Archive » January 3, 2008
By Alecia Evans, Staff Writer
The hidden jewel of Los Olivos
Nestled in the heart of Los Olivos is a ranch that tourists often describe as “the jewel of the Santa Ynez valley.” Alpacas de Los Olivos is the heartfelt creation and calling of residents Ed and Elizabeth Warynick.
The Warynick’s discovered alpacas six years ago when Elizabeth began searching for a companion to her aging horse. Love blossomed quickly with the fleecy critters and the couple began breeding a stock of their own. Then they received the unfortunate news that their Santa Barbara residence was loaded with Oleander, a substance that is deadly to alpacas and could not be removed. It was then that Ed and Elizabeth began dreaming of a 10- to 20-acre ranch they hoped to find in the Santa Ynez Valley.
Luck — or St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals to whom the Warynick’s pay great homage throughout the grounds — must have played a large part when Elizabeth stumbled upon an ad on the Internet for a five-acre ranch in Los Olivos. In agreement that it was time to move, the couple followed their destiny and purchased the 5-acre ranch on Corral de Quati.
The ranch is home to alpacas and a few rescued llamas of all ages and sizes — there is even Immaculee, the three-legged alpaca. Born with a subluxated leg, which her veterinarian amputated when she was just a week old, she is a lively, vivacious girl who is happy to trot up the hill and inspire play among the other females.
The alpacas have a peaceful energy about them and exude a special humming sound when they are curious. And curious they are.
As Elizabeth and I entered their paddock, “the girls” came flocking over to check us out. Cautious and protective of their babies, the females walked over to see what we were up to, allowing us close enough contact for a feel of their soft fleece while Elizabeth was cuddled by Natasha, who loves to be hugged.
In another paddock, “the boys” were fascinated by my little dachshund Indie and moved stealthily as a herd to check him out from the other side of the fence.
“When busy, rushed or stressed people come up for the day, they are often surprised at how peaceful they become in the presence of the alpacas. They are a huge hit with the children that come to visit the ranch as well; Natasha, a beautiful chocolate-colored alpaca, loves to be their welcoming committee. “God has given us this ranch and we have given it to God as a place of peace and for people in the community and visitors to come and feel the presence of that peace,” Elizabeth said.
Indigenous to South America, alpacas are known mainly for their fleece. Alpacas de Los Olivos Ranch Store is housed in an old log cabin that sits at the top of the hill and offers many exquisite creations, including shawls, capes, sweaters for men and women, hats, shirts, scarves, vests and alpaca fleece teddy bears, as well as handspun yarn from the Warynick’s stock.
Purchasing any of the handcrafted alpaca creations helps to ensure the livelihood and top wage payment of Peruvian women from five different villages who make the garments.
“The Peruvians honor the alpacas as a sacred animal — realizing that giving them the best care is in their best interest as their fleece brings them income,” said Warynick, “and we stand behind helping others support themselves.”
The ranch has played host to everything from school trips to retreats to alpaca education seminars.
“St. Francis of Assisi, who is referred to as the patron saint of the animals, spread the message of a reverence for all life and responsible human stewardship over this land and all its creatures large and small; his philosophy resonates deeply within Ed’s and my hearts,” said Elizabeth.
The Warynick’s also have fun naming the alpaca babies after famous people.
The Queen of England received a letter from the Warynick’s informing her that they named one of their males Prince Charles. So did Fox News legal correspondent Greta Van Susteren when the Warynicks named an alpaca Greta Van Es.
Ranch store hours are Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Ranch tours are by appointment. Phone 805-688-5746, or visit the ranch’s Website, www.Whyalpacas.com.