At last I have discovered the best get rich quick plan, not that sheep wool hasn’t been – ah, never mind, since moving to Vermont and with just a little bit of manual labor, I’ll be raking in the moola. Last Sunday Todd and I went out to lunch over in Quechee at the new Public House diner which is part of a strip of shops near the Quechee gorge. Most are targeting the tourists including one at the end called The Alpaca Shop with a big sign saying they have live alpaca. As we left the diner I told Todd I wanted to check out the shop.
Indeed there were four Dr. Seuss like creatures fenced in just next to the Alpaca Shop. When we first started our adventure, lots of folks asked why we weren’t raising alpaca. What an annoying question. “Because I like sheep!” Besides, at the beginning I figured if I really screwed up I’d be doing in a $250 animal and not a $2,500 one. In any case, we entered the shop and did a quick swing through the displays of all things Alpaca – jackets, scarves, slippers, dolls that looked like alpacas, mittens, and a small display of lovely soft 100% alpaca yarn. The owner was behind the counter, peeling and sticking bright yellow labels on shiny silver square envelopes.
As Todd approached the counter, the proprietor asked him, “Do you have a gahden, sir?”. Todd – “I’m sorry?” Proprietor – “A gahden!” Todd – “Come again?” Proprietor – “In your yahd, a gahden.” Todd finally realized he was talking to a Massachusetts native, and said, “Yes, I have a garden.” Next to him was a display of those envelopes. Each was filled with two ounces of freeze dried alpaca poop. His product is called Alpaca Grow and he is selling those two precious ounces for $19.95. Ten dollars an ounce for ground up alpaca dung!
We struck up a conversation and right off the bat we learned that he and his wife had met in elementary school, gone their separate ways and four years ago each had divorced their spouses, and then rediscovered one another on Facebook. They quit their day jobs, married, and moved to northern Vermont to start a farm they call, “Living The Dream Farm.” I don’t recall how he discovered the nutritional power raw manure, not compost, can have on gardens, but he said that they make way more money on this product then they do selling fiber. In fact, it has gone so well, they are close to shutting the store and dedicating all their time to freeze drying and selling alpaca manure at garden shows and wholesaling to garden shops. He said they were about to pull the trigger on a $1.5 million freeze dryer. My brain froze on one single fact: sheep shit out about three pounds a day. We have 29 sheep.
Before Todd got the car in gear, I was on my phone searching freeze dryers. There’s only one company that sells the kind that could work in a home and it’s $1500. I’m headstrong, but not stupid. There was no way I could justify pulling the trigger on a flyer with that price tag, but by the time I got home Plan B was in place.
I pulled up from the basement a second hand dehydrator that was supposed to be my solution for preserving the bounty of my garden but lay dormant ever since I dehydrated some zucchini to oblivion. Tissue paper thin and insanely fragile, I ended up soaking the individual plastic dehydrator trays for hours to remove the vegetable matter. And that ended my Pioneer Woman efforts to preserve food.
Up in the barn yard with rubber gloves and a plastic bag, I scooped up frozen sheep shit. Healthy sheep shit is actually a bunch of individual little round balls the size of blueberries. I swept up about 3 pounds of the round balls and headed back to the garage. My dehydrator has rings that can stack up to 8 rows, but I only filled four and plugged the machine in. It was magic. In just a few hours I had hard as rock, fragrance free, light as feathers, ewe berries! Cha. Ching!
I’ve now filled up four one-gallon bags of dehydrated sheep poo and have almost finished designing my labels. I’ll put those on some Ziploc sandwich bags, fill them with about six ounces of dried ewe berries and display them next to my yarn and my sausage sign at the farmer’s market, where I’ll sell the bags to in-the-know gardeners this spring. I can see it now. By June, I’ll have shoved all my gorgeous yarn to the back of my tented booth, and will be selling pound upon pound of dehydrated sheep shit.
Friday afternoon, Todd came home from work and saw the first bag of dried ewe berries sitting on the kitchen counter. He immediately exclaimed, “Get those off the counter. Better yet, get them out of the kitchen. Someone might think they’re a snack and try some!” That evening, our neighbor Steve was over for dinner and learned of my new enterprise. “Remind me,” he said, “not to accept any dried banana chips you might be making in the near future.” Oh, man of little faith. Stay tuned!