For many years I’ve driven past a sign proclaiming "Carolina Llamas" that is found at the end of a long gravel driveway surrounded by woods. Despite the fact that this sign is within a few miles of where I live, I'd never driven in to see what is there, but last week, after receiving an invitation from a former school principal, I visited this farm, to learn a little about llamas and to, perhaps, buy some fiber or yarn. I am subsequently both thrilled to have access to wonderful yarn and fiber practically within a stone’s throw from my house and a bit apprehensive about my ability to restrain myself from making one-too-many fiber shopping stops at this all-too-convenient location.
A former co-worker and her year-old baby boy, Leonardo, accompanied us on our visit. The morning was a rare specimen of perfect Carolina springtime beauty—cool breeze, bright sun, not-yet-dry-and-gone-to-seed fields, riotous flowers in bloom. We received a warm reception by the enthusiastic and knowledgeable llama farm’s owner, Craig Swindler, who graciously led us around the large establishment he runs with his wife, Janet. He told us about llama fiber and the history of the llama’s origins and their relationship to alpacas—apparently they share common ancestors and can interbreed. I also learned about the fiber from these creatures--the coarser guard hairs and the superior fibers that are a desired product of breeding. We were all quite awe-struck by the large national champion Lord of the Dance, the farm's prized male used for breeding purposes.
Swindler also placed a halter on a baby llama named Saint and let us interact with him. It’s amazing how young creatures have a natural affinity for one another. The baby llama and baby boy were equally curious and amused by one another, and neither was squeamish about touching noses.
|I had never spun llama fiber before and I am now a convert. My yarn is so much more consistent|
than that I've produced with other fibers. It's wonderfully soft, too.
We concluded our visit to the farm by examining the yarn and bags of fiber and roving for sale. While there is not an actually store on the premises, the dining room table of the Swindler's farmhouse serves that purpose. Since the owners are retired, visitors are welcome to stop by any time.
To learn more about llamas, I read a little bit. I discovered that llamas were domesticated in the highlands of Peru, approximately 3,000 to 4,000 years ago, making them among the oldest domestic animals. The llama was also worshipped by the Incas and also served as a pack animal and source of clothing and food for these people.
Coincidentally, this past week, while planning to write about my llama farm visit but a bit overwhelmed by grading odd bits of end-of-semester make-up assignments and three class sets of literary analysis essays, I had the opportunity to meet Neale Bayly, an individual with very close ties to Peru. Neale is an adventure traveler and motorcycle journalist who has ridden across 45 countries in 35 years.
During a motorcycle ride to Peru years ago, Neale was transformed by the abandoned children he discovered being raised by eighty-year-old Sister Loretta at the Hogar Belen orphanage. As a result of that experience, he formed Wellspring International Outreach, a nonprofit dedicated to helping orphans around the world. Check out the videos below about Neale's work and his upcoming cable television program showing a grueling eight-day trek across Peru.
NEALE BAYLY RIDES Trailer from Neale Bayly Rides on Vimeo.
|At the end of the school year, I feel like running off and going on a motorcycle adventure.|
Maybe when I retire . . .