A Trip to Peru (part 1 of 2)

In September, we were lucky enough to go to Peru!  Well, Alex and the kids stayed home to take care of the farm. But my sister and I, as passionate alpaca breeders,  got to go to Peru and experience alpacas in their native environment and learn about the long tradition of alpaca-based textiles there.  Thanks, Alex and kids!

Today’s post will take a look at the incredible land alpacas call home and the alpacas themselves. A post next week will feature our visits to two different cultural heritage centers/museums.

The Land

So. Peru. We spent most of our time in various towns in the Sacred Valley, in the Cusco Region.  In this landscape, the Andes dominate, and are absolutely gorgeous.  We “oooooh”-ed and “aaaahhh”-ed enough during one drive that our blessed driver finally just laughed and pulled over so that we could get out and take some pictures.  How can you not be awestruck with views like this?

View of Sacred Valley

Looking down into the Sacred Valley

View of Sacred Valley

Just gorgeous!

Or, from the other direction, as it were, views like this?

Mountains

Looking out and up from the Sacred Valley

Do you see all of those lines going across the mountain in front?  Those, it turns out, are worn and ancient remains of stepped terraces cut into the mountainside by the Inca peoples of the region.  In fact, when we were at the pulloff spot taking the pictures from above the valley, there were ruins right behind us that were in better shape.

Ruins

There are ruins just about everywhere you turn, and it’s humbling to think how ingeniously (and how far up the mountains!) the people indigenous to this land worked with their environment to develop a thriving society.

The Alpacas

We were fortunate enough to meet up with an alpaca breeder in the area, Feliz, who agreed to take us to the land where he keeps his herds.  It wasn’t quite seeing alpacas in the wild, but the grazing lands he shares with his community are vast enough that they don’t fence alpacas in the way we have to keep them here in the states!  Feliz wasn’t quite sure how much land their community had for grazing, but he thought it was probably over 1,000 acres.

He and his son drove us out of town, then out of the smaller town, and then up, up, up into the mountains, where there were small villages that dotted the landscape.  Eventually the paved road gave way to packed gravel, and before it was over we were just literally driving up the side of a mountain where no road at all led the way.  It was not a trip for a person with a tendency to get car sick!

As we rode along, it seemed like Feliz was looking for the herds – not too surprising given how much land they have for wandering.  It turns out, that’s exactly what was happening, except technically he was looking for his aunt, who stays with the herd to keep an eye on them, and passes the time spinning fiber and weaving in the field.  When he spotted her, we all got out of the car and hiked our way down to where she was sitting with her weaving, and Feliz let us look around while he visited with her.

Rancher and Tia

Feliz and his aunt. He’s holding a slingshot, which he uses to throw rocks at predators that get too close to the herd. His aunt is spinning fleece with a drop spindle.

Our alpacas in Maryland have a pretty sweet life, but we couldn’t help but think they would be jealous of the space their cousins in Peru get to enjoy.

Grazing herd

Alpacas (and their sheep friends) have LOTS of room to roam in Peru.

It turns out that Feliz has three different herds of alpaca, and we were visiting one of them.  The other two herds had moved too far from the road for us to get to – it was looking for the second that we ended up driving up the roadless mountain!  Fortunately, while we were wandering around this first herd, we thought to ask Feliz if it might be possible to actually get a good look at the fleece on the animals. The herd isn’t what you’d want to call tame, but Feliz managed to sneak up behind one of the alpacas and grabbed a leg, which was impressive to watch.  Once he had the alpaca in hand, it was quite calm, and we got to go up and investigate.

Alpaca closeup

This beauty is the alpaca Feliz caught. Look at that fleece!

Because of the altitude and climate, they shear the alpacas every two years instead of annually.  The fleece gets unbelievably thick, and we were wondering just how long it was on these Huacaya that are due to get their shearing in March.  The density and crimp of the fiber was incredible.

Fleece closeup

No wonder they stay so toasty warm in the mountains!

How lucky to be able to visit this alpaca breeder’s herd!  It was kind of him to take the time to pick us up, drive us out there, and show us around, not to mention catching an alpaca!  It’s hard to imagine ranching on the scale that he does – both in terms of the number of animals and the expanse of land.

One thing is for sure, though: no matter where you find them, alpacas are just about the sweetest animals around.

Alpaca hug

Feliz and his aunt with Heather and her new best alpaca friend.

Also, just because they were the happiest piggies I’ve ever seen, here’s a picture of some pigs, who were happily rooting around in the mountains with the alpacas and sheep.

Piggies

Happy pigs! The amount of earth they can throw around while they root is impressive.

You Know What’s Cute? Crias!

We have a few new faces here at Breezy Hill Farm, and we couldn’t be happier about it.  The crias and their mamas all are healthy and doing fine.  Also they are cute.

First up we have Kronos.

We named him after the Greek god of time because he ignored the calendar and arrived a whopping SEVENTEEN DAYS LATE.  Maybe he was just waiting for Mother’s Day, because it seemed appropriate.  He was born to our beautiful Rhapsody, who no doubt was thrilled when he finally arrived!  He’s a big and funny young one – you’ll probably be seeing more of him before too long.

crias

Next up we have a very new cria, just born yesterday (June 8): the cute, fluffy Eros.

He is our first Suri cria, and we are delighted to welcome him to the farm. He’s a cutie, and we anticipate that he will be quite photogenic.  His mother, Faith, thinks he is perfect.

crias

They are both so fluffy and wonderful – you should probably stop by for a visit and see for yourself!

Join Us at the Frederick Fiber Fest!

This weekend, June 10-11, is the Frederick Fiber Fest, held at the Frederick News-Post Building.

We are excited to be a vendor at the Fest again this year, and look forward to enjoying the weekend with our fellow fiber enthusiasts, ranchers and artisans alike!

Of course, we will have gorgeous fiber products available for purchase, thanks to our beautiful alpacas!  You will love our collection of luxurious, one-of-a-kind yarns that are hand-dyed, hand-spun, and hand-corded.  For larger projects, we have a great selection of wonderfully soft cottage-milled yarns.

We have a large variety of colors and weights available – you’ll just have to see for yourself!

 

Admission to the event is FREE!  There will be food vendors as well, so go ahead and make a day of it!

Frederick Fiber Fest 2017
Frederick News-Post Building
351 Belenger Center Driver
Frederick, MD

Shearing Day!

Back in April at Breezy Hill we had shearing day!  With our herd of about 40 alpacas, it was quite a project to get them all rounded up to the shearing shed and then trimmed up for summer.  Fortunately, we had great shearers (from Shear Perfection Farm, in Windsor, PA), who do good work quickly, and some wonderful volunteers who helped with restraining the alpacas and collecting the fleece.  Many hands make light work, or so they say.

alpacas

The alpacas mosey up toward the shearing area.

alpacas

The alpacas are not good at waiting single file.

There are a few different ways to restrain an alpaca during the shearing process, and none of them, done properly, cause the alpaca any pain.  On the contrary, the restraint prevents them from injuring themselves or the shearers, and makes the process go much more quickly.  It’s really better for everyone involved!   The method preferred by our shearer is called Australian Restrained shearing.  The alpaca is restrained between two “anchor points” and laid out on a mat, with its front legs bound together in one direction, and the back legs bound in the other.  This gives the shearer great access to the alpaca’s body and prevents any struggling that might result in bruises or worse.

shearing

“Oh, hello there.  I’m about to look so fresh!”

During the shearing, the alpaca gets turned over just once, which is nice for the animal and the shearer.  The shearing happens in specific sections: the blanket (back, sides, and belly), the neck, and the legs and haunches.  The blanket provides the best-quality fleece by far, but the other sections work well for felting, especially, and can become fiber for rugs and baskets and the like.  Depending on the size of the alpaca, and the density of the fleece, the fleece from one animal can weigh anywhere from 5 to 10 pounds!

Don’t tell the animals, but after shearing they can look a little silly.  You’d never know it by the end of the winter, before the shearing, but they have little noodle necks!

How does such a noodle neck hold up the head??? It’s a mystery.

Needless to say, we now have mountains of high quality fleece to clean and get to work on.  Before too long, we’ll have roving to dye (or not – the natural colors are beautiful too) and spin into incredible yarn or use in felting projects.

This fluffy cloud of roving (with a hint of filament for shimmer) . . .

. . . can become some of our beautiful hand-spun yarn!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We take a lot of pleasure in working with our animals to produce unique fiber products truly from scratch.  It’s incredible to look at the alpaca, then look at the yarn we’ve created from its fleece – the transformation is definitely a testament to the quality of our herd’s fleece and to Heather’s creativity when it comes to dyeing and spinning the fleece into yarn!  Stop by the boutique when you visit the farm, and see how beautiful alpaca fleece products can be!

Alpaca Farm: 2-minute film about Breezy Hill Farm

On March 4, we had some special guests here at Breezy Hill! It was an honor to have LCPL Joseph Jacob and PFC Isabella Ortega of the US Marines visit and speak with us.  They made a brief documentary about our alpaca farm for a class project, and we think it is just delightful.

Press play to hear a bit about the farm and our wonderful animals and, of course, to see just how cute alpacas are. (Spoiler alert: They are very cute.)

 

Plan a Visit to Breezy Hill Alpaca Farm

We would love to have you come see the farm for yourself, so set up your own visit today!
Email us at breezyhillalpacas@gmail.com or call 410-489-5802.

Join us for our Wearable Art: Silk Scarf Needle Felt Workshop

Breezy Hill Farm’s new fiber workshop is finally setup, electrified and will now offering monthly classes. We start with a felting class this Saturday at 11am. Beverages and snacks will be provided to feed your creative minds as you learn how to make a free-style, needle felted silk scarf. In this 3 hour course you will learn the skills and techniques needed to complete a beautiful, one-of-a kind, wearable piece of art! No prior felting experience – just enthusiasm and a love for creative projects. Hope you can make it.

All felting materials are included with your registration fee and yours to keep, including: Felting needles & foam mat, silk scarf, luxurious and colorful fibers

NOTE: space will be limited to 6, to be sure to register while you can! Click on the meetup link to register!

 

Feel free to call me with any questions.

Breezy Hill Farm – Announcement for Fiber Enthusiasts!

Breezy Hill has had a busy Summer this year! With so many gorgeous alpaca, sheep and goat fleeces from Spring shearing, we decided it was finally time to start our workshop project.
So, we temporarily closed our onsite boutique for expansion to include 70 additional square feet of retail space and a fiber workshop. We are thrilled with the end result and hope our visitors will be too.

We reopened the boutique in August and starting in November will be offering fun classes for all sorts of fiber arts. Whether you have been curious about getting into fiber art, are an avid enthusiast, or simply looking for something creative and fun we hope you will keep posted to our site for schedule postings. In addition to facilitating classes, we will also be inviting local artists to guest teach. More details to come.

In the meantime, feel free to check out our Breezy Hill Knitting & Crochet Club on www.meetup.com. Membership is free and open to all fiber enthusiasts beginner to seasoned experts. We meet monthly (usually a Sat/Sun) and have a great time visiting with the farm animals then getting down to fun conversation, snacks and of course – fiber projects. Hope to see you at one.

National Alpaca Farm Days is Here!

Come out to Breezy Hill Farm for Farm Days this Saturday and Sunday, September 26th and 27th.  We are waiving our tour fees so you can see and learn about alpacas as you visit them in the fields.  Say hello to our other farm friends such as our donkey, goats, sheep, chickens, and other animals.  They love visitors! Browse our boutique for that special gift for you or someone else.

We have had several recent alpaca births on the farm – these little cria are quite playful! Hope you can come and enjoy this truly unique experience! We are open this weekend from 10am to 6pm. Please leave your four legged friends at home so as not to scare our other animals.

November 29th is Shop Small Business Saturday!

Don’t forget this Saturday, November 29th,  is Shop Small Business Saturday! Support local businesses by coming to our Little Boutique at Breezy Hill which is stocked with alpaca fiber made products. We have warm weather wear, accessories and hand made jewelry – all perfect gifts for your holiday shopping! Can’t make it out on Saturday? Visit our online store: http://breezy-hill-boutique1.mybigcommerce.com

small business

Show Season is Here!

We are very excited to be heading into the 2014 Fall alpaca show season as we have gorgeous entries planned who we believe will be ones to watch out for.  We’ll be putting our best junior alpacas up against some very tough competition and can’t wait to see the results.  Our entries:  name/color/class/sire

Our daughter is extremely excited as well, as she will be participating in her first junior’s obstacle and costume contests with her favorite alpaca, Angeloua.  Their costumes – Cleopatra.  We will be sure to provide updates from each show:  (NY Empire, another I don’t remember, MABA and VAOBA).  Get dates/locations and links for any who want to come watch the MABA or VAOBA.