Alpacas and Art

06/15/2011

Animals, Art

I was invited to participate in the annual June Open House at Waldron Grove Alpaca Farm, so I did!   I like Susan Waldron and her herd of alpacas.  I was happy to have the opportunity to put this blog in front of new folks and the Waldron farm is delightful.  The doors opened early Saturday, but due to another commitment I couldn’t get there until lunch time.  I thought that was perfect, since the day dawned damp and chilly and all the weather folks predicted sun by noon. 

I visited another farm briefly that morning, before the Open House.  I had to get photographs to go with a future article.  When I got out of the Guzzler at the first farm, a little kitty called Chester came barreling out of a greenhouse and ran right up me.  Up the right leg of my jeans, over my tummy, and stopped with his back feet on my chest and his head on my shoulder.  BIG purr.  He was too cute for words.  And he had muddy feet, so my newly minted “Mental Farmer” t-shirt was covered in smudgy  prints.  Then he did it again.  Chester weighed about 7 pounds and was very assertive in his desire for attention.  He cracked me up, but the footprints were not what I had in mind.  You can’t really visit a farm without collecting a bit of dirt on your person.  Often there is a bit of slobber or manure, and I don’t mind those either.  On Saturday; however, my whole purpose was to meet non-farm folks and persuade them to read my blog, so I thought a mud-free image best.  I had that thought just as I approached the barn, where I was nuzzled in the tummy by a hansdome gelding with grassy lips.  Stain number four.  Time to zip up the windbreaker and get over it.  (Note to self: have camo Mental Farmer t-shirt made.)  

I got my photos and hopped back in the  Guzzler, off to Waldron Grove in Elgin.  I arrived and there were a dozen or so vehicles in the guest lot.  It was a foggy, damp, 58 degree June Saturday in Illinois.  I felt like a wet paper towel pretty quickly and don’t you know I looked good.  Wet  hair, smudged mascara, muddy kitty prints on my chest, green horse lips on my stomach.  I was, at least, an authentic farm-blog writer in appearance.  A ray of sunshine greeted me.  Susan Waldron has boundless energy and a warm smile, and one perks up instantly in her orbit!  Ron Waldron is a happy guy AND he had a golf cart handy.  Sweet.  I got my table, my sign, my free drawing give-away goodies, my briefcase, and a whole bunch of other stuff loaded up in one trip from parking pasture to house.  It would have taken 5 soggy trips on foot.   The Waldrons had coffee made to warm us up.  Plus the sun was going to come out any minute.  I had smiling folks all around me.  Happiness!    

The Alpacas bring their own jackets on cool days and it turns out they are even adorable when damp.  That forecasted sun never appeared, but it all worked out.  Thank you alpaca fans, for braving the gray weather and visiting with us and buying some yarn, some art, and showing some interest in this blog.   We had steady traffic all day.  And thank you, alpacas, for performing so nicely for the crowd.  The visitors could shake a handful of yummy pellets in a can and alpacas would come running.  The kids loved it and the adults loved it. 

These animals are not much bigger than good-sized dogs, with longer legs and bendy necks like an emu.  They are curious, sweet-natured, and a tad standoffish.  They don’t need your affection.  I suspect they’re like cats (excluding Chester of Caledonia) with strangers.  If you’re around them a lot, they learn to trust you and will become your buddy and follow you around and nuzzle.  When strangers approach, they’re inquisitive and alert.  The food attracts, the hands repel. 

This herd was shorn about a month ago, so are displaying their handsome summer outfits.  I liked watching them lie down.  They fold their front legs under, and tilt back and to the side as they go down, like miniature camels.  And they roll in the grass, joyfully.  It’s cute.

In addition to the big-eyed main attraction, Susan’s art was displayed in her shop. I had the chance to wander through  and check out her work. She does felting and makes sensational, wearable art!  It was really lovely.   There were tunics, scarves, jackets, and handbags.  There were striking wall hangings and tapestries.  This black tunic with the blue and pink wool blew me away.  Put this with a pair of black pants or a skirt and it will take you to any holiday party.  The fabric she uses for tunics is silk chiffon.  Susan uses a little Murphy’s soap (for the PH balance) and water and gently massages the alpaca wool into the fabric in a given design. The wool has microscopic barbs that go through the fabric and grab, so the wool stays in place.   

 Susan said any natural, open-weave fabric can be used.  She gives lessons in felting.  Her studio is upstairs in the farm house.  It is bright and sunny like her!  You can see the class schedule on her web site – the link is above on the right.  Susan also has kits that include wool, a template for a design and instuctions, if you want to try this on your own.  The shop on the farm is open on Tuesdays during the day, or by appointment.  Call if you want to have a look around. 

Ron and Susan’s garden was within my field of vision, so this is what I looked at for two days when I was not talking with guests or petting Oliver the dog and Cocoa the kitty.  Oliver works hard a stealing the show, and he is so sweet and cute, he pulled it off with a lot of little kids.  I heard parents say, “Let’s go look at the alpacas,” and little ones say, “Noooo, let’s look at Oliver!”  He is a 14 pound ham.  Cocoa is the only chocolate brown cat I have ever seen. 

We returned Sunday for another day of meet and greet.  It was a sunny, breezy, cheerful morning.  Someone brought doughnuts and most of us at two.  (Got to keep our strength up.)  On both days, there were two artists (who happen to own alpacas) displaying their wares.  These two women, whom I liked very well by the end of the day, had a tent set up to show their yarn, art, and sewn goods like quilts.  Anita Riemer and LuAnn Taborg board their alpacas at Waldron Grove.  Both have corporate careers and have found a passion and an outlet for their creative work.  (Turns out LuAnn and I both have relatives in Weaverville, North Carolina.  I have never met anyone who’s even heard of Weaverville, much less known a resident of the town.)  Anyway, between the two them, they do nice work and they kept up a brisk business.  I loved the bright colors and silky textures of the alpaca yarn they had for sale.  It’s 20% sheep’s wool and 80% alpaca.  Check out some of the alpaca products in these pictures.  LuAnn and Anita dye and card the wool themselves.  They think of dye as one great, fun experiment and have some beautiful yarn as a result of their creativity!  Anita makes alpaca wool pins and bowls and does very pretty beadwork.  LuAnn sews these cool fabric pockets for nuking baked potatoes.  (I bought one – pototoes turn out perfectly fluffy.)  She makes soft little knitted washcloths, and water bottle holders.  Anita and LuAnn share the tent at art fairs and this particuluar Open House.  They were fun to hang out with all weekend.   I feel fortunate to have met so many wonderful visitors and I am grateful for all the new subscribers to this blog.  I think there is potential for a “FAFOA” group; Future Alpaca Farmers of America.  Thank you, Susan and Ron, for your wonderful hospitality.  I look forward to my next visit!

 

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3 Comments on “Alpacas and Art”

  1. mentalfarmer Says:

    In the interest of disclosure, the winner of our drawing was a family member. Half the names in the hat were family members, though, because they are my constant supporters! Kathryn offered to take her name out of the hat so we could pick another, but we drew it fair and square without peeking, so the gift basket is hers. There wll be another drawing in July, so everyone has another chance!

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  2. EC Says:

    I hope you did not feel the need to make that disclosure because of my comment…I was truly just joking! Anyway, I have to say those alpacas are about the cutest animals I’ve ever seen (almost as cute as my Gracie girl) – I might have to make a visit to that place one day.

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    • mentalfarmer Says:

      Come on out! I will take you over there, because they are even cuter in person.

      And no, it wasn’t you. Kathryn felt awkward about it. BUT I went to a new farm this evening and began collecting goodies for the next drawing! Wheeee!

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