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“I reckon these animals know….”

By Kay S. Pedrotti Lamar County farmer Bill Walker describes his farm as ‘a zoo,’ but a wonderful example of ‘what a family farm should be’ is more like it. Bill and his wife Linda use their 100 acres near Milner to the fullest, both for organic food and grass-fed beef. In the pasture with a herd of hefty Limousin cattle, there are two llamas and three Jerusalem donkeys — one of them still mostly depending on her mother for food. Lula, as she has been named, recently joined a quarter-horse foal named Clyde as the newest additions to the Walker menagerie. The animals include — but are not limited to — chickens, peacocks, turkeys, guinea fowl, dogs and three mature quarter horses. There’s an apple orchard, blueberry patch, grapevines, a vegetable garden and a number of beehives for honey. The Walkers stay busy year-round, caring for their animals and preserving what they don’t eat or give away of the food they grow. They watch as the two peacocks become territorial over the three peahens. They have endured the tragedy of losing their first four llamas to coyotes and wild dogs. One way they care for the cows is by cutting thistles from the pasture, because cows shouldn’t eat them. Linda says turkeys are not nearly so dumb as people think they are. Bill concurs, ‘I reckon all these animals know what they’re supposed to know.’ They are good stewards of the land — their garden and orchard fertilizer is made by dumping last year’s hay into the cow pasture, letting the cows make deposits on it, then bringing it back as a nonchemical mulch. One of 15 children, Bill grew up on a farm near Toccoa. He said they were dirt poor and worked constantly to feed the many mouths in the family. He’s lost three brothers but the rest of the family is in constant contact — Bill says he ‘takes the crowd up to Toccoa’ to care for the 17 beehives a brother is no longer able to tend. ‘The crowd’ includes Walker’s son, two daughters and their families. Bill and Linda also found time to get degrees and become school teachers — Bill taught vocational education and Linda was a speech therapist. Once they retired, it was back to the farm, he said. The Walkers were proud to introduce baby Lula and her mother Jeanine but father Eric was in another pasture. With his blue eyes twinkling and a sly smile on his face, Bill said, ‘I might bring one of the mares over to meet Eric. Maybe he’ll make me a mule.’ The zoo grows on.

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