Autumn Means Alpaca Farm Day Fun
Crafts, Fleece, Food and New Fuzzy Friends
By Dianne Alward-Biery
Cleaver Staff Writer
HARRISON – Many family-oriented fall activities abounded Saturday, Sept. 29, and among them was the annual Alpaca Farm Days event hosted by Sam and Wendy Keith at Living the Good Life Alpaca Acres on Bringold Avenue west of Harrison. Each fall, National Alpaca Farm Days serves to raise public awareness of the alpaca industry in this country. The Alpaca Acres event has also grown to include onsite fleece spinning, vendors and activities for children.
The farm has seen lots of changes since it first opened its doors to the public for the 2015 event. The barn has been expanded; lots of landscaping has been done; an onsite alpaca products store is in full swing year-round; the proprietors celebrated their wedding on the farm; and little cria [alpaca young] just keep arriving (one of them the morning of Sam and Wendy Keith’s 2016 wedding!). That first special baby was aptly named Misty commemorating how the soon-to-be newlyweds misted up over this positive sign of good things to come.
Another special cria was born this year – this time to Anna, the only silvery gray alpaca on the farm. Anna is mother to Aiden, the new black cria who was the star of the 2015 Alpaca Farm Days event. Her baby this year is Alex who, while looking a bit brownish now, promises to grow into a beautiful silver gray just like his mom. Sam Keith explained that the darker cria fleece tends to get faded out by amniotic fluid prior to birth. He said it had been that way with Aiden and he expects the same for Alex.
“You part his fleece, and he’s a lighter silver than his mom,” Keith said. “After Aiden’s first shearing, he turned black. And Alex, when he gets sheared next spring he’s going to totally change. There’s so much gray under there.”
Alex’s coat is of particular interest, because his is the first successful breeding for gray at the farm. And his silvery gray matters because it is fairly rare and therefore the color most desired by the fleece/yarn mills.
“Before we can get it back to the mill, it’s gone,” Keith said. “They’re just waiting on it.”
It should be noted that cria have lots of energy and, much like young horse foals, seem to have spontaneous leg springs that set them in motion without warning. On the LTGLAA Facebook page, Wendy Keith has posted video of tiny Alex literally exploding into action as he runs with gusto – sideways!
The farm used to sport three guard llamas: Thunder, Secret and Mago. Unfortunately, Thunder had personality issues and had to be sent away, and Secret fell ill and passed away in 2017. That leaves the entire guardian burden on the shoulders of Mago, who seemed none too perturbed by that fact Saturday as he lay in the pasture watching all the strange two-legged creatures swarming over his farm. A very even-tempered llama that Mago.
While the farm and its animals are considered a blessing by the Keiths, recent ill health has made it difficult for Wendy to maintain the flower bed landscaping, and she had feared being unable to put forth the farm’s “best face” for the fall event. As most anyone knows, it takes a lot of energy and work to get ready for company – especially when it’s sprucing up an entire farm to host hundreds of people. Hearing of her difficulty, Maye Tessner-Rood gathered up plants, tools and a group of gardening friends and headed out to 611 Bringold Ave. The group’s “we can do it” spirit shone through to anyone who took a solid look at the plantings Saturday; they were truly beautiful and heart-lifting. Some wonderful things certainly do happen down on the farm.
Despite the chilly, chilly autumn air, Alpaca Farm Day attendees were treated to a relaxing, informative day – something just about everyone can benefit from every now and then.