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PO Box 414
Tracy City, TN 37387
USA

A FIRST HAND INTRODUCTION INTO THE WORLD OF RAISING FIBER ANIMALS, SPINNING, WEAVING, AND NATURAL DYEING.

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Abundance

Kacie Hodges

Since the arrival of 2016, this humble farm has been blessed with an abundance of goodness.

Barn Quilt, North Carolina

Barn Quilt, North Carolina

I took on the third decade at the end of January. To celebrate, I treated myself to a weekend vacation in North Carolina to catch up with friends while my gracious neighbors kept an eye on the farm.

A bit of Alabama in Asheville.

A bit of Alabama in Asheville.

 

Shortly after my return to Tennessee I was blessed with an extraordinary gift. Ophelia entered the world on the morning of February 3rd, following an evening of intense thunderstorms. She was discovered in the barn, huddled behind a gate panel while her new mom, Mademoiselle, stood out in the pasture clearly uninterested in nursing. The next 6 days and nights blurred together in a series of 4 hour intervals consumed by mixing bottles, cleaning stalls, and many desperate attempts to convince Mademoiselle that bonding with her cria was a good idea.

Ophelia's first snow

Ophelia's first snow

This 4 hour work shift schedule gave me a tiny glimpse into new parenthood. It was a great relief to discover Ophelia finally beginning to nurse when I went out to deliver her 3:00 AM bottle on the morning of the 7th day.

Since then, she has become quite the little personality. Independent and inquisitive, Ophelia is always the first to the gate in the morning when I walk out to the pasture each morning.

Cria introductions

Cria introductions

A couple weeks after Ophelia's arrival, I had the honor of shooting a childhood friend's maternity session. JJ and Tyler came up to the farm one chilly afternoon and hung out with the animals while I captured memories.

Maternity photo shoot outtake

Maternity photo shoot outtake

As subjects in both my first wedding and maternity session, I am grateful for these two in trusting me with the opportunity to preserve these special moments in their lives.

Summer 2011, Wedding bliss

Summer 2011, Wedding bliss

The month of February was filled with incredible moments.  On the afternoon of the 28th, I was working in the garden and noticed a strange sight in the back pasture. Upon closer inspection I realized that Angie was in the middle of delivering a beautiful young lady that eventually became known as Clementine.

Clementine, two weeks

Clementine, two weeks

Clementine was the first alpaca birth that I have seen from the (almost) beginning to end. Having the opportunity to witness the creation of life was an incredible and humbling experience. 

Ophelia and Clementine have become the best of friends. They are hilarious to watch bouncing around the pasture right after sunset; an equal dose of young awkwardness and natural grace.

Sunset rambles

Sunset rambles

Spring has arrived on this lovely mountain, bringing with it a dose of sunny days. This has made the past few weeks of hosting farm tours absolutely delightful.

 Tracy City Elementary Learning Lab

 Tracy City Elementary Learning Lab

Some of the most memorable trips have been from area school groups. It is an honor to share my knowledge with young minds while providing a first hand look into sustainable textile farming.

Waldorf Homeschool friends from Nashville

Waldorf Homeschool friends from Nashville

As the weather warms, the creek has become a favorite destination. The swimming hole has recently received an upgrade via some amazing volunteer worker bees. The new hand-built dam has become a friendly reminder that play is an essential part of learning and growing.

Summer is quickly approaching. With it comes workshops, farm to table events, and camping retreats at the farm.

Forever grateful for this life.  The journey has not been easy, but the rewards are priceless.

Snow Days

Kacie Hodges

I am still living within the first year on this lovely farm,  enjoying the new experiences each season has to offer. The past few weeks have brought a few inches of snow to our little spot on the mountain. The natural Southerner in me looks forward to these days that seem to only occur every couple of years in the lower parts of Tennessee.

In an attempt to capture the pure magic of this farm covered in a blanket of white, I pulled on more layers than I am willing to admit and spent some time exploring.

 

These images were taken over the course of several days of accumulation that happened in early February. The snow, paired with a somewhat surprise Cria arrival found me overwhelmed with farm chores. Keeping animals adequately hydrated when all hoses and water buckets are frozen solid is always quite an experience.

 

Witnessing Ophelia nurse on her own for the first time made the past two weeks' extra effort completely worthwhile. She's a trooper, having survived her first night alone in the barn after being born in a crazy thunderstorm. Her story deserves a blog post all its own, one day soon.

 

Right before the first frost I purchased 6 round bales of hay from my neighbor's brother-in-law who lives in the valley. I heard from a fellow alpaca farmer that it's best to buy bales from the valley, as it has more nutrients than mountain hay. These words of advice have helped keep my small herd healthy and well-fed throughout their first winter on a new farm.

 

I made a box and put it on the back porch for Cosmo to sleep in, but most nights he prefers the barn, where he has his pick of heat sources to snuggle up next to. When I feed him in the morning he always smells like a mixture of hay and sheep, leading me to believe that he has chosen Penelope as his favorite heat blanket.

 

This barn is a huge upgrade from the old farm. On cold nights I am able to close the doors and keep everyone comfortable in stalls and common areas. Having peace of mind during those nights when temperatures fall into the single digits is priceless.

 

The snow days were a nice reminder to slow down and take a look around. Sometimes we forget how far we have come in a rush to keep up. Mother Nature knew exactly how to bring that into focus for me by depositing a blanket of ethereal white, allowing me just enough time to soak it up before bringing sunshine and warmer days back to the mountain.

Shearing 101

Kacie Hodges

When I began this fiber journey I didn't quite see myself getting this involved. For the first three years I was more than happy to pay an excellent shearer to do the hard (and most rewarding) work of annually harvesting the fiber from my alpacas.

2015 had a way of pushing me beyond my comfort zone. This would include the opportunity to attending an intensive 3-day shearing seminar hosted by Alvina Maynard of River Hill Ranch.

Alvina lives, works, and makes things happen on a 30+ acre farm that specializes in Suri Alpacas. Throughout the weekend we took turns shearing members of her herd while painstakingly trying to remember every detail that our instructor Franc taught us.

Shearing is not for the weak of heart, mind, or body. It is also not a solo endeavor. Every member of the team works in a choreographed dance around the shearer, all focused on the safety and comfort of the animal on the mat.

The first few hairdos were pretty homely. I would like to think that the quality of my hair cuts improved as the weekend progressed, though my main concern was avoiding major arteries and eyeballs while maintaining some level of control over an animal that outweighs me.

Franc could do this in his sleep. When he sheared he would time himself: when it was our turn, he timed us. To be honest, I wasn't a huge fan of the added pressure of a stop watch, but it did add an element of realistic expectations, as there has to be some sort of standard to hold yourself to.

If you don't know where you stand, it's hard to make goals to improve.
For this reason, the use of a stop watch made pretty good sense.

We spent three full days covered covered in fiber, spit, clipper oil, and sweat. We sheared to the tunes of the local country radio station: by the end of the weekend we had all memorized the words to those ten songs they tend to play on repeat.

 

Farm Shearing 2015-2.jpg

Endless gratitude to the best hosts ever (Alvina + Rob) and to Franc for sharing his knowledge with us newbies. This shearing season I will be taking care of my own herd as well as offering my services to neighbor alpaca and llama farms.

This venture will be conducted in correlation with an ongoing endeavor to better understand the amount of raw fiber being produced in the Southeast via a wool inventory, following in the footsteps of the California based Fibershed. Conducting this type of data driven campaign will allow this information to be available to both designers and local manufacturers, with the end goal of creating sustainable relationships while connecting the dots from raw fiber to finished goods.

If you are a fellow fiber farmer, designer, knitter, weaver, or spinner in the Southeast and would like more information, please feel free to get in touch.