We had a warm welcome at Ranch of the Oaks on Saturday. Arriving just in time for a delicious potluck lunch, we were then introduced by Cecilia, SoCalpaca Board Member and owner of Sweet Water Alpaca Ranch, to the group to present the Fibershed Project. We met our neighbors from the Gold Coast Fibershed, proud alpaca owners and members of SoCalpaca.
After lunch Julia, representing the SoCalpaca Education Committee, introduced Mette, our host and co-owner (with husband Tom) of Ranch of the Oaks. Mette showed us creative ways to use fiber not used for finer yarns- from rug yarn to dryer balls, and needle felting.
Next we split up into groups for the mill tour. Those of us waiting had a skirting demo- how to pick out all the junk from a raw fleece, the first step of processing fiber.
Ranch of the Oaks mill is run by Tom and Mette, a hardworking husband and wife team. The care they take in their work is complimented by their creativity and problem solving skills, qualities mandatory for cottage mill proprietors to survive.
If someone is interested in yarn for knitting Mette will spin it: as as knitter she is inclined to spin a looser, knit yarn, whereas Tom, a weaver, has a tendency to spin a tighter yarn. The two learn from each other and share tasks, working full days seven days a week to make sure their client gets the most consistent product they can process.
Tom gave us a tour of the ranch where we met the boys, the girls, the babies, the studs, the guardians, and the alarms- alpaca, llama, burro, and guinea fowl, respectively. Nuances of certain alpaca behavior was explained, and the nitty gritty of what it takes to sustain an alpaca farm.
As the sun made our shadows longer, and our skin shiver under the shade of the oaks we finally, regretfully bade adieu. We would have been happy to sleep under the Lompoc stars with the dogs and the guinea fowl. Positively overwhelmed with all of the information from the day, we were motivated to zoom home and plan our next farm visit.
Thank you Mette and Tom, Cecilia, and the members of SoCalpaca for an unforgettable day!
We will be visiting Will, Emily, and Nancy at Water Bear Ranch and Shiloh Springs next...check back soon. In the meantime, find out more about Tom and Mette's work at www.ranchoftheoaks.com.