Alpaca Farm Days at Alta Vida Alpacas

A few months ago I ran into someone I knew from my last job, Cari Corley, while cruising the booths at the Interweave Yarn Fest. What a shock; she had an alpaca ranch!! She practically had me at hello; a few minutes into the conversation I had volunteered a set of drop spindles and offered to help at her summer camp for special needs kids. The summer camp was great. One thing has led to another over the last few months. I began to design and knit mitts for them and we have plans for many other patterns and projects. Cari had me put the dates for Alpaca Farm Days into my calendar and I began to realize that this was an event.

Cat at Comptuter
Last week Cari and I worked late into the night while we edited the patterns for our mitts via e-mail. MacKenzie was extremely helpful during this editing process…

Last weekend was Alpaca Farm Days. Oh, my goodness!! Who knew that events such as this existed?

This really was farm days!! The Corleys had a sign out on the highway inviting people to visit the ranch. There was a steady stream of cars onto the property
This really was farm days!! The Corleys had a sign out on the highway inviting people to visit the ranch. There was a steady stream of cars onto the property bringing loads of friends and strangers who wanted to see the animals. This pen contains “the boys”, the young male alpacas who aren’t yet ready to mix things up with the stud males. The black and white llama is their guard animal.
stuff
There was a sweet little shelter and farm store that offered information about alpacas, bags of alpaca food, and alpaca-related products for sale such as yarn, scarfs and hats. There were little kits with yarn and beads made up with the patterns that Cari and I had created along with knitted samples. There was also home-baked cookies and free water for all.
Boys and alpaca
The pasture containing the alpaca moms and crias was open for everyone to enter. For all the kids it was a dream come true!
Girl feeding alpaca
The kids all bought little bags of alpaca food…
stuff
which was greatly appreciated by the animals! There is a sheep pushing in for her share too in this picture. Why did I not get taken to event like this while I was a child. This is way better then a petting zoo!

The two days were extremely busy. While the kids fed and petted the alpaca the adults asked questions about alpacas. Many were interested in how to acquire their own stock. Others wanted to find out about alpaca yarn, fleece and finished products such as the woven scarfs and the knitted mitts. I sold my first mitt and pattern, and gave my name to the knitter in case she needs help. The little stuffed toy alpacas were all sold out and many people took away wicker balls full of alpaca fiber for birds to use as nesting material in their yards.

Everyone learned more about the ranch and Alpaca Partners. It was extremely successful (but tiring!). At the end of the day Sunday Cari began to talk about organizing Saturday morning craft days and holding another farm day event in a couple of months when the weather get colder and we begin to near the holidays. That is the best part about Alta Vida Alpacas; not only are they raising alpacas as a business, there is a serious commitment to serving and interacting with the community.

Oh, boy! I took home a case of fabulous yarn to start knitting more mitts.

Time to cast on. Fall is coming fast!

Alpaca Summer Camp

Last week was a ton of fun! I helped out at a Camp Macusani, a summer camp run by Alta Vida Alpacas, which is also the site of Alpaca Partners, an organization “committed to creating quality with purpose in the lives of special needs persons through unique opportunities offered on the ranch.” Wow! Teaching, fiber arts, alpacas and a chance to be involved in something special that is making a difference in the lives of young people facing more challenges than most of us. Not only was this a lot of fun, but it was a special, special week.

So with no further ado, here is the week. 🙂

Alpacas
This camp started just as you would have thought: the kids went up the hill to meet the alpacas!! That cute rear end you see in the manger is one of the sheep.
Baby alpaca.
Of course there were babies…
Guard dog.
and dogs. At Alta Vida the owners (Dan and Cari Corley) have guard dogs and llamas in the pens with their alpacas to help keep them safe. Most of the alpacas in these pictures are huacaya, although with their coats clipped off it’s hard for me to be sure. The ranch also has suri alpacas.
Washed alpaca fiber
The actual fiber day started with the kids getting their own bag of alpaca fleece (huacaya and suri) to pick vegetable matter out of and to wash. Here is the washed fiber drying.
Flower hunters in a meadow.
While the fiber was drying we all headed out into the meadows on the property to hunt for Colorado wildflowers.
Wildflowers
and then the flowers were pressed to dry in phone books (with bricks on top to provide the weight!)
Combing alpaca fiber.
The next day the kids learned how to comb their alpaca fiber…
Solar dyeing.
and then they dyed some of the fiber using kool-aid and the heat of the sun. It was a beautiful hot day and the wool dyed great just using solar energy. The individual colors are contained in zip-lock bags, and then the bags were placed in aluminum cake pans with plastic snap-on lids. Slick, huh!
Making felt.
The white and dyed fiber was used to create felt art projects and also was blended to create rolags. Fun, fun, fun!
Felting is hard!
The downside: felting can be hard work. 🙂
Spinning yarn.
At the end of the camp students learned to make yarn. To break the process down to manageable “chunks” we had kids work with partners so that they could just control the spinning at the beginning, and then later they took over the drafting part of the process. Some were able to create yarn on their own using the drop spindle by the end of the second day.

Remember those pressed flowers? On the last day the dried flowers were used along with pictures taken during the camp to create photo memory books that the students took away with them. They also framed and made pictures using the felt that was created, and their yarn was steamed (to set the twist), wound and made into a little skein. Camp was only about 2.5 hours a day, but a lot was accomplished!

That’s why this was such a special week. By the family pizza lunch on the final day the kids had learned how fiber from live animals (that they learn how to take care of during the school year) is used to create items of beauty and purpose. Someday some of these kids will be creating items for sale in a farm store that will be operated by Alpaca Partners, and some of them may end up working with livestock later on in their lives. Things learned in this camp will be used in the two local high schools that currently collaborate with Alta Vida Alpacas to provide a unique educational opportunity for special needs kids; weaving and knitting with that yarn is a future possibility. If ever I spent a week well, this was it.

Oh yeah. I was also with my peeps!