Shave and a Haircut...

So yesterday's shearing went well. The boys were very good, with only a minimum of kicking, and no spitting whatsoever. I'd kept them in the barn the previous night, and fortunately the rain let up in the a.m., so no soggy llamas this year. (Last year it poured, and even though we sheared in the barn, they got soaked on they way from one end of the barn to the other, which involved a walk of about twenty yards through the downpour. Yuck!)

Our shearer, Duane, brings his own chute, which is pretty handy for potentially kicky and/or spitty llamas. Plus, llamas often kush down camel-wise when you pick up their feet and particuarly hate having their legs handled (males often fight by attacking each other's legs, and have sensitive scent glands on their hind legs), Hence, the chute is a necessity, since you can't shear a kneeling llama.

You can see that chocolatey Llannie looks a lot like Snuffaluffagus by the end of winter. He's a relatively small guy at about 265-275 lbs., but it's hard to tell under all that fleece! He's also the crankier of the two, constantly spitting at Graty, his younger companion (who, incidentally, snorts--but never spits--back).

Here's Llannie in the chute, ready to go, while Graty looks on. I brought them out together, because when they're separated, Graty hums like a cria (a baby llama). If you've never heard the noise a llama makes, it's pretty funny--a little hummy sighing sound. Kind of odd for a big animal, but it can be pretty sad and plaintive when married with those huge, emotive eyes of theirs.

So he looks a little silly in this after shot, but he needed a pretty extreme trimming this year, because he got into some burrs early last summer. Normally, the fleece would be left much longer on his legs and chest, but all the prickly-stickies had to be trimmed out, leaving him looking a bit like a cross between an alpaca and a big poodle. I think he's still quite handsome, and he'll quickly grow in a new coat of his soft, fine, downy fleece.

Now it's Graty's turn. You can see how long and thick the fleece on his chest and belly are! Even though he was a youngster (and smaller than Llannie) when we brought him home in October 2004, he's now a head taller than his companion and now weighs about 400 lbs.

It's time to trim toenails, and I'm trying it for the first time. Llamas don't have hooves, but two toes with foot pads that look a little like those of a large dog. Their toenails can sometimes grow quickly and will eventually grow inward, pushing their toes apart. This can cause foot and leg problems, so I'm trying to learn how to do the trimming myself. Graty's nails were softened by the wet weather, but still quite thick, dark and waxy. Once I had his feet up he didn't seemed to mind too much, although once he got it in mind to struggle he was really strong!

Not the best picture of his finished 'do, but here's Graty after his haircut. I love how his spots all show through, and it looks like he's wearing orange-striped pantaloons. It's hard to gauge his color here, but his appaloosa fleece spins into a really pretty heathery shade once the cream, beige, and grey blend together.

Now we have lots of fresh fleece, and two llamas ready for warmer weather. (Of course, it's still in the 40s here, but whatever, it's Michigan.) Today I started doing a little hand-carding and hopefully can begin spinning some soon. If you're wondering what it takes to prepare fresh-from-the-llama (or other) fiber for handspinning, here's a quick little video on carding. Yes, it's kind of time-consuming, but it's kind of zen after you get the hang of it.


RheLynn said...

You are an excellent writer (I just came from your knitty article) - and beautiful pictures of your animals and the process!

Juls said...

wow, this was totally fascinating! You are so brave. I have to say, the thought of a spitting kicking llama would be enough to send me to the computer to order my yarn instead!

Obsidian Kitten said...

Thanks for the feedback! Actually, only Llannie spits, and only at Graty (although you can get caught in the crossfire if you're not careful). As for the kicking...well, that's what the chute (and an experienced shearer like Duane) are for, lol.

It's been quite a happy adventure raising our two boys, and even more fun being able to share it. Thanks for posting!