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  • Writer's pictureInger and Jeff Latreille

What is a Falcor?

~Saturday, September 5, 2020~

Day 83

Up and at ‘em around 8:00 for our 9:00 tour at the alpaca farm. Not an easy feat when I got 5 hours of sleep (stayed up working on website). To get to the tour, we walked down a long, gravel pathway surrounded with paddocks of alpacas, who were certainly very curious about us. Nate’s son, a senior in high school, and one of their tag-a-long herding dogs gave us a private tour. They currently have about 350 heads of alpaca right now on their 59 acre property. The family originally started the business in Washington state, but then moved it to Montana about 10 years ago, where Anne’s parents and children assist with the business in one way or another. Her husband Nate, previously a Boeing engineer, handles most of the traveling that’s required in hauling alpaca all across the country, taking up a greater part of a year.

He started off the tour by telling us how Falcor

did not do his job very well last night as the coyotes got too close to the alpacas. If coyotes or wolves pose a threat, Falcor lets out a howling deep bark to scare them off. But last night the family was forced to grab the shotgun to scare off a few. No treats for you Falcor! Anyway, we were given some kibble looking food that had them all coming. One in particular thought he’d try and hog it all, as this is the only time they get this type of food.

The rest of the time is spent just grazing on their arable land. I always thought these animals only liked green, moist grass. But they seemed to love it. He basically told us all things alpaca while we stood in the paddock surrounded by 4 or 5 different breeds, ranging in color from white to black, with a few dark brown and light brown ones mixed in. In the pen where we were, there were a lot of babies called cria, weighing about 30 lbs. with some nursing. A full grown male can weigh up to 190 lbs. and females weighing around 110. One of the most fascinating things we learned on the tour is their shearing process. The alpacas in fact, were just recently sheared, as Alpacas pack most of their fleece on right before temperatures start dropping. The fleece or wool that is sheared has 4 different classifications of fineness and is also separated by color. Each location on the alpaca offers different grades of fleece or wool. Grade No. 1 is ultra fine used in much of their sweaters and blankets. No. 2 is super-fine used for hats and scarves, and No. 3 is used for socks and coats. And what would a tour be without stopping off at the general store on their property to buy a few alpaca products. I didn’t feel obligated to buy anything, but thought buying something special from this ranch would be a wonderful reminder of our trip experience. So I purchased a wool beanie and the softest, warm, cardigan sweater, both handmade in Peru (where they send all of their wool for production). I will always think of our time at their ranch when I wear it. Jeff tried on a few coats, but felt they were too heavy since he’s a “layer” kind of guy.

When we were done with the tour, as we were heading back to the trailer, we noticed most of the alpacas suddenly looked up, facing one direction as if on alert. I later found out that they likely saw a coyote. Those sneaky devils, and even in daylight. Where is Falcor when you need him? Made a nice big breakfast as Jeff’s appetite has returned. We also needed to know if we were able to stay an extra night, with checkout time only minutes away. So I walked back over to the paddocks to see if I could find Anne. The timing was perfect as she and 2 of her kids were trying to wrangle up the alpaca group that had been grazing close to where our trailer was. We got a “yes”, thank goodness as we didn’t have anything else booked for the night.

We spent the afternoon at the trailer, with an occasional greeting by a few alpaca groups that had wandered over to our site. Sadie thought this just wasn’t right, as this was “her area”. Jeff was making some adjustments to the trailer, when Anne’s dad came over by our trailer to work on his pet project….a solar powered watering trough. Also an engineer with Boeing for many years, he loves tinkering with these kind of projects and it keeps him out of trouble, as he says. The solar power design helps keep the water for the alpacas from freezing in the winter. Anne’s dad and Jeff had a great time talking about engineering stuff, building stuff, while I was putting final touches on our website as now it looks like the launch date is Monday. I ran into a few glitches that couldn’t be resolved until Monday. We also got some more trip plans/stays figured out for the remainder of September, so now it’s just a matter of making the phone calls to make sure we’re in. Some will be first come first serve, which is always a little nerve racking. We’re banking on things getting a little easier, now that summer is behind us. The wind really picked up this afternoon (the worse we’ve seen on the trip so far) with a lot of smoke from the large fires burning in eastern Montana. Wind and fire...not a good mix.

Took a nice long walk on the property and then onto the main road where we came upon a herd of grazing cattle that Sadie found very interesting. Does she think they are just extra large dogs?

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