Sonoma’s Lavendar BnB farm is home to nearly 20 alpacas, two of which starred in a Brooke Shields’ holiday movie that was filmed in Petaluma over the summer, and will be released on HBO next week.
The tranquil farm is also a popular Airbnb, and home to Andrè and Yas Castro, who took the property from dry dirt to a local destination.
“Holiday Harmony” is a Christmas movie produced by prolific Petaluma filmmaker Ali Afshar, and features “Blue Lagoon” star Shields as a small town mechanic. Afshar, founder of ESX Entertainment, has made a holiday-themed name for himself as the producer of other locally shot films such as “A California Christmas” and its sequel “A California Christmas: City Lights.”
The film happens to have an alpaca subplot, which is where Andrè and Yas Castro came in.
According to Yas, her cousin, who knew director Shaun Paul Piccinino, recommended their alpacas for the part.
After seeing photos of all the farm’s alpacas, Pedro and Napoleon, the two snowy, all-white animals, where selected — Pedro as the star and Napoleon as his understudy.
Andrè borrowed his neighbor’s horse trailer, and drove the pair over to Petaluma for two full days of shooting over three weeks.
There was a pen onsite for the two alpacas to rest during their off-screen times, and Napoleon only manged to escape once.
“They were very curious,” Andrè said. “I would say Napoleon was the one that was a little more stressed.”
Pedro’s big moment on set came with a scene where the one of the actors must swerve to avoid hitting him as he stands in the middle of the road.
“He just nailed it the first time,” Andrè said. “They were really impressed with that.”
Though acting came naturally two the animal stars, two eight-hour days of filming were enough for their time in the spotlight for now, and for Andrè, who had to be onsite with the pair the entire time.
“I think there’s people who are just going to see the movie for Napoleon or Pedro,” Yas said.
There are a total of 19 alpacas at the farm — four adult boys, two baby boys and 13 girls.
According to Andrè, Napoleon and Pedro actually need to be separated into different pastures on the farm. Like a true understudy, Napoleon can get jealous, to the point where he will spit on Pedro. And while feisty Napoleon has tried multiple times to become the alpha male of the pack, a title that belongs to Maverick, one of their smaller alpacas.
“He’s the smallest of the four but he’s the boss,” Andrè said.
“We’re really rookie farmers, so, alpacas are so easy to keep compared to other animals that need more maintenance,” Yas said. “They were both of our therapy animals, like each of us had a need for therapy, so they helped us.”
Even though the alpacas don’t stir up too much trouble for the Castros, they’ve had their mishaps.
Napoleon and Pedro broke into the girls pen one night earlier this year and got them pregnant. The Castros didn’t know until a veterinarian came weeks later and told them that Summertime and Danza were expecting, and then they remembered the night that the boys broke in.
“Unfortunately, that’s just a natural occurrence,” Yas said.
Now they have Mando and Grogo, who are both just 3 months old. A few of the other girls are currently intentionally pregnant, and the number of alpacas of the farm will soon be over 20.
“I think we’re actually at our limit because there’s some pregnant ones already, and there’s some that had babies. We just want to make sure they have enough space to roam — that’s our huge thing, we’re not gonna cramp them in little areas. I need them to be ale to run and play, and they do,” Yas said.
The Castros moved to the Bonness Road property in 2018, after briefly moving to Vacaville while they waited for the right piece of land to hit the market.
After meeting in Portugal, where Andre is from, they got married and decided to move back to California a little over a year later. Yas is from Rohnert Park and has family in Santa Rosa.
It took almost two years for the Castros to fully renovate the farm, which had no animals or agriculture when they first arrived. Their original idea was to create a tranquil oasis for vacation rental guests to come and visit.
They started by planting tons of lavender in the front of the property, because of its calming and relaxing qualities, but the rest of the property felt far from finished.
“It felt lonely, having a big land with nothing,” Yas said.
They started buying livestock, and soon the animals became an integral part of the farm experience. They earned their keep, helping to fertilize the ground, which was previously just dry dirt and weeds. The couple now has over a dozen sheep and two goats, all of which are miniature. Chickens roam around the property as they please, sporting a myriad of colored feathers.
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