Ever met a mom of 81 cute kids? A lady full-of-energy, who knows each of her kids by name and can distinguish between each of them, even though they are a herd of alpacas?
Meet Amy Kung-Oliver, an amazing lady I had the good fortune to meet in Colborne.
My friends and I decided to drive east of Toronto one weekend to enjoy the pleasant weather as summer turns to fall. Some time after we had driven into the rolling hills of Northumberland County, we came to a stop at the Big Apple farm at Colborne to enjoy its picturesque views, delicious treats and lovely ambience.
While seeking something more to do in the small town of Colborne that had little else, we read about Old Mill Alpacas on Google and decided to drop in. And that is how we ran into Amy, the owner of the farm, a self declared ‘fibre fanatic’ and mommy to a huge herd of animals which are native to South America. Very similar to llamas, the alpacas are bred to use their ultra-warm fleece to make sweaters, socks, caps and mufflers, to name just a few things.
While the lanky creatures were fascinating in themselves, far more fascinating was Amy’s narrative. It was a pleasure listening to her speak about her ‘boys’ and ‘girls’, as she calls them. Her anecdotes about Lash, Thunder, Bruce and Scooty (yes, she knows each one of them by name!) brought them alive to us. We laughed when she told us how they would know that a female alpaca was pregnant because she would spit (a green, grassy mix) upon a persistent male trying to lavish her with its unwanted attentions! Seeing me with my three year old, she also gave me some interesting facts about mommy alpacas.
Even as we chatted about the alpacas, two gigantic dogs weaved themselves between our legs, seeking to be loved and petted. Genie and Poppy, Mountain Pyrenees dogs, are the appointed guards of the alpacas. As adorable , cute and friendly they seemed, Amy assured us that if a coyote were even to come in the vicinity of the farm, the two devoted dogs would raise an uproar.
When I asked Amy about herself, I was amazed to know that she had once led a busy life in the graphics and advertising world of Downtown Toronto. She had originally aspired to be a veterinarian, she said, but her father, a doctor, had wanted her to treat humans instead of animals. They never saw eye-to-eye on that subject, but years later, Amy did find her calling when she was chatting with a friend and they decided to buy a pair of alpacas. How two turned into eighty-one and a condo was given up for an expansive farm, must be a story worth listening to and if ever Amy spares the time, I would love to go back and hear the rest of that tale.
But there she was, as far away from Toronto as one can imagine, surrounded by her family of alpacas, two colossal dogs, two tiny cats and her staff. After answering our numerous questions, Amy took us to meet the baby alpaca of the farm. Bruce, she told us, had just turned one and we were looking forward to holding a little baby in our arms. Until we walked into an enclosure to find an alpaca the size of a big goat! They were born the size of most grown up dogs, we learnt.
Amy made sure my son got some really good pictures with Bruce and encouraged him to come near and touch the soft fur that was so coveted. While she must be having a million things to do at any point of time, I admire how Amy takes the time to share her passion for the camelids with all visitors. One could see that she was not just running a farm, but that she deeply cared for each of its inmates.
In all these years of travelling across Asia, Europe, Africa and now North America, I have come across women who have truly inspired me and moved me only a handful of times. Amy is one such lady and I look forward to meeting her and her eighty-one little ones soon again!
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Piyushi Dhir is the author of 'In Search of Love', 'I'm Yours, The Next Time', 'Silent Promises' and 'Enmeshed Evermore'. She is a contributor in 'Nineteen Tales of COVID-19', a collection of short stories. A voracious reader, a keen traveler, a businesswoman and a mom, Piyushi currently resides in Canada. A nomad at heart, she loves to discover new places and capture the hues of life with her pen.