JACKSON COUNTY, In. (WHAS 11) - If you take a morning trip to Ed and Juvonda Jones' alpaca farm like I did, you'll find it quiet and peaceful, until the sounds of work start to cut through the sounds of chirping birds.
“If I’m not here, I’m not working. I’m not working to make any money, so I don’t go anywhere during the week," said Juvonda. She and her husband have been alpaca farmers for 8 years and are the owners of Hoosier Heartland Alpacas.
“I’m out here in the morning for probably an hour and another hour in the evening. Just doing maintenance, cleaning up, feeding, ah, making sure they have plenty of fresh water. We just try to keep it clean so that they stay healthy," said Juvonda.
But the work doesn't end there.
“I process everything from sheering to the finished product. It’s cheaper for me. It is my job. I have to do this.”
That means taking the raw, dirty fleece, washing it several times, letting it dry, and running it through a drum carder. It's a machine that breaks up the fibers and gets them ready for the next step.
“When I press the treadle, it turns the wheel which turns the bobbin, and that’s twisting it into yarn," explained Juvonda as she sat working a spinning wheel. It's a slow, yet rewarding job.
“It’s relaxing. We call it slow cloth, because it is slow. It takes a long time to create something. It may take me four hours to spin only four ounces of yarn, and that’s enough to make a hat or a scarf."
From alpaca to product – Juvonda does it all. If you visit the farm you get to follow the entire process.
“I do follow those animals from beginning to end. When we shear them, I have a tag in there that says what their name is and then all through the process. When I finish it, if I haven’t forgotten, I try to put their names on the labels of the items I’ve made, so I can follow that all the way through," said Juvonda.
Beautiful products from a timeless, functional art form.
"I tell people that it’s one thing I can do when the power goes out, I don’t have to have electric to do it. So I can still make something," said Juvonda.
One reason alpaca fleece is desirable is because it doesn't contain lanolin. Lanolin is something many of us know as a moisturizer comes from sheep, but someone people are allergic to it, and so they’re allergic to sheep wool.
If you'd like to take a tour of Hoosier Heartland Alpacas, you can call to set one up. You do need to have a group of people, or you can visit one of their two open houses a year. During Christmas time they have an especially fun open house where children are greeted by Santa. For more information just visit hoosierheartlandalpacas.com.