A whole slew of images come to mind when you envision a California road trip…bikini-clad beaches, towering redwoods, vineyards across rolling hills.
A good friend of mine (who just happens to be one of the biggest gnome collectors in the world) lives in the Northern California town of Auburn, so I made a point stop and pay her and her red-hatted ones a visit.
Little known fact: gnome collectors aren’t just weird over gnomes…they’re pretty freaking random overall. Not surprisingly, my Auburn friend asked if I’d like to spend the morning with some nearby alpacas. Obviously, there was not a moment of hesitation in my reply.
Many homes on the outskirts of Auburn enjoy acres of open space, and what residents choose to do with all this space is entirely up to them. For Auburn residents Bonnie Potter & August Anema their answer was an alpaca farm.
When I arrived on the farm, I was surprised to be invited right into the alpacas’ personal space. Like me, most of them were a little nervous, but a few extroverts led the way to our Frisbees filled with alpaca pellets. I must admit the gentle beasts spooked me a bit at first, but they were incredibly playful and friendly once you got to know them a bit better.
Bonnie and August own and operate Fair Winds Alpacas, specializing in alpaca sales, breeding, and support. Before starting to raise alpacas, Bonnie spent 30 years in the U.S. Navy. But she’s no stranger to the animal world, growing up with horses, dogs, and cats and graduating from UC Davis with a BS in Animal Science.
And before joining Bonnie in the obscure realm of alpaca farming, August spent nearly 40 years in the construction industry. Like Bonnie, he grew up knowing a thing or two about farming, but in Canada and following in his father’s footsteps with skilled trades.
The lovely couple dreamed of retiring and owning a ranch, and after considering a few different types of livestock, they settled on alpacas. You see, apacas are humanely raised for their fiber, not butchered or milked like cows, pigs, or goats. Today, over 50 happy and healthy alpacas live on Bonnie and August’s property!
And now…a few fun facts that I learned about alpacas!
- Full grown alpacas reach 5’6″ tall and between 140 and 200 pounds…so just a little shorter and heavier than me!
- There are two types of alpacas: the huacaya and the suri (wait, isn’t that Tom & Katie’s kid’s name?)
- Alpaca fleece is so much softer than wool and it totally suitable for spinning, knitting, crocheting, weaving and felting
- Alpacas have been bred for centuries in Peru, Chile and Bolivia to create fiber that is uniform and soft
- Alpacas eat hay and pasture grasses, and owners typically give them a pellet vitamin/mineral supplement that’s available in feed stores
- Alpaca fleece is sheared once a year and yields 5-10 pounds
- Alpacas have pointed spear-shaped ears and llamas have curved banana-shaped ears – that’s how you can tell them apart!
Why would anyone want an alpaca hanging around?
- Because they’re soft, cuddly, and hilarious
- Full-time for-profit business or fun part-time enterprise
- They’re gentle, easy to take care of compared to other livestock, and easy to transport somewhere else
- To ditch your hectic lifestyle and choose tranquil country living with wildlife all around you
You can buy alpaca yarn directly from Bonnie and August in beige, brown, silver, rose gray, and black. It’s incredibly soft, and prices range from $12.50 to $20 per skein.
Or if my article has REALLY sold you on the idea of raising some of these creatures of your very own, you can even BUY one of their alpacas! Now I know you’re curious now, so I’ll tip you off that a good alpaca will cost you between $500 and $2,500.
But if you shop now and choose the mother-daughter special, you can be the proud owner of the Sumatra (mother) and Tiara (daughter) package for just $2,000!
If you need to mull over this major investment for a day or two, consider planning a trip to visit Fair Winds Alpacas to visit these creatures for yourself! Bonnie and August give farm tours and are more than happy to share their extensive alpaca knowledge with you by phone, email, or in-person.
Fill out a little form and you’ll one step closer to the alpacas of your dreams! Honestly, I think this sounds like an awesome way to live. Maybe someday 🙂