It was hard to know if we were even in the right spot - there was no sign on the road marking it as an alpaca farm, and it looked like a house and barns. I wondered as we wandered up the driveway whether we were about to knock on the door of a couple of crazy people! Fortunately, the owners turned out to be lovely people - Hans and Adriana were formerly university professors in their homeland of Austria, and they moved to Canada five years ago, wanting to make a radical change in their lives. (Incidentally, I asked them why they'd picked Canada, of all countries, to move to and they said that they'd once visited Canada and had found the people to be extremely friendly - and they said that they have found this to be very true!!) They were very engaging and their German/Austrian accents were great. I couldn't help but think that, if you took them away from the farm and out of their huge work boots and hair- and wool-covered sweatshirts and jackets, they'd look perfect dressed in lederhosen and wandering the hills of The Sound of Music.
Eventually the other homeschoolers arrived and we began the tour of the farm. I feel a bit mixed about the first part of the tour - everything seemed so dirty, messy, junk-piled. Now, I'll admit right up front that I've been previously exposed to the meticulously maintained dairy farm of my sister- and brother-in-law, and I probably have higher-than-warranted standards of what a farm should look like. But it really was a bit of a disaster. In the first barn that we went into, where a gazillion pet rabbits, chickens and peacocks lived, it was odd to see a chicken laying eggs in a box that was buried underneath a pile of other empty boxes and amidst a whole lot of junk.
That being said, the animals all looked exceedingly well cared for: clean; well fed; free to wander and provided with ample shelter.
Next, we headed to the alpaca barn, which was open on two sides to allow the animal free access to the fields outside. Now, I have to say that, despite wading through all of the shit that 430 alpaca must produce on a daily basis...
...I thought that the alpaca were simply beautiful, teddy-bear-like animals!
It was quite an experience wandering through a gigantic open-air barn along with a couple hundred alpaca, a number of large lamas, about half a dozen of the largest pigs I've ever seen in my life, about a dozen newborn piglets (each already the size of a microwave oven), chickens, and barnyard cats, etc.
(Below are a couple of brown/black alpaca which had recently been shorn...I thought they looked a bit naked...and terribly cute!)
Unfortunately, Matthew was more than a little ill at ease amongst all of these huge creatures, despite their being very quiet and somewhat timid. None of my pictures of the animals are very good, primarily because I had Matthew riding on one of my hips, from which he continually slid down my slippery rain poncho and moaned in terror as he neared the ground. My arms are still shaking from fatigue as I write this post hours later, as a result of hefting him up again and again.
Most terrifying of all for Matthew, and the ultimate demise of the field trip for us, were the pigs. Worse, they were very friendly pigs, and Matthew's moans crescendoed into full-blown shrieks whenever they happened to come too near us for his comfort (a farmer he's not!). The mama pig below, while not the largest of the bunch, was the one that eventually did Matthew in with her determination to be friendly.
No matter how I tried to assure him that the animals were friendly, Matthew was not to be reassured. Eventually, we left the barn mid-tour. I'd intended for us to simply wait outside the alpaca barn until the tour moved on, but unfortunately for us, another pig was rather curious about us and followed us! Here she is moments before pursuing us, 'taking a leak' so to speak:
Because the animals are free to roam the property, this one followed us almost all of the way back to our vehicle before stopping and turning around to lumber back to the barn. By the time we got to the van, Matthew had practically shimmied his way all the way up to my shoulders, in an effort to avoid anything pig!
Thus, our field trip came to an abbreviated end. We were utterly silent for the first five minutes of our drive...and then Matthew said, "Mom, thank you for leaving early - I know you wanted to stay!"
Well, I guess it's time to go hose down our manure-soaked boots.
* Thanks for the comment, Joy! I, too, LOVED going to farms whenever I had a chance as a kid, and hope that a few years from now, Matthew can learn to love the experience. In the meantime, other than learning what the difference is between llamas and alpaca (has to do with height and ears), I can't say that we learned much on this particular field trip!!