We reach the end of the path on this farm in the Sarthe where Axelle shares her life with her two dogs and her forty alpacas. Concealed beneath her cap, she approaches with a purposeful stride, and with a shy but steady smile she invites us into this domain that she has built with the overriding passion of those for whom nothing is impossible.
All it takes, however, is a tour around the property, and a little chat with this hard-working animal lover, to understand that this is a tough job with no downtime. It’s non-stop. “You have to be passionate about your work to do this”, she says.
There are few like her in France. You can count the number of people raising alpacas on the fingers of two hands.
And this is the little world, this universe which is foreign to most of us, where Axelle set down her suitcases four years ago after a great deal of traveling.
“I have always wanted to work with animals, I feel close to them. When I started looking at the possibility of getting into goat husbandry, I came across alpacas and Christel Chipon, who is herself a breeder in Mayenne. She taught me a lot and was like a guide for me when I was starting out because I knew nothing”.
Six to begin with, and currently standing at forty, the tribe at Le Clos Tranquille is now complete and Axelle has eyes only for them. She knows their names, their characters, their weaknesses and their strengths. She cares for them, feeds them, and sometimes even helps them to bring them into the world.
This semi-professional visit turns into a delightful little break, as we take a tour of the fields and then sit down for a chat across the kitchen table. The small dog, a ratter that looks like he’s been around forever but still has boundless energy, plays with his basket. The big dog, a large Bouvier, presses his nose against the glass door, asking to come in. He is barred as punishment for stealing the strawberry cake from the table. I stifle a laugh.
We chat, we have a good laugh, and Axelle is talkative, funny and apologizes for not feeling at ease when we ask to take her photo; she clearly doesn’t know that her deep blue eyes and her great sensitivity make her radiant. And then you turn your head and on the wall is a child’s painting, done by Axelle when she was five. At the top, a country house, a large garden, trees, horses and a dog. Like some kind of premonition, it is unsettling how much it looks like the farm where Axelle lives today.
“Right from when I was a child, I saw myself living in the countryside, in nature, surrounded by animals”. You quickly understand that no other lifestyle would have made her so happy; Axelle is where she belongs and there is something beautiful in that, and above all something terrifically inspiring.
The day draws to a close and our chat turns to environmental issues. Axelle, the great nature lover, tries to convert the urbanite that I am into a Parisian country dweller, and talks to me about hydroponics; I bring the interview to an end just at this point (having looked up what it means).
But I will give it some thought.
That’s a promise.
Written by Laura Isaaz
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We love to talk about the alpacas behind the luxury throws we make at La Maison de la Maille. In fact, we have discussed our animal friends at great length; their characters, their habits, how they are sheared. So now we thought it would be good to tell you about their home, the farm. After working in the equestrian world, Axelle Duval became interested in alpacas. Upon getting to know these wonderful animals and receiving the support of other alpaca farmers, Axelle took the plunge and started her own herd in 2017.
Where is he from ? What is he doing ? How is his fleece? Is he nice, clean and sociable? We have closely studied the different characteristics of the alpaca in order to tell you a little more about this animal species still relatively unknown in Europe. Since its fiber is widely used in the manufacture of our La Maison de la Maille products, it seemed essential to us to highlight the 10 most important (and no doubt surprising) traits of its personality.