The Unsung Creativity of the DIY’er
Do you ever wonder if the urge to DIY is a somewhat misunderstood practical expression of creativity? Rather than creating a painting or sculpture, the DIY’er rearranges, reuses and repurposes the flotsam and jetsam of everyday life into new materials that solve a problem, fill a gap or make a new tool. As a connoisseur of jimmy-rigging I quickly realized that I was in the company of DIY masters when I visited Ann and Dan Clayburn of Alpaca Acres this Spring.
Beware the Idea That Percolates
Alpaca Acres was born 7 years after a magazine advertisement for Alpacas caught Dan’s eye. The advertisement was stuffed in a drawer but the idea of raising Alpacas slowly percolated away in Dan’s mind as he and Ann searched for their “little slice of heaven” outside of the city. They began to visit other Alpaca farms, gathering information on Alpaca husbandry and slowly collecting ideas on how they would approach raising these camelids. In November 2005, a small heard of 6 pregnant females and 2 cria went up for sale. After 7 years of consideration Dan and Ann made the leap, bringing the whole heard home with them. 10 years later Alpaca Acres houses 25 huacayas on 39 acres.
Perhaps it was Ann and Dan’s mutual background as electricians that provided them both with the inclination and the capacity to DIY all aspects of their enterprise. In the barn Dan has made everything, repurposing materials into feeders, flooring and even a home-made sheering table. Alpaca’s are shorn either laid down on the ground or on a table. The table, not surprisingly, is much easier on the human’s back. It only took a few yearly sheerings on the ground before Dan had built a table that holds the Alpaca securely at waist-level, keeping them calm as they are moved from one side to the other.
As they set up and adapted their barn and pastures to the needs of their growing heard, Ann worked on breeding for show quality fibre and learning the art of fibre grading. The Alpacas I met showed lovely results: consistent fibre crimp, beautiful colours and minimal guard hairs were dominant traits throughout the herd.
Not surprisingly, Ann has also developed her skills in the fibre arts, learning to knit and crochet products that highlight the inherent warmth and hypoallergenic nature of the fibre, while sourcing mills to process the fibres into rovings, project kits and a variety of yarn weights and blends.
A Little Pronking For Joy
Ann sells Alpaca Acres fibres on the farm (easily accessible on HWY 8 between Shakespeare and Stratford, ON) and at the Knitter’s Fair in Kitchener, ON (September 15th, 2015). I meandered through Ann’s small on-farm shop, enjoying the fibres and admiring the display of the prize-winning show ribbons the herd had collected. I finally decided on a skein to bring home - a beautiful silver lace weight. (That skein became a gift for a Canadian fibre friend living in California with the explicit demand that she send me a picture of the final project. I’m waiting. You know who you are).
As Ann and I stood in the barnyard and chatted about the 7 years that lead up to their Alpaca adventure and the ensuing 10 years of learning, making and DIY’ing their way to an award-winning herd, Dan let the Alpaca’s and their cria out into a fresh paddock.
Have you ever seen an Alpaca “pronk”?
The gate swung open, the Alpaca’s rushed into the green, leaping with oddly straight legs across the field in manner best described by the word “sprong”. Ann laughed, explaining that these awkward looking bounces were called “pronking”, the Alpaca equivalent of jumping for joy.
It appears I’m not the only one that appreciates the Clayburn’s creative DIY’ing.
Location: 3979 Road 108, RR4, Stratford, ON
Farm Visits: Please Call Ahead
Products: Yarns, Rovings, Knit Kits, Finished Hats, Mitts and Socks
Available At: On Farm Shop, The Knitter’s Fair, Kitchener, ON
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org/ www.alpacaacres.ca /
519 - 625 - 1064
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