ARLINGTON – If you like soft kisses go to the Outback Kangaroo Farm.
No, silly, don’t kiss a kangaroo. Kiss an alpaca.
Michelle Adams, a daughter of farm owner Raymond Strom and a guide, encourages visitors to put a food pellet in their mouth to get a kiss. It tickles. It certainly was a highlight on a recent trip to the farm just past Arlington on Highway 530.
One had to wonder when Strom’s wife Joey died two years ago if he’d want to continue the business, especially since they had thought of selling it the year before because she was burned out.
But Strom told his family, including daughter Angie Richards, who runs the gift shop, “I want to keep going.”
He’s glad he did. Thanks to a change to accept credit cards and also social media “going crazy” sharing information about the place, business is hopping.
“There’s a lot of new people,” he said. “We’ve had more numbers the last couple of years.”
During summer, different types of camps and senior citizen facilities like to go on group tours, and school tours have always been popular.
Strom and Joey lived in Edmonds when they first started collecting exotic pets. Strom wanted to raise ostriches, but Joey fell in love with a joey, which is a baby kangaroo or wallaby.
After they collected too many for their place they moved to the current Arlington farm and sold Christmas trees. Customers enjoyed their pets so much they encouraged them to open the farm up to the public.
“We didn’t plan on the tours,” Strom said. “But so many people wanted to see them.”
As Adams started a tour, she tells the visitors the job’s not glamorous. “You clean up a lotta poop,” she said, adding some of the animals actually poop in the same place all the time even though there aren’t any restrooms.
She asks the visitors not to run or chase the animals. “You’re in their home today. Be gentle,” she said.
She gave particular instructions on how not to act around kangaroos. “Don’t hop like a kangaroo. It freaks them out,” she said.
When petting Lola the Llama she advised to only pet her only from the front. “If you pet her back she’ll spit. She’s the boss,” Adams said.
She then told another bad joke, telling a story that ended with the punch line “Alpaca (I’ll pack a) lunch.”
When talking about 21-year-old Oreo, a mini horse, she said it was given to them. “Don’t know why someone would give a biter to a petting zoo,” she said.
As Oreo kept shaking its head yes when Adams asked questions, she said they are smart animals. She said many mini horses make great service animals visiting hospitals and prisons – just not Oreo.
When visiting emus 1-Eyed Bill and Mark (former called Monica), Adams said once the female lays the egg the male sits on it until it hatches and then raises it.
Strom took over the tour in the visit to the kangaroos. He introduced visitors to Jelly and her offspring Peanut Butter, along with Jackson, who is as tall as Strom when he stands on his hind legs.
The farm shuts down from November through February. What does Strom do?
“Rest,” he said, adding that he’s remarried.
Strom, who also sells kangaroos and wallabies as pets or to zoos, loves the animals.
“They’re soft and furry, endearing,” he said, adding the vibe they give off is a “magical feeling. I can’t imagine being without them. The hardest part is losing one.”
40-minute tours: Thursday – Sunday, 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m., and 4 p.m., Closed Monday through Wednesday.
Animals: Kangaroos, wallabies, wallaroos, tortoises, llamas, lemurs, alpacas, Nigerian dwarf goats, peacocks, mini donkeys, parrots, chickens, dogs and emus.