So there we were. Ushering it toward a barn. Humans using teamwork. Walking it past a pair of cows, a flock of ducks, and a gaggle of flabby goats.
I wonder what these creatures think of us, I really do. What are we to them? We must seem like fumbling, relentless, omnipotent beings which pour out a never ending supply of food. What would the equivalent be for us? Imagine if one day on your way to work you came across a glowing rift in space that just gushed snacks and shelter and pillows and television. 85% of our population would probably just park themselves in front of it and call it a day. The other 15% would have to be tracked down.
I was lost in thought. It was a good thing Sterling was there. He's a magician. (An actual magician). Once we got the llama into the barn he utilized some pretty amazing slight of hand to slip a harness onto her, and we were back in business. The llama business. We should be pretty clear by now, we were excelling at.
We apologized to our neighbours for all the trouble, but they were too kind. Happens to everybody, they said. They just couldn't believe she cleared the fence.
Same with the previous owner.
“No way she jumped the fence,” she texted. “Not possible! Your fence was better than ours!”
As we left their property our neighbours said something that really stuck with me.
“All she's ever known is her previous farm. Then she was stuffed into an animal trailer and shot down the highway. Now she's let out here and everything's different. She's got to be freaking out, that's only normal. For her this is like landing on Mars.”
We got back to our place and walked her and her baby to the shelter, then locked them in for the night.
And what did it feel like for us? Success? Victory?
Nope. More like a wrong turn corrected by several other chaotic jerks of the wheel. We talked about selling them.
Then we went inside and played board games while I googled “how high can a llama jump” on my phone. I watched footage of a llama in the UK setting a world record by clearing a 3'8” bar. That can't be right. Our fence is 4'. What gives?
The next evening we decided to let them out again. With the pigs removed and the commonwealth record for llama jumping firmly established, we figured she'd be fine. So I unscrewed the 2x4's from the shelter entrance. (The shelter was 90% finished, so “unlocking” them required us removing a zombie-proof criss crossing of plywood and mud soaked lumber.
“OK, she's doing alright...” Anna whispered.
We were in full David Attenborough mode now: “The mother llama scans the pasture for potential threats to her child. Finding none, she returns to grazing. And thus begins a new chapter in their lives...”
“She seems calm,” I said.
“I fucking hope so,” Anna sighed. And we went to have a bonfire.
About an hour later my Spidey-Senses were tingling, so I went back to check.
Both were grazing. Nothing weird at all.
But then something made the mama raise her head and tense up. Oh shit, I thought. Then she did her 'click-click-click' noise and bolted for the corner.
No no no no! She's going to jump! She's going to jump! There's no way she can...
She jumped it.
Popped right over the fence like a deer off a springboard. Right while I was watching. Cleared it like it was nothing. Unbelievable.
“Llama's out!” I shouted, running by the fire. “Llama's out!”
“WHAT!?!” Anna shouted. “No fucking way!”
“Put the kids in the house!” I yelled behind me. “Where's Sterling and Leaf?!”
“Get them! Grab the drill! Open the fence! We'll push her back! Fuck!”
So that brings us to the clover field and the sweeping, bronto-necked, world record smashing mama llama.
Eventually we did push her back. Got her to the gate, led her in, then spent another 20 minutes corralling her and her baby back into the shelter.
“Well, here we are again.” Anna shrugged.
“Now I swear,” I said. “The next time I open this shelter it's so we can load her into an animal trailer. I am so done with this thing!” (I said that, but with f-bombs every second or third word).
Here's what really killed me:
Most farmers are shitty carpenters. Sorry! Take a look around. I see a lot of crappy fences out there. Drive anywhere rural and tell me I'm wrong. Crappy fences are the norm. (But I get that now too – there's a lot to do.)
Now here I am with my own farm. I have a decent carpentry background and I build a nice sturdy fence. For everything we've done here, I've researched what the animal needs and then completely overbuild it. Like with the pigs. They don't care about the fancy house they've got. They have a puddle and shrub. Done. You think the chickens care that I built them a guest cabin?
Well, actually yeah. The chickens really like their house.
But the point is I built a good fence. And what does this thing do? Doesn't read the playbook and pulls off an impossible leap (twice!), instantly nullifying all my hard work.
That burns. That's my serving of humility right there. I'll never criticize another fence.
So what else could I do? I sat by the fire and drank heavily.
It's either sell the llamas or raise the fence, I thought. And who raises a fence? I don't think I've ever seen a single farm fence that was over 4', no matter what the animal. I can't add a couple feet to our fence. I can't. Who does that?
Mid downward spiral, Sterling lit off the fireworks he brought from Alberta. And I don't mean he sparked a couple of roman candles. This was a trunk load of pyrotechnics.
He was darting around, lighting box after box as all hell broke loose above him. Meanwhile, the chicken tractor was just a short distance away and all our plump, sumo roosters were probably falling over each other having heart attacks.
The pigs were going mental. They panicked hard, ran a few tight laps inside their pen as each rainbow starburst shrieked and exploded above them. Then they plunked down in the mud and took in the show. Probably fell back asleep.
This is crazy, I thought. All of it.
Crazy is going from a 700 square foot apartment in East Vancouver to 140 acres in rural Manitoba. Crazy is thinking we can raise pigs just because our neighbours say it's easy. Crazy is buying llamas off of Facebook. But crazy is what we do.
So you know what? This llama and her baby are here now. They're part of our farm. We're in this together.
Tomorrow we're building a bigger fence.