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We are Patch and Deb Blakey. (You'll have to ask Patch how he got his nickname later when you give us a visit.) We' ve been "stuck" on each other, married for 34 years and still very much enjoying it! We have many treasures, our children: Laura, Bryan, Christa, and Jessica; their spouses: Austin, Bess, and Kaleb; and our grandchildren: Chloe, Elaina, Norah, and Will.

As a kid, Deb loved every critter that passed her way. In 10th grade, her dream came true in the form of her very own horse! Horse ownership was so fun, she began to think that the raising and selling of horses might be a wonderful occupation when she "grew up."

Deb did grow up, moved from home in Minnesota, and married her wonderful husband, Patch. He was a Naval officer and they moved frequently during their 23 years in the Navy. The moving and the locations did not lend themselves to buying a farm to raise horses, but it was always on the back burner of their minds.

In 1995, Patch left his Naval career and moved the family to Moscow, Idaho. We thought it would be easy to find a little hobby farm, but prices were amazingly high for acreage and we settled on a sweet little house in town and no horses.

Shortly after moving to Moscow we met Eddie and Joyce Gray of Grazing Hills Ranch, an alpaca farm 15 minutes out of town. We had never heard of or seen an alpaca before. We chuckled at their long necks and messy hairdos but thought they were mighty cute, then gasped when we heard how much they cost! Well, that price confirmed in our minds that we would never own alpacas. No way, no how.

Several years later, we bought a beautiful 12 acre parcel of land about 5 miles out of town with a farm of some sort still in the back of our minds. About the same time, Patch was diligently searching out ways to cut our taxes and stop Uncle Sam's hand from reaching so deeply in our pockets. He spent months researching articles on the internet, reading books, listening to tapes. The common denominator in all this input was that having our own business was the best way to reduce taxes. But what could our business be?

Do you believe in divine providence? We sure do! It "just so happened" at about this time that a long-lost friend of Patch, whom he hadn't seen in over 30 years, "just happened" to be getting into the alpaca business and "just happened" to be buying some animals from our alpaca friends, the Grays. We all got together over dinner. They were tremendously excited about their new purchases and couldn't refrain from jabbering about the marvelous tax breaks they would be getting and the great investment these animals would be for them.

Simultaneously, a light bulb came on over my head and that of my husband's. This could be our business: I would take care of and sell the alpacas and hubby would have his tax break and Uncle Sam would help us pay for it all!

Within a very short amount of time after that, we were buying our first alpaca, a pregnant female named Kupcake. We still did not have our own farm, but we agisted (boarded) her at Grazing Hills. We got to write off the cost of the alpaca, agisting fees, vet bills, feed, shearing costs. It was a great tax break.

Since then, we bought two more female alpacas and have had several born to us. With a mind to expand the business, we finally had opportunity to build our home and a barn for the animals in 2003 on the property we had bought several years earlier. Our little herd grew to eight, with four cria on the way in 2006. Now in 2014, we have 19. We intentionally started small, grew slowly, and intend to keep our farm a debt-free and manageable size, giving attention and hands-on time to each animal on a regular basis. And you know what? Alpacas are far easier to care for and train than horses! We're very excited and pleased with our decision.

It is estimated that the entire world population of alpacas is about 3 million. By comparison about 228,000 alpacas live in the U.S.* As of April 2012, there were a little over 15,000 alpaca owners registered in the U.S. with the Alpaca Registry, Inc. (ARI). To put this in perspective, consider that in the U.S. alone there are 6.9 million sheep and more than 96 million cattle.** With the first imported alpacas coming to the U.S. in 1984, this is still a very young industry in breeding stock and fiber marketing and is considered one of the best livestock investments available anywhere. These animals are quite easy to tend, profitable to market, and just plain enjoyable!

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