Arts and Entertainment

Arlington couple shares their unconventional farm

ARLINGTON — With kangaroos, wallabies, llamas and alpacas, as well as an assortment of more ordinary farm animals like turkeys, chickens and ducks, Ray and Joey Strom’s Outback Kangaroo Farm has turned into a thriving retirement business for the Arlington couple.

And it all started 15 years ago with one wallaby — an animal that looks like a smaller, fuzzier kangaroo.

“We were at an ostrich convention,” said Ray. “A woman had a little baby (wallaby). She let us hold it and we went home with it.”

Ray and Joey related a similar story, explaining how they came to raise three ringtail lemurs, small members of the primate family whose voices almost meow like cats.

“A guy was doing a tour and he had some lemurs for sale,” Joey explained. “Ray went and took a look at them and fell in love.”

The Stroms say that while many of their animals are unconventional by American standards, most make great pets. A tour of their farm leads from pen to pen, and people of all ages can walk up to and pet the kangaroos, wallabies and cavies — the latter a short-haired rodent with rabbit-like rear legs. Peacocks, chickens, turkeys and ducks roam the penned in area throughout the tour as well, while baby ducks slip through the fence that keeps the adults confined, working on their motor skills and following Ray in hopes of winning some bread crumbs shared with the kangaroos.

The Stroms’ business began as a Christmas tree farm in Edmonds, the pets a side attraction. But in 1998, the couple moved up to Arlington, just north of Arlington Heights Road, and have added animals since, including donkeys, goats and an ostrich. The emus also came in the late 1990s, their names a product of the era — Bill and Monica.

The couple still sells Christmas trees on their 25-acre farm, but the animals are a year-round attraction. Acquiring their furry friends through fellow animal lovers and others by rescue, the Stroms now have three licenses to operate their family farm.

The highlight of any tour, when it’s an option, is to hold a baby kangaroo. The Stroms keep a playpen in their log cabin home for the joeys, bottle feeding and often sleeping with them in the first week, in order to domesticate the animals, Joey said.

“We didn’t plan this at all,” she added. “LIfe takes you on a path and you just go with it.”

The couple offers tours of their farm Wednesdays through Sundays, March through October. Information is available on their Web site at www.christmastreesandroos.com.

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