COOK­ING

‘Pester power’ has paid off with the ar­rival of some love­able al­pacas, says our cook­ery writer Kate Barmby, of the Great Bri­tish Bake Off.

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Kate Barmby goes for a pic­nic with al­pacas on her mind

My daugh­ter Re­becca has been run­ning a re­lent­less cam­paign – she has been on a mis­sion for the past year to con­vince my fa­ther-in-law that he needs al­pacas on his farm in south Nor­folk.

As part of her cru­sade she fixed notes all over my in-laws’ home, in­clud­ing in­side their cup­boards, on their fridge and on the backs of their doors, telling them about the ad­van­tages of keep­ing al­pacas.

Thanks to Re­becca we all be­came well ed­u­cated about these South Amer­i­can camelids that are of­ten con­fused with lla­mas. Although the two an­i­mals are re­lated, al­pacas are con­sid­er­ably smaller and have a gen­tler na­ture.

Al­pacas are a so­cial herd an­i­mal that is not gen­er­ally ag­gres­sive. Like lla­mas, they are ca­pa­ble of spit­ting but they tend not to - although they will at­tack smaller prey an­i­mals such as foxes, which makes them ideal for guard­ing vul­ner­a­ble live­stock in­clud­ing poul­try. This fact was the corner­stone of Re­becca’s cam­paign, as my fa­therin-law rears free range tur­keys.

Re­becca’s per­sis­tence was taken in good hu­mour by her grand­par­ents, but what I had not ex­pected was that it would ac­tu­ally work!

Who would have be­lieved that dur­ing the course of her cam­paign an al­paca auc­tion would hap­pen in the county? A lo­cal al­paca farm (yes, it seems we have them in Nor­folk as well as deep­est, dark­est Peru) was down­siz­ing and 130 an­i­mals were go­ing un­der the ham­mer . . . so Re­becca and her sis­ter Lucy took Nanny and Grand­dad shop­ping.

Well equipped with the knowl­edge of what to look for in a good al­paca, in­clud­ing the mi­cron count of their fi­bre, healthy teeth and straight legs, they suc­cess­fully pur­chased a starter herd of five an­i­mals that came al­ready named as Snow­drop, Mistle­toe, China, Cal­cite and Leonard.

My chil­dren are be­sot­ted with these in­tel­li­gent and docile crea­tures. They are spend­ing as much time as pos­si­ble in the field with them and they seem to have been ac­cepted as part of the herd. They have pro­cured my mother-in­law’s gar­den bench, and put it in with the al­pacas, happy just to sit and qui­etly watch what their new friends get up to, which is def­i­nitely prefer­able to hav­ing the girls sit­ting in­doors watch­ing a screen.

The notes about al­pacas that had been posted around my in­laws home have been touch­ingly re­placed by one that very sim­ply reads: “Thank you x.”

“Ala­paca pic­nic” with Kate.

Set­tling into their new home in south Nor­folk.

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