As with many other baby boomers, retirement was not far on the horizon. We had dedicated long hours to the education system, but now it was time to consider our health and well-being. It was time to slow down and smell the flowers.
When our three children were young, we spent many holidays in surroundings only nature could provide. We enjoyed the quiet whisperings of the woods, the antics of wild animals as we quietly observed them at play, the calming effects of waves lapping the shores of Lake Superior and even the howling of strong November winds across vast waters. We had a secret desire to return to nature and live off the land. Somehow, the busy modern day activities kept us anchored to contemporary life in the city. We enjoyed our time working with children in the schools. We had fun engaging in a variety of organised and unorganised activities with our children: hockey, skiing, water sports and many others.
Now the children were grown. Health issues were taking precedence. Retirement was fast approaching. It was time to pursue that dream of long ago.
As luck would have it, we found a beautiful farm nestled beside a small inland lake not far from the Trans-Canada highway, just east of Sault Ste. Marie. It was perfect. It had everything we could wish for: beautiful oak and maple forests, pastures and hay fields, waterfront, a magnificent garden site and best of all, an enormous old barn probably built at the turn of the century. Much to everyone’s surprise, we bought the farm! The next question would be... What do we raise?
The process of selecting alpaca farming was actually a simple one. After retiring to the country, we decided to have a few animals, making our dream property a hobby farm. We also wished to grow and raise most of our own food. We bought a calf from George, a local farmer. His first sage advice was ‘Now Denise don’t get attached to him, just call him Steak.’ Steak looked lonely by himself so we soon added Hamburger, as a buddy. To make a long story short, after hand raising and nursing these two babies, we thoroughly enjoyed their antics. How could we send our pets to the slaughter house? So much for the idea of raising cattle. Obviously, we had to find an animal that had its value in something other than meat, hence the alpaca.
Alpacas are quiet, gentle and easy to handle. They require little to no prior knowledge of farming. Raised for their fibre, they are ideal for the animal lover. This peaceful animal has a very interesting social behaviour. As animals go, dogs bark, cats meow, cows moo, but alpacas hum. Their gentle hum can be heard as you enter their pen. Curious in nature, they will peacefully approach visitors, particularly children. It is not unusual to sit in the middle of the pen and be surrounded by them. Although they don’t love to be petted, they do enjoy interacting with others.
It quickly became very obvious that this was the animal for us: an animal raised for its cashmere-like fibre, peaceful in nature, requiring a small acreage (8 alpacas to an acre), eating small amounts of food, little vet involvement, adapted to our climate. What a great animal to own! During the winter months, alpacas develop a full fleece giving them the appearance of teddy bears. They come in 22 natural colours, a desirable asset in the fashion industry. This lustrous fibre is highly sought after for high-end garments.
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