This article was the 10th in a series of columns under the heading Observations from the Pasture in the GALA Newsletter. It was originally published in August 2001.
Our llamas are a source of much pleasure in our lives. While ruminating with our llamas in our pastures over this past weekend my thoughts turned to some of the ways our lives have been enriched by llamas this past spring. Three events came to mind: the Northeast Llama Showcase, a training session with Marty McGee Bennett in Vermont and the first annual Maine Fiber Frolic.
In each case the good times arose not only because of the presence of llamas but also (and very important) the presence of other llama people.
The Northeast Llama Showcase was our first event in 2001 and, thus, the first opportunity of the year to renew acquaintances. If you are not ‘into halter classes’ you might wish to take a closer look at what goes on at these shows. There is something for everyone.
Next we invaded Vermont for the training session. What a great bunch of llama people! We Mainiacs were welcomed with open arms. Jeanne and I always attend training sessions together. The upside is that not only do we have the pleasure of being in an activity together, but also we can critically observe each other when we return home and attempt to apply what we have learned. The downside is that, because of the cost of the registration fees for two people, we spread the training sessions over several years, i.e., we attend only one day of classes at a time. We have previously attended a series of sessions with John Mallon. We recognize that John and Marty have some very different views on a number of issues. Attending both is advantageous because it heightens one’s awareness of these training issues. Without question we will be attending more sessions by both John and Marty. One final comment - Marty’s observations on halters is well worth the cost of admission.
The first annual Maine Fiber Frolic was an unqualified success. I credit the success, first, to a very talent Coordinating Committee and, second, to great weather. One week difference in either direction might have dampened spirits a bit.
Several well-meaning but misguided individuals took it upon themselves to exterminate the coyote population in our area. They then compounded the imbalance they created by feeding the deer over the winter. What had been a mere overpopulation of deer has grown into a severe overpopulation problem. In addition, other populations of other species normally kept in check by coyotes have exploded. The end result is that they are all looking for food and my gardens have become a target. Even my potato and tomato plants have become fodder. I will have to fence my garden area but in the meantime I have resorted to my old standby, llama tea. I sprinkle the llama tea over the garden delights every other night or so. If it rains I need to follow-up with a sprinkling after it dries up. If you have a creature problem in your garden, you might wish to give it a try. For more information see Confessions of an Organic Gardener, or, Nothing But the Straight Poop and More Confessions of an Organic Farmer, or, Toujours Manure.
Speaking of confessions, I have another one. I prefer light-wooled llamas. It took some time for me to become aware of how I felt and how the heavy-wool/heavy-bone trend had distorted by impressions of my light-wooled llamas. I was letting myself look at them through jaundiced eyes and was not appreciating their sleek look and their nimbleness afoot. My new awareness took some time in arriving. My epiphany came when I saw several very large heavy-wooled, heavy-boned llamas which could best be described as oxen with banana ears. My first thought was that the llama industry had gone too far in trying to achieve bone and wool. Then I wondered whether these animals could run and frolic across a pasture. Were they up to the task of being llamas?
I also became aware that I was not alone in my appreciation of the light-wooled llama. Interestingly enough I found significant interest among the population of people who are contemplating acquiring their first llamas. This raised an interesting question in my mind, namely, is our thrust towards heavy-wool and heavy-bone limiting the potential market to existing farms?
Finally, my thoughts turned to ALSA shows. There are not very many llamas enrolled in the light-wool halter classes. One result has been the migration of some medium-wooled llamas into the light-wool classes. There are many reasons for attending these shows. One of these is to have fun. If more of us who appreciate the light-wooled llama entered our llamas in the light-wool classes, we could, through sheer numbers of true light-wools, force a clearer distinction between light-wool and medium-wool, and then enjoy a healthy competition. Think about it.
2010 Editor's Comment: For a number of reasons we ceased attending ALSA shows years ago. Our reasons ranged from concern for the well-being of our llamas to organizational problems within ALSA and finally a concern about the pursuit of fads that we felt were inimical to the future of llama genetics.