As a kid, I used to enjoy "playing house" — going to the store on my tricycle, cooking Tinkertoys for dinner, bathing the teddy bears and putting them to bed. So once when Mike came to find me puttering about in the barn, he innocently asked, "Whatcha doin' ?"
I paused for a moment, then replied with a smile, "Playing barn."
It seems such an apt term for the hum of delight that I feel at being able to work in this structure that is 108 years old (give or take a few), setting up my supplies, arranging the halters on a wrack that I built, watching the alpacas watch me as I move about their quarters. Like a giant jigsaw puzzle, every part of what I do is somehow connected to another part: raking poop, fluffing hay, weighing crias, halter-training, spit-testing. And on I hum...
Whenever our granddaughters visit, they join right in the circle. The girls quickly learned 'gate ettiquette,' moving aside so the animals will proceed through without feeling threatened; and always closing a gate behind you. We haltered the yearlings and took them for a walk to a different pasture. And fed the big boys carrot treats. Alpacas and children seem to have a natural affinity. Perhaps its the playfulness and curiosity of both that makes them easy companions.
During their week here, Gwen was often out with the dams, just watching them, talking to the crias, or filling a water bucket. She went to horse camp this summer, and taught me a new knot. Sheba is on a 30-day penicillin regimen, and now I use the daisy knot when tying her to a fence post each morning for her shot.
Annika discovered that if she gets down close to the ground, a curious cria will come near to check her out.
We also went to the Creswell Farmer's Market where our friend Elissa was spinning and selling some of her sheeps' fleece. For dinner that night we feasted on dusky brown 'Black Prince' heritage tomatoes and herbed goat cheese, and lots of crookneck squash with onions.
During these Indian summer days, I've been revisiting my garden plot, adding more lasagna layers to it so the decomposition will make it ready for planting next spring. Even throw-away fleece (too short/ dirty/ coarse) becomes a layer in the garden. The rest of the fleece has been sorted into projects: some destined for yarn from the mini-mill, some for felting into pet beds, some for the Alpaca Blanket Project with Pendleton, and some for my own hand-crafting and spinning. So many ideas, so little time!
Other family hand-crafting includes homebrewing beer. In April, Matt and Mike brewed an India pale ale and a Scotch red ale. This trip, Gwen assisted in the counter-top labeling process. (typing paper labels floated on a saucer of milk and placed on the bottle, excess blotted off)