Friday, August 15, 2008

Field Trip! Furnace Mountain Alpacas

When my friend Bobbi invited me along to an alpaca farm, I agreed. Why not, I thought, this is exactly why God made Zyrtec. Besides, this particular alpaca farmer was also a knitter and had started a fledgling alpaca yarn company. Oooo - yarn. Who cares if I'm allergic to alpaca - as long as I get to fondle some yarn!

So last week, we drove out to Lovettsville, Virginia - home of Furnace Mountain Alpacas to meet Sharon Babbin and her alpacas. Sharon describes herself as a recovering attorney turned alpaca farmer. When she decided to hightail it out of DC, she fled to the Virginia countryside, found a beautiful piece of property and built her house. Having been a horse person, she wanted some equine companionship but her husband was allergic to them. So she started looking at other species and settled on alpacas which were touted to be hypoallergenic. Always the intrepid knitter, I decided to test this out and left my allergy medications at home. Bring on the alpacas!

Sharon hugging Gabriel

Driving up the bucolic lane to a lovely house overlooking the valley, I was greeted at the door by Sharon's two dogs Gus and Hank. Sharon also has a cat named Meathead (who I was afraid to pet without my Zyrtec so I simply waved from afar). We had lunch, chatted and then went to meet the alpacas: two black males Gabriel and Magic and two pregnant females Chloe and Ciara. The critters were a little shy around new people but Sharon handled them gracefully and they soon eased up enough for us to approach them. Gabriel even hummed a bit although it sounded more like whining.

Alpacas purr/hum!

Taking the boys out for a walk

Seeing as how the girls were preggers, we left them alone. Chloe, however, was still quite inquisitive and kept giving us the eyeball.

But as soon as she realized that I was looking back, she gave me another view. Photogenic from every angle! How do you do it, Chloe?

These critters sure are soft. When Sharon has them sheared, she sends their fleece (along with others from fellow domestic alpacas) to a mill in Georgia. This is pure 100% hypoallergenic domestic alpaca. According to Sharon, this ensures that no other fibers are blended in which is sometimes the case with South American alpaca and may explain my prior problems with alpaca. And let me tell you, this yarn is heaven. Sharon leaves them all undyed letting the natural color of the fibers really shine. Some yarns are from a single animal but most are blended to give consistency to the yarns. Pictures do not do this yarn justice - this is truly something that needs to be felt.

Like butta...

This is the kind of yarn that coos and hums "Take me home, make me yours, I'm softer than the finest cashmere." Mmm. Before I knew it, I had taken a skein and rubbed it against my cheek. I was initially aghast at my breach of yarny etiquette (one does not rub one's facial oils onto someone else's yarn) but then I noticed no sneezing, no watery eyes, no runny nose. I put the yarn up to my face again and took a deep inhale. I'll just have to buy you, take you home and make you mine, I rationalized to myself. So I did.

Bobbi went a bit more crazy. Not only did she get yarn but also a braided alpaca bag and three woven rugs. All the fleece that doesn't meet Sharon's high quality standards for yarn gets made into bags and rugs. These are gorgeous items and I had to fondle them. Bobbi is quite the enabler - "you know you want one..." But I resisted. Besides, I was more than happy with my yarn.

Soon it was time to go. We said goodbye to the dogs.

Hank wanted his picture taken before we left.

Gus had better things to do.


  1. SUCH a fun trip!! Thanks for sharing :)

  2. My name is Susan Ward and i would like to show you my personal experience with Zyrtec.

    I am 30 years old. Have been on Zyrtec for 3 months now. I thought I was dying! It must be cancer or some disease. I felt that bad. I exercise 6 days a week and I know my body very well. I new something wasn't right but never thought it would be an allergy pill to blame. Within three months these symptoms hit hard. I tracked it back to the day I started taking this medication. The side effects didn't hit me right away. I was just happy to be able to breathe. So I'm assuming the clinical trials for this drug were not long enough to witness these types of side effects. I'd rather deal with the allergies than these side effects. Glad to know others feel the same. I'm not just going crazy.

    I have experienced some of these side effects -
    Major fatigue, gained 13 lbs in 3 month period very unusaul for me). wild mood swings, major depression, loss of short term memory. Stop taking the pill and fill almost back to normal.

    I hope this information will be useful to others,
    Susan Ward

    Zyrtec Side Effects