Today was just gorgeous – a perfect day in every way. The sun was shining, the sky was a vibrant blue and we sure deserve it after a Summer of rained-out weekends, heat, humidity and day after day of dark and gloomy skies. It was even chillier than yesterday, and, because it was only 49 degrees when I left the house, I took a pair of gloves and wore a sweat suit. I wasn’t taking any chances after freezing the entire five hours I was outside yesterday.
I spent all morning enjoying Elizabeth Park, a perfect venue to savor on a sun-soaked Sunday. The water seems to sparkle in this picturesque park. Shh – don’t tell anyone, but I spent three hours stalking shore birds. They were plentiful too, from the Pekin and Mallard ducks napping or preening on various perches around the park, like old dead logs in the water, or by the water’s edge, to the Canada geese that gathered on the grounds, or went airborne as they soared high above my head. I saw an Egret, Great Blue Heron, and another Cormorant (is this the same one, and now he is stalking me?)
It was an enjoyable morning and I took tons of photos to share in a future post, because today’s post is devoted to yesterday’s trip to the alpaca farm on Grosse Ile.
My friend Evelyn lives in Virginia and is an avid knitter. She often goes to fiber festivals and has visited an alpaca farm and watched them being sheared; it always sounded fun, so I Googled around to find if we had any alpaca farms around here. I was surprised to discover that one was on beautiful Grosse Ile, only 12 miles from my house.
It was an overcast day and I should have waited for a brighter day for my visit, but, I think the photos still came out clear enough and I hope you enjoy them.
One look at the alpacas will endear you to them as soon as you see their inquisitive-looking faces, huge eyes and sometimes lopsided grins.
I pulled up and got a parking space, then went straight to the left of the large barn which bears the name of the farm, Gibralter Bay Alpacas. This sign was from one of the trailers.
There were two huge, fenced-in pastures and plenty of room for me to walk along each pasture’s perimeter to check out the alpacas … or, maybe I should say they checked me out first! I later learned this left-side pasture area was for the male alpacas only.
They were much taller than I thought they’d be and really reminded me of a camel. The alpaca I saw at the petting farm at Heritage Park was constantly grazing so I never saw its full height. I’ve included some pictures of them standing up.
“Peek-a-boo, I see you” is what the first alpaca appeared to be saying just as I arrived.
He was the first brave buddy in the bunch to investigate this tall stranger lurking by their pasture. Though this fellow had been grazing, he came running over to the fence to greet me. I clicked my tongue at him a few times and sweet talked him a little, but, after he determined I was a friend, not a foe, he loped back to his brethren who were grazing together.
I traveled in the grassy area along the perimeter of the pasture, and it seemed that one by one, each alpaca came over to say “Hey”, or …
I tried not to take it personally after my curly-headed, fuzzy-looking friends looked me over, then after 15 seconds, they pointed their heads back to the ground and nibbled on the grass.
I stood there clicking away with the camera, and talking to them in a soothing voice, trying to lure them to the fence, but “face time” was fleeting. They came over when they felt like it, brushing up against the fence to scratch an itchy head, or to nibble on some flowers near my feet.
I had to smile at the alpaca antics sometimes, and quickly decided we humans are pretty smug about how smart we are next to the animal kingdom, but … which one of you can scratch your left ear with your left leg like this alpaca is doing here? Hmmm?
After spending about one-half hour at this pasture, I trekked over to the other side, past this red wagon and stump, which I thought would make an interesting picture and keep you in suspense until the next alpaca photo.
Here was a smaller pasture and the alpacas were crowded together, most of them munching on hay. I would later learn from my conversation with the owner, that this pasture was just for the female alpacas. They gathered together to munch on hay, despite having plenty of room in the pasture to roam about, and they resembled a crowd on Black Friday morning. I took a picture of the group …
… but then one sweet young girl came over to the fence to greet me.
This area of the fence was made differently and gave her an opportunity to poke her head between the bars, thus affording both of us an up-close view of the other. She gave me the once-over – wow, I wondered if I passed inspection? I know I thought she was cute as a button … but how did she perceive me?
I watched a baby alpaca nursing, while its mom was just taking in the sights.
The little one, who was actually almost as big as mom, was busy enjoying its “lunch”, when mom suddenly decided she was thirsty and hightailed it to the water trough, with her baby following at her heels where they sipped water together.
I spent another half-hour roaming the outskirts of this pasture, then decided it was time to head home. I went to the barn area to deliver my “donation” (an envelope which I entitled “Alpaca Treats” with some money enclosed).
I spoke with the owner, Gail, who told me all donations are used to buy food for the alpacas. Their diet consists of hay, along with all that grass that they seemed to love so much. The hay is infused with vitamins which accounts for their good health and luxurious wool.
And, now a little about the wool. Those alpacas were shorn earlier in the year, with their fuzziness now concentrated around the face and the tail, and even their legs. Gail said that all the wool from her bunch goes to a processing plant in Tennessee. As each alpaca goes through the shearing process, its own fleece is bagged, then labelled with its name. When the wool is processed, the skeins are returned, bearing the particular alpaca’s name. The wool is pure with no color or dyes. Their on-site gift store sells items that have been hand knit from the wool of the alpacas at Gibralter Bay, and knitting classes are held here as well.
Gail asked if I wanted to go into the pasture and mix and mingle with the alpacas. “I’m sure they are tired of me, as I’ve been hanging out watching them for an hour already” is what I told her. But, I know I would like to go back on a sunny Summer day and take more pictures, this time not through the fence, and get up close and personal with these cute and furry alpacas.
I learned a few fun facts and figures about the alpacas from Gail. I mentioned watching the baby and its mother, and she told me that there are three baby alpacas right now and a few “juvenile boys” which are segregated from the adult alpacas. She fondly refers to the alpacas as “the girls” and “the boys” and, when I asked how she herds them back into the barn every night, (in my mind picturing a barking Border Collie rounding them up from the pastures), Gail said she simply goes outside at 4:00 p.m. and calls “c’mon girls” or “c’mon boys” and “time to come in” and they go directly to their stalls and enclosures inside the barn. How’s that for obedient? Smart too!
I left Gail and headed for home. I had researched online about alpacas before going to the farm and read they sometimes “spit” at each other and at humans, so I guess I passed muster as no dust-ups or spit-ups occurred!
P.S. – I walked over six miles both days this weekend … another 13 miles to add to my tally, and my eyes have been slowly sinking to half-mast while compiling this post.