Monday, January 26, 2015

Surgical Repair

One essential skill in homesteading is being able to repair what you have. Sometimes it's as easy as pulling out the duct tape and baling wire. Sometimes, though, it takes more know-how than rural grit.

Today was one of those days.

My poor chef hubby has a glass-top stove. We thought it was a great idea when we bought it years ago, but frankly, the convection blower is the only thing we love about it now. The burners never get quite hot enough, canning isn't recommended on the fragile glass surface, and burnt-on food is inevitable with frenzied cooking no matter how much cleaning you do. So we had a little trepidation when one of the smaller-burner-within-a-larger-burners burnt out.

Now, Dude also worked for a time in his past repairing washing machines. He's fairly tech savvy. He had been pursuing an electronics degree before deciding to go to culinary school. He's no idiot when it comes to a modern appliance. But we had no idea how this thing was designed, so we were flying blind.

He found a replacement burner online and bought it for less than a quarter of the new price. It didn't take long to get here (unlike the light assembly for the truck that finally arrived from Mexico after six weeks...). He found an installation guide online. Easy peasy, right?

It took three of us more than an hour to replace it, most of which was spent trying to identify which "locate the screws to free the cooktop" would actually free the cooktop. Thank goodness my friend Mr. Anonymous had given me a well-stocked, multi-bit ratcheting screwdriver with a square head, or we would have had to try to fit a full-size power drill behind the stove as well.

The old burner was given to Munchkin, also known as "Destructo." She loves taking these things apart to figure out how they work. She identified the spot where the flimsy filament rooted in clay broke between the large burner coil and the small burner coil. What a flimsy little thing! The clay was left outside, and the stringy coil was brought into the house to be dropped into the garbage. Science class over.

So it all works again. Much cheaper process than calling out the appliance repairman (who'd get stuck in the muddy driveway anyway). And it didn't involve any duct tape or baling wire. Nice job, Dude! Now what's for dinner?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Ten Paces at High Noon

There's always that scene in the old westerns where, in order to create the tension needed for a good hero-wins-the-day scenario, you have to believe all has been lost and there's a chance the hero won't win. We've had that kind of weekend.

After losing both Little Dog and Behemoth this year, and then discovering that Ditz doesn't have a brain, we've found ourselves in a place where the coyotes seem to be taking over. Every day they come closer in to the homestead. Experienced hunters can't seem to find them. We can't seem to hit them when we do. Ditz has discovered she's supposed to bark at them, but still can't seem to be able to chase them off. Out of our thirty-some cats last year, six remain. The new cats (five more brought out by The Maestro two days ago) are too wild to keep track of, so we have no idea how many are out there or how many are already dead. A few chickens had disappeared too, leaving only a pile of feathers to tell us anything had happened.

So we've been looking for another Behemoth. The Great Pyrenees breed is perfect out here, but are hard to find except through breeders or rescues. Unfortunately, the rescue the next state over has a crazy idea that these dogs must be kenneled against their natural tendency to patrol their herd, and so refuse to give them to farms that might let them do just that. Argh.

Instead, we picked one up from a friend with sheep and pigs who raises them. We chose the neutered male instead of the pregnant female because we can't have puppies out here yet -- too many things for a baby to teethe on. This dog and his brother had been sent to a neighboring farm as sheep guards during our friend's surgery a couple of years ago; since then, unless kenneled, they returned to the neighboring farm when loose. Not a problem out here, I thought -- neighboring farms are miles away, there are plenty of coyotes to keep him busy, and he'd be getting plenty of attention from us to bond him to our family.

He had other thoughts. He didn't like us -- not growling, but definitely not wanting any attention or eye contact. Bonded to our friend; I get that. He didn't want to be caught when loosed from the kennel. Just wanting to play and stretch his legs; I'd do the same. He didn't want to be on a leash. Never been on one before and now this stranger on a strange farm is tugging on his neck; understandable. Bolting in fear (maybe the right emotion...) when Munchkin held the leash and I approached.... now that's something I didn't understand. Maybe it was a little rebellion against the dominance I made sure he understood? Better kennel him in the Bug Barn and work on socializing him to our family over the next few days.

We gave him food, water, a dog pillow and a heat lamp (no one to snuggle with while in isolation). We checked on him several times, talking to him and petting his head (after he was already hiding in the corner). And we settled in for the night. Ditz barked all evening. The new dog howled. The coyotes yipped over the ridge and out in the orchard. I was thrilled to hear that he was responding to his natural desire to kill coyotes.

About midnight, Dude came out to the living room and told me something was walking around behind the old farm truck in the lower pasture. Having been asleep for hours, he deserved a little pity and so I investigated myself. As I passed the Bug Barn (the "garage" addition to the old Military Barn), I noticed through the car-windshield windows Remington was no longer in there. My stress level rose quickly. Now what? Can't catch him. Won't return when I call him. Collar on, so there's a potential for strangling himself on the miles of barbed wire in these fields. I decided to leave the barn open in the hopes that he'd finish off a coyote or two, then head back to the heat lamp.

I woke up with high blood pressure. Higher than normal. What if he ended up at a neighbor's place overnight? What if he intended to roam the countryside for the rest of his life, and we never caught him? I went to the front porch in the hope that he might be sitting there waiting for me, a happy, well-adjusted, glad-to-be-here farm dog.

And there he was! In the yard below the porch, wriggling and trying to avoid... oh! Dude had just arrived home from work and was talking to him. Good! He can help me catch him and ... Dude was pointing. Beside the porch was a dead rooster... and a dead duck... and ... Dude began to collect bird bodies from all over the yard, while I dressed for the snowy conditions. Ditz might chase a bird or cat now and then, but in all the months she's been here, she hasn't killed a thing. No, this new dog was the culprit. Soon, Dude found two more birds in the Bug Barn with him, and quietly closed the barn door, locking him inside. He rewired the pig panel that covered the missing pieces of barn wall, where the dog had squeezed himself through the night before (in a space the Ditz couldn't even get through). I texted our friends; we agreed he was no good to anyone now after getting that taste of chase and blood.

I rushed to kill him before Munchkin came out for her morning feeding run, but she stepped out onto the porch as I pulled the trigger. She so hates killing any animal, and hadn't yet seen the devastation this one had created. He didn't run from me this time. He sat there with that gorgeous face, just like Behemoth, and seemingly no understanding that he had done anything wrong. But as Dude says, I'm cold when it comes to protecting my flock, and it had to be done. Didn't mean I was okay. I had just lost seven animals, eight including him, and I had a major disaster to clean up. Dude and I were photographing a 30th birthday party in Giant Town that night, and I didn't have time for this.

Just then, the Maestro showed up with hay. When The Parson and River Song needed a place to store their supplies during their move last year, we had moved the palettes but never replaced them, and we never put a tarp over the hay, so now it was molding and the horses couldn't eat it. Maestro brought palettes, swept snow from the site while we related the morning's events, and helped Dude lay in the new bales. (Munchkin and I helped too, but it's always faster to just get out of the way and let these two do their thing.) He emptied the cat carrier of the new arrivals, showed us some travel pics, and headed home. We searched for the remaining ducks, finding one alive and one bleeding out. We discovered the remaining 15 or so chickens hiding in the Military Barn, refusing to come out into the kill zone. Dude buried the bodies with the backhoe, despite the frozen ground. And we set about getting ready.

Or at least Dude and Munchkin did. I was a basket case. Several other little things had gone wrong. They were so minor, but piled on top of all this, I felt I was drowning. Everything I had done over those two days had failed. I not only didn't protect my animals, but I had introduced a killer into their midst. I was crumpled on the very cold bedroom floor next to the space heater, alternating between tears and numb silence, when Dude came in and casually mentioned how hard it was snowing all of a sudden. It sent me over the edge. We hadn't gone to the store to get a new tarp, and now this stack of hay was getting wet too.

Dude and Munchkin bundled up and headed out, to the store I thought. I bundled up and grabbed a broom and some old blankets to cover the hay until the tarp arrived. Then I saw Dude and Munchkin with an old tarp, dragging it down the driveway. They didn't hear me ask if it had holes, and that didn't help my mood. I stormed back into the house to go to the store instead. Our hardware store just changed hands and doesn't yet take debit cards, and I couldn't find either the checkbook or the cash. I laid my head against a wall, pounded it a few times and screamed. I went downstairs to check my jeans pocket in the dryer, and found the washer hose had disconnected (we vent it to the lower yard until we change the plumbing situation) and had sprayed water all over that corner of the basement, including two boxes of school books. The jeans I had intended to wear to the party were still sitting in the laundry bin, not in the dryer load as I had expected. I screamed again. Do I even go to this party? Am I going to be its downfall just by being present?

The tarp turned out to be just hole-less enough to cover the hay. Dude ran another load of laundry for me. Our remaining duck -- Lucki -- was put into the Bug Barn to keep her safe. And we left for the party having done all we could. I drank a lot that night; I never get drunk, but I needed to be loose, to drown in the noise of the band, to forget my day, to revel in laughter and fun with friends. I went to bed that night and slept soundly. I woke up relaxed and myself again. We spent the day with church friends, who completely understood why I might need a drink (or several). My plans for a worship list that followed the scripture passage we were studying got pre-empted by a list that talked about surrender to His will, about His goodness to us even in bad circumstances, and about running to His shelter when we can't take it anymore. It was a good reminder to all of us, but me especially. We got home about 1am, and had to deal with decisions about new barn cats that couldn't find the food and about the kittens and whether they would be indoors or out for the night. But I could handle it this time.

I woke up today to Dude readying a rifle to take on the coyotes howling out in the orchard. I tried to force myself back to sleep. Then a raven buzzed the house, screaming to its mate about the lack of protection on the homestead. I prepped my handgun, pulled back the curtains and waited. Sure enough, the mate landed in the tree across the yard and began calling its friends and neighbors. I opened the window, and shot as it flew my direction. As it careened away and toward the hill, seemingly grazed, my only thought was, "Has the ranch been lost? We're being invaded."

Munchkin opened her door, hair disheveled from sleep. "What just died?" I appreciate her confidence in my shooting ability, albeit slightly overrated. And we just found that Lucki didn't make it either.

Time to take back the farm. I'm ready.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Pest Deterrent

We found them in abundance. Silver cans, about a liter in volume, with plastic lids. They were piled in the woodshed, in the barn, in the garage, behind and inside every building, and piled beside every pile of junk. We finally investigated.

They were canisters of pesticide. Unc had worked for the local grain elevators where these things were used to deter mice, and brought home leftover supplies in order to deter gophers. In six years out here, I've never seen a gopher, but Unc was concerned enough about them that he stashed away fifty years' worth of daily deterrent. That's a lot of gophers.

The recyclers didn't want them because they were full. The hazardous waste recyclers didn't want them because they were full. Isn't the purpose of hazardous waste recycling that they recycle hazardous waste? That's what I thought, but apparently not. They advised us to open the canisters (really?!) and leave them open for three days to make the pesticide inert, then they'd take them.

Yeah. That's healthy.

Dude opened them in the wide spot in the driveway. Then he walked away... very far away. The smell was nasty! At the time, the only animal onsite was Little Dog who came out for ranch days with us, and a barn cat or two; we kept them away from the location for as long as possible, letting the cloud of chemicals dissipate.

The recyclers finally took the canisters. Every time we clean up, we think we've gotten rid of them all, but we turn around and find another stash. Maybe the gophers stayed away just because of the presence of the canisters... we'll see if they return now that the supply is low. And maybe then we'll want them all back!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Barn Razing on a Large Scale

After cleaning out the big barn, we finally found a good day to give it that final push to knock it down. It was a safety issue by this point, and the lives of our animals and even ourselves could be permanently altered by one shift in any of the broken and failing timbers.

While Dude warmed up the backhoe, I went out to document the barn's existence. After photographing the inside and its old heaters and pens, and photographing the east entrance, I hopped the pasture fence and started documenting the other sides of the barn. The llamas decided they hadn't been notified of the paparazzi event, but couldn't pass up an opportunity for a little press. No matter where I turned, a llama photobombed me. Hysterical flip-book pics!

Other than the power pole on the east side and the new chicken condo on the west, there was nothing else to worry about being destroyed. The roof bent in the middle of its length, just a touch closer to the west end than the east. We determined the plan of attack was to push from either end, collapsing it all into the middle. That's essentially how it played out, but it involved a little more pushing than we had intended. All of the fallen beams had already plowed into the dirt inside the barn, so trying to shove them any further was rather difficult. But eventually, everything was crushed down to piles shorter than Dude and we decided that was sufficient.

As we pulled away from the rubble, Dude decided to pull up a post in the pasture that we had had trouble removing. Simple, right? No. Not even close. We pushed it and rocked it back and forth. We pulled it with a chain. We changed drivers and did it all again. Finally, we tied it with the chain and then lifted it straight out of the ground... revealing a ten-foot axle! Duct tape and baling wire, I tell ya...

So, the barn still sits in piles of lumber, waiting for a snake-free early spring or late fall work day. The big timbers and better pieces of barn wood will be kept, some sorted into piles for other uses, and the rest burned. The open space left behind will offer so many new opportunities for the design and placement of new shelters and new pastures. I can't wait!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Community Barn Clearing

The Big Barn
Okay, so we're the only people in this little community... but we love it when we all get to work together on the  same project at the same time.

The family built three barns in the south pasture (at least we think it was them). There was a very large barn for the horses and cattle, some smaller pig enclosures, and a large collection of troughs and old equipment. The medium barn may have been for the horses at some point. The tiny calving barn served just that purpose.
Rock walls

The big barn was in the worst shape. It had been constructed first with rock and concrete walls; the design looked like rocks laid out in a frame on the ground, covered over with concrete, and then raised into place. One side was flat, the other looking like a typical rock wall. At some point in history, the rock walls began to fall in or out in various places around the perimeter, and the upper walls and roof began crumbling from the shift in support. There are several other buildings like this in the region, but ours is the only one I've seen in this state of decay.
Too much aluminum

With large beams dropping into the space, snakes crawling out from under the rubble and cats gone missing with each new collapsed section, it became time to tear it down. It was already down anyway! Inside, though, were hidden all kinds of treasures, both those worth saving and those best stored in a landfill. The biggest collection was the piles of beer and pop cans that filled the main entry of the building, left by Unc who hid out there to drink away his sorrows and stress from his father and sister. There were also plenty of pesticide canisters; more on that later.
Some of the bags of cans

We spent a full afternoon bagging and moving these cans, totaling about nine giant lawn bags. Paid off at the recycling center, but it was some pretty intense work. And dirty -- under and in the aluminum collection was a mess of dirt and wood splinters and mouse nesting material. Appetizing...

Under all these cans, we found the keepable stuff. Old fishing poles, handmade tools, dried leather halters and the family brands. That was a treat! Someday we'll re-register these brands, even if just to use as the ranch symbol.
The keepable stuff

With that, we deemed the barn cleaned, and prepped it for the last push... 'cause honestly, that's all it needed! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Animal Additions

The Ditz
After all the lost we suffered this last year, we also had some new arrivals.

Upon the loss of the back-up dog, as Dude called him, we discovered we'd need a more aggressive dog to warn us when strangers arrive to rob us of all the useless junk our family bestowed on us. The Behemoth's worst threat is the long strings of drool he smears across the legs of visitors. Friends of friends ended up needing to leave their dog behind in a move, and so brought her out to meet us. She's a pretty mix of black lab and border collie, with the only ranch attribute of barking at anything she doesn't expect -- good when pillagers arrive, odd when she's barking at a dead snake in the driveway. She is energetic enough, has learned to not be afraid of any other animal, finally gave up on living indoors, and is generally keeping the deer from eating my strawberries again. Maybe she's even young enough to train to do ranch-y things. Unfortunately, we've discovered she's dumber than a brick, and after replacing Behemoth, we'll be rehoming her to a nice non-farm family.
Spot and her daddy -- obviously

Earlier than that, we had one kitten survive the spring. We didn't know about her for quite a while, since her mother had hidden her somewhere away from the house. Then one day, this little black and white face was peeking out from behind the flower pots on the porch. Spot was very unhappy about being caught but wasn't clawing us; we brought Mama Peek inside too, and spent weeks getting to know the adorable baby. She became an indoor/outdoor pet, learning to run to the fridge for a slice of baloney every time we opened the door. One day we noticed her whiskers were missing. Apparently, Peek is a bit possessive of her little one, and while beating up any animal that came within ten feet of her, she was chewing off her whiskers in some OCD fit. They seem to have grown back now once Spot was weaned.

Tortie asleep for once
A few months ago, we rescued an abandoned tortoise-shell kitten in an empty parking lot near our church, and then discovered why she was probably abandoned -- her insane activity level. True to her tortie roots, she sleeps long hours crashed on a chair or bed or couch, and then spends the remaining hours tearing the house apart, attacking the other cats, or chewing on someone or something. Grey and the Fluff are putting up with her, but tensions are still a little bit high.

Tortie and Tiger in battle
About a moth later, some cruel person in Big City left kittens with a bowl of milk and pan of food across the street from the high school. My brother-in-law brought one of them out to our place thinking he'd be a great ranch cat. About the same age as Tortie, Tiger had clearly been raised indoors and proceeded to scream that from the porch with every sound we made inside the house. We started bringing him in to play with Tortie (read that, "feeding him to the lion"). He has since developed an illness that seems to be turning certain cats blind, and is now an indoor cat for his own safety. If I'm right about the cause, he may not last long and we want to make him as comfortable as possible in the meantime.
The new babies
We also adopted six new cats from another farm in the area, all barn cats used to foraging for themselves... or so we thought. The four adult cats disappeared promptly after being introduced to the water and food sources. The two kittens shouldn't have been taken from their mama yet. So once again, we have new little ones inside the house being acclimated to us and to trips outdoors. This makes six cats indoors at certain times, and the older three cats aren't real happy. But as soon as the little ones are bigger, that will reduce the "crazy cat people" impression we're doing.

There were two ducklings that survived their homicidal father. So far, they appear to take after his breed, and one appears to be a male and one a female. This doubles the flock. And they're all so cute lined up in a row in the driveway, waiting for their breakfast!
Red and white barred rocks
A mama and her brood
Many of the chicks survived too, leaving us a flock of about twenty, free-ranging it around the yards. None of them have ever been in a coop, and we're still trying to figure out how we're going to corral them in once the fences are fixed. There are some interesting cross-breeds going on, including a red barred rock and white auracanas with barred rock tails and necks. Beautiful creatures!

Mama hen took over the heated area under the porch
These were all welcome additions as we stumbled wearily through this busy year. As Tortie sits here on my hands, attacking my fingers as I type, I look forward to watching them all grow up and adapt to the ranch life. Maybe I'll adapt back to it too.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Hidden Throne

In our post on the bathroom remodel, we mentioned the senior toilet seat for which we had a box constructed. I finally found the picture, so I'll post it for you.

The idea was to provide a place for AuntI to hide her toilet seat. We didn't want to see it, our guests didn't want to see it, and she didn't want us or our guests to see it. If it had been rubbed bronze, maybe it would have been more acceptable (and easier to clean?), but apparently medical equipment doesn't come in designer shades. Who knew?

Curmudgeon, our master woodworker friend, designed a lovely box that looked like a nice side table. It was just tall, wide and deep enough to slide the seat in on its side. A wood panel fitted with a handle (rubbed bronze, of course) and magnetic closures latched to the front of the box. With books and the toilet paper holder sitting on top, only the bathroom-curious types would know what it really was. You know who I mean: the ones who secretly look under the sink and in the shower just to see how you really live. And you know who you are!

When AuntI moved out, the box remained. It wasn't in any reusable condition (we'd suggest waterproofing the inside and demanding a regular cleaning schedule), so we burned it. But we document its brilliant creation here as a monument to invention... and so you can make one yourself if you know someone who'd appreciate it.

Monday, January 5, 2015

One Last Llama Tail

A couple of months before we moved out, Bones accompanied me out to the ranch. I was recovering from a severe accident and the resulting medicated state left me unable to drive. Besides, we loved hanging out in the horse pasture, watching the animals and chatting about life. We fed the critters, did our chatting, and were about to leave when I ventured back to the house for something.

While I was gone, Bones went to visit the llamas. She loved them! They were entertaining and had such unique personalities! They were the definition of "character."

As she turned to go, someone spit in her hair. Bones, the ever-sweet little sprite of a grandma, whipped back around and demanded to know who had done such a thing. All four split-hooves turned their heads to the sky, refusing to admit the culprit. Typical -- they never took responsibility for anything.

After a good chewing out, Bones left the llamas with their heads hung in shame.

Hysterical. Probably one of my favorite llama moments...

Sunday, January 4, 2015

End of the Llama Era

A new home on the ranch
In the many posts about the llamas, I never really told you how they came to be out here. Now that they're gone, I should clear up that discrepancy.

We have friends on a small farm a long way away who called one day with an offer of free llamas; he had picked up one for his place. Goofball went to school with us (high school and college both) and was known for being very sarcastic; we thought this was one of those times. It wasn't. Apparently an elderly couple near his location had taken on raising llamas as a retirement hobby. After his death and her move to a senior home, the neighbors were left to watch the critters. They did more than watch.

Tall grass and freedom
Thinking we had lots of overgrown fields hiding rattlesnakes, and thinking that llamas would protect our bird flocks, and being somewhat familiar with a friend's llama, we decided to rescue them from their abusive situation. We borrowed a real truck (I don't count Little Truckie as being a farm vehicle) and horse trailer, picked up our llama owner friend, and met Goofball at my alma mater. As he led us into the driveway of the llama farm, we watched four llamas begin to skitter around the pasture, anxious about objects with motors.

We soon discovered why. The neighbors, thinking they were helping to round them up, began chasing them with four-wheelers, screaming obscenities the whole time. The five of us pushed our tired bodies far longer and to greater distances than we normally would have in the hopes of getting to the poor animals before the neighbors did.

"Is it really all for us?"
When finally corralled in the barnyard, it took just as long to get them into the trailer. Apparently they had never seen one of those either, and weren't about to be forced into a cage by anyone. But force them we did, and we soon drove them out of their torture chamber and back home to wide open spaces.

Feeding time in the early days
Our llama friend, my youngest sister and I delivered them to the ranch. They didn't like leashes, and didn't like being led anywhere, especially through really tall grass. But they were delighted with their freedom when we released them into the main barnyard. We weren't living onsite yet, so our visits were infrequent over the next four years, meaning we never really tamed them. But they came to know us, expect food and treat deliveries, and even approach us now and then. We topped the old fences with hot wire minus the electricity because they escaped periodically. We discovered they liked raspberry-flavored hay cubes. We figured out how to stop most of the spitting over who got the best bowl of grain (they were all the same). But we never really tamed them.

Nearly Friendly in May
Friendly in May
When we did move out, we brought the horses out first. We imagined they would all live happily ever after in one great animal herd. We were wrong. The llamas were terrified of the horses and ran frantically for the other end of the pasture. The horses hated the llamas, and regularly left large piles of dung in the pasture gates to keep the llamas segregated from them. We spent the next year and a half keeping them apart, even though they shared a water trough.

Ultimately, though, we got rid of the split-hooves. We have many posts here about their adventures; you'll find they were mostly a hassle and never effective at their intended security job. The final two critters went to a family in one of the big towns around us in May, and hopefully they're doing well. We don't wish them ill; we just wish them out of our hair.

So, we bid a hearty farewell to Friendly and Nearly Friendly. An era gone... and maybe a garden saved. And a chicken... and a duck...

Prepped to head to a new life

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Llama Saga Redoubled

When we last left the llamas, Wild and Nearly Wild were happily chowing down on someone else's farm, and Friendly and Nearly Friendly were busy readjusting to living without the troublemakers. But no matter how much we try to encourage all of our ranch critters to get along, the horses just would not put up with the llamas, and the llamas just couldn't figure out exactly what the pony was supposed to be.
Nearly Friendly and Friendly

We opted to move them across the driveway. This new-to-them pasture hasn't been grazed in decades, and we figured they'd like the untouched grasses, undisturbed by horses' hooves. We spent an afternoon twining open passageways out of the pasture, thinking that they'd stay inside. I can hear you guffawing, so let me explain. Llamas are generally respectful of fences, obeying boundaries they can clearly hop over; why would they want out now that the wandering ones were gone?

Cow confrontation
We opened a break in the fences on either side of the driveway, and used pig panels to line the path they were to take. Nothing really prevented them from knocking them over and bolting for the hills, but they really wanted the scoop of grain Munchkin was carrying into the new pasture. Within minutes, the llamas were moved, the fences closed, and nirvana was reached.
Llamas in the lower yard

Or so we thought. The natural water hole was at the far end of the pasture; it was an overflow pond, really, from the aging well under the tree. The llamas wouldn't head out that way. The better grass was that way too, but they preferred to cush in the sagebrush on the hill opposite the house and spit at each other and the neighbor's cows. They were supposed to graze. Instead, they ate everything but the grass.

Llamas in the upper yard
We were delighted, though, to look out the bedroom window and see large animals in the lower yard. After a couple of months, we figured they were happy, which made us happy. We assumed they'd warn us when the Coyote Mafia came around, if they ever did.

Llamas in the driveway
They formed a union instead. First they argued for better living conditions and fewer boundaries. They preferred the duck-defiled water trough to the well water. They jumped or broke fences, and rushed us in the driveway. But since they came "home" every night, we decided it was okay.

Dead from rhubarb poisoning?
Next, they protested the boring food supply. They ate the bark off the pine tree in the yard. They munched on the currants and the currant bushes. They stripped the lilacs of all their leaves. They chewed the top off Munchkin's special blue delphinium. They even devoured the rhubarb leaves. And didn't die! (Munchkin is disappointed.) As I put in gardens and berries, we had to surround them -- topside included -- with chicken wire to keep the llamas out.

Friendly seems to be friendly with Munchkin
They even refused outright to do their job. The coyotes continue to drop into the yard and grab chickens, and not a peep out of Friendly and Nearly Friendly. But let the neighbor dog come to visit with his owners, and you'd think they were being personally attacked.

So we contacted our friend Animal Control again. She's found a family who wants llamas. We're hoping they'll want ours.