First a confession. I have a mad love for alpaca yarn. Its true. I have some Merry Den alpaca yarn that I can't bring myself to use. I just take it out and look at it now and again, contemplate working with it then carefully put it back LOL! I know crazy, right? I'm not the only fiber artist who does that :) I do envy Pete and Sue McElwain the owners of Merry Den Alpacas. Sue gets to work with Alpaca yarn and sell her wares from their store. (dream job!)
How do people get started owning Alpacas. (well they are easy to fall in love with once you see their faces) However, I'll quote from Pete and Sue from their website
"10 years ago, Pete saw a couple of alpacas at the New York State Farm Show. From that time, he was hooked. He went home and told his wife, Sue about them, but she didnt think that it was a good idea to spend ALOT of money on some animals....she hadn't seen them in person yet. 4 years ago, Pete convinced Sue to go and visit a couple of farms on National Alpaca Farm day. Once she saw them she was hooked. Two months later, Sue and Pete bought their first three Alpacas, and a month later, they brought them home. From then on it has been a Long, but exciting journey. We have enjoyed every minute of learning about the alpacas, and watching our herd grow. Recently we have started a 4-H club to get the youth in our area involved. The kids love the alpacas, and the joy that they get from working on them is something that we cherish, almost as much as our Alpacas. :)" Again you see local small farmers finding value in educating children and contributing to the community.
Merry Den Alpacas is located in a neighboring community to my own, North Bangor, New York. Their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/merryden.alpacas/timeline is warm and inviting. "Huacaya Alpaca Farm located in Franklin county, New York. We offer farm tours, and an on-site farm store! Come meet the Alpacas!" You can find the farm at 806 County Route 53 in North Bangor New York. They are open Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. For fiber fiends like myself its lovely to know we can get some beautiful alpaca yarn and support local small farms. If you are visiting the area, you should make it a point to stop by to see Pete and Sue.
Why alpaca yarn? First Merry Den Alpaca yarn is beautiful. It has gorgeous loft, and sheen. Its so soft its like silk. Pete and Sue McElwain take great care to produce beautiful fleece. Just like in humans health determines the quality of the hair/fleece.
Alpaca fleece and yarn is very durable lasting far longer than other luxury fibers. If treated with care this beautiful fiber will last generations. Now in a family of people with allergies I can tell you I've learned that most people who are allergic to wool (truly allergic not just uncomfortable because of the itch) can wear alpaca because it does not contain lanolin. Lanolin tends to hold dust and microscopic allergens which can make sensitive people sneeze and itch. Alpaca has a smooth texture, with a greater thermal capacity making it a very warm fiber. It knits up like a dream. :)
Now I turn it over to Ian to give you a bit of the technical aspects of Huacaya Alpaca farming. The alpaca is a member of the camel family native to South America. Their closest relatives are the llama, vicuña and the guanaco. The vicuña and guanaco roam wild, while the alpaca and llama are domesticated. The alpaca and llama are not to be confused with one another, though the look similar, alpacas are much smaller than llamas. Llamas are used for transport, as well as their fleece, while alpacas are used only for their fleece. Llamas and alpacas can cross-breed, resulting in an animal known as a huarizo. They are very intelligent animals, and can have a mind of their own.
No one knows when alpacas and llamas were domesticated. The pre-Columbian civilizations of South America didn’t write much down, but they have apparently been domesticated for a very long time. They were both bred from the wild guanaco, which is native to the Andes mountain range, and the Atacama desert. Guanacos’ fur is adapted to protect them from the temperature extremes of these climates.
Alpaca fiber was highly valued by the Inca civilization for its softness, durability and warmth. They have been known to withstand extreme cold with little difficulty, but must be sheared in during warmer weather, as they do not shed like guanacos.
Alpacas are one of the easiest animals to care for. Unlike sheep, they do not require the presence of a shepherd during the calving season. Sheep have been known to abandon their own young. Alpacas do not require much space; an acre of land is enough for about 20 animals. However, males and females must be housed separately, unless they are supposed to breed. Contrary to popular belief, alpacas do NOT make good guard animals. They are easily spooked by predators, including dogs, they have no front teeth on their top jaw, and their only defense is their spit. If confronted by a predator, alpacas usually just run away.
**Opinions expressed on blogs about which I write are the opinion of the blog authors and DO NOT necessarily reflect my own opinion.