Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Coming Up Short

I noticed her sitting in the shade on Sunday afternoon while the other girls were grazing. I didn’t think much of it. The temperature had gone from 50 degrees on Thursday to near 90. Blanche never liked the heat. She always appeared to suffer more than anyone else.

(Photo from last August)blanche

I sat down with her and checked her over. She seemed fine. No obvious signs of illness, no cough, no runny nose, she just seemed hot. It made sense given it was another day of 90 degrees and 70 percent humidity. When I stood up she rejoined the rest of the girls.

Monday morning my Shepherd sense told me she wasn’t well. She just wasn’t the perky Blanche we all know and love. I phoned the vet. Blanche was running a fever and starting to pant. We administered Draxxin (an antibiotic) and Banamine (a painkiller). Three hours later she was gone. Pasteurella Pneumonia.

From what I am told these things just happen. Nothing I could have done about it. The roller coaster ride of weather we’ve had lately was just too much for her immune system. That doesn’t make me feel any better. I still have to roll the woulda, coulda, shoulda thoughts through my mind.

The shepherd sense is on high alert right now. If any one else so much as blinks a little too long they’re going to get a thermometer up their behind so fast they won’t know what hit ‘em.

I just wish I could turn off the shepherd’s instinct to count heads. For over a year now I’ve subconsciously counted 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Many times a day 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

Today 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…

I’m coming up short.


Thank you all for your kind words, it means so much to me. I know you will miss her too.

Monday, May 30, 2011

She’s Gone

Damn it.



Blanche is Sick

Vet is not entirely sure what is going on but we are treating her for pneumonia. Please keep her in your thoughts. This sudden heat wave isn’t helping.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Gone to the Dogs

I am cat sitting my brother’s cats over the holiday weekend. Some of you might remember that Ethel doesn’t like cats. She has packed her bags and headed to the back porch to stay with the other dogs. Yes, I’m fully aware she is a cat. It’s not me that’s confused.


Meanwhile, I am attempting to toddler cat proof my house from the little terror my brother calls Caterpie.

I call him Little Turd.

He is a handful.

I think he needs some kitty Ritalin.



Saturday, May 28, 2011

It Has Been a Learning Experience

I grew up in farm country. I have either lived with or been exposed to every kind of livestock imaginable but I knew nothing about llamas and alpacas until recently. I’m still just a newbie to the subject, I’m learning though.

Someone asked, “How do you know the difference between a llama and alpaca?”  The easiest way is by their size. Llamas are taller and heavier than alpacas. You can also tell by their ears. A llama’s ears are on top of the head and are curved at the tips.


An alpaca’s ears should not curve.


And are placed much more to the side of the head, which is most noticeable when they are relaxed.


Other than that they are very much alike, they can even breed creating a viable offspring. Not something you would ever want to happen though. That is why the alpaca boys are in the far North pasture here and the llama girls are in the far South pasture. Until the boys have their little procedure that makes my husband cringe every time we discuss it, they won’t even be allowed near each other.

Someone else asked why they look like they are wearing legwarmers. It is not just because they like the movie Flashdance. It is to help keep the flies from bothering their legs. Llamas usually only have their mid section shorn, called a barrel cut. They dissipate heat through their belly area so in the hot, humid Indiana summers they need that area shorn to cool off. Thelma was such a mess with burrs though she got a full shave this year. She and all the alpaca boys will start looking soft and wooly again before winter. In the mean time we get to poke fun at enjoy their freak-from-outer-space look.

Both llamas and alpacas are pretty low maintenance. They enjoy the same diet as sheep which is grass, grass hay and a mineral supplement. Obviously Thelma and Louise are also starting to get some llama chow to fatten them up.

They are quiet, only making a soft humming noise at times. The can also do an alarm call when there is danger. This alarm call is why we wanted the llama girls to come live here. We need someone to wake Willa up when there is something going on. She works nights and often sleeps right through anything going on during the day.

They are very neat and tidy, creating a communal dung pile. That makes it easy to clean up and helps prevent the spread of parasites. Their soft toes do not tear up the pasture like a donkey or a horse would. And they are smart. Really smart.

Overall I have to say they are some of the finest creatures to walk the earth. I love them. You should try some for yourself.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Their Story

Thelma and Louise came from far, far away in land called Washington State. They had been living on a huge ranch with over 250 other llamas and 300 alpacas. They were cared for but, needless to say, they were not given the individual attention they deserve. Then the economy took a nose dive. Budget cuts were made. Healthcare was skimped on. Finally, the bank foreclosed on the ranch. Bankers don’t know how to care for llamas and only care about money so they scheduled an auction to liquidate the herd.

The good people at Lama Reserve took up a collection and sent trucks and trailers to the auction. You see, they knew that in an economy like this there was no way all those animals would be bought by loving homes. They knew the slaughterhouse representatives would be there. They were. Thanks to the folks at Lama Reserve though, lots of animals were saved from ending up in a can.

Thelma and Louise hopped on the truck heading for Indiana. They spent several weeks in quarantine at a vet facility where they received the proper medical care. Often well intentioned people will take an animal such as this and try to fix them all at once with drugs and too much food. That is not the best thing to do though. Rehabbing a llama is a long drawn out process. Feeding them too much too soon can actually hurt them. They are now ready for some fattening food, but it will still take awhile to pack on the pounds. I think we were selected to care for Thelma and Louise because I don’t seem to have a problem in that area. I’m a pound packing expert.

In an attempt at keeping things real here. I want to say that I was every bit as shocked as you were to see how thin they were. When I visited the vet facility they had not yet been shorn but needed it because they were full of burrs. With all that fiber on her you couldn’t tell how skinny Thelma really was.




The thing is though, Thelma and Louise were the two healthiest looking animals there. The vet had just received in another herd for quarantine. That herd is so compromised the photos are too disturbing to share.  This is the reality though of what happens in an economy like this. It is not just the cats and dogs that are left homeless.

It is still going to take awhile to get Thelma and Louise looking good again. It doesn’t happen over night. It would be easy for me to only show happy head shots of them along the way, but I think it is important to share their story in hopes that it might give someone else the courage to try to help a displaced animal.


I am looking forward to the day I get to post the after photos.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Introducing Thelma and Louise

I would like you to meet our two newest employees…



and Louise.


Thelma is here to eat and grow fabulous llama fiber.


Louise is here to eat, grow some llama fiber and most importantly serve as sheep guardian (she has great guarding instincts).


They would like for you to excuse their somewhat haggard appearance, they’ve been on one heck of a wild ride lately. Now that they’ve had a bath to wash the stink off, a haircut and plenty of groceries to eat they’ll be looking fabulous again in no time.

The girls found their way here via the Southeast Llama Rescue and Llama Reserve organizations. There are an overwhelming amount of llamas needing loving homes in Indiana right now. If you have room in your pasture and in your heart please contact them to see if they might have somebody for you to love.


Monday, May 23, 2011

How Many Acres Do You Have Left?

That is the question all the farmers are asking each other. How many acres have you gotten to plant between rainstorms? It’s not as if this is the only year they’re asking it. They do it every year. I guess they do it to find out where they stand, to figure out who has bragging rights more or less. This year though, the question is of general concern. As in it is getting so late in the year if you don’t get it in the ground soon, you’re gonna be hurting. As of today my parents are about two-thirds finished planting. They are some of the lucky ones. They live an hour North of me. The farmers directly around here aren’t so lucky.

My garden is suffering the same fate. While I was busy whacking away at my garden beds with a hoe the farmer across the road was feverishly disking and planting his field with a much larger implement. He finished, I didn’t. I’m just sure he was laughing at me the whole time.

Now it’s raining again.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Nosey Buggers

The Engineer has plenty of construction supervisors.


They all just want to make sure the stalls are installed to their specifications, I’m sure.


They also like to peek in on what the sheep and goats are doing.


“What are you looking at?” asks Daisy.

I don’t think she likes being peeked at.


They are warming up to everyone here but still don’t want to be touched. That is a good thing. You don’t want an overly friendly alpaca boy because they could become an overly aggressive alpaca adult. We don’t want that. So while it is very tempting to tame them to the point that they will eat out of your hand and let you cuddle them, it is a temptation you must resist.

We have the round pen set up and will work on halter training and desensitizing them to their feet being touched, but outside of that there will be no touchy-feely stuff going on. It is going to require all my willpower.  Not only are they cute, but after skirting their super soft fleeces I have an overwhelming desire to run my fingers through their hair.



Saturday, May 21, 2011

Broody Bantams

It is that time of year again. Time for me  to steal the eggs the bantams have been stashing behind my back. We recently had a staff meeting and discussed the fact that we were closing that assembly line down for this season but they keep taking it upon themselves to continue production.


I don’t want any chicks this year so every day, a couple times a day, I’m kicking them off their nests. I now understand how the term “pock” mark came to be. It stands for Pissed Off Chicken.

They are down right vicious.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Seven Days

Remember dirty Shirley and how I wanted to wash her?


Well I thought after I sheared her I’d have plenty of time to go back and snap a picture of her all nice and clean to show you her true color.


Then I found her decorated with burrs. One week. She stayed clean for one week.  That means 51 weeks of looking at her filthy body again.



Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I Love Laverne

She is the perfect sheep. The natural break in her wool (similar to a shedding dog) makes her very easy to shear. You can almost literally cut on the dotted line. It makes me look like I know how to give a decent haircut.


Her katmoget color markings make it easy to sort her fleece. The neck is one color, the belly another, even her britch wool is different than the rest. She’s a skirt-by-number sheep!

Her lamb fleece, in my opinion, is to die for.


She is so soft and crimpy, I cannot wait to wash her and spin her into some fabulous yarn.


I even like her britch wool.


Combine all this with her calm and sweet personality and Laverne is quickly becoming my favorite. Just don’t tell the rest of the girls I said so. You know how they can get.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Home Sweet Home

I didn’t put The Rat Pack in with Willa right away because I thought it would be a big deal. She tends to get overly excited and scare the snot out of those she protects. I didn’t want the boys to feel unsafe in their new home.

I decided to at least introduce them today to get a feel for each other. I figured it wouldn’t last long and I’d need to put her back in a separate pasture. Instead she sniffed them, then their poo pile and promptly laid down for a nap.


The boys aren’t even remotely afraid of her because there were plenty LGDs  just like her where they came from. To say the Great Willabeast introduction was a non-issue would be an understatement.


They are settling in quite well and really showing off their personalities.  Every time I try to get a good shot of Sammy, Frankie sticks his head in the shot.  He’s a bit of a ham.


Little Peter hasn’t stopped eating since he got here. Well, none of them have for that matter. The farm they came from was a little crowded so the pastures were not as plentiful. They must think they’re at an all-you-can-eat buffet by comparison.


The first night we guided them into the barn. Every night since then they’ve put themselves to bed. We’ve had the same bedtime routine for the sheep now for how many years? They still don’t understand to do it themselves!

I think the boys like it here. I know I’m enjoying having them. By far the smoothest new-hire orientation we’ve had so far.

Yesterday I spent part of the day cleaning out the old sheep shack to get it ready for the next round of newbies. Hopefully they’ll be here within the next week or so. I hope that transition goes as smoothly as this one.



Saturday, May 14, 2011

It’s All in a Name

Sometimes their names just come to us. It seems obvious right away what they should be called. Then other times we get helpful suggestions from our friends, like all of you. Usually something just seems right and I never question it. When the Engineer suggested we name the boys after the Rat Pack it seemed right. But now that I’ve spent some time with them, I’m wondering if we should have considered another theme? Star Wars, anyone?

Jar Jar Binks?




Wicket, the ewok?




Nah, maybe not.


Friday, May 13, 2011

An Old-Fashioned Quilting Bee

During the month of May, Billie Creek Village opens its doors on Thursdays and Fridays to school groups to visit and learn. If you wander past the log cabin, the churches, the old schoolhouse and the general store you see the road that leads to the farmhouse. As you walk back along the winding creek  you might spot a man panning for gold and when you reach the farmstead, inside you’ll find and old-fashioned quilting bee going on.


I am volunteering as the farmwife again this season. Karen, an avid blog reader, has joined me and we’re having a great time.


We’re working on an old quilt top that one of my ancestors pieced but never finished. It is fun to watch the kids reaction when you explain how the quilt is made. You can tell that most are wondering why we just don’t go to Walmart and buy one, but sometimes you’ll run across a child who is really intrigued by it. Today for instance we had a young boy who knew how to sew because his Mom had showed him how to sew the patches on his boy scout uniform. Then there was a little girl who wanted to know if we had crocheted all the doilies in the room (that Karen had found and donated). It seems the little girl knew how to crochet. Of course, I asked her if she’d teach me someday because I’m clueless when it comes to crochet.

It’s a lot of fun, we’ll be going back again next Friday. If you are nearby and would like to join our little bee, we would love to have you just bring your thimble.