I’m going to tell you about alpaca poo! It may sound like an unsavoury subject but it’s amazing stuff and brilliant on your garden.

Our young visitors love to see our alpacas go to the toilet. They are usually impressed by how long it takes for an alpaca to have a wee – they drink up to five litres of water each a day, so it’s a fairly lengthy process.

Happily, herds tend to choose one area to toilet in, although it is obviously not specified in the memo how large that area should be and it does vary. However, it does make for easier cleaning of the paddocks which is a daily task. Alpacas are affected by the same parasites as other livestock but as alpacas aren’t native to the UK, they tend to have a lower resistance. One of the best things we can do to try and reduce our use of wormers is to keep their living areas as clean as possible. I say we – I really mean ME!

We always take a bucket when we do our care home visits but it’s rare for them to feel the urge to go when we are inside. We usually get an indication that they need the toilet in the form of continuous humming from Twinkle … or spitting from Dude.

I’m extolling the virtues of alpaca manure for your garden. It generally looks like large shiny coffee beans, it doesn’t really smell but is full of


This time of year, most woodland is bare and brown; a few species, however, help to add a splash of colour and life to what might otherwise be a drab scene and the hazel is one of them. Hazel catkins appear before the leaves, a precursor to spring. They begin to lengthen into the recognisable ‘lambs-tails’ towards the end of January, turning a warm golden colour due to the pollen they hold.

Hazel trees are monoecious, this means they have both male and female flowers. Despite having both, the flowers need pollen from other hazel trees. The catkins are caught by the spring breeze, which carries the pollen, fertilising female flowers on neighbouring trees. The flowers are tiny and bud-like with red styles. These mature into the nut that is enjoyed by humans and wildlife alike.

In the early 1900s, hazel was grown on a large scale in the UK for nut production. This has changed with most hazelnuts now being

imported. Even with this change, they are still abundant across the country, found in many different types of woodland, as well as in scrub and hedgerows. Hazels are often coppiced but if left to grow, they can reach 12 metres and live for around 80 years; in comparison, coppiced trees can live for several hundred years.

Hazels can be considered a nature saviour as they provide much for our wildlife. The leaves are a source food for the caterpillars of moths, including barred umbers, large

emeralds and small white waves. The nuts are eaten by a number of different birds including


nuthatches and tits, along with the dormouse and other small mammals. Coppiced trees also provide shelter for ground nesting birds like yellowhammers and willow warblers.

Hazel may be a fairly common tree but considering all it has to offer it is one that should be celebrated. Next time you go for a

wander through the woods, look out for the smooth grey-brown bark and the pollen-rich catkins of the humble hazel and you may also spot one of the many creatures that rely on it.

Main: Hazel in coppiced wood Inset: Hazel catkin

nutrients to enrich your soil. The best thing from a gardener’s point of view, is that it doesn’t need to be composted first. It can be dug in straight away and won’t encourage weeds.

We generally have more than we can use and a proportion of ours is taken to an allotment in Wigton. The young man who uses it, has thoroughly impressed his sceptical fellow allotment holders with the quality of his produce this year. If you want to try it out, give me a shout and you are welcome to come and fill a bucket or two!

Kim Inglis Jeffries

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ISSUE 438 | 23 JANUARY 2020 | 26

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