Sunday, June 6, 2010

On the Street Where I Live, Part 2

Why do people raise alpacas?  That is the question.  I put it to Jan Hannah, who said that she and her husband had always had a few farm animals on their property, but as retirement neared she looked for a project they could both undertake as they shifted into a new phase of life.  She found an article about raising alpacas and thought the animals sounded wonderful.  "They live twenty-five to thirty years, their care is manageable, you don't slaughter them for food, and once a year they're sheared and their fleece makes gorgeous yarn."

Suffice it to say that six years ago Jan and Jay started with three, and as of this posting have seventeen.  Some of their alpacas, like Bellagio, are prize-winning champions.

(photo courtesy of Jan and Jay Hannah)

Others are just good old alpacas. The fleece, as is obvious from the photos, runs from white to black with all sorts of browns in between. White is the most prized, as it can be dyed any color. But have a look at all the natural shades, skeined and waiting to be purchased at Jan's lovely little shop, on the farm's premises:

Apart from being the go-to gal in the neighborhood for anything you ever wanted to know about alpacas, Jan's also a weaver, and many of her creations are for sale in the shop. She hopes to expand the  weaving business to an online store in the future, but right now she's still working a day job, as well as doing everything else that alpaca-raising and merchandising involves, so she's waiting until retirement to start on that.

(Here's Jan in her shop. To her left is one of her beautiful woven shawls. She also sells some alpaca-related imports from South America--hats, teddy bears of cria pelts [don't ask, just feel how soft], knitted caps, etc.)

The Hannahs welcome visitors; appointments are necessary as they're often with the alpacas at local farmers' markets (Friday: Charlestown, Saturday: Richmond) or on the road to agri fairs for exhibitions and competitions.  You can reach them at 401-377-8771. Here's the link, once again, to their website-- They don't check email often, so calling is your best bet.

On my return visit to the farm, May 20th, I arrived a half hour too late to see the shearing that started at seven a.m. and was over by nine. This was accomplished by a band of roving shearers from Ohio who pass through annually.  Instead  I saw the newly-shorn alpacas and the many bags of their fleece.

(Obviously there are more than three bags full here, waiting for processing and spinning.  Can you imagine shearing all of this in less than two hours?)

I leave you with several images of the alpacas in their summertime outfits. Notice how social they are, almost always clumping together, and how amiable. It's hard to choose a favorite, but I must say that there's something about that little black-and-white striped guy....


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