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Adopt an alpaca

Linda Gardner, owner of the Blue Moon Ranch, wants to share her love for the alpaca. Gardner, who has raised these gentle and smaller cousins of the llama, is opening her Woodland ranch for a girls summer camp that will run July 10 through 15.

The girls will learn how to care for alpacas and will have the opportunity to develop a one-on-one relationship with one of the animals, Gardner said.

"In turn, the alpaca will learn to trust the girl it will work with," she explained. "Alpacas are prey animals and humans are predators. For example, if you suddenly touch an alpaca on its side, it frightens them because that’s where a dog will bite them. Also, if you just go and grab their feet, it terrifies them, but if you touch the animal gently and move your hand slowly down the leg, it will learn to trust you. Subtle things like that will teach the girls empathy and understanding and both the girl and the animal will learn how to develop trust in each other."

Alpaca care isn’t the only thing the girls will learn during the camp, Gardner said.

"They will also learn how to make items out of the alpaca fleece or fiber that comes off the animal," she said. "They will learn how to wash, card and spin the fleece. We’ll dye with Kool-Aid because it’s nontoxic, and they will learn to make things like hats or scarves, without having to leave the ranch. I want to make the camp safe and interesting for the girls and hopefully inspire future alpaca owners."

The Blue Moon Ranch sits on seven acres and houses more than 70 alpacas.

Gardner and her husband Ed Heintz started boarding alpacas in Sandy in 1998 and moved to Herriman a year later. They moved to the Woodland Ranch in 2003.

Throughout the years, Gardner has conducted workshops and taught alpaca-care and yarn-spinning classes to adults.

"At our open house last year, a mother suggested that I should do a summer camp, because she said her daughter would love it," Gardner said. "After thinking about it I decided to do it.

"I used to teach school and I’ve raised three kids of my own, who, I think, turned out OK, so I’m comfortable teaching kids," she said.

Gardner wanted to offer the camp to girls ages 10 to 14 for personal reasons.

"First off, I’m a girl, too," she said. "What I would have given when I was that age to have the opportunity to go to camp to learn about these wonderful animals. However, if there is a mature 9-year-old who wants to attend, the parents should talk to me and if there is a 15 year old who thinks this will be perfect for them, the parents should talk to me, because I can be flexible."

Another reason was to avoid the co-ed sleepovers.

"I also didn’t want to have boys and girls staying at the ranch overnight together," she said. "Maybe next year, I’ll do one for boys."

Gardner offered a total of six slots for the camp and now has five left.

"I want to make sure every girl gets my full attention," she said. "I have six one-year-old female alpacas that each girl will adopt and learn to halter-train and groom."

Cost is $995 and includes room and board, meals and materials.

"For safety reasons we will not leave the ranch," Gardner said. "I have people in the fiber industry who will come teach the classes every day, and when there’s a lull, the girls can work on their hats or scarves, or go out and practice walking and grooming their alpaca.

"There’s also poop to scoop," she said. "Alpacas provide wonderful fertilizer that needs to be moved from the pasture to the piles."

Gardner has always loved the alpaca.

"I looked at those beautiful faces and thought if I can spend the rest of my life making a living and looking at faces like that all day, I would be the happiest person in the world," she said. "I don’t want to sound sexist, but unlike other livestock businesses, a woman can take care of an alpaca business on their own because the animals are so gentle. I can handle even the biggest males, without worrying about my safety."

The Blue Moon Ranch Alpaca Summer Camp will be held July 10 through 15 for girls ages 10 to 14. Cost is $995, and a $50 deposit will reserve a slot. Reservations are due by May 30. Email Linda Gardner at Linda@bluemoonranch.net or call (435) 783-4428 to make a reservation. Visit http://www.bluemoonranch.net/girlscamp.htm for more information.


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