Alpacas share in arts and crafts festivities

Staff writer

Several alpacas greeted guests of the Hillsboro Arts and Crafts Fair as they parked at Marion County Fairgrounds. They were part of the Kansas Alpaca Association Farm Day.

Farms from across the state gathered to share information and products made from their animals’ hair.

Two alpacas, Windy and Ceria, owned by Charles and Phyllis Atkinson of Pipe Creek Alpaca Farm in Minneapolis, greeted those who walked through the open doors on the south of the 4-H building.

The Atkinsons started their alpaca farm after retiring from teaching.

“We both grew up on a farm and wanted some sort of animal that was low maintenance,” she said. “We went to a couple a seminars and were hooked. I sold my old Volkswagen Beetle that I was just learning to drive for our first two.”

The Atkinsons were showing guests how they turn alpaca fibers into yarn.

Charles worked the fibers through two rolls that had fine wire teeth attached. These rolls worked much in the way a very fine comb did and straightened long tangled fibers into parallel strands.

The straight strands were then passed to Phyllis, operating a spinning wheel, to complete the process. The Atkinsons shear their 22 alpacas twice a year and spin seven different colors of yarn from their hair.

“Some farms send their yarn off to dye, we like to keep ours natural, because it’s already beautiful,” Phyllis said.

Their yarn colors range from snow white, to black, gray, and chocolate brown.

“We send some of the yarn down to Peru, where the alpacas come from, to be turned into items to sell,” she said.

Phyllis is a retired teacher. She writes stories of her alpacas for local elementary school students. The students then tour the farm in the spring and meet their adopted alpaca.

“Their personalities are so fun, it’s fun to share then, and I think the kids really enjoy them,” she said.

Association President Ron Dies and his wife, Ruthann, own Prairie Wind Alpaca farm in Lehigh. He says the alpacas’ calm and pleasant personalities have kept him addicted to alpacas for the past eight years.

“They’re gentle and fun to be around,” he said. “When you’re around them you can’t be in a bad mood. They all have such different and pleasant personalities.”

The Dieses own 23 alpacas. He said they are clean, low-maintenance animals.

“They love the cold, because they are mountain animals,” Dies said. “We shave them once a year, and when it gets hot we hose them down. Alpacas can’t pant so to keep them cool you have to spray their stomachs and feet.”

Dies said there are several alpaca ranchers throughout Marion County.

“They are great animals with great personalities and cute faces,” he said. “We love them and want everyone to know why and love them too.”

Dies said the only downside to owning alpacas is that they spit.

“They spit at each other and not at people,” he said. “But if you’re around them enough, you will get in their line of fire eventually, and it’s pretty nasty.”

 

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