Rory, pictured, is one of our best packers, but even he can get hurt on the trail. He bruised the pad of his foot*, and had a slow limping hike back to the truck. Once at home, he went on stall rest, and got to soak his foot in epsom salts. He rather enjoyed it, being in the barn, surrounded by girls, and he really didn't mind the foot-soak. One of the many reasons llamas make such great pack animals is their soft padded feet (see below) They make very little impact on-trail or off.
*Llamas have soft padded feet.
Rory soaking his tootsie in a bucket of warm water and epsom salts.
The old standby - a quick trip to the Indian Peaks Wilderness. We are very fortunate to live so close to this gorgeous area. Unfortunately, about 3 million other people live this close also. Nevertheless, we were able to find a quiet spot and do some fishing. There is a fire ban, so we couldn't have a campfire, which is a huge bummer, and not like really camping, except for the bugs and pine needles and stuff. One of us had a photo of a campfire on our phone, so we had that, anyway. The llamas seemed to enjoy getting out (we tell ourselves that, and really tend to believe it)
A terrific group of semi-professional llama groomers stopped by the farm and gave High Spirits and Rory a good going-over. Being as these are both Classic llamas with splendid guard hair and soft undercoat, plenty of wool was collected by brushing, no shearing necessary.
Toenails were trimmed, teeth were checked, tails were fluffed. High Spirits, when asked for a quote, answered, "Where are the lladies?"
Blizzard, Samurai, Greyfeather, Mercury, Jupiter, and Santos.
Really, though, just after this photo was taken, the fight was on. Most of their battles don't last very long, and it helps them stay in good shape running around and shoving each other off the hill. Male llamas have 6 sharp canine teeth (2 on top, 1 below) that can cause significant damage to another llama's ears, legs, neck, and nether regions. These teeth appear sometime after age 2, and sometimes not all at once. They are easily removed by sawing them off with obstetrical wire. Easily, but not pleasantly. It's a necessary maneuver, however,as one can imagine.
We got a great first cutting of grass hay. The weather was perfect for cutting and baling, but not so much for loading and stacking. Thanks to strong kids, we got it all in, and now we can pray for rain in earnest.
It is an incredibly good feeling to have a shed full of hay that we grew ourselves.
27 years and 8 months is old for a llama. Some llamas seem old at 20. Cheyenne didn't seem old until a couple years ago, when I checked her birthdate and discovered that she was 25, freaking old already. In good health, with good teeth, she hung around a few more years. How long do llamas live? Generally, into their 20s .As llamas age, their joints get creaky, their teeth go missing and grow sharp edges, and even if their teeth are in reasonably good shape, they aren't able to absorb enough nutrition from their food, no matter how much Equine Senior, shredded beet pulp, alfalfa hay, and sweet feed they get to eat. Today, Cheyenne took a rest in the sunshine, and never got back up. Yes, she has rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. She has expired and gone to meet her maker. Bereft of life, she rests in peace. She is an ex-llama.
Photo taken November 2011, Cheyenne was 27.
I can joke about it, and even insert a link to a Monty Python sketch, because Cheyenne didn't struggle, and I didn't have to call a vet in. Euthanasia, especially in a large animal, is not an easy thing, no matter how skilled the vet. Cheyenne wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed, but she was a good kid, and I do miss seeing her waiting for me by the feed room door every day. There's a large and growing herd of dogs, horses, and llamas waiting for me on the other side. I'll probably be killed all over again in the stampede.
Even though it's been warm and dry down on the plains, we can escape to another world. Last weekend, Cody and I went for a hike to see how things were up high. Chilly and muddy-rainy-snowy, it turns out, which is fine with us and the llamas. It was a good training hike for our youngest packer-in-training, Mercury.
Cody with Rusty dog, Blizzard, and Mercury
Since Mercury is 1 1/2 yrs old and is too young to carry any weight on his back, he's wearing an alforja, also known as a Peruvian pack. It's a piece of woven cloth doubled up at each end to make pockets. There are no cinches. The woven wool sticks to the llama's wool, and it stays put pretty well, unless it gets caught by a tree branch. That's ok, though, it teaches the llama that sometimes things on his back don't stay there, and it's no cause for alarm. Mercury is on a string-along lead behind Blizzard, who is a veteran packer. Mercury just follows along, and before he knows it, he's gone over down trees, under down trees, across creeks, over bridges, and through mud holes and snow drifts, without any drama whatsoever. (Blizzard is wearing a Timberline pack, which (shameless promotion) is available on our website here.) When we got back down to the plains, it was 80 and sunny. We wanted to turn around and go back.
It wasn't a flood, just some irrigation water. It made Rory a lovely lake, and he didn't have to put a missage in a bottle hoping we'd come rescue him. Rory lives by himself in a pen with a hill and two sheds. His hill commands a sweeping view of the whole place, and Rory imagines himself ruler of all he surveys. Which is why he lives by himself; otherwise he fights and fusses and paces the fence and busys himself keeping the other boys away from his corner, and he neglects certain neccessary tasks such as eating.
Well, I honestly don't love the actual shearing, but I sure do like the home-grown llama fiber. At this point, the possibilities for what that fiber may become seem endless. A good soaking in warm water and Eucalan wool wash is the first step. (any mild soap like Dove for dishes or Dr Bronner's will do, I just happen to have a big bottle of Eucalan, and I like the way it smells) Then when it's dry, I sometimes spin it right off the pile. It can also be carded, combed, blended with other fibers, or felted.