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