Saturday, September 21, 2013

We Keep Alpacas. Or do They Keep Us?

The whole alpaca adventure started out innocently enough.

I was reporting for the Scio News two years ago, and went to an alpaca auction in Scio, Oregon to cover it for the weekly paper. I’d never been to an alpaca auction – I mean, really, how many people have? But it sounded interesting. I volunteered to cover it because I’ve always thought alpacas were adorable.

I left my family, and my horse, at home in Lebanon while I went to the auction. Did I mention my horse was lonely? Yes, she was. My husband and I had recently taken our grown daughter’s horse to her, which left my mare by herself with no pasture companion. Did I also mention my youngest child, who loves animals, is allergic to horses? Adding those two things in my head gave me an inkling that I might want to bring home an alpaca from the auction. If my husband was hip on the idea. And if the price was right.

Just one. A little one. To keep my horse company, and give my youngest an animal to love that didn’t make his eyes swell shut.

Being the good wife that I like to think I am, I asked my husband before leaving the house what he’d think if I brought an alpaca home.

He said, “I don’t care what you bring home.” Those were his exact words, and I quote: “ I don’t care…”

I did my journalistic duty at the auction – talked to people before the sale started. Took notes. Snapped photos of the alpacas with their big, round eyes and poufy top knots.

And I fell completely in love with the hilarious creatures.

The auctioneer started off selling pairs – mama alpacas with a furry little baby at their side. When a black mama entered the auction ring with the cutest brown, teddy-bear-looking baby, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t sit on my hand.

Butterflies leaped from my stomach to my throat as I realized I had really done it. With one raise of my hand I had just bought not one, but two alpacas. The auctioneer was a friend of mine. He knew this was my first foray into alpaca ownership. He asked the lady who brought the pair if I could have a free breeding. She said yes.

In the course of five minutes, I’d just gone from zero alpacas to nearly three.

The auction ended and I met with the previous alpaca owner for care instructions. She offered me another of her females that hadn’t sold.

“Alpacas are herd animals,” she explained. “They like to have companionship of the same gender.”

I couldn’t have a lonely mama alpaca now, could I? She made me a smoking deal on a white female named Georgia.

I called my husband to bring the horse trailer. When I told him I’d bought three alpacas, he sounded completely dumbfounded on the phone.

And not in a good way.

But he brought the trailer, and we got the alpacas home.

And so started the adventure.

Two years later, we’ve gone from the starter three, to a herd of 11. Two of those are babies born in the past month. Just take a look at little Colonel’s face.  

Now you see why I couldn’t keep my auction hand from flying into the air.

By the way, although my husband might not readily admit it, he is nearly as charmed by these funny, whacky animals as I am. As for my allergy-prone son and lonely horse? They love them, too.

How many of you have seen a baby alpaca up close? Have any of you ever knitted or crocheted with alpaca-fiber yarn?

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Paty Jager said...

I can't believe your husband let you bring home three! LOL But they are cute in a giraffe sort of way. ;) The only alpacas I've watched up close are yours. And I love the feel of the yarn made from their pelts but I've never knit or crocheted with it.

Danita Cahill said...

Well, my husband didn't exactly LET me bring home three, Paty...Poor guy didn't have too much of a choice.

Next, I bought a stud alpaca - or as we say, a herd sire. There was a mama/female baby (cria) pair for sale at the same alpaca ranch. I liked them, but wasn't going to buy them. But he insisted that I get them, too. See how easy it is to get sucked in?

Jamie Brazil said...

Alpacas are great. I walk by a local herd allmost every day . So curious. Great post. And I also love the feel of alpaca wool.

Maggie Jaimeson said...

I absolutely LOVE alpacas. When I go to the county fair I spend a lot of time with the alpacas. I also love the soft wool made into yarn and remember a favorite sweater my Mom knitted when I was younger.

Definitely if I had the acreage I could easily see myself doing exactly what you did.

Danita Cahill said...

Jaimie and Maggie - of course you are both welcome to come out anytime and visit my alpacas.

This week I have been writing in the mornings, and cleaning and sorting alpaca fiber in the afternoons and evenings. I'm doing my first fiber show this weekend in Canby.

It is fun to work with the fleece, and makes me fall in love with the animals even more because they produce such a soft, beautiful product.