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Articles by Alpaca World Magazine:

Farm Sitter

Lyn Redhead

Like most people my love for alpacas has come about by chance. My husband and I had been discussing what to do after his retirement as neither of us is ready to put our feet up just yet, my doctor had suggested that in order to take control of my long term illness (fibromyalgia) I should look to change my lifestyle completely. We had both harboured dreams of living a rural lifestyle with as much peace and quiet as possible.
By chance we saw a programme about a young couple who had bought some land and wished to build an earth shelter on it and have alpacas. ?What are alpacas?, I said and googled the word and promptly fell in love. On our next holiday we visited a farm in Devon, Thistledown, owned by Adrian and the late Sandy Armstrong who were so welcoming and couldn?t wait to show me their animals, armed with a bucket of chopped apples I was mugged and loved it?. there I was up close and surrounded by humming alpacas. I knew then that I had to have these fantastic animals in my life
From there we booked a holiday at Kerthua Park near St Austell last year with John and Jo Coates. Why there? because they have Alpacas and do B&B. I was in heaven and I don?t think we hardly left the farm that week. I was usually found in the barn or leaning over a fence lost in wonderment. That week I helped with a mating and a vet visit. I fed the girls every afternoon and ran my hands over any alpaca silly enough to get within close proximity of me.
I was hooked and when Jo mentioned they were going away for a week later in the year I didn?t hesitate to offer my services as a sitter. As well as eighteen alpacas, three llamas and two dogs there is a five pitch caravan site, I waved the Coates off and took over and had the time of my life. Poor Jo and John were nervous wrecks, they had three girls due to birth, what did I know about birthing? Well I had read the manual; I had read the manual to the girls so they knew what was expected of them, I had even seen a text book birth at Thistledown but what if something went wrong? Well as it happened they didn?t birth until after I had returned home. I was disappointed, Jo and John were relieved. When the girls did birth each one had a complication, thank goodness they waited.
Since that first time I have been farm sitting at Kerthua Park many times, I survived hurricane Gordon last winter, I have mastered the sit and ride mower and will happily cut the grass around the woodland walk, and as for the poover! Well everyone should have one, it?s the first job my husband wants to do when we arrive so John ensures there is a good supply of fuel. Whilst my husband digs and weeds the poly tunnel I gaze longingly and dream. This May I took part at the WiCCA Alpaca show with Jo and John and I had my first experience in the show ring with Kerthua Park Diana and walked out with a second place. I was the one with the ear to ear grin all day.
Since that first mating I have witnessed another four, I have helped to halter train last year?s cria ready for the show ring, I have split the boys up when spring caused hormones to get the better of them and spit was flying, and I have filled hay nets and poovered like I was born to it.
So have I had a birth yet? Well yes I have, the mating I helped with last year came to fruition half an hour after I had been left in charge this June when Maria gave birth to the most gorgeous dark brown female cria. I named her Flo, she had a text book birth, was up in the cush position within 10 mins and on her feet and at the milkbar within an hour, within two hours she had escaped from the paddock and was in the poly tunnel.
The day when my husband retires can?t come quickly enough for us and in the mean time we are getting so much experience as farm sitters.