Sweet Harmony Farm

  (Deerfield, New Hampshire)
Simple joys of the alpaca life ...........
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The Jealous Alpaca

Any guesses who?

We’ve had an interesting week on our farm.  After having fresh, green, second cut hay delivered a week before we had planned, the alpacas have refused to go out to graze.  Instead they’ve been hanging around the barn and paddock, chomping on hay and all but licking the hay bins clean.  Hey guys, I’m so happy you’re enjoying the hay, but we’ve got to make it last through winter!

Last week we added a new member to our herd, a solidly built, thick top-notted, white-fleeced boy named Desidario, Desi for short.  He’s a Triumph son so he has 3 half- brothers here on our farm which he met for the first time:  Bo, Coty, and Arlo.  These 3, along with Guinness and Julio, greeted him with the usual sniff fest over the paddock fencing.  As expected, all went well so we took off his halter and he willingly walked into the paddock, and as expected got a very thorough, all-body sniff fest.  Then whoosh ~ all the boys ran off into the pasture for a pronk fest greeting run in the evening light, joined by the rest of the herd.  What a wonderful sight to see the newbie getting accepted so easily! 

And just as quickly, we realized what was happening........ Coty thought Desi was a girl alpaca.  ‘Coty!  No! He’s a boy!’  I always wonder what the neighbors are thinking when they hear me hollering that.  When alpacas are thundering past you it really isn’t advisable to step out in front of them!  So we had to just stand up against the barn and watch.  We did manage to separate everyone shortly after that, and then there they all were, eating hay as if nothing had happened, including a new alpaca joining the herd.

If it were only that simple...........

Whenever I enter the paddock area and barn I greet the alpacas all by name, and I am constantly talking.  I want the alpacas to know my voice.  I also slowly lean forward and look them right in the eye, close to their face while talking quietly.  This is usually intimidating for an alpaca at first, but over time it has built trust.  They get to sniff the top of my head and know that I am a ‘safe’ human, their caretaker.  If they allow me, I will do a quick neck scratch.  Bonding with animals is such a wonderful feeling, and a simple joy.

Desi is new to my routine so in true alpaca style, is a bit apprehensive.  So being new, he watches me intently as I go about my routine of greeting everyone, scooping the poo, fluffing hay and filling water buckets, and talking, always talking.  Desi is a very mild mannered alpaca, and surprisingly calm around humans.  On only my second trip out, Desi greeted me at the paddock gate, sniffing my head and face while I cheerfully said hello and offered neck scratches. 

That’s when both of us got hit in the head with spit.

Julio.  My personality-plus, headstrong, and apparently very jealous alpha alpaca had been watching.  I stepped toward him to let him know that wasn’t very nice, and he walked right past me, following Desi into the barn, spitting at him the entire time.  Such has been my week.  Whenever I enter the barn, Julio starts following Desi and for no apparent reason, spits at him.  Why is that?  After a few days of pondering this, the only thing that came to mind was that Julio is jealous.  Well that certainly would explain a lot of Julio’s behavior.  A silly thought though, isn’t it?  An alpaca is jealous for a human’s attention!

So now when I walk down to the barn and at the gate I call out Julio’s name.  When I enter the paddock, again I greet Julio by name first.  As I continue to greet the others, I say hello to Julio again, and again.  I make sure he knows I’m paying attention to him. 

Surprise! No spitting!   

 
 

Creating with Alpaca Fiber

We had a really, really nice summer here in our little corner of the US.  Most days I was able to enjoy utilizing my outside Fiber Studio.

 This is my outside Fiber Studio:

my outdoor fiber studio

weaving while watching the alpacas graze

I, sitting in my backyard in my trusty little beach chair, with Stella snoozing nearby, have been spending the summer weaving, crocheting, spinning, felting, knitting, flicking, and washing and sorting fleece while watching the alpacas serenely graze.   Sometimes they stop to curiously watch the passing wildlife or roll in the sand pile.  They are very peaceful days filled with warm sunshine on my shoulders and soft grass under my feet.

The rains and snow and sunshine feed the soil which grows the grasses that in turn feed the alpacas who in turn grow the fleece that eventually can clothe people.  What a sensation to watch this transformation happening over a year’s time.  As the alpacas go about their daily job of, well, being alpacas, I stand back and just imagine what their fleeces turned into yarn will look like and what I can make with that yarn.  My alpacas' different colors along with their individual personalities inspire me.  Periodically I also stand in the barn and thank the alpacas for growing their lovely fleeces for me.  They stare at me blankly then sniff at me for a treat.

There is something magical, meditative perhaps, most definitely purposeful, to caring for animals daily and then creating something to wear from their fleece, with your own hands.  I spend a whole year watching the fleece grow as I care for the alpacas, by hand.  In the spring the alpacas are shorn, by hand, and the fleece is carefully separated and then sorted by grade, by hand.  Then the fleece is washed, by hand, dried in the sun, and by hand still, processed into a roving of sorts to be made into felt, by hand, or spun into yarn, by hand, and then crafted into a wearable, useable item, by hand. 

Then you put this scarf or cowl or hat or shawl or sock or mitten or whatnot you've made yourself onto you and you just feel good.  It’s a warming and peaceful sensation like summer sunshine on your skin after a long and snowy winter.  I close my eyes and smile with gratitude for the alpaca that gave me this gift of soft, warm, comforting fleece to wear, who is living in my barn.    

There are no words to describe it.  Pure joy perhaps?  It’s similar to the feeling of anticipation you get when you plant your garden and watch it grow, then pick the veggies from your own garden, and finally sit down to eat and oooh, it tastes so good. 

Knowing where your food ~ and what’s really in it ~ comes from is very important.  And joyful.  And knowing where your clothing ~ and the fiber in it ~ comes from is equally important.  And equally joyful.  And it’s from own backyard, made with my own hands and soul.

 
 
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