Those who visited the White Covered Bridge in Garards Fort last weekend may recall seeing two cute but unfamiliar animals displayed in a 10-by-10-foot pen.
Named John Corbly and Flocon (Russian for snowflake), the two 15-month-old alpaca males are used to having strangers gawk and even pet them. They’re part of the herd of 13 alpacas that call Lippencott Farm and Greene County home.
Each of the Lippencott alpacas is accustomed to traveling by truck-pulled horse trailer to between 4 and 8 public events each year.
“Once we even took our alpacas to a surprise party in Pittsburgh,” said Lena Galing, who owns the farm with her husband, Phil.
If you missed the furry creatures at Garards Fort last weekend, you can still get up close and personal with them this Saturday and Sunday when the Galings stage their 12th annual National Alpaca Farm Days/Open House. The event will run from 1 to 5 p.m. both days, and admission is free of charge as is parking in the field.
This year’s theme, “Fall in Love with Alpacas,” allows visitors to pet them, walk them a few yards with halter and lead line and feed them hay and grain. To teach visitors about the animals, the Galings plan to put up informational posters on the fence posts and will also be on-hand to answer questions.
During the open house, members of the Washington Spinners and Weavers Guild – of which Lena is a member – will give demonstrations on their craft. In the farm’s general store, the Galings will sell yarn made from alpaca fiber harvested on the property as well as some imported from Peru. They will also have an assortment of wearables like socks, vests, gloves, scarves and sweaters. The latter will be discounted 20 percent during the open house.
For the younger set, the store is stocked with children’s activity books and stuffed toy bears and alpacas. Visitors may also want to consider purchasing one of Lena’s bird balls, grape vine balls stuffed with alpaca fiber that can be used to encourage birds to nest in the spring.
To slake the appetites of hungry visitors, Daugherty LLC will offer selections from its BBQ food truck, 5 Kidz Kandy will serve up a variety of sweets including ice cream and Anne’s Apple Pies will be sold whole or by the slice.
Adults might like to sample some of Thistlethwaite wines, which will feature several of their bottled vintages at the event, and the kids can enjoy a hay ride, hay slide and try their hand at coloring drawings of alpaca faces with crayons.
Book vendors include Uncle Dave of Washington and Sandy Shawl of Clarksville, who’ll have selections of children’s books available for sale.
Last year, the Lippencott alpaca herd numbered 32 animals, but after the sale of some of the older animals with coarser hair, the current alpaca count is 13. Visitors this weekend will be able to see 10 of them, one of which is a 4-month-old male who’s still nursing.
“While we sold some of our quality fiber alpacas, our remaining herd is made up of show ring-quality fiber animals.” Lena said. “We’re now placing the focus on white and light fawn colored alpacas because the industry at the moment is concentrating on fiber that can be dyed to make their products.”
The animals must be sheared annually, a job that takes two – one to hold the animal at the neck, the other to shear. They also spit, kick and bite, but not at people unless they do something nasty – like shearing, for example, Lena said.
“Fortunately, the animals are very forgiving,” she said.
Now in their 14th year of raising alpacas, the Galings will be taking some of their animals to the Greene County Historical Society’s Harvest Festival the weekend of Oct. 12 and 13. They’ll also be showing their “boys” - John Corbly and Flocon - at the Oglebayfest at Oglebay Park in Wheeling the weekend of October 5 and 6.
The open house at Lippencott Farm this weekend is at 265 Meadowbrook Road near the village of Lippencott. The Galings invite people to bring their cameras, but ask that visitors leave their dogs at home.
For more information, call 724-852-408 or visit the Lippencott Alpacas Facebook page.