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Thursday, 26 June 2014

Shearing Day

Here are Tammy and Rob's boys waiting apprehensively for their haircuts :-

You'll see from the date on the photo that this event happened a week ago so it's long overdue for posting on here.

I'd promised T & R (my neighbours) that I'd go down and help with the shearing as an extra set of hands is always useful.  The females were sheared a day after the boys and I couldn't be there for that, but Rob wanted help from someone a bit stronger than us girls because they're all pregnant (hopefully - it's very difficult to tell until just before they give birth) and he didn't want to man-handle them on his own.  He asked another neighbour, a local farmer, to help him manoeuvre them gently - didn't want to risk those precious babies!

We started off with Ambrose, the smallest in the photo above.  He's only 11 months old, so this was his first experience of being sheared.  He actually coped quite well, but it was a bit distressing for him.  I was at the head end, holding him still and talking soothingly to him - don't know if that helped at all, but it made me feel better!  We were all amazed just how much fluff this little one produced - the heap of spinnable fibre was immense!  Didn't think to photograph it at the time, but he easily produced as much as the others who are much bigger.  The quality of his fleece is superb, very soft and long - should be a dream to spin.  R & T are sending a sample of his fleece to be analysed, which will probably take about 3 weeks to come back, but I'd be surprised if his micron count is more than 18 or 19.

At this point, Ambrose was set free to wander around the barn while he waited for the others to be shorn.  The funniest thing was seeing all the other boys lined up in a row in the holding pen staring over the fence at him.  They couldn't take their eyes off him!  It was as if they were saying "WOW - what on earth happened to you!"

Jorrocks came next.  He's the grey with the white chest on the left of the photo.  Old hand here - he had his first shearing last year so knew what it was all about this time.

The third one was Ziggy - he's the large white alpaca at the back, but I think he's actually a fawn (the tips of their coats change colour with the sun).  Ziggy is head-boy with this little lot and looks on himself as leader of the pack.  He was an absolute nightmare!! Being the biggest, he was extremely strong and Rob had an unholy struggle with him to get him in position.  I had to kneel on his neck and hold his head on the floor so he couldn't try and get up and hurt himself.  Nevertheless, he threw me off once or twice!  He screamed and kicked and struggled and we had to put a cloth over his head because he was spitting the whole time.  Jorrocks kept wandering over to watch (in amazement) all the fuss he was making!  Then, when we finally let him go, he strutted around the barn like "wasn't I brave"!!

After Ziggy, we were pretty much all exhausted but we still had one more to go.  It was a hot day and pretty warm inside the barn too.

Jacko, the black one at the front, was the one I'd been dreading.  He can be quite a little spit-pot at times if he thinks the other alpacas are getting more carrots than him!  Well, I was astounded, he was an absolute angel and just lay there and let Rob get on with it. The only time he jumped was when the shearing tool snagged and pulled on his fleece a bit, and who can blame him?  It changed my view of him and I actually think he's a bit of a sweetie on the quiet!

Well, you've seen the before picture, read all about the boys and their visit to the hairdresser, are you ready for the result?  OK, here goes :-

They took quite a bit of time sniffing each other and reacquainting themselves.  No-one recognised the others!  This photo shows Ziggy's true colour (he's the one at the back) - he definitely isn't white any more!

Here they are enjoying the sunshine again after their ordeal :-

with snazzy new haircuts.

That's it for another year boys - you can enjoy the summer in peace now.

On another subject, the first of the girls (Hope) is due to give birth about the middle of July and I'm hoping she has a boy . . . because if she has a boy, and I like him (how could I not?), then he's going to be mine!!!  Can't wait!  I've even got names picked out for him (they all have to begin with "B" this year).  He's going to be Bailey if he's white, Barley if he's fawn, Bruno if he's black, and Rob's if he's brown (I don't do brown, not my colour at all).  I don't have a name for if he's grey, but I think that's very unlikely as neither of his parents is grey.  But if anyone can think of a name that begins with b for a little grey alpaca, I just might need one!

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Super-Charged Worms

I had a bit of a mysterious event a few nights ago with my silkworms.  I'd taken them to the bedroom ready to put on top of the water heater in the bathroom for the night, but put them on the bed whilst I collected leaves to feed them.  When I went back, about half an hour later, they were extremely agitated, all sitting up on their hind legs waving their heads around.  Some were climbing out of their boxes, and some already had escaped onto the bed.

This really shouldn't happen until they get to the cocoon stage.  When they're ready to pupate they will start to wander and climb out of the box looking for somewhere suitable to make their cocoons.  That's the only time they do it.  So what was all this about?  This was all of the worms, even the smaller ones.

I put them back into their boxes, fed them, and then wondered what on earth to do with them.  I really didn't want a bathroom full of silkworms climbing everywhere.  In the end, I stacked the boxes and wrapped them up in a thin curtain (voile?) so they couldn't escape and left them on the bedroom floor.

By morning, a few more had climbed out but were contained in the curtain.  I put them back, fed them, and stuck them out on the patio, hoping for the best.

The answer to this little problem finally hit me in the early hours of the morning - our bed is a waterbed and is heated by an electric heating pad which sits under the mattress. The worms could obviously feel the current and became very upset about it.  It took them about 24 hours to settle down properly, but they're fine now.

Today, when I was changing their bedding, I separated out some of the biggest worms into another box.  These are the ones which will be allowed to emerge from their cocoons, mate and lay eggs for next year.  Judging by their size, I don't think it will be long before they start to spin their cocoons.  Maybe it's time to get some boxes made up with toilet roll inners so they have somewhere to spin.

This one looks like it has eyes on its back

Monday, 2 June 2014

Rogue's Gallery

In the absence of any spinning or other crafty projects (well, none to show you yet - I have been working on some), I'm afraid you'll just have to look at my worms again!  I think you'll see a difference in them now.

This is one of the bigger ones, and I think is almost ready for another skin change.  The skin looks very tight compared with the smaller worm at the back, and I think it may be heading for it's third change.  Only one more to go after that.

This is the same worm with a 5 centime piece behind it for size, but I realise that for readers outside of Europe this probably doesn't give you much of a clue.  I'll get the tape measure out tomorrow.

This one looks quite a little character, doesn't it?  Note the much looser skin - this one's got a bit of growing to do before it next sheds its skin.

When I was cleaning them out the other day, I counted (roughly) how many were in each box.  I knew I'd lost some of the small ones; that's inevitable, they just don't all thrive.  The final count was 613, so I don't have as many as I originally thought.  The mulberry tree will be happy!