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Category Archives: Llamas

Terremoto in the Colca Canyon

Yanque, Peru--post earthquake

Yanque, Peru–post earthquake

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.

Pat with ladies, hawk and llama in Yanque

Pat with ladies, hawk and llama in Yanque

Yanque dancers

Yanque dancers

Smoking volcano above Yanque

Smoking volcano above Yanque

llama cria above Chivay

llama cria above Chivay

tourists at Cruz del Condor

tourists at Cruz del Condor

crosses above Cruz del Condor

crosses above Cruz del Condor

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2016 in Animals, Events, Folks, Llamas

 

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More Winter

Adolfo as St. Nick ( the snow was too deep to drive the cake to the waiting critters. Note the magpie who was riding the grub line.

Adolfo as St. Nick ( the snow was too deep to drive the cake to the waiting critters)

 

 

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!

 

winter waiting

Note the magpie who was riding the grub line.

 

Llamas on the feed line

Llamas on the feed line

waiting for feed in the Wyoming Field

waiting for feed in the Wyoming Field

 

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Spring Work

Sunset

Sunset over Flattop and Squaw Mountain

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).

McCoy, Peanut and Peanut

McCoy, Peanut and Eamon

Maria. 17 ,months old, nursing

Maria. 17 ,months old, nursing

Maeve with Daisy's colt

Maeve with Daisy’s colt

Dot and Salomon

Dot and Salomon

horses on the feed line

horses on the feed line

Maeve, Tiarnan and Filo, with twin lambs

Maeve, Tiarnan and Filo, with twin lambs

Raelyn with kissing lambs

Raelyn with kissing lambs

Baldie cow with black ca

Baldie cow with black calf

 

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Dunkin, Beulah and Maria

Dunkin and his shadow

Dunkin and his shadow

Dunkin in the Cow Pasture

Dunkin in the Cow Pasture

Maria is one year old, and taller than her Mom, Beulah.

Maria is one year old, and taller than her Mom, Beulah.

 
 

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Transitions

Transitions

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.

lambs in front f the cow barn

Pepe at the sorting chute

lambs

Edgar and Richar pushing the short term ewes up. They go to Iowa.

Edgar, Meghan, Filomeno and Richar at the loading chute

Filomeno working the chute

Meghan risking all to load the truck

Tiarnan and Pepe greet Maria

Cows, watching the calves being loaded

calves, bound for the feedlot

Ned inspecting the sold replacement heifers

heifer loading crew: Meghan, Dan, Gaylon, Eamon, Ned, Marley

Abby is hitching a ride toward Massachusetts on Dan’s truck

 

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Beulah and Maria in the snow

Llamas in winter

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2012 in Animals, Llamas

 

The Accidental Llama

Beulah and Maria

Last spring, we decided that, rather than spend a fortune on lamb milk replacer (powdered milk that we reconstitute), we’d buy a couple of fresh milk goats to feed the bum lambs.  Our son Eamon went to Fort Collins to the auction in search of goats.  He called us that afternoon and said, “Mom, Dad, I’m bringing home a surprise.”  His only hints were that the surprise cost $7.50 and was bigger than a breadbox.

When he unloaded, we found two very nice milking goats and a young female llama.  Eamon named her Beulah.  Beulah was not our first llama.  Some years ago, in an attempt to have a grass-eating (as opposed to dog-food-eating) guardian animal stay with our black-faced sheep, Pat and I purchased a male llama.  The black-faces spend the summer in a fenced pasture in the Routt Forest, and are not constantly tended by a herder.  Mr. Chips was elegant and aloft, but had zero interest in hanging out with sheep.  Turns out he had been used for packing and had likely never seen a sheep.  He lived for many years and provided much conversation, but never offered any protective services.

Beulah, on the other hand, took right to the sheep and very happily hung out with them all summer.  This fall, we brought her back to the main ranch where she pastured with the odds and ends of sheep that are still around.  Today, Eamon came running into the house.

“I have a surprise!  Come see!”

We went out to the corral to find Beulah and a newborn cria.  We hadn’t even suspected she was pregnant, under her heavy coat.  Our Peruvian employees told us that a llama’s gestation period is about eight months, so she must have been bred just before she was sold.

We have just doubled our llama herd.  The baby’s name is Maria.

Meghan, Beulah and crias

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2012 in Animals, Llamas