Category Archives: Llamas
There was lots of llama drama
At the shearing shed tonight,
Mama Beulah and Maria
Put up a worthy fight.
“Can’t you see it’s cold out,
Can’t you see our frosty breath?
It’s not weather fit for shearing.
No fleece could bring our death!”
“We have barns to give you shelter,
We have cozy straw for bed,
There will be no frozen llamas,
You have no need for dread”
“But we can see those rams
Who have lost their wooly coats,
They no longer look majestic,
They look more like hairy goats.”
“Step right up here, ladies,
To the Ladder Ranch salon.
You’ll soon sport the latest style,
Your wavy locks will soon be gone.”
“No, we like our flowing locks.
We like it long and swirly,
We like it warm and thick.
Our best look is llama curly”
“Your new look will be most stylish.
Your new look will be most sleek.
You’ll have the latest, greatest ‘dos,
Your llama glamour all will seek.”
“Whoa, what is all this racket?
What is this clank and clatter?
We don’t want a crew cut hair cut!
Our opinion doesn’t matter?!”
“Never mind those four strong guys,
Just ignore that noisy shearer,
Lie right down here on the platform.
There’s no need for fear here.”
“Wait, I’m on my back now!
You’ve stretched me stem to stern!
Those blades are on my skin!
Are you sure that it won’t burn?”
“Don’t struggle so, my llama,
Soon this shearing will be done.
From your fleece you’ll soon be parted,
And your hide will soon see sun.”
“No—I won’t take this lying down,
It will make this llama sad.
Why, this humiliation
Just makes me spitting mad!”
“Now you can look just lovely,
With your new stylish trendy ‘do,
You can join your sheep friends,
With a cut that’s cute and new!”
“No, I don’t want this summer haircut,
Can’t you tell that it’s still cold!
I don’t like those noisy clippers
I don’t like this strongarm hold!”
“We can let her go now,
Her shearing is complete.
Oh, yuck! What is this vile goo
That’s spattered on my feet?!”
“That’s my mama llama spit,
You deserve that sticky blast.
Maybe next year you’ll remember
And this trim will be my last!”
Yup, it was lots of llama drama
At the Ladder Ranch tonight,
If you don’t mind a little spit
They’re quite the stylish sight!
Pat and I were in Peru in mid-July, where we met with officials from the American Embassy regarding our difficulties with H-2A visas for our skilled Peruvian sheepherders. We spent a week as tourists. Our long-time employee, Pepe, recommended that we visit the Colca Canyon, which is famed for its Andean Condors.
It is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, but in a very different landscape. The upper part is scored with relatively gradual slopes. They are very steep, with dramatic mountains rising on each side. The slopes have agricultural terraces—some from pre-Inca and Inca times and some more recent. As the canyon, and the terraces change in altitude, the crops vary in relation to the micro-climate.
When the Spaniards conquered the indigenous people living in Colca Canyon, they “resettled” them from remote farmsteads into towns where they were more easily “governed”. The twelve towns established by the Catholic Church each have a square and a beautiful church, which have largely been refurbished. For centuries, the Church provided most of the government of the region, since it was so isolated. Llama trains bore goods back and forth to Ariquipa. A highway brought the region into the modern world, and today it depends on a thriving tourism business.
On August 15th, not long after our visit there, the area was rattled by a shallow earthquake. At last count, nine people were counted among the dead, including an American tourist. Scores were injured, and access through the winding mountain roads was cut off. This followed hard on the heels of an unusually cold snap which killed thousands of head of livestock in southern Peru.
The area depends on agriculture and tourism. We were amazed by the number of tourists visiting. Each of the twelve towns in the valley has developed a unique attraction. We visited Yanque, the town most hard-hit of all. The tourist attraction in Yanque is traditional dancing in the Plaza de Armas (town square) every single day. When we saw the dancing, I thought of the movie “Funny Farm” where the locals relentlessly ice skate to impress visitors.
Still, the dancing was wonderful, and we weren’t there for any of the many festivals where we might have seen dancing. I admired the local folks for figuring out a way to extract income from the many tourists visiting the area. I read that the Plaza is now filled with folks whose homes were destroyed. We pray for them.
I feel like I’ve stepped into “Dr. Zhivago” with piles of deep snow everywhere. It’s more like an old-fashioned winter, and we are glad to have lots of hay in the stacks. Luckily the temperatures aren’t very cold (relatively speaking) and it just keeps snowing. I know this is making our friends in California very happy! Glad to help out, folks, but you could come help shovel the sidewalks!
It always feels like we dive down the rabbit hole on about April 15th, and don’t come out until after the Fourth of July. By mid-April, we were well into calving, and getting set to trail the ewes south from their Red Desert wintering grounds. Since they start lambing around May 8th, it is important for them to be sheared before then. We also need to fit in several brandings for the calves.
This year has been especially challenging because we are very short-handed. For an unknown and possibly unsolvable reason, the American Embassy in Lima, Peru, turned down two of the herders we were counting on for lambing, including our longest term employee, Oscar Payano.
We were a little late getting on the trail with the sheep because two major storms “blew out” the sheep, meaning that the wind blew so hard that the sheep just walked before the storm and scattered over many miles. Twice they mixed with a neighboring band of sheep. This all had to be sorted out before we could start the 90-mile trail to the lambing grounds. It did give us snow to trail on, since most of the reservoirs were dry. (Sheep can survive by eating snow in lieu of fresh water.)
We also had the adventure of working with a new sheep shearer. Our old shearing contractor, Rod, sold his business and retired to New Zealand with his wife, three-year-old daughter and newborn twin sons. The new shearer proved to be less than ideal during the 2012 shearing (conscientious, but slow). For this season, Meghan engaged a reputable shearer, but that crew also ran late due to the April storms.
In the meantime, we shanghaied our in-laws and recruited our friends and neighbors so that we could raise branding crews.
The excellent news is that we have been gifted with timely spring rains–not too cold, not too stormy. The grass is growing and life is good (except for the absence of Oscar).
October is a month which starts with glorious colors as the leaves drop their summer green and segue into the yellows, reds and browns of a brief, glorious orgy. Now, as the month winds its way down toward Halloween, tans and greys prevail, as the trees stand bare and the fields lay fallow. In the last couple of days, we have had wet welcome snow. The growing season is long past, but after this record dry year, moisture is a miracle, and we hope a portent of things to come.
It is also a season of endings. After the burst of life that comes forth with the births of new lambs and calves, it is now shipping time. The lambs are being loaded onto trucks, destined for the feedlot in South Dakota, and the calves have been sold. Both will be fed until they are the right size to be slaughtered for food. We have also retained ewe lambs, which will become our replacement ewes next year, and sold replacement heifer calves, which will become someone’s cows. We also have replacement heifer calves, destined to become our future cows. Soon, all this season’s babies will be gone, or at least weaned, and we will go into our winter season with the animals who stay.