Hopefully, if he can sustain it, I will be able to relax a little more and get on with sorting this place out. Time will tell …
Our wondrous stud male, Dylan, who has been staying at Alpacas of Wales over near Llandysul has now moved to new lodgings – still with Alpacas of Wales, but at Llwynmarch – their new site near Llandeilo.
He is up for sale, sadly.
After five years here we have realised that we just don’t have what it takes to run a successful alpaca business, both in terms of land and resources and in ourselves, for different reasons. We didn’t go into it completely blind, but we obviously had no experience, and if I knew then what I know now … etc etc.
The alpaca business climate has also changed, not just in relationship to the wider economic recession, but also because when we bought in 2008, Bovine TB had yet to make any impact on UK alpacas. Since then it has become big news with alpacas not only being affected, but even being scapegoated in some quarters. We’ve had no problems here, but some other local farms have received serious hassle, despite being TB free.
With regard Dylan, the fact that he has to reside elsewhere has become unacceptable for me – I want my alpacas here. Unfortunately, we just don’t have enough space for him to be kept happily with other males – not when the girls are just over the fence!
So for us it’s back to roots with the alpacas – some animals for keeping the grass down, and for the wondrous fleece, and for the sheer delight of their company. No more breeding.
Along with Dylan, we’re also selling off the young ones, as always planned, and also Olive our top breeding female. Although she is something of a mascot for Pistyll Gwyn it seems wrong to keep her and notbreed from her as she is such a star alpaca.
Its that time of year again – harvesting and processing wood for next years winter.
I am breaking myself in gently by finishing off some wood piles that were left over from last year. I’ve also made a better drying area in the orchard for twigs and small stuff – putting some old asbestos roof sheets to good use.
Not that I want to, thank you very much.
I suppose I should be pleased, and part of me is – the part that as a young man campaigned, marched, protested and at times just defied. But that was in the 80s.
As a young teenager in Wisbech in the 70s, my response to omnipotent homophobia was to just run away and hide, which I did, splendidly, in the loony embrace of the Hare Krishnas. Not that they were any less homophobic of course, but they had a downer on sex full stop, so I guess I just didn’t feel so out of place.
But that’s another story …
Today I find myself sitting at my desk working, with a background murmur coming up the stairs of MPs debating this (Caerthan appears to be transfixed). They have spent all day debating it. I have spent all day getting mad that it is still necessary to debate it. My patience is clearly done. I am angry for men and women everywhere who have had to wait this long to have their relationships recognised.
If you want to comment, DON’T start debating the issue. There is no more debating on this subject here.
I feel better now!
Today was just glorious. Next to no wind, blue skies, and more warmth in the sun that I would expect for February.
So I set about one of the bramble patches with a vengence.
We have a lot of brambles here, scattered about, and each year I take them back, pulling up as many as I can at root. I’m not trying to eradicate them – I love blackberries – but just trying to keep them under control. They are an amazing plant, I mean – what a trick – planting yourself at both ends!
I have had a lot of experience – Olive’s garden in Exeter had some really mean brambles which could put this lot to shame – and I do enjoy it. On the bank where I was working today there are some trees, a hawthorn, a few ashes, a birch, a sycamore, and something else that I can’t identify, and it a real joy to free them from the encroaching growth.
Gwen and Herbert have been out with me, and the alpacas have been chewing on the bramble leaves, all of which adds to the pleasure!
A couple of months back my dad gave me mum’s old sewing machine. It was in the way at his place, and my sister-in-law didn’t want it as she has her own mothers – sewing machines are obviously things to hand down.
I wasn’t sure I’d ever use it, the spirit being willing, but time and the requisite skills and experience were all lacking, so it sat in the conservatory doing service as a table (it all neatly folds up in its own cabinet).
THEN … the zip on my trusty jacket failed me. I do tend to get attached to my clothes. This jacket was a Christmas present from Pam, Caerthan’s mum, a couple of years back now and has been worn almost continuously, bar the hot days, since then. So as well as being a great article of clothing, and supremely practical for Pistyll Gwyn, it has sentimental value. So the time was right for the sewing machine to come out of its cabinet and shine, and it did!
It is a beautiful piece of machinery, and the way it sits in the cabinet, which has its own little box for things like the bobbins and oil can etc is just a delight. And it is SOLID. And iron. And ornate. It’s operated by a treadle, but it has had a motor fitted, so you don’t have to keep treadling continuously, and also a little light added – all mod cons. The electric cable is that old furry stuff you used to see many years ago so it was nostalgia hits all round.
I hadn’t got a clue where to start of course, so I got out the ancient, and rather tiny, instruction book and started at the beginning … how to thread the bobbin … how to thread the needle … I was up and running in no time and after a bit of practice I decided to go for the zip.
I’d found a replacement zip the day before on eBay (£3.99 from a place up north, with free delivery that arrived less than 24 hours after I ordered it, so they get my vote – Pro-Sew-Darlington), and I’d already carefully removed the old zip leaving the jacket all gaping and horrible, so well past the point of no return. And I just did it. It hadn’t helped that Caerthan had sucked in air between his teeth saying how notoriously difficult zips are – well what does he know! I now have a jacket with a brand new zip and I know how to my work my mum’s wonderful sewing machine. She’d be proud, I reckon.
I then went out, skidded on the hillside and landed flat on my back in a muddy puddle, so the jacket got a wash as well!
As a snowy week went, it was pretty good. We had two big snowfalls, one right at the beginning and one two days before the end, and though it lay deep – in places a foot or more, at no point were we snowed in, nor did we suffer from the serious ice problems that we have had in past years. We had some concern about our hay supplies – it did catch us unawares, but we were able to get out to Alpacas of Wales on the Monday and snaffle a couple of bales from there.
There is a lot more work for us when it snows, the alpacas get through a lot more hay, and consequently they drink more water. Amazingly this time the water supplies in the field remained usable, so I only had to do the dreaded water-by-bucket a couple of times.
Gwen discovered frisbee. We soon realised that throwing sticks was hopeless as they would just sink and disappear without trace, but I dug out an old frisbee that worked a treat and lasted at least two days before the ancient plastic succumbed to the cold. Something else for the shopping list!
It stayed picturesque throughout. Yesterday as the thaw kicked in it certainly wasn’t looking as good, but all the really slushy action happened overnight, last night, and we arose today to clear fields, clear paths, and animals wandering about freely.
More to come? Who knows. We are almost through January. Whilst I am not a fan of the winter or the snow I have to say that it is better than having year round slugs!
Well, here we are at the shortest day of the year and so for me the New Year officially starts tomorrow. I do some of the Christmas stuff and some of the Devember 31st stuff as well, but in the heart the real meaning of the event lies here.
A time to reflect on the outgoing year and consider any changes in direction for the incoming one. For me, there is a lot of thinking to do. You can see by the photos what an amazing place I live in, but I need to get the other parts of my life in order too.
Hoping 2013 will be a step in the right direction.
Photos were taken at 8.00am
For me this is a time to turn the collar up, get outside as much as possible during the daylight hours, and cosset the alpacas a bit. They don’t mind the cold as such, but they do miss the sun.
On the plus side, it always feels good in the evening with the wood stove burning and the doors shut against the wind and rain. This year we have a good wood supply, so we’re not having to be quite so frugal. It is amazing how my attutude to fuel has changed now that I create it myself, rather than just swap it for some money!
Another treat is dog walking in the dark. Whilst the alpaca stuff has to happen in the daylight (precariously juggled with my desk job), taking Gwen out doesn’t. Heading off to the wood in the dark is always a joy, and after four years still has a sense of adventure about it. What will we find?
The other night I had an electrifying few moments with a fox, who seemed oblivious to my headlight and my very presence as it caught its breath while trying to evade my over-excited dog! The fox just sat there, a few feet from me, senses completely focussed on Gwen’s trampling about some way away. As Gwen came nearer she turned and vanished in the trees. I’d never been that close for so long to a wild fox before.
On moonlit nights when no torch is necessary the wood is a magical place with the moon shining down through the bare trees. Tempered a little this year by concern – most of our trees are ash, and dieback has already been found in the Carmarthen area …
And then we come out of the wood to the top of the field. There is a bench that my dad made from some old timber from the bell tower of St Peters church in Wisbech. When I’m sitting there, wrapped up warm, looking across Cwm Cynon to the other farms with lights twinkling, or looking up to the Milky Way and the constellations on either side, I can really appreciate the quite dark introspective beauty of winter.
As a child I would dread winter – it seemed to go on for ever and the prevailing memory is of the harsh fenland winds. As an adult, time flies so fast I know that soon we will be through the dark bit, the nights will start drawing out and spring will be here again.
Well … they’ve gone! Walter and Tyler have left Pistyll Gwyn and headed off to pastures new with sea views and Gav the Goat.
I have to say it is a bit strange. When we moved here we started out with a herd of six – four geldings and two pregnant girls, and it seemed that we had so much room! How quickly the field filled up and for me at least it became quite stressful. So now, we have a bit more room, and a bit of breathing space until the cria are older.
It is, of course, time to really sort out our whole alpaca strategy. At the end of the day I am a bit uncomfortable selling animals – I worry about the new homes and feel responsible, which isn’t helpful at all.
For now though, I am quite confident that Janet and Brian who have bought Tyler and Walter will give them a great home. I haven’t seen it, but Caerthan says it’s beautiful.
Back here, the field is not quite the same. Both Walter and Tyler were quite dramatic in their own way: Tyler making a fuss and fretting about his food, and Walter throwing himself about like a wild shaman carpet thing, or just standing looking spectacularly splendid.
Silky looks perplexed …