Updated: Dec 3, 2019
It is so hard to believe that we’ve been living at LUF for one year! When I reflect back on the events over the past year, I am astonished, humbled, and overwhelmed at what we have experienced, learned and accomplished. Without a doubt, this has been one of the most life-changing years of our lives.
Before I share some highlights of our past year, I should remind you all how Lucky Us Farm came to be. It was in the most unexpected way, and nothing similar to anybody else’s story that I have heard, regarding how they became camelid (alpaca and llama) farmers. It all started on a trip that I took to Colorado in March of 2017. It was there that I attended a unique wellness workshop regarding finding purpose and meaning in our lives. It struck me so timely and so clearly that I felt the workshop had been designed specifically for me. Out of nowhere I strongly felt that the time was right for Kevin and me to make a change in our lives, where we felt more enriched and where life had more purpose than our daily grind. I didn’t know what this would look like, or where it would land us, but within 24 hours of touching down in PA, I announced to Kevin, “I think that we should move. And I think that we should find a lifestyle that is more suitable to us.” In case you don’t know us well, I tend to make decisions at the speed of lightening. Kevin makes big decisions at the speed of grass growing in winter. So in theory this should have been a really tough sell. But to my amazement, Kevin agreed to start looking at properties the very next week. The timing must have been right for him too. The problem was we had no idea what we were looking for. We knew that we wanted something that was ‘dog friendly’. Something that would allow us to have more disposable income so that we could travel. Something low maintenance to free us up to do the things that we wanted to do (1 out of 3 isn’t bad, right?). In addition to our 3 dogs, I knew that I wanted to bring Rocket and Ranger from the shelter, where they would have lived the rest of their lives. We wanted to be able to commute to our jobs, but we were open to a large geographical area. We looked at a few properties and even put an offer on one, but nothing really felt right. We decided to be patient (a very relative term for me) and let ‘our best life’ find us. It wasn’t a month later, when we were waiting for Hannah to march down the aisle at her college graduation, that Kevin leaned over to me with a cell phone pic and said, “check out this farm that I found in York Springs. It used to be an alpaca farm.” I thought it had potential and we agreed to check it out. Three days later we pulled up the driveway to a farm about 15 minutes away from our current home. The biggest draw for me was 12+ fenced acres…perfect for my dogs. And a perfect place to rescue more dogs. I’ll never forget the owner of the farm greeting us and saying, “There are 8 alpacas here. They are owned by a woman out of state. She would like to continue boarding them here and she’ll pay you to do so. But she will move them if you don’t want to.” Those were the sentences that changed our lives. My brain couldn’t begin to wrap itself around those words. Alpacas? Pay us to board them? But I wanted to fill this farm with dogs? I’ve never even seen an alpaca before in my life! I’m not sure what my expression was, but I declared, “Ok, show us the alpacas!” And let me tell you, it was love at first sight. These mystical, curious, adorable, animated, interactive, cartoon-like creatures under my care….what a glorious thought. They appealed to Kevin too, but of course not to the extent that they did me. But Kevin loved the thought of having land, and space, and a workshop, and privacy…so we were both on board. Of course we had no idea what we were doing. We had no idea how to care for these animals. No idea how to run a farm, buy hay, analyze soil, rotate pastures, process fleece, write a manure plan, drive a rider mower (me), drive a tractor, haul an animal, give an animal an injection, diagnose a parasite, call a vet to the farm, breed an animal, schedule a shearer, etc. But with much time, effort and determination, we began to figure it out. The learning curve has been extremely steep, full of joys, challenges, frustrations, and even sorrow. But one year later, I look back at the whirlwind and am so very grateful that we took this tremendous plunge. A life unrecognizable from the one we used to lead. A huge risk into the unknown. Without much thought and without much research or planning. And thank goodness for that because I’m quite certain that we would have been too afraid to do it had we taken the time to do our homework. And that is how we became camelid farmers.
We own a llama? It’s pretty funny how we realized that we actually owned a llama. We had been living on the farm about a month when the topic of GinGin, the guard llama came up. We always assumed that she belonged to Judy, who owned the original 8 alpacas. Nobody had told us otherwise, or if they did, we didn’t pick up on it. In a conversation with Judy the topic came up and she clarified that we actually owned GinGin. What?? We own a llama!? “Kevin, we own a llama!” And that is how we found out that we had bought a llama. By the end of the year we bought 3 more alpacas and 4 more llamas.
When I think back to a year ago today, it is hard to comprehend what has transpired. As most of you know, moving is quite an endeavor in itself (understatement). A ‘new’ house full of boxes and chaos and a place that we wanted to change to our own style. No cable or internet. But then add a 12+ acre farm of pastures filling up with poop, whose grass was behind schedule to be mowed. Nine camelids that we had no idea how to care for. Our ‘other’ house, which was still on the market and had to be maintained for several more months. Fences that had to be installed in our back yard for the dogs. My moving Rocket and Ranger in during the first month (that was a huge adjustment for everybody). Our dogs disorientation. My scheduling 3 alpaca yoga classes in the first couple of weeks, even though I barely knew these animals. And Kevin and I were still both working full time. Everybody and everything was demanding our attention. Even by my standards, it was a bit much. But we just plugged away. Day by day, step by step…we just kept moving forward. In addition to taking care of the necessary business, within the first 4 months we visited about 8 alpaca farms, an alpaca show, and a llama conference. I read every manual that I could regarding alpaca care. I joined alpaca facebook groups. We joined 3 different alpaca and llama associations. I got established with our large animal vet, whose first words to me were, “Calm down”, lol. And the more I learned, the more I realized how much there was to learn!
A big challenge was the pressure that we put on ourselves to figure out what our grand plan was for the farm. A business plan of sorts. We thought that we needed to know the long term goal in order to make short term decisions. But we only knew what we had been exposed to, which was primarily alpaca shows, alpaca breeding, and onsite alpaca gift shops. But none of this really floated my boat. So we weren’t sure what direction we wanted to head with it all, but knew that we wanted to do more than just scoop poop and feed animals. Over the past year, we continued to visit farms, shows, and fiber events. I took classes on knitting, crocheting, felting, spinning and weaving. I fell in love with fiber and fiber arts. I am drawn to the creativity of farm life, the opportunities to learn, discover, create, dream, and connect with people and animals. Hence the vision of the farm is starting to become more clear for me. It is still a bit fuzzy, but it is taking shape. I have set some short term goals which include writing a children’s book, learning to spin on a Great Wheel, and competing in an obstacle course with one of my