Monday, 30 December 2013

Toft breeding albino squirrels... .?

Will you look at this remarkable and very unique chap. He is running around the trees at Toft Alpacas, bold as brass and whiter than fresh cream. I don't know what the frequency is of albino squirrels but we certainly feel very privileged having seen our first 

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Toft Alpaca Christmas Open Day

It was all happening at Toft today with all the family helping out to make the day a huge success. Uncle Keith and Auntie Lorna ran the meet and greet and car parks like seasoned professionals although Uncle Keith was disguised as an Eewok.
Auntie Sandra was on Edward duty and Douglas his Dad hovered and lingered to great effect. Jenny and Georgie provided the splendiferous catering on the Morning Glory bus. The old folks lingered with intent with my Mum  Audrey dressed like Santas little helper and my Dad John dressed like Greengrass on an off day!
My wonderful mother in law Myra busied herself helping everyone who needed it.
Shirley and I and Linda hovered around the 2012 girls talking alpaca and Shirley took two huge trips of enthusiasts for a farm walk.
Cheryl, Emma, and Safari took the Christmas alpaca workshops, whilst Kerry, Claire and Harriett handles yarns and shopping.
A busy but amazing day in which the weather held up miraculously and of course the fat man in the red coat turned up twice to provide a little Chritmas cheer.
Thanks to everyone who made the day happen and special thanks to the 250 people who came and enjoyed our Toft Alpaca Christmas Open Day.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Oh happy days....

All day in Milton Keynes shopping with young Eddie and Dandma. Shopping- minimal. Fun -maximum. Lunch in Pizza Express, Dinner in Jamie's, snacks at Pret a Manger. What a busy day. The boy has taste! Alpacas eat your heart out!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

No prizes for guessing what I am doing on Saturday?

No prizes for guessing what I am doing at the Toft Alpaca Christmas Farm open day on Saturday! 
The last time I did this Kerry was at nursery school. At least I can honestly say I have grown into the part! Ho, ho,  ho!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Who's a clever herds woman ????

Here's a happy Toft Alpaca herds woman who has just shown she has hidden talents. No wonder she is grinning she made that today at the Toft Studio Christmas flower arranging. 
We have two if these a year, the first was today the second tomorrow but for Linda it will be back to the alpacas. Let's hope she is not tempted to turn the hay racks into works of art. Well done Linda every picture tells a story and this one is yours for today- merry Christmas!

It must be Christmas...

There I am knocking me end in sorting out the hedges on the new paddocks on a Sunday morning like you do. I returned at lunchtime to find these smart boys lying on the studio floor. 
Shirley and Linda our herds woman are taking part in a Christmas flower arranging workshop in the Toft Alpaca Studio. Linda was so proud of her achievement she insisted on a photie, 
Run by  Jane Fox the Christmas  workshop is an annual tradition and is like a production line where the  participants  produce all their Yuletide wreaths, table decorations etc. Look at this lot. They look a damn sight better than my hedges. There again you don't make these with a chainsaw!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

No alpacas here then?

There can't be any views of London that beats those which delight you as you walk accords Waterloo bridge at 9.00am on a Sunday morning- perfick
It's only when you get a treat like this, which I did at the weekend you realise you've been on the farm a long time.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

I shall miss BINKS he made me laugh

I'm short two good chuckles a day from today. JA JA BINKS has finished his holiday at Toft Alpacas and returns home today. He's been resident in our quarantine paddocks whilst his owners were abroad on holiday.
If there was ever an example of the most perfect pet alpaca it must be BINKS. His markings are astonishing and you can't help but smile when you see him standing there all presence and charisma thinking he has a chance as a stud alpaca. Having said that if one bred a line of Bink's people would be fighting each other to take them home as pets. 'Twas ever thus!
 I shall miss him. He made me laugh every time I passed him on my rounds-so that was at least two chuckles a day I am down.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

What's this -suns shining and no mating?

The weather turned so mild at the weekend the Toft Alpacas Stud males were beginning to stir again and spent all Saturday hovering over the fence looking for talent. 
Be patient boyos. The job was done a while back. Spring will come soon enough and there's a lot of weather to get through before then methinks.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Toft Alpacas cutting grass in December???

Can you believe it? It's the 1st of December and I spent this morning cutting the last 4 acres of grass on the new land we have taken on.  
We have just taken on another 14 acres of grazing at Toft which adjoins our current pasture. The down side is - it probably hasn't been grazed for 5 or 6 years which means the grass is three to four  feet high and the ground ridged with huge mounds of tussock. So it's out with the flail, choose a low gear and contemplate life for a couple of hours as I slowly move through the paddock cutting it for the first time in ages.
 The conditions were perfect this  morning so it just had to be done. When the rain comes again it probably won't stop until the ground is unworkable so it just had to be done. Three weeks until Xmas and I'm cutting grass? Incredible. 
Made a lovely job though. Just the hedges to cut back over the next few months so we can see the fenceline and the fences to put right and we might just get some alpacas on it by Easter!

Friday, 29 November 2013

If the truck won't come to the bench then the bench must go to the truck

The Chosen Men obviously got a little bored being chained to the bench whilst we were shunting things around in the truck. So well it makes sense ' if the truck won't come to the bench then we'll take the bench to the truck'. Sound!

Thursday, 28 November 2013

What a lovely looking grey alpaca- meet Bradley Wiggins!

There are some alpacas that just stand out. In humans it's called charisma. We alpaca judges tend to talk about presence. This intermediate boy certainly has it. He belongs to Du Prem alpacas and is currently living in our quarantine facility before he goes to live  in France. 
Every time I pass he seems to stand to attention and offer his best side looking for a photo opportunity. Well today I obliged. One must. There really would be no point in keeping alpacas if you didn't enjoy just looking at them.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Startled Suris ...

No matter how elegant they appear in full fleece - until it gets there the Suris always look as if they fell into their fleece by accident giving them a permanently startled look. These two wee juniors are no different and are badly in need of some hair wax and a comb!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Who put that new fence there then?

Cold night last night with thick frost in the early morning. Caught this pic of the weaners looking over an 'imaginary fence' ? Those straight lines even as shadows need to be obeyed!

Monday, 25 November 2013

A hacking,slashing and burning weekend...

Much thanks to Paul Beswick of Du Prem alpacas who gave up his Saturday to give me a hand cutting back the overgrown hedges on a new parcel of land we have taken on at Toft. 
This new addition to the Toft Alpaca Stud will be a real bonus and is self contained which will enhance our general farm biosecurity and once we have cut the grass a dozen times the alpacas will love it!
It's about 14 acres and directly adjoins our farm which is the upside. However the downside is it hasn't been grazed for at least six or more likely possibly eight years. The grass and weeds were four foot high last weekend but six hours with tractor and flail mower made short work of that to enable us to see the fences.
Much hacking and slashing at the weekend means we can now at least see the fence in one of the fields. That's the good news, the bad news is there  are three fields and the other two need a bit more work than the one we started on.
Once we can see the fences then we can repair them. I think this is definitely called work in progress and there are no prizes for guessing what I shall be doing every spare minute over the winter.
The burning however was a disaster, three cans of paraffin, much huffing and puffing and not a sustained fire in sight. As a good Boy Scout I was very miffed I indeed, hey ho the burning will wait for another day.
Thanks again Paul - you'll be as fit as a butchers dog come the spring if you keep at it!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

I've got mine, have you got yours?

Remember these? When I was a kid people used to kill for these. They are called records and after the tape, cd, mp3, and I tune explosion I never thought we'd see the like again.
But here we are our talented daughter Laura aka Femme is selling records and what a record. It's blood coloured and heart shaped and look it has artwork.... Fabarooney.
We have got the signed number one vinyl from Femme!  It's so beautiful I want to frame it and put it on my wall.
Well done that girl -way to go!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

BINKS is back !

Some eight or nine years ago we gave birth at Toft Alpacas to the most amazing Multicoloured alpaca who looked like someone has poured a jar of double cream over his head and slowly let it run down his body. The children were delighted and he was duly named JA JA  BINKS after a character in Star Wars. Needless to say he went off to make a very attractive pet. 
He returned to a Toft Alpacas this weekend for a two week holiday in our isolation paddocks with two of his mates. As you can see he has turned into a magnificent alpaca, not suited to the pure colour on colour breeding policy at Toft Alpacas but a truly magnificent feature in his own right.
It is ironic that after 16 years of selective breeding pedigree alpacas with pure colour it is  BINKS who still gets all the photies! Vive la difference!

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Heavy hedges

Autumn May be shuffling aside to make room for winter but the hedges are still laden with the wild fruits of summer. Sloes glisten in tempting bundles and ash keys hang like chandeliers whilst the hawthorn hangs its stall out for any hungry flier. Winter will force its way to the table soon but hopefully not until we have had our fill of these still November days.
Do the alpacas notice any of this? I doubt it, they are far too busy chomping in quiet serenity laying down their stores to face the challenges ahead. Me? I'm just a little drunk on the simple beauty of the change.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Toft fairies are busy...

Skidding around on the quad with the 'chosen men' this morning after a week off farm it was clear to see that the Fairies had been working very hard. There are rings of extremely large toadstools all over the place but sadly I didn't clock a  single fairie!

Friday, 8 November 2013

Don't you just love autumn?

These are the colours of dying bonfires which make a timely entrance to herald the changing of the leaves. In the USA they call it the fall. Why ever would you call it anything else? 
It does what it says and sums up the major drama of the next four weeks.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Big boys Bondy night!

Young Eddie Lord and his Dad enjoying the Thurlaston bonfire on November the fifth. What? Of course he was aware that his countrymen were burning pound notes in celebration of the fact that we had foiled  a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament  in 1605. Get real. 
What one year old Englishman doesn't know such a thing? 

Monday, 4 November 2013

Big girl in the shed...

We are so busy at Toft that it is all hands to the pump. Shirley is now doing regular stints in the sorting shed knee deep in alpaca fleece for eight hours at a stretch. We've got to keep that luxury alpaca yarn coming through the TOFT studio somehow, come rain or shine.
Here we are on a mission getting some fleece out of the shed pretty smartish to be burnt. This load came in from a breeder infested with moths which is a strict no no in the sorting shed or in fact anywhere on the farm so it's off to the bonfire with that lot.
Look at my soulmate up there on the back of the truck like a teenager. Like my mother in law the big girl has the heart of a lion and knows no fear in her determination to get the job done. Feed her regular, let her watch Strictly, The Paradise and Downton and she keeps on running like a Duracell bunny!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Storm? What storm?

Our alpacas are as bemused as us today. After all the storm warnings, yesterday was certainly an anti climax. Sure it rained most of Monday night and it got a bit blowey but certainly nothing to write home about. 
The alpacas weren't impressed at all and took it all in their stride and looked magnificent this morning -early doors. 
This young brown male already has the bearing of a champion to match his fleece and the personality and presence to weather any storm and he knows it.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Hooker still in the window...

The chief TOFT hooker is still strutting her stuff in the window of John Lewis Oxford street. She will be hooking away until the climax on Saturday by which time the stand she inhabits will have been well and truly yarn bombed. 
If you are passing give her a wave, snap a pic and feel free to tag it with #toftuk 
All in support of British Wool week- and what's good for wool is even better in alpaca. Get tweeting and texting and give the hooker some support. Her poor fingers will be stumps by Saturday. Bless her she has to cover that sofa she is sitting on !   Get Hooking for TOFT- it's a lifestyle choice!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Fleece Statistics for 2013 are making us smile

We received the 2013 fleece stats back from Yocom McColl testing laboratories in the USA last week and having now studied the results we are grinning from paddock to paddock.
Of the 26 cria born in 2012 only 2 of them are over 21 microns. The lowest is 14.6 which is incredible and the highest was 23.1. The average of the 26 cria from 2012 is 18.4 microns. 
Although we are very aware that these statistics are only an indicator of positive fleece traits and no replacement for a full hands on assessment they still indicate that at Toft we are heading toward the superfine alpaca in depth across all the young pedigree stock. 
That's as it should be after 16 years of selection but it is encouraging to have the science confirm the progress of our breeding program. So forgive us for crowing a little but if we don't share our achievements with you how will you ever find out about the quality of alpacas we are breeding at Toft?

Each year we only release a very select amount of these fourth generation elite alpaca genetics into the marketplace. So if you are seeking the very best get in touch direct to avoid disappointment.

Monday, 14 October 2013

TOFT is in the Winda!!

There I was quietly going about my business in Oxford street in London when who should I come across in John Lewis's window? 
None other than Kerry Lord creative director of the TOFT luxury knitwear brand busy crocheting a sofa cover.
Kerry is camped out crocheting in this window all week promoting British Wool week.
Good on you girl I hope all your fans drop by to support you. 
Yahoo for TOFT - way to go!!!

Some Goyles hang out and soak it up and others go hide under the bushes

It's been raining bath loads at Toft for the last few days virtually continuous. Even the Goyles are feeling it!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Intern in the shed

Bless her, Sally the Toft Alpaca Shop Intern joined Shirley and I in the fleece sorting shed on Wednesday.
The whole of the TOFT Alpaca shop has decamped to Alexandra Palace in London for the big Knit & Stitch show this week. So it's all happening at Ally Pally this week but it's real quiet in the Toft Alpaca Studio. Undaunted by the empty studio Sally decided use the hiatus to get back to the basics in the paddock and barn.
Sally a textile student at Birmingham University spent the morning working with our herds woman Linda and the alpacas and the afternoon helping Shirley and I grade alpaca fleece. She's determined to follow the fibre all the way from the field to the Fashion Show. She too is off to Ally Pally to join the Toft Alpaca Stand. Thanks for the help Sal!

It's that time again...but who is looking at who?

It's dry, cold and October. We have harrowed and cleaned the paddocks. The pregnant alpacas are settling in to the Draycote field where they will overwinter. The Alpaca Stud males are stood down putting on some condition before winter sets in. We are mopping up the late birth scans for our clients and generally tidying up and sorting everything out before the weather turns. 
And in between all that we are to be found leaning on a gate and studying the results of this years pedigree breeding. We've had a very fine crop of 2013 alpaca  cria and it's around about now we start to look and analyse them. 
Mind you judging by their reaction it would seem they are also busy studying us.