Wednesday, April 25, 2012

An Alpaca Adventure

Yesterday I packed the boys in the car and we went to visit Leslie at A to Z Alpacas. (Her website is It was a gorgeous day for a drive- not too sunny and not windy or raining either. (When does this happen? It was perfect!) We saw many old farmhouses and leaning barns along the way, as well as plenty of horses, cows, and even a flock of sheep. Keeping an eye out for them kept the boys busy!

We headed into a part of Alberta I have really only seen from the highway, and I was glad to go and explore. I love the way the landscape rolls and opens up at the top of every hill; shelves of cloud reveal every shade of white, gray and blue as they rise above the horizon and then fall behind. I regret that I could not take a picture of it; even if I had stopped, there is no way a simple camera could capture what the prairies are.

When we arrived at the farm, we were greeted by the sight of dozens of sheared alpacas grazing on the south pastures.


sheared female alpacas

I found out later these were all the females, as they begin shearing them the first in the spring. Leslie had invited us for lunch, and after we ate, we went out into the pasture to look at the alpacas closer. We visited the females first, to check if any of them were in labor. I was kind of hoping, but none of them were, so we went to see the little cria who was born two days ago.

cria & momma

He was so cute! And quick. Leslie tried to catch him for us to see, but he was too fast.

cria & momma

Curious, but wary.

We saw an older cria, who was a surprise birth last winter.

surprise baby

We went down towards the yearlings to find Alley and Zaiden, who were bottle-fed and tame. They actually come when you call them!

Calling all alpacas!

Here come the alpacas!

Here come the alpacas!

Benny met Zaiden:

Is he gonna kiss me?

Nope! Too close!

Woah! Too Close!

Ian made friends with them quicker (I guess being taller than them does help!)


Benny was a little worried, but petted Zaiden a little:

Okay with this now.

And then they became best buddies!

Heck we're best buddies!

The alpacas were all quite curious about us and came to see us when we showed up, although only Alley and Zaiden let us pet them.

Alley and Zaiden


Zaiden, the one facing the front, has such a funny grin! He looks like an amiable boy- which he is.


After we were finished seeing the yearlings, we stopped by the chicken coop. I have an affection for chickens (probably because I have never had to clean up after them) and find them beautiful.

White chicken


We even found some eggs!

We found eggs!

They were also colourful.

Look at all the colors!

I can't wait to eat them!

Benny! No! Those came straight from the chicken's butt!

All the female alpacas had been sheared, and they were beginning on the males. They do the yearlings last. We got to see this male get sheared:

Do you have to shear me?

He was pretty reluctant.

They blow the alpacas first to remove a lot of the dust and any vegetation:

Blowing the alpaca

Then they are tethered for shearing. This is done so the alpaca and the shearer don't get cut during the process.

Shearing the alpaca

The fleece is graded as it is taken off. The desireable blanket cut, which has the best fiber and the least guard hairs, is kept in one pile, and the second and third cuts piled separately. Leslie also goes through the fleece and removes any second cuts in it by hand. They are picky about which fleeces they sell to spinners.

After the shearing, Leslie brought several bags of fleece inside for me to look at. I really was amazed at how clean they were. They really put a lot of effort into getting the bulk of the dust out of the fleece. I was able to pull out my spindle and test spin some right there. We had a good chat about crimp, staple length, and what spinners are looking for in a fiber. I am no expert in that, but I was impressed by the quality and selection of these fleeces. And they're clean!

This is the one I chose:

My fleece

It's a nice, bright white, crimpy, with a shorter staple. I'm planning to blend it with some of the other luxury fibers I have, so I was looking for a shorter fleece. It has some longer parts too, but with the fleece starting out this clean it's going to be no problem separating out what I want.

All in all, it was a great day, and lots of fun. The boys just had a blast, and I can't wait until we can make another trip out there. It was well worth the drive.

sheared females

Goodbye, Alpacas!


Avi Abrams said...

Good writeup Rachel, it's a bummer that I had to work this day - but I did get to touch the fleece and it is wonderful )

Rachel said...

I missed you there! But maybe you'll come next time.

Crystal said...

I didnt know you had a blog! How fun to be able to pick your own fleece to knit from!

Crystal, by the way I have a blog too all about my life :)

Rachel said...

Cool! I bookmarked it. I should come and visit your ranch too!

Lisa-24-7 said...

man, now I really want an alpaca. Those guys are SOOOOOO cute! And soft :)

Crystal said...

You are welcome out here any time :) But only cows and horses around here, nothing to knit from.