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Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Herding about

We all got out of the office again for a while today to help Linda herd the young girls back across the farm - it's always good fun careering around the farm on the quad and the truck, especially for us office dwellers.  Here are a few photos of the girls we were moving, including one little stunner who looks like she's growing a beard!  Poor thing, Ben the shearer missed a bit so Rob will no doubt have to do a Vidal Sassoon on her.

Alpacas tend to obey straight lines so when we are moving them around the farm all we really need is man power to hold up strategically placed ropes as you can see Rob doing.   These girls went back to join their two Suri friends who haven't seen them since they were sheared.  Ursula was so excited to see them she galloped around the field greeting all her friends with her tail actually wagging like a dog.  Alpacas a very social animals and this was lovely to see!

Back in the office Kerry got a warm up hug from Harvey and Pete who are now best buds.

Oh nearly forgot, we caught sight of our resident Ghostbuster in action yesterday armed with his trusty green back pack and spray gun ridding the trailer of paranormal activity - phew!  Who ya gonna call?!!  Rob-gutbuster... only, give me a while to get there and make sure there's a brew on would you...

Friday, 20 May 2011

Goodbye to our interns & hello cria

We're all feeling a little weary this Friday after a very busy shearing week.  Here are some more shearing photos, this animal is Viola, we all tend to know her because of her unusual looks - you can't really see here but she is brown with a white face.  At Toft we 'throw' one colour animal over another of the same or similar colour (by throw we mean mate, we don't actually chuck them about!) in order that we can hopefully produce a single colour animal, thereby giving you brown yarn, cream yarn etc.  However this doesn't always work 100% and it didn't with Viola, or Lord Such (the brown and white cria) hence their white bits.

After shearing we had lots of births and for those who are a bit squeamish look away now, this is Maggie May giving birth to Mira, we've also had Lord Such, Betty and Nessa so that makes the total 4 boys and 3 girls so far!

Emi has now left us to get on with her spinning mission and today is Marie's last day at the farm before she spends next week at Haggers Mill in Banbury where we have our yarn spun.  It's been a really eventful few weeks and it's going to feel very empty without everyone next week.  That said we have lots more to look forward to...

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Shear madness...

It's that time of year again - Shearing Week!  It's almost as busy as Christmas for us here at Toft with 200 animals to shear and all their fleeces to be sorted.

The fun started on Friday when an extended team Toft put the shearing tent up (also available for Toft wedding receptions, birthdays and BBQ's).  Rob did lots of directing and numerous funny accents which confused Marie more than the term bongle (a elastic tie for the tent of which we have many apparently) whilst a bemused Pete looked on - it's all very different here to Anglesea where Kerry rescued him from!

Yesterday Carrie was joined by 10 ladies from as far a field as Essex for a day of alpaca felt jewellery making not to mention a tour of the farm and lots of shearing and sorting information from Rob and Kerry.  They all left with a small bundle of hand dyed fleece, huge smiles and promises to return in August for the birthday party!

Ben the shearer and sidekick Jamie managed all 200 animals by 2pm today just in time for the heavens to open and another huge lunch prepared by Shirley - our anti-rain dances seem to have worked up 'til now, but we don't mind anymore - bring it on! 

More photos to follow - oh and we've had 4 births since last week!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

A May of Cria & Interns

It's only the 11th of May and already it's proving to be a very busy month.  We have Marie a new intern with us for the next few weeks and our lovely Emi has returned again after a short hiatus and a visit to a weaving house in London.  Marie is a spinning mill apprentice from Sweden so she has a great interest in the animals as well as the shearing and spinning process.  Her and Emi had a masterclass with local spinners, weavers and dyers guild member Dorothy today.  The three of them enjoyed a cosy morning in the shop with the fire on (it's been mighty chilly here today) learning the technicalities of hand spinning, it was great, the shop looked like a craft centre!  Marie was using a drop spinning bobbin, plying and then knitting with her alpaca yarn, whilst Emi has plans to use her yarn for her University project and also try her hand at dying some of it in varigated colours. 

It was an excitng day yesterday too with a new Cria born just before lunch.  Alpacas are almost always born before about 3pm in the afternoon to give them time to dry off in the sun because their mothers do not lick them and during freezing cold South American nights this could be a problem.  Newborn Cria should be standing and feeding within a short while and this little girl (who was not so little, hence Mum needed Shirley's help) was up within 10 minutes.  Marie caught her first unsteady steps on camera.

Another new addition yesterday to the Toft madhouse was Lump/Garth/Pete (almost certainly Pete now!) Kerry's new Affenpinscher-Poodle cross.  He's finding life a little odd right now but we're certain he'll settle in very soon - let's just hope he doesn't pick up any of adventure dog Harvey's biscuit stealing bad habits!

A May of Cria's & Interns

It's only the 11th of May and already it's proving to be a very busy month! 

Monday, 9 May 2011

Winning Weekend!

Toft Alpaca Stud and Toft Alpaca Shop enjoyed a great weekend in Stoneleigh, Warwickshire at the National Alpaca Show 2011.  We came back winners in every sense.  The alpacas did us proud and Rob and Shirley can now add 1st prize Huacaya Junior Male Black for Ison, 1st prize Huacaya Junior Female Fawn and Junior Champion for Nashira plus three third place rosettes to their show prize board. 

As for the shop it was great to meet old and new alpaca friends and arrange with some the drop off of lots more lovely UK bred alpaca fleeces to make our gorgeous new season yarns.  Adventure dog Harvey had a whale of a time, even 'manning' the stand by himself for a while - although a lack of opposable thumbs did hinder card sales somewhat.

In the office we're all very excited about the arrival of two new puppies whom Kerry and Rob are currently on a road trip to collect.  Tomorrow at Toft = Bedlam! Can't wait!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

First Cria of 2011

Subscribers to Toft Alpaca Stud will already know that the first two Cria of 2011 have arrived.  They are two healthy boys named Gollum, a white huacaya with a brown patch on his neck and Edgar, a white suri with fawn ears.  They were born whilst Carrie was away, so she had a lovely alpaca welcome back this morning and spent a while in the paddock taking some photos of the little fellas. 

Whilst wandering the field she also had a good look at the show boys who, we think you'll agree look stunning - just in time for the National Alpaca Show at Stoneleigh this weekend.  Rob and Shirley will be showing several Toft boys and girls amongst some 350 alpacas appearing at the show.  Kerry will be going along too with some lovely alpaca goodies suitable for spring and yarn to satiate your luxury knitting or crochet habit!

In shop news, we have just two places left on next week's Shearing and Felt Jewellery workshop (17th May) and a we've also had our first delivery of furry pom-pom's.  We're fighting the urge to attach these gorgeous little balls of fluff to every piece of clothing we have!  They're available in the shop for just £6 and we can take orders via the telephone, we'll just have to wait for photographer extraordinaire Gianni to shoot them before they're on the website.  They would make a wonderful fluffy addition to any beanie hat, or on the ends of a cute hand knitted scarf, or on the back of your mittens, as a kooky brooch, strung together as a necklace-scarf...  okay, new obsession admitted!