I was contacted back in March by a wonderful lady who had just moved here from Ohio named Sherry. This lady is amazing! She has only been here a few months and has already started up a group for pre-school children and their parents to visit various events in the Dallas / Fort Worth area. They have been busy doing all kinds of things. One of the things she did in Ohio was visit an alpaca ranch. So, we set the date.
The group was small, but very energetic about finding out what exactly we do here at our little ranch. So, we gave them the ABCs of how it works around here. We began by taking them out to the alpaca area and told them a little about the animals. We showed them their feet, teeth, and let them put their hands on their backs to feel how very soft their fleece is. There wasn't much fleece there since the alpacas were shorn only a week or two ago. However, they were able to quickly tell this was no ordinary fleeced animal! Everyone oohed and ahhhd over them.
Next we moved on to the chicken area. Sometimes, small children are really afraid of chickens, however, this was an adventuresome group of kids! They marveled at how soft the chickens were. They picked them up and held them. We talked about the different breeds of chickens and how they lay different colored eggs. We talked about how, even though the color of eggs was different, that they each tasted just the same. Many of the children were familiar with the "Green Eggs and Ham" book by Dr. Seuss. They really thought the green chicken eggs were cool. The children helped me collect the eggs out of the nesting boxes. I think this was a highlight of the trip!
Finally, we moved into the back yard to see what it is we actually DO with the fleece. We started by dumping a fleece onto a skirting table. We talked about how all of the belly hair, second cuts, hay, and junk needed to be removed from the fleece before we could move any further. After all, we want our yarn to be the most representative of that wonderful animal, don't we?
Next, we pulled out our cards (dog combs) and carded the fleece. Most of the time, we would wash our fleece before moving to this step. However, for time sake, we were ready to skip this step! We talked about how carding makes all of the individual fibers lay down in the same direction, almost like when we brush our hair. When we are done, we have a nice roll of fleece ready to begin spinning.
After carding the fleece, we were ready to spin. Spinning is so easy! We talked about how we could twist our hair right on our heads. This is a lot like spinning the fleece. We talked about how we would then take two or more of those twisted yarns and would make the spinning wheel go in the opposite direction to ply the yarn together. More oohs and ahhhs. :o)
We completed our perfect afternoon by feeding the chickens and the alpacas. The chickens all ran up to the children and began eating their goods. Mmm mmm.... apples, pears, oranges, OH MY! Next, the alpacas got their chance. The alpacas preferred the lettuce over all of the fruit (what's wrong with them???). The children got a kick out of the alpacas lips tickling their hands as they removed the food from them.
Ah! The ABCs of the farm life. Children, friendly animals, and a whole lot of fun. What could be better?