Monthly Archives: February 2011

It Doesn’t Hurt Much When Llamas Kick

by Guest Blogger Robyn Williams

The pads on their feet resemble a dog’s, not exactly soft but spongy with thick, rough skin.  Their feet spread when they walk, which I assume is something the llama evolved to accommodate rocky, mountainous terrain, and what makes them such superb and sure-footed pack animals.

When it’s time to halter them, to cut their wool or their toenails or vaccinate, they force me to follow them to the fence.  They keep their big round rear ends to me, shifting right or left as I try to maneuver to their sides.   They each kick when I’m behind them, drawing one hind leg up and out. It’s a medium-weight Bette Davis slap, but faster than you’d imagine such an ungainly creature could move.  The trajectory’s always the same, connecting about mid-shin, and doesn’t hurt a lot. But because guard llamas will kill coyotes by stomping them to death, I’m certain they could hurt me if they really felt threatened. I think they’re just being crabby.

Once they surrender and allow me to slip a halter over their noses and buckle it behind their ears, they’re mostly docile and will follow me with little argument.  Mostly.  If one balks, the other stops dead in his tracks and there’s no pulling them anywhere. All I can do is walk around behind them and force them to circle and avoid me, and once they are both moving they’re likely to keep following. On hot summer days, I tether them to the fruit trees in the back yard where they  enjoy the shade and mow a perfect circle in the grass around each trunk.

They are fat and complacent now but when they were young and still had testicles they were fierce fighters, brawling like teenage boys.  One would get a little too close, they’d square off, stretch their necks, point their noses in the air and spit. Spitting is a normal llama-to-llama behavior and though most people think llamas will spit at humans, it isn’t really common. It is entirely possible to get caught in the crossfire, however.  And it’s not merely spit but the llama equivalent of cow cud and more than a little nasty.  If spitting wasn’t enough to get  the other to back off they’d charge, butt their broad chests and bash each other with their long, muscular necks.

Their territoriality with each other is a strange contradiction to their need to be together.  If Sparky is tethered and Alf is led away, they cry to each other in a mid-pitch, throaty hum. Alf will turn to look worriedly as he’s led away, and Sparky is attentive, ears pitched forward.  It’s clear they are distressed when separated.  They are old brothers, have been alone together nearly their entire lives.  Is it just their genetic programming as pack animals? Is it the animal version of what we  know as love?

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Book Review — The Lost Hero

The Lost Hero (The Heroes of Olympus, #1)The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Antiquity background on which the story sits is interesting and, dare I say, educational. Although the story is not a Harry Potter look-alike, the main characters are: Jason, the bewildered and reluctant leader, Leo, the comic relief and goofy genius, and Piper, the girl in the trio who seemingly has no useful powers but is the “heart” of the trio.

The writing is good and reads well, but this is a big book with nearly 600 pages. Since it is the first book in a series, this means a serious investment in reading time. Nevertheless, if only because of all the Gods (Greek and Roman) and all the associated monsters and fabulous creatures, The Lost Hero is a fun read.

View all my reviews

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Quilting–a hobby or an obsession?

From Guest Blogger Margaret Loyer

I don’t sew. If necessity demands, I can replace a button or mend a hem. I can even darn socks. However, that doesn’t make me a sewer. My four sisters all sew but somehow I missed that gene.

I’m on holidays at the moment with my oldest sister. Since we drove, she brought along her sewing machine and enough paraphernalia to outfit a craft store. My sister isn’t just a sewer but a quilter and an obsessive one at that. Since she started quilting seven years ago, she’s made more than 100 projects ranging from table runners to queen-size quilts.

When planning our holiday, I knew that quilting would be a major activity. So true. In the first three days, we visited seven quilt shops and two craft stores. My sister bought 13 pieces of fabric and innumerable spools of thread and notions. Our evenings have been spent plotting the route to the next stores, usually working a circular path to encompass as many as possible in one day. If tomorrow goes as planned, we’ll visit five more stores and travel close to 200 miles, all in the name of quilting.

I never properly appreciated the variety of material available for sale. You can find fabric for any age and any theme. Animals are plentiful as are flowers, trees, and pagodas. Colours are not one-dimensional. Do you want blue? It can be light or dark, robin’s egg or midnight, with stars or unadorned. Cotton may be a type of material for the uninitiated but it’s just a guideline. You have to know if you want batik (tie-dyed), prints, or solids. Bolt after bolt must be perused to ensure the right combination of colour and pattern. Some quilt patterns call for as few as two contrasting fabrics while others ask for as many as 23 pieces of fabric; that’s a lot of perusing.

So far, my contribution has been to consult mapquest.com and to navigate. I’ve also been helpful in finding sales on thread or refill chalk. My sister will grudgingly admit that I did find the one piece of yellow fabric needed to complete a child’s quilt and that had eluded her and the sales clerk for several minutes.

Watching my sister sew has also been eye-opening. I have often said that it’s a lot of cutting and sewing, then re-cutting and re-sewing. I was right. It also requires a level of dedication that is far beyond what is applied to most careers, except perhaps if you’re a rocket scientist.

In my next life, I want to come back as a rocket scientist.

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