An Alpaca Story

UPDATE April 30/2016 – The damage done by the icestorm of 2013 (mentioned below) has been completely repaired, and Life is carrying on quite nicely for Nancy and her Alpacas.

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Nancy poured some feed into my hand.  It looked like a blend of seeds and chopped dried fruit.  Having already observed the impressive teeth in his formidable jaw, I asked “Just hold my hand out flat … like this ?” I was drawing on something I’d heard about hand-feeding horses without getting bitten. Nancy nodded reassuringly as the beast boldly stepped forward, and buried his maw in my hand.  The sensation was that of a furry silk glove gently massaging my palm.  When he pulled his muzzle away, the feed was gone, my palm was dry, and I had just hand-fed my first Alpaca.

I think God created Alpacas as an apology for Camels.

I think God created Alpacas as an apology for Camels.

Considering there are 164 registered Alpaca farms in Ontario, and many more unregistered farms, I won’t insult anyone’s intelligence by explaining what an Alpaca is, nor what it’s related to.  Let it suffice that it’s smaller than a Llama, less aggressive than a Llama, cuter than a Llama, has an even bigger “eyes to body ratio”, than a Llama, and most importantly (unlike a Llama), it won’t spit at you unless you do something really, really stupid.  I’m pleased to report that I didn’t do anything really, really stupid at Nancy’s 1 Stop Alpaca Farm on Durham Rd 3 near Enniskillen.

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Nancy Hutchinson is a Recreational Therapist who runs the 10 acre Alpaca farm. ‘Course, there are also a number of dogs, 2 pot-bellied pigs, and I don’t know how many geese, chickens, ducks, and rabbits we saw.

Upon our arrival, a border collie named  “Spy” politely greeted us in silence, and led us toward the house. It was a slippery-footed December morning as we walked across the parking lot to meet Nancy.  In the barn, we were introduced to a dozen or more Alpacas.  They were gentle and shy, yet inquisitive creatures.  Well, I suppose like most “human – familiar” beasties, they were more interested in whether or not food would enter the equation.  Hence, Nancy gave me the opportunity mentioned in my opening lines.

The sheared wool is sold in its native state, or dyed by hand and spun into wool, complete with the individual Alpaca’s name and picture on the skein’s label.

Spun wool for knitting specific to the named alpaca.

Spun wool for knitting specific to the named alpaca.

Alpaca socks are a specialty item with raw fibre sent to Calgary to be spun and made into socks.  Scarves, shawls, hats, any apparel, are available in the shop.  As mentioned earlier, I have little experience with Alpacas, but I re-familiarized myself with my single exposure to their wool from a few years before.

Some of the finished products available in the shop

Some of the finished products available in the shop

There’s nothing quite like the feel of Alpaca wool.  I describe it as almost oily to the touch, though your hands draw away from it, dry.  Softer than Angora, warmer and more durable than either sheep’s wool or cotton, there is simply no equal.

I made a purchase of a pure alpaca hat/scarf for the wife.  Ranger’s assistance was invaluable as always.  Everything I touched, he assured me the wife would love, and encouraged me to buy it.  I seriously considered the possibility of leaving him there and returning Home with an alpaca.  But even Ranger’s not hairy enough to trick anybody.  The hat/scarf was a Christmas gift so I made arrangements with Nancy to do a full write-up of our visit, after Christmas, to keep our visit secret.   If we’d known how everything would change, in just a few short weeks …

Bushwhacker

On Dec 26th 2013, the ice storm that slammed Southern Ontario caused the collapse of Nancy’s alpaca barn.  Tragically, at least one alpaca was lost.  Please use the URL below for more information.  

http://www.durhamregion.com/news-story/4292211-clarington-couple-faces-losing-alpaca-herd-after-ice-collapses-barn/

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