My husband, Ken Simpson, was a big part of helping make this come to pass. He passed away in December 2012.
The Beginning – Part 1 (Comments in parentheses have been added for new web site)
This is the story of a dream, and the challenges and blessings along the way of following that dream.
It was at Alpacapalooza 2002 in Monroe, WA that the dream began to take form in Barbara’s mind. To understand how it all came together, we must go back a couple of months before that event to when Barbara was first introduced to alpacas, these gentle animals.
Barbara is an accomplished spinner and weaver who has won many awards for her skill and handiwork. She has been a fiber artist since 1985 and has worked with yarns most of her life. She teaches weaving and three of her students just happened to own alpacas. She fell in love with the animals; we went to the show, and there decided to acquire our first two boys. So began the adventure of becoming livestock owners, something we had no experience with. We had to learn everything new: care of the animals, building a shelter and fence, etc. In the process of learning we became aware of a need for services to process the fiber that alpaca owners shear from their animals.
Barbara was already familiar with the process of creating her own yarn from other people’s fleece with a spinning wheel, and began to wonder if those skills could be put to use for other alpaca owners. The dream was born. Over the next few months, we visited several small mills and talked to lots of people over the phone. Everyone we talked to was very helpful and encouraging. With help from several people, Barbara began to put together a business plan and look into financing options.
With much perseverance and hard work, the building was complete by December 2003. (We cleared the land and erected a kit building before Barbara had the loan she needed.)
The machines arrived January 19th, 2004. It was a major operation.
We officially opened March 1st and had our grand opening celebration May 1st, 2004.
All this was accomplished because of Barbara’s vision, the determination to follow that vision, her passion for the textile industry and the feel of fine yarns, the encouragement and support of many, many friends and associates, and these affirmations which inspired us to keep going when the inevitable setbacks happened:
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” By Eleonore Roosevelt
“To have what you have never had, do what you have never done”
The Journey Continues – Part 2
It is now December 2007. Four years after the completion of the building and almost four years since the machines arrived. I can truly say I love what I do! I love the processing, I love the people I have met, I love the friends I have made, I love working in my mill.
I have learned lots about all sorts of things, like: I really can fix these big machines myself (or with a little help when I my arms cannot reach 10 feet apart). I’ve listened and learned and have been willing to try different things, some that work (like heathered yarns) and some that don’t (like very thick yarn).
This past spring, it became very clear it was time to move the farm to larger acreage and the mill to more space where I could expand. So the search for the “perfect” place began. We did not have to stay in Kitsap County or even Washington since Ken is now retired and the kids are not in school (one is in Missouri, the other still lives with us). We could choose anywhere we wanted. I wanted to be closer to my family and near the ocean so we looked south to Oregon and choose Coos County to start our search. We made a trip in May and loved the area, so returned home and put our house up for sale. On Labor Day we had an offer to buy our Washington house, so we returned to Oregon to house hunt, but found nothing that would house a mill, my first priority. We returned home, let go, and waited.
When asked if we had found our new house, I would answer, “not yet, I will in October.” On October 3rd, I made a solo trip to Coos County and looked at four farms that day. Two of them might have worked, but I asked my realtor about another I had seen on the internet MLS listing. We said goodnight at 7 that night and I went to dinner.
The next morning at 8:30, I was standing in the driveway of the house we would move to. The mill building is a bit larger than what I was leaving behind, but could be expanded and the house is big enough for my looms, piano, and living room all in one space. There are 6 acres, with space for a pasture this spring. By 11am, an offer had been made and while I waited I explored the area. On the 5th, I had a yes answer from the seller. I had found the farm! I met the seller’s agent at the property and walked the lines and hiked through the woods that surround the house. I then drove back to Washington thinking about where to put the machines that would be the most efficient.
Two weeks later, I was again in Oregon for AlpacaMania near Medford, but took a side trip to the house and did some real measuring to make a mill layout. I also took pictures since Ken and our daughter had not seen the house.
On Nov 4th and 5th, 3 trucks with trailers, a semi, and my van arrived in the driveway; an animal transport carrying our 6 alpacas, a U-Haul with household things and temporary fencing and myself as well as my daughter and dog, my Dad’s truck with a trailer with fiber and mill parts, and a semi with machines. Ken arrived 5 days later with animal shelter parts, more fence, tools, and all the other things that did not fit in the first load. He had to go back for his truck later filled with my lavender plants.
We are here and love it. The mill is the space I envisioned. Still needs a bit of work, but coming along. The house is beautiful, and the pasture will be underway.
As in part 1 of the story, I live with affirmations. There has been one on the white board in my kitchen for years. It now hangs in my new kitchen. It says,
“Dreams come in a size too big so you can grow into them.”
This is a dream that has been in the making for a long time and a few years ago was a bit big. Now it fits just right.
Interesting facts from 2007:
- We moved 800+ pounds of alpaca fiber with us. We had never had that much fiber at one time before in the mill.
- The machines weigh in at just under 10,000 pounds (Carder, Pin Drafter, Spinner, and Skeiner).
- I hired my 1st employee in September, she knew it was temporary. A new employee will be hired in January.
- I have come home from every show with my van full of fiber this year.