Who: Hidden Paradise Alpaca farms
What: Alpaca farm and gift shop
Where: 13716 N Division Ext, Granville, IL (815) 830-5290
Tuesdays and Thursdays 10am-2pm
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.”
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.
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.