Artistic outlet, inspirational creations with fleece

Nov. 28, 2013 @ 05:40 PM

Though Bill Wooten is a dentist by trade, he probably never imagined he would clean the teeth of an alpaca on his own farm.

But grinding down his alpaca’s teeth is one responsibility he has as the owner of a 36-acre alpaca farm.

For the past 12 years, Bill and his wife Terry have chose to balance their professional life with creative pursuits on a farm along Kerr Lake in Virginia less than two miles from the North Carolina border.

The alpacas serve as an artistic outlet and have inspired functional one-of-a-kind creations with the alpacas fleece.

The Wootens live and work on their land, Mill Creek Farm near Clarksville, Va., when they are not seeing patients in their dentist practice that the couple owns in Henderson on South Beckford Drive.

When the couple saw their son go off to college in 2001, they decided to leave their home in Wake Forest for a summer at Kerr Lake.

“We said, ‘let’s live at the lake this summer,’ and we have never been back,” Bill recalls.

The farm, part of a family farm in operation for several generations, was a natural move for the couple, who loves creating and spending time outdoors.

They purchased their first alpacas in 2005 and brought them to the farm in 2006.

“We are happiest when we get to create things,” said Terry, who is a dental hygienist.

She said they chose to breed and sell alpacas because they are gentle animals that could produce a valuable resource and cause little damage to their surroundings.

They wanted an animal to not only be self-sustaining, but also profitable.

“Alpacas don’t destroy a pasture like sheep and goats,” Bill said.

It turned out, alpacas met all their requirements and more.

Mill Creek Farm has contained more than 40 alpacas at one time, but now the couple has only eight: three males and five females.

The alpacas can sell from $4,500 to as much as $12,000.

“The better the breed line it comes from and the better it shows, the higher the price,” Bill said.

When they shear their herd once a year, Terry creates hats, scarves and shawls from the fleece. She even wraps the fleece around her homemade soap as a self-lathering cleanser.

“Anything you can do with cotton, you can do with fleece,” Terry said. “Being a lover of arts and crafts, having a non-wool like product is fun for me.”

Mill Creek Farm also provides the space and materials for them to work on other projects that don’t involve alpaca fur, like a chicken shed and stained glass.

Terry said the farm activities are a pleasant contrast to work at the dentist office that can feel confining at times.

The couple, who have worked together in the office for more than 20 years, continue to work with their hands on the farm.

The alpacas are like children to the Wootens, whose philosophy is to provide a safe environment for the alpacas while getting to know each animal’s personality and needs.

“Having the alpaca farm and the dentist office gives us the best of both worlds,” Bill said.

 

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.