Friday, January 23, 2015
From the Source Friday: Pronkin Pastures
The fourth Friday of every month is From the Source Friday! Show your appreciation to these dedicated fiber farmers as they teach you all about where your yarn comes from. Today's featured fiber is alpaca. Originally from South America, alpacas have become popular with fiber lovers for the soft fibers that they produce. LeeAnna of Pronkin Pastures Alpaca Ranch on Whidbey Island, Washington is here with us today to tell us about her furry friends.
We started our business 10 years ago with the purchase of 3 pregnant female alpacas, 2 gelded males, and a rescue llama. Over the years our herd has slowly grown. We currently have 36 huacaya alpacas, 2 suri alpacas, and the llama. We raise them for their fine fiber which is harvested once per year - usually in late May /early June. This timing gives the animals relief from the summer heat and allows enough time for fiber to grow back before it gets cold again. With 38 alpacas, shearing is a full weekend of work. We hire a professional alpaca shearer - a husband and wife team that have become personal friends to us. The shearer brings all the tools, equipment and expertise needed, and we have several friends and family members that help us over the course of the weekend, so we try to make it as fun as possible. I look forward to shearing as it is always exciting to see the fiber our animals have grown - especially the new animals that are being shorn for the first time. We save as much fiber as possible and depending on the quality and other characteristics decide on how it will be processed. The fiber from each animal is evaluated and processed individually. Ideally, we like to have the fiber processed into luxurious yarn and roving, but not all fiber lends itself to that end. The lesser quality fiber is not wasted though; it is processed into batts for felting, or into actual felted sheets. We use 3 local mini mills to process the majority of the fiber, but hand process the cria (baby alpaca) fleeces. The cria fleeces are generally tender and quite dirty, so we take extra care with those and process them by hand from start to finish.
Day to day with the alpacas is pretty low key. Alpacas are not the type of animal that crave human attention or interaction, so feeding, watering and cleaning up after them is really all that is required on a daily basis. Alpacas are not washed or groomed, but we do trim their toenails on an ‘as needed’ basis. We always trim toe nails at shearing time, but some require an additional trim once or twice in between shearing. Since we are breeding alpacas, a little more is required during the summer months when new arrivals are due. We like to be on the farm when the moms are close to their delivery date so that we can be on hand in the event that she or the newborn baby require assistance. Alpacas are generally trouble free in that aspect as well, so most of the time we are just on hand to witness the miracle first hand.
An Alpaca Story
I think my favorite farm story is that of the conception and birth of Destiny. My blog post dated 9/8/14 gives many of the details. What is not in the post is that Caelia (Destiny’s grandmother, and female that we had to have put down) was one of the first 3 female alpacas we bought when we started with alpacas 10 years ago. Lily (Destiny’s mother) was the first born female on our farm – so she holds a special place in our hearts. Destiny is now 4 ½ months old.
Have a look!
My website is www.pronkinpastures.com. My blog is also on my website at http://www.pronkinpastures.com/blog . I don’t maintain an Etsy site – most of my sales are done at my shop (located on the farm premises) or by vending at local fiber related events and spin-in’s. I usually participate in the St Distaff’s Day Spin In, Whidbey Island Spin In, Whidbey Island Fiber Quest, Whidbey Island Farm Tour, and Fiber Fusion Northwest. I’ll be adding a few additional vending opportunities this year as I am enjoying the off-site vending experience and reaching a wider target audience.
Wow! Thank you so much for all of the detailed information and wonderful pictures, LeeAnna! A major high five goes out to you and to all the other alpaca farmers out there for providing fiber lovers like me with awesome yarn!