Family raises alpacas in Our Town

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OT Bement Alpaca facts_20160610152111

BEMENT — A family in Our Town has an alpaca farm. They say it’s been an interesting experience so far. It started with seven of those furry animals. Now they’re up to twelve. Add three little girls to the mix and the adorable-factor goes through the roof. The girls are big helpers on the farm. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a whole family to raise a dozen alpacas.

You’re more likely to see alpacas in South America than central Illinois. But in Bement, there’s a whole herd.

“They’re cute and funny,” said Cassie Block, who is 7 years old.

They’re also very curious, as we found out when we stopped by Sundrop Farm. The Block family takes care of them. Just like each of the girls, each alpaca has its own personality.

“Leo, Luna, Bella, Xanadu,” said Gabby Block, who is 8 years old, when we asked her who some of her favorites were.

“I like them all, except for B Greyble because she spits a lot,” said Cassie.

“I was just coming up to him to say hi and he spit at me,” said Anna Block, who is 7 years old. “I think he did it on purpose. My mom thinks he did it on accident.”

Their mom, Stephanie Block, says the alpacas seem to like them as much as they like the fuzzy animals.

“When the girls go out to the bus in the morning, all the alpacas come running and watch them get on the bus and when the girls get off the bus, the alpacas come running as well,” said Stephanie.

They’re more than just cool to look at. The family also shears their fleece once a year.

“I like having alpacas because you can make really soft things out of their fleece and make really cool things like yarn,” said Anna.

“There’s like this spindle and then you get a batch of fleece and hook it around on a hook,” said Cassie. “It’s just like a normal spinning wheel, but you just have to do the same thing and try not to let it drop.”

“So you pedal the spinning wheel with your feet and then you just pull out some yarn in the spinning wheel,” said Gabby. “Then you slide your fingers down so it turns into yarn.”

“The alpacas have very fine fleece,” said Stephanie. “It’s very light. It’s very warm. In fact, it’s three to five times warmer than wool.”

The girls are just seven and eight years old, but they’ve caught on quickly with the family business.

“I’m the alpaca whisperer because one time we went to an alpaca show and there was an alpaca that never comes up and he came up to me,” said Anna.

They say every day is an adventure and they’re happy to be living it in Bement.

The family is going to be growing a little more. Three baby alpacas are expected to be born later this year.

Alpacas look like a combination of llamas and camels. They’re in the same family. Small herds were brought to the U.S. in 1984 and they’ve been dotting the landscape ever since.

Did you know:

1. They’re ancient. Alpacas were domesticated by the Incas more than 6,000 years ago. They were raised for their exquisite fleece.

2. They come in a rainbow of colors. There are 16 tones from white to light rose gray to dark fawn.

3. They’re flame-resistant. Technically their fiber is flame-resistant. It meets the standards of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission for use in clothing and furnishings.

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