Two Saturdays ago we went up for a visit at Sweet Water Alpaca Ranch in Agua Dulce. Though the country roads became a bit hard to navigate at times, we eventually wound our way there and arrived to a beautiful view and Cecilia waiting outside with her two very large dogs. Cecilia, the sole rancher at Sweet Water, very graciously welcomed us in and gave us a tour of her ranch.
She currently has about 30 alpacas, some of them are hers, some of them board on the ranch. She chooses to keep the Huacaya breed of alpaca as she thinks the fleece is superior to the fleece Suri alpacas, but she told us a Suri rancher will tell you the exact opposite. Cecilia has been alpaca ranching for a little over 10 years. She and her husband originally started out with horses (she still has 3 beautiful Arabians), and she used to do endurance riding.
Before our arrival, Cecilia looked outside and saw a new set of ears in the cria (baby) pen. A brand new alpaca had been born just that morning! She showed us over to the pen she keeps the cria and their mothers in and we got to see the baby alpaca that was only a few hours old. She also had two other cria born about a week before. She breeds her alpacas so that the cria will all be born right around the same time. The morning was very overcast and a bit chilly, so she had put the new cria in a vest to keep it warm. Cecilia was happy to have a respite from the hot weather because the alpacas haven't been sheared yet. She usually has them sheared at the beginning of May but this year shearing is scheduled for May 25th.
After shearing day, she sells the fleece raw and also has it processed into yarn at a mill in San Diego. The fleece from the body of her alpacas, called the blanket, is very fine with a great crimp and can be used for knitting and/or crocheting clothing. The fleece from the legs and necks, though still beautiful, is not quite as fine and is best for things like socks and rugs.
We are very grateful for Cecilia opening up her ranch for our fibershed visit! We're looking forward to coming back for Shearing Day next weekend.
You can check out Cecilia's ranch online at http://www.sweetwateralpacas.com.
- Nina K