Traffic Hazard

Tuesday morning I finished the fence around the Stream Paddock at the bottom of the property. This paddock had a “temporary” eletric-tape fence around it… for the last 5 years! Now it has a proper 7-wire fence with a gate and everything! To-date this is the largest fence I have built, at a bit over 100 meters long.

With the fence completed Tam and I moved the alpaca and Jim the llama down the hill into that paddock, which is right by road. They were all very excited at the move, hooning and pronking as they ran down the driveway. At present only Jim has actually crossed the stream (he had dealt with stream-crossing when being a pack-llama). Hopefully the ‘paca will learn how to cross the weird-flowing-water of their own accord.

It is very fun to watch cars drive by and slow-down as the driver does a sudden double-take on the weird “neck-sheep” in the paddock. I hope we don’t cause an accident! (And if you are wondering, there is a nice pig padlock on the gate to make sure the ‘paca dont “wander”. Plus we wonder how well Jim would like strangers trying to mess with “his” herd. He seems to be fulfilling the herd-guardian role we wanted with the way he gives strangers-including us right now!- the hairy eyeball!)

Greetings from Sunny Melbourne

It’s 28 degrees here. Twenty-eight !! That’s, like, 82. And sunny, and gorgeous. Yay !

Melbourne’s nice. I went into the city yesterday after class and…

…ate fried cheese and a salad in the Greek Quarter
…wandered through Chinatown (not as comprehensive as some, and very narrow, but it didn’t smell fishy the way they usually do, so that’s nice
…listened to/watched a crazy Dutch woman in a funky coat make a bunch of people laugh. No, really, she was demonstrating different kinds of laughs, and having the audience do them with her. They’re having an Arts Festival here.
…ate chili chocolate ice cream on a promenade along the Yarra River. The ice cream tasted like chocolate, but made my uvula sting (I’ve been coughing, on account of having some kind of cold). The Southbank Promenade is what Queen’s Wharf really ought to be, and what I think they must have been going for with Darling Harbour, only they went overboard and turned it into some hideous yuppie zombie thing.

Today, I took the tram in the other direction and found the Funky part of town (yay !). Lots of shiny things I’d have bought right up back in my Disposable Income days. Must decide what to eat tonight…

…and what the heck to do about arriving in Auckland at 2am on Saturday. :^P

A moment for colorful language

Yesterday I had a little adventure. While Clare and Smitty were off exploring Wellington, I decided to burn off some of the cut brush (gorse) on the back hill. The day was still and sunny, perfect weather for pyromania. I burned off a few piles on the lower part of the hill, then moved up to the big patch in the middle. I cleared a space around one pile of dead dry gorse, and lit a match.

For the first minute everything was good, then sudddenly the wind gusted up from “near-dead-calm” to “quite-perky”. The fire jumped the gap into the other cut brush on the hill. I tried to contain the fire by flinging burning branches for all of 20 or 30 seconds, but the wind was continuing to gust in various directions… and I realized I was standing in a huge field of knee-deep tinder-dry brush.

I ran.

I don’t think I uttered any explitives as I ran. I think I might have muttered “hot, hot, hot!” as I could feel the radient heat through my many (thankfully non-flammable) layers as a wall of fire raced along behind me. I made it to a place downhill and upwind and thus relatively safe. From this vantage point I watched the fire go. Some piles burned, some didn’t as the erratic wind kept changing direction. Flames were 20+ feet tall in places. Very exciting. If anyone was going to call 111, that was the time. (I had informed fire control I was planning a burn, this was not what I had in mind!) Nobody did.

I found out today that Yvonne was standing below in the paddocks, having come to work with one of her horses, watching the conflagration. It was apparently as impressive from a distance as it was up close. She could see me scurrying around amongst the flames.

Once the wind abated to only-occasional gusts I went around and extinguised the outer edges of the expanding burn (by extinguish read “beat the fire out with a stick”). After 20 or 30 minutes everything was back under control, though convincing my heart rate to come back down to 3-digits was a bit more of a challenge!

At least in this circumstance the “worst-case” for an out-of-control fire was not so bad. It would have burned 50-meters through the live gorse until it hit the neighbors boundry fence. From there there is only short and green grass, so it would have stopped. Erratic weather can make life so much mroe interesting.

Measured in meters

As Jim the Llama settles in he is slowly allowing me closer and closer. If you drive him into a catch pen it is really easy to get a hallter on him (well trained), but out in the field he like to keep a bit of running-room. When he first arrived the “safe” distance was about 10 meters. Get any closer and he would move away. Now it is down to about 3 meters, which I consider wonderful progress.

So yesterday afternoon I tried a little experiment. A bit of backstory is needed, though. Annika, the daughter of the previous owner (Dave) was the official owner of Trixie, the abandoned pony. We heard a tale of how when Trixie first arrived she was basically wild, so Annika would sit out in the paddock singing to her day after day to win her trust. I wanted to try that on our camelids.

After dinner it was bright and sunny, so I went out, lay down on the road in their current paddock (a no-poo zone, which is helpful), and started singing, humming and whistling. I soon discovered the whistling seemed to work them up, so I discontinued that. Jim came within about 1.5 meters to try and “sniff from a safe distance. Pointer hung back (no surprise there). Oak came up, stood by/over me for a few minutes, then he kushed down right next to me, his head over my body! And he just happily sat there. Fascinating. If the weather clears up (getting a bit of rain this morning, but the rest of the week is forcast to be wonderful) I will go out and try that again.


Smitty and Clare are here ! They came over on the evening ferry & luckily, the terrible weather we had yesterday has gone & we’re back to lovely sun (although not as warm as Sunday). That was all I get to see of them, though, as I’m off to Melbourne for the rest of the week for training. Woo.

Some more llama anecdotes (because who doesn’t love reading stories about other people’s pets ?):

As Stephen mentioned, Jim completely taken charge. Some friends of ours who came up on Saturday actually told us “You’ve got a good guard llama, there!” as he stood at attention at the gate, watching them drive up. Sunday, I took a folding stool out to the paddock to read a bit in the sun, and I’m pretty sure Jim actually kept the alpacas away from me until I’d set the stool down and let him have a look at it. He stood broadside between us, backing his ears at them if they tried to edge around him. Once he’d satisfied himself that the stool wasn’t going to leap up and eat anyone, he moved off to graze and the alpacas came over and had a sniff.

Stephen described the trip down to the stream paddock, & Pointer bouncing around like a stuffed toy on acid. After stomping around in the mush and the buttercup, our plan was to bring them back up, let the alpacas loose and take Jim up over to the gallop paddock — we got the halter off Oak & let them have a bit of chaff and hay (Jim now gets the yums first and makes the ‘pacas wait their turn). You should have *seen* the look Jim gave me when I tugged the halter and said “let’s go”. It was so obviously an “Excuse me? I did my bit, now I get some hay. Hello.” Like, we clearly didn’t understand how this worked. Hee hee. “Fair enough,” we said.

Full of beans

This Sunday we were blessed with one of those Spring days that makes the whole season worth while. Clear blue sky, shining sun, gentle breeze- just lovely in every regard! (but we are making up for it today with rain and a cold southerly- that’s Spring for you!) We decided to do some work with our camelids, getting them more halter trained and generally more used to people mucking with them.

(As an aside a day or two ago Jim the Llama finally settled-in sufficiently to realize that he was twice as big as those pesky little ‘paca. He is now clearly in charge. Tam witnessed a spit-fight between Jim and Oak that Oak clearly lost.)

Anyway, we haltered up Jim and Oak and went for a walk, with Pointer off-lead following behind. Pointer has such a strong herd-instinct we can do this safely, as he will always stay within 10 meters of the other two.

The combination of warm, sunny weather and the excitement of going on a walk was a bit much for Pointer, and he commenced hooning and pronking all over the place (thus the title line “full of beans”). A very amusing time.

We took them down to the stream paddock to work on their stream-crossing skills. We got Jim to jump across twice, but then that was enough for him. The burbling water is a bit freaky, apparently. Once we get the new fence for that paddock done (which should happen later this week once another load of timber arrives– that and the NGC came and marked the gas pipeline so I don’t accidentally drive a fence post into it) we will put the boys down there for a few days so they can get used to the stream on their own time.


We have a llama ! We’d thought he was supposed to arrive yesterday, but then we got an email that that was wrong & he was going to arrive today, but then we got a call from the driver, and he *did* arrive yesterday ! We have a llama !

His name is Jim, and he’s dark brown and rangy, with a white blaze. The cats all came down to see what was going on, as we were leading him up the driveway & he seems pretty cool with them — curious, but not aggressive. When we first put him in the dog run, the alpacas came running up to see him, and Pointer gave the most amazing sqeak of a hum. Hee. Jim clucked at them ! Apparently that’s some kind of dominance thing, the clucking.

He’s in the paddock with them now, but so far is more interested in the grass than in his short fluffy cousins. (They don’t feed them while they’re on the truck, and he only got hay overnight.)

On the alpaca front, the girls we are buying get their vet checks today & then they’ll be on their way. Wow, things are moving !

Camelids Galore!

So, this weekend we went down to Christchurch to attend the first national Alpaca Association Fiber Expo, a combination of a large alpaca show plus lots of fabric exhibits and displays. As we were flying down there, we decided to add Friday and Monday, make it a long weekend, and go see some animals that are for sale.

The show went quite well. We caught up with some old friends, made some new friends, and talked shop for many hours. Now we must email all the new people we met so to stay in contact.

We discovered that the most common name for women in the industry is Linda. Last November we bought our boys from Linda Lonsdale. Friday we were looking at 2 ‘paca being sold by Linda Blake for Linda Ellwood. The Sunday we went out to look at some other llamas and alpaca owned by yet another Linda. Rather amusing.

We made the leap on Sunday and put down a deposit for our first two girls, Victoria and Princess Cariboo. Now, Victorias actual registered name is “AgResearch M250”, as she is an old (12) girl that was part of that original herd. (One great advantage of her- besides the traits we know about- is that if there has been any destructive inbreeing over the last 12 years we are escaping it by going “back to the beginning” genetically.) Victoria was renamed by the previous owners based on her paddock behavior. Who’s queen? 🙂 We look forward to watching her boss around the boys, we just wonder if she will boss around Jim the llama too! And Jim is arriving tomorrow! We are very excited.

On Monday we drove out to the Banks Penninsula to look at another llama. The woman selling him (Jane, not a Linda this time) runs a small llama farm with a very nice B&B. By very nice I mean they don’t publish prices anywhere, as in “if you need to ask, you can’t afford it”. I know one guest was Ian Macellan (picture on wall). Incredible views. Jane was really nice (transplanted American from North Carolina, came down 10 years ago), but when we left both Tam and I could not help feeling for her. Her husband died two year ago (cancer), and you could feel even now how much she loved him, and how tough it had been. I think her llamas got lots of hugs. Especialy touching was the secluded spot down by the stream where her gardener build her a carved seat above the water- she had been coming down there to cry, and he wanted to do something for her. Just hurts the heart to think about it.

Princess Cariboo may, or may not, be pregnant (current owners are not sure). She will be ultrasound scanned before they are sent up later this week. If she is pregnant we can look forward to a mediocre (but free) cria next March or April. If not, we send the two of them off to stud whenever we can get that arranged. As alpaca have a nearly 1-year gestation, getting them off to stud in Spring is not a bad plan, as that way we can look forward to Spring cria next year!


Stephen has a squeaky head !

I know it’s not nice to laugh at him, since I know it’s sinus goo leftover from his horrible cold, but he blows his nose and then he squeaks. Audibly. Sometimes for several seconds.

Hee hee hee hah hah *snort* hee !


So we’ve set the clocks forward — another lurch forward on the somewhat desultory march into Spring. (Then of course forgot to actually set the alarm last night, so I’m late to work this morning — oops.)
It’s certainly felt spring-like the last week — all warm and sunny. The steadily growing trickle of backpackers headed for the morning ferry sailings are another clue. We’ve been to the Botanic Gardens twice in the last few days, once on the way to A&S, to see the big tulip display (somewhat late this year, like Spring). More impressive even than the tulips was the avenue of Japanese magnolias leading down to it. I’d gotten used to these trees being the scale of the little one in the front yard of our old Atlanta house (or the spindly one we’ve just discovered in amongst the rhododendrons out back), but these were huge and spreading, with aestheticly gnarled and twisting branches as thick as your thigh (or possibly torso, if you are skinny — anyway, Impressive).

The second trip to the Gardens wasn’t actually *to* to Gardens, but they happened to be across the street from the Asian Missionary Something or Other where they were having the Chinese Bazaar, and they had the Dragon Dance on the lawn in front of Gardens’ little clamshell. The Bazaar launched us even further into Spring — one of the tables there was selling seedlings for $1 each, so we loaded up. This got us off our butts to finally dig in the garden on the sunny terrace out back. There’s more topsoil up there than we were expecting — a pleasant surprise, mitigated by a layer of the toughest grass thatch I think I’ve ever encountered (Stephen jumping up and down on the shovel only just managed to cut through it) — but we dug in yet more topsoil from the garden center, plus some healthy bucketsful of yummy old horse poop, and now we have a garden. Yay !

Speaking of the rhododendrons, and discoveries therein, we found another hose that disappears into them; we’ll have to figure out where that goes at some point, ad where it come from. Many of the rhodies are blooming now, including one which is *yellow* (I didn’t know rhododendrons *came* in yellow). In addition to the Japanese magnolia, I found two little rimu trees up there, and another huge camellia, to go with the one at the back of the patio-to-be. Definitely looking forward to banging that all into shape.