Rossa speaks of her true love:
I fell in love in March this year. She is 6 feet tall with gorgeous auburn hair and limpid brown eyes. She came up to me slowly, humming gently and kissed me on my cheek. That was it, I was smitten.
Autumn Glory is her name and she is an Alpaca. She has changed my life forever.
It all started with an email offering free manure. I’m a member of the local freecycling group and went to get the manure from a local farm for my new veggie plot. What I didn’t know until I got there was that this wasn’t your typical farmyard manure. Leaning over the fence were the woolly heads of the Alpaca boys and in a nearby barn were the girls craning their necks to see what was happening.
They are gentle, curious creatures, friendlier (as you can see) than their cousins the Llama and Camel. Saying that, they can spit when startled or disturbed so you have to be careful around them. This is not a domestic animal in any way, shape or form. There are 45 Alpaca in this herd living alongside a few Swarbles sheep, chickens, geese, ducks, a pig and some horses.
How has it changed my life? Well, their owner told me that she didn’t do anything with their wool. Despite there being 20,000 Alpacas in the UK a lot of them are in very small groups, most are owned as “lifestyle” animals rather than for a productive source of income. Minimum number is probably 3 as they are herd animals and like to keep together for protection.
And whatever you do, if you are ever walking a dog near Alpacas keep the lead on the dog. The wolf is an Alpaca’s natural predator as they originate from the high Andes in South America and they have been known to kill dogs. That’s why sometimes you will see them kept with hens. I get my eggs from a local garden centre near my home. They have 3 Alpacas in the field with the hens to keep the foxes out. And it works!
They can live for over 20 years and aren’t used for meat in this country. They can be bred for showing and a top quality champion male can go for over £20,000 (over $100,000 in the US). Gestation is 11½ months with only one baby at a time so it can be a long slow process to build up a herd.
As I left the farm I had that light bulb moment. I bought a wool filled quilt last year which was imported from Australia. I wondered if it would be possible to make an Alpaca filled quilt in the UK. And there my journey started, sitting in a car with bags of Alpaca manure in the boot and on the back seat.
Oh and it is very good for your garden, not needing to be composted first. It also doesn’t smell. My potatoes have loved it.
I have been a pastry chef, worked with computer accounting software in sales and marketing, run my own bakery and 2 retail shops, then finance and banking and more recently property and land. I have never worked in textiles before. Fortunately I am a quick learner and versatile. Most of my skills are transferable so it was a challenge I could relish and I’m still working at it 6 months later, but there has been a lot of ground to cover in the meantime. And therein lies a tale to tell.
Coming soon…..the village of Saltaire was built on the back of Alpaca!
Rossa can be reached here. Her other posts can be found from the left sidebar on this site.