Plans– interrupted

The weekend, a chance to get away. This can be very important for me, as working on the farm day-in, day-out, can get a bit tiring. (There is no “time off”, as work projects are literally all around me.)

So Saturday we decided to go to the Karori wildlife sancutary, as it was “gold coin” entry this weekend (only $1 or $2 per person). Before we left I quickly popped up into the main paddock to give the girls a check, as we had one animal left on “mommy watch.” Harmony. Fat, fat harmony. She is 5, and has never had a cria (two “false pregnancies- “retained corpus leuteums”- previously). We had become quite convinced she was not pregnant, based on her immense obesity, and the fact that she was not showing at all.

The moment I came over the ridge, I could tell something was up by her body language. A few meters closer and I could see the nose just starting to come out. Here we go! 20 minutes later, we still had just a nose, and it was looking mightly tight. She could not get the head out. Calls were made. Julia, the vet, could not make it for at least 45 minutes. The transport box was not assembled (which takes 10-20 minutes), which meant if we wanted to get her to the vet quickly, it was going to be in the back of the Vitz.

We were just lining up to go in and make one last attempt to pull the baby out by hand, when Angela arrived. Yay! Having the owner there always takes the stress off when things are not going smoothly. Angela also had the smallest hands, and more experience with dystocias like this. She pushed the head back in, got a hand in and and pulled the front legs out, then used them to pull the whole head out. (It really helps to have something to grip onto, you can use the eye-sockets for a skull grip if you need to, but that obviously is not the first choice!) We let Harmony rest for 15 minutes, then pulled the baby the rest of the way out. A baby girl! Angela was very pleased.

An hour or so later the placenta was out, and Angela took them both home. Yay! Less for us to worry about. And the next thing we have to worry about is the storm racing northwards, with heavy rain and wind gusts up to 140 kph predicted. That should be fun. I will be cramming the girls and cria into the shed before I go to bed tonight, so that we can sleep well knowing they are all warm and dry.

Happy Solstice

Saturday was the solstice, so we had our midwinter party. I won’t say “our usual midwinter party”, because there were some differences. For one, it wasn’t pouring down rain, like it has been every other year. We had archery out in the Gallop paddock, and we set up the ger. A lot of the Usual Suspects were out of town (or on the way out of town, or on the way back into town), and conversely there were a bunch of new people along, so it was a slightly different mix of people. Finally, because we wanted to have stuff happen (like archery and alpaca viewing) that required daylight, but we also didn’t want to have everything wind up at 8, we tried a new two-party format.

The Day Party featured the aforementioned archery. It also featured some alpaca drama (because it had been four weeks, and we were due).

I’d fired all of maybe six arrows when Stephen came over the rise to tell me Tessa is unwell. We chivvied her down to the yards, where she presented with colic. Great. Just like all the other ones that have keeled over. We rang Julia. For better or worse, we’ve gotten to see enough alpacas with gut pain to tell that she’s not actually in as bad a shape as some we’ve seen, and indeed, the diagnosis was “spasmodic colic” — basically, stomach cramps, sort of like indigestion. We gave her some baking soda, upon which she let out a tremendous gurgling belch. Julia gave her a shot of painkillers, and ten minutes later she’s up and eating and back to her old self. whew. Julia hung out at the party for a bit — she had to miss a cat-fancier’s dinner for the call-out, so we plied her with drinks and snacks. I have to say it was a nice change to have one turn out alright. I’m sorry to all the folks who came to the day party that I didn’t get to spend time with, though.

In between the Day Party and the Night Party we had dinner: starting with a lovely light garden vegetable soup from Melanie, and transitioning to a delicious shoulder of venison from Zane, accompanied by roast veggies, potatoes, and an apple-cabbage salad from Helen. There was also a loaf of really yummy home-baked bread from Aidan, but we didn’t actually find it (in plain sight on the counter next to the fridge) until Sunday morning, so we got to eat that all ourselves. (oh, darn)

We got the ger set up for the Night Party:

The ger out back

…with carpets down and the brazier going in the middle. The problem was we wanted the door open so it would be easy to transition between the living room and the ger, but that had the effect of drawing more smoke out the door than through the smoke hole in the roof. Result: very smoky ger. Still, there was hanging out in there. Need to get furniture that lets you sit on the floor, and yet still provides back support. Hmmm…

Tim came down from New Plymouth again, and was an absolute legend. Before the party, while Stephen and I were cleaning and organizing, he vacuumed the house to within an inch of its life. He spent a good chunk of the evening playing Mull-Meister in the kitchen, and then helped me clean up after everyone had left and Stephen had pumpkined. *smooch* Thanks, Tim! The mulled wine was the recipe he served to his theater buddies in Qatar, and it was, indeed, scrummy.

Note: This is about the best photo I managed to get of Tim, and note that that’s actually Traveler on the left there — Tim’s the one on the right:

Traveller and Tim, mulling wine

Overall, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. I’m not sure how I feel about the two-part format, myself. It was nice to get to do stuff in daylight, and it was definitely worth it to get to see people who just couldn’t have made it otherwise, but on the other hand, the sort of continual smear of arrivals and departures meant that there were a bunch of people who came to the party, but all missed each other. Dunno. Will have to get more feedback. If you came, what did you think ?

PS: I tried again on Sunday to get photographic documentation of Tim, and this is about the best of those, in part because Tim is constitutionally incapable of smiling for the camera, and in part because my camera is constitutionally incapable of taking an in-focus photo indoors. Additional note for those who keep track of such things: the cats approve of Tim, even if he doesn’t let them have his biltong:

Tim and Slow

Pick a good day…

So, the nasty weather arrived about 8-12 hours later than predicted, and yesterday morning the fun began. Gale force southerly winds and sleeting rain. (Thankfully the rain was never that intense, but our weather station was recording 100kph gusts.) I was glad to have the shed to put Angela’s girls (including the day-old cria) in. You don’t want a new baby outside on a day like that!

So, at 10 AM I went to check on them- only to find head-and-legs sticking out of Cadence! What a day to have a cria! After 25 minutes of watching there had been no progress, and I had no idea how long she had been head-and-legs out (last check had been 2 hours previous), time to lend a hand! With a bit of gentle pulling whenever she had a contraction, we got the baby out over the next 5 minutes- a beautiful little black Suri girl! Needless to say Angela was very excited when I told her.

So the baby got toweled off and had a warm cover put on her. Later in the day, when she was no quick to stand, I decided to bottle feed her some colostrum to make sure she had the energy to get going. All seems to have gone well. She was up and about the morning, and mothers and cria were all happy to be released from their shed-prison back into the paddock. Watching day-old cria trying to figure out how “up” and “down” work on a hillside is comedy gold.

A strange light

We have more agisted girls on “mommy watch” right now, and yesterday one of them (Mahara, a big black girl) dropped her cria- and adorable black Suri boy. She was very lucky with the weather, as it was still, sunny and warm- quite unusual for mid-June! But a check of the forecast showed rain coming, with predicted cold southerlies and rain overnight, so Mahara, her cria, and Angela’s two other girs all got to spend the night in the shed.

Just before going to bed I popped out to check them, and walked into a spooky world. Thick fog had set in, it was perfectly still, and a near-full moon shown directly overhead. The whole world was suffused with a pale blue light. The fog muffled all sound, except for occasional eirie and unusual bird calls in the darkness. Tam and I walked up into Home paddock to visit our girls. You could barely see the big high voltage tower on the other side of the paddock, and weirdly it was harder to see if you looked directly at it, it came through more clearly out of the corner of the eye. Pretty creepy.

It was the sort of night where you expect werewolves, or shambling zombies, or for all the alpaca to turn around with red glowing eyes. It’s too bad that film cameras could not capture the effect, because words really fail to describe it.

Thanks, Peak Oil!

So as some of you may have noticed, petroleum prices have gone up a wee bit. This means that the oil fields in the waters around NZ are actually worth doing something with.

That, in turn, has brought my friend Tim — an old friend from the semester I did at Edinburgh — down to New Plymouth, to teach the people working on the off-shore drilling rigs useful life skills, like how to get out of a helicopter that has just ditched in the sea, without drowning or being decapitated by the rotors. This involves strapping your victims students into a mock-up helicopter chassis and tipping them into a swimming pool. Apparently, the training used to feature a wave machine, a firehose, and a strobe-light as well, but someone decided that much verisimilitude was “mean”.

Anyway, in the course of trying to find something to do with his weekends in New Plymouth, Tim spotted my name on one of the local SCA websites, and got in touch. We finally managed to have him down this past weekend. Yay ! Thanks, Peak Oil !

We lucked out with the weather, so he got to see Wellington in the sun, with the boaties out doing their thing, and when the weather turned horrid Saturday night, we had the usual suspects over board games. We established that despite lots of stuff happening to both of us in the more-than-a-decade it’s been since we saw each other last, neither of us has had any radical shifts in personality or tastes. I’ve been assured that New Plymouth compares favorably to Yemen and Nigeria (although the architecture in Yemen makes up for a lot).

Sunday, Stephen and Tim went to Te Papa, while Emily and I oggled at astrolabes built into finger rings and accoutrements for your stint as Galactic Empress at the jewelry show. (Aside to so-called “avant garde” artists: taking random bits of rubbish and presenting them as “art”, or “a statement” has Been Done. A lot. It’s not clever anymore.)

Yes, I completely failed to get photos. But Tim’s promised to come back down for the mid-winter party next week, so I’ll try to get some then.