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Farina and Cupola

Thankful that the snow is almost gone. (And for good, I might ask)

The second most frequently asked question we get, after “do llamas spit?”, is “What is the difference between a llama and an alpaca?” I’ll admit, to the untrained eye, it can be difficult to tell, but the number one giveaway is the ears. Llamas have very long, “banana shaped” ears, and alpacas have shorter, spear shaped ears, similar to a fox.

llama vs alpaca. jpg

The second giveaway is the size, but unless you see them side by side, it may not be so obvious to the newbie. Llamas are almost twice the size of an alpaca, averaging around 6 feet tall at the ears, whereas alpacas come in at about 5 feet. And llamas weigh between 250-350 pounds, with alpacas weighing in at only 100 – 175 pounds.

Other differences that you will notice are in the body shape. Llamas have a flat back or “top line” which makes them very good for carrying a pack. Their tails are set right off the end of their backs, whereas alpacas’ tails are sloped down from their backs. From the side, the llama has a longer face, a very noble profile, where the alpaca’s nose is very short and compact.

Llamas generally don’t have a lot of hair on their faces, but alpacas have a puffball face, much like a dandelion ball. The llama has a very coarse outer coat over a softer inner coat – as opposed to the alpaca, which has a very fine, single coated fleece.

As far as personality goes, there is a big difference of opinion. Llama owners say that llamas have the best personality, and alpaca owners think that alpacas are the best. But most are in general agreement that llamas are more independent and confident, making them easy to bond with. Whereas alpacas are shy and timid. Alpacas are very much herd animals and like to be with their herdmates.

But it is undeniable that both llamas and alpacas are very intelligent, easily trained, gentle and curious.

So to sum it up

table

So now you know the difference and you won’t embarrass yourself by yelling out “look there’s an alpaca” the next time you see a llama.

And for those of you who have asked us if our llamas are emus, you should be embarrassed. Please see below. ‘Nuff said.

emu vs llama

The number one most often asked question about llamas is “Do they really spit?” For the answer, we went directly to the source. So, from the llama’s mouth, this is an excerpt from our popular llama advice column.

Dear Domino

Dear Domino, Do llamas spit?

You know, everyone always asks me this question. I’m starting to fear we llamas are getting a bad reputation. Yes, llamas do spit. It’s perfectly natural. It’s how we establish rank within the herd, meaning who gets to the food dish first. Lady llamas often spit to ward off an unwanted suitor. Spitting is also a very effective way to discipline our crias (baby llamas), and we spit to express fear or discomfort.

Spitting is how we communicate with one another. “So what are you trying to say” you might ask. Some examples are:

“Move over, you’re in my space.”
“Hey, that’s my food, back off.”
“I rank higher than you do.”
“Quit sniffing my tail”
“Quit flirting with me, I’m not interested in your advances.”
“Oww! That lady just gave me a shot. I can’t spit at her, so I’ll spit at you instead.”

Llamas do not usually spit at humans. Some of us, unfortunately, have been raised in petting zoos, where we are only around humans all day. These llamas view people as other llamas and may spit at a person that invades their space.

We llamas usually give some kind of warning before we spit. First we’ll lay back our ears. If this doesn’t make the point, we’ll pin back our ears very tightly and point our noses straight up in the air. As a final warning, we will spit in the air. Finally, we will spit directly at the llama or person that’s offending us.

There are several kinds of spit. First, there is the grain spit. This is usually used to settle arguments over food. We just spit what we have in our mouths—usually dry grain. Then there is the saliva spit which is often a warning before the big green spit. The really serious spit is when we bring up the contents of our stomach and spit a foul smelling green spray.

The smell is offensive both to the spitter as well as the spittee, after which both will hang their mouths open for several minutes in order to air out the taste and odor. A llama can spit with dead aim for a distance of 10 to 15 feet. This is my buddy, Santiago, reminding us that he gets first pick of the food dishes.

Preparing-to-spit

I’ll be the first to admit that spitting isn’t one of the most endearing behaviors of llamas to people, but on the other hand, it’s a pretty cool way to settle disputes. No biting, kicking, or punches to the face. Don’t you agree? After being spit on by a llama, you won’t need a bandage, but you might need a bath.

Days and days of single digit temperatures can be very taxing on all of us, but especially those of us who have animals and livestock that depend on us for their care, comfort, and wellbeing. We’ve raised llamas for over 13 years now and have never had a winter like this one. We thought we had planned well for the vagaries of a Virginia winter, but Mother Nature is a scamp and likes to keep us on our toes by throwing new challenges our way.

Our first winter with the llamas we had a 36 inch snow. It was up to the llamas’ bellies and they would not venture out of the barn. Well, think about it…..would you? We had a 6 foot snow blower that fit onto the PTO of our tractor, so ‘Road Warrior’ cleared a loop around the pasture so the llamas had a place to walk. It took about a month for that snow to melt, and for weeks, the llamas walked in endless circles around the llama loop.

Llama Loop

Then there was the winter that we had a 30 inch blizzard and lost power for 5 days. Of course, our portable generator went belly up and when you’re on a well, no power means no water. Not to mention, no heat. We had the fireplace and a Kerosun heater that we carried from room to room. For water for the llamas, we melted snow in a stew pot on top of the Kerosun. And this isn’t Murphy’s Law, it is THE LAW OF LIFE. If you wait to buy something until you really need it, it will be sold out. No generators, No portable heaters, No bottled water, No lamp oil, No batteries. It got so chilly in the kitchen that we opened the fridge door to keep the food cold.

Jesse

This year has been COLD. POLAR COLD. We had a burst pipe in the garage, but no major damage. Remember THE LAW OF LIFE? When you really need a plumber, they will be busy. Luckily we have a regular plumber and he squoze in a minute to come put a temporary cap on the pipe so we could have our water back.

It has been so consistently COLD that our freezeless self-draining barn hydrant froze. We went to Lowes to get some electrical heat tape, but there was that old LAW OF LIFE again. They couldn’t get it in and no one had any for miles around. So we took stock of what we had on hand and came up with this ingenious solution.

hydrant heater

Within an hour the pipe was clear and we had water once again.

They are predicting another Arctic blast for the next three days, so today I have been searching for outdoor weatherproof heaters in the hopes of keeping our sweet peacock, Farina, warm. But needless to say……..

Farina on rail

snow painting

Sometimes you find treasures where you least expect them. Yesterday, as I was sitting in front of the fire, cuddled in my new comfy Christmas throw, and sipping a cup of hot spiced tea, I was just finishing the last few pages of my other Christmas present, the latest Stephen King novel, “Doctor Sleep”.

I was attempting to obliterate the view from the front window: the remains of the weekend’s snow, melting with the help of a steady drizzle and a bone chilling wind…and postponing the inevitable slog down to the barn to feed the llamas. With breathless anticipation, I was ravenously devouring the last few chapters.

And in the midst of all the ghosts and gore and nail biting imageries of the ultimate battle between good and evil I found this little gem, sitting right in the middle of a page. Stephen King attributes this to the poet Ezra Pound.

“Raineth drop and staineth slop,
and how the wind doth ram!
Skiddeth bus and sloppest us,
damn you, sing goddam.”

The suspense was broken, I was laughing out loud. What a perfect antidote for a perfectly miserable day.

Well, after our peacock feeder tray was destroyed a couple of weeks ago, we have had two game cameras focused on the area to see if we could catch the culprit.

Torn feeder tray

You can read the original story here: https://tcllamas.wordpress.com/2013/11/19/will-the-guilty-party-please-come-forward/

We caught several visitors:

There was the scavenging squirrel

a pesky squirrel

The crafty crows

a crow

The dashing dogs

rampaging dogs

Farina the peacock

Farina the peacock

The wait staff (yours truly)

Yours truly

AND….
Finally the culprit…caught on film

The renegade raccoon.

climbling raccoon 1

It’s amazing how crafty and smart those critters are. He had unscrewed the nut and bolt holding the feeder to the hook and knocked it to the ground. Amazingly all the tiny parts were right there in a pile, so it was easy to reassemble.

the damage

More amazing still was that the next night, he figured out how to lift the feeder off the hook without taking it apart.

feeder unhooked

It’s scary when you are trying to match wits with the wildlife and you realize you are losing.

Brrrr!

OK, what’s wrong with this picture?

Brrrr

What’s wrong is that we spent several hundred dollars and two days over the summer constructing a shelter for Farina, and he refuses to use it.

Farina's shelter

Wouldn’t you like to sit on this perch and stay dry, and ice-free?

Well, you can’t reason with a peacock. They have a “pea” brain after all.

Farina insists on sleeping on the peak of our roof overlooking his beloved chickens.

Don't hide

I think there is an identity crisis going on here.

We’ve been feeding Farina under the shelter twice a day for several months. He’ll make a trip down the hill to the “peapod” morning and evening and eat his dinner, then head back to the house to sit with the hens. He’d rather spend time with the chickens than with the peacock pair, Buckwheat and Darla, that live in the aviary.

peapod

Well, like they say, “You can lead a horse to water……..”

Farina on rocking chair

 

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