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A year later, mill keeps alpaca farmers busy

Danise Cathel shows a tray of washed alpaca fur that will soon be put through the mill at Silbury Hill Alpacas to be turned into yarn. The process takes multiple steps on several machines.

Photo by Laura Gjovaag.
Danise Cathel shows a tray of washed alpaca fur that will soon be put through the mill at Silbury Hill Alpacas to be turned into yarn. The process takes multiple steps on several machines.

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The store at Silbury Hill Alpacas has a variety of items made from alpaca fiber, from clothing to teddy bears. The store also carries yarn so people can make their own projects.

Silbury Hill Alpacas kicked off its fourth summer season and first anniversary of the installation of its mill this past weekend with a day of tours at the farm north of Sunnyside.

The Spring Harvest Fiber Mill has changed life a bit at the farm, which used to send out alpaca fiber to be milled elsewhere. With several machines to do the milling on site, the farm now mills fiber for other alpaca farms around the area and the state.

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Sheared about a month ago, the alpacas at Silbury Hill Alpacas look a little scant, but are still friendly and inquisitive when visitors show up.

“We’re very busy,” said Danise Cathel. “We’re constantly running the mill.”

She said they have a big backlog at the moment and are working to catch up. The farm’s own alpacas were sheared in late May, and there is plenty of fiber in the mill right now.

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Danise Cathel of Silbury Hill Alpacas holds up a rug woven by her husband, Bob. The opening of the mill a year ago opened up a lot of possibilities for the family-run farm, including bringing in new business in the form of alpaca fiber from around the state to be milled.

The mill has meant more chances for the Cathel family to work with the fiber in different ways. Bob Cathel has started to weave rugs out of a chunky yarn, in rectangular and circular shapes. The farm store also carries teddy bears made from alpaca fiber, along with yarn and clothing.

The tours this past Saturday were not heavily attended, according to Danise Cathel, but they expect to have a large turnout at the farm’s annual “Pacas and Peaches” event, held over Labor Day weekend.

“People come out to pick peaches in the orchard and visit the alpacas,” she said. “It makes for a fun visit.”

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