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YE OLDE ALPACAS
Chuck and Sue Ives of Caroline County embrace all things related to their English ancestry, including "long-neck-ed sheep"

 Sue Ives and her granddaughter Emily Potter, 8, try their hands at harness training 'Triton,' a young alpaca on the Iveses' farm, Nottingham Hollow in Caroline County. The animals are raised for stud and for their fiber.
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Date published: 7/7/2007

By CATHY DYSON

Archer, Robin Hood's brother, tries to stay out of trouble, but he can't escape the long arm of the law.

Or in this case, the long neck of it.

As Friar Tuck watches from a distance, the Sheriff doggedly pursues Archer around the forest of Nottingham Hollow.

They aren't actors in costumes, but alpacas with furry coverings.

Their owners, Chuck and Sue Ives, are fans of all things related to their English ancestry, including the legend of Robin Hood.

The Caroline County residents dress in multilayered long-sleeved costumes in 85-degree weather and take their alpacas to the Renaissance Faire on weekends in May and June at Lake Anna Winery.

As the character "Mistress Ives," the good wife of the alpaca herdsman, Sue Ives tells visitors how Sir Francis Drake, the English navigator, first saw the animals.

They were on a Spanish ship, and Drake "relieved" the owners of some of their "long-neck-ed sheep."

He took them to Queen Elizabeth, hoping to gain her favor by perpetuating a herd.

Unfortunately, he picked all males.

The Iveses had a similar situation when they moved from New Hampshire in 2000. They bought five acres near Woodford, hollowed out pastures and bought some adult alpacas.

When the alpacas started having babies, or crias, Robin Hood came first in 2004, followed by one merry man after another.

Sue Ives wanted a girl for practical--and sentimental--reasons.

When the couple finally got one, Ives found she couldn't name her after Robin Hood's girlfriend, as planned.

"Maid Marian sounded like such an old name, and I couldn't give such an old name to such a cute little bundle of joy," she said.

She christened her Lady KampBell instead. (There's a long explanation, involving a sire named Angus, a shire in Scotland and two veterinarians.)

More females have come along, but there's still a lot of testosterone among the Alpacas of Nottingham Hollow.

The animals are known for their gentle nature and for not needing a lot of space or intensive care. That was perfect for Chuck Ives, who works full time at Peumansend Creek Regional Jail, and his wife, who oversees the farm.


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Virginia Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association has more members from Caroline County than any other jurisdiction in the state.

Caroline has 10 alpaca farms registered with the group, followed by Prince William with eight and Hanover with seven. Currently, there are about 200 alpaca farms in the state, said Linda Polak president of the association, which Sue Ives will lead next year.

"This is a wonderful area for alpaca farming with gently rolling land, a nice climate and good orchard grass," said Polak, who lives in Beaverdam in Hanover County.

The national association has 4,000 members and more than 100,000 registered alpacas in North America.

WHY ALPACAS? Alpacas may be popular as backyard livestock for what they don't have: horns, hooves, claws, incisors or upper teeth.

Here are some other reasons they're turning up on so many farms, according to the National Alpaca Owners & Breeders Association:

Adaptable to any climate--although they need to be hosed off often during Virginia's humid summers.

Require minimal fencing, annual vaccinations and are resistant to most diseases.

Weigh about 150 pounds, have babies without assistance and live about 20 years.

Can be sheared every year for fiber, which is divided into 22 different colors (such as light, medium and dark brown). Fiber is "soft as cashmere and lighter and warmer than wool." In ancient times, alpaca fiber was known as the "Fiber of Gods."