Saturday, June 14, 2014


Alpacas, a Tale of Its Own

Once upon a time there lived the Pine family that dwelt in a big house.   As the years went by the offspring flew the coop as Mary, and her husband Fran, were left alone with their bichon dogs, Max and Mandy.  Across the way was this 1870’s stone farm house that Mary admired.   It sat on some acres of land and had a pond.  

Mary heard that the house was up for sale and thought, “Why not buy it and turn it into a bed and breakfast?”  Mary, having grown up on a farm had some other ideas as well. “The pond shall have a duck, rescue swan named Joey, and a turtle.  The outside of our part of the home shall have a waterfalls that leads into a koi pond.  Fresh eggs are best soon after the hen lays them, so we shall have hens.”  Fran was okay with this but Mary wanted more.  She wanted to have some pet alpacas.
Fran needed to come up with an anniversary gift, so he agreed on buying three alpacas.  Due to their being “pets” the fiber that they produced would be of less quality than ones used to make clothing.  That made Fran happy regarding the cost.   

Mary told her mommy about this.  The problem was that her mommy was very sick and staying in a nursing home.  Her mommy was saddened because she felt that she would not live long enough to see the alpacas.

In the meantime, Kevin and Sue Zurin owned Eastland Alpacas at a not so far away place in Mt. Joy.  Kevin and Sue, hearing the sad story said, “Let’s loan you two alpacas so you can take them to this nursing home.”  Mary and Fran placed the alpacas in the back of an SUV.  They sat down comfortably and enjoyed the ride. 

When they took it to the nursing home (even had them riding the elevator), everybody got happy, especially Mary’s mommy. 

Mary and Fran returned the alpacas and after they purchased and restored the new house, Fran bought Wilson, Bryce and Freddy (who will let you feed them). 

The property was named Airy View Bed and Breakfast, located at 4596 Airy View Dr.   The house had two pretty and comfortable rooms upstairs and one downstairs, called the Lancaster Room, which overlooks the waterfalls. 

In case you want to fish, forget the koi pond.  The bigger pond is stocked with bass and blue gill to “catch and release”.  

Merle and Laurie stayed overnight, listened to the tale and had a delicious breakfast in the morning.


“Wow, an alpaca farm”, said Merle.  “I wonder if I can pet them”, (she has already held a 3-month-old lion cub in her arms and cuddled up to a giraffe).  They then drove to the 30-acre Eastland Alpacas where they met Kevin and Sue at the “store”, located at 2089 Risser Mill Rd.   
The store had lots of clothing such as sweaters, socks, gloves, ear warmers and blankets.  You could even buy yarn.   Sheep’s wool might be warm but the fiber from an alpaca is warmer and weighs much less.   “Oh, goody,” said Merle, “I can wear these sox with my sandals even when it’s 10 degrees out.”

Kevin and Sue took Merle and Laurie on a tour where they first stopped into the barn.  There were bails of straw, just some of the alpacas, and a few young cats who like to play with the furry Huacaya alpacas.  It seemed that the alpacas had all recently gotten a haircut around their cute tall bodies (except from the neck up). 

After putting these blue plastic “slippers” over their shoes, Merle and Laurie were taken out to see the rest of the group.  They were all different colors, pretty and docile.  Feeding them was fun for Merle especially when Katarina came up to her.  She was all white with buck teeth on the bottom (They later learned that alpacas only have bottom teeth).   Merle and Katarina seemed to glace into each other’s eyes as Merle faked a kiss and they obviously fell in love.  But it was only a short term romance.

With many more alpacas to visit, Merle could not help but take a photo of “Joe Cool”, with his furry face and sunglasses.  It was an experience that Merle will always treasure.


It is DAY2 that we are here in the town of Columbia to check out some attractions, have lunch and dinner.  The Turkey Hill Experience was next on our agenda.  It’s not the farm or source of their ice cream but a sort of museum, located at 301 Linden Street with an opportunity to taste some flavors, create your own ice cream and check out Turkey Hill’s other products. 

After a tour of the building, we went into one of the “labs” where we first had to wash up and take a place at one of several counters.  Each of the spaces was equipped with various flavors such as chocolate, mint, and fruit flavors.  Then there were final additions of syrups in squeeze bottles.  We were given a pint container of vanilla ice cream to which we added whatever flavor or flavors and blended it in.  I added chocolate and mint.  We then walked over to small bins of add-ons such as various nuts, chocolate chips, cookie crumbles, candies and more.  Mix it in and then add, if you want, syrup.  The pints were then put into a quick freeze fridge for a bit…after placing your name on it.  Here we are, now eating almost a pint of ice cream, plus tasting a few.

If you do a combo of the museum, which gets you all the tasting you want, the lab experience (separate) and admission to the National Watch & Clock Museum it will cost about $19 for an adult.

I own a small “alarm sized” clock that runs by tap water.  How much history and examples of watches and clocks could I see?  We went to 514 Poplar Street where a clock tower was prominently placed close to the street.  This is the National Watch and Clock Museum. 

After viewing a short movie we began touring the various galleries.  It would have been too much walking for me to view all of them.  Fortunately, they have a motorized scooter to loan you. Here are the titles of the galleries: Ancient Timepieces, Asian Horology, Wristwatches, Member Contributions, Monumental Clocks, Tower Clocks, Novelty Clocks, European Clock and Watchmaking, Time and Transportation, American Clockmaking, American Watchmaking, and Early Mechanical Timekeeping.   One special exhibit is The Magic of Mystery Clocks.  

A mystery clock is one that at first glance has no visible means of connecting a movement to the hands that mark thee time and known as a “horological magic trick”.  According to the museum, some of the most famous mystery clocks are believed to have been inspired and built by French magician and clockmaker Jean Eugene Robert –Houdin.  Perhaps Houdini took his name from this. Interesting how time reverts as the water clock exhibits were located in “Ancient Timepieces”.

Hinkle’s Pharmacy was our lunch destination, located at 3rd and Locust Street. 

I had a Cherry Lime Ricky and Chicken Pot Pie without the crust. 

Hinkle’s and the town of Columbia have much history as I read on their menu. “The borough that is now Columbia has a long and impressive history. Indians were living on the shores of the Susquehanna in this area when the first settlers arrived in 1726. One of the settlers, a Quaker named John Wright, started a ferry service which led to the town known as Wright’s Ferry.

Mr. Wright was involved in defending the area during numerous confrontations of the
Cresaps War in 1734-36 when Maryland tried to claim the southern portion of Pennsylvania. Buildings were burned and lives were lost, but the disputed boundary was not settled until the Mason-Dixon Survey in 1763.

In 1738, when the land was still wilderness, John’s eldest daughter, Susannah, had a
home built and settled in Wright’s Ferry. This old home, now beautifully restored, can be seen at 38 South Second Street in what is now Columbia.

In 1788, Samuel Wright, grandson of John, decided to lay out a town. He named the
borough Columbia. He reserved some ground between the front lots and the river, and soon the area was piled high with logs that had been boated down the Susquehanna from upstate forests. These logs were retrieved in Columbia, dried out, cut into boards and sold for construction. So a lumber business was born and the town became a bustling industrial community.

Columbia continued to prosper in the canal era of the 19th century because it was an
important junction between two canal systems–the Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal to the south and the Pennsylvania Canal to the north. Residents of the area, if they were going to Europe 150 years ago, would start the trip in Columbia. They would board a canal boat which took them across the Susquehanna to the entrance of the S &T Canal. From there they would be towed to Havre de Grace where they would be floated to the Chesapeake Bay and carried to Baltimore by a small steamboat and finally transferred onto a large sailing ship bound for Europe.
Columbia’s river played a dramatic role in our country’s history, too. On June 18th,
1863 Confederate troops, after having captured York, advanced to Wrightsville, where they planned to cross Wright’s Ferry bridge into Columbia and continue to Philadelphia. Union defenders placed charges on the wooden bridge, but the blast only splintered the arch. Orders were then given to set the bridge on fire. The spectacular fire burned for five hours, completely destroying the bridge preventing the rebels from advancing any further north.

Hinkle’s Pharmacy was established in 1893 as a partnership consisting of Samuel W.
Hinkle and Luther J. Schroeder. The 30 x 40 square foot store had a pharmacy, a 10 stool soda fountain, 2 employees and also doubled as the local tax collection office.

Over 100 years later we feel very fortunate to be able to serve you on the same corner and with the fourth generation of our family in the business.”   Enough history. 

It was much later when we had dinner at Prudhomme’s Lost Cajun Kitchen.  Sharon and David are the owners of this Cajun cuisine restaurant located at 50 Lancaster Avenue.  Sharon sat down with us for the “101” on both the food and history of the building.  Something having to do with ghosts. I, of course, was most interested in the food as we once more, did a “tasting” of the most requested items on the menu.  With most of the fare made to order, I requested to poo-poo the garlic and make anything too spicy.  As it turns out, Cajun cuisine doesn’t necessary have to be “hot”. 

As Laurie loves garlic, some of the items were served with or minus the garlic.  Prudhomme’s has their own version of a “Whoopie Pie”  called a Cajun “Whoopee Pie” of cornbread and crab with a creamy sauce on the side (whichever side you prefer to place it).   The Crab Ring is a huge battered onion ring that is loaded with crab and melted pepper Jack Cheese.  Btw, they don’t use fake crab meat here.  

Alligator is a must.  They call it “Piece of Tail”. The gator was sautéed with onions, wine, and green peppers (Laurie had the “garlic added” edition). Does it takes like chicken?  To me , it tasted like alligator. The other “garlic” and “no garlic” item was the Hop along Casidy Frog Legs ‘N Garlic. They were sautéed with mushrooms, onion, seasonings and wine.  What do frog legs taste like?  Frog legs?

Needless to say we had Hushpuppies made from cornmeal, flour, seasoning, green onions and sugar served with honey butter.  It wasn’t crawfish season but was able to make a Crawfish Etouffee, a sort of a tomato based soupy dish served over rice.

Catfish is big with Cajun cooking as well as a common seafood found all over.  It is not one of my favorite fish.  The blackened farm raised Carolina catfish is totally deboned. 

At least Laurie loved the way it was prepared…and she like catfish.  Yes, we had dessert…carrot cake and bread pudding.

Photos by Merle Exit and Laurie Katz 

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