Earlier this summer, the Sprouts and I discovered a little shop here that sells handmade items by local crafters. It is set up much like an antique mall. Vendors pay for a booth and sell their stuff. We were delighted to stumble upon a booth featuring alpaca wares: rugs, yarn, crocheted headbands, hat, mittens, and dryer balls! Our extended family can attest that the dryer balls have been a favorite by far.
There were farm brochures at the booth and I noticed that they gave education tours. Hmmm. Need I say more? Taking the Sprouts to farms and meeting folks who make meaningful things by hand is high on our list of priorities. I think its one way that we can help kids resist the overbearing commercialism in our society. Forget the amusement parks, digital devices, and doodads with all of the bells and whistles (that are made in China, no less). Take them outside to a farm and let them meet real hard working people who are dedicated to preserving the art of the handmade instead.
We invited some friends and when it was all said and done, had 14 kiddos and 4 adults attend the tour. Leah, the owner, was fabulous with the kids. She is a second grade teacher and understands how little kids operate. And, she had a wealth of information and stories to share with us grownups too. Most of her alpacas are Huacaya. They’re the ones that get big and poofy wool. Then there was the lone Suri, Juno. What a character! He wanted everyone to feed him and kept following the kids around. He was the hippie of the alpaca group with his long gorgeous chocolate colored dreadlocks. The wool of Suris is coarser than that of the Huacaya and its beneficial to spin them together when making yarn. I was amazed at the color variations of the animals despite the fact that they haven’t been bred for long in this country. They are the perfect grazing animal to have out here in the high desert since they originate from Peru, too. 100 degrees? No problem. And when winters do get long and cold here, they apparently extend their gestation periods. Typically, they gestate for 11 months but due to our longer winter here this year, Leah said that she had a cria (baby alpaca) born at 351 days gestation. (Ahem….and most of us ladies think that 40 weeeks is rough!)
The tour ended with a crafting session in Leah’s garage. She showed the kiddos how to separate the wool on a large table (they got to help!), card it, and spin. They also got to do a fun little wet felting project and came home with some beautiful coasters! A living education, I tell you.