I am interrupting our series on Shop Small, Shop Local to bring you breaking farm news. Joey, our beloved llama has a new home at another farm in Grafton.
Over the past few years, countless farm visitors have had the opportunity to meet (and fall in love with) Joey. He was everybody's favorite.
But Joey was developing a problem. His increasing popularity made him crave the limelight and think he was the star of the show (a common problem among human, and apparently llama, celebrities).
He began to chase the goats and sheep away when any humans came near. Then he began to become a bit mean to his former friends. In short, he became a bully.
He could no longer be trusted with the smaller animals and had to be separated from them. Llamas are very social animals and have to live as part of a herd. Since his job on the farm was to guard the sheep and goats from coyotes and wild dogs, and he was no longer in the same pasture as "his herd," we had to find him another home.
Luckily, we found a good home not too far away. When his new owners first contacted us, we were skeptical because they said they wanted Joey as a companion animal for their pig.
Our first thought was Whoa Nellie. That ain't gonna work. Pigs are smaller than sheep and goats. If he was bullying them, he would certainly bully a pig.
But, to steal a line from Charlotte's Web, this is some pig.
(Sorry for the poor quality of the pictures. They were quickly taken with a cell phone to capture the moment.)
She is 500 pounds of pig and can take care of herself.
And no, that is not a mountain lion in the upper right corner, just a very large cat. Apparently, if you are an animal on this farm, you gotta be big!
So while we are happy that Joey has a good home and is once again living with other animals, we are sad for us. We will miss him.
"You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing." -- E.B. White, Charlotte's Web
This past weekend, I traveled to the rolling hills of Central Ohio to learn how to dye a whole fleece. Now I've dyed dozens upon dozens of skeins of yarn in my time, but I've never ever dyed fiber before it becomes yarn. Dyeing a fleece scares the bejeebers out of me. And I don't know about you, but I'd like to keep my bejeebers.
We started with two pounds of washed and slighly damp alpaca fiber. After mixing up the dye and adding it to the warm water in the dye pot, in went the fiber.
Lee Ann gently poked the fiber into the dye bath. This is the part where I worry about those darn bejeebers.
Warm water + agitation -- could it possibly be a recipe for felting? After spending a year tending to animals to grow their fiber, it would just about do me in if I accidently felted the entire fleece in one fell swoop.
But Lee Ann kept a careful eye on the pot, making sure it simmered and didn't boil. We didn't go over 180 degrees and about 45 minutes later, the dye bath ran clear, meaning all the dye was absorbed.
The fiber was then gently removed from the dye pot, rinsed and laid out to dry on a screen.
Now that's just darn purty. Think of it mixed into an art batt. Or spun up with black or green to make a stunning yarn.
And the best part, I got over my fear of felting. Lee Ann made it look easy. I'm ready to give it a go. If the results are good, I'll let you know. If I turn a beautiful fleece into a sheet of felt, I'll never confess!
After the dyeing portion of our get-together, we went out to the barns to visit with Lee Ann's llamas.
"Hello. I am very fluffy."
This is the true definition of "I'm all ears."
This is one smart llama. This baby knows that there are visiting llamas on the property. Barb Baker from Baker & Company Llamas brought along two llamas to show the group.
Soon, every llama on the farm knew they were there and came out to look.
And they were right. Here are the cousins coming for a visit.
Look at all that fiber blowing in the wind!
This is a Suri Llama. To touch this fiber is to fall in love.
Soft. Shiny. Beautiful.
I plan to show this fiber picture to Joey, our llama. I'm going to convince him if he really, really tries, he too can produce fiber of this quality. It's going to be an uphill battle.
It has recently come to my attention that I have been quite lax in my duties on this blog. The purpose of the blog is to tell you about day-to-day life on a small fiber and produce farm in Northern Ohio. To introduce you to the animals and people living and working here; give you a glimpse into where your food and fiber comes from.
Alas, I have failed you. A knitting/spinning/dyeing friend of the farm from southern Ohio recently told us that she's looked and looked, yet was able to find only one single, solitary picture of the most popular animal here on the farm.
Joey the Llama.
Joey is everybody's one true love.
We can show visitors 30+ cute-as-a-button alpacas, including their babies (after all, who doesn't love a baby!), 4 goats jam packed with personality, 50 or so chickens, 4 sheep with stoic faces, anywhere from 2 to 6 dogs, depending on the day, and 80,000 bees and almost without exception, Joey is everybody's favorite.
Joey is a very odd llama. More curious than even the goats, he loves to greet new visitors. He loves to smell their hair for fragrant, soapy smells and then look at himself in their sun glasses. He knows without a doubt that everybody, and I do mean everybody, is here to visit with him and him alone.
And so you can understand why I have been remiss in my duties. His fans are demanding more pictures. They can't get enough of this less-than-stellar example of llama-hood.
So, without further adieu, let me commence the All Joey Picture Show!
Joey, Out Standing In His Field, awaiting his haircut.
Michael and Farmer Gal Marilyn getting Joey all haltered up.
Joey, hiding behind a tree. (Don't tell him we can see him. He doesn't know that.)
Joey and his ears . . . in one
two . . .
three different positions. He likes to show he's versatile.
Joey whispering sweet nothings in a goat's ear.
And Joey playing tag with those same goats on a spring morning.
Joey, getting stuck in the fresh mud on his way to be shorn.
Joey and Michael having a heart-to-heart discussion about football.
O.K., I don't know what they were really talking about, but football sounded just as logical as anything else.
And finally, one of my favorites.
I promise that Joey will no longer be a second class citizen on the blog. He will be represented as much as the other animals and certainly as much as the tomatoes and eggplant.
To Joey fans nationwide -- please accept this pictorial showcase as an apology. Long live Joey!!
Spring is here. It is a study in contrasts. Blooming flowers and grey vegetation. Soon it will be all green. But for now, it is both.
A Border collie that is happy to be outside all day, yet appears to stick his tongue out at you.
Sheep that are curious, yet try to hide behind trees.
And a guard llama that appears to be interested in you, until you approach him.
Then he is all attitude and aloofness.
Yes, Spring is like that -- presenting one thing while another thing lies close, underneath the surface.
Soon it will be Summer and just one thing - hot. So we are enjoying each and every day of Spring. Hope you are too.
Joey is a lover-boy. He fancies himself the Brad Pitt of llamas.
You can see why. Tall. Dark. Handsome. He has those rugged good looks all the lady llamas love.
The only problem is we don't have a lady llama.
So Joey is forced to hang out with a bunch of goats. And a dog.
Now don't get me wrong. Goats and a dog are very good company, but let's face facts. They smell like goats and a dog. And Joey is all about purty-smelling things.
So when the rug hookers come for a day of hooking, Joey likes to introduce himself.
He checks out the perfume, soap, and hair products of each person.
Sometimes two at once.
For the record, he likes hair smells the best. The more hair product you have on, the more Joey likes it.
If you've been out working in the garden for a few hours and smell more of hot, humid days and sunshine, he stays clear.
On those days, he says the goats smell just fine, thank you very much.
Joey, I love you. You are as handsome and as personable as a llama could be.
And fluffy. You get extra points for fluffy. However, we are taking away points for hay and dirt rolling. Knock it off Joey. Don't you know you are to keep that fleece clean! The knitters are depending on you.
Joey is a four year old llama that came to us last week. His owner had to move. Much to her regret, she didn't have room for him at her new house so he is our new livestock guardian llama. Fancy title for a fancy young man.
He is making himself at home in the west pasture with his newly-shorn goat friends.
They enjoy a spirited game of chase every now and again. But not too much. There is serious eating to be done, and the goats are the right animals to do it.
With goats, it's really all about the food. "When and where is my next meal coming from" -- that is their battle cry.
A tree is a good spot to stop for a quick snack. So what if it's over your head. That's why you have the ability to stand on your hind legs. And you use that skill frequently.
Sometimes you have to share your tree with a friend. But that doesn't really matter either. The farm has plenty of trees to go around. Forage the afternoon away.
And sometimes, you just have to take a rest from your repast.
You know, stretch a little between courses. It's good for the digestion. Let your friends make pigs of themselves.
And if all this eating starts to get to you and you begin to worry about your boyish figure, just call the big, shaggy guy over. He's always up for a sprint across the pasture.