Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Dollivers meet the Alpacas at Swallow Hill Farm

Dreads and Blondie Firstborn won the lottery to go on today's adventure, to visit an alpaca farm in the beautiful Sourland Mountains of New Jersey. You will notice that Dreads is wearing Blondie's hat and dress, and Blondie has on NameMe's gear. We will draw a veil over the shenanigans that concluded with this distribution. And the dogs' insisting they could, too, take on great big Chesapeake Bays, just let them try. But I explained that they might scare the alpacas, so they agreed to stay home and guard the other Ds.

Weather perfect, all very well arranged by our local embroiderers' group, which includes people who are multicraftual, knitters, spinners, stitchers, crocheters, all were there for the guided tour. Swallow Hill Farm is named for the swallows zooming about through the barns, over the fields, among the people, and return usually on tax day -- April 15. This year they returned true to form, so that's one thing that hasn't changed in our environment. And this is protected land, so that won't be lost to development

We learned a ton about alpacas, their temperament and history, met a lot of them, all named, including two pregnant ladies and their girlfriends and the boys, kept separate usually. They're friendly, very very smart, and loved posing for pictures, allowed us to hand feed -- gentle mouths, they just lip the feed off your hand -- and they make all kinds of interesting noises, from singing to the kind of snort that people make when they fall asleep in an armchair.

Where you see the bars, that's only on the people side -- doors at the back are open so the alpacas can come and go in the field. They're curious about people and obliged us with closeup views. They're almost ready for the annual shearing, so we saw them in full coat.

Patricia Flanagan, owner with husband John, also spins and weaves and knits, aside from running the farm, caring for the animals, hosting groups, and generally being the sort of dynamo most of us only dream of being.

The family dogs, large and boisterous Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, were kept in the den, because not everyone likes big happy dogs jumping at them. I wouldn't mind, but the Ds were relieved to find they didn't have to meet big dogs as well as big alpacas.

I reminded them that alpacas were their source fiber, among other animals, and that this was a kind of pilgrimage for them, so they consented to pose with my purchase of yarn spun from the fleece of Lily, whom they'd met. Which Pat obligingly put on the swift to make into a ball all the easier to knit with.

Pat has a crew of knitters who make great hats and scarves and scrunchies and animals for her shop -- which is part of the living room most of the time. And she tells me they ship all over the world, so blogistas who want a true and wonderful experience of this part of the world need only go here to learn more.


  1. I have knitted a couple of lace projects with alpaca. Lovely stuff to play with. I look forward to seeing what you do with yours. Nice pics. Such cute friendly animals.

  2. We have an Alpaca farm nearby. Agree they are interesting animals and really cute offspring. Did a felting workshop there with Alpaca roving...wasn't carried away with the result but anyway treated it as a learning experience. Note 1: some Alpaca roving involved in Poupee's hair. Note 2: much prefer needle felting which you may note is also Poupee's clothing. See...a place for every thing eh?

  3. Alpacas are such gentle creatures - sounds like a wonderful day for all concerned.


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