A decade ago we moved from a large provincial town to the end of a boreen (tiny rural road). This took me some time to get used to. Our small cottage came with just over one acre and for a long time this land was a football pitch for our son and his friends or simply wilderness crying out to be tended to. We had a lot of discussions about what we should do with it. Time is not something that we have in abundance so gardening and the likes were out of the question. We had mooted the possibilities of keeping various animals from pigs to sheep but there was always a reason why we shouldn’t. One day, about four years ago an alpaca arrived in a field about a mile up the road. It wasn’t long before a request was made that we should get one. We thought it over and over and then said, ‘Well why not?’ And that was the start of it..
We began looking for an alpaca to buy and then realised that as they are pack animals it was necessary to buy not just one but at least two. We went to visit a couple of breeders and learned that these animals are extremely expensive especially from breeders who seek to create the uber alpaca strain. Of course all that we wanted was a couple of pets who would keep the grass down and provide us with some entertainment. Eventually, after a few let downs, we came across a lovely Australian lady who agreed to sell us one male, Albie, and his companion, Boots. From his documents I know that Albie’s grandparents all came from Chile while his parents were Irish. Bootsy’s lineage however is more shady but could indeed be similar to Albie’s.
It was quite daunting to suddenly be in charge of two animals that we knew very little about. Having grown up in a city I didn’t really have a great affinity with any animal larger than a cat but that has definitely changed. We bought a book called Llamas and Alpacas, A Guide to Management. It has been written by a vet, Gina Bromage, who owns ‘camelids’ herself. The book covers all sorts of information from feeding and handling to breeding and showing. For the first year of caring for Albie and Bootsy I consulted this book many times and since then I have found it to be invaluable.
Having said that alpacas are extremely easy to care for. Our two are pets were reared in a herd and not don’t really like human contact. This was particularly evident when we first got them sheared.
This is Bootsy being freed from the heat of his huge fleece and what beautiful fibre he produces. It was after this process, with the help of my mother and a local weaver called Áine Dunne, that I learned to how to spin. Oh what fun. I must say that I had never realised how involved the whole process was regarding the journey from fleece to fibre and I certainly did not anticipate the amount of time that was required but once this was understood and accepted the hill did not seem so high to climb. There is little to compare to the joy and satisfaction of spinning or knitting with the fibre from the animals that you know and love.
Providing shelter for the alpacas has been a bit of a saga….Last weekend we put up shelter number four. To date each one has been rejected. My lovely husband was in Scotland recently and came upon an alpaca farm where the shelters had open sides so last week we erected something similar made from old wood and corrugated sheeting in the hope that it would be acceptable to our furry friends. This afternoon it was raining and BINGO they were beneath it. What joy this brings me I can’t tell you.
Having these two animals has changed our outlook on life and the way that we live. It is strange how sometimes your life can take you into directions that never could have been predicted even in the recent past.