Monday, June 28, 2010

Rebecca O'Sunnybrook Farm Meets the Alpaca Farm

Our teen-age friend from Englewood, Rebecca, has come to Mitzpe Ramon to work at the famous Alpaca Farm for the summer. Rebecca is not really from Sunny Brook Farm, but she is a tall, lanky, fresh-faced young woman who could well have come from Sunny Brook Farm. She loves animals, especially horses. Mitzpe Ramon, a desert far from the high mountain passes of the Andes, does indeed, unlikely as it may seem, have a large Alpaca Farm which has been here for about 25 years. In addition to alpacas they keep llamas, donkeys, horses, camels, and a large variety of dogs. The alpacas and llamas, over 400 in all, are farmed for their hair which is sheared and used like lamb's wool in making textiles. Nothing is killed, milked, or separated from its calves at the Alpaca Farm. All is peace and bucolic desert tranquility. There is also an excellent B&B on the farm for those who prefer a more rustic desert stay when in the area.

A small herd of alpacas at the Alpaca Farm in Mitzpe Ramon (click for full-size image.)

In addition to alpaca and llama husbandry, the farm entertains tourists who come to see the exotic animals and also ride the horses. The llamas are sometimes saddled up for children to ride as well. Some of the alpacas and llamas wander loose on the farm, and I remember the first time I came, seeing a pair rolling in the desert dust to clean themselves, looking large enough to be bears wrestling. Indeed, a full-grown llama can weigh up to 450 pounds.

Rebecca with a small, young, recently sheared alpaca

Rebecca with her favorite - the horses

Rebecca's main job for the summer is to help train the new herd of 16 llamas the farm acquired from Chile this spring. The young llamas have to be socialized and doing this requires catching one first (if you can, adds Rebecca), hooking a lead to its halter and then walking it around. I don't know if more is required, but I am sure I'll find out as the summer progresses.

A llama, up close and personal

A wide assortment of dogs are on hand, most lazing around in the summer sun. But when the sun sets the action begins for the big farm dogs who are tough enough to protect the animals from desert wolves and foxes (not to mention Bedouin) that prowl the farm at night. (Our cousin-in-laws cattle farm in Tekuma has had both dogs and cattle killed by Bedouin at night.)

A desert farm dog sleeps by day, dreaming of the chase by night

When it gets too hot, the dogs find a nice puddle of water and lie in it. 

A freshly sheared alpaca

An odd family resemblance between the desert camel and the high-mountain llama.

After doing llama training on her first day, Rebecca set to work cleaning the animals' sick shed on her second day. Among the residents was a one-eyed llama with maggots in its eye socket (I don't know if this is therapeutic or what!). I think this is the job they give you to find out of you really like working on a farm. The room, actually a stable for sick animals, hadn't been cleaned or organized for a long time, and in addition to organizing and cleaning all of the paraphernalia, Rebecca had to sweep out the stalls. 

In any case, after a long day at the farm one can always relax and walk along the rim of Machtesh Ramon. Needless to say, Rebecca went to sleep early tonight.

No, Mom, it's not nearly as dangerous as it looks!

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