Saturday, 31 January 2009

Oh What A Week

Suffice to say this has been a tough week. I was very lucky in respect of the storm damage here but at the start of the week, I had another alpaca die. Totally different symptoms to the others but sadly the same outcome. I am now at my wits end trying to find out why this is happening and why my alpacas will not put on any weight.

I have been through many reasons and have been told many conflicting 'solutions'. Loosing my beautiful Theo so soon after Ashan has knocked my self confidence greatly.

Since the vets here have no idea as to what has killed them, I've arranged for an autopsy on Theo and am now awaiting the results of that. Robin at Utopian alpacas has been really helpful again; we've been through possible causes and our current thought is liver fluke, although why he should have got it when the others have been here for longer is something we haven't' a reason for. Until the results come back though it's all speculation.

Robin has also put me in touch with an alpaca breeder, Leah, who lives about an hour north of here. She has very kindly agreed to come down next week to go through things with me and see if there is something I am doing that is wrong, to look at the land and to look at the hay. Local farmers have said the hay is fine but their experience is with cattle so maybe...

Tonight though I'm suffering from backache; I've spent most of the day helping a neighbouring farmer in his orchards. He had around 900 trees blown over in the storm and the local farmers have been working on his property for the last couple of days.

Yesterday I made a couple of chewy chocolate cakes for the communal meal this lunchtime while this morning found me in the orchard with about 20 other farmers. Everything was in swing. There was a group collecting and distributing 6 ft log posts to each prostrate tree, then the next group of 3 or four would move down the rows with a bucket-less digger. The digger arm was used to press the post 3-3.5 ft into the ground and then they moved on. After them came another ground with a digger (because they are tracked they coped better on the land which is totally saturated), a strap was placed round the tree and it was hauled back to vertical and then strapped to the post.

After that the tree was heavily pruned and then came me, along with Ann and another friend, N, and our job was dragging all the branches to the middle of the track-ways so they could be bulldozed out of the way.

It was interesting again that none of the French wives worked in the orchard, their job was to prepare the mid-day lunch, it's still quite sexist here. Being single and a farmer I think I honorary male, especially after I did the tractor run to the plum drying cooperative back in the summer

Part way through the morning we had a visitation, the Conseil General - the department's general council - arrived along with their official photographer, the local mayor and photographers and reporters from 2 regional papers.

Lunch tile came and about 30 of us sat down for lunch at the village hall and in typical French fashion it was simple and yet a feast at the same time. A vegetable based soup that was delicious made by one of the men from the village as his contribution as he was unable to help in the orchard due to having his knee smashed by a kicking cow.

Then there was grated carrot and macadonie (mixed veg) served cols but mixed with vinaigrette, surrounded by quartered hard boiled eggs. It was a feast for the eyes as well as the body, oh and there was home-made mayonnaise too.

After that the main course was roast pork and creamed potatoes. I dread to think what the calorific value of the potatoes might have been, I know that they contained butter, milk and creme fraiche. Delicious.

Then came the lettuce with an enormous platter of cheeses and after that the dessert accompanied the coffee.

After that it was back to the orchard for another hour or so before I had to leave to do my chores here. I have to say there is something really heart-warming seeing how so many people here are turning out to help their neighbours. There is still community spirit, one of the reasons I wanted to move here.

Looking at the amount of work that is building up here, I think I'm only going to be blogging once a week, partly because a lot of the work is going to be very repetitive and partly because I think I'm going to be rather tired by the end of the day and I need to use what time I have for research.

As I'm probably not going to be blogging tomorrow, Happy Imbolic to those who celebrate it.


Anonymous said...

I don't recall how I first came upon your blog, but I've been following your amazing work for some time. I just wanted to tell you that you are AMAZING! And, to say how sorry I am that another alpaca died :-( I'll be hoping someone can help find the cause. Blessed Imbolc to you as well!

Barbara Martin said...

How awful another one of your alpacas has died. I hope you find the solution. It may be the hay or are they drinking enough water? Do you add salt to their diets so they drink more? I'm thinking more like a horse owner (which I am), but I did have problems with a few horses some years back when they ate alfalfa hay that was perfect for cattle, but not horses as it is too rich for their systems. Please let us know what the outcome is. Take care, Deborah, and make certain you get your rest. I had 160 acres once to take care of and I know what its like to be run off your feet with chores.

Mickle in NZ said...

Oh Deborah, I hope some good comes from the autopsy.

I'm struggling to get my mind around 900 trees being blown out onf the ground. What a wonderful community you live in with the way everyone rallies round to help.

I doubt I'd have been capable of any physical work after that magnificient lunch.

Hoping all goes well for you for the rest of this winter.

Care and huggles to you and the cats, Michelle

(Daft Zebby is purring away to himself after the joy of a tummy rub. As he is combining this with washing his face it sounds very odd)

Living the Dream said...

Oh my goodness, I am finally catching up with your goings-on and what a time you are having. So sorry to hear about the alpacas, I hope you find out the cause very soon. I will keep popping back to your blog to see if you find out the cause. I would say try not to work too hard and look after yourself, but knowing you, that is probably very difficult

Debra in France said...

Hi Deborah, I am so sorry to hear your awful news. You must be devastated. I hope that you get some positive news from the autopsy. It is such a worrying time for you. Big hugs Debra xxxxx

Unknown said...

Am very sorry to read about loss of your alpacas. Have u yet any idea? I need to read back more but have to go and feed mine at the moment,,,have u a forum to put up your issue to see i any suggestion from anywhere else> I had one last year with said poor prognosis and body score very low...she is still with us I am pleased to say,,,,I wrote about it last year..her name is Pocohontas...anyway i will read back see if u have details and rack my brain :)

SerenityView Alpaca Stud
Tasmania, Australia

Unknown said...

Also some trivia,,,,,an autopsy is for humans and a necropsy is for animals,, :))


Anonymous said...

Hi Deborah

Pleased you are ok after the storms i did think of you a couple of times and hoped you were ok

Such a shame the community spirit has gone from around here i know your life is hard but it sounds fun it must be nice to be accepted by the locals as an honorary farmer

Hope you get some answers about the alpacas soon and that it is easily sorted

Shaz mum of 2

dND said...

Thank you all for you kind comments, not answers as yet but I've had someone over and I now feel a lot happier. Alpacas will be going out to new fields as soon as possible and a couple will be having teeth trimmed. Not causes of the problems but won't be helping.

Jumbleberryjam, your decluttering sound brill, I love the fridge comment

Barbara, 160 acres! however did you manage? Weight loss might be hay but it's not the main problem. Hopefully once they are back out they'll get the sunlight they need and there should be enough grass too.

Mickle, the community spirit is one of the reasons I came to France. I think it now has a new buzz word in the USA and UK, it's called 'paying it forward' but in my day it was just help your fellow man. I think that in general we've become far too insular.

Hazel, it's lovely seeing you back in blog world, you take care too.

Michelle, I've not had time to read back through your blog yet, hopefully I will in a few weeks but it's now bookmarked so I'll be keeping up with you :-D
Like you I had a few problems at first with using autopsy but that's the word in France for both humans and animals.

Debra, thanks for the hug, losing animals is really hard, hopefully the autopsy will come up with something that will protect the others.

Shaz, lovely to hear from you again, hopefully I'll get back to MSE more often than in the last couple of weeks. I'm thinking of you all in the snow. I hope you're keeping warm