Victoria Twead: Morning WLM! It’s Spotlight Sunday and today we’ve dragged our co-founder and author, Alan Parks, away from his alpacas and into the hotseat to answer our questions. Anyone who asks him nicely can have a FREE e-copy of Seriously Mum, What’s an Alpaca! So, fire away!
Charlotte Smith: Well Alan, it’s bright and early so I’m going to get in first I loved both your books…..will there be a third and without giving too much away is life any easier in the alpaca world these days?
Victoria Twead: I expect he’s still snoring, Charlotte. I know Lorna is in the UK so she’s not there to kick him out of bed.
Charlotte Smith: Haha. WAKEY WAKEY ALAN!!
Sharon Carter Figueiredo: Hi Alan Wake up you have an audience. I can see he is not even online yet
Charlotte Smith: Let’s all shout really loudly
Alan Parks: Morning Charlotte, and everyone else. Actually Victoria I just had to get up to clean up dog poo and wee so now Im awake The alpacas have been ok health wise for a while, we have been having to give Bermuda some antibiotics for a suspected abscess on her chin, which involves under the skin injections which she doesn’t like, and she is very strong. Also, we hope to have some cria (babies) this year too. Although the alpacas have been ok, things seem to go badly for us all the time, life is never straight forward! I’m here Sharon!
–But I am typing in bed lol
Louise Fenton: I am so looking forward to reading your books Alan but just have to finish Victoria’s first! How work is involved in looking after Alpacas? Are they hardy creatures? Do they graze for their food or do you have to supplement with special foods?
Victoria Twead: That’s ok, Sharon and Charlotte, we can chat amongst ourselves, how’s the weather in your part of the world?
Lorna Penfold: Nope he’s definitely awake
Charlotte Smith: Shhh Beaky – he’s up now (well not properly up but awake at least)!
Sharon Carter Figueiredo: Beautiful for the last week and for the next week I hope. How is it in everyones else’s part of the world. Lookout he is awake and online so don’t say anything you don’t want him to see he might fall out of bed
–By the way what time is it in everyone else’s part of the world, it is almost 8:00pm here?
Charlotte Smith: Almost 9 in Spain
Alan Parks: They are actually pretty hardy. They have to be, they come from the altiplano in Peru, which can be harsh, and has drastic extremes of temperature. In the UK they could graze and just have a small supplement, but here in Spain we have to buy hay/grass in as it is hard to grow anything, particularly in the summer. So they have bales of hay and alfalfa we buy in plus a supplement, and we grow what we can.
Charlotte Smith: Alan, how many of those gorgeous creatures do you have now?
Alan Parks: Sharon, where are you today?
–We have eight, three girls and five boys. But as we are hoping to have three new babies towards the end of the year, we will need to start thinking about moving some of them on to new homes at some point.
Charlotte Smith: And dare I ask how many other creatures you have collected?
Sharon Carter Figueiredo: At home in Portugal. Alan Parks I finished Donkey on Friday and it was as good as the first book and had some really laugh out loud moments.
–Well everyone i am just going to have a shower and then wake Fernando up for breakfast (he had a little drink last night with some of the men in the village and has been snoring all night)
Alan Parks: At the moment we are pretty steady…The alpacas, and dogs have stayed constant for a while. We are low on chickens at the moment, they tend to go through stages of dying So….8 pacas, 5 dogs, 5 cats (one new one turned up and made himself at home), and only two chickens. But we are planning to get some more chickens when Lorna comes home
Sharon Carter Figueiredo: I will opt back in later on. Have fun
Alan Parks: Thanks Sharon, I only asked because you said 8pm, thought you might be visiting home Have a nice breakfast!
–Sorry Alan I did mean 8:00am lol
Gill Richards-Burgess: I would love to have chickens but couldn’t give them the time and attention they need. They are really sweet and amusing creatures (apart from the one across the valley which crows at all hours of the day or night, his body clock is seriously messed up!)
Charlotte Smith: That’s a lot of critters – I expect they eat you out of house and home!
–I can’t wait to get chickens – planning to call one of them Beaky in honour of the great Victoria Twead
Alan Parks: Gill, what sort of attention do you need to give them They are a law unto themselves. Clean out there house occasionally, and put them to bed at night. They are great, I love chickens.
–Charlotte, the Mastins are the worst. At around 60 kilos each they eat a lot.
Gill Richards-Burgess: Well the problem with me Alan is that they would fascinate me so much I would want to be spending time with them…..I can’t have the cats or dogs swanning around me any more when I work because a) not a good idea to do a skype coaching session with a hound on your knee or a cat running across the keyboard and b) I get distracted when they do cute or interesting things! Also I am trying to go vegan so eggs are being limited with the rest of the family and no chicken for me! Do you eat them if they are killed in a healthy state, I am one of those sad people who detaches from what actually happens in animal slaughter to the product you buy at the butchery counter……I like the taste of meat but I don’t like the idea of it. Oh what a CUTE dog! See instantly distracted by animas!
Charlotte Smith: OMG they’re bigger than me!! So beautiful though
Alan Parks: Gill, we don’t eat them. I couldn’t do the deed. I can detach once an animal is dead, but hate to see them suffer. So when we have lost animals, I have been able to deal with that, after the event. So I could raise animals for food, pigs and stuff and send them away for the butchers knowing they had had a nice life, but Lorna couldn’t, so we don’t do that, we just buy it lol
Julie Haigh: Alan-your first book was amazing-I have your 2nd but not read yet. You have a real gift for naming your animals! loved the Royle family names! Any ideas what you might name your next Cria/Crias?
Alan Parks: Morning Julie Thank you. In a word, no. Last year I ran a crowdfunding project to try and raise some money for promotion of the book, and one of the rewards was to choose the names of the next three babies. So there are three people out there, who when the babies come (providing they are ok of course) who will get to choose those names.
Louise Fenton: Your dogs are huge!!! 60kgs is a mighty weight! They must eat soooo much!
Alan Parks: They are not too bad actually. I generally have to buy a big bag of dog food a week, and a bag of dog rice, plus three big tins of food. About €15 for the five of them.
Sharon Carter Figueiredo: Alan I have some friends in Australia who breed Alpacas, they shear them (I think once a year). Do you have your Alpacas sheared (I don’t know much about them)?
Anne Wine O’clock Durrant: Good morning Alan from sunny Lincolnshire. I have Seriously Mum on my ‘New Kindle’ to read while I am on my 3 month holiday. I have been so busy preparing for it since I retired I have read less than when I was working. That will change soon though
–I love the fact that you live ‘off grid’ How does this work in Spain – when we bought our apartment there, we had to get NI numbers and register with everyone and the dog?
Janet Hughes: *knocking on bedroom door* “Room Service!”
Alan Parks: Sharon, we actually have an Australian chap comes out to do them. He spends the summer travelling around Europe shearing Alpacas and in the winter he does Oz and NZ. Its pretty cushy here for him, as we all feed him and look after him and it is all small numbers of animals, but in Oz, I know he does one farm with 2000 animals, and he does it all himself. He has to do yoga at night to keep himself supple! Its hard work.
–Janet, I’m out of bed, I’ll have it on the kitchen table! (Ooo-er missus!)
Janet Hughes: So Alan, are you living the original dream? Or has it changed somewhat? *passes mike over to Alan to answer*
Anne Wine O’clock Durrant: LOL – closing my eyes – and sniggering like a school girl
Alan Parks: Anne, I try to be as off grid as possible, even here in Spain, where they want a paper copy of everything you do, even what you had for breakfast. I guess not being tied to companies providing us with water and electricity helps a little bit, but of course we still have to pay for council tax and register on the town voting system.
Sharon Carter Figueiredo: Thanks Alan Parks yes I imagine it would be hard work. What do you do with the fleece (do you call it that)”
Janet Hughes: *Stomps down the stairs and plonks, what’s left of the breakfast on table* “your breakfast’s still warm Alan, it’s in the dog!”
Anne Wine O’clock Durrant: So do you have a well and generate your own electricity?
Alan Parks: Janet, it has been amazing, traumatic, difficult, fun and nothing like we ever imagined it would be!! We had visions of alpacas popping out healthy every year, sun worshipping and expats knocking down our door to buy our animals . All very naive but a fabulous experience, even down to writing the book. We love our life here, and unless we were forced to, I can’t see us going back to live in the UK.
–Yep. Water comes from a spring in the hillside and runs through a pipe in to a ‘deposito’. Then we pump it from there up the hill to another ‘deposito’. All our electric comes from solar panels. We do have a back up generator though. But I don’t like using that as it costs money to run!
Janet Hughes: Here’s something for everyone else. Tuck in, Anne, the wine’s in the cellar.
–Alan, is there anything that you would do differently, apart from eat your breakfast before the dog does? And get off those sausages! they’re Cherry’s!
Alan Parks: To be completely honest, in hindsight, we probably would never have bought the alpacas or the olive mill. We would still have moved to Spain, and still had animals, but with all the problems we had at the beginning, to be honest, it would have been easier to have goats. Don’t get me wrong we love them to bits, and I guess they make us ‘not your average expat’ which is good, but we would have thought long and had about lots of the decisions we made. Had we known how tough it can be here in winter, we might have opted to be nearer the coast (maybe even in dreaded expat-land )
Anne Wine O’clock Durrant: Thanks Janet – trotting off down there now – Bucks fizz anyone?
–I have just looked through your photos on your timeline – did you do the renovations yourself?
— Cheers m’dears
Alan Parks: Some and some, there were parts of the mill that were habitable, and some plans that we had to change as our money ran out. As you will see in the book, we also had an unscrupulous builder which caused us problems.
Anne Wine O’clock Durrant: I promise you are next on my list.
Janet Hughes: Not Ex-pat land surely. Fate worse than living in Heanor
–Me please Anne, not too much orange
Alan Parks: The weather is better Janet, I got fed up this year seeing photos of blue skies in Malaga, and day after day of grey and drizzle here for the whole of winter.
Cherry Gregory: Hi Alan, greetings from the sunny Welsh borders! I really enjoyed your first book, though I haven’t read your second book yet. If you had bought goats instead of the glorious alpacas, do you think you’d have written your books? (Not that I have anything against goats, but Seriously Mum, What’s a Goat? doesn’t have the same ring to it.)
Sharon Carter Figueiredo: Yes but Alan it was an unusually wet winter, even here in Portugal where most of the rain for the year falls in winter
Janet Hughes: Even so Alan, surely you could find a little niche with out many ex-pats, you know do a Gerald Brenan?
Anne Wine O’clock Durrant: Just going for a shower and then taking Poppy for the W word – be back later x
Louise Fenton: I really need to give myself more reading time so I can finish Victoria’s and get to yours Alan! Can’t wait. I’ll make sure I download before I go off to the Dom Rep next month!