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Alpaca Ranch

Sunday, January 13, 2008

What makes a person up and decide they want to start an alpaca ranch? I'd always wondered. I wonder about people who buy emus and llamas and miniature horses and ostriches, miniature Watusi cattle and Highland beasties and belted Galloway cattle. All those things. I know I shouldn't lump all those animals together, because some of them produce saleable products, and some don't. When an animal is rare enough, all you do is breed them and sell the animals, I guess. When an animal makes a valuable product, you breed them, sell the animals, and sell the product.Charlie Thomas feeds part of the herd of 29.

Alpacas fall into that select group last described: an exotic animal with a product. I never realized how valuable alpaca fleece was, or why. Ergo, I never realized how highly valued the animals themselves are. I know a little more about them, after visiting the Riverboat Alpaca Ranch near Marietta, Ohio.

Two years ago, I bought a teddy bear made of alpaca skin at an art fair in town. Riverboat Alpaca Ranch imports these and other alpaca products from Peru, where, I understand, it's illegal to kill an alpaca. But there are winter kills, especially of the young ones (called crias), and when that happens, or when one dies of old age, they make wonderful things from the skins. This is the coolest teddy bear anyone's ever seen, and, being made of real hair, it's especially fun and preternaturally comforting to hug. When I need a hug, and nobody's around, not even Baker, I grab my alpaca teddy--it's the one on the far right. These bears show a good range of the possible alpaca colors. They're all made from the wooly variety of alpaca called the huacaya, which I'll talk about below. Chet Baker wants one of his own. Mether, I promise not to open a seam or kiss its eye out. I am a better dog now. Yeah, right. Real Boston Terrier Babeh # 2, which you unwrapped on Christmas morning, is blind, noseless and hemorrhaging Hollofil.

I left Chet Baker home for my foray to the ranch. I can just imagine him rounding up alpacas.This year, their bear shipment didn't arrive in time for Riverboat Alpacas to sell them at the crafts fair where I usually get them, so I was delighted to (tough work, but somebody's gotta do it) have to go to the ranch to pick some up. Took the camera, and a little notebook. Ann and Charlie invited me to climb right in amongst the alpaca herd, something I wouldn't have thought I'd be able to do. They are wonderful to be around. I asked Ann and Charlie a bunch of questions, and scribbled down answers, and then did a little self-edification after I got home. Here's Annie, modeling an alpaca hat in her little stone farm store building.She's great, bubbling over with enthusiasm for her alpacas. Here's how she and Charlie describe themselves on their Web site:

Charlie T., an IBM retiree,and Annie A., a retired special ed teacher with a farm background, are raising alpacas as a retirement "financial venture adventure". We like to try new ideas and come up with some of our own! The Alpaca Lifestyle keeps us physically/intellectually fit as we sing and the alpacas hum along!

Sure enough, when I visited, there was classical music playing in the alpaca barn, and Charlie and Annie were calling back and forth to each other while the animals milled around them. It was a happy scene.

I can't wait to show you more alpacas, and tell you some of what I learned in my visit to Riverboat Alpacas. It's going to be Alpaca Week at the Zickblog.


Well, it's finally here. You mentioned your alpaca posts a few weeks ago - so this means you have posts inventoried until the end of February, maybe? LOL!

Alpacas - Their inquisitive and assuming expressions tickle me. This is the way I'd like to enjoy retirement. What a fortunate couple!

Chet is just a hopeless eye kisser, that' all :o)

Yes, alpacas are a mystery - but that's a cool teddy bear.I was having almost the exact same line of wondering this weekend, when we were tooling around Adams County Ohio on a weekend getaway, and came across a farm where the livestock includes peacocks. I wondered what makes a person want to raise peacocks.

Alpaca farms are fascinating. There is a great Alpaca farm outside of Mora, New Mexico you might enjoy visiting on your next visit to "our favorite other state".

The farm is guarded by *ginormous Great Pyrenees that keep these wooly South American babes safe from the various coyotes and mountain lions that predate the area. The preponderance of overgrown puppy love alone makes the visit worth it with their big, sloppy kisses and resonant baritone "woofs".

Looking forward to the follow-up. I love this virtual world where you write about alpacas at the same time I am watching Hawaiian great neck stilts and wandering tattlers wade in the brackish ponds behind my "office".

*(ginormous was officially admitted as word to the 2007 Merriam-Webster dictionary)

There are people near where I live with ostrichs. There are some very exotic deer and other animals at another place. Camels live not far from here too. It does make you wonder WHY???

Ohhhh....I love to knit with alpaca, I love to spin with alpaca, I love to wear alpaca. I threaten Tom with raising alpacas. We shall see!

I am so jealous of you, you little ant. Can't wait to hear more about them and your trip to the farm. I need to get out more, then I'd look less like the grasshopper I am.

I look forward to more posts about alpacas. Thanks to your goat farm posts, I went out and found some goat cheese and loved it! Lately, I've been developing an interest in natural fibers - especially wool - as an alternative to wearing petroleum products all the time. Maybe you'll have me wearing an alpaca sweater some day.

Hi Julie,
Someone down the hall from me raises alpacas and I bought some yarn from him last year that I knitted into a beautiful (and warm!) lacy shawl. Their fleece makes wonderful yarn--so soft and fluffy--just like your little bear.

What a fun post to read and view. I saw my first alpacas this summer on a sheep farm. I agree with Mary. Their expressions and posture captivate the imagination. I like the image of classical music playing in the barn. These people are certainly on the path of bliss. Thanks for sharing this.

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