Mike and Elizabeth Longstreth are the husband and wife team behind Lazy Meadows Alpacas, a Hughesville farm and mill and Muncy store.
They have raised alpacas for their wool since 2009 and opened a store on Main Street in Muncy in January 2010.
Both Mike and Elizabeth were working full-time when they began the venture.
JOSH BROKAW/Sun-Gazette Correspondent
Mike and Elizabeth Longstreth, left, in their Muncy store amid products from their Hughesville area farm and mill.
Elizabeth still works at Andritz Sprout-Bauer Inc., but Mike minds the store and farm full-time.
"It's nice to have a farm that's been in the family 120 years turn a profit," Mike said, "even if it's a small one."
Elizabeth's great-great grandfather Thomas Artley founded the farm, and it has been a working enterprise ever since.
The couple installed a windmill for electricity production on the 55-acre property.
"There were horses on the property for a long time," Mike said. "We wanted to switch over to a more profitable livestock."
The flock at Lazy Meadows numbers 21 alpacas today, up from an initial purchase of six in 2009.
They require daily food, water and stall cleanings, and the Longstreths clip their nails and weigh them every month - a process that takes couple of hours, if everyone's good.
"Animals are like people," Mike explained. "Some like you, some like you if you feed them, and some are like 'let's get this over with.' "
The couple became millers as a way to supplement their income from the wool.
"You only shear once a year," Mike said.
After shearing, the wool goes through a washing system and then a fiber separator, which removes the tough guard hairs from the outer coat.
"Alpacas are very clean," Mike added. "It's akin to washing a load of laundry."
The wool then is carded, a process that removes clumps and "gets all the hairs facing in the same direction," Mike said.
After carding, the material then can be hand-spun or drafted, a procedure that thins the wool to a point where it can be spun into thread that is then made into yarn.
The Longstreths have milled for customers from as far away as Maine and Oregon, turning coats from a wide variety of animals into yarn, including camels and bison.
"We made a lovely yarn out of a lady's Labradoodle," said Mike.
The Longstreths' mill keeps them busy in the summer months, a slower time for the retail store.
"There's not enough alpaca wool in the US for a commercial woolery like Woolrich to process it," said Elizabeth. "The mini-mills are all busy in the summer."
During the summer months, they have held weaving and spinning lessons in the store, as well as participating in Muncy's 'Last Friday' downtown street festival. In addition to selling alpaca products made by themselves and others, the Longstreths also make their own soap and stained glass; sell Schacht looms and spinning wheels; and feature a wide variety of crafts from area artisans on consignment.
"Being focused on the fiber end of it kind of drives you to spin and weave," said Mike. "Between the looms, the knitting and the spinning we probably use forty percent of our own product."
The Susquehanna Valley Spinners and Weavers Guild, based in Lewisburg, provided help as the Longstreths began to learn the ancient crafts.
"There's a pretty good historical background with Muncy," said Mike. "Being that we're in an old-fashioned handcrafted business we fit right in."
The couple has learned that not having a boss doesn't mean taking it easy all day.
"He's putting in more hours at the mill and store than he ever did working for someone else," said Elizabeth.
"You've got to put in a lot of hours yourself," said Mike. "But the animals make it worth it."