Pucker Up!

Wild Fibers - - NEWS - Linda Cor­tright Pub­lisher and Edi­tor

Some people, my­self in­cluded, re­mem­ber their first boyfriend, their first kiss, the first time they slept… in a tent, and so it goes from our first mem­ory to our last. Our col­lec­tive life ex­pe­ri­ences are now fre­quently called “the dash,” re­fer­ring to the dash be­tween the dates of birth and death writ­ten on a tomb­stone.

Be­ing the edi­tor of Wild Fibers has fat­tened my dash con­sid­er­ably (al­though be­ing on dead­line four times a year has likely short­ened it). I re­mem­ber the first time I flew over the Hi­malayas at sun­rise, and the first time I sat down to my plate of olives and horse­meat. I also re­mem­ber the first times I saw a musk ox and rode a yak! But when I look at the cover of this is­sue, with its el­e­gant white llama stand­ing tall on the Alti­plano, I re­mem­ber the first time I ever saw a llama. And it was long be­fore I ever slipped be­hind the edi­tor’s desk.

Shortly af­ter I moved to Maine nearly twenty years ago, I went to the Com­mon Ground Fair, the mecca of all things or­ganic, healthy, and green. Maine’s abun­dant land and low pop­u­la­tion den­sity (43.1 people per square mile) at­tracts an im­pres­sive num­ber of back-to-the-lan­ders, and the Com­mon Ground Fair is where they con­vene, nod­ding sagely at demon­stra­tions of ox teams plow­ing the field and wor­ship­ping the lat­est mod­els of self-com­post­ing toi­lets while eat­ing falafel wraps slathered with hum­mus and dressed with sprouts.

The Com­mon Ground Fair is where I saw my first llama, a tall, hand­some, black boy. I was in love and could barely wait for our first kiss. From that mo­ment for­ward I have wanted a llama, and ev­ery year that I re­turn to the Com­mon Ground Fair I think back to that first time I fell in llama love.

When I dis­cov­ered Fi­bras An­d­i­nas, a new llama yarn man­u­fac­turer in Chile, it didn’t take much per­sua­sion to book my ticket to San­ti­ago. Llama fiber has un­justly been re­garded as the poor cousin to al­paca, but Jorge del Car­pio, pres­i­dent of Fi­bras An­d­i­nas, is chang­ing that, pro­duc­ing lus­cious llama yarn sourced di­rectly from the shep­herds. With twenty years of un­re­quited llama love to ap­pease, my time with Jorge was guar­an­teed to make my heart sing. And it did, al­beit to a dif­fer­ent melody than the one I had imag­ined. (See “The Man With A Plan,” page 44.)

Sev­eral years ago, Mother Earth News be­gan spon­sor­ing fairs re­mark­ably sim­i­lar in fla­vor to the Com­mon Ground Fair at prime crunchy sites through­out the coun­try, in­clud­ing Puyallup, Wash­ing­ton, which has to be the most com­monly mis­pro­nounced city name af­ter Calais, Maine. (Calais rhymes with Dal­las!) What dis­tin­guishes Mother Earth News from Com­mon Ground is a true dash of Hol­ly­wood.

At the Mother Earth News Fair, people come to chat-up the pros and cons of com­post­ing worm bins and rais­ing freerange poul­try, but they can also talk aquapon­ics and so­lar pan­els with Mr. Green, him­self, Ed Be­g­ley, Jr. An Emmy- award win­ning ac­tor, Ed is best known for his roles in St. Else­where and Six Feet Un­der and host­ing his own re­al­ity TV show, Liv­ing with Ed. He’s fre­quently seen driv­ing his elec­tric car or ped­al­ing his bi­cy­cle around Los Angeles.

I trav­elled to Puyallup (it rhymes with noth­ing!) to give a work­shop on the world of wild fibers and, no doubt, en­joy a falafel wrap or two. What I didn’t ex­pect to find was a llama cart in the park­ing lot. Make that my first llama cart.

Niki Kuk­len­ski has been driv­ing lla­mas for as many years as I’ve been at­tend­ing or­ganic fairs, and I had no in­ten­tion of step­ping on the plane back home with­out hav­ing my first ride. My sub­se­quent con­ver­sa­tion with Niki, fea­tured in “Llama A La Cart,” (page 70) not only af­firmed my deep love of lla­mas and their di­ver­sity of uses, but also makes me think that Mr. Be­g­ley should con­sider adding a llama cart to his list of green modes of travel.

Mov­ing away from the llama theme but still ad­her­ing to a list of firsts, I want to pro­vide an up­date on the Cash­mere Craft Cen­ter project in In­dia. The first Cash­mere Craft Cen­ter that will be built in the High Hi­malayas, where no­madic women will spin, knit, and weave cash­mere, earn­ing vi­tal in­come (most of which goes to­wards their chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion) while still be­ing able to stay at home and en­joy the life they know and love best.

Since trav­el­ing to In­dia last De­cem­ber to make a video about the project (watch it on our Web site: wild­fibers­magazine.com) and of­fi­cially launch­ing it in our Spring 2014 is­sue, we are now half­way to­wards our goal of $45,000. I have been on the road a lot in the in­ter­ven­ing months, giv­ing talks about the project and rais­ing money. If you don’t re­mem­ber an­other thing in this is­sue (be­sides that Calais rhymes with Dal­las), please re­mem­ber this: Thank you!

I have been deeply moved by so many people’s sup­port of this pro­gram. I can­not even be­gin to ex­press the feel­ing in my heart when a com­plete stranger came up to me af­ter a talk and handed me a check for $500!

I may have a bad case of llama love, but I am equally smit­ten with all of you, who love and sup­port the work of Wild Fibers. Again, thank you.

Tak­ing my first ride in a llama cart with Niki Kuk­len­ski

driv­ing. Photo by: Robert Wooldrige

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