Just What I Kneeded

What happens after a life-altering knee injury?

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Thirty seconds

Spring lasted all of thirty seconds around here. Seriously, it was blowing snow on April 2, and it was 85 degrees today. I’m not going to complain… but I want to complain. Because it’s hot. I spent the weekend shearing llamas, and it was sweaty, dirty business. I only got 16 done, which means there are 48 still waiting on me. Oy.

I’m getting ready to do something this weekend that I haven’t done in four years. I’m going to compete at a llama show. Yes! Legit. I actually signed up, and I’m going. I’m totally unprepared and haven’t practiced AT ALL, but I wanted to do it, so I’m doing it. I had to sign up before I chickened out.

This show is actually the same one after which I stopped competing four years ago. At the end of that day, I drove home in tears. I was in agony. That was also the day I decided to get serious about the big surgery.

For the last two years, I’ve gone to shows and helped friends with their animals. I even went in the ring once or twice. But I never exhibited my own animal, and I certainly didn’t do the performance classes.

I’m pretty excited about this. I’m taking an animal that I trained years ago (but that I haven’t practiced with in about four years), and I enjoy him oh so much. His name is Zin. He’s big and fluffy and patient, and we’re going to go make fools of ourselves.

This is kind of a prove-to-myself-that-this-was-all-worth-it moment. We’ll see how it goes. Fingers crossed!



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A llama


He’s so cute, I just want to smoosh his cheeks.

This is Normandy.

He was born on D Day. Hence the name.

My schedule has been insane lately, and I haven’t had time to write a post this week. I thought instead I’d share a sweet pic of a sweet little llama. He was about six months old in this pic. Now, he’s four years old and thinks the world owes him–he’s quite full of himself. He was one of the last two babies I bred, and I unfortunately broke my leg shortly before he was born. He never got the training I did with my others, and I’ve never shown him. He did spend one year in 4-H, so he has been halter trained and had some performance training. But he pretty just hangs out in the pasture, beating up all the old guys.

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Shearing Sheila

Sheila is the first llama I owned. I’d shown llamas owned by other people for 10 years, and it was fine. I don’t know exactly what made me think I needed to own a llama. Except it’s Sheila, and she was meant for me.

I typically enjoy shearing llamas. At least, I enjoy the idea of it. After I’ve had time to forget about the previous year’s shearing season. There is some satisfaction in how the wool rolls off the animal. I like finishing things, and this is something that’s pretty clear when it’s finished.

There are 87 llamas on the farm, and we sheared all but one (he’s old and light-wooled; he doesn’t need it). Most of them are retired and get a quick cut that helps them stay cool in the summer heat. Some of them are on the show string, and those get a more careful cut meant to show off their conformation in the halter ring.

Sheila officially retired several years ago. She just turned 15 last month, so she’s one of the “old girls” now. I wish I could share better pictures, but I was alone on this particular day, and I didn’t even have an actual camera with me. Phone pics will have to do.

Before. Sheila, since she’s retired, doesn’t have to keep up appearances. So she was pretty dirty. I’d decided to give her a cut that takes off more fiber than I normally would because of the heat. She also doesn’t particularly like being groomed (she’ll tolerate it), so I figured shearing the fiber off would make it easier for the both of us.

Llama prior to being sheared.

Dirty girl before her spring hair cut. The fiber around her middle (the barrel) was what had been sheared last year.

After. She looks like some kind of fancy poodle. My friend, Sheila’s number one fan, asked if I’d left leg warmers on her when I texted her this after shot. Yes. Leg warmers.

Shorn llama.

Sheila in all her regal presence. You can see that Auggie was a huge help… laying there on the driveway. The llama butt on the right belongs to Street.

Though many people do, we don’t really use the fiber for anything after we shear it off the animal. Llama fiber is softer than most sheep wool, but it’s not quite as fine as alpaca fiber. One year, we shipped a bunch of fiber to help with oil spills (they use it to soak the oil off the water). This year, we gave bags of fiber to a shear guild. Most years, the fiber gets buried. There’s just too much left from so many llamas.

Llama wool after shearing.

What was left of Sheila on the cutting room floor.

Shearing the llamas is a hot, dirty job. It’s also sometimes painful because some of the llamas take exception to the shearing and kick. A lot. I’m quite happy that we’re done for the year. Now, we can do other fun things. Like bale hay.

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Much work to be done

“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” -Vince Lombardi

I have a lot of work to do. Two weeks into the new year, I had a third knee surgery to address some lingering issues after the DeNovo NT cartilage graft in September 2012. Today marks 10 weeks since the surgery, and I’ve made a lot of progress, but there is still such a long way to go. Much work to be done with that (more on that later in this post), but there is also so much to be done in general. In life.

Spring officially arrived last week, and I feel a new urgency to make things happen. On the first full day of spring, it was nearly 70 degrees and sunny, so that obviously meant I had to go cycling. I went on the longest ride I’ve done in six or seven months. It was only 15.1 miles, but it felt like such an accomplishment. Luckily, the aftermath wasn’t much different from the 10-mile rides I’ve done recently (plus, my knee goes numb about mile five or six, so the pain on the bike isn’t that bad). Progress there means I’m looking at riding in Indiana’s Tour de Cure at the end of June. It’s good to have goals, and I think this one is my first bike goal for the year. Don’t tell PT. Cycling is still not on my list of approved activities, and she frowns at me every time I admit to a ride.

We have our quarterly “work day” at the farm this weekend where we trim nails on the llamas/sheep/goats and give them their dewormer medicine. With nearly 100 llamas, it takes an entire day and wears a body out. I’m just happy that I can participate again this time because I had to sit out a couple of times last year. My sister does the nails and shots because I refuse to give shots; I don’t want to mess it up and leave them with an abscess. My job is to run the animals from their pens (spread out all over the farm) up to the “middle barn” to get them weighed and then to the “Main Barn” to have their nails done. Then I have to run them back out and bring in the next group. As you can imagine, it’s a lot of stress on my knee, especially when I have to chase down the more reluctant members of the herd who refuse to come inside the barn where it’s easier to catch them. Smart is probably a better adjective than reluctant.

Soon, we’ll begin the process of shearing the llamas and sheep. Thankfully, we don’t shear the sheep ourselves anymore. I did that for two years, and then I threw in the towel because it’s extremely hard, physical labor; you have to throw the sheep over on its back and then move it around as you shear the different body parts. As if that weren’t hard enough, I accidentally cut one of the older ewes one year, and it scared me. She was fine, but the cut was severe, and I decided to never shear sheep again. Leave that one to the professionals.

I do shear some of the llamas. My sister shears a bunch because she lives in the same city, where I have to drive a couple of hours to help on weekends. I love shearing the llamas. There’s something satisfactory about seeing the wool come peeling off the animal (partly because once that’s done, we don’t have to groom the shorn portion). I’ll have to remember to take a camera with me this year.

I also need to get the horses cleaned up and ready to go after the long winter we’ve had this year. Baths and braids are coming in the near future. It’s kind of depressing because we haven’t even hit the muddy part of the year. There’s more dirt coming. Yuck. I hate the muddy part of the year.

Picture of Gypsy Vanner horse.

What a dirty girl.

 So much work to be done.

Physical Therapy Update

Last week at physical therapy was a bit… dull. Dull, but also painful and slightly frustrating. We didn’t do any of the “fun” exercises and instead focused on the small exercises that are intended to help my muscles work properly to get the kneecap to track properly when I’m up and going. I don’t know that it’s worth discussing here because it was a lot of my PT holding my kneecap in place and poking me to get certain muscles working correctly. I only added one balance exercise to my home routine. Nothing too exciting. Perhaps I’ll have more to report after this week’s session.

The session was slightly depressing as well because my PT said it could take up to a year to get everything in working order. And that’s if I pay close attention and keep on top of my exercises and recovery. Aaaaaahhhhh! Another year?! Not sure I have the stamina for that. But I’m assuming that the year will continue to get better, and I’ll be able to add more and more things to the list of approved activities (and then I can stop having to shamefully confess to doing things I’m not supposed to do).


That for which I am thankful

It might be cliché, or expected, to list out the things in your life for which you are thankful on, you know, Thanksgiving. But I don’t care! It’s always a good time to count your blessings and be thankful for each and every one. What follows here are just a few of the things for which I’m thankful.

1. My niece and nephews. My life would not be nearly as entertaining without them. My goal in life is to spoil them as much as humanly possible and then hand them back to their parents. I also find a special joy in giving them gifts that are exceptionally annoying to their parents. This year, four of them are getting Christmas presents that are sure to get confiscated within 24 hours. Mwahaha.

Nephew Two.

Who wouldn’t love this kid? He’s my brother’s son.

Nephew Three.

This is what happens when Aunt Laura is left in charge. This one belongs to my sister.

2. The great outdoors. I love the smell of fresh air, and I spend as much time outside as life allows.

At McCormick's Creek state park.

This was taken during a visit to McCormick’s Creek state park a few months ago.

3. Ryan Gosling. No explanation necessary.

Ryan Gosling.

Yes, please.

4. Co-workers. I’m blessed to have some of the best co-workers and friends around. Even though they do things like THIS.

Mouse baby.

I was mad that my mouse wasn’t working, and then I turned it over and found this. I still actually have no clue who pulled this off.

5. Ironman. I was lucky enough to show him for his owners a few times this fall, and we walked away with top honors at this particular show. (Sorry about the poor photo quality. It was the end of the show, and we were rushing to get on the road.)


Grand Champion Medium Wool Male and Champion Bred and Owned Male.

6. Stryker. He’s such a spoiled baby. I’m going to whip him into shape next year. We’ve got our eyes set on doing an extreme cowboy race at some point.

Stryker. A Gypsy Vanner stallion.

He wanted an apple. Which he got.

7. Magpie. She’s a total lady.

Magpie. A Gypsy Vanner mare.

She prefers peppermints.

8. Peyton Manning. I’ve been watching him for years, and I have a cat named after him. That’s high praise coming from me.

Peyton Manning at the Indianapolis Children's Museum.

This cutout is the closest I’ve ever come to Manning, despite years of stalking.

In all seriousness, my life is filled with blessings. Sometimes they’re unexpected or show up in disguise. Sometimes I forget to take it all in and breathe a prayer of thanks. Sometimes I don’t tell the people in my life how special they are and how much they mean to me. I guess if it takes a holiday to help me count my blessings, so be it. Happy Thanksgiving!

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” –Cicero

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Urban hillbilly

“If I stick my finger in that pen, is the llama going to bite it off?”

I hope so.

Because I have nothing better to do with my time, I told some friends who were bringing their llamas down to exhibit at the state fair that I would give them a hand during the three-day show. I don’t know what I was thinking. The state fair is one of very few llama shows where you see the general public, and I get quite tired of the crowds by the end of the show. Mostly because of the ridiculous questions like the one at the beginning of this post. More on that in a future post diatribe.

Llama shows are exhausting. Usually, by the end of the first day, everyone is slap happy and in desperate need of an adult beverage. We do things that we might normally never do. Like dance in the middle of the aisle while singing “My-y-y-y milkshake brings all the boys to the yard. That’s right! It’s better than yours…”

This time, my friends brought their giant RV to camp during the show, so they weren’t able to go anywhere because the RV is way too big/hard to maneuver through the streets surrounding the state fairgrounds. Problem was, though, the llamas had eaten all the hay we’d unloaded by the end of the second day, and we needed to get more hay from the RV to the stalls (a rather long haul). I had nothing more to offer than my car, but I didn’t want the mess of the hay inside. So we did the only thing we could.

Hay on a bike rack.

I call it “urban hillbilly.”

The looks that we got from the “real” farmers as we pulled up to the barn were priceless. So were the looks we got as we were tooling down Binford Boulevard.

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Down on the farm

I spent some time on the farm this weekend, and I thought I’d share some pictures so you can see why it’s my favorite place on Earth.

First, because he’s the most important, is my rescue llama. Loosely translated, his name means “sweetheart.” It’s a long story for another day how he came to be in my life, but he has certainly enriched it. He’s a stud. Literally. Which means that he likes to run around and make sure that everyone knows he’s special. That makes it easy to get a good picture because he’s constantly posing (posturing).

This picture is kind of funny because, if you look closely, you can see his cud. It’s the lump on the left side of his face (right side in the picture). Llamas are pseudo-ruminants, so they chew cud. It’s kind of gross, re-chewing your food like that. Oh, and by pseudo-ruminant, I mean llamas have three compartments in their stomach. True ruminants, like cows, have four compartments in their stomachs. Sorry. I’ll stop schooling now and start showing more pictures.

Llama stud.

My sweetheart.

I love that there are few close neighbors. Below is a picture of one of the hay fields on the north side of the farm. The front part of the picture is one of the pastures. The back part–the part that looks like a mown lawn–is the actual hay field. We’d just baled this one the day before I took the picture.

Hay field.

A view of one of the hay fields on the north side of the farm.

Speaking of baling, what you see below is one of the most useful machines on the farm–the hay elevator. This moves the bales from the wagon into the mow. Of course, we still have a lot of work getting the hay onto the elevator and then stacked in the mow, but this little machine does the heavy lifting.

Hay elevator.

One of the best machines on the farm.

The Case tractor is used to do the raking, and the bigger John Deere to do the baling. My mom tells people she had green blood because she grew up with John Deere tractors, and that’s all she’ll consider a “real” tractor. My brother and his boys are all guilty of the same obsession. But this Case does an awful lot of good work.

Case tractor.

The old Case that pretty much does it all.

This is the tread of the John Deere tractor. The most important thing about this bad boy is that it has air conditioning in the cab. It’s my kind of tractor.

John Deere tractor tire tread.

Tread lightly.

The llamas in the largest of the north pastures are girls and geldings (castrated males), and they’re mostly all retired or 4-H llamas who are only worked for a portion of the year. The rest of the year, they lay around being lazy.

Llama herd.

A few of the ladies and geldings in the north pasture.

I have no clue where he came from, but the pelican that stands watch at the corner of the horse barn has been there for as long as I can remember. I think, at one point, he had a bird bath, but that’s long gone. Now, he just stands watch.

A pelican bird bath.

The watchful pelican.

There are tons of flowers in bloom this time of year. They add so much color and life to the place; it wouldn’t be the same without them.


Roses on the lane.

Purple flowers.

Some lovely purple flowers on the lane.

That’s it for now. I don’t usually have my camera at the farm because I’m there working, but I’ll try to remember to take it more often.