A drive into El Dorado’s beautiful south county along Mt. Aukum Road leads to Retiredice Alpacas, where you can visit the 73 alpacas and find beautiful and unique gifts that people will prize for years.
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Smaller than their llama cousins, alpacas are known for their gentle and playful dispositions and prized for their fleece. The South American camelid is not a beast of burden but is bred for its fiber.
The fine, smooth, soft fibers contain microscopic air pockets that provide excellent insulation. It is hypoallergenic, containing no lanolin.
The fleece does not retain water. It protects against solar radiation and guards against extreme temperature variations.
It is easy to clean and takes dyes well.
Paige Romine started raising alpacas in the Somerset area in 2011 after retiring from her house cleaning business.
Romine’s alpacas are Huacayas, the most popular breed.
“There are 23 natural colors and I think I have all of them,” said Romine.
They range from black to white, with shades of gray and brown.
At her ranch gift shop, she sells fiber to spinners, yarn to knitters, and an incredible array of products made from alpaca fleece.
She gives yarn to local knitters, mostly seniors, then buys their products to sell in the store.
“It’s a mutual benefit,” she said. “They are able to supplement their income and I get quality pieces from local artists.”
The original designs range from elegant tailored pieces, such as an indigo-dyed jacket, to the soft and warmest socks and mittens you can imagine.
How about a fashionable felted hat?
Or a hoodie made with alpaca fibers, not your average hoodie?
Or, you can go all out with a fur-collared woven ruana — a cape with slits instead of armholes.
There are also cozy throws, purses, earrings, coasters, shawls, sweaters and caps.
In addition to the pieces from local artists, Romine gets products from one family in Peru.
“These are things that our local artists are not able to make,” she said. “The family makes stunning sweaters.”
They also make fur slippers and hats, blankets and long johns.
Paige tells about one happy customer: “A man came in who was making a motorcycle trip to Michigan. He said, ‘I hear you have good long johns.’” He wore them all through the state of Michigan and on the way back he stopped for another pair.
Paige also breeds and sells alpacas.
In addition to her alpacas, she has acquired three rare guanaco, a mother, named Faith; a 17-month old girl, Bebo; and a baby girl, Leasai.
The guanaco are somewhat taller than alpacas and their fleece is even softer.
“It’s the next best thing to the wild vicuña,” said Romine. Guanaco are fawn and white. They are sheared every 18 months, compared with alpacas, which are sheared every 12 months.
Retiredice Alpacas is open for the holidays seven days a week through Dec. 24, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. After Christmas, regular hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Wednesday.
The ranch and gift shop are located at 6899 Mt. Aukum Road in the Somerset and Fair Play area, near two schools and a church. Just look for the charming animals in their fenced area by the road.
For more information call 530-620-1415 or visit retiredicealpacas.com.