Monday, June 25, 2012

Shearing Time Again!

Hooray, we were having a regular shearer back... we did n't think he could make it this year!  We were so pleased to hear that James Dixon had managed to squeeze in a few of us, in Spain, as he worked his way around Europe.  James and his wife Kym have been shearing our alpacas since we had them here.  They come from Australia, and I hear their home town spoken about when I watch Bondi rescue!  How cool is that!  Unfortunately Kym could n't make it this year, and we all missed you Kym.  James did however bring along his nephew.  Noah was a lovely lad, and a complete credit to his family.  He was a great help during the shearing (not that I was there actually, I was taking a zumba class in town)  so I heard, and he was intelligent, polite and all round great company.  I'm sure he had a great time with his Uncle Jamie, especially the whisky and haggis tasting in Scotland, that was a good important cultural experience for him!

I don't know that we will see Noah again next year, but hopefully some day he will be back.  Below are some before and after shots of our gorgeous girls and boys! 

Our gorgeous girls, feeling the heat!

Ah that feels sooo much better!

A few of the boys

Galaxy soaking up the sun!

Eduardo likes a paddle!

How handsome am I!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Castle Almodovar. No it's not going to be a history lesson!!!

Anyone that has taken the very scenic train ride from Malaga to Cordoba or onwards to Sevilla, will I'm sure have noticed the very pretty castle just on the outskirts of the city of Cordoba.  We had visitors that visited it before us and they said it was a cross between a disney castle and a history lesson.  Very true!  Alan's mum paid us a visit last month for a well earned rest and enjoy some sun, so we decided to take a trip to see it for ourselves.  The castle has been beautifully renovated, and of course the all important history lesson was there to learn about too!  No history lesson for my friends reading this, enjoy the photos!

The little town of Almodovar below

A wee slice of history

and a bit of fun!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Great Friends!

I am sure you will all realise by now that I never discuss visitors that come here, be they friends, or paying guests on my blog ...HOWEVER some time a rule simply has to be broken!  Before we moved here to Spain, a great friend of ours, who is an artist, very kindly designed our "Alpacas el Sol" logo for us.  At that time he refused to charge us for this, so we said him and his lovely wife must come and have a long weekend break with us.  Four years later we managed to get them here!

Now the artist in question, and his lovely wife, have been part of my life for a very long time.  In fact the mum of the so called lovely wife, and my mum worked together when we were just toddlers I believe.  Our mums had a fantastic relationship, they would visit each others houses, and keep up with the latests gossip.  In order to get the most excitement from the recent gossip they would get physically closer and closer as the gossip became more interesting, and it therefore became almost whispered, and at that point bottoms would come physically off of seats.  It was also the type of relationship that would appear to develop into a fully blown argument over who would pay for the tea in the local tea shop.  "No I'm paying, put your money away!"  "No I'm paying, I insist!" Money would be thrust into either the other friends pocket, or given to the lovely wife and I, who would be sitting and children, bewildered at the goings on between our mums.  I so fondly remember the parties we used to have especially at New years eve.  Great times and great memories, especailly treasured as our parents are all enjoying those parties in heaven together now.  Still keeping up with the gossip I'm sure! .

So this dear friend and I, have indeed been great friends for many years, and then of course her lovely husband came into our lives, and when the next generation came along, once again the friendship continued!  So at last they came and visited with the husbands cousin, who is also a good friend of mine, plus her other half, who it was lovely to get to know too.

Now the lovely wife is allergic to the countryside, well I'm probably not exaggerating, she is allergic to most 4 legged creatures, and probably a lot of green stuff too!  I have in fact seen one photo of this dear friend and it was titled "...... is in the country!"  So she came armed with her antihistamene, and I'm pretty sure she thought she was going to have a fairly rotten time!  But I don't think so, the sangria certainly seemed to help the allergies LOADS plus any other need to go shopping seemed to be put on hold too.  Great pills!

The "lovely wife", in the countryside!!!"

Extremely close to a very large dog!!!

One night we decided to visit the Cordoba Feria which is the highlight of the year for the Cordoba people.  The entrance takes a couple of months to erect, and then the same time to be dismantled again.  The plan was that our friends Pat and Pedro would come too.  Now it is such a small world but the husband, the artist... well his cousin (you are still with me are n't you?) used to work with Pat would you believe, in Brighton, so we thought it would be lovely to get them back together again.  It was also the night of the  football match, so the cunning plan was that we would have a drink and nibbles whilst watching the football, well that was the men really then go out after the match finished.  Luckily in Spain everything begins very late, as the match went to extra time and then to penalties.  That meant we did n't even leave home until 11.45pm.  We drove the three quarters of an hour to Cordoba and headed for the bright lights.

Well I'm a wuss when it comes to fairs, I have always been the one to hold the bags, and take photos, and that suits me just fine, but it was great to see them all on the rides.  There does n't seem to be any such thing as health and safety issues in Spain, or at least around where we live, and as harsh as it sounds it makes for hugely entertainly rides to watch hehe! I'm chuckling to myself just reminicing!  The first ride they went on were three rows of bulls, that each seat about 4, and they work similar to a bucking bronco and basically it throws you off, however even more funny, is that the floor is moving too, so even when you land on the floor you are still thrown about.  At one point my 4 friends were on on the floor as someone said, being tossed around like mushrooms in a frying pan, and a small boy landed in amounst them.  I'm not sure what happened to the small boy, I don't actually recollect seeing him again!

One minute they're on....

.... and they're off!

Next stop the HUGE big wheel!!!

Now the cousin of the artist hates heights, however somehow she managed to find herself coerced to go on the big wheel.  Please enjoy the video below, and I'm sorry about the "F" word! 

Next stop for this poor friend was yet another very high ride.  She was told, if she did n't go on it, she would be missing out, and she did n't want that!  No videos of this one I'm afraid, although I did think she had passed out as they brought them down as the ride finished!

We all had an amazing night at the Cordoba feria, and arrived home just before 6am.  It was a little later than it would have been, possibly half an hour, as they have a problem with their hire car.  To cut a very long story short it was swapped over the following day after the men sat and waited for over three hours for the car swap to take place.

Soon it was time for our dear friends to go home and they kindly invited us to have lunch with them, in their apartment on the terrace.  They needed to leave at 6.30pm which worked out perfectly for us, as we were also needing to leave at the same time, to meet Alan's mum from Cordoba railway station, as she was coming to pay us a visit for a few days!  We were all sitting eating drinking, chatting and laughing, and enjoying the sunshine, when all of a sudden someone shouted "IT'S HALF PAST SIX!!!!"  We all leapt up!  Food was cleared away, dishes washed, and clothes were thrown into cases.  

It was lovely to have you all here, thanks so much for coming.  My dear friends rushed to the car with their bottle of sangria for the journey!  It was fab xxx

Monday, June 11, 2012

Our new family members...... Chickens!

Well it took us three attempts would you believe to get our chickens!  All great excuses to have little trips out with our friends Pat and Pedro.  It seemed to be that our timing was all wrong, and the first couple of trips out, which included at least two stop off's at each, we were always told to come back in 6 weeks, as the chicks had just been hatched!

Eventually an English friend in town, who seems to know her chickens, told us of yet another place to try, and it came to light that some of the suppliers we had been to, actually get their chickens from this very place, in Cordoba.  So we went with Pat and Pedro and armed with a box as  we really were n't sure how we would contain them in the car, the chickens not Pat and Pedro, they are usually very well behaved!  Alan seemed to have it in his mind the chickens would be given to us in a sack.......... thankfully not!

We found the place, eventually, and as we drove in there seemed to be many dogs of assorted sizes and shapes, enjoying the shade under cars, and trees in the car park area.  We could see an outbuilding which had lots of chickens, ducks and goslings in a little squashed into cages, but not upsetting in anyway.  Pedro discussed with the young man which would be the best chickens for us.  We only want them for eggs, even though most of the locals have chickens for eggs for a while, then they become Sunday lunch.  I can understand this as of course you know exactly how your "food" has been treated, and what it has eaten, and no preservatives of course, then they just "do the deed" and usually the "madres" pluck and prepare the chicken.  No thank you, ours are totally for eggs, and looking gorgeous!

He pointed to three rather lovely looking chickens on a poster which he said are very good for eggs, plus they are happy to live in the campo.  I guess this means some also keep chickens in the town too?  We said we would have two of each, and he got a big box, so no worries about a wriggling sack in the car and set off.

About five minutes later he came back carrying all six chickens by the feet, upside down.  To be honest at first I did n't think they were ours, I thought they were some dead ones he was removing!  I'm guessing this is the preffered way of carrying them, as they were completely limp and relaxed although they soon "came back to life" as he tried to cram them all into the box though.  We all piled back into the car, excited about getting our new "pet's" home.  Unfortunately Alan missed the turning and finished up heading towards Malaga and we finished up doing about a 20 kilometre detour through the Cordoba countryside.  The only problem with this, was it was around 40 degrees, and we do not have air con in our car, I was a little worried our new chickens would be roasted before we got them home!!!

Once we got them home, we took them straight into their new "room"  which is lovely and big, it was in fact an animal feeding room at some point.  So we had already put some old bits of alpaca fleece plus hay in the feeding areas for them.  The most comfy alpacas in Spain I would have thought, haha!  The plan was to keep them inside for two weeks so we could make sure they always knew where the food was going to be, and we could be sure of getting them back in, and shutting them away at night.  We have not seen a fox any closer than about 7 or 8 kilometres from our house, and then only one ever, plus alpacas are fantastic chicken guards, as they would let out an alarm call if a fox was nearby.  We do however prefer to have them shut away at night for their protection.

The chickens settled in incredibly well, and we did in fact allow them out through the day, after just under a week.  We thought they were gorgeous then, but they since grown gorgeous tail feathers, and their combs are much larger and all a gorgeous scarlett in colour.  Below are a few photos from the day we brought them home.  In a later post I will post some more up to date photos of them.  Enjoy!

Oh by the way, we had decided they would be called after some of our favourite aunties, so on my side we have auntie Jess, auntie Mabel and auntie Marg, and on Alan's side we have auntie Eileen, auntie Jean and Nanny Audrey.  I was a little concerned that Alan's other nanna, Renee, maybe upset, however Alan assured me she really would n't be upset at not having a chicken named after her!!!  The problem is 4 of them look very much like their "other halves" so we have not actually named them individually!

The chickens meet the alpacas!

Marcus wants a closer look!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Another tragedy sadly hits us!

I have been putting off writing this blog post for a couple of weeks now, but I'll have no interruptions sadly, so I need to get this one out of the way!

Well we have pretty decent fencing around our alpacas, but our boys are of the "Houdini" variety, and will squeeze through, under or over any possible obstacle, or indeed fencing they can.  We remember the date very well, July 4th last year, an easy date to remember.  We did a weekly shop and were out for a few hours.  As we drove up towards the house, there in front of us were the 3 girls in a row, all facing the same way.  Cassandra and Lily each with a male on top of them orgling away, and Bermuda sitting in the middle patiently waiting for her turn!  Alan screeched the car to a halt and we leapt up shouting and waving our arms frantically, to try and break the romantic Barry White moment.  Well it did work, although the boys were a little .... er put out shall we say, however we managed to usher them back to the boys paddock, and gradually all settled down to normality.  In our mind it would be an easy date to remember and therefore calculate any impending births.

We have n't bred any of our girls for a couple of years, as we do not really have enough land for many more, plus there are not really the clients about that we had hoped to sell them to.  In my dream, our clients would become friends, and part of our AEDA society and we could help them as much as possible, and be involved a little with the alpacas and their new owners, basically be of support.  I know everyone's ideas are different, but when you have lost a few animals you tend to cocoon those you have, and try and do what you think is the absolute best for them.

Well as we have been handling Lily, which we do very often, as she has a bit of a mite allergy problem, she was being a tad more grumpy that usual and even a little spitty, but we did n't  really take too much notice.  In hindsight maybe we should have taken a male to her, and done a spit off, but we decided to play it by ear and if a baby came along, we would deal with it, and hope and pray it was ok.  We took that attitude as two years ago when I was in England, the day my beautiful granddaughter as born, Lily gave birth to a cria who was about 3 or 4 weeks early.  Sadly she died!  The first 2 or 3 days she seemed to be doing fine and then she went downhill extremely fast.  Alan took her away from Lily, and took her to the Veterinary University Hospital in Cordoba, but her lungs were not developed sufficiently and she died there, as they were treating her.  For about two weeks, whenever Alan went near Lily she hummed loudly, and was in great distress for her baby.  It was a terrible nightmare for Alan, he was here on his own, and I was going through so many emotions seeing my first granddaughter born, and then the wonderful news that a cria was born, and then the tragedy of losing her and of course knowing that poor Alan was having to deal with it alone.  It was very tough all round.  She would have been our first girl too.  Do to circumstances that I wont go into right now, we have 3 young males born that have lived, but we have lost 6 crias, including the little beauty this year, and sadly 2 have been girls! So only 2 girls from 9 babies and we lost them both!

Ok where was I... oh yes, well occasionally with let the girls into another tiny paddock, just for an hour or so where we let the weeds grow and give them a change of scenery as their paddock is smaller than the boys.  On route to it is a gravel type path and they all love to have a roll on the way.  Alan called out to me "Oh my God you should see the size of her boobies!" Haha!  I was sure he was exaggerating, however on cue she rolled for me, and it was like "OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!"  Alan did a bit of research and was happy to read the nipples can swell from about a month before the cria is due.  That would make her dates just right, so we settled into the idea that sure enough we would be having a new baby alpaca soon'ish! 

It was I think only two days later when we had a little day trip out to the gorgeous Cordoba Patios, which was my last blog post.  We pulled up in the car, Cassandra and Bermuda were outside and Lily was inside the stable area.  This was nothing unusual as they spend most of the day in there when it is hot.  As we drove past and adjusted our eyes to the darker stable, Alan said concerned "Oh no a dog has got in there with her.................... ON NO IT'S A BABY!!!!!!!!"  We leapt out and sure enough there was a beautiful little brown cria, sat, wobbling, but upright next to her mum, Lily.  There was afterbirth on the floor plus a rather large pool of blood too.  The cria was fairly clean but had a little dried afterbirth still on her.  As we picked her up to have a look at her, we realised her umbilical cord was bleeding, a lot.  The first thing we did was to ring our vet, who we could n't get hold of.  So as the mum and cria were stable, Alan drove into town to try and find the vet, hoping maybe he was already out on an emergency call in the campo, or even better having a siesta!  No luck sadly!  Alan quickly researched online regarding the bleeding umbilical cord, as we knew we had to stop it, as soon as possible! We found a plastic clip that seals a bag, and wrapped it in a betadene soaked cloth and he managed to clamp it, onto the remains of the cord!  We were n't sure of course how old cria was, but the next most important thing was to get her drinking from Lily.  I had already been trying this, when Alan went out to find the vet, and could not manage it.  She was strong enough to stand although Lily was not happy standing still for her, all she wanted to do was eat! Good sign for Lily though of course!  

The next step was to try and milk Lily, to get some colostrum into the little one.  I could not manage it at all but luckily Alan did, from all of the nipples, so the routine was for one of us to hold Lily still, whilst the other held the baby up to try and feed, and then to feed her with a syringe tiny amounts, but better than none of course.  This was going to be the routine for the night, every hour.  Lily was not showing to be a great mum but in my heart I wondered if she remembered what had happened before, and did n't want to become too close, or in hindsight did she know this gorgeous girl was n't going to make it?

During the night Lily's maternal instincts seemed to kick in, and she began clucking to her cria, and even nudging her towards her nipples, we were beginning to feel quite positive.  The baby was looking stronger and standing quite well, but could n't seem to suck well, so we kept the hourly feeds going.  Around 5am Alan said he was going to have a couple of hours sleep, I did not want to sleep.  I had a feeling that if I went to bed Alan would check on the baby, and come back and tell me she had n't made it.  That had happened with the new born foal just a matter of weeks ago, and I could n't go through that again. So I stayed up, in the kitchen and had a look online, and read, and dozed but we had decided to leave the baby for a couple of hours, hoping she would sleep well and become a little stronger.  

Dawn broke about 7am and I went to the stable to see them.  Lily was fine but I could tell immediately the baby's breathing had changed.  It was a little laboured, and I knew she was n't going to make it!  I woke Alan with the sad news, and we held each other and I had a little cry.  Alan got dressed and immediately we went back out to them.  During the course of the morning we phoned our vet, and had a talk to him.  It had been a day of celebration for his family, the previous day as his daughter had made her First Holy Communion, and of course they were partying, we must however try and get hold of another emergency vets phone number,  we had already made the decision though we were not going to take Lily's baby away from her this time!  

The day became all about keeping the baby comfortable and Lily too, and allowing them to be together.  Alpacas are great mums and I, and especially Alan had seen how Lily had grieved when she lost her previous baby!  Around mid afternoon, it became just too much for us to bear, the baby was struggling to breath and we could not help her.  We decided to ask Andres the vet to come and allow her to be out of any pain and discomfort.  The decision was made that if she passed away before he arrived home, I would phone, just in case he had n't already picked Andres up, and then of course he would nt need to come, although we wanted a general antibiotic for Lily, although that would be no problem we could give that to her.

After Alan had been gone about an hour, I picked up the cria and gave her a little cuddle, as I put her down again close to her mum she made a strange almost choking sound.  I wiped her mouth  and she had in fact taken her last breathe.  It was so very sad, although a relief she was no longer in discomfort. I phone Alan as planned and choked back the tears as I said "She's gone1"  The vet knew by Alan's reply to me and did n't speak another word the whole journey! 

Lily knew immediately, and of course I do not know who reads my blog, and if any alpaca owners read it and have had any similar incidents I would be really interested to hear about them.  Lily at the moment of her babies death made a cry like an alarm call.  I kept Lily and the baby together and just covered the baby up.  When Andres arrived he told me how sorry he was, and we spoke a lot about premature alpaca crias.  Lily's baby had been approximately 5 weeks premature.  Andres also told us he was pleased she had passed away on her own, as even though putting an animal to sleep can of course be in their very best interest it is a job he hates to do.  I held Lily and gave her lots of cuddles, as Alan took the baby away.  As Andres was giving Lily her first antibiotic  Alan said in total shock "Lily is crying!"  I was holding Lily so I could n't see her face but both Alan and Andres saw her, our beautiful girl with a tear down each side of her face!  

For about 3 or 4 days our gorgeous girl hummed loudly whenever she saw us, but to be honest the hardest part was seeing her taking herself away from the other females, and see her alone in the stable, lying where her baby was.  We will one day mate her again, however two losses for her broke her heart and ours too!

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Stunning Cordoba Patios

Every now and then, Alan and I love to play tourists for a day, in the gorgeous city of Cordoba which is just a three quarter of an hour drive from our door, or fence, should I say!  During the month of May we have the Festival of the Patios and this is just a must.  For the past 3 years we have headed into Cordoba, camera in hand.  We hear many different languages as we wandered through the tiny streets in the city centre, as visitors travel from near and far, to view the amazing patios.  There are three main routes and in the last 3 years we still have not managed to see every patio, although I am pretty sure we have seen some of the best, as certificates are placed outside some entrances.  

We are totally blown away at the displays on show, and get very frustrated when we cannot keep a handful of rose bushes alive, or our beautiful delicate bougainvillea which we sadly lost this winter also.  I guess it's a frost issue, and this year we had many a morning that we had to scrape ice off of our car, plus our rocky soil certainly does n't help!  

It was probably the first real hot day of the year and it reached 39 degrees outside and it was a ridiculously roasting 50 degrees inside our car when we returned to it later in the day!  We had to queue for many of the patios, as some are tiny, and can only fit it handful or so of people at a time.  So we spent quite a bit of time standing perspiring, no let's be honest about this, blooming sweating, as we waited in line.  

Having said that, I personally will want to do it again next year, although I did say to Alan maybe we should make a decision to view only 5 or 6, otherwise you are just drained and exhausted walking around in the heat and queueing.  

I hope you like the photos, I shall let them do the talking about this fantastic festival!

Love the statue in this one hehe!

 What's that, you want a close up?

A group of musicians and singers

Yes this was the temperature!