This past Saturday was the eighth annual shearing day at Whispering Spirit Alpacas. At 8 AM this very chilly morning, Lee and I, Peter Connelly of Shorn Shearing Services, his headman (Asher) and 14 wonderful volunteers assembled to remove and gather the year’s harvest from our herd of alpacas and 2 llamas. It was quite the adventure.
Preparation started several day’s earlier as Danita Coulter our faithful and expert ranch hand added tasks of cleaning the barn, tack room, bathroom, setting up catch pens to her already busy schedule of feeding, mucking the pens, ordering needed supplies and herding the cats. No, she did not take down the cat tent. It is still too cold to take it down plus it gives the cats a great vantage point to watch the shearing. Even Atticus pitched in.
Houston based stalwart friends Stella and Harold Evensen arrived Wednesday to help clean the fiber storage area, haul fiber & barn debris to the dump, box up the skirted fiber for shipping to mills, and shop for supplies and food. Stella made efficient checklists and charts to order the animals (white to dark) and chart shearing details (whose nails & teeth get trimmed). They helped us with many tasks needing completion.
On shearing day, we assembled with Stella and Harold in the kitchen at 6:15 to review last minute to do lists. We hauled provisions up to the barn … coffee, socks (?), cameras, coffee, water, yogurt, coffee, mini cinnamon rolls, band-aids, did I mention COFFEE! It is dangerous to bring so many people together at that hour without coffee.
Our volunteers start arriving around 7:30. Eight drove 45 minutes from Albuquerque to join the event. Kelly Koepke, our media and communications consultant, came from Santa Fe. Five who live in the East Mountains also have long drives. Cold and sleepy, the group gather around each other (it was really chilly) to make introductions and renew acquaintances. Peter talks everyone through the process of lowering the alpaca to the mats, how and when to tighten the ropes to hold the animal taunt, the role of Asher the headman (holding the alpaca’s head to stabilize and keep the alpaca calm to avoid sudden moves), when and how to collect the fibers. How to avoid getting kicked.
Shearing day veterans Harold & Stella Evensen, Cathy McManus, John Helmich, Sam & Amanda Bergamo, and Kris Staten provide assistance to first timers (now veterans) Brad Yablonski, Melanie Gonzales, , Laurie Schatzberg, Mary Margaret Rogers, Carolyn Thompson, Ken Thompson and Krista Allen. These people are accomplished professionals in their own fields, ranging from marketing and communications, fundraising, physical therapy, nursing, sophisticated investments, business management, computer programming, IT, French culture, wines and travel, fire and wild life protection, and of course, two recovering attorneys. And I am missing other important talents.
All volunteers have several tasks during the process of each alpaca is being sheared. It’s quite a dance but becomes a smooth choreography after a couple of animals and with Peter’s expert direction.
Yes, even little Woodstock the mauled alpaca is shorn, despite his injured leg. Carolyn takes extra car to comfort him. What an alpaca whisperer.
A cheer went up as the last alpaca gets sheared. Wait, wait. OH NO. We still have the llamas to do. And they are huge. All able bodied males are summoned to one mat. (This is where the females pull the “I’m not strong enough” card). Down on the mats go Lorenzo and Ande. Both are gentle giants and easily sheared. DONE! Three & a half hours and no injuries to man nor beast. Not bad.
Clean up and down to the house for food and refreshments. Soup, sandwiches, wine, beer, chocolate chip cookies (thank you Kris), more beer, more wine. Shearing is done for this year and naps are in order…
Thanks to our fabulous shearers and volunteers. We harvested 148 pounds of raw fiber. The highest overall producer was Vencedor (white). The largest blanket was Winter Hawk. That should keep us busy for a year.
Oh, ya, the socks. We put socks over the alpacas mouths to keep them from launching guttural spit when they are stressed. Nasy stuff!!
Great harvest. Great time. Thank you, thank you volunteers. Last but, certainly not least, Thank you Peter & Asher.
Sandy & Lee