When alpacas greet you, they lean forward and try to touch noses with you. Have you ever been eye to eye with an alpaca? It’s a thing. And when an alpaca tries to be polite, the human involved usually leans very far back and tries politely not to reciprocate. Cross-species manners are so difficult.
How do I know this? I belong to co-op. I blame it.
Our little group has been visiting gardens and farms throughout northern Virginia and western Maryland. We ate ice cream at a dairy, poked the pond at the bird sanctuary, picked our own strawberries, and got a mini-tour from a master gardener who just happened to be pulling weeds that day. We read stories at picnic tables, under trees, and in garden houses. We watch informational videos on the Shenandoah Valley and try not to trip adults at the historic places. We have even gotten our pictures taken at the old jail.
We lead quite the life, as you can see.
One of our moms knew this lady who keeps alpacas. She has a herd of them in her backyard and amiably agreed to show us around. So one morning we all put on farm-proof-ish shoes (note to self: make sure BOTH children have water- and muck-proof shoes) and drove to Catie’s house. We did not get lost on the way, which makes the field trip a win right there. She led us into the corral where the best-behaved alpacas hang out. When they saw us coming, they all trotted out to meet us. Ooh! Visitors!
We spent the next half hour patting them. Catie also keeps a butterfly garden and calls her operation Butterfly Hill Farm, and she gives her alpacas butterfly names. None of them spat at us, stomped on our feet, or knocked over our small children. A few alpacas hung back shyly and weren’t ready for affection, which was fine, because a few of the children hung back shyly and wanted their mamas to hold them the whole time. Alpacas are taller than toddlers. Most of the ones we saw were mamas and older kids, and they wanted to meet our kids. One or two of the most sociable alpacas lay down right there in the middle of the field so the short people could rub their necks more conveniently.
We almost had a boy alpaca fight in the corral next door. One of them stood up tall. The other one stood taller. The first one ruffled his shoulders a little and tried to look big. The second one thought very tall thoughts. But apparently they decided the barn was big enough for the both of them, or possibly each of them thought he’d won, and nothing came of it.
I’m up on my alpaca trivia now. For instance, the alpaca’s closest relative is not the llama (Emperor’s New Groove!) nor the pushmi-pullyu (Doctor Doolittle, mythical creature, and you’ve never seen anything like it in your life), but the vicuña. Another fact: Alpaca fleece has features that make it wanted by fashion designers, so this is a good time to be herding them.
Catie showed us some of her wool, both before and after it had been to the mill, and also a hat she’d knitted out of it. My knitterly antenna perked up at that, and we had a nice time talking shop. I haven’t bought any yet, but I think she just made alpaca yarn highly sought after by me, too. I’ve been working up to getting a set of double-pointed needles and this may be my excuse.
Our co-op usually does its thing and reads a couple books afterwards. After we joined her for the animals, Catie joined us for storytime. She liked one of our stories so well she said she wanted to stock it in her store. So it was quite a successful morning, all round.
For our next adventure, alpaca lunch.
Photo Credit: All photos by Carolyn Bales, Edited by Charity Klicka.