Updated: Dec 3, 2019
What a difference year #2 was compared to year #1! Year #1 was really about survival. I don’t think that I realized just how much so at the time, but in reflection, we were clearly in survival mode, trying to get our heads above water as we took on the daunting task of moving and getting established on the farm with an already existing herd of alpacas. The learning curve was steep and the trials and tribulations were many. But we ended our first year on an upswing, which created the positive momentum that launched us into an amazing 2nd year!
One of the highlights of the past year was undoubtably Conswala’s run in the Cadbury Bunny contest. Conswala’s two minutes of fame really took me by surprise and launched me into a new stratosphere with my llama confidence and abilities. Without that experience, it probably would have taken me another 5 years to feel confident enough to take a llama to a public event. I’m someone who usually doesn’t attempt anything new unless I have a high degree of confidence that it is going to go well. And it would have taken me a lot of time, practice and experience to reach that level of confidence. But when Conswala became a finalist in the Cadbury contest, to my complete and utter surprise, she became somewhat of a local celebrity overnight. Within the month she went from being a casual farm girl who has had very little public exposure who liked her private time and personal space, to being on the news, going for a public hike, being interviewed by several newspapers, visiting the River 97.3 radio station, having many visitors who wanted to pet her and take selfies, and throwing out the first pitch at the Harrisburg Senators baseball game in Harrisburg. Every experience was new for both of us. I actually lost sleep over it and had quite a bit of anxiety wondering how it would go. Would she refuse to walk? Would she make a fool out of me? Would I make a fool out of myself? Would she spook and accidentally hurt somebody? Would she be stressed and anxious and hate the experience? Was I becoming a pageant mom? Conswala taught me a lot about llamas and about myself. She came through in shining colors. Instead of her looking to me for confidence and assurance, I felt like I was looking to her, lol. Just her presence calmed me. She always gave me the, “we got this” look. The bond that she and I had already built allowed us to trust each other in these new situations. Each experience built on the next. She never disappointed me and proved to me that stepping out of our comfort zone was very rewarding. Llamas are so smart and capable if treated with respect, kindness, and patience and their ability to learn and quickly adapt is remarkable. So many people have asked if we’ll try again next year for the contest. At first I thought, no, we had our fun and the rewards that came from it were far greater than winning a contest. But the more I think about it, the more I’m leaning towards yes! Conswala has that little twinkle in her eye and a funny quirky personality that lends itself to the spotlight. We hope that you’ll support us!
Another highlight of the year was of course the birth of Eleanor Grace and Rosalynn, our llama babies (crias)! Prior to June, I had never seen anything be born. Nothing. Not a human, not an animal. I couldn’t wait to watch the birth of two llama crias! We purposely purchased Kiss because she was a seasoned mom who was to show us the ropes and teach us how this llama baby stuff is supposed to go down. She was to be a model mom for our other llama, Verana, a first-time mom. The best laid plans. Kiss ended up with a uterine torsion (twisting) resulting in an emergency c-section on the farm. We weren’t even sure if her unborn baby was still alive and the surgery certainly put her own life at risk. It was one of the scariest and most anxious experiences of my life. But by the grace of God, beautiful Eleanor Grace was born and Kiss made it through surgery! (Btw, I don’t count this as seeing a baby being born, lol). Eleanor had some minor complications that we were able to remedy. Kiss had some complications from surgery that we are still managing including infections, her surgical site coming open (dehisced), and an ongoing abscess. But we are managing all of these issues and I believe that it should resolve soon-ish. Initially, Kiss didn’t realize that Eleanor was her baby, since she didn’t go through a typical labor that would have triggered those instincts. We bottle fed EllieG for several days until Kiss’ milk came in and she passed her placenta. Instantly she recognized her baby and became the model mother that we knew she could be. Next came first timer, Verana. Now she was the one that I was worried about! She did not appear to possess many maternal instincts and I figured she’d trample a baby trying to get to her food bowl. She was 19 days overdue! Based on Kiss’ experience, I had myself convinced that something was terribly wrong. We had our eyes glued to that llama for weeks, determined to witness every sign and stage of delivery. It is very unusual for llamas to have a nighttime delivery, but that is exactly what she had. I went to bed one night counting 6 llama heads in the field, and when I checked on them with a flashlight on my way to work at 4:15am the next morning, there was now 7 heads! Little Rosalynn came without my witness, without any ado, no issues whatsoever. And Verana immediately exceeded my expectations of motherhood. She is doting, loving, protective, and so patient. I have such an undeniable respect for mama llamas. They are the mothers that everybody wishes they could have (and be). And still…I have never seen a baby being born!
Kevin is as busy as ever. The unsung hero. He is constantly working on house and farm projects to fix what broke, to update and beautify, and to add new features to make our tasks easier and more efficient. Some highlights of his work include replacing the dilapidated overhang off the back of the barn, spreading tons of fresh gravel, replacing the animal trailer floors and walls, repairing a section of the barn foundation, repairing a shelter and fencing that got destroyed in a storm, and removing a lot of fencing in preparation for new fence installation. In addition to a million little projects and maintenance issues that seem to pop up weekly. Thank goodness he has mad skills and tools and the know-how to fix or create just about anything! Kevin also finally got on the facebook bandwagon and is now enjoying seeing all the online interaction with the farm. He had no idea that so many people were so interested in farm happenings and I think it helps him to understand why I’m constantly taking pictures and looking at my phone, lol. Next month we are taking a trip of a lifetime to Peru! We are traveling with 7 other friends/family and will be visiting Machu Picchu and hiking over the Andes mountains and sleeping in tents with a herd of llamas and their farmers. We have been planning this for over a year and I can’t believe that the time is drawing near!
I am so very grateful for the experiences we’ve had this year with Conswala, the mamas and crias, and all the animals (11 alpacas, 7 llamas, 5 dogs, 3 barn cats)! But above all things, I am SO VERY grateful for the relationships that I’ve made and developed through the farm. So many incredibly wonderful people have been brought into my life because of these animals. There are no words to express how lucky I am and how thankful I am to be surrounded by so many good and positive people. I have the most amazing farm team: Joyce, Amy, Jen, and Connie. Tried and true friends who I can count on through thick and thin. They have been there for me in so many ways, both to lend a hand and to provide emotional support. I am so very grateful for my ‘llama friends’ who are always there to answer every llama question I have (there are many), ease my worries (there are many) and who literally helped me survive the birth and infancy of Eleanor Grace: Linda B, Linda T! I am so thankful to have my mom and my sister be such an active part of the farm, even if it is often from afar. So grateful for my creative team: Amy, Sarah, Kyrsten, Marissa, and Karen. These creative and positive women motivate and energize me and help me dream big for the future. I am grateful for the partnerships that I’ve made along the way with people who genuinely want to support, promote, and/or partner with me and the farm. I’m also so lucky to have some generous people who donate their time and talents by stopping out to help me with random tasks as needed (poop scooping, cria coats, event management, shearing, trimming etc). I’m so very thankful for our ‘Lucky Us Farmily’ who is comprised of our farm visitors and social media followers. You make it all fun for me! I absolutely love sharing my adventures on the farm and it is so rewarding to find such funny, supportive, and interested people who give me so much positive feedback! Without even knowing it, you challenge me to create new ways to engage others with the animals and the farm. Every one of my farm visitors has brought me joy and helps me to remember the wonder and splendor of these animals by seeing them for the first time, every time, through your eyes.
In reflection, it’s been a remarkable and blessed year. Full of way more highs than lows. We are finally getting our heads above water as we move slightly higher on the learning and experience curves (mountains). The love for our animals continues to grow, as our relationships with them continues to develop. I absolutely love sharing them with you! Thanks to the attention and socialization that they receive from our visitors they are so incredibly friendly and trusting. I am so excited for what the future holds. Of course there will be the inevitable challenges and sorrows that come with managing so many animals. But I am motivated and energized to continue to build on what we already have and to create things yet unimagined! Thanks for being a part of our journey!!