Did I Say Cooler? I Did Say Alpacas!

Well, yesterday (Friday) was supposed to be cooler. Instead, it was the hottest day yet. 32 C. 90F. Of course I’m relying on the posted forecast here at Howe Hall.

Took my usual stroll downtown.

Down Sackville Street to the harbor. Yes, it really is that steep.
Posted the blog, then took the ferry across the harbor to Dartmouth for the view and the breeze. Dartmouth is Halifax’s working class neighbor and the hometown of Sydney Crosby. If you don’t know who that is, you’re a) not Canadian b) so not into hockey.

Whacking big ship coming into the harbor. Everyone here keeps saying that Halifax harbor is the second best / deepest harbor in the world. They don’t tell you what the first is. New York? Hong Kong? My inner geography nerd must find out.

Halifax skyline from Dartmouth.

World Peace Pavilion on the Dartmouth waterfront.

The World Peace Pavilion is closed. Insert ironic comment here.

McDonald Bridge with ferry from Dartmouth. Wouldn’t that be a cool commute — a ten minute boat ride to work?

Atlantic Seaside Farms

After going to and fro on the ferry, I got in the car for a drive out to Rose Bay, near Lunenburg. I was going to Atlantic Seaside Farms, where they raise Suri Alpacas.

The most direct route to the south shore or anywhere around the Northwest Arm from Dalhousie goes through the hateful Armdale Rotary, which is under major construction.

Oona and Christopher at the farm were extremely generous with their time and fiber. They took time out of a very busy day to show me around and explain alpacas. Although I knew I liked alpaca yarn, that was about it. Christopher gave me so much information that my head was spinning by the time I left. Therefore any mistakes here are mine. There are two kinds of alpaca: Huacaya and Suri.

The brown alpaca here is Huacaya. This is the “wooly” looking, curly-haired type of alpaca most people are used to seeing. Note: Alpacas do not produce wool. Their fiber is actually hair.

These two are Suri. Their hair falls in much straighter locks and is known for its luster. The guy in front has been sheared, but the other one still has his full coat.

Suri alpaca are relatively rare – they make up a very small percentage of the alpaca population. Oona and Christopher have up to 90 alpaca at a time, mostly Suri. They shear the animals, then process the wool at their own facility, The Rumour Mill. When I arrived they were in the process of moving the mill as the old building had too much static electricity. Christopher showed me some fiber at the old mill and explained how he blends Suri and Huacaya hair, along with other fibers. Alpaca also dyes extremely well, although the natural colors are beautiful, ranging from pure white through cream, tan, brown, to jet black. A high quality animal can have its fleece reserved for years; one of the alpaca at the farm has its fleece spoken for through the next eight shearings.

As you can imagine, with all that hair alpacas don’t do well in such extreme heat. I about had heat stroke just looking at them. Oona said they had managed to shear about half of the herd by now, but she was hosing down a group of the others to help them cool off.

It is shearing and breeding season (did I mention they were busy?). Here is a cria (baby) that was born the day before I arrived. Aaaaw. His mama was doing the keep-away-from-my-baby thing. Oona says that alpaca don’t spit as much as llamas, but I wasn’t getting any closer to check.

Christopher showed me some finished alpaca garments. There were sweaters, baby sweaters, and incredible blankets. Alpaca is warm, but it breathes more than wool. It is incredibly soft, which is one reason I want to knit with it. Christopher told me that Marrie Berkelaar at Double Whale Designs in Lunenburg weaves for them and suggested that I stop in and talk to her. So it was off to Lunenburg.

Marrie was very nice and showed me around her shop. She has two looms and she explained how they work. She also showed me her book of patterns; all the varied patterns can be done with combinations of just four harnesses on the loom (the parts that raise and lower the heddles, which hold the warp threads). Marrie has some beautiful work. Even on such a hot day I was tempted by her shawls and coats.

Lighthouse Route

Since my dorm was hot and I wasn’t in a hurry to go anywhere, I took the Lighthouse Route back to Halifax. This is a series of smaller roads that hug the coastline. I had been avoiding it because it is supposed to be packed with tourists at this time of year. I don’t know if it was the heat or what, but it was not that busy. It certainly was breathtaking. I had been avoiding the village of Peggy’s Cove as a tourist trap, but I was really hungry so I stopped there for supper. It really is beautiful, with rocky outcroppings going down to the sea, which shone in that evening light that is so hard to capture.

I ate at the Sou’Wester, which was a standard tourist restaurant, but really wasn’t that crowded. The food was so so, but the atmosphere, view, and service was great. My waiter was this guy with a surfer dude voice who I think found it amusing that I was not the usual stressed tourist family but was happy alone with my book. He said at one point “You look really relaxed!” I said “I really am!” It wasn’t busy, as I said, so he told me to stay and finish my book if I wanted, no one was going to need my table. That guy knows how to get a big tip.

Must spin and head out for the day.



Filed under Travel

4 responses to “Did I Say Cooler? I Did Say Alpacas!

  1. Anonymous

    Alpacas look so pleasant and sweet! Can you bring one back home for me? Thanks already–I know you’ll do your best.

    Love, Anita

  2. Anonymous

    Maybe I could trade in my red plastic lobster for an alpaca?

  3. Anonymous

    You will have to see my loom when you get back. It is a four-harness floor loom and is a lot of fun to use. I also have a table loom with six harnesses which is a bit more difficult to use. We (Mom & I) use them to make rag rugs.

    –Sarah the Second

  4. Liane

    Hi…I’m Paula’s SIL and her blog linked to yours. I have an inner geography nerd as well…try checking out the port specs on San Fransico. I was recently watching a show on the Discovery channel where they mentioned it was the world’s busiest port and I know it’s rather deep so maybe…let us know what you unearth.
    I’ll let you know if I learn otherwise.

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