When I first heard about National Alpaca Week, it sounded like one of those dodgy holidays like National Butterscotch Pudding Day (Man, go check out that link! There are excuses to eat just about anything!). But the Australian Alpaca Association kindly provided links to farms that hosted open days over the past week, and there was one in our area.

We drove to nearby Maple Park Farms and drove up their beautifully landscaped driveway to a designated parking area. The property looked like a hobby farm, but the grounds and buildings were immaculate. The fun started for the girls as soon as we stepped out of the car.

Maple Park Alpacas, May 2010
There was a little playground just near where we parked the car.

Our hosts, Brian and Michelle Carpenter, started keeping alpacas after first agisting them for a friend. They currently keep nineteen alpacas with the goal of producing high-quality fleece for sale. They shear the alpacas in August, and get about three kilograms of wool off each one. Prices for the alpaca fibre (I don’t think I’m supposed to call it “wool”) can reach AU$45 a kilogram.

Maple Park Alpacas, May 2010
The girls were immediately attracted by the Carpenters' household pets. They had a couple dogs and a thin, short-haired grey cat.

Maple Park Alpacas, May 2010
Brioni enjoys a kiss from a friendly dog.

Maple Park Alpacas, May 2010
Brioni, especially, enjoyed petting the dogs. (Onlookers would think that we didn't have a dog by the amount of attention she gave the Maple Park pets!)

We chatted with the owner while we waited outside the pen. Soon it was our turn to go into the small area where four friendly alpacas stood around.

Maple Park Alpacas, May 2010
Aisha was initially hesitant to touch the animals, but they were so gentle that she was soon brave enough to pet them.

Maple Park Alpacas, May 2010
Our friend Penny also took a turn with the alpacas, giving this friendly one a cuddle.

Maple Park Alpacas, May 2010
Alpacas are considered very intelligent animals, and they communicate by humming. Each alpaca lives for between 15-20 years.

After we were finished at Maple Park, we headed to a nearby public park for a play and picnic with our friends. The park contained rock waterfalls and fountains, but all the water features were turned off, so we walked around stagnant pools of water and trip-trapped over little bridges whose creeks were dry. The lack of exciting scenery was a bit disappointing (for me), but the girls didn’t seem to mind.

Penny, Shaun, David + Delaney, May 2010
This is our standard picnic set-up: food, games, music and baby — all in the shade of a tree.

Calista, 2yo, Aisha, 5yo, David, Penny, Brioni, 3yo + Shaun, May 2010
The kids loved having easy access to the playground.

Delaney, 4 months old, May 2010
Yes, we brought the baby along, and she slept peacefully (when she wasn't trying to crawl off the mat!).

Aisha, 5yo + Penny, May 2010
Penny spent a lot of time with the children on the playground, which was a nice break for me. (I think Penny enjoyed the playground as much as our kids did!)

Shaun + Lauren, May 2010
Because Penny and David kept an eye on the kids, I even managed a bit of a nap. (Look for my orange hat.)