Well, what a successful day at the North Devon Show yesterday – three First Rosettes for Blacklands Alpacas in the Fleece competition !
In the Junior Fawn class, young Goya did us proud with his first fleece – with particularly high scores for “fineness and handle”, as well as for uniformity of micron, length and colour …
Then in the Intermediate joint black and brown class, Florence’s second fleece won first place, and we were particularly pleased that the fleece achieved a full five points out of five for Uniformity of colour, and 14 out of 15 for clean fleece weight – both of these are factors which can be very difficult to achieve with black animals …
Finally our young stud male Escalibur won the adult grey class with his third fleece. The weight of the blanket, at 2.6 Kg, was particularly good, and although grey might not be the favourite of many commercial spinners (as they prefer to have a single solid colour), it is extremely popular with craft spinners, weavers, felters and knitters. We are eagerly awaiting his first cria – we used him last year in a rather experimental way, mating him to females of different colours just to see what happened ! His sire being the multiple champion (albeit rather strangely named) Daer Enahs Streslecki, we can be sure of some interesting results. Here’s a picture of his prize-winning fleece …
And to cap it all, we had a very good day with our Blacklands Alpacas product stand, chatting with a constant stream of interested visitors, while selling lots of lovely items made from alpaca fibre.
It has indeed been very quiet round here, though the major summer jobs have been done – particularly shearing and haylage-making. We don’t seem to have made it to many shows this year, though that is changing this week with Pat going off to the North Devon Show (near Barnstaple) on Wednesday. See their website for all the details. She’s actually going on the Tuesday to help the alpaca fleece judge get through all the show entries, but on the Wednesday she’ll have a small stand with lots of alpaca products for sale – most of them made from our own natural (undyed) alpaca fibre. Take a look at the Blacklands Alpacas Shop Facebook page to see some of the lovely new things Pat has developed.
Well, I really don’t know what the world is coming to. At the Royal Bath and West Show today, I took the following photo …
… maybe they were just emphasising the message on the banner beside them. If you look carefully, you can see the nose of a third animal caught up in all the excitement. And yes, these are all mature male alpacas (not Blacklands ones, I hasten to add) !
It was Pat’s birthday yesterday, but she didn’t get much of a lie-in as we had to feed the animals at home, load the show team and leave home all by 6 a.m. in order to get down to the Westpoint Showground outside Exeter by 7 before the organisers closed the livestock gates. But we made it, and each one of the show team (Garnet, Gypsy Princess, Gatsby and Goya) won a rosette – two seconds and two thirds. While it was a shame not to get a first on this occasion, we were far from last in any class, and it’s always good to hear the judge’s comments on each animal. It is a fact that while we can see the quality of own animals improving all the time, so are those of many other breeders.
When we had left home the animals were extremely damp, being covered in dew, even though they had been under cover in a barn overnight. Fortunately, the morning sun at the showground was quite strong, so we led them out from the marquee into the general public area to dry out their fleeces. The team are all juniors (6-12 months old), but they were all well behaved and attracted a lot of interest from members of the public.
Pat entered several items into the Fibre Festival and Craft classes at the British Alpaca Futurity, and we were very pleased indeed to win several awards ..
We were awarded Firsts for three skeins of hand-spun yarn :
Both of the skeins above are of undyed fibre; on the left fancy cabled yarn, and on the right, plain (black, and consequently very difficult to photograph). The one below is hand-dyed with natural products.
A close-up of the above yarn, which earned the comment from the judge “has retained its handle despite the dye on it”.
Off to Puriton’s “Party in the Park” tomorrow with a few animals, fleeces, yarns and products. Anyone going down the M5 past junction 23 (Bridgwater) should just head off on the A39 towards Street and then Puriton’s the first village on the left. Starts at 2 p.m., and the party carries on into the evening – not that the alpacas will be staying up late !
… for both of us today. Pat went off to the annual Fleece Fair put on by the Somerset Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers at Hatch Beauchamp near Taunton, taking lots of fleeces with her – many of which she sold. Meantime, I took four of our yearlings down to the annual Street Fair in Othery near Bridgwater, where they caused great interest, and where Blacklands Fairfax starred in the “Guess the weight of the alpaca” competition (for anyone there who didn’t hear the final announcement, he weighed 42.4 Kg).
Well we had a great time with our very first open day on 22nd April – lots of people came to have a look at these strange animals and their products. We had “all hands on deck” to help out with the event, covering everything from car parking and children’s colouring-in to catering (free tea coffee and drinks, not to mention lovely cakes !). Pat and I finished the day rather hoarse and exhausted, but I think we informed and educated quite a few people about alpacas; maybe some will join the industry.