On the Farm Tour: Avillion Farm

Avillion-Elaina.jpgElaina Kenyon began spinning wool into yarn in graduate school. She’d grown up on a dairy and meat farm, but didn’t want exactly that life for herself. But when a friend taught her how to spin, she knew she’d found her calling. As soon as she had the land and time for animals, she started raising angora rabbits, long-haired bunnies that can be shorn four times a year for their soft, warm wool. A few years later, she added angora goats, whose wool is known as mohair, and then Shetland sheep.

Avillion-peafowl.jpgIn 2008, Elaina moved her enterprise, named Avillion Farm, to the end of a quiet gravel road in rural Efland, and she’s joined the Farm Tour this year [2009] to allow visitors to come see the rabbits, goats, and sheep, along with her Great Pyrenees guard dogs, her pet American Buff geese in the pond, and a roving flock of peafowl (that is, peacocks and peahens)!

Avillion-sheep.jpgThe lady goats roam in the trees by the driveway. Several are waddling around on the day of our visit, due to have their kids any day, which means one thing on Farm Tour weekend: adorable baby goats. In a separate pen is Flash, the eight-year old male goat responsible for all the pregnancies. He watches us walk around, periodically doing some adept scratching with his foot long horns, and Elaina tells us he’d love to meet us. All the animals seem exceptionally friendly, and Elaina says even the rams and bucks are safe as long as they’re handled properly.

The Shetland rams stand watching us from another wooded pen while their Great Pyrenees guard dog, Violet, romps around like a large Muppet. Violet is from a local Pyrenees Rescue, which is where these dogs can end up when too many are bred, or when their former owners find them too big or too noisy. The rams’ coats reflect the colors I’ve seen in natural wools, from cream-colored to deep brown and “moorit” or reddish brown. One ram, Shaemus, who’s the color of coffee with lots of milk, is “rooing” or naturally shedding—only some sheep do this.

Avillion-bunny.jpgIn a shelter in the center of the farm are the rabbit hutches, filled with long-haired rabbits of every color. Their ears curl forward as if they’re on wires, and a few have nests filled with straw, wool, and snuggling baby bunnies. Underneath the hutches are bins to collect the rabbit droppings for gardeners; some of the bins have colonies of worms or native beetles aiding the composting process.

Avillion-wool.jpgThe rabbits, just like sheep and angora goats, aren’t hurt to get their wool; it’s just clipped off with scissors; some rabbits even shed naturally. Elaina can hold a shedding rabbit on her lap and spin the wool straight off him! Elaina spins some of her wool into yarn, blending the different animals’ fibers to get softer or stronger yarns. The rest of the wool goes to a small mill for spinning into yarns or rovings according to her specifications. Elaina works full time off the farm, and sells her yarns, roving and felted items at the annual Southeastern Fiber Fair near Asheville, as well as at other local fiber events.

Visit Avillion Farm this year on the Farm Tour and meet all the animals. There’ll be a yarn spinning demo and yarn for sale, as well as unspun “roving” for anyone who wants to spin their own. And visit Elaina’s website at http://www.avillionfarm.com.