The Altiplano Story

A Work in Progress

How it Began

The day I fell in love began just like any other. It was early spring 1996. My husband, Patrick, and I awoke in our comfortable two bedroom apartment overlooking the verdant “park blocks” in downtown Portland, Oregon. Prepared for work, I kissed him good-bye and joined the other commuters, picking my way through the crowded streets to my sedentary job. Unaware that this was no ordinary day, I continued on as though it were. The day drew to a close and on the way home I picked up the latest copy of Sunset Magazine. Leafing through the pages, THEY jumped out at me; the sweetest smiling faces! Delighted, I laughed out loud. I was smitten, I was IN LOVE. I was determined that anything, anyone, that made me that instantly happy had to be part of my life.


Alpacas? ALPACAS!

How to seduce my husband, the urban warrior? As it turned out it wasn't that difficult. Patrick is one of those incredible people who can crouch quietly in the woods and in just a few minutes little furry animals scurry up to say hello. It's amazing! So a couple of weeks later, on a watery Saturday, we took a drive to a local alpaca farm. A snow white hembra had just given birth. The cria hadn't even found its legs. We stood and watched the miracle as this little life found its beginning. Patrick was smitten. He was IN LOVE.

In the months that followed, our homework convinced us the alpaca industry was sound. I had raised French Alpine dairy goats in my "urban-girl-with-newly-minted college-degrees-goes-'back'-to-the-land" hippy days. We felt we weren't entirely green in the ways of herd management. Taking deep breaths, we purchased our first pregnant female.


The Las Flores del Altiplano Story

We christened our herd Las Flores del Altiplano. The Altiplano is the Andean home to alpacas and other camelids. Of all that comes out of this harsh terrain, certainly the alpaca, clothier to royalty, is the flower. Following this theme, we've named most of our females for flowers and our males for trees. In the sweet little book, The Language of Flowers, the anonymous author treats us to the meaning of many flower names. We've passed this along to you in the story of each herd member.

For three years our herd was agisted as we continued to live in the city. In that time we grew to nine animals. I'm still not sure how that happened. But, as they say, this isn't just a business. It's an addiction.

Making our dream a physical reality was past due. We needed to move to the country and get our hands on the poop scoops.

Months of searching found us 5 acres in Clark County Washington, in the town of Yacolt. Yacolt is the scene of the famous chicken wars. Ah! A story for a different time and over a cup of coffee, do get in touch and let me tell you. But, I digress... On this land, there was a house, a huge back deck, a garage and trees "clear up to there." It was barren of barn, pasture and fencing.

We had found a piece of paradise. It was so quiet that we could hear the birds' wings flapping as they flew by. We didn't want to call in the cats to shatter this peace. We're committed to right stewardship and wanted to leave the ground itself as whole as possible. We called in the horses! Our land was cleared the old way using two huge draft horses in harness. It was slower going, but in the end, it was worth the trouble.

There was some necessary ground leveling and we were lucky to locate an artist with a Deere. Patrick and John had a wonderful time looking through triangulated fingers, shooting whatever you shoot and doing all of that stuff that we non-engineering types can only guess at.

The barn was another matter. We designed a structure with a second storey for hay and three stalls on north and south sides. The idea was to eventually run cross fence from each of these stalls. I was adamant. I wanted straight line fences so that in an emergency or a senior moment I didn't have to stop and try to find the gates. What a sensation we caused in the pole barn building world! One would have thought that we were requesting the Taj Mahal. But, as the saying goes, "perseverance furthers." Eight months later, (we'd been assured it would take only one) we had our barn. In the following months we completed our perimeter fencing.

With fanfare and a bottle of champagne, we finally brought the boys home. About a month later, on Patrick's birthday, in November of 2002, the girls followed. After two years of living on our alpaca ranch, we were finally alpaca ranchers!

Today, seventeen years later, we're BOTH still IN LOVE with these enchanting creatures!

Updated December 30, 2013