Sue Bean loves to cook and recently used an appliance she had never cooked with before. She baked her first pizza in the wood-burning cook stove that was left at her new home on Pope Road in Randolph.
''Everyone told me it would burn because wood doesn't heat evenly,'' said Mrs. Bean. ''I checked it twice and it was done the second time and was perfect. It was very interesting and quite fun.''
She enjoys entertaining, but prefers small groups over large.
Sue and Mike Bean enjoying a meal of chicken parmesan (his), chicken fajita mix over rice (hers), fresh pineapple and crunchy spinach salad.
''Whenever she's having people over she asks what to make and I always say saucy ham and potato bake,'' said her husband, Mike Bean.
The Beans moved from Little Valley in mid-October. Not only did they have to move their own belongings, they had to build pens and move nine of their 10 alpacas. Prior to moving to their Randolph home, A Slice of Heaven Alpacas, they lived in the village of Little Valley with a small lot; therefore they boarded their animals in Little Valley, Cassadaga, Ellicottville and Port Allegany, Pa.
''There are two types of alpacas, Suri and Huacaya. The Suri alpacas, with their long dreadlock-type fleece, make up 17 percent of the alpacas in the United States. The fleece is very silky and is very high end, almost like cashmere,'' Sue said. ''Ours are Huacayas with more of a puffy look.''
''You look for the crimp when looking for an animal,'' she said. ''The finer the fleece and the deeper the amplitude, the better. You want density, a lot of hair follicles in a certain space.''
''Only 2 percent of male alpacas are herd sires. The girls can always be improved by breeding. The boys that don't have the qualities to pass on, good genetics, become pets,'' she says. ''We handpicked every one of ours to create a better line of breed. We've made what we think are educated breeding choices.''
''It costs less than $300 per year to raise an alpaca and they are fully insurable,'' she said. ''Their life expectancy is 20 years and they can have 17 babies in their lifetime. Alpaca droppings can be used to fertilize gardens right away, because they are not acidic.''
Alpacas are native to the Andes Mountains of South America and prized for their luxurious fleece that is sheared once per year. They are very gentle and clean, therefore making for nice pets. The baby alpacas are called crias.
''There are 22 natural colors for alpacas and we have eight of them,'' Mrs. Bean said. ''The No. 1 grade of fleece is the 'blanket' and comes from the main part of the body, shoulder to hip. The No. 2 grade comes from the top of the shoulder and the top of the hip. The shorter fleece on the legs is the No. 3 grade. All is usable.''
The Beans card (comb in one direction) their fleece into a roving. The roving is then spun into yarn. Products that come from the yarn are sold in their store, Simply Natural Alpaca Gift Shop, as well as products that are brought in from other areas. Some of the items that can be found in the store are socks, hats, scarves and gloves, as well as mittens, sweaters, blankets, purses and slippers. Yarn, fur hats and alpaca toys are also sold.
''Alpaca fleece (yarn) is softer and warmer than wool. It wicks water away from the skin, contains no lanolin and is hypo-allergenic,'' Mrs. Bean said. ''No animal is killed to make a product. The fur is used only after the animal dies of natural causes.''
Alpaca products should be hand-washed in cold water and lay flat to dry, with the exception of socks. Socks should be turned inside-out, washed in a washing machine in cold water, turned right side out, then hung to dry.
''The socks are a very popular item,'' Mrs. Bean said. ''Men especially love them.''
Mrs. Bean has a son and a daughter and five grandchildren. The couple has a 13-year-old Siberian husky, named Vincent. She has driven bus for Randolph Central School for more than 20 years and cleans houses for various families. She is a member of the board of directors of Randolph Area Community Development Corporation and secretary-treasurer of the Randolph Bus Drivers' Association.
Her husband is assistant director of custodial services for Aramark at St. Bonaventure University.
''The chicken corn chowder recipe came from Amy Beach, and whenever I make it people ask for the recipe,'' Mrs. Bean said. ''Mike likes Mexican food and that's why I do the fajitas.''
She says that the sausage bacon apricot kabobs recipe that came from her friend, Wanda Crossley, is delicious.
After she and a friend bought pumpkin fudge in Warren, they looked for the recipe and found one that tasted exactly the same. The friend made several batches and packaged them for the couple to give away at their open house that was held in November.
Simply Natural Alpaca Gift Shop is open Monday through Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or by appointment by calling 358-5242 or 499-0494.