MARCH 15, 2023
I have five wonderful alpacas; Reggie (the boss), Raffles, Truffle, Valiant and Victor, each with their own strong individual characters. They’re all gelded males between the ages of 9 and 13 years (around 20 years is a good age for an alpaca to reach).
Each year in late Spring they’re sheared by a specialist and from there I take the fleeces to The East Anglian Alpaca Eco Micro Mill where it is washed and carded for my felting, or sometimes taken a step further and made into yarn for my weaving and stitching. Each fleece is quite different in quality and three of them are very good indeed! Eight years ago Truffle’s fleece was used to make my beautiful wedding dress – I went to Norway to visit May J Hvistendahl to learn nuno-felting and she also made the dress for me.
Did you know that alpaca fleece is as soft as cashmere yet lightweight, more durable and warmer? Being lanolin-free it also benefits from having hypoallergenic properties, so can be more suited to those with allergies, eczema or sensitive skin.
Alpacas are gentle and inquisitive creatures who love being taken for walks. They largely eat grass, but I ensure they always have a supply of hay and in the Winter I also give them a special alpaca grain mix every day.
They are relatively easy to look after and usually don’t need much day-to-day care beyond clean water and food. However, they don’t show overt signs of being poorly, so you have to keep a close eye on them. I do this every day, but particularly when I am collecting their poo, when I can observe them over a longer period of time. Reggie selects certain places for this activity, which makes it much easier to collect – only five places in our field! The alpaca poo is wonderful for making very good compost for everything in the garden, including the growing of plants for natural dyeing!
So it’s a way of life, running a small business that involves all the above activities, plus growing food for us and having hens – I try to minimise my impact on the environment through this hands-on slow art approach to life… it’s pretty much a full time job!