Like most farmers, my husband is somewhat reluctant to leave the farm. He will manage a day trip without too much persuasion but anything that requires an overnight stay leaves him feeling a bit twitchy!
On one occasion last year, he needed to go to the UK to visit an alpaca farm there (surprise surprise!) and so, after much fussing and with a list of jobs and instructions left in his wake, he headed off.
I was officially in charge - not a bother, I thought.
All was going swimmingly well and having completed the morning chores I was sitting having breakfast with the children.
Then, just as I was about to have my much anticipated cup of coffee, my daughter Emily said, really casually as she gazed out the window, "I think an alpaca just went down the road."
Cup crashed to the table and before she uttered another word I was off up the hall with the words 'not on my watch' going round in my head.
Down the avenue and out onto the road I raced. Running down the hill, still in my pyjamas, wearing bright orange crocs and hair like a burst couch.
I passed the builders working on our neighbours house - let's just say there was no need to worry about any wolf whistles!
At the bottom of the hill, dangerously close to the main road I could make out what I thought might be the runaway alpaca...great I thought, it's stopped.
As I got nearer it turned out not to be an alpaca, not even an animal, but our neighbours son who was waiting for a lift. Damn my short-sightedness.
When I got as far as him I asked, or rather wheezed, if he happened to see an alpaca go by in the previous few minutes, he assured me that he hadn't and he'd been waiting there a while.
Back up the hill I went, again past the builders, who were smirking at this stage, reasonably happy that no alpaca had escaped.
Just to be sure though I checked the gate into the girls field and had a look at the fences...all looked fine.
I'll just count them to be sure, I though. I counted 33 alpacas. Then I realised that I didn't know how many there was supposed to be. Between crias being born and females being sold, I had somehow lost count of how many there were.
Not to worry I thought, my other daughter Charlotte will know, she knows everything about them.
Back at the house I checked with Miss Mini Farmer and she assured me there should be 35.
Back out, this time with the real 'second-in-command' farmer and we counted them again, I got 34r, she got 33. Third time lucky and we both got 34.
This still left the question of whether there was one missing. There was nothing else for it but to phone himself.
There really is no casual way to slip 'so how many alpacas should be in the girls field' into the conversation.
Confession time on the phone and much lecturing about checking, and double checking gates (him) and much sighing (me) to be told that there should be exactly 34 alpacas.
Back into the house and finally resuming my breakfast when the aforementioned Emily pipes up with...'well, maybe it was just a dog'.
The moral of the story is...know your numbers, it might just save you a mortifying dash in your pyjamas, the indignity of being smirked at but not wolf whistled at by local builders, and a dressing down phone call with the chief farmer!
Oh and take everything a six-year-old says with a pinch of salt!
This week’s Alpaca Facts; Alpaca's gestation period is 11 1/2 months but they can hold a cria for a further month if weather conditions are not favourable.
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