So, the lab tests came back- food poisoning (campylobacter). Seeing as I am the cook, this was a self-inflicted illness. Perhaps I should get out of the habit of licking the knife clean after cutting up the chicken?

Nothing says Christmas like– Pirates!

So, these last two weekends we have been in local Christmas parades. Once again we reprised our roles as pirates, and had a great time. Robert, the guy who runs Westside Studios and organizes the floats for the parade, made us a special new pirate ship this year. We were part of a double float, with the newly refurbished “Black Pearl” hooked up directly behind (and thus chasing and fighting with) the blue “Vicotry”.

The pirates were better dressed than our badly outnumbered English opponents.

The Wellington parade on the 18th was all very orderly, to the point where we were not allowed to hand chocolate gold coins out to the kids for “safety reasons”. Barriers had been erected along the parade route. The day was beautiful, and they estimate 60,000 people turned up, which is pretty good considering the whole region only has a population of 400,000! The waist-high barriers were fine, but towards the end of the parade they were using 7′ barriers, and it felt more like parading through a prison camp.
The Hutt Christmas parade on the 24th was a bit more chaotic. There were no safety barriers. The crowd was mobbed in the street, in places we could barely squeeze through and the ground-based pirates (who were allowed to hand out sweets) could not walk alongside the float in places due to the press of people.  We are lucky some little kid didn’t go under the wheels.

Before the second parade Robert thanked us for our pirating. With our costumes and all we are now one of the flashiest floats in the parade. He offered us the loan of the pirate ship float if we wanted it for a party or something in the future. Pretty cool! I don’t know what I would use a priate ship float for, but the offer is certainly appreciated!

Sick- bleah

I am a grumpy sick person. I don’t like being sick. On the up side, my body is very good about just putting itself in standby mode, letting me sleep the sick away. Better than being awake and miserable. I don’t get sick much.Probably due to a healthy outdoor lifestyle (minor contribution), and a lack of human contact in said lifestyle (major contribution).
This sick is remarkable, as it actually made me think about going to see the doctor, something I have not done for an illness in 20 years. I am feeling a bit better this morning, though, so I think I may hold hold off on the call.

I managed to be well enough last night to attend the AWN (American Women’s Network) annual Thanksgiving dinner, which was quite nice. Ended up sitting next to Michael, a nicen fellow from SF who is now the art director for Weta. Looks like he and his wife will be coming over to see our alpaca sometime. 🙂

Had a bit of a fright Wednesday night, as Zahir was a bit crook. Alpac a are sufficienly stoic that by the time they show symptms, they are pretty darn sick. At first we thought it might be Haemonchus contortus- barbers pole worm. This is a nasty blood sucking worm which is really deadly. Now I think it was just a case of normal intestinal worms. We drenched everyone, and (fingers crossed) all seems to be well now. Now it is just a matter of checking the ‘paca regularly, and waiting for the next female to unpack!

A full week

The last 12 days have been quite full. The shock of Ferrari”s sudden death slowly wore off. He was with us such a short time, we really didn’t have a chance to become attached.

In a case of good timing, last weekend was the AlpacaExpo07, the big “shindig” event held at the Mystery Creek events center. Andy, our friend from Dunedin, used us as a rest stop on his journey north with 5 alpaca, staying the night Thursday. We drove up most of the way Friday night. Saturday morning we dropped by an alpaca farm outside Tauranga (about 90 minutes from Mystery Creek) before heading to the expo. There we looked at a stud for sale. We had been looking at him on and off for a year or so (owners are selling up, retiring, and moving to Queensland Australia where it is always very warm). He seems to have the trait that is our #1 breeding goal- he maintains his feece fineness as he ages.

It was impossible to directly compare him to Ferrari, as there was a 6 year age gap. But Frederick looks pretty good. I think he will be a good addition to the genetic makeup of our herd.

The Expo itself was fun. We saw lots of nice animals, and caught up with breeders we know from all over the country. I also did another of my “stick your hand in the box” experiments, using a 4-chamber box with different fiber samples. I wanted to see if we could determine what relative contributions fineness and standard deviation of the mean fineness play in the perception of handle. I need to type the results in and do some basic statistics.

Monday we took a long and leisurely drive back from the Expo. We started by driving out west to Raglan, on the coast of Waikato. From there we headed south taking little roads, many of them unsealed. Beautiful country, but quite remote. In one area there was quite a bit of road damage and other evidence of flooding. Stopping in Maracopa (permanent population- 34, plus lots of holiday baches) we found out that the previous week they had 15 minches of rain in a day! That would certainly cause some flooding.

We got home 5 seconds behind Kate, a breeder from outside Christchurch who was staying with us Monday night (along with her 4 black alpaca). Kate is a very fun person, and knows heaps about alpaca as she has been judging shows for many years now. She passed her judge’s eye over our herd, and she really liked Hyouki, Concetta’s first cria (the “blond boy”. We had been hoping to register him as a stud, because we thought he looked good. Getting confirmation from a neutral (and skilled) third party is always encouraging.

There was also an amusing moment when Kate looked over the fence at the girl herd and went “is that you Galadriel?” Turns out she was Galadriel’s first owner in NZ. Small world!

This week culminated with 2 solid days of shearing. We shore 15 animals Thursday, and 16 on Friday. I guess soon we will have to get the equipment and gain the skills to do some of this ourselves. On the whole the boys were easy; some of the girls were spitters/screamers/widdlers. This is probably due to a combination of the fact that the boys get handled a lot more, and most of the girls are pregnant, which makes them grumpy.

Oh yeah. One other thing. At 11:15 this (Saturday) morning, Joy dropped a beautiful little golden baby boy. Our first Heir cria. The birth was easy and without compications- just how we like it!

Season's first cria!

Like Lightning

So, on Sunday our new stud male arrived- Sterling Rose Ferrari.  He was the product of about 6 months of searching and data gathering. Back at the beginning of October Tam flew up to Auckland to give him and his cria a final check-over. He looked good on paper, in person, and through his progeny. We took a leap and contracted to use him across all of our females this year, as he seemed to carry and pass on both the primary traits we are breeding for strongly.

He arrived Sunday. On Monday we integrated him in with the boy mob. No problems. He actually lay down and took a nap about 20 minutes after getting mixed in (at first it had to be a round of frantic butt-sniffing). A very mellow dude.
Today he died.

I went out to check him just after lunch, and found him down and in very bad shape. I think he was pretty much dead at that point, and what reponses I was getting were just autonomic nerve reflexes. It took about 15 minutes to get Charlene over with her Gator (a big 4×6 version of a quad bike) which has a carry tray so we could get him off the back hill and up to the front of the property. He died on the ride.

Yvonne was there, and was super helpful. She gave me a ride to the vet where we did a post mortem on Ferrari. The PM took about 30 seconds, as the fault was immediately apparent- he had a twisted bowel. That sort of “intestinal accident” is unpredictable, and there is nothing you can really do about it. It probably occured and killed him in the space of a few hours (between when I saw him at 7:30 AM and he was fine, and 12:30 PM when he was minutes from death), and even if we had caught him earlier, it would not have mattered. The only way to fix that sort of twisted bowel is imediate abdominal surgery. The sympoms he would have had (colic) would have resulted in treatments (muscle relaxants and painkillers) that would have been ineffective, and he would still be dead.

Like a bolt of lighting- it could not be predicted, prevented, or remedied. He lay dead surrounded by a mob of perfectly healthy animals.
I brought him back and buried him in our ‘paca graveyard, next to Chris and Floppy.

Chuck, Ferrari’s owner, was shocked, but quite supportive. He immediately stated that he didn’t think we were to blame (confirmed an hour later at the PM). We will see him this weekend when we go up to the Alpaca Expo in Hamilton. While Ferrari was insured by Chuck, the money can’t really replace the quality traits he had.
Needless to say this has us a bit blue. More than that it has completely screwed our breeding plans for this year. Thankfully many of our girls are not due until much later in the season (March), so we will have time to try and find another stud. Of course, most studs are already booked for the season by now. While we do have Heir (the one we used last year), we would prefer to use other genetics this year. A mad scrabble of improvisation looms in our future.

Tasty Noxious Weeds

Saturday night we were invited to a housewarming/early Guy Fawkes celebration at Robyn and Selwyns place in Churton park. They have a nice little townhouse, and two very large cats. (Mmmmm, good eatin’ there) In the back yard Kerry spotted some bananna passion  fruit vines growing in the trees running up the steep bank behind their place. With a bit of effort, including Ben climbing up a tree to whack at them with a stick, we collect 4 ripe fruit. Very tasty. Too bad they are a horrible invasive plant that must be eradicated.

Apparently there is much more actual edible fruit than in “real” passion fruit.

And Selwyn got to indulge in his fit of annual pyromania, and set off a bunch of fireworks in his back yard.