If you need to commune with gentle, friendly animals, then get ye to an alpaca farm!

Recently, my family was in town and we visited Mistletoe Farm Alpacas in Franklin, TN. Like humans, alpacas come in a variety of sizes, and, to some degree, shapes (they’re just like us!). They have their own personalities—some will spit at you; some will sound the “alarm” if they sense danger; and others are perfectly happy letting you scratch them under their chin or sniff around in your purse. They are funny-looking, for sure, especially shorn of their heavy coats—somewhat Seussian with their long, skinny necks and bulbous bodies. Native to Peru where the temperatures are mild, these poor souls  spend a lot of time here in Franklin lounging in the shade to escape the brutal Tennessee heat, relieved by huge swamp coolers and fans. In the early morning, they enjoy frolicking in their pasture, but come afternoon with the sun beating down and humidity continuing to rise, they make haste to their shady oasis.

Sometimes alpacas are confused with llamas. While they do look similar and they are related, these members of the camel family actually do have several important differences. Alpacas are about half the size of llamas and, while curious, they tend to be a little nervous and are herd-minded. They also produce extremely soft pelts. Llamas, on the other hand, are not only larger than alpacas, but they are more independent, have rougher pelts and serve as guards for the alpacas and other animals.

Leanne, owner of the farm, shared many of these details with us as she introduced us to her herd. Then she took us to her shop where she has displayed the many wares she has felted, knitted, woven and dyed from the pelts of her precious alpacas. I bought a lovely scarf made of felt and silk, dyed gorgeous shades of lavender, blue and red with a felted flower pinned to the end. We each got something that spoke to us, from knitted caps, tea towels and T-shirts to tiny stuffed alpacas with miniature chullos, traditional Peruvian-style hats. She also has baby clothes, knitted booties, bracelets, purses and more—something for everyone to commemorate their trip to the farm. Leanne even grows her own garden full of plants to supply her natural dyes—marigolds, indigo and more. A tax accountant by day, her artistic spirit truly shines through in her alpaca-inspired pieces. As she says, her alpacas are her “therapy.”

How do you interact with the natural world? Do you have a creative hobby or interest that feeds your soul and lifts your spirit? Do you have animal friends that bring you peace?

4 thoughts on “Alpacas!

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