I may have mentioned a time or two that I am a little tiny bit obsessed with alpacas. I love watching them do their thing. They are so cute and personable and fun.
Last year, we went to the Festival of Family Farms – an event in our area where farms open up and let people see what they do. We didn’t go to all of the farms, but we chose an alpaca farm and a cheese farm. I got to be up close to the alpacas and it was amazing.
I stood, making eye contact with a few of them, and it was so cool – they seem so wise and intuitive. The alpaca farm, they had a whole set up for processing the fiber, too – from washing it to spinning it into yarn. There was a whole group of women demonstrating every part. I knew this was something I wanted to learn more about.
I posted something on Facebook about loving alpacas and my aunt, who now lives in California, wrote to me and said that her very good friends have an alpaca farm in the city just north of us and she wondered if I’d like her to connect me to them. Um… yes Please!
Shirley and Sherry are amazing. I told them that I love alpacas and want to learn all I can, and I said I homeschool my kids and I’d love to make that part of it. I had no plans at that time to have alpacas of my own… I didn’t think our yard was conducive to that and I honestly wasn’t ready for another animal… I think our chickens were babies at that time and we were still adjusting to our bigger country land and garden and house. But I really wanted to be near them and learn all I could.
Shirley told us about an event that was coming up called FiberFusion, where people bring the fiber from their animals to sell, and there would be all kinds of vendors for fiber products, and alpacas, too!
Shaleigh and I went and I think I was in heaven. It’s amazing all of the things you can make with fiber… the most interesting thing I saw that day was a bar of soap covered in alpaca fleece (cleaned and processed, of course) and it’s kind of like a washcloth and soap combo – in one. We also saw someone MAKING yarn with a drop spindle… and I got to try a spinning wheel, and I pretty much felt like I was meditating. I’m a sucker for yarn… it’s a big part of stress relief for me, especially when my mind is going crazy with worry and thinking too much, doing something with yarn in my hands (crocheting, knitting, making yarn balls) calms my mind… it doesn’t turn it off, it just focuses it. Anyway, the spinning wheel did that, too! I was hooked.
I started dreaming of having my own alpaca herd then and there… there was a lot of “what about…?” and “but…” and “how are we gonna…?” to cover first. Did we have the space they’d need? What about predators like cougars and coyotes? Do we still have an area to run the dogs in the yard? Do we have the money needed to take care of them? And a million more.
As time went on, I felt reassured by Shirley that we can provide them a good home. We’ve had several visits with the alpacas and Shirley and Sherry, and every single time we’ve gotten together, at their farm or ours – the weather is perfect – warmer than expected and sunny! This was our first visit.
Since then, I’ve taken each kid one at a time and together a couple of times, too. The kids did chores on their individual visits – Braden even got three alpaca kisses… I think they loved his red hair and his head is right at the perfect level to lean in and smooch. They love the kids… they are a little nervous about me (rightly so, probably!), but they will follow the kids all over. Shaleigh is a little more timid around the alpacas – she got spit on the first time we went so I get it – but it turns out that she loves to clean up the poop… something about the poop scoop that they have was fun for her and she has claimed that as her chore! Twist my arm! (We’ve offered her the chicken poop and dog poop – to get some practice, but she says no! Apparently alpaca poop doesn’t stink, “it smells earthy”! She’s not wrong, but she IS funny!)
Shirley has been an amazing mentor and friend and I am grateful every day that my aunt connected us. She has three alpacas that she thinks would be perfect for us – Zoe, Phoebe and Midori. Zoe and Phoebe are white, and Midori is brown with a little white spot on her nose (and she’s also the one who spit on Shaleigh!).
So… preparations have begun!
I’ve studied up – reading books and blogs, joining groups on Facebook, following alpaca farms on Instagram… researched fencing and equipment, looking into vets. I’ve attended a couple of shearings to see what that’s all about – it’s not pretty, but it’s necessary and they feel so good after they’re sheared, which helps (and the fiber is amazing – so thick and so clean underneath!) I’m taking an Alpaca and Llama Information Workshop in a couple of weeks where I will learn so many things related to the animals about handling and care and nutrition and maintenance. And they have demonstrations and classes about processing fiber and even spinning. It’s going to be a wonderful day for me.
And preparations have begun at the homestead, too. We purchased some fencing and have spent hours digging, putting wood posts in the ground and string-lining the area where they’ll be, and measuring, and planning.
Side Note: My favorite band is The Paperboys, and they have a song called “Country Life”, about spending a weekend in the country and how you can’t see the stars at home, but here you can… it’s a dream about moving to the country and the chorus goes, “I don’t know how… to build a fence. But I can learn, I can learn… in this country life”. Carson and I met online, but when we met in person, it was at a Paperboys show and he’s been to a couple more with me since then. I have always loved this song, and never dreamed it would be my life. I am humming the song constantly these days as we learn how to build a fence in our country life. I love stuff like that!!
We are so lucky to have neighbors who know about all of this stuff. When Jim got home from work tonight, he came over and helped us with a few things we kept getting stuck on. Luckily, the answer was that we were overthinking it and it’s going to work out once we get the fencing installed… Phew!! He had some ideas about gates and stuff that we hadn’t thought of – more using what we have, which I am loving right now!
There is a lot of work left to do and I’m sure we’ll be reworking things right up until the last minute, but I am so excited, I’m actually giddy! I am so grateful that this is my life!
Stay tuned for more fencing, alpaca preparations and hopefully for alpaca news in the next month!