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Keep the llamas off the streets. Book a llama hike now!!

pete wasted

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Everything is all about balance. Or so it seems when you think about all the ways the word is used in the English language.

“His life hangs in the balance.”
“We have to balance the good against the bad.”
“Don’t worry, things will balance out in the end.”
We balance the books; we get caught off balance; our government is a system of checks and balances; we should eat a balanced diet; …..to name just a few.

But to our peacock, Farina, balance is more physical than figurative.

For a quick summation, Farina escaped his coop 18 months ago, got lost for 6 months and suddenly reappeared last summer. He has become an outdoor bird, but has totally wormed his way into our hearts. We have been struggling with ways to feed him without the squirrels, crows, raccoons, and bears getting to the food first.
thieves

We were actually relieved when Farina learned to eat out of the squirrel proof bird feeder that hangs off our 2nd level deck rail. He comes morning and evening for a snack of nuts and sunflower seeds. The rest of the day he is grazing on grasses and bugs.

Farina at bird feeder

At the time of this photo he had his full 4 foot tail. Don’t be fooled by the idiom “light as a feather”. When you’re dragging around approximately two hundred 48 inch long feathers, it ain’t light. But he has learned very well to compensate for the weight of the ballast and use it to help him balance on narrow perches.

Peacocks shed all of these feathers each year right after the end of mating season. And when the molting starts, it only takes about three days for them to drop every one of those feathers. This happened over the weekend.

Tailless

Apparently, it is going to take a few days to adjust to a new center of gravity. We were entertained for an hour yesterday evening as Farina struggled to keep from falling off the rail everytime he leaned over to get a nibble. Watch his comical antics as he flairs his nubby little tail to try to keep from toppling off.

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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

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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

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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.

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The Sun winks goodnight, and Farina, the peacock, heads off into the sunset

The Sun winks goodnight, and Farina, the peacock, heads off into the sunset

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In my opinion, you are never too old to enjoy a day at the county fair. A day on the midway just brings out the kid in you. All the splendid smells battle for your attention; the greasy smell of fries and funnel cakes, the cloyingly sweet smell of spun cotton candy and spiced almonds, the earthy smells wafting from the livestock barns….

But, according to my Road Warrior, the smell of burning diesel fuel is something akin to perfume.

Tractor Pull

Every year, like a rite of summer’s passing, we always go to the Shenandoah County Fair. And the highlight of the day is the tractor pull. Farmers from all across the land bring their iron work horses, many still plugging away after half a century of hard work, and compete to see who can drag a heavy weight the furthest down the track. Amidst belching smoke, spewing dust, and ear splitting unmuffler-ed engine roar, we sit in the bleachers, eating corndogs, and cheering them on. It’s loud, it’s smelly, it’s dirty, and it’s FUN.

A visit to the animal barns is my favorite part of the fair. There’s guaranteed to be a stall of baby piglets

Photo by Kent Corley

Photo by Kent Corley

And some snuggly baby goats

snuggley goats

Then for a tour around the midway, we toss all dietary concerns to the wind, and sample our way through the mélange of greasy foods.

I learned last year that there is an age at which one must gracefully withdraw from the stomach churning, gravity defying carnival rides, but I did enjoy a spin on the broncing bull.

photo by Kent Corley

photo by Kent Corley

And we tried our hands at a couple of the midway games. Some games you just know that the odds of winning are astronomical, but there is one game where there is a guaranteed winner every time. This is the one where you aim a water pistol at a target and the first person to get their horse to the finish line first wins. I WON. First time. So I got my pick of prizes. I chose the giant snake for Bayley.

Here she is wrestling the enormous boa constrictor, fighting to the death

Snake wrestling

But apparently they worked it all out. I think they are even French kissing

kissing snake

All in all, it was a FAIRLY good day.

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