We went to visit another alpaca farm on an unseasonably warm March afternoon, where we were introduced to the world of Suri alpacas, the ones who look like they have dreadlocks. Their fiber is different from that of our huacaya alpacas, which have a sort of spongy, fluffy fleece, reminiscent of a sheep’s wool. I was fortunate to receive a gift from the farm’s owner of some suri roving to handspin. She had explained that suri fleece is most often spun into lace weight or fingering weight yarn, so this will be a challenge for me. I’m not sure these old eyes can even see lace weight yarn.
In addition to the nearly four dozen alpacas of various ages and colors, we met the farm's two Great Pyrenees, who have always worked as livestock guardian dogs, and never been inside a house. They had stocky frames and resembled fierce, dusty polar bears, not like Miss Vina, our Great Pyr, who was SUPPOSED to become a LGD, but is more like a big, white rug. Vina was somewhat smaller than our hostess’s dogs, and more lovey than fierce. However, while Vina certainly does her share of barking and patrolling while she is outside, she seems most interested in protecting her humans from those dangerous leaves falling from the tall oaks, and the sketchy-looking sparrows on the deck rail. I asked the owner if she had trouble with predators at her farm; she laughed and said “not with the Pyrs around.”
The farm also had several small poultry houses with attached runs, populated by a variety of layers and five or six turkeys. When I gushed over the Lavender Orpingtons, the owner remarked that she had three Black Orpington roosters as well. “Do you want one?” she asked. “They’re going into the freezer tonight.” After a few beats of astonishment that someone I just met was offering me something we had wanted for some months, and for free, I said “Yes!” She let me into the appropriate run, and urged me to select a rooster. They were gorgeous guys, with glossy feathers and haughty struts. I picked one up. He didn’t struggle very much, so I walked around the runs with him, petting him gently. The owner returned from the alpaca barn with a fruit crate for us to contain the roo for the ride home. He didn’t love it, but he settled down in the back of my SUV.
We finished our visit, and headed home with our new, rescued family member in tow. It wasn’t the first time we had taken in a needy animal: several cats over the years, a dog, although that didn’t work out, and two of our alpacas. The nameless rooster, who looks, in my mind, rather more like a Black Copper Marans than a Black Orpington, was not well-received by the thirteen ladies who already inhabited our coop. They squawked and pecked, and didn’t share their evening scratch with him. We had to put the ladies in for the night, and set the still-unnamed rooster in the isolation pen in the coop’s entryway. Come morning, we found him alive and well, perched on the top rail of his private accommodation. We gave him his own ration of scratch before we let the ladies out to join him. While they were all sizing one another up in the morning light, Colin offered a name: Claude Girouxster. It was ridiculous, but it stuck, and was even applauded by local NHL fans.
They all free ranged for the day, and come evening, the hens had settled themselves onto their roosts for the night … and Claude was with them. We hadn’t planned to leave him with thirteen angry ladies overnight, alone, for a week or so, but it seemed like all was well. And it was. The second morning, Claude led his ladies out into the foggy dawn, and everyone shared the scratch. It’s good to have a black oil sunflower seed with a friend.
Welcome home, Claude.