Serenity at Chinquapin Ridge Farm
It has been suggested that I kiss a llama.
Personally, I’m game for it. I’m just not sure if the llama is.
In fact, my newly developed llama sense — acquired sometime in the past 45 minutes after arriving at Kim and Lynette Melton’s llama and alpaca rescue farm in Union Mills — is picking up some distinctly reluctant vibes from the tall creature in front of me.
Well, they need to learn, Lynette says.
I wonder to myself why. Most of the llamas and alpacas on Chinquapin Ridge Farm are permanent residents, so it’s not as if they need to learn to like anyone else besides their two very likable caretakers ... do they?
We move on to the next stall, where a gal named Whisper immediately puts out her softly inquisitive face for a kiss. This feels about what you’d expect a kiss from a llama named Whisper to feel like. Gentle. Breathy. Like a warm feather brushing across my cheek.
I turn my face to get a second dose of this pleasant sensation. I bet it was really me who Lynette wanted to learn something.
The herd docilely returns to the meadow and, one by one, each member finds a place on the ground to settle and watch their beloved caretakers as we tour the farm.
Chinquapin Ridge farm is one of multiple foster homes for the Southeast Llama Rescue organization, which Lynette and Kim co-founded some years back. Kim designed and built all of the outbuildings on the farm himself, which give the herd of 27 llamas and alpacas comfortable indoor shelter whenever they want it. Most of the time, though, the herd prefers to graze in the meadows, or in a wooded area that Lynette refers to as a park.
I’m actually reminded of the movie “Jurassic Park” when I spot the llamas moving slowly through the trees. They look almost prehistoric.
It is also impossible for me to look around this place and not be reminded that most farm animals live under very different conditions. That generally speaking, society gives such animals nothing in return — except for a miserable existence on a factory farm — for all we take from them.
Chinquapin Ridge Farm, on the other hand, is a 12-acre world profoundly humane in its treatment of animals. Even the chickens here have sinecure for life, with no danger of slaughter when the day comes they are unable to lay more eggs for Kim and Lynette.
There’s also a nicely quid pro quo arrangement between the Meltons and their farm animals that we should take a page from.
In exchange for a comfortable barn to bed down in, spacious fields and woods to roam, and regular veterinary care, Kim and Lynette’s llama and alpaca herd provide the priceless value of companionship, plus sturdy fibers that Lynette spins into beautiful yarn and Kim uses to create folk art “needle felting” figures.
Oh, and lots and lots of llama beans — which are exactly what you think they are. They make for rich, organic fertilizer for the farm’s vegetable and herb garden.
As I watch Lynette spin a length of yarn — a beautiful blend of naturally colored llama fiber and dyed sheep wool that she gets from a woman who keeps sheep on a nearby farm — I inquire about the economics of her yarn-making. There’s such an increased interest these days in buying local; couldn’t one make a living at selling locally produced, woven, and dyed yarn?
Lynette tells me the economies of scale would make it difficult for one person to pull off, but a co-op of artisans could do it. In fact, she’s heard there are some people who will soon be producing locally-made cotton fabrics.
I’m definitely curious about that, as I’ve long felt we’ve lost so much by outsourcing most of what we use and eat thousands of miles away. I just wonder if we have enough hardy people left to contribute to a more local system of commerce. It seems to me both Kim and Lynette must come from special stock.
For example, although Lynnette’s father Hugh Nanney is now in his eighties, he still grows enough vegetables every summer to feed an entire community.
And toward the end of my visit, Kim casually relays to me he once got so irritated with an unhelpful code inspector who couldn’t answer Kim’s questions about the wiring for a house he was building, he and Lynette proceeded to forgo electricity for five years – just to prove it could be done.
Or, as Kim puts it, “the Melton in me came out.”
To learn more about life on a llama and alpaca farm, look for Chinquapin Farm on Facebook, and for information about llama rescue in North Carolina and surrounding states, visit www.southeasternllamarescue.org. You can also purchase Kim’s needle felt art and Lynette’s homespun yarn at the Visual Arts Guild in downtown Rutherfordton.
Stephanie Janard is a mother and full-time copywriter. She lives in Spindale. To reach Stephanie, email email@example.com