Happy Hills Alpaca Farm

  (Monroe, North Carolina)
Paca Days
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The Black Sheep of our Family

Well, every family has a black sheep and now ours does too, but literally! I've always wanted a sheep, even back in college at the Univ. of Wisconsin.  When I was bored, stressed, angry or all three I would walk to the Ag. barn and watch the sheep.  Something about the way they baaaa  or is it how cute they are?  Anyway, as an Ag student in horticulture, the barn wasn't too far away from my classes and I went there often, wondering if I would ever have a sheep perhaps.  This was the farthest thing from my mind then.  So here I am thirty some years later, several careers later, and I decided to buy a sheep.  And she  is black!   And cute and tame and now she is walking on a lead with a collar like our dogs.  So adorable and fun for everyone.  It turns out she is a heritage breed wich is a huge plus, I think.  Part Jacob (from way back in Biblical times, ) and part Tunis, which has a really cool history!          Tunis sheep came from Tunisia and were given to a farmer in Pa in the late 1700's. This farmer gave them to Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, they became widespread in the south because they were so heat tolerant.   However, during the civil war, nearly all the southern stock was destroyed,  The breed survived due to a clever man in S.Carolina (by Columbia) who hid his sheep in a george.  Thus the Tunis has survived today.            Gracie Mae, is her name and she is so sweet tempered, has bonded to our alpacas and especially to our sweet "Heather" who is soon to be a mother.  Come and visit the farm and meet our black sheep, Gracie!                        

 
 

SPINNING YARNS

SPINNING YARNS

Its been a while since I blogged. About seven seasons, four baby alpacas ago and in time about a year. Real farmers just don’t have time to blog. I’d love to be on Farmville, I’d love to be on facebook. Good marketing skills but unrealistic in time for me.

Most of my time is spent scooping poo, feeding alpacas, keeping up with emails and doing other marketing programs. I also sell at the farmer’s market, network and occasionally go to alpaca shows. This is the ultimate fun, seeing all the alpacas and their two fooded owners. The last show I went to had over 600 alpacas entered. We were fortunate that we took ribbons for all our alpacas that we brought. Well, I only brought two but came back with four ribbons! How did that happen? One alpaca male, Andy, was shown twice and the other ribbon was for the dam who was barefoot and pregnant back home on the ranch. This is a greatly prized ribbon called "Produce of Dam" and is won by bringing in two of her offspring from two different sires. Sapphire, our dam, won the blue and we are so proud of her! She does make wonderful alpacas and is one of our most reliably producing females.

Her cria (baby) this year is an absolute stunner! The cutest little thing on four feet! She is a pinto that looks just like an Indian pony. We named her "Shoshone". Colors of black, white, brown and fawn mixed in pinto manner, with four little black spats on her feet. To top it off, her face is mixed with black and white into the cutest pattern. One of her eyes has black lashes and the other one has white eyelashes. Once in a great while she will give me a kiss.. This is a moment to remember in your life and is the hook that gets all alpaca owners into the business. If you haven’t been kissed by a cute little alpaca cria, you haven’t lived. To do so, you have to stay still, bend down to their eye level and whisper cute little sayings that will make the cria come up to you. When they feel safe and curious enough, the cria will slowly move toward your out- stretched face and come up and smell your nose and actually breath on you. This is how they kiss. They smell, exchange breaths with you (for some magical reason) and thus, the alpaca kiss.

Shoshone’s cute little black nose and curious, shy expression is just the greatest. It was on my bucket list :) and still is, every day. However, just like all good things; banana splits, chocolate malts and hot air balloon rides, you don’t get one every day.

So why besides cria kisses do people raise alpacas? My reason was because I am a hand spinner. A what? Yes, one of those strange people that spins yarns on a non mechanized, non electric spinning wheel. Perhaps a bit strange, but like Gandi, I feel centered when I spin. The world makes some sense to me when I spin , making a soft and luxurious yarn from my alpacas. I feel emanently productive. Imagine, taking the fleece from my beloved animals, feeling the luxurious softness, realizing that I am giving them the right nutrition because their fleece is so soft, shiny and healthy and turning it into a product that will benefit someone. Not just a benefit, but an extremely "green" and healthy product that is useful. Hypo-allergenic, soft, warm and it has anti-microbial properties. It also has a magic quality yet to be scientifically determined. The words "feel good" don’t quite describe it. Whether it’s a pair of alpaca socks or a soft, cushy alpaca afghan, the microns line up with the free radicals and create a super relaxed, tension is gone feeling. It is documented in many of my customer’s reactions. I should blog about it someday.

Yesterday I scooped up about seven bags of alpaca manure and called one of my gardener friends and said that the manure was ready. There is actually a waiting list in the spring. So her husband came over with a ""good ol boy". He had to get out of the car and see what the heck an alpaca was. After the normal, how is it related to a llama questions, I showed them my fiber studio and demonstrated spinning to them. They sat down and watched me spin for a while. All the time telling me stories of how they grew up, stories from their youth which had been some distant 65 years ago. Before we knew it, an hour had gone by. It had been fun. I got to know these men in a unique country way and we all enjoyed the time that had been well spent just spinning yarns.

Would I have ever had this experience to share memories with them otherwise? Probably not. It happened because of my alpacas and their useful by products!

 
 

HARVEST TIME

WHAT IS HARVEST TIME LIKE ON AN ALPACA FARM?

 We don't havest apples,corn, vegies or fruit on our farm but we do have a wonderful harvest here!  The spring brought us four beautiful babies, two boys and two girls. All adorable of course. So what is our fall havest?

   Well its seeing our crias thriving for one. They are nearly all 5 months now and strong and healthy! The mothers are beginning to wean them off and they are chewing the hay and muching the grain.  Mother's kicking them slightly away from their teats, avoiding their humming bleats seem a little cruel perhaps but so necessary. The crias are learning the hard way that the hay and grain will sustain them. New babies are in the making and the mom's sense this and know they have to nourish the new life.

  Havest time on the farm is also a spinning project of very long duration. I have started spinning the cria shearing from the last years babies (Sambucca, Max and Inca) and I feel like I'm spinning gold in the form of soft clouds.  The fiber is wonderful and spins so perfectly. Great crimp and handle that makes this the best fleece that I have ever spun. Its my first time in actually hand carding my fleece and spinning directly from the raw, shorn fleece. No mill necessary. I'm able to spin it very fine and after putting into skeins I will wash it and hang out to dry.  This is like harvesting grapes and putting into wine . Truely it is a bountiful harvest. The fine charachter of the fleece is proving to us our nutrition and breeding program is working. We don't skimp on the type of hay or grain, they are getting the best. And we give fiber nutrients to boost their fleece. I hope to win several spin off contests this year with the harvest of the fleece.

 
 
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