As one of the many items available at the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market, Theresa and Theo Schlagel hope to keep residents warm with fleece and yarn for sale from their alpacas at Morrison Creek Farm.
The American/Canadian couple from Washington State bought the farm in 2000, with the intention of eventually retiring to the Comox Valley.
While on the Island, they invested in a foundation herd of six alpacas they transported back across the border. A car accident in 2005 accelerated their retirement plans, and they moved back with their herd two years ago, which has now swelled to 28, including six rescue animals from the Valley.
The well-travelled herd is consequently registered in both Canada and U.S.
Alpacas, an ancient domesticated species of camelids indigenous to the high Andean pastures of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Chile, are bred for their high quality fleece, and the Schlagel herd is considered to have some of the most superior fleece qualities in B.C.
The yearly herd maintenance and fibre harvesting consists, not only of a lot of hard work for Theresa, but also for a specialized seasonal shearing gang, who spend six months ‘down under,’ and then swing through Alberta and B.C. in April and May.
Theresa skirts, grades and bags the fleece and sends it off to a minimill, in either Qualicum (for smaller amounts) or Alberta, where it is washed and carded. Meanwhile, Theresa reviews samples of the ‘clip’ and statistical lab reports from the previous year, and directs the mill as to its best use. However, the babyfine fleeces are snapped up right off the animal by hand spinners and weavers.
Colours of the yarn mirror the natural colours of the fleece: white, fawn, grey, brown and black.
The Schlagels are passionate about their animals and welcome visitors to 141.2-acre Morrison Creek Farm, located on Miromar Road.
Morrison Creek Alpacas bagged combed fleece and yarns are available for purchase at the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market. For more information, call Vickey at (250) 218-0321 visit www. comoxvalleyfarmersmarket.com.
— Comox Valley Farmers’ Market