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HUG A LLAMA!

By Kurt Madar

Pilot staff writer

Ever hugged a llama, or been gently nudged by a miniature horse?

GB&K Farm Enterprises of Pistol River provides a beautiful setting for hugging llama, miniature horses and a number of other animals, as well as getting a huge variety of "u-pick" produce and fresh eggs.

The certified organic farm is owned and run by George and Becky Deissroth and their daughter Kylie Sigman.

"Eighty percent of our business is really the gardens," George said. "The other 20 percent is the petting zoo."

And what a petting zoo it is. Guinnea Fowl and chickens wander underfoot, as goats try to eat stray corners of clothing. A low-roofed hutch houses chicks and rabbits of all sizes and shapes.

All in all, there are miniature horses, llamas, alpacas, goats, sheep, rabbits and chickens that can be petted one way or another.

Isabella Laurino, 8, one of a group of neighborhood children enjoying the animals, held a struggling baby rabbit close to her chest, luxuriating in the feeling of its fur.

"They're so soft," Laurino said her eyes open wide with excitement.

The llama enclosure is just past the goat pen from the rabbit hutch and the resident llama has been watching the children with more than passing interest as they have been playing with goats and rabbits.

"Lexi just loves to be hugged," Becky said. "He also likes to be scratched really hard on his back. He makes the greatest face."

It's true. Payton Timm, 8, scratches Lexi on his back and the llama stretches out his neck and arches his head into the air, making shucking noises with his mouth as his bottom teeth, the only teeth llamas have, bounce up and down against the roof of his mouth in a demonstration of pure bliss.

"He has a funny face," 5 year-old Nufrius Laurino said.

The petting zoo is a regular field trip for students from Riley Creek School in Gold Beach where Becky is a teachers aide.

"We have kids that come by the busload," George said.

The petting zoo is free.

"We do take donations," Becky said.

Animals aren't the only thing in abundance at the GB&K Farm.

The three outdoor gardens cover 12,200 square feet and the only dirt visible is on the paths between the precisely laid out rows.

Huge zucchinis, the vibrant maroon leaves of red leaf lettuce, tangles of green peas and rows and rows of tomatoes of all varieties that are on the cusp of being done are only a few of the types of produce making up the amazing abundance that is GB&K farm.

"We are almost self-sustaining," George said.

The farm makes all of its own fertilizer and plant sprays, and the plants are watered entirely by water from a spring on the farm.

The fertilizer is a mixture of sheep, goat, horse and rabbit droppings combined with grass and pine shavings and is available for sale.

"We sell a lot of our fertilizer," George said. "I've had to deliver it as far as Crescent City before."

The fresh eggs have all been candled, held to a light to make sure there are no impurities or cracks, and scaled, weighed to makes sure every carton has nice variety of sizes.

"I try to make sure that every carton has a variety of sizes of eggs. A nice even mix," George said. "We are having a hard time keeping up with the demand for our eggs."

George is originally from New York.

"I've been farming in one way or another all my life," he said.

He started GB&K Farm Enterprises 14 years ago. In 2005 it opened to the public for tours of the farm and the animals. This is the first year that the gardens have been open to the public.

"I used to give away a lot of produce," George said. "Some friends suggested starting the u-pick."

GB&K also sells animals.

"We pick up animals for cheap that people can't take care of anymore," George said. "Kylie trains them. The miniature horses she trains for the arena. Then we keep them until someone is interested."

Visitors to the farm will go up a sloping driveway to the top of a small hill. Here they will face a variety of staring animals, a house, greenhouse and office.

The office will most often be unattended: George and his wife are very busy people. The abundance of their farm does not come without tons of work.

"I work from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. six days a week," George said.

Not to worry though. There is a phone in the office and a number on the wall. George will most likely answer and, if he isn't in the house, he is in one of the gardens taking care of business.

For people interested in visiting the u-pick, or those who just want to hug a llama, the GB&K farm is located two or three miles up Pistol River Road. There are clear signs at each turn off Highway 101. For more information call the farm at (541) 247-7223.

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