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Everyone has a hobby, some are just a bit stranger than others

By Staff | Sep 15, 2008

Everyone should have a hobby — something fun that they enjoy doing when not at work. Whether it is golf or bowling, fishing or hunting, knitting or crocheting, you need a diversion.

Watching television does not count.

One of the fun parts of my job is sometimes getting to interview people with different interests. People tend to get a little passionate about pastimes so I try to always be on the alert.

That’s why, when Wanda, our office manager, said there was someone to see me with a story idea about raising alpacas, I was interested. It didn’t hurt that this week is our Ag issue, and raising any type of livestock might fit into that venue.

Enter Charles Schroeder.

As he started to tell me about his alpaca farm, my interest faltered a little. His place was not located in Faribault County, and is actually near Mankato and Nicollet. I explained that we try to keep our coverage to things in Faribault County. He was obviously a little disappointed.

“Would it make a difference if I was from this area?” he asked. I told him it would. “Well, I used to live between Blue Earth and Delavan,” he responded.

My attention returned.

Seems Charles Schroeder grew up here and graduated from Delavan High School in the mid 1960s. He says if he would have lived on the other side of the road he would have gone to Blue Earth High School. It is true that he left for college in Milwaukee and never lived here again, but none-the-less, that is a local connection.

He still owns the family farm in Barber Township, eight miles east of Blue Earth. Although the buildings are all gone now and he just mows the farmstead. The land is rented out.

After living in Madison, Wis., most of his working life, he retired and moved back to this area. He purchased a hobby farm in 2001 and started raising alpacas as a hobby.

Why alpacas, I wondered.

Seems 10 to 12 years ago he saw some at the Wisconsin State Fair and fell in love with them.

“They are just marvelous, gentle animals,” Schroeder says. ‘They are also very easy to keep.

Once a year the fleece is sheared and sold. Although some alpaca farmers keep the fiber and do things with it themselves, Schroeder sells his to a dealer in Texas.

From there it goes to a mill in Mexico where it is mixed with cotton and made into denim jeans that are called Paca Blues.

Schroeder says he is not kidding. Consumers will see them in the U.S. soon, he says.

Alpacas are a member of the camelid (or camel) family and thus are cousins to camels and llamas. Schroeder says the alpaca are much more mild-tempered animals than their cousins.

“They never spit or bite,” he says. “They are always calm and friendly.

Indigenous to South America, they are prized for their soft fleece. It is soft as cashmere, Schroeder says, and does not itch.

“It is much warmer than wool, too,” he says.

There are two types of alpacas. Although they both look alike, one has wavy fleece and the other longer, flowing fleece. The fleece comes in 22 different colors.

Although alpacas were only introduced to the U.S. in 1984, there are now over 4,000 alpaca farms here.

Many of the alpaca farms in Minnesota are having an open house on Sept. 27 and 28. Schroeder’s ‘Lazy Day Farm’ is one of those, and he invites everyone to come take a look.

His farm is located midway between Mankato and Nicollet, 2 1/2 miles north of Highway 14 on County Road 17.

Schroeder would be happy to tell you all about his hobby, and maybe you could tell him something about yours.

Everyone has one.