Every Home’s a Stage

Another Saturday in Floyd County, another house concert. Last week, music of the mountains, sitting in folding chairs, in jeans. This week, classical music of the ages, seated in an elegant living room, in a coat and tie.

The setting: The Inn at Hope Springs Farm, almost to the Carroll County line, on 221 the other side of Willis.

We met the owners, Candace and William, a couple of years back through a friend who was filling their extensive needs for custom draperies, upholstery and such. Last night, the music also was from local talent–Mike Mitchell playing the masters on violin, with accompaniment on the grand piano.

From Floyd County, Blue Ridge Mountains, Southwest Virginia Walking in last night, we realized this was a different crowd. We recognized only the host and hostess, and our veterinarian. But from the remaining strangers, we met quite a few new couples. Some were guests at the Inn from Richmond or Greensboro. Others, like Sandra and Ken, had local ties–and connections to the Inn owners by their common interest in alpacas. Here’s their alpaca website.

And so there was some conversation that followed from my question: “So you think I could actually turn a profit on our six acres of level land with these animals?” Boy, did I ask the right question to the right folks. The tax benefits are significant. There’s even an Alpaca 101 page that seems likely to answer all our questions. Yours, too.

So we have had two Saturday house events in a row, and sampled the diversity of music and culture that is available in this wide place in the road. No, you won’t find a civic center in town. No movie theaters or streets lined with ethnic restaurants. But there’s plenty to do. It’s just that we enjoy much of our entertainment where we live: at home. And invite the neighbors.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Libby and I toured an alpaca farm some years ago. This is a serious business. Certainly the socks I have made from alpaca wool are warm!

  2. Hi there!
    I got your link with my daily “alpaca alert” from Google :))
    I really like your page! Home concerts intrigue me, have to look into it out here.

    Reading through the post that talks about you helping your friend set up his blog to showcase his talent, I am interested in knowing if he was successful in figuring out a way to post his music clips?
    My kids are in a Celtic group and they just recorded their first CD, I would sure like to post clips of it on my blog, but haven’t figured a way how to do so yet.
    Love your pictures!
    Good luck exploring the fun world of alpacas!

  3. I know I’m going to grate on the nerves of Alpacas the world over with my own personal opinion. But Alpacas as a business investment relies exclusively on the presumption that demand for breeding stock will continue to outstrip supply of breeding stock. Because that’s the only thing driving the business. While it’s not a Pyramid Scheme, it’s certainly a Pyramid Model, which I find suspect. After all, where else exactly does the business case lie for paying $15,000 for an Alpaca that will yield only $1,000 a year in wool? That wouldn’t even come close to covering the expenses simply to care for the animal for the 12 month period to yield the wool. Once demand drops for the Alpaca (and believe me, over the long term, it will) there will be alot of early adopters who will already have made a small fortune and a whole bunch of people at the bottom of the pyramid wondering what went wrong. I won’t judge the folks you met, I’m sure they’re good folks. But I’ve met more than one alpaca farmer and my experience is the conversation inevitably turns toward a sales pitch on the profitability of the animal, and why I should consider getting into the business. Google for alpacas and you’ll find every single alpaca farm has a snazzy web site talking up the values of alpacas. The entire community must support this model of salesmanship or risk bursting the speculative bubble. But don’t take my word for it. Read the 36 page report on the U.S. Alpaca market put out by UC Davis in 2005(http://aic.ucdavis.edu/research1/alpaca_RAE.pdf), particularly the part which reads “Our conclusion that current prices for alpaca stock are not supportable by market fundamentals and that the industry represents the latest in the rich history of speculative bubbles in agriculture may provide a useful caution for those considering investing in the industry.”