Twin Creeks Llamas            



“What are they running off to look at?” I thought as I drove in the driveway and saw our small herd of 6 gelded llamas all running full speed along the fence line. As I watched, it quickly turned into pronking, with each  llama  following the other like a line of bounding antelope. Pronking is an activity that young llamas (crias) do when they are feeling particularly happy and frisky. Once they start, it often inspires the whole herd to join in. It’s rare that we see our 6 year old boys engage in this free spirited romp, but it always puts me in mind of the cartoon skunk, “Pepe LePew” as he bounced around in his love pursuit of the elusive black kitty that had accidentally gotten white paint down  her  back.

I looked around the pasture to see what they were excited about, and saw 3 deer frolicking along the outside of the fence rail. As we live close to the boundaries of the Shenandoah National Park, deer are quite plentiful. We see them on the meadow everyday, and sometimes have seen them inside the llamas' pasture, grazing with them side by side. So the sight of deer usually doesn't elicit any interest from the llamas, but as I continued to watch, the deer rounded the corner of the pasture fence and continued running and kicking up their heels with the llamas in hot pursuit along the inside of the fence rail. They ran a complete circle around the fence and then the deer dashed off into the woods. I figured that was the end of the show, but within a few seconds, the deer came bounding from the woods and started running along the fence in the opposite direction. When the llamas saw them, they resumed their pronking and kept pace along the inside of the fence. It was then that I realized that the deer and the llamas were playing together. The deer would run 3 quarters the way around the pasture and reverse direction and run back around the perimeter leaping and cavorting. All 6 llamas continued their pronking, one behind the other, like carousel animals on a huge Merry Go Round. They all remained interested in the game for about 10 minutes, but as my llama boys are not accustomed to such extended romping, they soon tired. One by one they dropped into their "kush" position. As the sun was starting to set, they settled into their nighttime sleeping positions, each llama facing a different direction as if they were circling the wagons. Soon they were lost in the settling darkness. How I wish we could entice the deer to come and exercise our llamas more often.

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Dear Tech Support, 

Recently I purchased and installed Llama 1.0. I soon noticed that this program appears to have numerous glitches. For instance, every time my computer boots up, I have to run Feed 5.3 and Water 7.1. Many times I've been in the middle of writing an important document, and a window will flash telling me to run Clean Pasture 2.0.  This program also contained applications I did not wish to install; such as Manure 8.5, however they auto-installed with Llama 1.0.

 Applications such as Vacation 2.7 and Free Time 10.1 can no longer run, crashing whenever selected. Possibly the worst is that Llama 1.0 has attached itself to programs like Finance Manager and MS Money, with folders added such as "Monthly Worming" and "Stock Trailer". Periodically, I'll get a reminder telling me to send a check to the manufacturer of Llama 1.0 for the aforementioned items.

I have tried to uninstall Llama 1.0 numerous times, but when I try to run the uninstall program, I get warning messages telling me that a deadly virus known as "Withdrawal" will infect my system. Please Help!!!!!


Dear User,
Your complaint is not unusual. A common misconception among users is that Llama 1.0 is a mere "utilities and entertainment program." It is not- it is an OPERATING SYSTEM and is designed by its' creator to run everything! A warning will soon be imprinted on the box. Since you have already installed Llama 1.0, here are a few tips on how to make it run better. If you are annoyed by the applications Feed 5.3 and Water 7.1, you may run C:\HIRE HELP, however this will cause another folder to be added to financial applications, labeled "Staff". Failure to send payment to "Staff" will result in Feed 5.3 and Water 7.1 being run again on startup.

A note of caution: NOT booting up your computer for several days isn't the solution to avoiding Feed 5.3 and Water 7.1. You will find that, when you boot up your computer again, a nasty virus called "Colic 4.2" will have attached itself to important documents and the only way to rid your computer of Colic 4.2 is by purchasing and installing "Vet 10.1", which we admit is extremely expensive, but crucial. Otherwise, Colic 4.2 will cause irreversible damage to the operating system. Finally, it is important that you run C:\Grain and C:\Trim Nails on a fairly regular basis to keep the application running smoothly. If you have any more questions, please call our toll free number.

Tech Support

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Our first six months of llama ownership had been relatively peaceful and uneventful.  Our 3 young geldings, now 2 years old, had become buds right from the start, and could always be seen as a threesome, whether they were grazing in the pasture, chilling out in the barn, or frolicking around playing their adolescent llama games.  They were all in all perfect little angels. 

What a surprise awaited me when we returned from a 4-day trip.  We had gone away and had left our 3 boys in the capable care of our pet sitter. On the morning after our return, as was my usual routine, I drove down to the barn on my way to work to give them their morning grain and obligatory neck pats.  As my car approached the gate, I saw them emerge one by one from the barn.  First came Coffee Bean, followed by Napoleon. And lastly, looking like the Phoenix emerging from the ashes, came Santiago, completely surrounded by what looked like a billowing cloud of smoke.  With each proud step he took, fresh plumes of wispy smoke emerged from the ground.  It was quite an impressive sight, despite the sinking feeling that was growing in the pit of my stomach, for I knew immediately what had happened. 

A month earlier, we had had some stonework done around the barn.  The stone mason still had some finishing details to attend to, so we had left a 50 pound bag of mortar mix in the run in for his use.  For the last month it had sat there totally ignored by the llamas as well as by the mason.  But in our absence, the llamas had decided to have a party.  The bag was broken, and the contents were spread throughout the barn.  They had discovered an A-1 Prime dust for rolling, finer than talcum powder, and Santiago had just partaken of this wonder dust for a complete body roll.  What had been a solidly brown llama when we left 4 days ago, was now completely white, including his long feathery eyelashes. 

I could tell that all three llamas had been having a field day in our absence.  Rain was predicted for the afternoon, and I could visualize 3 life-size concrete llama castings.  I got to work sweeping up as much as I could of the powder.  Next I proceeded to blow off Santiago.  The air became a total white out.  For 20 minutes I directed the nozzle over and around his body, then brushed and blew some more.  Coffee Bean already had little beads of concrete attached to the hair on his back where the mortar mix had gotten wet from the dew. Luckily I was able to brush most of it out. 

Finally, all three llamas clean, I directed the blower to cleaning the barn floor.  Billowing clouds of dust poured out of the barn doors.  Coffee Bean and Napoleon began to frolic in the dusty air, trying to gather up the last wisps of their magic powder.  Santiago saw a small pile of dust that I’d pushed to the edge of the floor and schemed to have one last roll.  His front end went down as he prepared to kush.  He had conveniently presented his rear end to me, so I directed the flow of air up under his tail before he could plop it down.  I got one of those indignant sideways glares before he moved on out.  Finally, the llamas and barn looked fairly clean.  As I looked at the threatening skies, I could only imagine what I would have come home to if we had been a day later. 

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Our little farm consists of 20 acres nestled in the Shenandoah Valley, near the boundary of the Shenandoah National Park, where bears are a protected species.  It’s not surprising, therefore, that we see a fair number of bears on the property.  When we first moved here in ’98, we enjoyed hanging birdfeeders to watch the myriad variety of birds that would congregate around the house.  By the second summer, we realized that we had achieved a 5 star rating with the bear and squirrel communities.  We experimented in vain with various pulley and extension systems to thwart the raids of both species.  We invented an ingenious design involving a tree, a flag pole, a block and tackle pulley system and squirrel deflectors, and thought, foolishly, that we had outsmarted the wildlife.  I think we may have flummoxed the squirrels, but the bears deftly climbed the tree and stepped out onto the flag pole. “Crack”. That was the end of the bear proof bird feeder, and consequently the end of our bird feeding endeavors. 

We’d still see occasional glimpses of the bears, but routinely saw the evidence of them: piles of bear poop on our trails, stacks of cut wood in shambles from bears routing around for insects, branches of small trees broken down.  We’ve never worried too much about the bears, as they are black bears, and for the most part, will run away if they detect your presence.  We’re always respectful, however, of a mother with her cub.  I fear most for our dog, Bonny, a very headstrong Bearded Collie.  When she picks up the scent of an animal, she’s off like a streak of lightening—her ears seal shut and she will not respond to our yells to come back.  She’s usually chasing after a deer or rabbit, and the most damage that occurs is, that when she returns, her long fur is matted with beggars lice, burrs, briars, etc., and usually warrants an hour or so of my time to comb it out. I live in fear that someday she’ll catch sight of a bear, and go chasing after it.  Bears, particularly if they have a cub, will turn on a dog, and one swipe of their claws can rip it apart. 

Black Bears are more opportunistic feeders as opposed to being large game predators.  They will usually forage for berries, insects, small rodents, and carrion.  I’m not too worried that one would jump over the pasture fence and attack a llama, though I’m sure in desperate times, it could happen. 

Our land is bordered by two creeks; hence the name, “Twin Creeks”, and we have about a mile of cleared trails around the creeks.  We enjoy taking afternoon walks along the trails, sometimes with the dogs, sometimes with the llamas, and sometimes with dogs and llamas together.  The llamas love to wade in the creeks to cool their feet.  Bonny loves to lay down in the middle of the creek, with her 12 inch long hair billowing out around her. 

One morning, in early summer, we decided to take all the family on a stroll around the creeks.  Tim had Santiago and Domino each on a lead. I had Coffee Bean and Napoleon, and the dogs, as usual, were running free.  We had gone a few hundred yards down the trail, when Tim said, “There’s a bear”. Sure enough, just 50 yards or so up the trail was a mother bear and her cub.  When she saw us, she turned and ran, but she stopped after a few yards and turned back around to watch us, wondering, I’m sure, what the heck those strange animals were.  I don’t know who saw the bear first, it was pretty much instantaneous. The llamas seemed to see it at the same time that Tim did.  I wasn’t worried about the llamas.  They’re pretty good about taking surprises in stride and not having an all out panic.  My first concern was for Bonny.  Luckily, she hadn’t seen the bear, and miraculously, came when we called.  Tim grabbed her by the collar, as we didn’t have a leash, and we turned around to head back to the barn.  The llamas were alert, but calm to this point, but it soon became a fiasco. As Tim was trying to bend over and walk while holding Bonny’s collar, Santiago’s and Domino’s leads became entangled.  Tim passed Bonny over to me to get his llamas’ leads untangled, but by this time, the llamas had come to the unanimous conclusion that we were a couple of bungling idiots.  After all, there was a bear back there, and why weren’t we moving faster.  So as of one mind, they decided to bolt.  There was no holding them back, so we quickly released the leads to minimize damage to ourselves.  ZOOM.  They vanished around the bend in the direction of the barn.  I struggled along, bent over double, trying to walk while holding onto Bonny’s collar.  When we arrived back at the barn, just as we expected, there were all four llamas, waiting inquisitively by the pasture gate. I had  often wondered what we’d do if all 4 boys got out of the pasture at one time, but in this case, they were quite willing and ready to go back to the safety of their pasture.  We opened the gate, and they trotted on in. 

We learned several things from this adventure.
1. Llamas do act pretty responsibly in the face of danger, but it helps if you are acting responsibly, too. 2. It’s not a bad idea to carry along a dog leash, and 3. The llamas now wear bells on their collars whenever we go walking to warn the bears we are on the trail.

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The winter of 2002/2003 brought more snow than we’ve ever seen since we’ve been in Virginia.  In fact, I’ve only seen it snow more once in my life, and that was when we lived in South Dakota in the 70’s.  When it snowed there, it came down horizontally. We woke one morning to find the snow had drifted from the roofs of the houses on our side of the street to the roofs of the houses on the opposite side.  The street was ribbed with rows of 20 foot drifts.   

We maybe had just as much snow in February 2003, here in Virginia, but it all came down nice and level, for a total accumulation of 36 inches.  Now to me, a Southern girl, that’s a lot of snow! Finally, the snow blower we had bought for the tractor 3 years ago was going to pay off.  It took Tim 2 hours to make one pass up and back our ½ mile gravel road, and by the time he got back to the house, it had snowed another 6 inches, so he turned around and did it again.  He kept busy at that for a day and a half, while I stayed busy at the house keeping a path shoveled so the 2 dogs could get to the back yard.  Within a few hours it was well above their backs.   

We finally turned our attention to clearing a path down to the barn.  We weren’t worried about the well-being of the llamas as they have a nice dry barn, plenty of available hay, and heated water buckets that had been filled before the snow got really bad.  And after all, llamas come from the high Andes Mountains of South America where they live in near arctic temperatures during the winter months.  They should be loving the snow.  Right?  Wrong!  They were all standing primly in the barn looking perplexed.  There wasn't a single llama footprint in the snow.  They refused to go out.  And to my great dismay, they had gone to the bathroom on our pristine barn floor.  Now, never before, in the year and a half that we had had llamas, had they ever gone on the barn floor.  We were very proud of ourselves that we had such tidy llamas.  But from all we had heard from other llama folks, once they go in a spot and that odor is there, you can never stop them from going there for ever more.  I was determined to nip this thing in the bud.   

First things first—we needed to dig a path so the llamas would go out.  Tim brought the tractor down and cleared a circular loop in the front of the barn so they could get some exercise.  Next he shoveled a path up behind the barn so they could get to the area they preferred to use as their bathroom.  Meanwhile, I’m determined to try to salvage the purity of the barn floor.  First I hosed the area down and then poured Clorox on it.  The thing I hadn’t factored in was that it was 20 degrees outside, and the concrete floor was probably colder that that.  Whatever liquid was poured on it immediately turned to slush.  So first I shoveled up urine slush, then Clorox slush, then more water slush.  After a couple rounds of this, I had it pretty well sterile.  But the moisture that I couldn’t shovel up quickly turned to sheet ice.  Well, I had planned to block that area of the barn off to the llamas anyway, until they, hopefully, forgot about going to the bathroom there. 

Meanwhile, outside, the llamas seemed quite content.  They now had their llama loop and happily walked in endless circles.  They decided that, given the choice, they’d rather potty behind the barn thanks to their freshly shoveled path.  It took about 4 weeks for the snow to start melting, but until the grass was showing through, the llamas never ventured out of their llama loop.  And I’m happy to report, that they never pottied on the barn floor again.

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People often ask, “How smart are llamas?”. I always reply that they are very intelligent creatures and quick to learn.  They will usually learn and remember a behavior with as little as three repetitions.  Some behaviorists say one measure of intelligence is deductive reasoning, or the ability to work through a problem.  Food is a great motivator, and I have seen them be very clever to get to the munchies.  When we are training them, we wear a little pocket apron filled with grain to reward them.  When done, we often hang the apron on a hook in the tack room with the leftover grain still in the pocket.  On occasion, we forget to pull the tack room door firmly closed, and the boys with sneak in there, lift the aprons from the hook, and shake them all over the floor so they can snarf up the grain.   

One day after doing some training, I was working in the pasture doing a little poop scooping, and still had the apron around my waist.  Napoleon crept up behind me and, with his lips, deftly pulled on the bow string at my back, untying the apron and causing it to fall to the ground. 

But today, they outdid themselves in ingenuity.  We had been feeding them free choice hay.  We’d put a whole bale in the manger, and they could munch on it anytime they wanted.  With all the snow and ice that we have had all winter, they were becoming barn potatoes, and lounging around the manger all day, not going outside for any exercise, and starting to put on some pudge. We decided to start rationing out their portions, and spreading it out on the snow where they would have to go out and forage a little for it.  They looked on this as a new adventure, and would come boinking out into the pasture when they saw me shaking out some hay. 

The 4 of them don’t eat a whole bale at a time, so the remainder of the bale we were keeping in a hay bag, a specially designed canvas bag, that is the exact size of one bale of hay.  It has a fully zippered top, and I placed it in an out of the way place in the barn.   

Today, I was a couple of hours later than usual going down to feed them, and I worried that they would be anxious about their breakfast.  When I walked into the barn, I saw that they had been up to mischief.  The hay bag was dragged into the middle of the barn floor, and hay was strewn all over the barn.  I expected that the bag had been demolished, but upon closer inspection, I discovered that the bag was entirely intact, with the exception of a half-dollar size hole in one corner, that a mouse had chewed while it was being stored in the loft.  The boys had somehow figured out how to use a zipper.  They had used their nimble lips to work the zipper completely open and had had a party, eating the hay, tossing it all around, and then rolling in it.  Who needs thumbs when you have opposable lips?

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We’re off llama hikes for the summer, until Sept. The thing that has been occupying all our time around the farm is the new pond. It’s so much more work than just having a hole dug. We started the project last October. Basically, the clearing, burning, excavation, and reseeding was all supposed to be completed in a week’s time. But 4 days into the project, just after the excavator started digging, we had 7 inches of rain. The mud and slippery clay made working nearly impossible. We kept having an inch or two of rain every week so it never dried up. He persevered, as he knew that the hole would start filling with water. He left his equipment there until mid December, until he decided he had done all he could do with the condition of the dirt. It was mostly graded, but never got the final finishing and seeding, etc. So we spent the winter and spring with shovels and rakes doing what we could to level the dirt around the pond. I’ve put 200 pounds of seed and about 50 bales of straw around it.  

The pond is about ½ acre. It’s located down the slope from the side of the house. The area was a total unusable mess before the pond as it was always marshy and completely grown over in vines and thorny things. It’s an amazing transformation. We discovered the reason it was always so wet was that a few inches under the topsoil, was a layer of pure clay. I’m talking about sculpting type clay. That’s a good and bad thing. The good thing is that clay makes a perfect pond bottom, as it holds the water tight. The bad thing is that nothing likes to grow in it, so the 200 pounds of grass seed, after 4 months of a fairly wet spring, is still as fine as frog's hair. It is germinating, but you have to get on your hands and knees to see it. We built a 12 x 20 dock, and a bridge to cross the inlet, and a few weeks ago, had a pavilion built on the shore end of the dock and put a set of rustic cypress furniture there. We stocked it with baby fish, bass, bluegills, and minnows. That brings me to the interesting bear saga. 

We bought the fish back the first of April. It’s a virgin pond. Well that’s not true, cause about a million frogs had sex down there. A billion eggs hatched into tadpoles. Now it’s a cacophony of frog song in the evening, everything from the deep bruppppp of the bullfrog, to the high ddrrtttttt of the tree frogs. Anyway, there was nothing for the fish to eat, so we installed an automatic fish feeder. I did a lot of research online to find this thing. Now there are a lot of automatic deer feeders. These are for the intrepid hunters that set one of these up in the woods to train the deer to come everyday to feed. Then they sit in a tree and blow Bambi away. These would work as a fish feeder, but they are designed to throw the feed in a 360 degree pattern. One manufacturer made a slight modification and devised a deflector to keep the seed from spraying on the dock when used on a lake. But I found one that had been designed just as a fish feeder and had a directional sprayer. It wasn’t cheap, around $200, but was compact and not too ugly. The food container was made of a heavy grade plastic, and the lid just slipped on the top. No positive lock. So the first modification was to install spring lock screen door latches on each side of the lid to keep raccoons, etc. from opening it. We knew it would never withstand an onslaught from a bear, but hoped we would not have to prove it. It worked great for a couple of months. There is a solar eye that senses the time of day and dispenses food and hour after dawn and an hour before sunset. Then one day…… 

The plastic container was mangled. The motor mechanism was metal and unharmed. So we started thinking about food boxes that would be bear proof that we could attach the motor to. I thought a wooden box would be just the ticket. Tim brought up the fact that the 4x4 post that the feeder was mounted to was clawed and chewed to bits, so the bear wouldn’t have any trouble eating his way through a pine box. While pondering on this, we stopped by the co-op, and saw that they had one of the deer feeders for sale. This one was a simple 6 gallon metal bucket with a metal lid that crimps down, just like a big paint bucket. This one was a stylish camo design, though. We examined the lid and decided that there was no way the bear could pry the lid off short of carrying his own screwdriver. So we bought it. 

Next came the second modification. The pail was made to simply hang on a tree limb. Tim drilled holes to match the original mounting bracket so it could be attached to the 4x4 post (somewhat chewed). Since this was a deer feeder, it sprayed food in a complete circle, so modification 3, Tim devised a deflector by attaching a curved piece of plastic to keep it from spraying on the dock (actually half of a Clorox bottle). The next day the bear came back. He couldn’t open the pail, so he chewed the post some more, and pulled the deflector off. It was floating on the pond. Tim retrieved the deflector and put it back on. This scene repeated itself for several more days. The post getting smaller and smaller, and the deflector eventually getting lost. Meanwhile, we hit on the idea of an ammo box to hold the food. I went on line and researched ammo boxes. I can tell you any size that is made and what size ammunition it held. I was looking for one that was large enough on the bottom to mount the original feeder motor, the one that had the directional spray pattern. I found the size I needed, and then went to the local gun and ammo shop and had the guy locate one for me. $15 bucks.  

Modification 4. Tim cut a hole in the bottom of the ammo box, mounted the motor, installed a slide in the box to direct the feed into the slot, drilled holes in the side to mount to the 4 x 4 post, speaking of which, was now only about a 3 x 2. So mod 5, Tim sent me to the metal salvage yard where I found a 3 inch diameter iron pipe. He cut it to the right length and mounted it with U shaped brackets to the dock and then to the ammo box. Perfect. Solid. No way a bear is getting into this. So we sat back and waited. Next morning we’re standing in the kitchen looking down at the pond, and lo and behold, there is the bear standing on the dock examining the new puzzle box. He’s just a young guy, maybe 2 years old. I’m watching him through the binoculars, and Tim is watching through the 10 inch telephoto lens on the camera snapping pictures.

Black bear on our dockThe bear seemed to be very gentle while we were watching him. He’d put his paw into the slot to try to retrieve any pellets that may be sitting in there. But after about 5 minutes, he moseyed on. Upon closer examination, no damage. Yeah!!!. Next morning, however, we noticed that the bear had rotated the feeder on the pole so that the slot was directed on the dock. Tim had to use all of his body weight to shift the feeder back around. Every morning, we would find it in the same position. So we had to put our heads together to find a fix for this problem. It obviously takes 2 of our brains to outsmart “the av-er-age bear”.  

Mod 6. Tim drilled a hole through the iron post and into the ammo box and inserted a huge bolt. A week has gone by now and so far things seem to be holding. I guess he could chew the dock away and take the feeder, pole and all.  

The same day we photographed him down on the dock, he paid a visit to our chickens again. We had installed an electric wire along the top of the fence after he ripped open the chicken coop last summer, and we hadn’t had any further problems. But a fuse had blown in the electric box, and the fence was off. He climbed into the back yard. He wasn’t interested in the chickens, thank goodness, but he wanted the food that we had stored in a large Rubbermaid deck box where we keep the chicken supplies. Again, we had used one of our screen door latches to keep the lid closed, and he couldn’t get it open, so he upended it until the end hinges popped open. He couldn’t get the lid off of the smaller food box, so he just took it with him. We haven’t found it yet.

 Various fish feeders and modifications ---cost $275

1 Rubbermaid storage box and 50 lbs of chicken feed ----cost  $50

Electric wire installed around top of back yard fence ----cost $195

Mental image of bear's expression when he puts his paws on the hot wire ----priceless

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“Donna, wake up!! Bonny’s tangled with a raccoon.” That was my 5:00 wake up call Friday morning. Tim had let our bearded collie out in the backyard when he got up, and shortly after, heard her screaming like a banshee. Tim went out to see what was wrong and thought she had tangled with a bear until he saw the raccoon trot across the deck. Bonny was bloody all over the face and front feet. She was shaking her head and pawing frantically at her muzzle. It was hard to see what the damage was. I got in the shower with her in my rubber gloves and rubber shoes and washed the blood off. She had 2 little puncture marks on the top of the nose and inside one nostril. Apparently she charged the raccoon and he got in one strategic bite on the soft part of her nose. The bleeding soon stopped and she quit pawing at her face. Even though Bonny was current on her rabies vaccinations, I worried about the ramifications of an encounter with a possibly rabid animal; endless questioning and reports by the health department and possible quarantine. I called the vet when they opened, and they had me bring Bonny in for a rabies booster shot even though she was still current. That's all there was. Big sigh of relief. She was pretty low key all day, but now is back to normal. 

Early the following morning, about 1:00 am, I heard strange noises coming from under our bedroom window. I reckoned it was the raccoon rattling the wire of the chicken coop trying to break in. I tried waking Tim up. He was dead asleep. After I poked him about 5 times, he said, "Whaaaa?" I said, "There is something trying to break into the coop," He said "there's somebody trying to rake the poop?" ARRGGGGG!! 

He finally woke up and went to the closet to get his gun. But by that time, my yelling had gotten Bonny excited and she was barking, and scared the raccoon away. We've been waiting for him to return, but we haven't seen him back yet. We've got to get some stronger wire mesh and refortify the coop this weekend.  

This morning I was curious about what kind of sounds a raccoon makes, so I went to the computer and googled raccoon sounds. Bonny was in another part of the house, but when she heard the noise, she started barking and hunting around the house. She located the sound coming from the office, and was looking on top of the desk for the offender. I guess that answers our question of whether or not she had learned her lesson and would leave raccoons alone in the future. 

A few weeks ago we bought a dozen water lilies for the new pond. They are not cheap. We paid about $36 apiece for these pond weeds. Planting them was easy. They were growing in a heavy clay soil in plastic pots. We were told to just remove the pots and drop the plants into the water at a 30 inch depth and they would root themselves. They looked wonderful for several days. We even had a couple of new blooms come on. Then we noticed that lily pads were floating all over the pond, and the plants had few and no leaves. A turtle was nipping the leaves off each and every one of them. We decided the only way to save the plants was to put them in a wire cage, so we spent a whole day making individual wire cages and staking around the plants. All but one has come back. They look kind of funny as the leaves can't spread out further than the 36" ring around them. But it'll keep them alive until they can get established.

We have 2 kinds of turtles in the pond. There is the common pet store variety called a red eared slider, we named him Tudor. But I think Tudor is a Mom, cause I saw a tiny 3 inch version swimming around the dock.  And then we have a couple of snapping turtles which we haven't named, cause they are not welcome. The two we have seen are about 12” and 18” across and are UGLY. We are looking into turtle traps and recipes for turtle stew. I'm sure there's more to follow on that story.

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Recently, a friend of mine emailed me some photos of a mother bear and 5 cubs. The accompanying article explained that black bears typically have two cubs, rarely one or three, and 5 was extraordinary. It reminded me of the family of 3 cubs that I had the pleasure of meeting in the spring of 2004.

I was on my way to work and just as I rounded the curve at the top of our drive, I saw a mother bear and 2 cubs crossing the drive right in front of the car. I stopped to let them pass and to watch them for as long as I could see them. These were tiny little cubs. They only looked to be a couple of weeks old at the most. They were a little unsteady on their feet, wobbling as they walked.

They crossed into my neighbor’s yard. He has about an acre of cleared woods bordered by several acres of dense natural woods. I watched as the Mom and 2 cubs crossed the cleared area and disappeared into the thick woods. I was just about to drive on when I saw a 3rd cub come dashing across the road in hot pursuit, tottering as he ran. But his family was out of sight, and Roscoe didn’t know which way they went. So he found a small tree and tried to climb it. He didn’t have good climbing skills, or perhaps his claws weren’t yet long enough, but he tried to climb the tree 3 or 4 times and kept slipping down. Finally he got purchase on the trunk about 12 inches off the ground and just hung there.

This was an early spring day, maybe late March or early April. It was cool, and I had the windows up and the heat and radio on in the car. I sat there and watched this little wayward cub for about 5 minutes. I could see his mouth opening and closing, so I turned off the car and opened the windows so I could hear him. He was making little cries that sounded like a kitten. I wondered how he was going to get reunited with his siblings, and was determined to stay to make sure he was recovered.

After about 5 minutes, I saw Mom and the 2 cubs exit the woods from the same spot they had disappeared. She probably had been standing there watching her errant son and finally marched out to retrieve him. She walked all the way over to the little tree he was still clinging to and stopped  for a moment as if to say, “Would you keep up and quit being naughty? You’re worrying me to death”. The little one slid down the small tree and trailed along behind Mom and his 2 siblings and disappeared back into the woods.

We saw them several times that summer and spoke often with our neighbors who also had occasional visitations. It seemed that every time they were spotted, there was always one cub that was lagging behind and getting into mischief.

We were fortunate to see them again as we were coming home from a llama hike one day and had a camera with us. This is a shot of Mom and the triplets on Turtle Lane. You can see Roscoe lagging behind as usual. They had aged by a few weeks in this photo.

Bear Triplets 

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