Finally Some Warming Temperatures

It looks like it is going to be a beautiful day; with a high in the 50s. The temperatures have been in the teens for the past two weeks which is good because the cold temperatures should have killed off the bugs that did so much damage to the Poplar trees last year. Even so, it will be nice to have some warmer weather.

Most of the snow has melted off the ground. It is nice to see the grass again. Just 5 miles North of us the snow has been gone for several days, but it has been hanging on at Yellow Wood. Being back in the woods has a lot of charm, but also some disadvantages–not as much sunlight. Of course that provides slightly cooler temperatures during the summer so I’m not going to complain.

Fred

Another Hughes Net Update

Well our experiences with the Hughes net satellite internet service has not been all wine and roses.  In my past posts I indicated that I was reasonably pleased with Hughes Net.  Unfortunately, I experienced very slow download speeds (slower than dial-up) over a two week period in mid-March.  Calls to technical support did not correct the problem.  Hughes did dispatch a service person to verify the dish alignment and check for cabling problems, but that did not resolve the issue. Fortunately, the problem went away on its own and has not returned for the past two weeks. 

 However, I do notice a consistent pattern of the speed dropping off in the evenings by 50% or more betwee 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm.  I suspect that Hughes Net is overselling their capacity in anticipation of their newest satellite coming online within the next several weeks. 

I’ll continue to post my experiences–good and bad for all of you rural dwellers like me that do not have another high speed internet option.

Fred

Rare Weather

Yesterday was one of those days that cannot be described or even photographed, only remembered. We had a minor ice storm during the day, which is common for us this time of year. The storm was over and sun was shining through oily black March clouds when I stepped outside to feed the llamas. But it was raining. Hard. Big drops making noisy splashes on the frozen ground. You could see the downpour through the sunshine, and the drops were huge! In fact, they were not rain drops at all. The sun was making the ice melt from the trees, and the meltwater and chuncks of ice were falling from the trees. To think that there was that much ice on the trees that it could continue to “rain” with that much intensity was a wonder.

I ventured out through the maple grove near our house and into the clearing by the pond. Just then, the sun shone through the forrest behind the pond at a late afternoon angle. The ice crusting the trees was so illuminated by the sun that I could barely look at it. The depth of the forrest was shown by receding layers of refracting light as though passing through every diamond ever cut and faceted by man. It was breathtaking.

As the sun continue to get lower in the sky, the effect continued to morph, and all afternoon was a wonder with displays of sparkling beauty and ever-present shower of meltwater and ice from the trees. An occasionaly loud crack could be heard when a weary limb of a old pine finally gave in to the weight of the ice, not able to wait until the melting caught up and relieved its heavy load.

The next day, we noticed once again how “the hill” seemed to be singled out for this ice event. North of home, where we work, and south of home, where we went out to dinner, the ice was completely gone and forgotten. On our hill, however, the ground and roads were still strewn with ice chunks and the trees still carried a shimmering rind of ice, even late the next afternoon. Whether this was due to the elevation difference or the depth of the surrounding woodlands, we don’t know. But we do seem to have a micro climate on the hill that occasionally gives us spectacular weather events not shared even by our nearby friends and neighbors.

laura

Spring in February

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Electric Skies

Laura and I awoke this morning to the sights and sounds of Spring.  We were experiencing our first  thunderstorm of the year, during the first week of February!  After I had dressed for my morning trek to the barn, I glanced at the weather station and was surprised to see that the temperature was nearly 70 degrees.  No need for the heavy parka this morning.

As I walked to the barn the warm and humid air reminded me of a late April morning instead of early February.  Unfortunately, our short excursion into Spring is only a tease.  The temperaure is supposed to drop into the upper 30’s tonight and the weather forecast includes a chance of snow for  Wednesday.  At least the brief respite into Spring is bringing much needed rain to fill our pond.  Unfortunately the thaw and rain will also expand the boot sucking mud flats around our barn.

Fred

Hard Sell

As I time goes by, it gets harder and harder for me to sell a llama. This is a quandary, since we have decided we need to reduce our herd in order to allow us to do some genuine traveling in the next few years (something other than llama shows, weddings and funerals.)

I have a beautiful cria born this fall who might be a good show prospect. His fiber is to die for, and the color of light caramel or clover honey and cream. It is very close to the color of our wonderful llama, Tia Juanita. I covet her fiber which gets used or sold every year. This little boy has much finer fiber, and is liable to remain here in the “fiber herd” that I am building in my mind for the future. He also reminds me of Tia’s first baby, a beautiful little boy who we sold, and who I will always miss. The fact that this little guy lets me pick up his feet and is nearly halter broken at only three months of age is also a plus. I know if we show him and someone makes us an offer, he needs to find a nice home where he can hopefully pass on his wonderful genetics. But I can see this will be hard, both emotionally and practically. Unless we make it to some more shows than we have recently, the problem may not come up. (Is this a self-fulfilling prophesy?)

I am reminded of our visit many, many years ago to Llama Woods in Oregon. We had heard a rumor that if Iris Christ did not like you, then she would not sell you a llama. I suppose I am like that too, maybe more so now than ever. I have become more protective of my charges over the years. Of course, Iris could afford to keep every llama if she wanted to. And her llamas were in such demand at that time that she could afford to be choosey.

bichon-frise1.jpgWe arrived at Llama Woods with another couple who were our friends and llama-mentors. Most of our time that first day was spent with Pam, Iris’s long time friend and farm manager. While the visit and the day was all that we could have imagined, I remember the chilly reception given us by Iris’s dogs, two Bichons Frises. Despite their perfectly quaffed pom-pom apearance, they took very seriously their guardianship of the castle. Underneath all the white puff, they were sturdy little dogs. They barked and yipped and acted for all the world like they could make quick hamburger out of our ankles. I did not feel all too comfortable near the house and yard that served as the office. I was happier out in the llama pastures where the llamas were much less judgmental. I couldn’t help but hope that Iris did not use her dogs to divine for her whether to sell to someone or not.

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LW Captain Curry

The second day, we had begun to negotiate the purchase of one of Iris’s males, a Willie K son named Captain Curry. Our friends were also interested in a couple of llamas, including a future herd sire. We had entered into the realm of serious buyers now, not just sight-seers who were not destined to be worth the time that was spent on them. We had lunch with Iris and her husband Don on their patio at the farm. While at our home, our silverware saved for holidays is simply our good stainless, it was not surprising that this Vanderbilt heiress served our casual, home-made lunch on gold-plated dinnerware. Their house, however, was a typical ranch-style home on the outside, nothing very pretentious. I think the house and the older farm house/office may have been on the property when they purchased it. While I did not go in the house, a glance through the back door confirmed that inside it was impeccably decorated. Perhaps done personally by Martha Stewart herself, I thought. After lunch, our friend, who was much higher on the llama social ladder than we, was invited inside to see some of Iris’s art collection. We remained on the patio enjoying the warm Oregon spring day, wonderfully devoid of the humidity that plagues our home in Indiana. The whole time we ate and conversed with our hosts, their Bichons were alternating between begging for their owner’s attention, and stealthily sniffing our feet and ankles. At first I was worried a sudden move would illicit an attack, but the dogs minded their manners. Perhaps they were taking cues from their masters that we were to be treated as guests, since we were dining with them. By the end of lunch the dogs were a little less concerned with our presence and I felt a little more relaxed around them.

On our third day, we returned with our decisions on which llamas to purchase. Today, the Bichons seemed genuinely happy to greet us at the office door. No doubt they remembered us from lunch the day before. I recall sitting on the large overstuffed couch in the office waiting area, which was once the large family room in this remodeled farmhouse. My husband and I were finalizing travel plans for our new herd sire, and going over paperwork and the purchase contract. The year was 1995, and the price for a fine llama, especially one bred and owned by Llama Woods, seemed nearly astronomical. This was a huge investment for us. I remember sitting on the couch, writing out the check with an awful lot of zeros in it. The Bichons were happily sitting next to us, asking for attention and enjoying the excitment. They now accepted us and were our trusted buddies. What a difference from two days ago! I am sure we smelled the same, whether that was good or bad from a dog’s point of view, I don’t know. But they certainly knew us now and included us in their circle of trust. Apparently, Iris felt the same, as she not only consented to the purchase of our beloved Captain Curry, but also suggested a female to go with him. I have often wondered if the dogs accepted us because Iris had, or if it was the other way around. Or did they respond especially to that “check writing moment?” I’ll never know, but the visit and the critical acclaim of those two dogs will always remain in my memory. Perhaps I need to get a Bichon Frise to help me determine who should purchase one of my llamas!

—laura

A Replacement for Llamacam “One” Coming Soon

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Toshiba NetCam (Llamacam #1)

Well I have finally decided on a replacement for the failed Llamacam “One”.  I have decided to install a Toshiba Netcamera to replace our original Llamacam system.  I am doing preliminary setup and testing of the new camera.  I will probably not be able to install it until next weekend since because of my real job, I don’t have much time in the evenings to work in the barn.

The new camera should provide a sharper image and provide better low light viewing.  I will also be able to point the camera across the network so I will be able to avoid trips to the barn to re-position the camera after the llamas have gotten into a pushing matches over the best cushing spot on the porch!

Another Hughes Net Update

It has been nearly two weeks since our Hughes Net system was installed and I am still pleased with the service.   The speed has been close to the advertised speed and there has been almost no downtime due to weather–eventhough we have had two significant snow falls since it was installed. 

It is really a pleasure to actually be able to download a 30 to 50mB file or a video in only a few minutes.  With our prior ISDN system the downloads of this size would have taken an hour or more so we avoided videos becasue they just weren’t worth the wait. 

If your moving from dial-up to Hughes Net I believe you should be very pleased with the speed–assuming you get a good installer.  If you have recently moved to the country from an urban area where you had cable internet or DSL you will probably not be as pleased with the speed. Your choice may come down to waiting for DSL, Cable or maybe WiMax or going ahead and moving to satellite where you can get speeds 15-20X faster  than dial-up while your waiting for the infrastructure to improve in your area.  I wouldn’t trust the cable and DSL providers on promise dates because most have a long history of being overly optimistic by multiple years!

If my experience with the system changes I’ll be sure to post my negative experiences. But as of today–so far, so good.

Fred

Llamacam “One” Rest in Peace

After being in continuous operation for nearly 10 years, our first llamacam died after a power surge last Sunday.  Llamacam “One” was used to keep track of the llamas on the barn porch. 

I have a soft spot in my heart for Llamacam “One” because I had built it myself from an old computer, a broken camcorder and pieces of string, bubble gum and other odds and ends.  It faithfully served us for 10 years under very extreme conditions.  Llamacam One was the camera which was featured on TechTv, the Discovery Channel, Indianapolis Magazine and our local CBS TV station. 

Hopefully I will figure out a replacement option this weekend.  I’ll will try to get a new camera in operation within the next couple of weeks, because I realize there are hundreds of visitors each day that will miss seeing the antics of the llamas and their keepers as they go about their daily routine!  Of course you can still tune in and see the llamas on the other 4 cameras which are still fully operational.

Llamacam One Rest in Peace.

Fred

Update on our move to Hughes Net Internet

Unfortunately our installation was delayed by bad weather , but we finally got the new Hughes Net System installed last Saturday.  After the installation was completed I had to re-configure our router and the rest of our farm network.  Our farm network is fairly complex because of wireless links between our barns and the house (spaning more than a quarter mile), which are used to feed security camera video to the house and the webcam images to our website.  Those of you that watch the llamacam have probably noticed that the cameras have been up and down a few times over the past week as I’ve been trying to work out a few kinks in the network.  We have also been plagued with a number of hardware failures that have taken the cameras down.  Hopefully, I can get most of these issues resolved this weekend if the weather cooperates.

So far I have been pleased with the speed and stability of the HughesNet Satellite internet.  It has been operational for about six days.  I have only had two brief outages of about 5 minutes each, caused by heavy snow and some ice build up on the dish.  Since we still have our ISDN line, our new router can detect the outage and outomatically switch to the ISDN line if the satellite feed is interupted.

I am getting download speeds of between 1200 and 1500 kbs (kilobits per second) and updload speeds of 500-600 kbs.  These speed are about 10 times faster than our ISDN connection.  It is certainly nice to be able to click on a video on CNN or YouTube and not have to wait 45 minutes for it to download.  In most cases streaming video starts within a few seconds and the download feed stays ahead of the playback.  I’ll keep you posted if my satisfaction changes. 

According to our installers, the key to sucess is the quality of the installation.  Our installers were fantastic and took considerable care in locating the dish and making sure it was securely mounted and properly aimed. 

Fred  😛

Yellow Wood enters the high speed internet world–sorta

Today is a big day for the internet activities at Yellow Wood Llamas. We have been on the web since 1994 having registered one of the first 100,000 domain names on the internet. However, because of our rural location, low population density and the rough terrain in our area none of the big providers have been willing to invest to bring DSL or digital cable to our area. Therefore we have been limited to using ISDN, an older technology that is about twice dial up speed.

hughesnet_dish-sm.jpgAfter hearing promise after promise from Comcast for four years (they even sold me high speed internet once but couldn’t provide the service) we have broken down and signed up with Hughes Net. Hughes net will not be able to match DSL or cable for speed, but it should be five to ten times faster than our ISDN connection. The equipment is supposed to be installed today, so I should be able to provide reports on our experience over the next few weeks, for those that are in a similar situation.

My Dad would have been a blogger

As I was rummaging around in the basement this weekend my eyes were drawn to one of the many bookcases. I zeroed in on two shelves that were holding items of significant sentimental value. Collected on those two shelves were diaries and journals that covered nearly 30 years of my dad’s life. The first diary on the shelf was for 1945. The last diary was for 1981. My dad had made a number of attempts to write a daily diary prior to 1945 but each time the entries ended after a few weeks. In 1945 while overseas with the Army Air Corp he finally was able to hit his stride and make nearly daily entries albeit many no more than a sentence or two.

After he returned home the responsibilities of supporting and raising a family seemed to prevent him from staying with his diary until 1959 when he restarted his daily chronicles. This time he made entries nearly every day until he lost his battle with cancer in 1981.

My Dad wrote of everyday living and current events and strayed away from much of the personal information many put in their “dear diaries”. As I read through a few of these diaries I realize that my Dad would have been one of the first too have jumped into the blogging world. He had the 60’s analog of a blog in the mid-60s when he wrote two weekly newspaper columns for the Franklin, IN newspaper–one on flying and one on camping.

I count myself very fortunate that my dad took the time to chronicle so many years of his and my life in his personal journals and diaries. We can only hope that our own ramblings will pass the test of time like my Dad’s paper blogs.

Fred