Saturday started out on a less than stellar note. My ipod, Dahling, had an on/off button that was stuck. That necessitated a trip to the Genius Bar. I will tell you all about it at another time.
But it wasn’t a good trip.
Coco, my faithful Subaru steed, needed some fuel. I had intended to “gas her up” before going to the Genius Bar but I just didn’t have time. So I figured I would stop on the way home.
Boy am I glad that I made that decision.
I am standing at the gas station, twiddling my thumbs like we all do when we are waiting for the gas to quit flowing.
Twiddle, twiddle, twiddle, twiddle….
Looking around. Seeing nothing all that inter…..
Say, that mini van over there has a sign on it that says something about alpacas. CR Alpacas to be exact. ThinkThinkThinkThink. You know, I think that is the farm where one of my KnitSibs got the fantastic spool of alpaca light fingering yarn that she used to knit her marvelous shawl that she SHOULD have won the Blue Ribbon at the fair for if the competition hadn’t been rigged.
I might have just strayed off topic there for a second. Sorry.
Coco was all filled up. I really should just get back in her and go back to Chez Knit where I was really supposed to then go and help with the annual neighborhood “beautification” day. But I decided that I would just pop over there and ascertain whether this particular farm sold yarn.
Me: Excuse me. Can I ask you a question?
Young Woman: (after catching her breath and checking her undies because I scared her so badly) Um, sure.
Me: I see you have alpacas. Do you also sell yarn.
YM: Oh yeah sure. You can stop over anytime. In fact if you want to stop today we are shearing the alpaca.
Me: (hearing the photo angels singing) REALLY??? I am a photographer, can I come out and take pictures?
Hot diggity zippity do da (I said to myself because I didn’t want her to think me odd). I confirmed where they were located, hopped back into my trusty steed and broke land speed records getting home so that I could change my clothes and grab the camera. And this is how I spent the next four hours. Be prepared….there are a lot of pictures.
And I am going to be kind to you and NOT impart all the alpaca knowledge that I picked up along the way.
They were almost finished with the first alpaca when I arrived. I had no preconceived notions about how an alpaca is sheared. I figured that the process was something like a sheep shearing and it is. Except they take a great deal of care with the alpaca.
The process goes something like this…..
Decide which alpaca is next in the line. You start shearing the darkest animals first. Bring said animal into the small pen. Say loving things to the alpaca….
DO I KNOW YOU!
It is easiest on the alpaca if they get a bit of tranquilizer first. Not enough to put them out, just enough to make them calm. Sort of like my evening glass of wine….only I get to drink my tranquilizer rather than having it injected into the posterior regions. And let me tell you, some of these alpaca make the most gosh awful noise when they get the shot. You would think it was their annual Gynecological exam….only these were all males. So maybe it was more like the yearly prostate exam?
Then you wait for a bit of time for the tranquilizer to take effect.
Do I look as fuzzy as I feel?
Then comes the fun part. The 150-200 pound alpaca must be hoisted up onto the table and quickly secured. And by the way, there wasn’t a man in sight to be called upon to do any heavy lifting. All the hoisting, lifting, securing, doctoring and shearing were being done by strong and independent women.
Is that Helen Reddy that I hear singing in the background?
The hooves are quickly and tightly secured. The last thing that you want is the alpaca struggling on the shearing table and getting hurt. Think of it as akin to swaddling a baby. Everything is all nice and tight and everyone feels safe and happy.
After seeing these hooves I will never complain about my summer scraggy heels again.
And then everyone gets a quick vacuum.
Yes, I said vacuum. Remember, this is ALPACA wool, the most wonderful soft stuff to knit with. But Alpacas live outside. And outside is where things like dirt and seeds can be found. It is better for the wool if you can get all the seeds and stuff out of it before you shear. So Maryanne takes the shop vac to each alpaca before shearing begins.
And while the vacuuming is going on Cheryl (the owner) checks teeth, does any filing down of fighting teeth that needs to be done, clips toe nails, clips top knots.
This is a full service salon!
Good golly that alpaca has whiter teeth than I do! And bigger.
After my vacuuming could you just give me a bit of a massage. I feel so relaxed.
Then it was on to the shearing. Each alpaca takes about 45 minutes from start to finish.
Maryanne, the woman doing the shearing, did one side of the animal and then everyone would converge, the straps would be loosened a bit and they would flip the alpaca onto it’s other side to be sheared. The lovely wool is scooped up into containers. Different containers held different grades of wool.
Some of the shorn wool falls on the dusty barn floor and is swept off to the side. Oh the heart hurts at the thought.
After the shearing is all done some fly repellent is sprayed on and it is off to the outside pen. And then it is on to the next alpaca. Cheryl has over 50 animals so there was loads of work to be done.
An alpaca doesn’t want to cooperate…..
Alpaca vs Cheryl. Do you want to guess who prevailed?
If you put your money on Cheryl then you would be correct.
After a while Cheryl sent me out into the field to commune with the alpacas. It was a time of peace and joy.
And I felt this almost overwhelming urge to knit a sweater for some reason.
How cool is it to have alpacas grazing in the back yard.
And alpacas hanging in the barn.
This fellow was determined to make a new and very close friend. He was singing to “her”, which is what the male does when he wants to mate. If the female is receptive she needs to hear the singing for 10 minutes. Then she ovulates and they get down to business…..but not this time. The other alpaca is a male. He didn’t seem interested.
I roamed around outside talking to the alpacas, communing with nature, enjoying the outdoors.
Look mommy an alpaca butt!!
Did you just take a picture of my butt?
Lady what is wrong with you? Girls did you see what she just did? She took a picture of my posterior!
Don’t even think about it sweetheart!
And about that time I decided that I had better go back inside the barn.
Yes it was time to say goodbye to all the alpacas and their lovely fleece.
A gigantic and enormous thank you to the ladies over at CR Alpacas for making my Saturday one to remember!
And yes, because I know that you are dying to ask me…….
I did buy some yarn. 2400 yards of light fingering weight alpaca.
And it is lovely.
The Guard LLama says skeedaddle!