Wednesday

[travel] Palmer, Alaska

After work on Tuesday, I drive 50 miles up to Palmer to visit the Musk Ox Farm. On the way up, I snapped a picture:

On the way to Palmer, Alaska


I stopped at one scenic point just before the farm. It was WINDY and there was a 500 foot drop down to the river flats. I didn't stay long because sand was blowing into my face.

Palmer, Alaska


At the farm, there is a museum to learn more about musk ox and the Oomingmak co-operative.

Musk Ox Farm


Here is a skeleton. The musk ox are surprisingly stocky. Full grown males only reach about 5-feet at their highest point.

Musk Ox Farm


The ox at the farm have the pointed tips of their horns clipped- for the safety of the farm workers and the other ox.

Musk Ox Farm


Feel the fibers. Swatches of qiviut, camel, yak, angora, wool, etc. Qiviut is by far the softest.

Musk Ox Farm


Outside, the tour began. I was the only one in the tour group so it was a nice one-on-one tour of the farm and the animals.

Musk Ox Farm


We went to see the females who had given birth this year and their babies. It was so cute to see the babies running around. Of course, I only got pictures of the babies hiding. They're the little brown lumps.

Musk Ox Farm


A nursing mother only gives 4 ounces of milk per day. FOUR OUNCES. And the babies gain something like a pound a day from it. Talk about rich and nutritious.

Musk Ox Farm


The males are kept in separate areas:

Musk Ox Farm


Musk Ox Farm


Musk Ox Farm


The ox get lots of toys to play with. I asked what the pole with tires are for. They are for the ox to head butt and ram into. Whee!

Musk Ox Farm


Here are adolescents with a pig in the background. That gigantic red ball is a PIG: Pipeline Inspection Gauge. I was told that it's used to clean the Alaskan pipeline. Whee!

Musk Ox Farm


All and all, it was a good learning experience. In the spring, the ox start to shed their soft, insulating lining (qiviut). The people at the farm herd the ox into a pen and comb the qiviut out. The guard hairs need to be removed from the fiber. It's cleaned and carded and sent to a cashmere mill in Connecticut to be spun into lace weight yarn. Then the yarn is portioned out and sent to the co-operatives women across Alaska to knit into goods. There are only two places running a domesticated Musk Ox operation- here at Palmer and at the Large Animal Research program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

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