eating with gusto tomorrow night!  Well rather us than Daddy Fox!!

There are always frequent comings and goings on farms and it is no different here at Fallowfield.  The newest arrivals are 24 store lambs that are Texel / Mule crosses.  I can report that even though they have been here less than 48 hours, I have spotted a major difference between sheep and alpacas.  No it is not the leg length, it is the fact that sheep are basically very stupid and alpacas are very intelligent.

Talking of intelligence, this is not a word that I would currently associate with BT or indeed any of the telephone companies.   Having had only intermittent telephone and internet connections for the past 10 days, I am not feeling kindly disposed towards the aforesaid.  Whenever you have a problem with your phones or internet, it takes ages to speak to a real person about the problem and then they keep you on the phone for ages, plugging and unplugging everything that moves or doesn’t in your house and surprise, surprise the fault is at the telephone exchange – again!!!  I was sorely tempted to tell them that they were entirely to blame for the lateness in posting my blog but I wasn’t entirely sure that they would appreciate this.    I keep having to remember that I wasn’t charged for the time the pigs ate the phone line!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Fighting Fit and Raring to Go!

Okay so maybe the “Fit” bit is a slight exaggeration when talking about myself, but I can always live in hope!

Having had a difficult time last winter, I felt the need for a bit of a sabbatical from blogging but now I’m back with a vengeance!

There have been so many comings and goings with livestock here at Fallowfield over the last few months that I thought a quick update would be in order.

Pigs came and went and are now feeding us very well, thank you very much. I can highly recommend Simpsons from Cockfield in Co. Durham, who handle the pigs very sensitively and make such good sausage and black pudding – yum, yum!

The guinea fowl are here and making their presence felt – you certainly know when you have guinea fowl and I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone with close neighbours due to the racket they can make, but they are hilarious.  I’m still trying to work out which are males and which are females – any suggestions most welcome.  They just pootle about in a gang and don’t attempt to wreck the flowerbeds like the hens.  So looking forward to seeing some chicks and then I’ll be checking out some recipes.

And last but not least – our gorgeous alpacas.  We have lots of lovely crias again this year but inevitably some are more gorgeous than others.  Everyone loves Penelope, although we were definitely not trying to breed a multi!

Alicia (out of Grand Flowerdale Affirmation of Fallowfield and Houghton King) is a very special light fawn with one of the most tightly crimped fleeces we have ever bred.  She had a bit of a tricky start and needed plasma but she is thriving now.

One can never be certain what colour cria an alpaca is going to throw and this point was made clear to us this year.  Fallowfield Octavia has always thrown bright whites from her matings to Houghton King but this year she threw a very strong, light fawn male.  His fleece is very similar to Alicia’s – very high frequency crimp style and very bright – just a pity I can’t get a good enough photograph to show you.  Maybe it will be possible when he gets bigger - if I can hold him still long enough!

The photo below is of Prospero who is another of our little hooligans.  Thank goodness Mike has a telephoto lens or we wouldn't have a chance of getting a decent shot of him.

So, got to finish some baking now as it 's changeover day at our cottage in Corbridge on Fridays and I always leave them a home-made cake - so please keep your fingers crossed that I don't caramelise it by mistake!  Lemon drizzle cakes are good but not when they are burnt on the top!!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!

Hard to believe but the sun actually came out this afternoon in Northumberland and the temperature rose to double figures.  So, regardless of the fact that I have got acres of paperwork to do – including the VAT return – I spent some time outside absorbing that much needed Vitamin D.

So what’s new?  Well all of the animals currently on farm seem to be fine if very dirty – that’s the show team heading off to the NWAG show at Carlisle next weekend.  Well they would be, wouldn’t they! But of course we have now got decisions to make as to which studs we are going to use for our females.  Although we have got our own top class stud male, Houghton King, he is too closely related to many of our females for us to use solely and of course, variety is the spice of life – or so they say!

The chickens are fine – although it would be helpful if the Buff Orpingtons weren’t permanently broody and hence not laying.  I have tried to have a word with them but to no avail.  Maybe the imminent arrival of about ten guinea fowl might spur them on.  It will certainly make sure that we are well informed of any visitors to the farm as they are notoriously noisy if strangers appear.  The plus side is that they are exceptionally good to eat.  Talking of which, we are having pot roasted guinea fowl this evening.  I’m using Clarissa Dickson Wright’s recipe. The wonderfully irreverent Clarissa was not only a great cook but a great countrywoman and will be sadly missed.

So what else to decide upon?  Flowers, flowers and more flowers!  No I’ve not lost the plot (completely!) but Mike and I have decided that since it is physically impossible for us to consume all the veg. that we usually grow in our vegetable garden, we are going to turn it into a flower cutting garden.  So watch this space!

And of course, last but definitely not least – pigs! Oh yes!  No problem in deciding to stick with the Oxford and Sandy Blacks – they looked good and they tasted ever so good!  The next lot arrive on Sunday but we must decide whether we go for more bacon, sausage, or whatever – my mouth is watering at the thought!     

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Back Down To Earth!

The high heels are back in the cupboard and practicality wins the day!

I have to admit that I am feeling ever so slightly cream-crackered!  It’s not just my age – I hope! -  but it’s been a pretty full on weekend at the BAS National Show at Telford.  I know that show organisers across the country will definitely sympathise.  Having said all of that, it is hugely rewarding to be on the organising committee of a show that has been hailed as the best British Alpaca National Show ...EVER!!!!  Wow! What an accolade is that!

The show simply went like clockwork with alpacas going smoothly in and out of the ring.  Melania was our first one in and seemed pretty chilled.  Judge Nick Harrington Smith actually said that if you wanted to have your photo taken beside the perfect looking alpaca, then Melania was the one to choose.

It is great fun to take your alpacas to a big show like the Nationals and meet up with old friends from all over the world. Good too to catch up with the contingent from Finland once again - sorry to hear that you have got lots of snow back home!!!

It was great to see so many breeders from the North of England excelling against such tough opposition from the big breeders down south. Just goes to show that there are some top quality alpacas “Up North”! It was also good to see local alpaca breeder, Paul Vaclik of Broad Media Technology, presenting a great seminar on how to improve your company website.

Despite everyone’s concerns, I did manage to stay upright on my very high heels throughout the Champagne reception and Gala Dinner.  I really enjoyed dressing up – it doesn’t happen too often it has to be said!  Mind you, I’m quite glad to be back to the wellies.

I really don't want to bore for Britain about winning rosettes, but Fallowfield Alpacas did do rather well. We took five of our alpacas and they all came home with rosettes.  Not bad when this represented 25% of our herd.! So here are just a couple of  photos to remind ourselves of a great weekend and some lovely alpacas.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Going on Holiday?

Are we hell!  Actually we are getting ready to go to the BAS Nationals next weekend.  Since I am on the organising committee, I am off down to Telford on Thursday and Mike is following on with the alpacas on Friday morning.  The suitcase – Tesco’s best! – is packed full of show equipment, from microchip scanners to show coats to promotional material.  And of course, a National Show has to have a Gala Dinner – hence the high heels!  Have you got yours packed????!!!

Of course, our sales list has to be confirmed. but we were out this afternoon taking photos of the likely suspects.  Hermione definitely fancies herself as a bit of a star – and why not when you have produced Fallowfield Hester, who is a fabulous alpaca.

Supper this evening was Bill Granger’s Vietnamese Chicken Salad – really, really good!  I’d like to give you a little tip –  if you want to get as much juice out of limes and lemons as you can, roll them over your chopping board, pressing down hard, before you cut them in half and squeeze out the juice.  You would be amazed the difference it makes – particularly with limes.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

A Fresh Start

Ok so I’ve had a tough few weeks, but life goes on and so I am starting off afresh with my blog and will be wittering on about all the things that fill my life here at Fallowfield – animals, gardening cooking, sewing and of course my family.

We've had such lovely spring-like days here recently that your spirits are easily raised just by walking round the garden and in amongst the alpacas.  Sadly we have had quite a lot of tree damage during the winter storms but this particularly fine specimen remains untouched.  I can't quite remember what species it is - something my mother gave me years ago.

Alpacas are all doing fine .  Admittedly we've only just weaned these crias.  Thought we should err on the side of caution this year as the grass has been so poor and some of the them didn’t seem to be putting on the weight they should have.  I just hope Livia and Ignatius are this relaxed when they are in the show ring at the Nationals in 10 days time!!  At least they are looking somewhat drier these days.

 If like me you enjoy eating and cooking good food, you will probably really enjoy Georgina Fuggle’s great blog which I have just discovered.  Great ideas and some super photos.  Talking of food, time for me to go and check what’s in my fridge and get creative, as I’m beginning to feel peckish!