The interest in alpacas first began for me in 2004. I had always wanted to have a large parcel of land providing a buffer from any near by neighbors. The seclusion and tranquility in the mountains or countryside was exactly the lifestyle I craved.
Not knowing what to do with acres of land, the idea of crop or livestock came in to mind as another income source not to mention wanting to take advantage of the agricultural tax benefits. While on a mountain bike ride with my trusty partner Mara, a brown and white border collie, in the nearby foothills in White Salmon, WA, the idea of having a herd of sheep sounded awesome. Mara being the natural herder she was, would make a perfect place for a border collie work and not torment all the local rabbits, squirrels and domestic cats. BUT, how can one make a living with sheep? Is it the wool? Or for meat? Not sure if wanting to have a meat farm, the idea of wool clothing seemed to fit my lifestyle perfectly!
I really enjoy outdoor adventure including rock climbing, ice climbing, backcountry skiing, mountain biking, fly fishing, and hiking. I am always mindful of quality functional outdoor clothing. While playing in the mountains, it’s always important to having a good layering system that doesn’t involve cotton products. Cotton absorbs moisture and doesn’t dry quickly and that can spell bad news if you have nothing dry to put on. Back in the day, wool was used quite extensively as a quick drying, insulating material but was quickly tossed aside and replaced with the softer less prickly synthetic materials. In 2004, I noticed a change in the outdoor apparel industry with the introduction of wool again. But this was not your normal ichy, scratchy, prickly wool of yesteryear. This was fine Merino Wool. But what the heck is Merino wool and where does it come from? Research quickly began and I soon discovered the benefits of this new wool. Then the ideas of using other woolen products came into my mind and I soon was lead down a path that introduced me to the wonderful alpaca.
The quest on figuring out how to utilize alpaca fiber in a base layer garment for outdoor adventure activity has quickly taken over my life. Research of the alpaca fiber industry has discovered there is not a product on the market anything close to what I envision nor are there fiber processing machines that can spin the fiber into a thread like yarn. Now what?
Still intrigued with the alpacas and wanting to have the mountain adventure/rancher lifestyle, I decided this was going to be a long journey and I’m determined to figure it out. Having faith in my quest, visiting numerous farms throughout the Pacific Northwest, talking with the best breeders in the industry, and after attending several seminars, in October of 2006, I invested in the foundation of my journey by purchasing 1 bred female medium fawn Suri Alpaca and 1 white weanling Suri Alpaca female. Now where are they going to live? I still do not have any land, barn, or house.
Treating this journey not only as a lifestyle but as a business, I decided I would let the alpacas help buy my land. For several years, my alpacas have been agisted (boarded) at different alpaca ranches allowing SkyDog, Mister Tripp, and myself to travel around looking for the right place to call our own. In the meantime, I’ve worked hard building the herd with outstanding genetics and working toward the next to skin base layer, making alpaca rugs, hats, skeins of yarn and various other end product.
As of December 2008, Northern Rocky Mountain Alpacas (NRMA) calls the mountains of Montana home. Since 2010, Anna, SkyDog, Mister Tripp, our suri and huacaya alpacas, handful of pack and guard llamas, chickens and barn cats have had the opportunity to perch ourselves in the foothills of Bear Canyon just outside Bozeman.
Want to join in the pursuit of a great lifestyle while making a living?
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