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.
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.
He was so cute! And quick. Leslie tried to catch him for us to see, but he was too fast.
Curious, but wary.
We saw an older cria, who was a surprise birth last winter.
We went down towards the yearlings to find Alley and Zaiden, who were bottle-fed and tame. They actually come when you call them!
Here come the alpacas!
Benny met Zaiden:
Nope! 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:
And then they became 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.
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.
We even found some eggs!
They were also colourful.
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:
He was pretty reluctant.
They blow the alpacas first to remove a lot of the dust and any vegetation:
Then they are tethered for shearing. This is done so the alpaca and the shearer don't get cut during the process.
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:
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.