When I watch the morning news I can’t help but think we need more kindness in this world. Random acts of kindness. Deliberate acts of kindness. More kindness all around. People helping people. People helping animals. Animals helping people. The furry friends at Silkie’s Alpaca Farm in Chester Springs, PA are doing just that — helping others, especially the plants and birds in my garden. While the alpacas aren’t aware of the contribution they are making, their owners are, and that’s part of the fun of owning an alpaca farm for Marcia and Al Silkroski.
Some of the adorable alpacas at Silkie’s Farm
When I arrived at Silkie’s Farm, the first thing Marcia did was to give me some shit — really she did. Alpaca shit that is. And it was a gesture of kindness. In her quest to use everything the animals produce, she sun dries and packages their poop into fertilizer. I am now the proud owner of some ‘Frijoles’ (dried alpaca beans) and can’t wait to see how my plants respond.
My new alpaca fertilizer!
During my visit Marcia explained that she and her husband started their sustainable alpaca farm in 2011 when she ended a successful career as a dietitian. Marcia and Al have always been entrepreneurs so starting a business wasn’t intimidating to them. They knew they wanted to raise livestock, but they didn’t want to raise anything they had to kill. Three alpacas and one llama were the first animals on the farm, which is now home to twelve animals. The llama serves as the protector of the herd, chasing predators away – that’s kind too isn’t it?
The llama protects the herd.
I paid a visit to the farm to have my nesting ball filled with alpaca fleece (Marcia provides free refills) but ended up purchasing many other things including shoe liners, mittens, and even balls of alpaca fur to put in the dryer to replace dryer sheets. I had no idea how many things could be made of alpaca fleece. With the annual shearing of the animals, Marcia is able to make yarn and roving for knitters and weavers, fleece-covered exfoliating soaps, jewelry, and more. She also sells alpaca products made by others like socks, mittens, clothing and stuffed animals. Apparently, alpacas are all the rage for weddings too – who knew?
Some nesting balls for the birds
Roving and yarn are sought after by weavers and knitters.
Goat soap covered with alpaca fleece for natural exfoliation.
Bride and groom alpacas anyone?
Marcia with one of the adorable stuffed animals she sells.
I had always heard that alpacas and llamas spit. When I asked Marcia about it, she explained that spitting is typically motivated by fear or a demonstration of who is boss. Apparently if the animals have been spitting at one another, they have to air out their mouths, which gives them an interesting look. Marcia said spitting is also a good test of pregnancy since the females will spit at the males if they don’t want to be bred because they are already pregnant. A lot less expensive than an ultrasound for sure!
Airing out after spitting is not a good look! Don’t spit.
The gestation period for an alpaca is eleven and a half months. Babies weigh between fifteen and twenty pounds when born and about eighty pounds after a year. A full grown alpaca weighs 140 – 170 pounds. Marcia said their personalities are similar to cats – they have an ‘I don’t need you’ kind of attitude. Unless you have a bag of carrots that is. Carrots change everything.
A little carrot kissing with one of Marcia’s boys.
My bag of alpaca goods. A wonderful reward for a great visit.
I am so glad I paid a visit to Silkie’s farm and learned so much about these adorable animals. I love all my purchases and appreciate knowing that my garden’s birds and plants will benefit too. I encourage you to reach out to Marcia to make an appointment to visit the farm (mailto:email@example.com). You won’t be disappointed. And when you go, just remember to be kind. No spitting.
Thanks for all the info on alpacas! I didn’t realize so many products could be produced from this animals sans killing them. Pretty amazing. Please keep us posted on how the plants do with the “beans”. Curious to see. Will you do flowers only or also use some with vegetables? Thanks!!
Jeanette, next time you are in Philly we’ll take a trip to the alpaca farm. I’m only trying the fertilizer on house plants at the moment – we’ll let you know how it goes!