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Pilot story and photos by

ANDREA BARKAN

As a girl growing up in Oxford, England, Linda Stimson wasn't even allowed to have a cat.

Now as a woman living on 9-acres off Cape Ferrelo Road, it seems Stimson is making up for that.

Her farm is filled with free-roaming animals: 18 Nigerian Dwarf goats, 19 llamas, two Shetland sheep, several dogs and even some chickens.

Stimson recently sheared most of her llamas. She sells their fiber and spins some of it herself.

Stimson, a self-described "city girl," moved to the Brookings farm with her husband Dale Stimson three years ago.

"I've learned so much," she said.

She and Dale moved from Mission Viejo, Calif., wanting to escape the congestion of Southern California.

But before Stimson left she bought four llamas – three of which were pregnant – from a San Diego woman.

"I wanted to (have) llamas since I can remember," Stimson said.

"They offer a lot of tranquility."

Stimson loves to sit in her field as the llamas graze around her.

"Their job is to keep this grass cut," she said. "My lawn mowers: they don't require any gas, no oil."

Just before the llamas arrived from San Diego, Stimson said she began to worry about them falling prey to cougars or bears.

She researched guardian dogs and discovered Maremmas, which are from Italy and still not that common in America.

She found a female puppy in North Carolina for sale and had it shipped to Oregon.

"She moved straight in with the llamas," Stimson said. "She's never been in the house."

Now Stimson breeds and sells Maremmas. Her female, Emma, had a litter three weeks ago.

Once her llamas came in, Stimson said she told her husband, "Nine acres and four llamas is not enough."

Soon she acquired another five from a Portland woman. Stimson's llamas have given birth to six babies in the last three years. The animals have given her an education, not only in birth, but death too.

"I've had goats that have been born dead," she said.

And one of the llamas Stimson got from Portland, Joy, died about a year ago.

Stimson said she discovered Joy one day lying in the field with her neck and head arched back – known as the death arch.

"She died with me by her, stroking her," Stimson said. "I'd never been that close to death before, it was really strange."

Shearing and spinning her llamas' fiber was another skill Stimson acquired from square one.

The first year she had someone shear the llamas for her, Stimson said.

"That fiber sat in bags ... for months," she said. "I didn't know what to do with it. I didn't have a clue."

Eventually she found a mill in Canby where she has raw fiber processed before she sells it.

And she learned to spin.

In January 2003 she joined Webfoot Weavers, a spinning and weaving group that draws people from Brookings and Crescent City.

By February she was spinning.

"Now I've learned to spin and I have much more of an appreciation for what is good fiber and what isn't good fiber," Stimson said.

"I'd like people to try spinning it," she said. "I'm happy to send people samples. It doesn't have lanolin in it. It's so soft and fine."

Stimson likes to share the llamas themselves as much as their fiber.

They made appearances during the Azalea Festival, both in the parade and at the Fiber to Fabric Festival outside the VFW Hall.

Stimson also brought a couple to Paws and Prints Day at Town and Country Animal Clinic in May.

Each llama has a distinct personality and some are more easy-going than others, she said.

Piano Keys, named for her white and black hind legs, is a 2-year-old with an agreeable disposition.

The first year Stimson sheared the llamas herself, she anticipated the worst.

But Piano Keys could not have been easier, she said.

"She stood there like a lady the whole time," Stimson said.

Stimson would like to expand her llama visits, perhaps to include schools or even hospitals, and Piano Keys would be great for that.

"She's very curious," she said. "She's not a spitter. She pretty much will do anything I'll ask her to."

For more information call Stimson at (541) 469-3065.

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