GROTON -- It was 95 degrees and even the birds hid from the sun in their leaf-shaded nests.
All I can do is feel sorry for the heavy coats the gentle alpacas are wearing. They didn't seem to mind, though. As soon as owner Shelly Sullivan and her children, Caroline and Patrick, entered the alpacas' fenced yard, these gentle, curious, big-eyed animals sauntered over, while the donkeys followed in our footsteps.
Luina Greine, owned by Shelly and John Sullivan, is named for the beautiful sunsets here. The name is Irish Gaelic, spelled Lui Na. With the rows of old graceful apple trees, rolling landscape, distant mountain views, welcoming main house and restored 19th century barn, this expanse feels like a scene from "How Green Was My Valley.
This farm and the cute cottage that houses the clothing made from these alpacas, opens this year Sept. 12 and 13, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and is opened only weekends thereafter. Weather depending, they remain open till Valentine's Day.
"We lived in Harvard for 10 years and moved to Groton five years ago," said Shelly. "We purchased the farm in the summer of 2011, purchased our first six alpacas in the spring of 2012 and opened the farm to visitors for the first time in the fall of 2012.
"When we lived in Harvard," she said, "we went to Harvard's annual fall harvest festival and every year there was a farm there that brought alpacas. We were hooked as soon as we saw them and began our search for a farm."
She said, "We now have 12 alpacas and three have been born at the farm. Each alpaca has its own name and personality. Our newest addition is Murphy who was born at the end of June. He has a lot of energy and loves people!
"With Grotonfest about a month away," said Shelly, "you will see us out walking two or three alpacas between our farm and the Legionnaire's green where Grotonfest is held, practicing the walk and getting animals used to the cars. We definitely stop traffic and people stop to take a picture."
"Our two miniature dwarf goats (Fiona and Seamus) will also make an appearance at Grotonfest," John said. "They are full of energy and love children. It is a funny sight to see them following my wife, Shelly, and our kids around the farm as they do chores outside. They stay close by her just like a dog might and are very curious to be in the middle of whatever chore she is doing."
"Alpacas are very easy to take care of," said John. "Two cups of grain and hay or grass. They enjoy the winter and do not like the summer heat. Their shelters outside have fans and they all love to get sprayed by the hose!
"Alpacas get sheared once per year in the spring," he said. "We send their fur (it's called fiber) to the New England alpaca fiber pool in Fall River (Neafp.com). They convert the fiber into finished goods. We get a credit toward the finished goods based on the quantity (this year it was more than 50 pounds) and the quality of the fiber. We sell the finished goods in our shop and in our on-line store. We only have two suppliers of finished goods (NEAFP and Peruvian Link). A description of each vendor can be found in the on-line store. We are always amazed by how many people stop by during the season. We also encourage school groups to arrange for a visit"
"With our beautiful apple orchard out back, we have cut a trail so that folks have a nice walking tour of the orchard and the property," he said. "We don't harvest the apples commercially, but apple sauce and apple pies are commonplace in our house in the fall. We have learned that it is plenty of work running a farm. We and our children do all the work ourselves and there is always a project to do."
Visit www.luinagreine.com for photos of the farm and its winter-weather clothing, mittens, alpaca driving gloves, shawls and survival socks.
Luina Greine Farm is at 65 Common St., Groton. For information, call 978-790-5286 or go to firstname.lastname@example.org.