By Leslie Limberg
You know those gawky, camel-like animals used as pack horses in South America? Ones you’d call llamas? Well, the ones in our neighborhood are not llamas at all; they’re alpacas. They are more friendly than llamas, more manageable, adorable and lots more family fun. Several productive locals are using the alpaca fleece for crafts to sell, increasing their income. The good news; our own Boone Country area has a booming alpaca industry. Several alpaca farms have started up in the last ten+ years. Let’s take a tour of the area north to south from Foristell to New Melle to Defiance and Matson Hill.
First in Foristell, Carol Hudgens, a former alpaca breeder and artist owns Stone Bluff Farm and three Huacaya Alpacas, a black, a brown and a gray. Every Spring she sheers their coats for the incredibly soft, warm and luscious fleece used for her crocheted and knitted scarves, hats, ponchos and sweaters, ones you would covet in Winter. She sells them locally at her farm store (see website below) or on the Internet at Etsy.com. These are not ordinary clothes. On the contrary, they are genuine crafts and excellent gifts for special people. Many of her scarves can serve as home decorations over chairs and sofas (lending serious topics for conversation.) Consider buying Carol’s alpaca yarn for making your own hand-knitted gifts for family members - a sure legacy. (Visit www.stonebluffalpacas.com.)
By the way, Alpaca manure is easily used as garden fertilizer. The droppings, also called ‘beans’, resemble little pellets, like deer scat, and can be scattered in home gardens without the concern for burning plants.
Going south, the next farm is an ‘artist’s studio’ west of New Melle, where artist and new mother, Karry Heun, creates surprisingly different and artistic crafts with Alpaca fleece. She has four Huacayas that provide multi-colored fleece for her multi-cultural photographic clientele in New York, California and Paris.
Closer to Defiance is Joyce Johnson of Shadowland Ranch. Joyce has a rare herd of Suri Alpacas. Suri fiber and yarn is shiny and straight, rather than the hollow and crimped Huacaya alpaca fleece. It produces a fine texture and bright sheen, unique among artisan fiber products and beautiful for hats and purses. Joyce’s crafts are also for sale on the internet site for artistic products, Etsy.com.
According to history, Alpaca fleece, cultivated in the Andes Mountains of Peru and Chile, is so soft and silky smooth it was reserved for ancient Inca royalty. Warmer than wool and hypo-allergenic, it does not itch.
Lastly, on Matson Hill Road is Midwest Alpaca Farm with a herd of 50! Owned by Dale Natoli and family, this 55 acre farm boasts making the most warm and durable socks you have ever worn! They are sold at Straatmann Feed in New Melle. Dale’s alpacas are an exotic breed of Peruvian, Chilean, and English alpacas, especially bred to produce fleece that surpasses the warmth of sheep wool. His socks are called Norlander Socks (norlandersocks.com) and they really work!
Alpaca artists are on the cutting edge of a trend in many communities - that of creating ‘cottage industries’ and increasing local economies. This kind of creativity is smart and helps us all by making our Boone Country area a more sustainable place to live and thrive. Please consider buying from these hard working artists. We’d all agree support of our locals is a good community investment .
Leslie Limberg is a community advocate and supporter of Southwestern St. Charles County.
1) From Karry Huen’s farm -- Alpacas with personality!
2) Norlander socks from Midwest Alpaca Farms sold at Straatmann Feed in New Melle.
3) Freshly sheared alpacas at Dale Natoli’s Midwest Alpaca Farm.
4) A close-up of one of these unique, inquisitive animals.
5) A trivet or ornamental table-top sculpture made from balls of alpaca fur.
6) Karry Huen Felted bowl
7) Karry Huen Rug
8) Carol Hudgens Scarf
9) Carol Hudgens Scarf
10) Carol Hudgens Scarf
11) Dog Bed made by Karry Huen