Monday, May 31, 2010

Typical St. Louis summer

It's hot. In the 90s already and today is June 1st.
I must be part llama, because I, too, dislike this hot weather.
Llamas and alpacas are from the
Andes Mountains and they are used to a mean temp of the 50s -- plus it gets cold at night -- 30s even. So they can recoup the heat loss of the day in those cool mountain nights.
Not so in St. Louis in the summer. It was around 80 at 10 o'clock last night. No regrouping from the heat there.
Mostly my animals sit in front of fans in the barn during the day -- and don't venture out until around 7 in the evening.
I put out the shower head this weekend and the photos tell the story -- standing in front of the spray drinking and getting soaking wet; standing in the water troughs -- or even sitting in the trough, like you see Yukon Quest doing in the photo. Makes for a cool down in the "old swimmin' hole."
Here's to summer -- and to cooler weather soon.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tractor repair -- and wrestling thistles

I haven't been this excited about something in ages.

When I graduated from high school back in 1966 there were only a few career paths open to women: teacher, housewife, nurse, secretary. Those were the options.

Today I took apart the sediment bowl of a 1950 Ford 8N tractor -- and replaced the terminal to the battery, too. The thing hasn't been running since October of last year. I FIGURED IT OUT!

It started and ran beautifully.

I am so proud of myself. I'm a mechanic of sorts. Wow.

Just got done cutting the thistles in the pasture. Looks great. In the past I would have called the "tractor people" to repair the tractor and been charged around $300 for this job. I did it myself. Wow.
As I was cutting the field I couldn't help but think of a dear friend, Professor Lyman Holden. He used to come over and dig thistles out of the pasture. He was a brilliant math teacher at SIU-Edwardsville. But he would set aside his "smarts" and come in jeans, a bandanna and a hat, and dig thistles. Oh how I miss Lyman (who is playing his tuba in heaven now). Wanted you all to see his picture -- right after he wrestled a thistle out of the ground.

If Lyman could humble himself to dig thistles, who knew I would grow up to be a tractor mechanic?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Shearing 2010 is history

It's done. Shearing days 2010 whizzed past like a blur. Over 150 llamas and alpacas got their summer haircuts -- with no small help from friends.
I especially want to single out the members of the Artisan Guild of Southern Illinois (
They spent days at the farm -- through sun and rain -- filling syringes, clipping toenails, bagging fleece, catching and haltering animals, bringing food. They were so awesome.
Thanks, too, to Dr. Liz Vollmer of Waterloo Animal Hospital. She arrived early on the first day to help with a birthing emergency (only the 3rd time in 25 years that I've had to have a vet assist in birthing). We lost the cria, but she saved the mama, for which I am very grateful.
And then there was Peppy -- the deep red Canadian female alpaca -- who casually walked up to the barn on day 3 (during the round up of scragglers) with a beautiful female baby at side. Wow. I named the baby Dorothy -- after my aunt who passed away on Sunday. She's a looker-- and so healthy.
Once again I had folks take advantage of the "get 4 years worth of experience in 4 days" by helping corral all of the animals. They are completely prepared to be new llama or alpaca owners now. Steve rocked as a "learning on the job" guy; Beverly was a rock, passing the dewormer and making sure the bags were properly marked; Tim and Eunice were Tim and Eunice (nothing better than that, folks); my daughter, Katey, took off of work 3 of the days just to "set up" the lunch. Wow. She was helped by Margaret two of the days. Patty was an extra pair of hands wherever she was needed for four solid days. THAT'S a friend.
Amanda was the fleece sales expert -- all wonderful.
A special thank you to Bruce and Tammy for making shearing days a "no drama zone" and helping things run smoothly.
See you all next year!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Jan from the STL Zoo

One of the highlights of this year's shearing extravaganza was our visit from Jan from the St. Louis Zoo.
She is one of the many capable people that help to care for Doc Andrus and Doc Freeman, the two alpaca boys at the zoo.
She came to the farm for a "professional development day" and came ready with a list of questions. I'm hoping we were ready with the answers.
Jan jumped right in and caught and haltered dozens of animals, caught fleece, observed toenail trimming and deworming protocol, among many other things.
Be sure to stop in at the Emerson Children's Zoo at the St. Louis Zoo and see the two alpaca boys that came from our farm. We're proud!
And Jan, thanks for the help.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Mother's Day Surprise

Shima arrived today. Her name is Navajo for "mother." This Mothers' Day little lady is a huacaya alpaca. Her mama is Yzma, a Canadian female.
I gazed out into the pasture and there was a "circle" of aunties sniffing and nudging the newest arrival to the herd. They truly have a welcoming committee -- as long as the mama will allow it.
Ben carried the new alpaca up to the barn. It's supposed to rain tomorrow and I don't want Shima's hardy mama to just sit in the rain -- with baby getting soaked.
She is a lovely little girl -- and a wonderful Mothers' Day surprise.

Friday, May 7, 2010

School tours

Two different kindergarten classes visited the farm for a tour today. Students from Providence Christian Academy in South County, St. Louis -- and St. John Neumann kindergartners from Maryville brought carrots for the animals.
They learned about fiber items produced with llama and alpaca fleeces. They trekked out to the pasture and fed the animals. They posed for a photo in front of our Native American tipi. They ate lunch and made Native American walking sticks.
The kids were adorable and they seemed to have lots of fun. They can come back any time!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Llama grieving

My big, beautiful llama girl, Samantha gave birth yesterday while I was in Bloomington, IL.
I bought her at a sale --as a guardian -- and was told she was due last fall. I had no idea she was due now.
I came home and went to the barn to feed -- and there was the cria, still wrapped within the placenta. Beautiful, black and white little girl. Awesome markings.
At first I didn't know who the mama might be. I have over 45 female llamas in that herd. I knew it was a llama and not an alpaca -- simply by the size.
Shortly after I started to examine the cria -- in comes Samantha -- full of mournful humming and concern. She repeatedly sniffed the baby -- and "cried by humming" and went in and out of the barn --trying to encourage her baby to follow.
There is little in the world more sorrowful than when a mama loses her baby. Llamas do not take this lightly -- and often need to grieve for several days by sniffing and nudging their baby. Later today I will bury the little girl. But her mama will never forget her.Add Image

Sunday, May 2, 2010

East meets West

Such a surprise today.

Came home from visiting my daughter and there were some folks at the farm. They were getting "the grand tour" from Denise -- an alpaca/llama owner who has some animals pastured here.

Meet Jessie and Yida -- both orginally from China. They found me on the internet -- and took a CAB to the farm from St. Louis.

Yida is a student at St. Louis University. Jessie attends college in Vancouver, British Columbia.

They told me that alpacas are "big" in China. Mind you, there ARE no alpacas in China -- but people seem to be fascinated by alpacas. Wow. Who knew?

They are two bright young people who simply decided that they would come to an alpaca farm on a sunny Sunday in May. I gave them a ride back to the MetroLink station -- and they are welcome to visit again.

They posed for a photo with Statler before they headed back west to St. Louis.


First time in New York City was a few weeks ago. My husband, Jack, was on the Dr. Oz Show -- due to an accident he had at the farm in 2007. The show will "air" on May 10th at 11 a.m. in the St. Louis market.

They flew us in -- put us up at the Mariott Marquis in Times Square. We wandered around -- to the Hershey's Store -- little shops -- theatre district. Ate at Famous Dave's BBQ (wow was THAT good). Bought a $15 brownie (delicious).

NYC is an amazing place. It is truly an international city. Lots of languages being spoken daily -- lots of cultures mingling. Great place to visit.

Yesterday someone tried to blow up Times Square. Shame on them. There is so much good stuff happening in NYC. People are getting along with each other. People of diverse backgrounds and lifestyles are living together in harmony.

Shame on those who would try to blow up visitors to this great city.

David Letterman isn't joking when each night he says, "Live from New York, the greatest city in the world!" I agree.

Photo is of me in front of the hotel; New York City's finest on horseback in Times Square -- letting kids pet the horses; Jack at "30 Rock" in front of the Dr. Oz sign; and a view of Times Square.

Again. Shame on the terrorists and hurray for the t-shirt vendor (and yes, I bought a dozen t-shirts in NYC) who spotted the trouble. Way to go.


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Heritage Days at Willoughby Farm in Collinsville was such fun. Kids and parents enjoyed visiting with the goats, llamas and alpacas and even a small dog, courtesy of the Petersons.

Demonstrations included papermaking, pottery, spinning and weaving, crocheting and knitting and loom work.
Donna Reese brought her accordian and played "Meet Me In St. Louis," "You Are My Sunshine" and other familiar tunes.

There was a bluegrass group that added to the ambiance with their banjos and guitars.

The weather held out and all was fun for the event.

The demos were provided by the Artisan Guild of Southern IL --

Check out the group -- we rocked!