Suri alpacas Valentine theme
Florida's Full of Fabulous Alpacas!
Tom and I decided to, briefly, leave our retirement from the alpaca show
world and check out the Florida Alpaca Breeders Show in Jacksonville 2
weekends ago. You didn't really think we could stay away forever did you?
Me neither! We rationalized our trip by saying that we wanted to make some
business connections and check out the potential market for our alpaca care
Of course Florida tends more toward the Suri variety of alpaca as opposed to
the fluffier (and hotter) Huacaya. I say variety with my dear, yet
controversial, friend Ingrid Wood in mind. Ingrid, of Stormwind Alpacas, is
both an alpaca breeder and an expert in alpaca genetics as opposed to a
self-proclaimed expert in alpaca genetics, of whom there are far, far too
But, I digress. Ingrid claims that the Suri alpaca, pictured above,
and the Huacaya alpaca, pictured below, are incorrectly named as different
"breeds" of alpaca when they are actually two "varieties" of the same breed.
I agree. We don't call smooth-haired terriers and wire-haired terriers two
Huacaya alpacas at FABA show Feb. 09
So, it was almost like old times for Tom and I to be heading out to
an alpaca show but we were not hauling a livestock trailer
full of alpacas or two kids fighting in the back seat of the truck and -
weirdest of all - it was February! I guess it wasn't that much like old
times. The kids are now old enough to stay home alone and the alpacas have
all grown older and moved on too. Change is part of life but we can't
always make ourselves like it.
It was actually a little bit cold in Jacksonville, like less than 40
degrees, which Floridians consider to be bitterly cold to the point of
dangerous. The deejay on the radio station we were listening to kept
warning us all about - I swear that I am not making this up! - "wind chill!"
What happens if there is WIND CHILL at around 40 degrees?, you can't go
swimming or you have to put on socks or what?
But it WAS chilly! I had on my usual show attire, a handspun, hand knit
alpaca sweater, hand knit alpaca socks and a handspun, hand knit alpaca
earwarmer headband - all made from the fleece my own animals. I do admit
that the fingerless, alpaca gloves I wore were hand knit from commercial
alpaca yarn. The gloves are Fair Isle-patterned and I don't like to dye
yarn, so I buy it just like regular people.
Tom wore a polartec jacket, of which I did not approve, but I will spare you
my customary rant about alpaca breeders who never wear their own "end
product." As you will find out, if you keep reading, he later regretted
that sartorial decision.
We finally arrived at the Equestrian Center in Jacksonville and were bowled
over by the huge size of this place!
Equine Center Jacksonville, FL
The barns for the alpacas were wonderful. I was worried that the alpacas
would be housed in traditional horse stalls from which they couldn't see
out, but I needn't have worried. They were able to look around and there was
plenty of air and light but also shade.
barn at Equine Center
alpacas in barn at Equine Center
The inside of the Equestrian Center was just as amazing. There was really good
seating, a nice mulchy floor for soft-padded feet and a lot of room to
They even had fancy-dancy heaters that looked like old fashioned lamp posts!
beautiful space heater
After all of the freezing cold shows I have been to in Northern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, I had to go to Florida to find one with space heaters!
I will admit here that, upon taking my first glance inside, I freaked out a little and did a double take. I thought I saw two of the largest alpacas ever born. Whaaaa?, I blurted, walking closer, only to find out that I'd been looking at cardboard cutout alpacas?!
alpaca cardboard cutouts
I've been to a lot of shows but this is the first time I've seen this
weirdness! The more you look at these things, the more you flip out because
they look very real but just tooooo large. I wasn't the only one who found
them unnerving either. Check out the body language on this poor guy penned
up next to them. I do kind of want one for my house though.
note alpaca on right side of photo
Tom and I set up our booth outside of the arena on a concrete floor in the
wide, shady hallway and it was pretty cold in there! Everyone had on their
heavy sweatshirts and polartec jackets except for me, of course. It never
fails to amaze me that you can go to an entire show of "alpaca breeders" and
find not one other person wearing something made from the fleece of their
After a few hours, Tom's feet were freezing and no wonder; He was
wearing boat shoes and cotton socks! He started to get a little whiney if
truth be told, and wanted to know if I didn't have another pair of alpaca
socks with me and/or what about the pair I was knitting in the car, were
alpaca blend socks
Well, they were an alpaca / wool / polymide blend and pretty warm but there
is no way to knit a sock that fits both a 7 1/2 narrow women's foot and a
men's 7 super-wide. I scoffed at the idea of his wearing my newly knit
socks! If you recognize the pattern of these Tibetan socks from "New Pathways for Sock Knitters," then, yes! they ARE wrong. The swirlies are supposed to go in the opposite direction from each other. However, if you knew how Tom drives, you'd understand how I could make this error and not even notice it until the socks were done. Let's just say that he's not afraid to let out his inner Nascar Driver.
But, alas, I soon began to feel pity towards Tom and his cold feet so I
explained to him the old trick of sticking un-spun wool in your shoes and
walking around on it until the slight dampness and rubbing of your feet
creates warm, woolen shoe inserts. I just happened to have some lovely Cormo
roving with me, so Tom stuffed his shoes and soon felt happier than he had
all day. At the end of the day, he had half of the wool "inserts" stuck in his shoe and the other half melded to his socks.
woolen shoe inserts
If you are wondering why I was spinning Cormo, I had actually run out of
alpaca fleece! The leftover fleeces of my own animals were all gone but I
was certain that I would have a thrilling time looking over all of the
fleeces and rovings for sale at the show, so I wasn't worried about being
without my favorite fiber fix.
Next Installment - Where's the Fleece?!
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