Business

In Harmony with lands, llamas

Mary Harmon gets a warm and fuzzy hello from Zorro, one of the farm’s five llamas. Harmon’s farm, Harmony Acres, debuts its new line of handspun yarns and knitted items at a fiber show this weekend. - ROGERICK ANAS/Staff Photo
Mary Harmon gets a warm and fuzzy hello from Zorro, one of the farm’s five llamas. Harmon’s farm, Harmony Acres, debuts its new line of handspun yarns and knitted items at a fiber show this weekend.
— image credit: ROGERICK ANAS/Staff Photo

Mary Harmon’s work takes a soft touch.

Sitting at her spindle, the creator of Harmony Yarns hefts a handful of the delicate and feather-light llama wool she’ll use in a new line of handspun items that debuts this weekend.

“Llama wool doesn’t have lanolins like other wools, so it isn’t sticky. It’s closer to human hair,” Harmon said, deftly drafting the fine strands of fleece into a tight coil.

Spinning has long been a passion for Harmon, a self-described “fiberholic.” But until recently it didn’t play a significant role in her main business: growing salad greens and other fresh produce for the family’s Community Supported Agriculture farm, Harmony Acres.

Although Harmon and her husband Jim – both from farming and ranching families – bought their five-acre farm with an eye toward crops, the CSA began as something of an accident, says Harmon.

“I just planted way too much for us to eat ourselves,” she said.

Five years and some two dozen CSA subscribers later, the mother of three is expanding into fiber in anticipation of the physical toll that gardening might eventually take.

“It made sense to take the business in the direction it was going to have to head anyway,” she said.

The result is a new line of warm and water-resistant llama yarns in a range of blacks, browns and whites. In addition to an array of wearables knitted from llama, sheep, and alpaca wools, Harmon’s collection includes her first cooperative product – “Baa...th Scrubs,” a felted wool wrap encasing handmade soap from Eagledale’s Ocean Sky Farm.

‘Big cats’

Outside, in a paddock overlooking New Brooklyn Road, the wool’s former owners crowd the fence as Harmon approaches.

“Llamas are wonderful. They’re like big cats,” she says, stroking a head – Zorro’s – that leans eagerly forward.

“They spit at each other, but not at people,” she said, “They’re very gentle.”

Harmon began raising llamas after looking for an organic, weed-free fertilizer for the CSA.

“We considered sheep, but a former cattle rancher won’t go for sheep,” she joked.

For Harmon, who grew up on 20 acres in south Texas, living lightly on the land and using renewable resources, comes naturally.

“Being organic – you don’t even think about it,” she said. “I just try to keep that cycle of using the whole farm.

“And my kids really understand where their food comes from, and how much work it is to grow it.”

* * * * *

Harmony Yarns displays hats, scarves, socks, vests and other items knitted from handspun llama and sheep’s wool yarns, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 19 at Harmony Acres Farm, 6852 New Brooklyn Road. The farm is also taking reservations for organic salad greens. Information: 842-9672.

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