A fiber adventure “on the hoof”

One of the best adventures we had last week was a visit to Whirlwind Ranch Alpacas in Lebanon, MO. It is nestled in the beautiful rolling hills of the Ozarks, which right away makes my heart sing.  (I grew up in hill country, and now live in delta.  I have to have my “hill fix” on a regular basis.)

As we drove into the ranch, we were met by a large white dog, which proceeded to keep pace with the driver’s door.  It was joined in a few yards by a second, and as we drove further into the ranch, the third large white dog.  We all arrived at the parking area together, and as their owner,  Linda, spoke to them a word of introduction, we were all friends.  She explained that they are Great Pyrenees, and are the guardians of the flock.  These gentle giants wanted nothing more than to lean against my legs and have their ears scritched in appreciation.  The trouble was that they weighed about 100 pounds, and that’s a lot of leaning!

Mid-afternoon, fondly known in our household as “universal kitty nap time”, turns out to be a drowsy time for Alpaca, also.  A handful of carrot slices proved to be an effective bribe for this shy one.  The Alpacas fiber feels as marvelous being worn by the animal as it does in the skein.  As these delightful animals wuffled my hand and hummed to me their pleasure, I was able to sink my hand into their wool up to my wrist.

A portion of the herd had decided it was time for a snack, and gathered at the hay trough. I wanted you to see the incredible range of color represented in the herd.  (I do apologize to these animals for featuring a shot of their posteriors, but I couldn’t persuade them to look up.) The gray Alpaca in the foreground has a white face with a large gray mark above the eye.  It looks like the exaggerated eyebrow a clown might color on to his face.

Speaking of faces, this one wasn’t shy at all.  Alpacas have an over-bite that is well suited to grazing, but is less efficient in gathering carrots from a hand.  Look at those eyelashes!  You can also see the tiny feet of the red Alpaca standing beside the white one.  They only weigh about 100 – 150 pounds, so much of their size is that wonderful, light wool.

The afternoon was topped off with a tour of the fiber shop.  Linda demonstrated the steps of preparing the fiber for spinning.  It is incredibly clean, and only needs the bits of hay picked out to be ready to card.  She showed us a chart of different areas of the Alpaca, and let us feel the different grades of fiber that come from those areas.  Linda picked up a white yarn for us to pet, then fessed up that it was Great Pyrenees, combed from their undercoat in the Spring.  I came home with some white yarn, but from the Alpaca you met.  I plan to knit the Panopticon’s Swallotail Shawl variation with it.

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3 Comments

  1. Knitnana said,

    October 24, 2008 at 9:41 am

    What sweeties! I love Alpacas…
    And my boss has Great Pyranees….let me tell you, they’re little woolie snowballs as babies….
    (wish they’d stay that small, I might keep one!)
    (((hugs)))

  2. October 25, 2008 at 12:01 am

    I’ve know the folks at Whirlwind Ranch. I even bought a an alpaca from them. Very nice folks.

  3. August 11, 2009 at 7:41 am

    […] October we visited Whirlwind Ranch Alpacas in Lebanon, MO.  You can read about that adventure here.  One of my joys was getting to choose some yarn from the fleece of the alpacas I met. I bought […]


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