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.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Anyone got a fairy?

It's that time of the year when every time you walk around the farm something new has popped up overnight to inspire your curiosity. All we need on this little beauty is one of those Arthur Ransome Fairies and the picture would be complete.

Two Toft Judges at the Heart of England Fleece Show

A fabulous three days for Shirley and I judging 161 fleeces at the Heart of England fleece show. Two Toft judges working together as equals for the first time. Shirley doing the coloured Huacayas and the Suris and yours truly doing the Fawn, lights and white Huacayas.
Today was presentation day and look what they gave us as a prezzy. Epic. We'll have  a job keeping the kids out of this box full of joys!
Show itself was a pleasure with some fabulous fleeces entered. Barbara Hetherington was my apprentice over the two days. She takes her certification in a couple of weeks and I have no doubt she will be a qualified BAS judge in a months time. 
Supreme Huacaya went to Honeyfield Angelo owned by Mrs Donna Stalker of Honeyfield alpacas with a score of 90.5. Bred from EP Cambridge Samson and Cambridge Select of ACC. Congratulations Donna! In general the fleeces were of a high standard with some truly exceptional fleeces as always in the whites and lights.
Supreme Suri went to Whistling Sun Catcher with a light intermediate fleece from Whistling Duck Alpacas! Congratulations Mrs Leigh Woods and the Mighty Ducks!
A massive thanks to Lulu Oliver of Lusi alpacas and the Heart Of England Alpaca Group for inviting us to judge and to Paul Stead of Sapphire Alpacas for organising the show. And a huge thanks from Shirley and I to all the volunteers who have made the last three days such an enjoyable and memorable experience! A lot of laughs and a lot of learning- perfick!
A big thanks to all who entered their fleeces and if your scorecard didn't quite live up to your expectations don't get depressed get breeding and get even! 

Friday, 4 October 2013

Conks are out!

Look at these beauties I found in my garden this morning. 40 odd years ago I would spend every weekend searching the lanes for conkers like these. I loved it but never got a champion conker ever. There is nothing as evocative of the season as the colour of a freshly dropped conker!

Thursday, 3 October 2013

British Alpaca Society Foundation

Spent last week tutoring on the British Alpaca Society Foundation Course hosted by Bozedown Alpacas. Fellow tutors were Nick Harrington Smith of the Alpaca Stud and observing and helping was Jay Holland of Pure Alpacas. Weather was superb throughout, the delegates on the course had travelled quite a ways to participate with alpaca owners from Spain, Switzerland and Eire.
A good time was had by all and as always we had a lot of laughs along with the learning.

 I had a great time. I stayed in a wee hostelry called the Perch and Pike in Moulsford, which was perfectly charming, good food, quality ale and quiet! Well almost, Moulsford village has a church clock which chimes on the hour and the half hour throughout the night. If your sleep pattern coincides then you are drifting out of Under Milk Wood all night long with Ogrmore Pritchard and. Ocky the milkman etc  As each hour bongs you can't help but ponder who in days gone by had to get up at that time and what job they had to do. Amazing, charming, quaint, a lovely stay but beware of the bongs!!