In the spring of 1995 Llamas Magazine contacted us and said that they would like to feature us in an On The Road article. As a result, Sandy Flanagan and her husband Rick came up from Washington State to visit with us for a couple of days. Sandy is a writer and photographer and many of her photos have graced Llamas Magazine covers over the years.
They were quite concerned about whether they would need four-wheel drive to make it up Mount Lehman, but we assured them that they could probably make it in a regular car. While they were here Rick suggested that maybe it should be called Mound Lehman as he was a mountain climber and somehow was not impressed with the height of Mount Lehman.
If, for some strange reason, you don’t have a copy of the May, 1995 issue of Llamas Magazine, we have reprinted the article below.
On The Road
Text and photos by Sandy Flanagan
The Border Guard at the crossing where Washington state meets British Columbia asked, What’s the purpose of your trip to Canada? To visit friends in Mount Lehman, my husband and I replied, hoping he wouldn’t think us escaped convicts on the run trying to make it into another country. Well, that’s the only reason anybody would go there, replied the guard, sympathetically, and waved us through.
Well, obviously, he has never been to Mount Lehman Llamas, set atop rolling hills with spectacular views of blue-green mountains stacked up against the horizon. Where a bald eagle might fly across a distant pasture and land in a tall tree within view from your kitchen window, and the rush of city life is but a fading, distant memory.
Mount Lehman Llamas, where you are taken in by the soft, curious stare of a young cria, eager to learn about all the new and exciting things in his world. It is here that Brian and Jane Pinkerton share their hearts and home with twenty-five llamas, two dogs, three cats and an indeterminable number of chickens and roosters. We won’t count the frogs that serenade you in the evening on a warm spring night
Now while there is some discussion about the proper classification of this area as a mountain (it tops out at a staggering 825 feet), and as Brian ruefully reports, some have been callous enough to call it a hill, its peaceful charm and ambiance cannot be denied. About forty miles southeast of Vancouver, Mount Lehman Llamas grew from a seed planted back in the 80s when Brian and Jane first saw llamas while traveling in Peru.
We were fascinated with them, says Brian, and took lots of pictures. But we never dreamed of having them ourselves. It was years later when an article about llamas in a backpacking magazine prompted Brian to write to several farms listed at the conclusion of the story.
We got back such encouraging replies, he says, that we started looking into it more seriously. At the time, the Pinkertons were living in North Vancouver where Brian taught computer typesetting at a community college. It wasn’t long before Brian and Jane decided to purchase five acres within commuting distance of the college and their first two llamas were brought home.
It is estimated there are presently 3,000-4,000 llamas in Canada. Back in the early 80s, Brian remembers driving around hoping to spot other llama farms but they were few and far between.
The Pinkertons belong to the Fraser Valley Llama and Alpaca Club which boasts forty-six members, some of which we met on an organized llama hike along the Fraser River not far from their home. Son John brought along his girlfriend, Joanne Bergeron, who is studying to be an Animal Health Technologist and often participates in llama related activities. While on a hike, John says they stop and talk to anybody who has questions about the animals and let people touch the llamas or take their photo with them.
Brian and Jane take great pleasure in seeing other people out enjoying their llamas. Their pleasure is heightened even more if it’s one that came from their farm.
We have a hard time selling them, says Jane. By the time they’re weaned, you’ve really gotten to know them and their personalities. It’s very hard to let them go. Jane keeps a close watch on the llamas, working with them everyday, and knows when things are unusual. If they don’t come for dinner, you know there’s trouble, she says. Just like your kids!
Modern technology lends a hand with keeping an eye out for potential problems. What looks like the world’s smallest television set in the family room is actually a monitor with two cameras mounted in a stall, and a third covering an adjacent field. When a pregnant female is close to delivery, she is put in this stall at night so the Pinkertons can check on her from the house via the monitor.
It saves many a trip to the barn in the middle of the night, says Jane. It is especially welcome during inclement weather or when they want to watch over a nursing or premature cria.
Upper left: Llama peering through Barn Toulouse window; upper right: John and Joanne resting after walk with two llamas.
When a llama leaves Mount Lehman Llamas with new owners, it goes with its own personal health and lineage record plus a booklet on poisonous plants that Brian researched and put together. The booklet lists northwest plants, together with identifying sketches, which might be dangerous to llamas as well as other livestock. He was inspired to do this project after a cousin in Washington lost a llama to a few Rhododendron leaves. You don’t want people to be paranoid about it, says Jane, but you want them to be aware. They have given away thousands of booklets at fairs and conferences, and a second printing is due soon.
If it saves one llama, says Brian, it’s worth it. Retired now after twenty years of teaching, Brian was able to realize his dream of going to Patagonia in 1992 to volunteer to help Dr. William Franklin in his research on camelids. It was an awesome experience, he reports. We were walking on air. (See Llamas November/December 93, The Land at the End of the Earth, by Brian.) Enlarged photos that Brian (an excellent photographer) took in Patagonia decorate the walls of their home office. In direct contrast to the high-tech tools of computers, a scanner, copier and a fax machine, the pictures show a different world of guanacos running in the wild, terrain devoid of anything man-made, with familiar peaks of Torres del Paine in the background.
The Pinkertons, including son John, share an artistic gene in their makeup. John does beautiful pen and ink sketches of llamas, and he and Joanne have a small business whereby llama pictures of John’s design are air brushed onto tiedyed shirts. They have sold them at llama conferences, and John even sold one right off his back when they’d run out of stock.
Geoff, their other son who is an electrical engineer, leans more towards organizing the family, and encourages John, for example, to start a data base on his customers and the shirts that he markets. Both sons were given their own llama on their twenty-first birthdays.
Jane meets with a group of llama people every couple of weeks and they are teaching themselves how to spin. Several hats that she made incorporate small figures of llamas on them, all made with natural colors of llama wool. The group has also experimented with dying the wool, some with Kool-Aid. Brian suggested eliminating the middle man and just feeding Kool-Aid directly to the llamas! (Do not try this at home!) Jane also makes silver jewelry, which she has done for many years, some with a llama theme, and then there is the llama bean jewelry which includes earrings, necklaces and tie clasps. Dipped in coats of fiber glass, this End Product hints of the family’s great sense of humor. Besides photography, Brian is adept at watercolor and just recently returned from Mexico where he accompanied a friend who was taking people on a water color painting tour. Several of his watercolors adorn the family’s home. Not only art producers, but art collectors, the Pinkertons have a collection of paintings which are displayed in their llama barn, referred to euphemistically as Barn Toulouse. You see, the requirements for barn-quality art are that it be really bad, and costs no more than two dollars (usually found at garage sales and thrift shops). And as if to lend insult to injury, these aforementioned paintings are then sprayed with a mixture of llama droppings and water to keep the llamas from chewing on them. Of course, it is all set off by a simply stunning chandelier right in the center of the barn!
Mount Lehman Llamas has its special PR llamas who visit hospitals and extended care facilities. We took two llamas the last time, said Brian. They had fifty wheelchairs around them and they didn’t even flinch. Several of their llamas have had bit parts on television shows, one on Let’s Make a Deal and another was in an opening scene on MacGyver in what was supposed to be a Peruvian locale.
Pinkerton llamas have attended grand openings of nursery stores and worked off the cost of a buggy at an antique shop. A stereo store gig got them a car radio. If you use a little creativity, says Brian, you can make some money! Visitors are welcome and encouraged to stop by Mount Lehman Llamas in beautiful British Columbia, but are warned they must be prepared to fall in love with the animals. It sounds like a chance anyone would be happy to take. Eh?
Brian and Jane Pinkerton
29343 Galahad Crescent
Canada V4X 2E4