The Farmer's Wife OR when the Farmer is a Wife!
So, we've had a very eventful summer here in Colorado! From worries about a drought year and lack of hay and pasture, to terrible floods in the northern part of the state, and more rain in a month than what we normally get in a full year! Our farms have been spared, but we have taken in about 70 alpacas from a farm that had barns and fencing washed away as well as flood damage to their homes. When you get that call, that a friend has lost nearly everything, and is worried to death about their animals, I think every person would jump to help out. Luckily, our animals are very social, and the farm has a great layout to accommodate visiting groups. Unfortunately in Colorado, we can plan on such visits often whether from fires or now floods! On top of the weather events, we've been having lots of crias, and lost our first dam in a long time. So I have the cutest little bottle-baby. The worst part is how much I fall in love with these little babies, knowing that the early weeks will be a struggle. So I go to the barn about every 3 hours, give or take an hour or two. But I'm always greeted with a little hum and she scampers over to get her bottle. I've posted a great photo of family friends who came over to see the babies and helped with a feeding. So look at my facebook page- just under Jane Levene! We've had another major change at the Salida Farm. Del and Diana Smith have resigned, looking for a more "real" retirement and hopefully a lot less work. I appreciate all of their work over the past 3 years, and wish them the best of luck, and a whole lot more leisure in the coming years! We've been incredibly lucky to take on Tom Iamonico, one of our alpaca shearers as the new farm manager. He has a wonderfully calm and easy manner with the animals, and best of all is a native of Salida! So many thanks Tom, for joining our team! Brittany Singleterry continues on with the farm, and has been promoted to Livestock Manager. She knows each and every animal on the farm, and loves working with the new crias. I expect great things, and even more progress as we continue to make the farm more in tune with our conservation and environmental goals. And the fiber herd continues to grow! Our fiber statistics are simply awesome. And when I get the results back from this years clip I will post it for all to see. The Paco-Vicuna Association is also extremely proud (and progressive!) to announce the start of the EPD program managed by Mark Enns of Colorado State University. As I've said before, we plan on becoming the most thoroughly documented and tested fiber herd in the USA. My friends have started wondering when I sleep, and frankly, there are times that I don't quite get that opportunity, ha! The list of things I need to do, should do, and want to do is always much longer than the list of things I actually get done. As I've said before, its' different for a woman-farmer than a man-farmer! Woman-farmer still gets to do the laundry, get meals, take care of family issues, entertain friends and guests, etc. but my real problem is I'm compelled to waste a little time every day. Sometimes I just sit down next to the little bottle baby, let her lean against my leg and enjoy a little contact, even if it is 3 a.m. in the barn and I get a little stiff sitting on the ground, but wouldn't give up a minute of that time with her. And sometimes, its just grabbing a spinning or knitting magazine and a cup of tea to recharge and relax. Much of the work will still be there no matter how I try to prioritize, but those special moments of just sitting and watching the babies get fascinated by the shoes on my feet, or noticing what I imagine are the approving looks from the other "mothers" as I give this little cria some comfort. Those are the moments I live for and enjoy the most. So thank you, God, for giving me the resources of time, temperament, place and family, that allow me to help those around me, and at the same time, give me so much joy and peace. And I also hope that there are many more people around me that are able to offer you this same prayer.
Hi All, again, the blog is written in my head every day but never gets to this point! I've been on the road quite a bit. A few golfing trips, and most exciting of all we drove out to participate in the Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Show mid-March. This is a wonderful event, full of beautiful yarns and finished items as well as irresistible gear. My thanks go out to all the other vendors (check out StevenBe-Yarn Garage for wonderful yarns and great ideas on home design. As a definite fiber fanatic it is my version of heaven to see all the wonderful textures and colors all in one space. The wonderful Fiber Revolution is still going strong! So, after a non-stop drive home from Pittsburgh its' time to do some routine vaccinations and herd health care as well as start thinking irrigation. Which means cleaning and/or burning ditches, replacing pipe, checking and setting pumps, spreading compost, aerating fields, and get ready for shearing. Clean fields and clean barns equals cleaner fleeces. So from now on, the barns are swept out at least weekly. Many friends, Master Gardners, large community gardens and best of all the Denver Botanical Gardens at Chatfield Aboreteum are all coming out for their loads of the beautifully composted manure. A nice bonus for us to keep moving the compost out and the gardeners really value it for the low ammonia/lower nitrogen levels so it never burns or over fertilizes a garden.
Yesterday I was again struck by just how fortunate we are. My nieces came over for the day, to help with gardening, think up great names for the crias coming this spring, and helping my parents out a bit. If you remember, we have their house at the front of the property and we live towards the back. Couldn't be better! So I had a great day with family but not so great getting paperwork done. We make a concious effort every day, to savor the moments, manage the stress and keep priorities straight. A few minutes in the barn really helps me stay calm and appreciate all the good things in life. I will always have to make more of an effort to do the website chores, and facebook? Seems like a better venue for all those I've friended on my space, ha! But that too will happen at some point.
"I have found that all ugly things are made by those who strive to make something beautiful, and that all beautiful things are made by those who strive to make something useful" Oscar Wilde, 1885
Ok, busy summer I'm sure for everyone. We've had 15 crias so far, and 10 more due this fall plus company galore. Mid-summer had terribly high temperatures and high humidity, something we aren't used to in Colorado. Our crias had a tough time of it, and we did lose one baby to heat stress while I was down at the other farm for shearing. Everyone did their best and losses are just one thing we need to learn to accept in this business. The crias are beautiful, and show great fiber potential. Its been a very dry, challenging summer, but we've been fortunate to maintain our irrigation water up here at the Denver farm. The Salida farm has had a more difficult time with turning the irrigation on and off multiple times. But the grass is green at both places and there is now a taste of fall in the air. Most of our 2012 fiber clip has been sent off to the mill and frankly, it came back drop-dead gorgeous! I can't wait to debut our products at the "First Annual Salida Fiber Festival" September 8-9. I know we'll do well. Then its' off to SOAR in Lake Tahoe, CA. October 24-27 and I am saving my very best rovings for that show. I"ve posted a few photos of some of the crias, and will get more as soon as I find my camera again! That is the problem with these nice new really small cameras. And we are working like mad to be able to present a pen sale of our Paco-Vicuñas! The date hasn't been firmly set yet, but we'll let you know! The last week of August we lost a very special aunt. Eileen Dufficy Hessek was the heart and soul of the extended family- always a big smile on her face and never seemed to have a bad day or a cranky moment. Aunt Eileen was 92 years old and the last few years were marred by Alzeihmers. But even on those last days she could smile and seemed genuinely happy to see the many visitors. It doesn't matter if you lose someone at a young age or after a long happy life, it still hurts and leaves yet another hole in your heart. I am so very blessed to have both my parents still, and even more so to have them living on the farm with us. Each day begins with my 87 year old dad coming out to help with clean up, often wondering where I've hidden Tiny the Elephant when the manure piles get sizeable! My mom takes care of a beautiful garden and always has homemade goodies in the kitchen. The best part of being on a farm is how it pulls in all of the family and friends, no one can resist being around the animals, looking for fresh eggs or just admiring the unobstructed view of the sky. So this month I dedicate to Eileen Hessek, her unconditional love for everyone, and my hopes that I can be if only half that good of a person.
Hi all, it's been a very busy few weeks here. We sheared most of the animals in Salida end of May, then followed with shearing the herd the first weekend of June, then Estes Park Wool Market, and now finishing up with about one and a half more days in Salida. Its' all gone very well, tremendous excitement over the PVs and the fleece and products. So on the right track! I've put a photo of the farm today, impressive sky. But not much rain, considering we were clobbered last week by a storm of near-biblical proportions. Hail, buckets of rain and lightning that would not stop for even a minute, lasting 2 hours. Biggest rain storm of my life. Now blizzards- we seen bigger! Once I get all the fleeces together, I will sort and grade and get them to the mill ASAP. Babies are coming about 2-3 weekes late so far this spring. Will post photos as soon as we get a few more on the ground. Take care, and hope the weather treats you all well. Jane
Hi everyone, I've been thinking lately of how different it is for husband/farmers vs. wife/farmers. In fairness, I know everyone works so hard, and I admit, the guys do much more of the really hard work! But there are days I'd trade all of the laundry, dishes and housework for an uninterrupted day outside doing what needs to be done and what I want to do. Is it unfair to think that women have to juggle more things each day? Making certain family members are being taken care of, important family events are attended or even just the nice little things we do that I know will be remembered fondly in each young persons' life when they get old and busy as well. I try to live very consciencely, and in the moment to keep from getting overwhelmed. It is so much more important to me that my little nieces and nephews can run across from Grammy and Grampy's house to ring my doorbell and brave the little barking terrier to come in and visit, play in the studio (or as they call it "the clubhouse"!) and chat for a few minutes. It is a wonderful thing to have Aunts and Uncles willing to spoil you, pay attention to you, and tell you just how special and smart they know you are. I treasure these moments and always know that somehow the work will get done, but it is so much more important to make those memories while we can! Here's hoping you made some wonderful memories today- both your own and for someone else! Take care, Jane