Washington County Fiber Tour - Part II

Monday, April 27, 2015

Happy Monday!  Hope you all had a great weekend and I hope you enjoyed your cyber visit to Dancing Ewe Farm, our first stop on the 23rd Annual Washington County Fiber Tour.  If  you happened to miss that post, you can easily find it just before this one.  As promised I have more farms to share with you - two alpaca farms because by now, most of my regular readers know I have a thing for alpacas and llamas, and lastly but no less wonderful, I'll finish the series with the St. Mary's on-the-Hill Cashmere.


After leaving Dancing Ewe Farm in Granville, we headed south to West Hebron to the Alpacas of Breezy Hill Ranch.   If you are not familiar with Washington County, you may not realize that it is very much a green county......agriculture is the number one industry in the county.  According to the 2003 census there were 880 farms in Washington county and there's no question that this is one of the prettiest areas in NYS.  Here's a little example of what you experience as you travel through the county.....
Just minutes from the Vermont border Breezy Hill Ranch is no exception!  Lisa & David Proulx purchased 91 acres in 2003, and in 2006 they left their full time jobs in Connecticut to build their new home and farm in West Hebron.  They began their venture with two pregnant female huacaya alpacas and one male huacaya.  Huacaya (pronounced wuh-kai-ya) alpacas are fluffy like teddy bears, Suri alpacas have longer, silkier fur.  I don't know if I've ever met a Suri alpaca before but I can vouch that huacaya's look and feel like big, fluffy teddy bears!  Since 2006 the Proulx farm has grown and is now the home to 20+ alpacas.
Each farm on the tour featured a variety of activities and although my focus is always on the animals, this is a FIBER tour, so the intended focus is the production, harvesting, and refining (cleaning, carding and spinning) of the fiber that the animals are ultimately raised for.  Don't let that fool you though - on every farm we've visited, it is obvious that these animals are loved and cared for like pets.  They are named, spoken to, and stroked. They are  housed in the finest of barns and are loved just as much as the family dogs and cats.  In order to begin the fiber process, the animals must first be sheared and at Breezy Hill we were lucky enough to witness this process.   Typically shearing takes place in May but a few animals were sheared this weekend so that lucky tour visitors could see the process.
While it doesn't look like a fun procedure for the alpaca, I will tell you that this was one very cooperative alpaca.  In fact, David & Lisa said they wished all their alpacas were this easy.  When all was said and done, this happy alpaca - Aphrodite, went from looking like a teddy bear to a skinny giraffe. Unlike the sheep shearing at Dancing Ewe Farms where the coat was removed in one in-tact piece, the alpaca fiber was removed in sections and separated by color and quality and put into bags

Not only did she look different to us, Lisa explained that it's not unusual for the other alpacas to not recognize a newly sheared member of the family. Once even a mama didn't recognize her own baby!
Once this cutie was all sheared and returned to the pasture, it was as if somebody new had come to visit.  Even her mom (the black one in the middle) was curious.  But it only took a few moments for the others to realize this was one of their own.  Here's a few of the other beautiful alpacas at Breezy Hill....








After watching the shearing process, David and Lisa's son-in-law brought us out into the pasture where we could feed some alpacas and visit up close.

John and my Mom feeding the alpacas.
Autumn having a little snack.
  Inside there were activities for the children, and the farm gift shop was full of beautiful clothing and accessories, yarn and roving and home decor items.  We even got to make a nesting basket to take home!  We were able to fill a cage which would normally hold a suet cake with alpaca fur, hay, string and yarn.  As soon as I hung mine out in the yard, the birds flocked to it!  It was comical to watch as they soon discovered it to be something other than suet.  I watched a chickadee take three consecutive mouthfuls, spitting each one out before finally realizing it wasn't food.  I'm sure once nesting begins, they'll be thrilled to have such lush padding for their babies.
Breezy Hill Ranch is open by appointment.  Check their facebook page and website for upcoming events.  They will be open on Saturday, May 30 for Criation Day.  You might get a glimpse of some crias (baby alpacas) that day. Thank you Lisa and David for opening your farm and sharing your family with everyone this weekend.  We had a great visit!  For more information on Breezy Hill, you can use the links provided to read more and follow their facebook page.  Thanks for the read and come back soon for two more  great farms on the tour!  Till next time.....this is Life As I See It saying bye for now.

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