Didn’t I clearly say NO MORE ANIMALS?? At least not before winter…and how about NOT in the middle of winter!
Since making that proclamation, we have added three large horses and a sheep ….. who is expecting!
Can you tell I just read A Girl of the Limberlost again?? All the chapters have titles like this. 🙂
So, yeah. My sister was introduced to this guy named Wally, who is in the petting zoo business and was downsizing. (Thanks a lot, Sheri Nukala. lol) Lois, Jill, Jill’s Spawn, and even Lois’ husband Big Guy have met this Wally character and visited his farm near Bovey, MN. But I was always too busy, too sore, too whatever to go. A couple of weeks ago, Lois needed to go there yet again to pick up some coin-operated feeders for Cook’s Country Connection. Danny was home, and we had no plans, so we decided to ride along. We are both so glad we did!
My hips were crying before we even started the one hour drive in Lois’ truck, but the pain was soon forgotten as we drove into his yard and saw this:
I mean, I knew intellectually that this Wally guy had a camel boarding at his farm, but seeing said camel; touching it, smelling it, standing next to it…that just boggled my mind. All I could do while visiting the other animals was mutter, “A %^(@*$ camel. In northern MN…” Even today, I am having trouble describing this experience. Which is why it’s taken so long to get this post done, and why we keep having to explain that, no, we don’t have our own camel… Yet.
This is Wally’s gorgeous barn. His grandpa built it in 1940,
and it was Wally’s mother’s job to add all these little lines to the mortar. (She was a little girl then.)
THEN….we met Thomas.
You can kind of get a sense of scale by the chicken that almost comes up to his knee.
It looks like Thomas is kissing Wally, but that is how animals in the CAMELID family say hi. (Llamas and alpacas are in the same family, btw.) It’s sort of like dogs smelling each others’ butts, but nicer and much more sanitary. Camelids say hello by smelling your exhales through your nose. It can be intimidating to have these creatures stick their face in yours immediately upon meeting- especially when they are infamous for spitting- but do it anyway. In my experience, llamas and alpacas only “spit” -it’s really closer to projectile vomit-when they are frightened. And they give plenty of warning signs before they spew, but that’s another post.
This is my youngest Spawn, Danny. He and Thomas seemed to really “get” each other.
I had no idea there was an empty spot in my heart that only a camel could fill. Wally has raised several up here, and when we asked the USDA inspector what would be required to add a camel to the petting zoo, we were surprised that it wouldn’t take much. He would need a six foot tall fence and tall shelter that would be warm in the winter (and food and water and vet care and and and…)
Now if I could talk Mr. Wonderful into letting us put a camel in our basement…just for the winter.
A Pajari Girl can dream, right?? It’s tall enough, it’s warm enough, and it has a sand floor. AND THERE WOULD BE A CAMEL IN MY BASEMENT!!!!! Omigod it would be GREAT. He doesn’t even smell bad. I checked. Kind of dusty, but that’s about it. And my sister knows a lot more than she thinks she does about Camelids. And Dr. Rathji (sp?) already comes to see the llamas and alpacas.
While I was busy figuring out how to talk Paul into it, Danny followed Wally and Lois into another barn.
“Um, mom? There’s a zebra in here.”
“That’s nice..what the hell??” Sure enough, a zebra and a donkey were sharing a pen in the hopes of producing a zonkey.
And around the corner from THAT? Fallow deer.
And these are Suri alpacas. Lois really needs some of these, because she already has Huacayas. (Madelyn and Maddox.)
But I keep going back to a camel. Thomas in particular. He is so friendly!! The perfect camel for a petting zoo! Hmmmmm. If you could just mention it to Mr. Wonderful, aka Mr. Clean, aka Larry, aka Paul, that would be great. 😉
PS: I read an awesome blog post recently by Kate, who always wanted to touch a cow’s nose, and then one day got the chance. You should read it. Chop chop. It’s a very happy post! And her boyfriend Gabe is quite the snazzy dresser. 😉
Today was Shearing Day at Cook’s Country Connection! Marty Hofmann of Integrity Shearing and his “Head Man” Eric were incredibly efficient and gentle with all the creatures getting haircuts.
First, let me start with this; a picture of a shaved alpaca.
And below is Molly, my faithful camera assistant. She made sure to drool on my camera strap and nuzzle my pockets for goodies. 400 pounds of helpful, this one.
Softer than cashmere and warmer than wool, alpaca fiber can be knit or woven, depending on it’s quality and intended purpose. Here is a wiki link to everything ELSE you ever wanted to know about Alpaca Fiber.
Next year, we hope to have a seminar or field trip coincide with Shearing Day.
First, the animal is caught and trussed up like a Christmas goose. This keeps everyone -including the animal-safe. Here’s a video of what that looks like:
The front legs are pulled forward, the back legs backward, and just like that, it’s time to shave a llama.
This is Maddox, one of only two spitters today. By the way, “spitting” is kind of inaccurate. It smells bad, and is more like projectile vomiting. Luckily, they only do this when all their other body language is ignored, and people are scaring them. I am guessing it tastes as bad as it smells, because he made the craziest “ew” face for hours afterward. (See that first picture??)
Steve’s dad Leo did a great job his first time as official Gate Man.
Jill was the only llama not to get the royal treatment today; she has a heart defect and is a Gramma Llama, so Lois didn’t want to stress her out. She didn’t recognize her herd-mates until they breathed at each other a bit.
Itchy (The Very Naughty Pony) was equally confused.
Here’s a video of that…the look on Itchy’s face just cracks me up when he sees that shaved llama. (You should probably just subscribe to our YouTube channel now. Chop chop.)
And THIS is as close as anyone will be getting to a llama for a few days, which is why we take this opportunity to vaccinate, de- worm and do pedicures at the same time.
So when and how exactly did I become a llama farmer??? Like most of the animals around here, they “needed a good home”. (A line I am starting to meet with more and more skepticism.)
The first question everyone asks when they hear I have llamas is “do they spit?”. Valid question and the answer is – it totally depends on what you are doing to them.
You can tell by llamas (and alpacas) ears, how annoying they are finding their current circumstances. And I have discovered that there are varying degrees and intensities of “spit”.
Before any spitting happens there is a warning look. If you are paying attention and don’t have to continue doing what you are doing, you won’t get spit on.
After the warning look, and if you, the assailant, hasn’t backed off, there is a warning spit. This is mostly whatever is in their mouth at the moment and it’s usually directed over the offender’s ( your) head. Most often they do this to each other over food.
Llamas don’t have much for defense mechanisms – they can run away or they can spit. The “I’m really ticked off” or “I’m absolutely terrified” spit is the stuff you need to look out for. This is the nastiest, most vile- smelling yuk ever! It is projectile vomit right from the bottom of their third stomach. It shouldn’t even be called “spit” if you ask me. A different “s” word comes to mind and more closely describes that stuff.
The only time I have gotten this is when I am doing something really unpleasant or scary. Shots, shearing, sometimes haltering…. anything that involves cornering or tackling has landed me in the crosshairs.
Moral of the story: Don’t harass or annoy the llamas and you’ll be fine!
Spitting aside, I find that the llamas are curious, inquisitive and a whole lot of fun to have around!
And just for fun, here is the llama song we sing ALL. THE. TIME.
BaaBaa is a Barbados Blackbelly Sheep. These sheep are raised for meat, not fiber. Not that we plan on eating him; most animals around here are on a retirement plan.
Many people think he is a goat because of his small horn buds, but I think they are just a byproduct of a bad de-horning session as a lamb.
BaaBaa was a bottle raised lamb that we adopted by accident. See, I was adopting three llamas….I didn’t know they came with a sheep. Hmmmm…..
Madelyn, Fancy, Annie and W-72 are the farm’s Huacaya alpacas.
Alpacas are in the camel family and bred for their fiber (and meat but we don’t think about that!). The fiber from an alpaca is warmer than wool and softer than cashmere. It makes a person really want to hug and smooch them. Unfortunately alpacas aren’t much into being hugged and smooched.
What they look like depends on when you visit the farm. This picture shows Madelyn after shearing and Maddox before!