Meet Florinda and Rockabella
Who among us doesn’t dream of someday owning a little herd of cuddly fibre-producing animals?
After 30 years of raising Standardbred horses, making the switch to alpacas was less a dream and more an easy progression for Debbie Ziraldo of Ziraldo Alpacas.
I visited Ziraldo Alpacas’ 10 acres outside of Thorndale, Ontario this Spring, arriving just in time to see the huacaya alpacas pronking about in full fleece before their scheduled shearing that week. Debbie greeted me outside of an old bank barn complete with picturesque tractor parked off to the side. I spent the afternoon meandering around pastures with Debbie, meeting alpacas with names like Florinda and Rockabella.
It’s All About Playing With Fibre
An accomplished spinner, weaver and knitter, Debbie launched into the alpaca world 9 years ago with an initial focus on breeding stock. After a few years of showing at the annual Alpaca Ontario Spring Show in Orangeville, Ontario, Debbie scaled back her breeding program and began to focus primarily on fibre production. The urge to maximize the benefits of fibre-producing animals, namely having lots of fibre to play with, is difficult to ignore.
Developing Our Local Fibreshed
But rather than keeping all that glorious fibre to herself, Debbie is working to develop and support the local fibreshed in a multitude of ways. She welcomes individuals, families and groups for farm tours, teaching them about caring for alpacas, using alpaca fibres and creating sustainable on-farm practices, such as composting alpaca waste into fertilizer for the kitchen garden and flower beds. Debbie also hosts on-farm workshops from February to April that include farm tours and instruction in various techniques such as making felted soap and reusable dryer balls.
Debbie also takes great care to invest in local and Canadian production for all of her fibre products. Her yarns, alpaca mixed with 15-20% merino to improve the yarn’s memory, are processed at Legacy Lane in New Brunswick and her rovings are processed at T&K Fibres in Muirkirk, Ontario. Her socks and insoles are processed by Shears to You in Palmerston, Ontario. All of her finished knit products, ranging from mittens to shawls, are handmade from her yarns by Debbie and other local knitters.
Christmas Shopping at the Farm
By far my favourite aspect of Debbie’s support for our local fibre economy is her on-farm Christmas Shopping Days. During the first two weeks of December, when all the shopping malls are bursting with crowds and cheaply made sweaters, Debbie opens up her farmhouse kitchen. Visitors are welcome to drop by, have a cup of tea and peruse the selection of alpaca rovings, yarns, knit items, dryer balls, felted soaps and bird nesting balls. I can already feel the relief from the maddening crowds.
Continuing to Choose Local
Ziraldo Alpacas clearly contributes to our local fibreshed by employing local and Canadian processors and emphasizing sustainable farm practices, but I think its Debbie’s willingness to open up her kitchen (and farm) that is her biggest gift. For those of us that are city-bound, the opportunity to visit a fibre farm and experience a slice of the dream is just the sort of treat that keeps us choosing local for all our fabulous fibre art projects.
Location: 21370 Fairview Rd., Thorndale, Ontario
Farm Visits: Please Contact to Schedule a Tour and Visit the Farm Store
Products: Yarns, Rovings, Scarves, Shawls, Hats, Mitts, Socks, Insoles, Bird Nesting Balls, Dryer Balls, Felted Soap
Available At: Farm Store / Thorndale Farmer’s Market
Christmas Shopping Days:
Contact: https://debbie-ziraldo.squarespace.com / 519-461-1582 / firstname.lastname@example.org
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