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Come Nose to Nose with a sweet alpaca at Fern Ridge Alpacas in Clinton

A visitor meets an alpaca as Hal Schlomann looks on
A visitor meets an alpaca as Hal Schlomann looks on
Carolyn Tamler

A visit to Gretchen and Hal Schlomann’s farm in Clinton gives you a chance to be up close and personal with their friendly alpacas and llamas and feel their wonderfully soft fleece. Fern Ridge Alpacas offers an informative Whidbey Island farm experience in a beautiful and relaxing setting plus great photo opportunities with their adorable alpacas.

Hal Schlomann instructs visitors who want to have a special getting-to-know-you experience with an alpaca to simply lower their head so that the alpaca can approach the person’s nose. Evidently, once an alpaca knows a nose, it feels it knows the person.

Fern Ridge Alpacas has been producing a variety of products from the fleece they harvest from their herd — from premium yarns and cloud-soft roving to alpaca woven rugs and felted products. The Fern Ridge farm store in a yurt features incomparably soft and warm alpaca socks, hats, scarves, gloves, blankets, yarn and other alpaca clothing and fiber products. The store also has the hand-crafted work of local Whidbey fiber artists.

Letting nothing their alpacas produce go to waste, the Schlomanns are turning the alpaca manure into worm castings. They maintain vermi-composting (worm compost) windrows where the worms are turning alpaca poo into a nutrient-rich soil amendment. Fern Ridge designed and built their own equipment for harvesting the finished worm castings. Visitors can see how vermiculture works and purchase a bag of castings to help their own garden grow.

Alpacas are well suited to small acreage farming. These gentle and curious animals are easy to care for and are easy on the pasture. With thoughtful pasture management and rotational grazing, alpacas are environmentally friendly livestock. Alpaca fiber is gaining wide use in luxury apparel, home furnishings and is sought after by handspinners, knitters and fiber artists.

If you have a few acres and would love to raise your own alpacas and harvest their fleece or have delightful companions grazing in your pasture, the Schlomanns can help you get started and provide valuable mentoring.

Fern Ridge Alpacas is located in Clinton on Holst Road three miles from the ferry. The friendly alpacas and guard llamas love to welcome visitors and nibble treats offered by a friendly hand. The farm is open most days. Please call ahead to schedule a tour: 206-510-0434 (farm cell). For additional information, visit the website.

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