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Northern Prairie Alpacas, LLC

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Sunday, February 4, 2018

Yes, it is a dumpster!

Before winter arrived I headed out for one of my solitary road trips. This trip involved lots of excitement as I was on my way to pick up a gorgeous Macomber loom in Connecticut. At that time I promised myself that upon returning home I would be indulging in a winter of weaving. Fast forward to February which is my absolute least favorite month of the year; well into the dark days of winter and there has been very little weaving happening in my life. Here is what happened instead.

I returned to Missouri with this fabulous loom and while I did get a bit of weaving done on it, there was something missing, something frustrating about the process. I stepped back and decided that all things fleece/fiber/yarn in my life had gotten way too disorganized. Two very large looms crammed into a back bedroom; makeshift farm store in ½ of the garage; yarn, roving, spinning wheels here, there, and everywhere. While my passion is caring for the alpacas each and every day along with the fun/excitement of creating beautiful things from their fleece, I also have a great appreciation for efficiency and organization. I realized there was very little of that in my world of alpacas and all things fleece/fiber and that needed to change. Fast!

What does one do when faced with that situation? You start thinking about things you have dreamed about for far too long and then you quit dreaming and start doing.

Over the years I have imagined many different scenarios to fulfill my dreams for the farm store, to teach and share with others, and have a special place to fuel my passion for working with the fleece from my herd. At this point in my life I strive to make the best use of what I have so I started evaluating what was in front of me and what options I might be able to utilize within my current structures. My internal radar locked in on our basement. Like a lot of basements, ours was an absolute disaster. Yet when I looked at it with a new perspective and mission in mind, I started seeing some incredible possibilities. The decision was made; the basement was ‘it’! All long forgotten junk would be removed and when empty, the space would get a much needed overhaul and become a weaving studio PLUS fiber workshop PLUS farm store PLUS multi-purpose space for small classes and workshops on occasion.

First order of business – get a dumpster and clean house! Wow, what an eye sore those things are parked in the middle of the yard. A funny thing happened with that ugly dumpster. As I cleaned and purged all of the “stuff” in the basement in preparation for the contractor, I found another type of purging taking place. With each armload of stuff that flew over the side of that dumpster I began feeling a bit more lighthearted. It seems that unburdening myself of things that were taking up unnecessary physical space also freed up some space in my heart and mind. Through this process I learned that holding on to things that no longer have a useful purpose in my life keeps me from moving forward. The space taken up by this stuff [literally and figuratively] has kept me from turning dreams into reality. Realizing dreams, living and experiencing the journey of life, continuing to grow and expand even though I am officially a senior citizen; ‘this’ brings me joy.

I still have a long way to go with the basement remodel, as well as on my own headspace; for now I really like the way both are shaping up.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Where is that sign?

Photo by Kim Carr

Photo by Kim Carr

It has been a week since our alpaca silhouette sign left our property for parts unknown. Yes, it was just a sign that announced the name of our farm; the shape of the sign let passersby know what type of livestock lived on the farm. I really liked that sign and experienced an emotion or two upon discovering it was no longer standing guard by the edge of the road.

It is amazing to me the good things that can come about in the aftermath of a bad experience. Photos of the missing sign were quickly posted on Facebook with the hope someone might see it and the sign might magically appear back where it belonged. While, of course, I realized that was more than a long shot it seemed worth it even for just the small chance. Here is where the magic of social media began working. I have been so very touched by the numerous good people who quickly responded by sharing my post to get it out to even more people. Many people who I know personally, a great many that I have never met but live in my area as well as people who live far away but wanted to help, took time out of their busy lives to share/comment/send me private messages, etc. It is a great thing to be reminded that there are far more good, kind, honest, caring, and generous people in our communities than there are the few who do not fit those categories. A huge virtual hug along with a big THANK YOU goes out to everyone who touched me over the last week.

Perhaps I needed something . . . . . . . a ‘sign’ . . . . . . . to get me moving and motivated to do some things I have been putting off for far too long. One of the things that I have been procrastinating on is doing some re-branding for the farm. As with most businesses there have been some changes in direction and focus over the last few years so updates need to be made in the way the farm is presented to the public. Since a new sign for the roadside is in order we will wait on designing a sign while exploring a bit of a makeover for the farm logo. All of these steps take time as well as monetary investment so it may be a while before we get to the point of unveiling a new farm sign at the end of the driveway. Stay tuned as it will come and I will again use social media to announce the new sign whenever I manage to get to that point.

In the meantime I can still hold a bit of hope that the alpaca silhouette might find the way home. Someone in New Mexico commented on my FB post that she had a farm sign that went missing and her sign appeared again several months later! Another friend mentioned that the sign would probably be a very unique wall decoration in someone’s dorm room this fall; this is probably the most likely place for the missing sign. If that is the case I will be happy with that thought because that exposure for alpacas just might spark interest in alpaca livestock and/or the lovely products made from their fiber. It is always a good thing to heighten awareness of this wonderful fiber bearing livestock even in an unconventional way.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Smiling Eyes

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the University of Missouri Franklin County Extension Council Annual Meeting/Dinner. On the agenda that evening was recognition of the 2016 Century Farm Recipients and I had the honor of sitting at the same table occupied by the family with the longest history on their farm; it has been in their family since 1838.

Now a little bit about what was so special about that family and what struck me the most about one member in particular. My friend and I were already seated at this large round table when this group joined us. At that time I had no idea who they were and I was immediately drawn to the man sitting across from me. Both my friend and I were struck by his wonderful smile; when there was eye contact with this gentleman the connection was instant and his face lit up! I leaned over to the woman seated next to me and asked if they were together and told her that his “eyes smiled”. She laughed in agreement and went on to explain that he was her uncle. I learned that he was 90 years old and would be celebrating his 91st birthday in July of this year. Her uncle still lived on the farm in the same house where he was born; he has always lived in that same house and worked the farm. To me it was so remarkable to have lived an entire life in the exact same place connected to the land and all the people who had been there before; then I learned he has never been outside the state of Missouri. His niece was not a bit surprised that this man had caught our attention; she shared that he had never been married yet everywhere he goes he has always been a bit of a magnet when it comes to the ladies! No surprise to me because it appeared that the gift of life on the farm has given him something special; when I looked into that young looking face I saw a bit of boyish mischief, innocence that seemed impossible for someone who has lived so many years, a sense of wonder, the openness of a child . . . . . . . . and those smiling eyes. His smile was so much more than a facial expression; to me, it seemed to come from somewhere deep within and held more warmth and gentleness than any smile I had ever seen.

I have thought of that man, his smile, that rich century farm history more than once since their farm, along with five others, were honored at that dinner. Century Farms have always evoked a sense of awe in me and hearing the stories that each of these families shared that evening just enhanced that feeling. I can only imagine what Century Farm families have experienced over their many years working their properties; the history, the connection, the trials/tribulations, the dedication, the changes, etc. My farm living began late in life but even with my very short time working a farm I think my appreciation for these lifelong connections to a farm and all that comes with it has certainly deepened my respect for families living on Century Farms.

Here on this farm we raise alpacas and our harvest is the fleece that is shorn from the animals each spring. While I am new to this farm lifestyle I am officially a senior citizen so will not have the opportunity to spend an entire lifetime doing what I do here; I still feel the connection to every tree, flower, and blade of grass that is part of the operation. Our alpacas are the central focus and the lifeblood of this farm; the herd is the soul/heartbeat of the farm.

We like to share our farm and animals with others that appreciate nature and the wide open spaces who may not be able to experience this every day. Success is measured in many ways and we will still measure ours in the conventional ways defined by society, we need to since there are bills to pay and animals to feed! Now when we have farm visitors and someone leaves here with “smiling eyes” after spending a bit of peaceful time with the alpacas I will call that a success and I will think of that remarkable man who shared his Century Farm story.
On our first farm in ND

On our first farm in ND

Monday, November 28, 2016

It all started with that gate latch

11/28/2016 – It’s my birthday . . . . . my 60th . . . . . . . . and it will be one to remember as it started out with a bit of crazy excitement!

Thought I would treat myself to a slow start this morning since it is my birthday. Spent the morning catching up on some emails and finishing up some paperwork. It was getting late for me, about 7:30 am, so I thought I would head for the kitchen and treat myself to one more cup of coffee before getting dressed and heading for the barn to go through my normal barn routine. Simple enough right? Well keep reading!

As I stroll leisurely through the house and walk by the sliding glass door what do I see? Well, I see an alpaca running full throttle through the backyard and as I attempt to process this visual information I see 17 more screeching out the open gate behind her. Of course I do what any sane person would do; I fly out the door in my pajamas wearing only socks on my feet. I stop VERY quickly by the porch door where I see only one option, a pair of crocs (might I add these are NOT running shoes). Again, like any sane person, I start running for the front of the house with hopes of turning this stampeding herd around before it gets totally out of hand.

Let me again paint a little picture for you because there was no time for snapping any photos or getting a video that would have no doubt won Funniest Home Videos (if that show is still on TV). I am not now, nor have I EVER been, a runner of any kind. Actually I think the last time I did anything that resembled running I was probably in 3rd grade. While I am not in the best of shape today I am grateful that I am kind of “ok” in the healthy old(er) lady department. This is me, picture it in your mind’s eye . . . . PJ’s . . . . . crocs . . . . . . have not yet even thought about combing my wild hair or brushing my teeth . . . . . already screaming at hubby (it must be his fault right?) who is outside doing barn chores on the side of the farm that houses the male alpacas and oblivious to what is taking place . . . . running to the front of the house.

I have now made my way to the front of the house and believe it or not I have done it BEFORE the thundering herd of alpacas has rounded the corner. Run right into Iris (the most adventurous alpaca on this farm, she just happens to be deaf) who is leading the stampede; she is really having fun. I manage to turn the group around and see that husband is heading my way to lend a hand. Of course Iris decides that she is NOT ready for me to calmly herd this group together and back where they belong. Now we are on the MALE side of the farm and anyone who is still reading this story that has alpacas knows what that means. We have strong fences and very efficient gates, at least when they are closed, so no worry about the boys/girls getting together but there is still lots of fireworks going on now.

Issue some more orders in the direction of my husband completely ignoring the fact that he has very bad knees and should not be running to fetch the things I am yelling about. That is when ½ of the females decide they would really like to go visit the fence line where the macho males are housed. The other ½ want to follow Iris out to the road so I need to make a decision. My decision involves more yelling at my husband to move the three yearling boys out of the area where they are so I can use the really big gate to get the boy crazy females over by the macho males. Hubby is not the best at herding/moving alpacas but he did a stellar job just in time for me to get the crazy hormonal females into the male’s pasture. Lots of spitting, growling and a bit of orgling taking place there but all is well because those alpacas (yearling males, macho males, hormonal females) are all safely behind fences and NOT together. Progress for sure!

Now for the other ½ of the females that are no longer on our property but running down the road for the intersecting road that is quite busy in the morning. More yelling at husband telling him to go get the Ranger (for you non-farm folks that is a UTV which we loving call the 4 wheeler for old people). While I am running down the road knowing I cannot run fast enough to get on the other side of the farthest alpaca to head them in the correct direction . . . . . . . for you non-farmer folks herding is all about getting on the far side of the animal furthest away from you. I am able to get close enough to the back end of a running alpaca to get her attention and she turns around to look at me. Yes, I begin screaming again but this time I am screaming at the alpacas and clapping and waving my arms. Remember my attire . . . . . . . now I am in the street in my pj’s yelling PACA PACA PACA at the top of my lungs. I start running in the opposite direction while yelling and clapping and the remaining females start running behind me. But of course Iris, it is always Iris, decides she would much rather go the other direction. Fortunately hubby is racing around the outside of the herd in the Ranger and manages to turn Iris and her momma, Rae-Lynn, around and get them running along with the others behind me and through the open gate. Iris was the first one out of the gate for the great escape and the last one through the gate at the conclusion of the round up. That Iris just loves an open gate.

So that is how I started my day on my 60th birthday . . . . . . . . since all my beloved alpacas are safe and neither Les nor I suffered a heart attack in the process I am going to call it a good birthday. Less than an hour after the excitement began I was back in the house getting that next cup of coffee.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Reflections From The Farm

This morning I received a wonderful gift . . . . . . . . . I spent some extra time outdoors with the herd doing normal everyday barn chores and my “gift” was a huge attitude adjustment.

February, just another month on the calendar when you look at the word RIGHT? For me February is more than a word, the second month on the calendar; it is now and always has been an entire month that I spend restless, grumpy, unproductive and in general not a nice person. Very thankful for a husband who has tolerated the “me” I become every February; this happens to be the 34th one spent together. Goodness, he is one amazing person but that is not the topic for my reflections on this day.

By now, if you are still reading, you have probably detected that winter is a challenging time for me. The days are short, it is cold, too much time spent indoors which often feels like a prison sentence to me, not enough sunlight, the days are short, and it is gray and overcast much of the time during the dreaded month of FEBRUARY. Did I mention the days are short? Honestly when winter arrives I like it; I love watching all of nature go to sleep for the season and I look at it as my own time to rest, rejuvenate and work on all of those neglected projects that need to be done in the house. We are avid bird watchers and one of the great things about the season change from fall to winter is the change in birds; our summer residents are gone and the winter species begin gracing our feeders. And so it goes until time to turn the page on the calendar to FEBRUARY; something crazy snaps in me on the first of that month and I am done with winter when in reality it is just getting into full swing in our location.

Now to share with you the “gift” that is my life here on the farm. Taking that time this morning to go through barn chores [I must find a new term for that morning ritual as “chore” says unpleasant and that routine is always the best part of my day] and savor my surroundings provided me with an overwhelming calm. It is February, the ground covered by a blanket of snow, and on this morning the temperature was rising which created a fog/mist in the air that buffered the sounds even more. The haze, the quiet, the alpacas all helped me to breathe more slowly and to look around and soak in the beauty. I am so very fortunate to live/work on this gorgeous property in Missouri; rolling pastures with a huge old oak tree scattered here and there, gentle alpacas gracing those pastures and birds of all kinds everywhere.

I will end this day with a peaceful heart overflowing with gratitude for the amazing life I live here on the farm. Yes it is hard work and the “to do” list is always long and never finished; bottom line is I love nature, the outdoors and animals of all kinds. Every single day I am realizing my dreams and am certain I will survive the remainder of February and begin thinking about the first hummingbirds of spring.

Special note of gratitude to my husband, my sister, and some close friends who have endured my winter whining lately . . . . . . thank you for your tolerance and support, without all of you I surely would not survive February.