Blue Moon Alpaca Farm
Being the avid knitter and yarn collector that I am, I was thrilled to discover that there is an alpaca farm only a few miles away from where I live. I’ve always wanted to own a few alpacas and spin my own yarn; and, by always I mean for like the last year. I was dying to go check out Blue Moon Ranch and get the low down on alpaca raising, shearing and yarn spinning.
When we arrived we were greeted by the owner of the ranch, Linda Gardner who ushered us right into the fields so we could say hello to her beloved alpaca herd. Linda has 64 alpacas on her ranch and knows the names of each and every one. She adores them and they clearly adore her. The friendliest of her herd is a black beauty named Scarlet O’Hara, who will even let you take a selfie with her!
I had a million questions for Linda who was incredibly patient and answered them all. She told me the most important thing about Alpacas is that they are herd animals. If you decide you want to try your hand at raising them you need at least two and preferably four to keep them happy and comfortable. Surprisingly a small herd of four really only needs about one acre of land to graze on. That is if you don’t plan to breed them. If you do want to breed you need enough land to keep the males separate from the females. Lady alpacas have no heat cycle and are induced ovulaters. Meaning the act of mating is what causes their egg to release. So if you’ve got a bunch of horny males wandering about your herd they can impregnate your females pretty much any time they want. Hence, the need to keep the males separate because, lets face it, when is any male not horny?
If you’re simply planning to raise alpacas for fiber, as I would be doing, it’s a relatively simple task. Just 2-4 alpacas, an acre of land and hay for feeding. Linda says she has her babies sheared only once a year. She’s able to get 5 pounds of fiber from each animal and that does not include fleece from their bellies, legs or head. Linda brings in a company called Biosecure Alpaca Shearing to do all the hard work of removing the fleece from the herd. Linda tells me the company was started by a young man who’s mother taught him to shear her sheep due to a lack of professionals who could help her. Now because of his years of experience, Linda claims his company and crew are the best at gently and carefully shearing her beloved herd. The ten crews of four travel across the country shearing alpacas. You need only call and get yourself on their schedule to ensure your herd will be taken care of. Once the shearing is complete the fleece needs to be hand washed and dried. At that point it becomes roving, or the beginnings of the yarn one would knit with.
Once you have your roving it needs to be dyed, though I’m sure you could leave it au natural if you wanted. Again, Linda seeks outside help for the dying process. She feels strongly about supporting local businesses by hiring out for things she doesn’t feel she has the time or energy to do herself. Something I whole heartedly support as well. The mordent from natural dyes can be toxic so Linda uses a company that dyes with acid which is actually vinegar. Her yarns end up absolutely beautiful in an array of delicious colors.
Once the roving has been dyed it then needs to be spun. Without spinning it, the fiber easily pulls apart and has no strength to it. Linda says spinning the yarn on her numerous wheels is how she spends her evenings. I have to say it looked quite meditative and relaxing. I’m kinda dying to try it.
Linda sells her yarn from an adorable shed on her property. I have always dreamed of having a yarn shop, and this time I truly mean “always!” Linda’s little yarn haven really inspired me, though I’m sure it takes a lot more work and effort to supply and run than I’m imagining. I could have spent hours in there just watching her spin yarn and admiring her wares. She even sells homemade soaps. It’s the perfect cozy little yarn shop dedicated to her love and care for her alpacas.
I’m so grateful to Linda for her time and allowing us to check out her incredibly wonderful alpaca farm. Who knows, maybe this time next year I’ll have a mini heard of my own! Fingers crossed!