“Hey, Ruby, you’ve got company!” Brian Willsey was announcing our arrival as he opened the pasture gate.
Ruby The Alpaca promptly came to greet her visitors as soon as we entered. I’d never met an alpaca before. But she quickly put me at ease. She was a good hostess, friendly and personable, clearly pleased to meet new friends. Hmmm … now that I’m back at my computer, I wonder if she’s on Facebook. I’ll have to friend her.
Learning about Ruby’s life on the Rockin’ W Alpaca Ranch was a real treat. In fact, it turned out to be one of the unexpected highlights of a recent week in the St. Louis area. The Rockin’ W is a small alpaca ranch near Owensville, some 75 miles west of St. Louis. Rancher Brian Willsey joined Ruby to teach us about alpacas and why he’s in the business.
“Our family was looking for some business that would bring us back to work together,” Brian said, “and we came up with the idea of raising alpacas.”
Ruby and the Rockin’ W greenhouse were two of the intriguing details that led me to think back on my own experience growing up on a farm in the 1950s and ’60s.
“After the drought in 2012,” Brian said, “my pastures were burned up. I had to do something to feed my animals.” His research led him to the greenhouse solution. Now, he grows barley as needed to supplement 84 acres of grassland for his 83 alpacas and 37 sheep. He deposits the barley seed in long shallow trays and begins a water drip over the seed. In six to eight days, he has trays packed with dense, six-inch-tall, rich green blades of nutritious barley. The fine roots weave themselves into a thick mass that allows the barley to be easily harvested from the trays in long rolls called barley mats.
I was fascinated; I kept thinking, I’ve got to tell all my homeschooling friends about this; they must plan a field trip to the Rockin’ W. Lots of stuff to learn here. Worth the trip.
Water and barley seeds. One week. A crop of new grass for the alpacas. That’s what got me thinking about it all. It never ceases to amaze me, how all the details of God’s creation work together for our benefit. I’m familiar with raising cattle, sheep, and a house full of 10,000 chickens. I recall picking cotton and bell pepper. Pulling corn. I walked behind the mule and plow with my granddaddy, and later I drove the tractor.
In college, I took enough courses to earn a minor in science. I followed and “understood” all the explanations about plant reproduction in botany, animal science in zoology, and humans in anatomy and physiology.
Ruby and her alpaca peers in the rolling hills of east central Missouri stirred up all these old reflections. And I realized that the older I grow, the more I’m in awe of the natural miracles of the world in which we live. I still can’t really tell you how water and warmth turn tiny brown seeds into tall green grass. But I know it is God’s doing, not man’s.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:6, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” In his greenhouse, Brian Willsey provides both the sowing and the watering, but he doesn’t do the growing. The growth is God’s work.
That principle is applicable in just about everything we humans engage in. In our families, in our workplaces, in churches and communities, rarely if ever can we claim to be the one who executes every step that makes a process work. Especially when it comes to our faith, Paul is right. There are no lone rangers walking the path of Christian faith. I do one thing, someone else takes it from there, then it goes to someone else, and so on. And if we all do our parts well, God is the One who can make it into another one of His miracles.
Learn more about the Rockin’ W Alpaca Ranch at rwalpaca.com. Or call 573-437-7929 to schedule a visit.