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.