Looking for something fun to do with the kids during their holiday break? Have out-of-town guests to entertain? Firwood Farm Alpacas makes the perfect outing to the beautiful Puyallup Valley, and it’s an easy drive to get there, too. Situated on four acres tucked back in the far southeast corner of Fife, being on this farm is like being out in the country – a pocket of farmland still left in a city undergoing constant development. Owners Leanna and Greg Stidham love having visitors, as do their extended family of alpacas – all 17 of them. A warm welcome is in store for those who venture out to the farm, as the inquisitive alpacas come running up to the fence when they see company coming. “These guys have it totally figured out,” Leanna said with a laugh. “When they have visitors, that’s when they usually get grain.” Hand-feeding the cute critters is easy – just hold out a handful of grain pellets the farm provides and the alpacas take it from there, gently nibbling from the palm of your hand with their soft, furry mouth. “Alpacas can’t bite because they don’t have teeth on top in front,” Leanna explained. “They actually just have top and bottom molars and gums on top, and they have a split lip they use to scoop the grain out of your hand.” She said that for any children who are hesitant about feeding them, one try and they’re hooked. “The little kids are the greatest because they start laughing because it tickles. Once they figure out the alpacas aren’t going to hurt them, they stop being scared.” Alpacas are pretty much defenseless animals, but those at Firwood Farms have a llama named Jethro looking out for them. “He’s our guard llama,” Leanna said, as llamas are known for their herding instinct. Like some of the alpacas on the farm, Jethro was rescued from abusive owners. While alpacas and llamas tend to be naturally skittish due to their general inability to defend themselves, they are also very quiet and docile when cared for properly.
“They really don’t like to be touched – you can’t walk up and pet them like a horse,” Leanna said. “When we first got them, our neighbors didn’t know we had them for three months because you don’t hear them.” School groups, moms’ groups…all kinds of people visit the farm year-round and leave knowing a bit more about these noble animals with their soft fur and big, expressive eyes. The farm is always open by appointment. Each alpaca has his/her own name and personality. A guide posted outside shows photos and names of who’s who, along with interesting facts about alpacas, such as their long lifespan (up to 20 years) and the many uses for their soft fleece. Each animal on average will produce five to eight pounds of fleece a year. In the Firwood Farm gift shop, holiday shoppers can find a variety of clothing items created from alpaca fleece, some made locally and some imported from Peru. There’s a nice selection of unique and very affordable Christmas gifts ranging from men’s and women’s apparel (sweaters, shawls) and accessories (gloves and scarves) to toys (plush stuffed animals made from oh-so-soft baby alpaca fur) and skeins of alpaca yarn, some in natural colors and others that Leanna dyed herself. She also has her beautifully handmade fingerless gloves for sale in the shop – perfect for keeping hands warm but leaving fingers free, which comes in handy when using a cell phone for example. The hand-woven rugs are a best seller, prized for their natural durability and stain/water resistance. The shop also carries many all-natural beauty and body care products by Honey House Naturals, which is just around the corner from the farm. The gift shop is open every weekend in December from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
To learn more about the farm and to make an appointment for a visit, go to http://www.firwoodfarmalpacas.com or call (253) 926-2582.