Peacham Wool

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AlpacaPEACHAM - For nearly two decades, Terry and Ron Miller have been raising alpacas at Snowshoe Farm in Peacham. Their decision to start the business was inspired primarily by Terry's love for knitting.

Instead of buying synthetic materials at a store, Terry wanted to make her own."We basically started because we like their fiber, and I'm a knitter, a spinner, and a weaver. So we sell breeding stock, raise them for fiber, and make yarn out of their wool." 

The Millers estimate that they produce an average of 100 pounds of yarn per year. This process begins in April, when the alpacas are sheared, and continues throughout the year as the fibers are sorted, washed, spun, dyed, and sold. "We know the whole process, everything is done here besides washing and spinning, which is done in New Hampshire at an alpaca farm as well," said Terry. "Once it's washed and spun, I get back big cones of yarn, and then I skein it and dye it."

Opposed to many mass-produced materials, everything created by the Millers is environmentally friendly. "We're not using any petroleum products, which some synthetics are probably made from, and I don't use dyes that contain any heavy metals. So we know the source of everything. There's nothing being added to it," said Terry.

If given the chance to compare products made from alpaca wool, to products made of other materials, it's quite obvious that alpaca wool is softer. Imagine the itchy sensation that many experience when wearing a wool coat. That irritation would most likely not exist if wearing something that originated from alpaca fibers. Terry credits this texture to the fibers' composition. "If you look at most wools they have scales that run along the shaft of the fiber, and on alpacas, the scales hug the shaft of the fiber very tightly. So it feels smoother to the touch."

Nevertheless, there are certain alpacas that possess softer and stronger wool than others. This is something that Terry and Ron highlight on their website, so breeders know exactly what they're getting. According to Terry, "Everybody has a profile, because they're all for sale, and they all have different attributes that a breeder might be looking for. For example, a breeder might be looking for a certain blood-line, they might be looking for a certain color, or they're looking for certain statistics with their fiber." The selling process is something that both owners are very involved in, in order to ensure the animals' safety.

Of course, the alpacas drive business at Snowshoe Farm, but it's obvious that their fun personalities bring the Millers much more happiness than money. Terry said she would recommend alpacas to anyone looking to add livestock to their farms, not only because they're surprisingly easy to take care of, but because of their unique characters. "They're a lot of fun, you've seen that. They're smart, they're interesting, and they all have different personalities."