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AlAnn Ranch, Ash Fork, Arizona

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday’s interview is with the owner of AlAnn Ranch, in Ash Fork, Arizona. This is one of those knitter to shepherd stories, which I love. And the alpaca photos are wonderful!!

1. Can you tell us a little bit about your farm related to fiber arts? The type of animals and number of animals? Is there anything that makes your farm different from other farms?

We are a family-run farm in the northern Arizona mountains. The Ranch is home to about 80 alpacas, llamas, Angora (mohair) goats, Great Pyrenees LGDs, Muscovy ducks, chickens and a few other critters. We shear our own animals and have 100% Arizona Grown products, including handspun yarns and rovings, batts, felt, and machined yarns, rugs, and other products as well. And we practice sustainable agriculture, rotational grazing, integrated pest management, and are completely off the grid – water, electricity, everything.

alannranch32. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the history of your farm? How did you get interested in creating fibers for knitters? How did you come to fiber arts farming? Readers will love to hear your story – so tell it!

I’ve been a knitter and crocheter for many years and always had a fascination with spinning and weaving, but never tried them. When we decided to try making our rocky acres profitable, we looked at alpacas and fell in head first. We’ve never looked back and now also raise Angora goats for mohair to blend and spin.

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Alpaca Questions and Answers


Huacaya Alpaca- The Fluffy One

If you have been following this blog at all, you know I have become fairly obsessed with alpacas.  And as I read more and more about them, I just become all the more entranced.  Today, I thought I’d share with you some interesting facts I’ve learned about alpacas. Who knows, maybe you’re a budding alpaca fan too?

Where do alpacas come from?

Sometime between 6,000 and 7,000 years ago, people in southern Peru began to domesticate the vicuna, a small animal related to camels. Much as wolves were domesticated into dogs, vicunas were domesticated into alpacas. Starting in 500 BC, The Pukara Indians, and, later, the Incas refined the domestication of the alpaca into a superior fiber bearing animal. The differentiation of the alpaca into

Suri Alpaca- The Rastafarian

huacaya breeds and suri breeds was accomplished by the Inca. Although the alpaca became threatened during Spanish colonization (they became largely replaced by sheep and cattle), they have come back strong. It is estimated that there are 4,000,000 alpacas in present day Peru, which is by far the largest exporter of alpaca in the world. Alpacas were first brought to the United States in 1984. Today there are 175,000 alpacas on American farms.

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All Things Alpaca at the Great Western Alpaca Show & Denver Fiber Fiesta

greatwesternalpacashowGit ready for the biggest regional alpaca show west of the Mississippi! The 11th Annual Great Western Alpaca Show is on tap this weekend in Denver, Colorado. Last year, breeders from 220 farms brought  alpacas from 26 states, which made for over 1,000 alpacas. That’s a lot of alpacas!! And not only that, but the Denver Fiber Fiesta, with fiber demonstrations and vendors galore, is being held in conjunction with the alpaca show. So, farm girl or city girl, there promises to be something for everyone.

For the farm girl (or the farm girl within the city girl), breeders will be showing alpacas in three rings at the Great Western Alpaca Show. One ring will showcase Suri alpacas, one Huacaya females and one Huacaya males. If you don’t know difference, Huacaya alpacas, have the soft fluffy fleece and look like your toddler’s stuffed animal, while Suri have long silky fleece and look slightly Rastafarian. In addition to the usual halter show, performance show and fleece show, there will be alpaca photography competition (alpacas are so photogenic!!), a fiber arts competition, and a handcrafter’s spinoff.

Meanwhile, upstairs at the venue, vendors will be selling all things alpaca at the Denver Fiber Fiesta. Continue reading “All Things Alpaca at the Great Western Alpaca Show & Denver Fiber Fiesta” »

The Great Midwest Alpaca!

ALPACA10So I was looking at what was on tap for this weekend (April 27 and April 28), and I became entranced by the Great Midwest Alpaca. I don’t know why. It was something about how the festival seems to integrate everything from farm animals to knitting in one venue. As a knitter, I am naturally curious as to where all my gorgeous yarns come from. But I think it goes beyond that- I feel dissociated from my roots somehow. I mean I have never even felt a live alpaca ( what a city girl!), although I have knitted plenty of alpaca yarn.  I have heard their fleece is surprisingly soft and airy. I have read that they come in 22 natural colors. Beyond that, I think that they are simply adorable! And regal. I mean look at the photos!! Unfortunately, a trip to Madison, Wisconsin  is not in my future, but it may be in yours, so here’s what I’ve learned about the Great Midwest Alpaca Festival(from a novice/ city girl’s perspective).ALPACA4

I’ll start with the animals and the breeders. The alpaca breeder can participate in three events:  a Herd Sire showcase, halter show, and fleece show. Now I am going to translate a bit here for my city friends, because although these events are intended for breeders, I think they might also prove fascinating for your average knitter or fiber enthusiast:

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