Blue Moon Ranch invites the public to learn about alpacas
For the past 17 years, Linda Gardner, co-owner of the Blue Moon Alpaca Ranch, has raised alpacas. For the past 11 of those years, she and the ranch’s co-owner Ed Heintz, have welcomed the world to its fall Open Barn Days.
During these events, which will be held this Saturday and Sunday, the public can visit the ranch, meet and learn about the alpacas and purchase alpaca-related goods at the ranch’s Yaya’s Yarn Barn, including yarn, photos, hats and mittens.
"This year, there will be 65 alpacas to show," Gardner said during an interview. "We had 10 babies born this year and they are excited to make their Open Barn Day debut."
New items offered this year are ceramics, including mugs and yarn bowls.
"We just started selling the mugs," Gardner said. "I saw them at the Mirror Lake Diner and they were made by Chikamu Arts in Oakley. I thought it would be cool to offer these locally made mugs."
She contacted the company and they asked for a Blue Moon Alpaca Ranch logo.
"They sent them to a place in Michigan that made a clay stamp and can use it to stamp anything I want them to make."
The yarn bowls are convenient for knitters who do their crafts in bed or in the passenger seats of cars.
"If someone has a ball of yarn and they are knitting, sometimes the ball will roll away," Gardner said. "So, the yarn bowl holds the yarn ball in place and you can pull the string through a little slot."
Gardner is also offering hat patterns this year.
"People come to the Yarn Barn and ask what I have made from the yarn from my herd," she said. "So, I have this pattern that can allow someone to make a hat in no time. If you buy a skein of yarn, I will give you the pattern and the needles for free."
Gardner is also selling photos of her herd. The photographs are sold in barn wood frames that are also made in Oakley.
"People have asked me if I would be interested in printing photos to sell," Gardner said. "So, I bought a printer just for these photos."
Of course, the ranch owner will sell her famous homemade soaps and yarn.
"I also got a new soap mold, so the cakes are bigger," she said. "It’s easier for me to make 20 at a time instead of 14 at a time."
The yarn is unique because Gardner will label each skein with the name of the alpaca whose fleece made the yarn.
"I think that creates a connection between the farm and people who would rather not buy yarn at Walmart," she said. "People will buy yarn and come back to show me what they made."
Visitors to Open Barn Days have increased in number over the years, according to Gardner.
"It’s gotten very popular and that’s why we have been open two days in the past few years," she said. "Last year, it rained both days we opened the ranch, but we still had hundreds of people come. The year before, we counted around 800 people over two days."
Gardner’s favorite aspect of Open Barn Days is hearing the people call the alpacas by name.
"There have been people who come enough times that they know which alpaca is who," she said.
One of those alpacas, Scarlet, is very friendly. And while people aren’t allowed to go into the corral itself, they can walk alongside the fences and Scarlet usually comes up to be petted.
"She thinks she’s a puppy dog and a lot of people who have come in the past take selfies with her," Gardner said.
Open Barn Days not only gives the public a chance to experience live alpacas, the money raised through sales helps Gardner buy hay.
"This is how we pay for the food," she said. "I buy 1,000 bales a year and hay costs about $9 each.
"While I may not use all of that hay, I need to take in consideration that there may be a moldy bale or I may take in some rescue animals," Gardner said. "Also, there’s a chance that pregnant moms will get very hungry in the middle of winter."
Unfortunately, Gardner can’t keep Open Barn Days open longer than six hours at a time.
"The reasons is I still have to take care of the animals during the process," she said.
Blue Moon Alpaca Ranch, 3535 S. 1000 East, in Kamas, will host its annual Open Barn Days on Saturday, Sept. 26, and Sunday, Sept. 27, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, visit http://www.bluemoonranch.net.
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