Saturday, June 21, 2014

Alpacas and Llamas and Sheep, Oh, My!

Nearly five months later...   I'm finally getting around to talking about the IEHG West's February road trip.

IEHG West is an informal group of members of the Inland Empire Handweavers Guild that meets one Saturday a month, usually at a member's home.   at our January meeting, one of the members brought out a box filled with roving processed for her by Tom and Metta at Ranch of the Oaks.  Well, we all raved over it and one thing led to another - ending with me whipping out my iPad and emailing Metta to see if we could tour the ranch and fiber mill.

The result was that one beautiful day in February, twenty or so members, guests, and assorted husbands converged on Solvang, a little Danish village in the Santa Inez Valley.  Solvang is the home of Village Spinning and Weaving, one of the few (if not the only) brick-and-mortar stores serving weavers and spinners in California.  We had time to shop a little and have lunch before we were due at the ranch.

I've mail ordered from VS&W and shopped in their booth at the SCHG's annual Weaving and Fiber Festival.  But I've never been in their store and I was pretty excited about seeing it for the first time.  As some of our members were getting ready to pose for a group photo in front of the shop, the owner unlocked the entrance.  Can you blame me for snapping this shot and running for the door?

They had all kinds of yarns, tools, books - not just for spinning and weaving, but felting, knitting...  all types of fiber arts.  Instant bliss for the fiber frenzied!  As much as I like being able to find anything on the internet, there's nothing like being able to actually see and touch.

At the ranch we were given the royal tour by Mette and Tom.  The alpacas and llamas are kept in separate pens by gender.  The males can get aggressive, so we were invited to go into one of the pens with the females.  They were a bit shy until we offered them little baby carrots.  Then we couldn't get away from them.  What fun! 

I just love alpacas.  Love their funny faces, their many beautiful colors, their little humming noises, their friendliness.  And love spinning their fiber.

The llamas were not as friendly.  They kept their distance, even when the carrots came out.  So naturally I took up the challenge of making friends with a llama.

I spent a lot of my time trying to get close to this beautiful llama.  No soap. Couldn't even bribe her with carrots.

Finally gave up and turned my back on her.  A minute later I felt a little nudge on my back.  Turned around and got a llama kiss right on the lips.  Guess playing hard-to-get did the trick.

This was a day of firsts for me...  first visit to Village Spinning and Weaving, first visit to Ranch of the Oaks, first kiss from a llama, and first time spit on by an alpaca.

Well, not really spit - I hear real alpaca spit is slimy and disgusting.  This particular llama simply seemed to take a dislike to a carrot I had just fed her and she blew it right back at me after chewing it up.

But I forgive her because she's so darned cute.  Even though I'm pretty sure she was laughing at me with her friend.

 A small herd of Icelandic sheep live in a separate pen. This is one of the oldest and purest breeds of sheep.  I love that these are very close to the same sheep my Viking ancestors would have kept while they were pillaging and plundering my Manx ancestors.

Then Tom gave a tour of the mill.  I was so excited to see their process, I failed to take photos.  Guess I'll have to go back for another visit.  There was just enough time after that to do a little shopping in their store.  I have to say it got a little competitive, but no limbs were lost and everybody went home happy.

This lovely little shawl is made of 100% Icelandic Lopi wool raised, processed and spun by Tom and Mette.  The pattern is called "Rustic Bohemian," designed and knitted by Rebecca Stromgren, aka "Knits With Penguins" on Ravelry.  Since I look almost as silly in shawls as I do in hats, this will be a lovely gift for someone special.

For myself, I bought this "mystery" roving.  I couldn't decide which color I preferred so I made the only sensible choice and bought both.  Because I really need more fiber to spin.  Yeah.
Below are the rest of that day's alpaca photos.  If you're not an alpaca fan, you can stop here.  Otherwise, please enjoy these photos of some of my favorite animals (with a llama or two thrown in for good measure).