Woah. What A First Year!

I just finished knitting a pair of hot pink fingerless gloves made with yarn from our 2013 fiber harvest. Aidyn (our 3-year-old daughter) is actually taking a nap, so I’m caught in a moment with just enough time to sit and think. I think this is the first time this year this moment has happened!

I am amazed at how much God has permitted us to accomplish this year. For posterity, here are some of the highlights & some of what I’ve learned:

Our herd has doubled since last year to 50 Suri alpacas.

Our 2-man family crew has put up around a mile’s worth of fence in 5 pastures on around 12 acres, drove countless t-posts, wired the barn for power, installed 2 waterers, built 3 hay feeders…in their “spare time.” I’m watching them finish the equipment shed right now.

I learned how to tie a skein of yarn so that when dyed, it turns into a lovely, gigantic knot that would keep us up until midnight for entire week before a craft fair trying to untie and re-skein. We still have 5 left to untie if anyone’s bored.

We cried, yelled, and laughed our way through learning how to properly care for our animals and laughed more watching their antics.

Our alpacas were cover models?? BG Magazine thought we were just cool & weird enough to make the cover story.

We learned the proper way to tell an alpaca to back down is to spit in its face. If that fails, punching in the face should work.

We got official with a logo, biz cards, website, Facebook page, a marketing plan, even a banner & shirts.
Our first batch of yarn went to a yarn shop on consignment & we started getting paid for our yarn!

I naively volunteered to secure $10k to fund, then produce a 4 hour educational video for the Suri Network. I have a new-found appreciation for non-profit volunteers. I am proud of what we’ve done & have been blessed in many ways through the process…I will be elated to get this project off my plate. Check out SuriNetwork.org for more info on “Pasture to Process, Product to Profit: Getting the Most Out of Your Suri Alpaca Fiber.”

Despite my self-doubt & the rain, my first fiber festival was very successful!

We experienced the excitement of new life, became “those people” nursing a preemie cria in the corner of our bedroom, and took great joy in watching the healthy little ones play in the summer pasture.

Returned to Estes Park for another wonderfully progressive Suri Network Summer Symposium.

We had our first taste of alpaca. I learned that even taking the butthole brothers that did nothing but pick fights was still tough. They sure were delicious though.

Attended two highly coveted Fiber Sorting & Grading Course from Suri Network’s Donna Rudd & Olds College in Canada. It’s nice to actually understand fiber when raising fiber animals!

Our first public event thankfully had bad weather. I was so overwhelmed that I didn’t eat until it approached 2 o’clock & potentially passing out. Will be seeking volunteers to help next year!

Went to “Farm School”: the Kentucky Farm Start Program. Thought about becoming a chicken farmer. Still thinking about it.

I’m still learning that it doesn’t have to be perfect. The red metal on the equipment shed going up doesn’t match the main barn. It would be silly to pay to paint it to match, right?…

Had a conference shake my soul as I learned what other women veteran farmers have overcome & how they continue to serve their country by farming.

The goals for 2014 are currently spinning in my head…we’re just getting started.

A million thanks to the following folks who helped me to learn, grow, & survive our first year:

The big man upstairs

Our family

Our customers!!!

Mentor/Sounding Board Alpaca Farms: Dos Donas Alpaca Farm, Akuna Matada Alpacas, Little Gidding Farm, Susan Tellez, Seldom Scene Farm, Wombat Farm, Barnett’s Creek Farm, Rivendell Meadows Alpacas & Angoras, Long Hollow Suri Alpacas, Luna Sea Alpaca Farm, Sweetheart Suris Alpaca Farm, Twisted Suri Alpaca Ranch, Kinney Valley Alpacas, Northern Rocky Mountain Alpacas, & a special thanks to all those I’ve never met on Paca This!

Fiber Artist Mentors & Partners: Donna Rudd, Bluebonnets & Bluegrass Alpaca Farm, R.A.D. Fibers, Fiber Frenzy, Southville Spitters, Colors to Dye For, Forest Room Art Yarn, New Era Fiber, Star Weaver Farm & American Alpaca Textiles, Odelia, ReBelle, Alpaca Fiber Solutions, Olds College, A Tangled Yarn & Luna Bud Knits, Simply Natural Clothing

Business & Ag Mentors: Ag Credit Richmond Branch, Madison County UK Ag Extension Office, KCARD, UK Ag Econ, Kentucky Dept. of Ag, Farmer Veteran Coalition, Growing Warriors, Kentucky Farm Bureau, Park Community Credit Union Richmond Branch, Baldwin Farms, Marksbury Farm Foods

The Suri Network & Kentucky Alpaca Associations Boards

Dr. Patrick Reister, Boonsboro Animal Clinic

Wholesale Suppliers: Kentucky Royalty & Altera Alpaca, Classic Alpaca

Awesome Neighbors: Four Sisters Farm, The Howells, Vaughans, Jacks, & Brenda Evans

Marketing: Two Rivers Strategies, BG Magazine, Three Little Birds Designs, Liz Thomas Photography, First Gear, Ag Credit Leader, Openherd

First Cut Shearing

J & V Slaughterhouse

Kentucky Sheep & Fiber Festival

Faith & Fancy