(Some of the girls and ladies; all pics enlarge.)
After purchasing my fleece and a few gifts, came the apogee of my visit––meeting my benefactors. Barbara took me to their comfortably large, clean––and today, cool––quarters, where we were greeted by the flock, as feeding time trumped the heat. Well, I tell 'ya––cute overload aside, looking at these alpacas swelled my sense of pride toward spinning their fleece. Their conspicuous health and beauty are a testament to the care they receive from the Nuessle's, and the couple's concern for the surrounding environment as well.
"We and the other farms in the area had the goal of land preservation in mind" Barbara told me, "so we all locked down the land against further development." Wow. To me, living in New York, where urban development and eminent domain, is erasing the past as fast as rain on side-walk drawings made of chalk––this is the ultimate thank you, to the earth and certainly to Cape May.
The Nuessle's have 10 acres, on which their 26 Huachaya alpacas reside. Now, I know––as a knitter, spinner, weaver, or anyone else involved with fiber, you've had fantasies of having a (fill in the animal) farm. Mr. K and my own holdings are limited to a dog and a cat. So how do the Nuessle's do it? "Twenty-two alpacas are easier to care for, than one dog," says Barbara. Really? Seeing the fish-eye I gave her, she explained. "You have to walk a dog, at least twice a day. And there's other kinds of care too."
I learned that alpacas are very clean, and don't defecate where they eat, making them less prone to parasites and disease. Socially, they're herding animals who like to stay with the group––you won't see signs posted around town for lost alpaca, reward $$. During my visit Alfalfa was being served as a treat, but hay is the primary staple, along with a supplement of vitamins and nutrients. Shearing occurs once a year in May, during which the vet visits, and the flock receives the "medical day spa" treatment, consisting of a physical exam, a dental check, their top knots (the hair on the top of their heads) trimmed, and a pedicure.
(Florence, after a happy hosing.)
Show-stoppers––Products of Good Breeding
The loving care that the alpacas receive, has brought about an impressive number of awards. The farm
participates in two major shows during the year––The
Alpaca Fiber Cooperative of North America (A.F.C.N.A.) national show, where BSF Frederico was the Reserve Color Champion of the continental fleece show for 2006––and the Mid-Atlantic Alpaca Association (MAPACA) show. Awards from these shows, translate into breeding with champions of other farms––and Bay Springs is expecting 6 crias (babies) this fall.
(Future Champ; Isabel, Miss Katie's daughter)
Now, what does this mean for you? Top notch fleece if you spin, yarn if you knit or crochet, or fab gifts, if you're the beneficiary of either group I mentioned.
The Early Spinner Gets The FleeceThere are fleeces still for sale on the website, but spinners––act now! I was informed that the fleeces from last year's shearing sold out rapidly. "Spinning seems to be on the increase", Barbara told me. "When I was at the last TNNA (The National Needlework Association) show, there were a number of spinning vendors in attendance. But for you knitters out there, not to worry; the farm always has yarn for sale.
I'm already thinking about the future. I have my eye on Isabel, a darling 2 month-old cutie-pie, who was entertaining herself by just scampering about. Her fleece already has that championship feel.
Bay Springs Farm Alpacas, 542 New England Rd, Cape May, NJ; (609) 884-0563