Jill and Gordon are two of my favorite people. Although technically my mom’s friends, I think of them as my own friends as well. I used to babysit for Jill’s kids, when I was in high school and college. Gordon graduated with Dean’s older brothers, Danny and Dennis. So Jill and Gordon are about half-way in age between my mom and me.
I remember Dean and I being invited to their house for dinner once, long ago, before we’d ever entertained (formally) ourselves. I don’t recall what we ate — something grilled, I think, but I do remember Gordon pouring me a glass of wine — it was probably the first time I’d drank wine that wasn’t sweet and cheap. Knowing Gordon, it was probably pretty good wine. I remember having a grown-up conversation with them and feeling really good about it.
We see them occasionally when we visit Elgin — more often now that they raise alpacas.
Gordon is the nicest guy you’ll ever meet. When he talks to you it is as if you are the most important person in the world at that moment. He really listens. He’s also very smart and can converse on many topics and levels. Jill is a trip and a lot of fun. She always has a story to tell, and it usually involves waving hands and various decibels of voice loudness. She also always has a smile on her face. She also cares deeply about her friends and will do anything for ones in need. They compliment each other — Gordon is calm. Jill, not so much. I love these guys.
In or about 2000 they moved from California back to Plato Center, Illinois to help with Gordon’s folks. They moved into Gordon’s childhood farmhouse and soon began raising alpacas. I don’t think I knew anything about these beautiful creatures before Jill and Gordon began raising them, but when you visit Rivendell Alpacas, you can learn as much or as little as you want. Jill and Gordon love to teach people about their herd, as well as alpacas in general.
This past summer we heard that one of the alpacas living at Rivendell farm (a temporary border — not one from the regular herd) had just given birth. I’d never seen a newborn alpaca, called a cria, before so we jumped at the chance to see one.
Rivendell Farm has several pens that hold the resident alpacas. One near the house held the male alpacas and when we walked over to see the rest of the alpacas the males stood so they could get a good look at the females. I was waiting for the wolf whistles from these boys.
We saw the newborn as soon as we walked into the pen that held some of the females. The mother made small warning sounds, but didn’t get too upset when we got near her baby.
I was surprised to see the youngest alpaca walking around so confidently. I also expected it to be much smaller. I don’t remember why it had its ears wrapped in white gauze. Maybe Jill or Gordon will comment and remind me. Right behind the baby is the communal poop pile (I’m sure it has an official name).
We visited with the alpacas in this pen for a while, feeding them grain from a bucket. Some got close to us, close enough for us to bury our hand in their soft coats, but some stayed farther away. Before we moved on I caught a shot of Jill and the tiny alpaca nose-to-nose.
When we went to the next pen we were treated to two young alpacas — born earlier in the summer — who loved to pick on each other. Gordon picked up one of them and brought it to us to feel and admire soft coat. Jill and Gordan gave us a primer on the types fleece and which kinds are preferred. Some are smoother than others — some are crinkly. All, I think, are warm.
We visited with the herd for a while longer then moved on to tour the rest of the farm. We picked blackberries — which I later made into a rather tart pie, played with the kittens and checked out Jill’s latest works of wearable art.
My mom, feeling generous that day, bought all of us a souvenir from the visit. Clare chose a felted fleece hat, Dean and Andrew each chose knit hats with braids (Alpaca, but not made by Jill), Brandon picked out some wool gloves, also not made by Jill. I found beautiful a scarf. Not alpaca (bamboo!), but made by Jill.
[Note: Gordon explained the white tape on the ears of the cria on my facebook page and added a bit about the youngster:
The cria in the picture was born with his ears folded back, and the tips were turned inside-out. A week with the tape restored the ears to their “normal” shape.
This little boy belongs to our friends the Davis’s. We were alpaca-sitting for them when he was born. He’s one of the friendliest alpacas we’ve seen, as the picture demonstrates.]
More photos from the day: