The spring equinox has passed and life here is moving into to gear. Just a week ago I was waiting for the first blossoms to appear and now there are trees that are alive with the gentle hum of insects. It’s as though a big switch has been on and everything has burst into life.
Well not quite everything. As I’ve probably mentioned before, the weather here has been described as exceptional everyone of the 5 years I’ve lived here. This year is no different.
February is the usual month for the cold snap when the winter frost usually gets a bit harder and we might go down to minus 6 or even minus 10C. If it snows it only hangs around a day or so with the cold snap lasting only 2-3 weeks.
Up to the end of January it looked like a ‘normal’ winter, then the cold snap arrived,, bitterly cold wind from the north east and the temperature plummeted to minus 18C. The snow fell and remained for over a week and my water to the house froze. Outside was like being up in the mountains in winter, clear blue skies, bright sunshine but bitterly cold.
It didn’t trouble the Huacayas much, they just sat down, bottoms to the wind and actually seemed to quite enjoy it as long as their hay was topped up and the ice removed from their water.
All but one of the Suris were in the barn and the only one out in the fields, Bethany, I’m sure felt the cold more than the Huacayas. The other Suris had been in the barn since Christmas eve when I’d realised that one of them, Pandora, was extremely thin. She’s been thin since I got her last month and I’ve been struggling to get weight on her all autumn since she gave birth but this was even more extreme. The decision was taken to move her indoors as she would struggle to keep warm so thankfully when the really cold weather hit she was fine.
Once the weather looked like it was improving my sister and my thoughts turned to the water system. My sister spent a couple of days gently warming the pump and pressure vessel but to no avail. In the end, after warming, lagging to make sure it didn’t re-freeze overnight, and then warming through the day again we gave up and decided that if the underground pipes were frozen we would just have to wait from the ground to heat up a bit.
So we waited but it made no difference; but the good point about waiting was that it gave tie to go over the possible causes as to why it wasn’t working. Then finally the pump started working -hurrah – but we still weren’t pumping water. I’d noticed that the manometer on the pressure vessel wasn’t returning to zero even though we had the tap on the top of the vessel open. Originally I’d though it was reading 5 bar due to expansion of ice in the vessel but that didn’t make sense now so for the sum of 17€47 I bought a new manometer we had water again.
Once the water was flowing it became obvious that there were no leaks in the system so despite having to spend a couple of weeks bucketing water from the well – which actually makes you realise what a luxury having running water is – we were very lucky.
In preparation for winter, I’d put up the new alpaca shelters. This is the third version I’ve made and it is by far the most successful. It is very definitely a case of less is more. My alpacas generally avoid the previous ones I made that were more like horse field shelters and I came to the conclusion that they don’t like what they perceive as enclosed spaces. So for this version I’ve increased the roof area but only put up a solid side to counteract the main wind direction. And so far, it seems to be a success; so over the summer I will convert the previous shelters.