Well, the deed is done, the beautiful beech tree at the top of our farm has been felled. For maybe 150 years it has grown and become part of the landscape, overlooking our farm and the valley. In just two days it has been reduced to a stump. It was diseased, had to come down, but as you can probably tell, I feel sad and rather guilty about ending it's life, especially in such a brutal manner. Had it not been so close to a road we would have left it to nature.  Now there is just a huge void where it stood. The buzzards who have always used it as their lookout perch will have to find another high place - I hope they don't go too far away. Amazing to think of everything that this tree has witnessed.


I was hoping to be able to make a picnic table, with seats, in a very rustic kind of fashion, but apparently the wood will quickly rot away - heck, I'm still going to do it ... I'll put cuprinol on it!   This event has led me to reading poems and Odes to trees and I have added a couple here.  Now I need to blow my nose and have a stiff drink!

End of day one

View of the farm from the top of the tree - I wasn't holding the camera!
An Ode to a Tree
think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

~ Joyce Kilmer, "Trees," 1914 ~  

Think Like a Tree
by Karen I. Shragg
Soak up the sun
Affirm life's magic
Be graceful in the wind
Stand tall after a storm
Feel refreshed after it rains
Grow strong without notice
Be prepared for each season
Provide shelter to strangers
Hang tough through a cold spell
Emerge renewed at the first signs of spring
Stay deeply rooted while reaching for the sky
Be still long enough to
hear your own leaves rustling.

Some hours later .... not believing this state of mind to be healthy, I phoned our neighbours to invite them for a spur of the moment 'toast' to the tree, to celebrate it's long life, with a glass of red, round the bonfire that the tree surgeons had left burning away in the darkness,  they readily accepted..  of course, we know our neighbours well - they're a good bunch... even brought the crisps and nibbles with them.  Negotiating styles and climbing fences in pitch black not a problem, working our way through the debris of tree felling perhaps a little more tricky, but fun was had by all and we finished up the evening sharing a very lovely chinese meal. Good old tree!! Bless her!


I'm totally knackered today as I've overdone it with the jungle bashing ... so I am really rather relieved to have a wet day to take a break from it and rest my poor bruised hands and aching shoulders. Our boundary is mostly a strip of woodland, nearly all deciduous stuff, some really lovely specimen trees such as cedar and scots pine, some beautiful old beech, horse chestnut, both white and my favourite pink ones, limes, cherry, elder, field maple and sycamour and something called a wayfarers tree which is evergreen, plus a few mystery ones which I haven't identified yet.

 Last winter we cleared the ivy and thinned out the small stuff along the North side. For the last couple of weeks we've been clearing the ivy and thinning the woods on the East and South sides.  It's really hard work, great on a cold day, and I have to say hugely satisfying seeing the result of our efforts. It's fun discovering bits of our land for the first time!

Ivy, bramble and saplings have done their own thing for decades and so we are now doing battle to try and get it all under control before we are taken over like Sleeping Beauties castle.  Peter does the big stuff with the chainsaw and I hack wildly at everything else with my machete thing, loppers and handsaw. I'm a bit of an expert now at chopping down saplings with my machete - it's just a matter of bending them and slashing through the bend, cuts through like butter if you get it just right, very satisfying. Not so good is the way stuff flicks back and whips you round the face or legs, and yesterday I suffered the indignity of falling over backwards when something stubborn suddenly gave way, I don't thin anyone saw me fortunately.

We had an Arborist come and survey the trees, sadly our biggest and most beautiful beech has to be felled urgently as it's diseased, apparently could come down anytime and is close to a road.  Monday is the scheduled day for the tree surgeons to take it down, I'll miss all the excitement as I'm studying paca poo under microscopes all day .... shame, I really wanted to be there and I was hoping to get them to take pictures of our farm from the top of the tree before they cut it down as it looks out over all of it. At least we'll have plenty of firewood for a few years.


Now that we're all back to normal routines, may I please draw your attention to some really excellent seminars we have coming up over the next few weeks. Open to all.  Please contact me  to get booked on these days, they really they are too good an opportunity to miss. There's something for everyone, from the very new to the very experienced. Gain knowledge and a deeper understanding. The seminars are not expensive, especially when you consider the amount we all spend on our alpacas.

(I did have one query today from someone wanting to know if the Alpaca Evaluation and the Breeders Seminar overlapped - this is the response from Nick Harrington-Smith who is a lecturer for both days.)

"There may be some overlap but that is always the case.  The BAS one day course is designed to give a basic understanding of those traits that are of importance in a breeding programme, however it is probably more pertinent to say that its main objective is to make people start thinking about the why’s and wherefores’ in respect of fleece characteristics.
The breeder’s day will cover some of this by necessity, but will focus heavily on issues that are of importance and that can be readily influenced by careful and informed breeding decision-making.

Both courses will only give brief oversight in to trait evaluation and can be but a start in any learning process.  Alpaca breeding is complex, understanding fleece even more so, therefore repetition is both necessary and useful, and will always prove beneficial.  All the BAS tutors will tell you that we learn something every time we give a course."

Saturday 4th February 2012 "Alpaca Evaluation" with Liz Barlow
We have one of our British Judge Liz Barlow coming to Meon Valley Alpacas to give the new one day British Alpaca Society (BAS) Alpaca Evaluation for Breeders Course. Limited to just 12 places, this is a fabulous days education, not to be missed, all classroom based, so we will be cosy in the training room whatever the weather's doing outside - lunch and refreshments included. Please get in touch to find out more and book your place soon. £60 per person plus vat and including lunch.

Saturday 3rd March 2012 "An Introduction to Alpacas" with Karen & Peter Oglesby
Alpaca management how to look after alpacas day to day and routine husbandry to keep them healthy. We cover vaccinations, worming, toenail trimming, teeth care, nutrition and feeding, shearing, biosecurity, breeding. Learning takes place in the lecture room and on our farm with the alpacas.
Financial considerations whether keeping a couple as field pets or when starting up an alpaca business.
Handling systems - a look around Meon Valley Alpacas to see how we run our herd, discussing fencing, catch areas, shelters, field maintenance, farm set-up and equipment etc.
Fleece and conformation - what to look for when buying an alpaca. Alpaca assessments- a practical session with hands-on look and feel of the differences in conformation and fleece.
Viewing of Meon Valley Sale alpacas.
The course fee of £40 per person £60 per couple which includes lunch and refreshments. The day starts at 10 am and finishes around 4 pm.Courses fill quickly, so please check for availability and request a booking form. We're also happy to give courses tailor made to suit your requirments... perhaps on halter training, identifying fleece characteristics and how to skirt a fleece, or preparation for a show, etc. If you would like a private course then please contact us to arrange a date. Cost for a half day £100 per family. 

Saturday 10th March 2012 "Training your alpaca for Shows" with Jay Holland
This is a one day course taken by Judge and Qualified Camelidynamics Alpaca Trainer Jay Holland. Training Alpacas for Showing and Show Etiquette. very much a hands-on with the alpacas and will be fun and fascinating. £60 plus vat per person including lunch.

Wednesday 28 March 2012 "Breeders Seminar" with Nick Harrington-Smith
We are hosting a one day Seminar for the Southern Alpaca Group which is top be given by International Judge Nick Harrington Smith which is designed to help better understand how to select and breed successfully for the bloodstock market and the fibre industry. Gain an insight into the importance and relationship of those traits most important to all markets. £60 per person including lunch.


When it eventually got light this morning my first sight was of our garden bench up-side-down in the fish pond - still very windy then - thankfully it hadn't killed any of our fish in the process or the little fountain thingy.

I had a second year Vet student with me today and after the morning feed round and a cup of coffee we spent quite a while handling the weanlings, getting them used to having their legs touched and picked up which was really useful.  Then we got all chubbies from the weight watchers field in to the yard for condition scoring and weighing. The two real porkers Orchid and Medina are still scoring 11/10, I think I'll have to send them to Zumba or invent a treadmill for fat alpacas getting them to produce electricity or something - no wonder I can never get them pregnant.  Cassandra is pretty fat too at 9/10 at least she's pregnant though.  None of them needed to change groups and will stay on their diet of Camelibra and very little hay and their eaten down field.
New group of weanlings

Midlington - had a fringe trim so he can see out now

All very calm and quiet - no crying for mums in this group

Then we brought in the rest of the females and cria. Most of the cria are now huge and 5 or 6 months, the mums were mostly fine, but a couple of them had lost a bit of condition which settled my decision to wean the rest of our cria right there and then.

We hatched a plan to move the first weanling group down to the yard, mix them up with the new group and put them all back out again, but with the high winds under their tails the first group just wouldn't co-operate so we changed to Plan B which was to leave the new weanlings in the yard with a couple of stables to go in until we have more helpers.

Meanwhile Peter has been working away on our trees, getting rid of the Ivy, all a bit dodgy in the wind - we heard a tremendous crack, like gunfire, as a tree up on the hill behind us came down. I do think we've had enough of this rough stuff now - can we have some calm, frosty, sunny days please?


The skies are blue now and the wind has died right down but at lunchtime today I thought the world may indeed come to an end in 2012... torrential horizontal rain and very strong winds bashed us about for hours. And then suddenly it was all over and the sun came out.  Watching the radar on was quite exciting, heavy rain, usually dark read, on this occasion was a line of almost black crossing over us.

We had an arborculturalist (can't spell that) (tree man) come and inspect our trees, I was actually amazed we had any left standing, but they were, even the dodgy looking ones. Thankfully he was delayed and 2 hours late, so we walked the boundary in the dry.  He's going to do a survey, expensive, and then recommend we get some taken down, very expensive, and then thin some out, expensive and then lay a hedge ...  I don't think so!


Well here we are in 2012 ... got a good sound to it I think, I prefer years with even numbers - I wish us all a very happy, healthy, lucky, wise and prosperous year.

Not been much going on here over the last couple of weeks, well not unless you count Christmas of course....    Rebecca and I had our usual holiday walk challenge - to take the dogs somewhere different every day, I think we managed it and we even discovered a few new walks, all within 2/3 miles of our village. We're very lucky that we live in such beautiful countryside with lots of footpaths and bridle paths to follow. Not so good is that the inside of my car is now covered in mud and Jazz's slobber - yuck.

One of our Xmas walks - looking out over the Meon Valley from Old Winchester Hill
We've done a bit of halter training on the weanlings, when they've been dry, they're coming along nicely now and beginning to walk after just a few 5 minute sessions. Keen to get the first batch going before we wean the next lot, which may be this week, depending on the weather,  as I have to find something to do with a Vet student whose spending the day with us - can't make the poor girl pick up poo the whole day!

First both alpaca (Treasure) and handler (Rebecca) have to be relaxed!
I spent ages yesterday updating our website, always tricky, as I usually get something technical wrong - this time I couldn't understand why some of the links didn't work - only to learn that I had to refresh it's pages on my computer to get rid of the old cache - whatever that means! Anyway, our course dates are up on it - all very exciting - with 3 visiting Judges, Liz Barlow, Nick Harrington-Smith and Jay Holland all giving fantastic training days with us, lots of opportunity to learn masses about alpacas -  plus our own Beginners Course - don't forget to refresh the page if you can't see them!

Bobby Dazzler getting used to his head collar 

Yasmina looking relaxed on her head collar 

Yasmina learning to walk

Just 5 mins once a day for a week

The Sorcerer waiting for his turn