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Amazing Alpacas

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Gentle animals offer alternative to local livestock farmers

By Ashley Scoby

Down a back road off Ky. 55, sprawling country houses hide behind winding gravel driveways and expansive green lawns. A few man-made ponds divide the acres and provide further detail to the picturesque scene.

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If you were to turn into Ellen Dour’s driveway, however, you would start to see some oddities. There are things here the neighbors don’t have – a barn with about six fans whirring in the summer heat, a pink kiddie pool filled with water and maybe even a few bags of black, brown or white fluff sitting around.
There is something different about this particular house. There is something strange here.
Dour, it turns out, is the proud owner of Memory Maker Alpacas, a small alpaca farm housing eight of the unusual animals.
“Once I bought my alpacas, strange people would start to come up my driveway and just say, ‘I’ve never seen that kind of animal before. What are they?’” Dour said. “People being interested in my animals has led to many friendships.”
Those animals that have led to so much curiosity are alpacas – long-legged members of the animal kingdom’s camelid family. They are known for their long necks, as well as their fluffy fiber that is sheared and used to make items such as scarves, socks, purses and hats.
Dour always knew that she wanted to live on a farm. Growing up in the heart of Louisville, she loved the idea of open spaces and fog rolling in across a field and animals mingling together under the shade of a barn.
For a while, Dour believed she would build her dream farm around horses. But once Dour started researching different animals, she stumbled across the alpaca instead. Qualities that stood out to her about these strange animals included padded feet that wouldn’t destroy pasture; laid-back personalities that worked well with children and other animals; low maintenance and a special kind of fiber that could be sheared once a year for multiple purposes.
Dour and her husband, Pat, first gained four alpacas in March of 2010, and she has been living her farm dream ever since, eventually growing her herd to eight. Although not the typical farm, Dour thinks the eccentricity of the place is exactly what makes Memory Maker Alpacas so special.
“When my family heard what I was planning on doing, they weren’t really surprised. I’ve always been the one to do weird things,” she said. “I don’t want to be the kind of person who grows old and stops being interested in new things.”
Now, Memory Maker Alpacas offers the chance for people to visit with the animals there, as well as to shop at the farm’s small store. All manner of items made from the alpacas’ fiber is offered: winter garments, soap, purses, diabetic socks and more. These items offer a special kind of protection from harsh winter weather not only because they’re warm but also because the material wicks moisture away.
Although selling those items is important to Dour’s livelihood, she gets the most enjoyment out of taking care of the fiber’s providers. As a retired nurse who has raised four children, Dour says that starting the alpaca farm has been a good transition for her because she still gets to use her nurturing nature.
In some ways, Dour’s eight alpacas – Izzy, Zeke, Savannah, Gabe, Trooper, Beauty, Windy and Lily – are part of a big family on the farm. A Great Pyrenees dog named Bruiser, chickens, ducks and a cat all roam Dour’s property, too.
They all kind of serve a purpose,” Dour said of her animals. “As a mom, you want your kids to all get along, so it makes me happy to have all the animals get along with each other, too.”
Some days, Dour will bring a chair out into her field to read a book, surrounded by her eight alpacas and assortment of other animals. Although not the typical farm lifestyle you might see in Spencer County, it’s one that Dour has embraced. It’s also a lifestyle Dour has been willing to share with all those strangers coming down her driveway, wondering about the furry creatures in the backyard.
If you are interested in visiting Memory Maker Alpacas, located at 280 Brashears Point Road in Taylorsville, you can call the farm at (502) 477-9079.