Alpaca farm presentation at Golden K
By JOAN JOUPPI
For The Daily News
KINGSFORD — Sharon Scholke, chairperson for April, got the Golden K meeting rolling. Sitting at the piano this Monday morning was Sue LeDuc, filling in for Alyce Derwinski — a pleasant surprise to have her play. Don Pedo jumped up to direct the singers. The morning was promising to be a delightful day.
Singing “April Showers,” “Blue Skies” and “Happy Days Are Here Again” prompted one Happy Dollar response, “Happy to see green grass again.” Other Happy Dollars reflected comments from the returning snowbirds who were just happy to be back. Mary Jane Nelson was the happiest of all, as she collected the winnings from the 50-50 drawing. Happy birthday to Bob Tachick, April 20. The guests for the day, Kathy Arnold, director of the Dickinson-Iron Community Service Agency, Mary Lynn Verley and Shirley Winters, were welcomed with song.
With all this happiness flowing through the atmosphere, speaker Mary Lynn Verley thanked everyone who sent cards and well wishes on behalf of her husband, Dave, who is recovering nicely and able to help with the farm chores.
Mary Lynn and her husband operate the Rainbow’s End Alpaca Farm in Norway. Running a farm encompasses all family members and even the grandchildren “pitch in” where needed.
With the aid of a PowerPoint presentation, Verley walked the seniors on the journey she and her husband started in 2005. Venturing into this business, researching on the care of alpacas, it soon became clear to them this was not just a business, it was a labor of love.
“No one can look into those big brown eyes and not be completely taken in by these animals,” Verley said.
These animals are gentle, need protection, are good with adults and children and have a softer fiber, making their fleece ideal for knitting and/or crocheting warm winter apparel. Their llama “cousins” are larger, including in attitude, and more aggressive, brave enough to act as guards. Their fiber is coarse and they are good pack animals.
Alpacas were imported into this country from 1984 to 1998. They have to be registered, insuring the animals are healthy and breeding requirements are met. Caring for animals is a definite labor of love. Seeing to their health, diet, even checking on their dental needs is vital.
Shearing is a big project that the Verleys will bring in professionals to do. The safety of the animals is priority. Alpacas are not particularly happy to be tackled, tied down and sheared but afterwards, they feel so much lighter.
It takes a while to recognize one another, but since they are community animals, they need each others company and are very connected to their mother. They know her call and will respond immediately and she keeps a close eye on her offspring at all times.
The males are herd sires, the female is a dame and the babies are crias. Mother and baby communicate with soft noises or humming sounds. Each mother knows her baby wherever it may be in the field and when she calls, the baby knows whose mother that is and they come running.
Alpacas have been used for therapy, as well as enjoyment.
Their fiber can be used in many ways providing soft, warm clothing, hats or mittens.
Alpaca fertilizer is also eco-friendly — they have three stomachs and throughly grind their food. And clean-up isn’t difficult — just ask the grandchildren.
Alpacas must be registered upon birth, with a blood sample taken to ensure which bloodlines the animal comes from.
Alpacas are judged on their straight backs, length of legs and neck, crimping and density of their fleece and how they handle themselves.
These animals are gentle with children, individuals with physical and or neurological problems.
The Verleys entertain groups of visitors and welcome people to their store, where they display many items made from the alpaca fleece, as well as yarns waiting to be made into one-of-a-kind sweaters, hats or mittens.
Shearing will be May 17 and the public is invited. The store has a wrap around deck for easy viewing.
Mary Lynn was driving through a challenging storm and greeted with a double rainbow. She took this as a sign that this new venture they were about to embark on would work out — which it has — thus the name Rainbow’s End Alpaca Farm.
The Kingsford High School Chorale will present a program Monday. Golden K welcomes anyone interested in hearing these students to join them at 10 a.m. Monday at the First Presbyterian Church in Kingsford.
The Golden Throats will sing Wednesday at Victorian Pines in Iron Mountain.