Jamie Page of Sanctuary's Alpaca Farm in Alstead has a nickname for every animal in the herd.
“Miss Hollywood is spunky and opinionated and demands respectful handling, but also succumbs readily to a nice massage,” said Page of her alpacas. “I call Peachtree ‘The Peach,' because she's athletic, wary, a super mom, and also friendly and sweet. Lucille is the teddy bear, relaxed and easygoing.”
And don't forget Ruby, also known as the “hay monger;” handsome Sullivan; and Peter, who can be “finicky.”
Besides taking care of 22 alpacas, Page harvests their fiber to create scarves, hats, rugs and other products that she sells.
It's a job she clearly loves, though spending time with family and grandkids keeps her extra busy.
“It's kind of an exciting time of year. Fairs are fun. People are fun,” she said. “We wind up with so many new ideas. You kind of want to get started on new things, but you need to do what's right in front of you, too.”
Page and more than 100 fellow artists and craftspeople will showcase their talents during the 13th annual NH Open Doors event Saturday and Sunday. The program is presented by the League of NH Craftsmen and partly funded by a grant through Visit New Hampshire.
Pam Sullivan, League of NH Craftsmen marketing consultant, says now is prime time for shoppers to engage with local artisans, wineries and woodcrafters.
“NH Open Doors was created in what New Hampshire calls its ‘shoulder season' - early November, when tourism slows down and people are gearing up for the holiday season,” Sullivan said, adding people are encouraged to make it a weekend getaway.
“(It's) typically a quieter time of year; there's still a hint of color left, and the pace of life is more leisurely,” says League of NH Craftsmen Executive Director Miriam Carter in a press release.
This year, organizers have created online itineraries for the Concord area, Dartmouth/Sunapee Region, Greater Manchester area, Lakes Region, Nashua area, Monadnock Region, the Plymouth/Newfound area, Seacoast, and Warner-Contoocook area.
Some businesses will offer tours, demos, refreshments and raffles. Local products will be for sale at studios and galleries around the state, including the eight League of New Hampshire Craftsmen locations. Diverse businesses will be featured, including a sculpture garden, mobile quilting studio, smokehouse, chocolatier and sugarhouse.
Over in Canterbury, Greg Meeh of Cold Garden Spirits has been busy cultivating homegrown whiskeys and brandies at his craft distillery in the barn near his childhood home.
Though Meeh, originally from Epsom, is a lighting and special effects expert with J & M Special Effects in New York City, he decided in recent years that it was time to revisit his childhood roots. He grew up in a Shaker house in Canterbury with an attached barn, where his parents taught him how to farm. He thought that was a good place to start his second business.
“I'm not a person that can just sit around,” Meeh said. “(My family's) farm went out of business when I was a kid. It had some impact on me. So I wanted to do something that would support local agriculture here.”
Meeh and two part-time employees use all local ingredients from nearby orchards to make specialty spirits.
“One of the unusual things about our distillery is that we grow a lot of the food and a lot of the grain. We have an endless amount of sweet cider available to us here. That's a good thing for the local orchards,” he said. “Also, farmers here in New Hampshire know how to grow corn, and they also know how to grow rye.”
Cold Garden Spirits makes several types of liquors, including two white whiskeys, American and European, both aged in oak.
“Then we have a fruit brandy, which is a mix of apple, pear, grape and quince and northern Kiwi berry,” Meeh said.
In addition, they sell a traditional French drink called Pommeau, or “apple water.”
“But it's 70 percent sweet cider and 30 percent apple brandy at 120 proof. So the product is 34 proof. So it's like a port or a sherry. That's the only sweet product we have. All the other products are 80 proof.”
Meeh found making spirits is a long-term process. Once whiskey makes it to the barrel, the job's still not done. For example, if a bottle of whiskey is labeled “aged 20 years,” Meeh says it's still evaluated to keep the flavor consistent.
“After a certain amount of time, you're getting too much of those tannic flavors. It's kind of mystical. It feels it in a way - the amount of time and the process of drawing samples from the barrels. It's like the sorcerer's apprentice,” Meeh said
During NH Open Doors, Cold Garden Spirits will have a free gallery tour, tastings and possibly a surprise bonus tasting.
For Sullivan, her Granite State business is almost like a family affair. She first planned to breed and sell the alpacas, but she couldn't bring herself to say goodbye.
“In the end, I really did not want to sell the animals themselves. So about six or seven years ago, I stopped breeding and got started on the fiber end. So we're all happy this way,” she said. “I love the weaving and the knitting. It's especially satisfying using their fiber. That's how I got started on the craft end of it.”After sending the animals' soft fiber to a Vermont mill to be spun into yarn, Sullivan weaves rugs in the Scandinavian style using the animals' guard hair and knit and felt hats using the Huacaya alpacas' prime fiber.
“I get to weave and knit and create these things. I love that Alpaca fiber can be so functional and elegant at the same time,” she said. “It's just a very fulfilling job, and it hardly feels like work, but I consider it my work. There's nothing wrong with loving your job, right?”
Shanware Pottery maker Richard Wetterer of Rumney said NH Open Doors allows shoppers to consider new gift-giving ideas. He will be in the studio this weekend making stoneware and porcelain pottery.
Wilton Main Street Association member Alison Meltzer said NH Open Doors can also offer visitors a bite-size taste of city life. Besides a movie theater and jewelry shop, Wilton is home to an art studio, a candy maker and a cupcake shop.