Every year our spinning group is invited to come to Crystal Lake Alpaca Farm to sit and spin while the public watches how we make alpaca fiber into yarn. We enjoy any excuse to sit and spin and we love to share our fiber arts with the public. We meet new people, see old friends and spin a good yarn. Saturday was the annual Alpaca Farm Day at Crystal Lake Alpacas in Frankfort, Michigan so we enjoyed a beautiful day yet again. Each year a huge pumpkin is carved and sits outside the boutique to welcome guests for the National Alpaca Farm Day. Did you know that Crystal Lake Alpacas was voted the 2015 NATIONAL HUACAYA SMALL BREEDER OF THE YEAR?
The Crystal Lake Alpaca Farm is a high quality small alpaca farm located in the northwest corner of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Their farm is nestled on 145 acres, bordered by The Betsie River and near Lake Michigan with panoramic views of Crystal Lake.
The area is beautiful all year but summer and into the fall is my favorite. I just love the colors in these mums that sit just across from the pumpkin, outside the boutique. The colors of fall are evident in this colorful bouquet. The leaves are just starting to turn on some of the trees around here. Color season is going to be later this year according to some of the local folk. I’m not in any hurry to see the progression of seasons. I love the fall colors, the blue sky and the crispness to the air, but I do not like the idea of what is right behind fall….the long winter. I think it would be much nicer to have about 2 weeks of snow and winter, for celebrating the holidays and then we should have spring. If only the winters in Michigan were that short. This is why I became a fiberholic. It gives me something to do during the long, cold, Michigan winters.
Well we have learned the fiber art of spinnings to make warm apparel for the long cold winters. The beginning of fall brings out the wheels and the anticipation of new mittens, hats and scarfs. The spinners gather under an awning tent to spin alpaca fiber to our heart’s content. Dave Nelson, DVM and his wife, Chris Nelson own Crystal Lake Alpacas and they are great hosts. They have sandwiches, cookies, lots of cold water to drink and goodie bags for the spinners, full of fabulous alpaca gifts from their store. Chris always makes sure we all have lots of alpaca fiber to take home and spin too. We enjoy coming and being a part of the fun in our community and we consider ourselves very fortunate to know the Nelsons and their wonderful animals.
All of the spinners that participate in the Alpaca Farm Days at Crystal Lake Alpacas enjoys the time they spend and usually have alpaca on their spinning wheel for several weeks. I look forward to next year and more fun, friends and fiber.
Chris Nelson runs the Crystal Lake Alpaca Boutique, a beautiful warm, inviting environment with snuggly warm and luxurious gifts displayed on beautifully cut slabs of wood. I enjoyed seeing their scrapbook with pictures of the progress of building the boutique on their property. All of the main shelving in the store is made from the trees that stood here on their property where the boutique now stands and somehow they belong here. Ribbons from their prize winning fleeces are displayed on the wall in the boutique as a tribute to the excellent breeding the Nelsons have accompolished with their herd. Don’t forget to visit the boutique when you visit the farm. It’s open Monday through Friday from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM. In winter it might be best to call in advance to check on the hours.
- Alpacas are a member of the camelid family and orginiated from South America.
- Alpacas were first imported to the United States in 1984.
- Alpacas live to be 15-20 years old. The oldest was 27 years old.
- Alpacas weigh between 100-200 pounds and are about 36″ high at the withers (where the neck and the spine come together).
- Alpacas produce 5-10 pounds of fleece per year when sheared.
- Alpaca fleece is as soft as cashmere and warmer, lighter, and stronger than wool. It comes in 16 natural shades which can be dyed in bright colors.
- Alpacas eat about 2 pounds of grass and hay per day and chew a cud.
- Alpacas are safe and pleasant to be around. They do not bite or butt and do not have sharp teeth, horns, hooves or claws.
- Alpacas are very quiet. They may make a humming noise to communicate or an occasional shrill sound to send an alarm.
- Alpacas are smart animals and are fairly easy to train. They can be trained to complete in obstacle courses and jump small hurdles.
- Alpacas come in two breeds:
- Huacaya (wah-KI-ah)
- Fleece is fluffy, crimpy, and teddy bear-like.
- and Suri (Soo-ree)
- Fleece is silky and lustrous with pencil locks
- Huacaya (wah-KI-ah)
The afternoon was busy with lots of people visiting throught the day. The hours were a little longer this year and accomodated the visitors quite nicely. The crowd was never to much at once but rather a pleasantly busy afternoon with lots of fun for everyone. Even the little cria (baby alpaca) were having fun. I caught a young cria, Lexus, enjoying a good neck scritch up against the hay bale.
Towards the end of the day I spotted this little cria nursing on mom up by the barn. It was getting later in the afternoon and the little ones were tired and hungry. Most of the alpacas at the Nelson farm are various shades of browns from fawn to dark chocolate but this pair are lighter and brighter and stand out amongst the others.
The youngest cria at the Nelson farm had been born only 10 days earlier. There were several cria playing amongst the adults. Just before I left, when the day had wound down and almost all the visitors had left I noticed three of the little ones playing tag and racing around without a care in the world.
Now that everyone was gone and the animals were getting back to “normal” the adults had something on their mind. Boys will be boys….the males were waiting for everyone to leave and hoped that the evening would include a visit to the girl’s pasture. Yeah right boys….