Yesterday, I went over to Martin's new home to assist with the shearing of the herd. The team had assembled (professional shearers and friends - including the sister of one of the main volunteers at Hearts on Noses, the piggy sanctuary!), and everything was organized. My job was to write the animal's name on a large garbage bag, and N (for neck) and O (for other) on two smaller bags, and then clip them onto a frame. Once the animal was shorn and the fibre deposited into the appropriate bag, I put the two small bags into the big one (which contains the fibre from the "blanket" or main body of the alpaca), haul it to the studio, and set up the next one. It was a quick, efficient process.
While the shearing was going on, I was also able to learn a wee bit about fibre - I could feel and see different textures, different qualities of alpaca fibre. It was an interesting process, and although I'm not a knitter I can see how people could really get hooked on the spinning and weaving or knitting of alpaca fibre.
While the animals were confined for the shearing, nails were trimmed, teeth were checked and fighting teeth trimmed if necessary, overall condition observed such as weight and any skin problems.
But the process was not what held my interest the most - it was, of course, the alpacas! They were such curious little guys (and some not so little) - hanging over the fence to see what we were doing to their herdmate, coming back to see if their best buddy had received his haircut yet, looking with surprise at the other shorn members of the herd ("Who are you???? You're NEKID!!!!") and sniffing each other to figure out who was who.
Hanging with a friend...
Martin had been shorn once at my place, but overall it is a new experience to him. It was a warm, sunny day and his coat was overdue for sheering; once shorn, he investigated every inch of his own body and revelled in the feel of the air on his skin. Rolling in the dirt, wiggling his torso, checking out his legs and tail, it was like watching a two year old child who has stripped off her clothes on a hot summer's day and is happily splashing in the backyard pool.
After each shearing, the alpaca was released into a cross-fenced area where there was lots of room for grazing but where they could mingle with the others as they became reacquainted (or, in Martin's case, acquainted)as they don't recognize each other sans hair. Martin tolerated inspection well, allowing others to sniff him, but not initiating sniffing himself. He stood in the middle of the field for a long time, just observing. Then he mingled a bit, rolled in the dirt several times, mingled some more, observed some more, nibbled the grass, checked out the two llamas across the fence, and checked out his body some more.
When the last of the herd was finished, they were all released to the rolling acres of the larger area. Martin hung back, watching them leave.
When I left after a scrumptious dinner of the Best Ever Seafood Lasagna (oh my doG I need that recipe!), he had moved to an intermediate area where he was hanging out beside another fenced area containing some sheep and goats and a llama. He kept checking them out, going nose-to-nose with the sheep - I think he thought they were funny-looking potbellied pigs!
And every now and then he would climb to the highest spot of land and look over the beckoning pastures, thinking, thinking, thinking, about wandering through that final open gate to join the rest of the herd grazing on the green grass.
He appears to have settled in well, I feel very confident that I have made a right choice - Judy's compassion for the animals, her gentle manner with them, her warm personality, the temperaments of the animals in her care, all reassure me that Martin will have a great life.
Great weather, great people, great food......and great, great animals. What more could a person want? I suspect I will be a frequent visitor there.
Can you pick out Martin in the herd?
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