Sarah Wool is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Wool, who shear our llamas, and most of the neighborhood's llamas and alpacas, every year. She was here with her dad helping out earlier this year. Sarah grew up with animals on their San Jose property, and plans a career in agribusiness - not with animals, but with plants, which involve less emotional involvement! She's supplementing her CalPoly student income with these gorgeous full-of-personality woolly llamas, for sale in our farm shop.
Sarah's llamas are Scottish Blackface sheep and mohair goat wool - the mohair gives the gorgeous curly bodies
Llama "wool" is actually fibers rather than wool - hollow, with no lanolin. The outer coat fibers, or guard hair, are stiff and tricky to comb out from the fleece, so mohair and sheep wool were a much cuddlier choice for these mini llamas
We have the dog days of summer, China has their autumn tiger on the prowl, spreading a fierce heatwave in early autumn. Today's less a dog panting in the shade and more a wild dry fire-crackling heat. On that note, our inherited pile of eucalyptus wood is diminishing but still available. Free - come and stock up on firewood while it's bone-dry.
Free firewood. Help yourself
The pasture over the road is watered from the creek, which is also bone-dry. There is much less nutritional value in pasture grasses at this time of year, but we would still prefer to keep watering to keep the grasses robust for next year. We'll move last year's babies off the dry pasture and back over the road to the fields by the farm this month. Next year, we'll rotate groups of goats on that irrigated grass using electric fencing, which is flexible and effective. Don't touch!
Goats will avoid electric fence. This year we had groups of goats running at the fencing, smashing it and escaping
This time of year is sweet spot time, with summer crowds gone back to school and holiday parties yet to start. The goats are healthy and already breeding with Holstein. Their milk begins to dry up as daylight hours shorten, and when we stop milking altogether we'll worm them and change the nutritional mix of their feed to support their pregnant bodies. They are sleeping inside the loafing barn now that it's nippy at night, and as soon as the field becomes muddy in the rains they'll spend most of their time there.
We've harvested the pears in the orchard for pies at the local restaurant and cleared more ground to begin a vegetable garden. The last farm wedding of the year will be next week in the secret garden, and then it'll be a quiet space for hammock thinking and the gardeners to get to work again. We have plenty of garden clippings to chip and rotted manure to work into the ground. Jake will clean out the straw and manure in the loafing barn in a Bobcat, and we'll cover and store that manure to rot down over the winter. We'll also fill in potholes where we can. I'm at peace when all these winter preparations are complete and I can look forward to next year's babies - not to mention the end of year parties coming up very soon.
We are painting the outside of our home, the farmhouse next to the dairy, with the white FarmPaint. It has the deliciously fattening look of clotted cream on the west side of the house.
My eccentric and dressy friend Daniel is the man with the spray gun and an eye for detail. He's super-skinny and can make any item of clothing look good. I don't like to see my jeans looking better on somebody else though!
We last painted the house a decade ago, but you can see a century of layers here. We're painting both over the old paint and over the new extension
This summer we have more young men working on the farm than ever before. There are local boys, and there are boys from out of town who applied to work here. We are always more enthusiastic to hear from young people directly - kids who want to work. There are many emails and calls from parents who would like their child to have a job on the farm, but we favor personal motivation. Farm work can be dull and repetitive. It's all-weather. It's all-weekend. You can't take three days off to go to the Oregon festival and expect us to want to employ you in your free time only. There are opportunities here, though, that will take you further in life. Jake, below, wants to be a police officer. I would write him a reference for his strength and humor, his patience and his understanding that no matter how tedious the task, getting jobs done pays bills. It's a joy to have people around who like a laugh, like Jake and John, provided they get the work done.
Work on the farm varies, from moving goats to hauling, digging, fixing, and grass trimming - heavy work for energetic people - or milking goats, which suits patient yet firm characters, or shop and kitchen work, which suits confident kids with good time-keeping. We look for suitable teenage staff locally (always an advantage to know their personalities beforehand!) but encourage out-of-town applications just as much. Since young people generally move on to college or training, there'll always be a turnover - goodbyes and beginnings. And hopefully there'll be a cop or two in training who'll always remember their farm work.
Our four llamas, Dolly, Lorenzo, Ruby and Haley, are sheared every year by Mr. and Mrs. Wool. The Wools have a smallholding in San Jose, with their own sheep, horses and cow, and day jobs, but come out every year to the coast to clip local llamas and alpacas. Shearing the heavy wool from their abdomen in spring or early summer improves air circulation and keeps llamas cool and comfortable. Show llamas have special cuts, sometimes "poodle" or "lion" style, but our working llamas are not so dressy. Depending on their temperament, they have almost all of their wool sheared.
Dolly keeps the wool on the back of her legs because she's sensitive to clipping there, whereas Lorenzo doesn't mind
Apparently, our llamas are the best-behaved in the neighborhood. Much better than somebody else's alpacas!!
Mrs. Wool took the wool home and will make woolen llamas for the Farm Shop