I have had the pleasure of visiting an alpaca farm in Upstate NY for the past 11 years. John & Judy Hargreaves with Hillcrest Farm in Sauquoit NY are alpaca farmers. They begin their day very early by feeding the alpacas. Their days are filled with so many chores that it completely puts me to shame for not doing half of what they do by the time noon rolls around! John & Judy arrived 13 years ago from Cape Cod. Their friends thought they were nuts leaving their home and going to Upstate NY to raise alpacas! They started their farm with two males and two females as well as two babies. Just a total of six to begin with. They now have 38 and just love their life in Upstate NY! Just living’ their dream…….
I love spending time with them on their farm. The first thing you notice is how picturesque the farm is with the beautiful red barn, the gorgeous countryside and then the alpacas! The alpacas are so friendly, for the most part. You will see how they just come right up to my camera, put their nose on my lens and pose for pictures. They make sweet sounds like they are talking to me and each other. I really can’t get enough of them and can’t seem to take enough pictures of them. When they keep approaching me, getting closer and closer, I can only back up so far. I then take a quick jog to another part of the field and begin clicking away on the camera, until they are right up to my lens again. My camera can’t focus because they are too close! What a problem to have though, right?
When our daughters were very young we just popped in to the farm one day! We could see the alpacas from the street and I thought “certainly they won’t mind”! That was funny, and thankfully they didn’t! John gave the girls some carrots to feed the alpacas. We then brought our own along with apples. Until that point we had never even seen an alpaca before. They are so darned cute! Some are skittish and others let us pet them. They are so curious and just downright adorable! Love when there are little babies around. So stinkin’ cute! What an unexpected discovery the girls and I received by just knocking on their door. That one knock changed my life in such a sweet way. I am so thankful to know the Hargreaves and the sweet alpacas!
Alpaca fiber is an incredible fiber that has been described as finer than cashmere, smoother than silk, softer than cotton, warmer than goose down and wool, and stronger than mohair. Alpaca is so warm, that I barely have enough cold weather to wear my alpaca hat and scarf down here in Georgia. I treasure both as John and Judy handcrafted them.
The fiber is similar to sheep’s wool, but warmer and not itchy. Alpaca fiber does not have lanolin, which makes it hypoallergenic and is not processed with harsh chemicals. The scarf and hat I own are so soft and warm, just beautiful!
There are two types of alpacas: Suri and the huacaya. The suri has fiber that grows long and look like they have silky dreadlocks. The huacaya, which are what you are seeing here, has a dense and crimped fleece, giving it a wooly appearance. Did you know about 90 percent of alpacas in North America are huacayas?
When I was up for yet another visit, this little bitty was born just a few hours before I saw it. Meet Sagamore! What a treat to see a newborn alpaca! So precious! And much bigger than I thought right off the bat! As you can see John is acting just like the proud Grandpa! All of these alpacas receive so much love from the Hargreaves. The alpacas have then been trained with kindness which is what they give others in return. Such sweet dispositions. Can you tell how much I love them?!
Diego was very young when we first met! He is so sweet and always curious. Diego has been my favorite since the first day I met him 11 years ago! Boy time flys by! This is Diego with his chin resting on the door in the barn.
John & Judy’s grandchildren get the privilege of naming all of the alpacas when they are born. Hershey, Carmelina, Captain, Fletcher, Copper King (who sadly just died this past December/he was 16), Master Phantom, Thyme, Sweet Serenade, Rascal, Percy, Sagamore, Rufus, Cotton, Bella are just some of the very original names. And lets not forget Diego!
Interested in alpaca socks or alpaca sweaters? John and Judy have multiple looms in their home that they use to make the most beautiful socks, sweaters, scarves, hat, mittens, baby booties and sweaters. Check out my scarf and hat that Judy and John made.
Just lovely! My hat is extra special because it was made from the fleece of Diego! Can’t you just tell how soft both of these items are? John and Judy do such quality work and their prices are very reasonable. My hat took 3 weeks to make, or about 10-12 hours according to Judy. She does beautiful work. John gets creative with the scarves! They are both just so talented!
Alpaca fiber is woven into these bird’s nests. A local woman brought these nests to the Hargreaves. How incredible that birds know to collect the fiber to soften the nests they are building. John told me that birds land right on the alpaca’s backs and take fiber then and there right back to make their nests. How smart is that! A nice soft and cozy home for when they lay their eggs. So impressive.
This is before shearing! What a difference! The entire process of shearing all of the alpacas needs to be done once a year. Did you know that alpacas typically live for about 22 years?
The Hargreaves have a a supply closet full of products for sale that they have both handcrafted. Beautiful craftsmanship. No two items are exactly the same.
I love stopping by to visit John and Judy. They are warm, thoughtful and so kind when I constantly pop in for a visit! They provide wonderful information for class visits. I bet a Girl Scout troop would LOVE to go by their farm for a tour! John and Judy are so gracious, they love to share some of what they know to others.
Last Summer I was visiting at just the right time…….teeth cutting, nail clipping and shearing! Alpaca teeth do not have nerves throughout their entire tooth, just at the base. So they do not have any feeling of their teeth being cut. They don’t like it, plain and simple, but there is no pain. Nail clipping is so quick and again not painful. And then the shearing is so quick and not painful at all. Most don’t make a peep in protest, but some do and SO loud, but again no pain. Some are just drama queens according to John! All of that was so interesting to me! They all know something is going on and a few get a bit anxious, but before they know it, it’s their turn and then it’s all over and done with! They are so smart and aware when out of the ordinary things are going on.
If the alpaca’s teeth are not trimmed, they are unable to eat efficiently and eventually would die. In the wild, alpacas are capable of taking care of their own teeth by naturally eating around low vegetation and rocks smooth them down.
I hope you enjoy this sweet video of the sounds that alpacas make while chatting with each other as well as them just being cute and curious of my camera.
Each blanket of fleece is put into a bag with the name of the alpaca already written on the outside of the bag. The fleece is put aside to be spun into yarn and then woven onto the loom into beautiful sweaters, scarves, gloves, mittens, hats, blankets and more! Everything made out of alpaca is just lovely and I bet will last for such a long time if taken well care of. This fleece is waiting to be made into yarn. The shades of colors are all natural.
All in all it took this team a total of 6 minutes for each alpaca for the teeth to be cut, nails on all fours to be clipped and shearing. So impressive and fast!!! Just fascinating! None of the alpacas have then skin cut or injured. They are handled just the right way to make the shearing go very quickly and uneventful. http://www.Shearreliefllc.com really knew what they were doing! Brian was the guy in charge and kept a tight running ship. The group of guys travel from Ohio to California, Kansas, Texas and Hawaii. Who knew there were so many alpacas to be shorn?
Diego all trimmed up and ready to go! Even with a smile to boot.
When I visited John & Judy another time, it was time for the vaccinations! Well, that was interesting! The alpacas know what’s coming when Judy shows up with the syringes in a carrying case. They can tell and run away! She has learned she needs to hide behind a tree until John has them corralled in small groups. Then out comes Judy ready to give each and every one their shot. It only takes a second and it protects the alpacas against a deadly virus that is very contagious to the other alpacas. I had the privilege of checking off each name following the vaccination. I felt so important and apparently it saved John & Judy a little bit of time that day. I was so excited to have a little job to do. Plus I was blessed to be able to hang around the farm a little longer that day! (Check out the comment section below to see John & Judy’s explanation of the vaccinations which is so good to know)
The entire surroundings of Hillcrest Farm is delightful. The farm is so clean and well kept. The barns are just picturesque. The alpacas are adorable and beautiful at the same time! John and Judy are workhorses to say the least. It’s amazing what they are both capable of doing on a daily basis. Oh and Judy worked a full time job as a nurse for all of these years. She recently retired in December. They are something else, both of them. I admire each one. They love each alpaca so much and care deeply for them. The love they have shown these beautiful creatures shows by the sweetness the alpacas show me when I am inside their fences. They crack me up as they run towards me and keep inching closer and closer to my camera lens until they touch it with the tip of their nose as I am trying to get their pictures. Then I have to wipe the lens off! It’s so much fun and just makes my day and year, when I get the pleasure of visiting John & Judy! I have to tear myself away after I have stayed for hours! You can see why I feel so at home here! Thank you John and Judy for loving the girls and I so much over the years. I am so proud of you. I love you both!
Who knew that alpacas were so photogenic OR that they knew how to photobomb!!
If you need a special gift for someone, or yourself, their handcrafted items would definitely fit the bill. John and Judy are so talented. They are always coming up with a new design on their looms. Judy is now working on rugs! Yes, rugs! I can’t wait to see what she has come up with! Feel free to email them for more information, photos and price information at Hargreaves01@roadrunner.com When I go up for my next visit, I will definitely post an update for you all to see and experience right along with me.