Alpaca originated in South America. They are in the Camelid family and closely related to llama and camels. An even closer relation is the vicuna who shares membership in the genus vicugna. The latin name for the alpaca species is vicugna pacos.
There are two breeds of alpaca, the suri and the huacaya. They are distinguished primarily by fleece type and by size. Huacaya tend to be significantly larger and because their fleece is characterized by some amount of crimp (zig-zag waviness along the length of the fiber), it is more elastic than the fiber of the Suri alpaca which has no crimp and only some waviness.
Suri fiber is ideal for weaving fine fabrics and for yarns intended for a limited range of items requiring drape over fabric resilience. For example, a shawl is an ideal project for Suri yarn.
The alpaca at Fair Winds Farm are all huacaya alpaca chosen for their fibers suitability for use in hand knitting yarns intended for garments and accessories requiring more elasticity and an ability to spring back after wearing. (We blend some sheep’s wool into our fiber to magnify this characteristic.
Regardless of breed choice, alpaca fiber is an excellent choice for warmth and its hypoallergenic qualities. Alpaca do not produce lanolin which translates to a fleece that can be spun right off of the animal without worrying about grease affecting your carding tools or spinning wheel. A good wash is still recommended though – alpaca are notorious for rolling in dust and dirt. After spinning a quantity of raw fleece your hands and tools will be very dusty!
We hire a professional to come in and shear our animals late in the spring. After sorting the fleeces by color and grade of fineness we take the fiber for processing to one of several small fiber mills in the area where it is transformed into beautiful yarns and rovings for hand knitters and spinners.
The hens add color to our landscape as they range about the farm in search of bugs, worms and seeds. They come running when Dale calls because they know he’s generous with the scratch! They keep our breakfast table well laden with their delicious eggs! No rooster here – Jan values her sleep!
Yoda is a rather large pygmy goat. He’s still pretty small, but for pygmy goats, he’s a big guy! Very friendly, Yoda comes trotting for scratches and belly rubs whenever you approach his pasture. He’s a rescue who earns his keep by eating weeds where our mower won’t go.
Finnsheep, also known as Finnish Landrace sheep, originated in Finland. (What a surprise.) They are related to other Northern European short-tailed sheep such as Shetland, Icelandic and Romanov sheep.
We chose Finnsheep due to a number of factors. A priority was to have fiber that was similar in average fineness to adult alpaca fiber and that would blend well with it. We also wanted sheep that would be social and easy to handle. With their smaller size, low lanolin level, fineness of fleece, and highly social nature, Finnsheep were high on the list. When we found a flock that had been deliberately bred for fineness of fleece and social tendencies, we knew we had found our source for our first flock.
A fascinating characteristic about Finnsheep is the fact that they typically yield multiple births, and we’re not just talking twins! A first time mom is likely to have twins, but after that triplets and quadruplets are the norm. We expect our herd to grow quickly!
Finnsheep are also highly prized for their meat and tanned hides. We are focused on producing wool and breeding stock for other shepherds who wish to bring Finnsheep into their flocks, but may expand into this market in the future.
Saber is our guard llama for our flock of Finnsheep. He stays with the sheep and/or the lambs year-round. He will investigate any and all "intruders", including the human kind, especially one carrying buckets of grain.
Possum is our barn cat. He hunts mice and chipmunks and is extremely talented at finding the best ray of sunlight in which to curl up and snooze. You can often find him hanging out on the front porch waiting for someone to come outside and give him a good petting.