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Finding room for the herd in Boring


Valorie and Duane Starr bought their alpacas before they bought their land. The couple lived for 10 years in Northeast Portland before finally coming east to raise alpacas and race cars.by: POST PHOTO: NEIL ZAWICKI - Valorie Starr explains the difference in fibers on an alpaca.

That’s right.

“My husband is a dentist and he races cars,” Valorie said. “We thought we needed more land, because he needed room for the cars and I didn’t want to hear my neighbors when they blew their noses.”

So, with alpacas in mind, the couple bought six acres out on Proctor Road in Boring. They started with the three, and today they have 70, and they run some more exotic hybrids as well.

“We keep Paco-Vicuñas, too,” she said, describing a blend between the two animals. The fiber grows slower, so they only get sheared every two years. The Starrs are the only farm that run such animals out this way, but they also run Suri aplacas, which give a more silky fiber. This, said Starr, is her favorite.

“The suris grow a long lock, so it spins up like silk,” she said.

Learning to manage the alpacas was not immediate, said Starr. Her education, apart from taking a spinning class from Jan Jaqua at Drumcliffe Farm, has been effective, in a trial and error sort of way.

“I’ve done it all, and I’ve done everything wrong,” she said. “So for example, now I know the value of picking out the bad stuff before sending it to the mill.”

With all the uses for the alpaca fiber, Starr enjoys the end product sales. A skein of alpaca fiber will go for $24. But it is clear she also enjoys the animals as well.

“A lot of people I know treat them like dogs,” she said. “But really, they’re like teenagers. They’re all uniquely the same. There are strong-willed ones and there are obnoxious ones. And if you stand around for a while near them, they’ll come over to you and just sort of be around you.”