Long and Winding Road to Hidden Paradise

Who:  Hidden Paradise Alpaca farms

What:  Alpaca farm and gift shop

Where:  13716 N Division Ext, Granville, IL (815) 830-5290

When:
Tuesdays and Thursdays 10am-2pm
Saturdays 10am-3pm

AlpacaSign

We found it!

The aim of this blog is to spotlight hidden gems of Northern Illinois. Speaking of, Charles heard an ad for Hidden Paradise Alpaca farm in Granville, Illinois on WLPO (LaSalle-Peru-Ottawa).  We almost got lost heading there. To look at a map, it’s a straight shot from Boggio’s Orchard, where we’d just come from (if you’re not heading from there, you can take Highway 39 from the east or Highway 180 from the west, get off at 71 and turn north at Division). When you’re actually there, Division takes odd turns and there are spots of unmarked/confusingly signed streets. One thing I’ve noticed about the Illinois Valley is that something can be right down the street and “feel” far because of all the curves around bodies of water. Being from Chicago, I’m accustomed to politics rather than nature determining the shape of a town.

So, eventually we found Hidden Paradise. We showed up on a day they weren’t actually open (it was Sunday and they’re open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays). We saw the sign at the end of the driveway and called, and they agreed to show us around anyway. It was so quiet I could hear the wind rustling through the dried out cornstalks as Charles called.

Some people dream of leaving the rat race in the city behind and raising alpacas, and our hosts Anna and Michael O’Sullivan did just that in 2008 when they opened Hidden Paradise. Former CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) workers, with Anna in charge of the signage on the el stops, they fell in love with the beauty of Starved Rock and the Illinois Valley region and decided to retire there. Michael, who walked us around the farm, said his wife suggested raising alpacas. He said he asked her, “What’s an alpaca?” He soon learned they’re very gentle South American creatures, similar to but about half the size of llamas, kept for their fleece.

I’d never seen an alpaca live and in person and wasn’t sure what to make of them at first. Their goofy faces reminded me of Muppets. It was hard to gauge their emotions, if they’d be friendly or wary of strangers. “The poker faces of the animal kingdom,” thought I. Mike told us they were peaceful, defenseless creatures. My research tells me they’re often kept with sheep herds as they’re tall and can see predators coming and chase them away. Their genus and species name is Vicugna pacos, as they’re derived from the wild vicuña, and pacos means “policeman.”

AlpacaFace

Would you trust this face?

There were no predators to chase off at Hidden Paradise, just plenty of grass to eat and roll around in (for the alpacas, but no judgment if that’s your thing). There were also dogs, rabbits, goats and cats kept in different sections of the farm. We met Anna as she was skirting the alpaca fleece. This involves running it through a sieve-like contraption to free it of dirt and dust, to be gathered in bags.  They send the bags to a co-op in Tennessee to be turned into products.

AlpacaSkirting

Anna Sullivan and friend skirting alpaca fleece

AlpacaForSale

Want to start your own alpaca farm?

They also had a gift shop and we just had to thank them for showing us around on their day off. Charles got some alpaca socks that feel soft as a dream, warm for winter yet light as cotton. I got some alpaca fleece-wrapped soap (a natural exfoliant, I’m told) and a lovely multicolored scarf (more for fashion than warmth).

Hidden Paradise Alpaca farm was a welcoming, peaceful place to hang out with the animals, and maybe stock up on some Christmas presents if you know someone who’s been very, very good.

AlpacaFarmDonkeyMiniHorse

Donkey and mini horse

AlpacaStowAwayCats

Friendly reminder about friendly cats

Reaping the Harvest at Boggio’s Orchard (Don’t Forget the Fudge)

Who:  Boggio’s Orchard and Produce

What:  Apple orchard, market store, family play area

Where:  12087 IL Hwy. 71, Granville, IL  (815) 339-2245

When:
Monday-Saturday:  6-9am donuts and pastries; 9am-6pm market open
Sunday:  6-9am donuts and pastries; 9am-5pm market open

BoggiosSilo

Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, I remember idyllic fall Sundays at apple orchards, filling bushels to the brim with fresh apples right off the tree.  Now that it’s fall, my Facebook feed is full of friends taking their kids there.  The manfriend (okay, maybe if you’ve been reading this long we’re friends now and I should just tell you his name is Charles) told me Boggio’s was the best orchard that wasn’t too far of a drive.  So, on an unseasonably warm Sunday right before Halloween, we headed about an hour south and slightly west of DeKalb to tiny Putnam County, the smallest county in Illinois, to check it out.

The sign was a bit hard to spot from the direction we were heading, but we could see the parked cars and rows of fresh pumpkins.  I didn’t realize there were so many different hues of pumpkin—they had Jack-o’-lantern orange, yellow, and pale ivory pumpkins lined up in rows like Legos.  We headed inside to the market shop and checked out all the apple products and paraphernalia.  We made sure to get some apple cider donuts; Charles was afraid they might be out.  They also had fresh fudge made on site, and I have to say it was about the best fudge I’d ever tasted.  Good enough to prompt strange cravings a year from now, I reckon. They happily handed out free samples and we left our consumption at that.  I especially liked the tiger butter, a mix of peanut butter and vanilla.

BoggiosFudge

We chatted with the people behind the counter a bit and they told us Boggio’s had formerly been in Hennepin but moved to Granville in 1992 under new ownership. The cashiers explained that the wooden contraptions on the wall were apple seeders.  I heard it as “cedars,” but they explained that they were designed to remove seeds from apples meant for processing.  I tried to Google more information about them and found a bunch of stuff about Apple computers.  Maybe it goes by a fancier and less prosaic name I’m not aware of?

BoggiosAppleSeeders

Apple seeders

We had a lot of driving in the 815 to pack into the day, so we didn’t stay that long.  Charles was ready to go after we bought a few small things but I insisted on checking out what was behind the store and wandered around snapping pics.  He really missed out, as there was a guy singing and playing guitar, a corn maze, a petting zoo, and kiddie hot rod rides.  I didn’t see anyone picking apples, and they only seemed to have a few small rows of trees, though the website says it’s a u-pick-em joint.  Maybe there’s another section I missed.

BoggiosAttractionSign

To do list

BoggiosKiddieHotRod

Kiddie hot rods

Boggio’s was a great place to take kids with plenty for them to do.  For adults just passing through, it’s a great way to enjoy the fall weather before winter clamps down and stock up on some gifts and treats for yourself.  We were lucky and got there on one of the last really warm weekends, complete with ladybugs crawling all over us and seeping into the car.

BoggiosPleadingGoat

Pleading critter