Lleaping Llamas…how did we get to 5 years already?! The years have truly flown by, but undeniably have been action packed from the first day to the 1825th day with so much joy, love, growth and even heartache...that my cup spilleth over. So much so, that I struggle to reflect and summarize what we have accomplished, survived, celebrated, endured, learned, did, and given thanks for. But here’s the nutshell version:
Year #1 (2017-18): A totally vertical learning curve. What are we doing?! Mindblowing.
Year #2: (2018-19): Ramping up. Let’s try this! Excitement.
Year #3: (2019-20): Throwing spaghetti on the wall. Let’s try everything! Manic.
Year #4: (2020-21): Doing it all. Burnout.
Year #5: 2021–22): Figuring out what works (and what doesn’t). Balance.
In the past 5 years, Kevin and I went from living a comfy suburbia life, having never laid eyes on an alpaca, to managing a 13 acre farm bustling with 20 alpacas and llamas and running an agritourism business with a gift shop. I have been developing some mad skills
in the categories of fiber arts, photography, marketing, web page development, social media, hospitality and book writing (I’m published!). And Kevin has been honing his incredible craftsman skills, maintenance and electrical skills and his ability to pretty much build or repair anything. All while we are working full time, running a household, caring for each other, and for our families.
There have been many days when I truly ponder how we’ve done it! But luckily there have been very few days when I question if we can do it. And I don’t think that I’ve ever had a day when I ponder why we’re doing it. Which I suppose is the secret to success…knowing the ‘why’ and believing that it can be done, combined with fortitude, tenacity, resilience, luck, and surrounding ourselves with a core group of incredibly good people.
So what is my ‘Why’? For me….my ‘why’ is vast, powerful and meaningful. The farm and these animals are my purpose. There is such a true joy and a feeling of deep satisfaction in taking care of animals. Animals that are completely at the mercy of their humans to make their lives sustainable, safe, worry-free, healthy, clean, engaging and happy.
A life where they know where to find plenty of nourishing food, clean water and reliable shelter. But more than the basic needs, it’s a place where they can live their best lives alongside their friends and camelid family, be respected, give and earn trust, and have so many of their creature comforts met. I freely and willingly give to them the vast majority of my resources: time, effort, energy, knowledge and finances. And love (which is infinite). And in return, they (and the farm) provide an endless source of things to learn, things to create, skills to develop, places to find stories and humor, things to worry about and cry over, creatures to love, and ways to share it all with others. It's a place where I find the daily grind of farm chores not burdensome, but rather peaceful and melodic. The predictability and solitude of the rhythm and routine brings me order, calms my brain and gives me a sense of comfort and satisfaction.
I just re-read my very first Blog post celebrating our One Year Anniversary on the Farm. In that post I listed the Top 10 things that I learned in our first year. I can say without a doubt that every single one of those lessons is still so very relevant to me now. Times five. And to that list I must add one more very important lesson that took me a long time to learn:
Self care is essential. Last year was an exceptionally challenging year for me. Quite possibly one of the most challenging years of my life. Several big losses, most notably the passing of my father. With an action-packed farm schedule and working full time, it was so difficult to take care of my family’s needs, not to mention my own.
We actually had an Open Farm scheduled the day after my father passed, and a yoga class the day after that. I didn’t want to cancel anything for fear that I would disappoint people or not be able to get the word out in time. The show must go on. And the rest of the year continued the same way, where I didn’t cancel anything, kept adding to the schedule, and couldn’t say ‘no’. I finished out 2021 feeling completely burned out. It became very clear to me that I couldn’t keep filling up every free day on my schedule with farm events, and creating amazing farm experiences for everyone else, when I wasn’t taking the time to create those experiences for myself and my closest friends and family. I vowed that 2022 would be different. And it is. I have purposely kept our schedule relatively light this year. I have at least one free day every single weekend! I have learned to say no. We still offer some really fun events, Open Farms and private parties, but for now I have stopped offering private farm tours and we have minimized the number of events that we offer. Yes, I truly miss meeting so many incredible people and seeing so many smiling faces during private tours, but I am so very relieved to share with you that my joy has returned!
Carving out valuable time to be able to do the things that I want to do, allowing a space for spontaneity, and spending quality time with Kevin, my mom, and other dear friends and family has made all the difference. I realize how incredibly important it is to take care of myself, physically and mentally, and to strive for that ever-elusive work-life-play balance.
We are so very grateful for the many amazing people that we have met through this incredible journey. We have had 1000’s of people visit the farm over the past 5 years and every visit has been such a positive experience and have met many true friends along the way! In addition, I feel such an incredible connection to our social media supporters. Your smiles, care, concern, appreciation, amusement and love come shining through in your engagement with me on social media and it is inspiring, heartfelt and joyful. Thank you!!
We are so incredibly grateful for our rock-solid friends who have been with us through thick and thin over the years. Amy, Joyce, Hannah, and Mary have been there week-in and week-out to help us in countless ways, along with a handful of other great friends that help us run events and make farm life even more fun!
And while I’m bubbling over in gratitude, I can’t tell you how much it means to us to share our farm and lives with my Mom, ‘Grandma Ellie’. She is my very favorite human and I may love her even more than her namesake, Ellie Llama, and that is saying a lot!
Even though I figured out (ish) the secret to keeping farm life sustainable with a manageable schedule, I still can’t help but thinking about our vision and the direction that our agritourism business is headed. As for the herd….I believe that our ‘sweet spot’ in numbers is between 20-25. Currently at 20 with 3 more on the way, we gotta slow down on the babies, lol. I love the direction that we are headed in partnering with Party Belles, an event planning company, to offer the farm as a venue for all kinds of parties and celebrations and hopefully weddings! We are now booking for 2023!
We will continue to enhance and build infrastructure to make it all better and better! I’d like to spend more time weaving and fiber felting and hope to make more of my handmade items available in the gift shop, as well as offering more fiber arts classes on the farm. Amy and I are in the early stages of writing/illustrating another book and we’ll continue with the Farmer Kris series. Styled photography is a passion of mine and I love the creativity and collaboration that comes with our annual styled photoshoot, along with my offering annual holiday photo shoots. And we haven’t given up on the dream to build an Airbnb on the farm….but that’s still down the road a bit.
Well, that’s a wrap….5 years under our belts. I can only imagine what the next 5 years will bring! I’m sure it will be the full spectrum of joy-love-laughter-heartbreak and tears, as life seems to go. But I sure hope that we get a whole bunch of the first three! And I wish the same for you. Thanks for sticking with us and cheers to Year #5!