Fluff and fun on an alpaca farm


Take a tour and learn all about these gentle and oh-so-cute animals

By Sue Baldani

Located on 15 acres in Franklin, Mistletoe Farm is home to a herd of alpacas, many of whom love visitors. Started by Leanne and Tom Butchko, the farm was named for the abundance of mistletoe on the property. Plus, while looking at all those cute faces, you might just want to kiss one.

“People are surprised how friendly, curious, quiet and docile the alpacas are and that they all have unique personalities just like humans,” said Leanne. “Some are loving and enjoy chin rubs and others are aloof and prefer watching life from the sidelines. They are also amazed that an adult alpaca weighs only about 150 pounds.”

When Leanne and Tom, who are both certified public accountants, first heard about alpacas from friends, they did some research to find out more about them. What they learned made them want some of their own, and inspired them to buy their farm.

“We began our alpaca adventures about fifteen years ago by winning one alpaca,” said Leanne. “Trick is you can’t have just one! They would die of loneliness. So we purchased a mom and cria (baby) and started our herd with three.”

Today, they keep between 20 – 25 alpacas, and breed and sell about five to 10 a year. Because of the amount of fiber alpacas produce, Leanne mastered the art of weaving, felting and spinning; she now makes products to sell in their farm store. Of course, with so much fiber, she has to have help.

“We are blessed to have several Tennessee knitters that help us make our hats, ear warmers, scarves and other natural goods using our farm yarn,” said Leanne. “Our family helps with various farm events and the designing of our non-seasonal goods such as t-shirts, mugs and printed products. We also have six grandkids who enjoy jumping in and helping out!”

Their goal each year is to make use of all the fleece by making yarn with the prime grade fiber. The seconds are used to make dryer balls and felted sheets so nothing goes to waste.

For visitors who would like to learn weaving, felting and spinning, they also offer classes on the farm. All age groups and levels of experience are welcome. There are also classes to learn the art of natural dyeing.

“Our natural dye classes consist of foraging for natural dye materials found in our surroundings such as walnuts, leaves, berries and flowers,” said Leanne. “We then teach dye methods including extraction and ‘setting’ on various types of fabric, yarn, silk or paper.”

Leanne said that alpaca fiber is hypoallergenic, water repellent, flame resistant, light weight, and breathable, and it wicks away moisture while being several times warmer than wool. It also comes in 16 natural colors and dyes easily.

Mistletoe Farm Alpacas is very focused on sustainable practices. Leanne explained that alpacas are easy on the land.  Since they have padded feet that do not pull grass up by the roots, they are low impact on pastures and soil. They also eat very little per body weigh; a herd of 10 – 15 alpacas eat about one 50 pound bale of hay a day in winter. The farm also composts their manure directly on pastures and in their dye garden. Alpaca fertilizer is considered a rich soil conditioner and improves soil quality and the ability to retain water. It’s high in nitrogen and potassium, and doesn’t need to be aged like most livestock manure. It also breaks down quickly into the soil.

To see these adorable animals, book your visit through their website at www.mistletoefarmalpacas.com . A typical farm tour lasts 1 ½ hours, and half of that includes interacting and taking pictures with the alpacas. The other half is spent in their studio seeing what they make with all that fluffiness.

“We continue to be blessed each year with more and more visitors. Best guesstimate is between 5,000-10,000 last year,” said Leanne. “We do close during July and August due to the summer heat, and the alpacas tend to spend their days in front of the fans and in kiddie pools!”

Pull quote:  “We began our alpaca adventures about fifteen years ago by winning one alpaca,” said Leanne. “Trick is you can’t have just one! They would die of loneliness. So we purchased a mom and cria (baby) and started our herd with three.”

Everything in its place


Getting organized saves both time and money

By Sue Baldani

How often have we asked ourselves, “Where’d I put that”? This is usually followed by a frustrating and sometimes fruitless search.

WIPT designs (pronounced whipped, as in whipping your space into shape, and an acronym for the question above) was started by Beth Hayden to help people get organized. With a background in interior design and space planning, combined with a lifelong obsession with tidiness, this profession suits her perfectly.

Being a single mother at 19, while going to school and working full time, meant having to be super organized in order to get everything done.

“I needed everything to be in its place and easy to find since we didn’t have a lot of time,” said Beth.

After her daughter started college, Beth moved to Nashville and began to build her dream business. At first, organizing was just something she did on the side, but eventually word-of-mouth recommendations and glowing social media testimonials generated a high demand for her skills. So, on March 4, 2019, WIPT designs was born.

“Starting a business was very scary to me as a woman and a single mom with nothing to fall back on,” said Beth. “I built it from scratch, and I basically do all business through referrals.”

Beth prides herself on not just being able to organize people’s spaces, whether a master bedroom, small pantry, or office, but doing it in a very individualized way. She likes to get to know her clients so she can construct customized plans that fit their lifestyles. This is why she offers a free one-hour consultation.

“I specialize in organizing for the space, but also for the person,” said Beth.

When she arrives at a client’s home, she takes pictures and measurements of the room or space to be organized. Then, if there’s a budget or need to buy bins and other items, she’ll go on Amazon and make a list of things to order. Once those items arrive, she’ll be ready to get started. Also, in addition to organizing, Beth can also design and decorate the space as well.

Being organized, she said, is one of the biggest natural stress relievers. Plus, being organized saves time as well as money, since people can see what they have and avoid buying duplicates.

Most people want to be organized, but they’re afraid it’s going to take too much time or they don’t know where to start. But, once a space is organized, it’s much easier to keep up.

One of Beth’s favorite quotes is by Benjamin Franklin, which states, “Every minute spent organizing is an hour earned.”

To find some great organizational ideas and see some of her projects, follow WIPT designs on Instagram. Or go to https://www.wiptdesigns.com/.

Tip 1
Clear bins are the most efficient containers because you can see what’s inside. To make them pretty, put nice labels on them. Or, to save money, use shoeboxes spray painted in your choice of colors.

Tip 2
In the pantry, always place the most used items in the “prime real estate” sections, which are the easiest spots to access. If you’re a big breakfast family, put your cereals there. Also, group items like pasta and pasta sauce together.

Tip 3
Since most people spend so much time doing laundry, make the laundry room an inviting place. Put detergent and pods in pretty jars (out of reach of children), buy a pretty laundry basket, and add signs or pictures.

Tip 4
Piles are a guarantee of disorganization. If you have to have stacks of clothing, use pocket folding. This tucks pieces in so they don’t become unfolded. Spending time refolding is a time waster. This type of folding also allows travelers to pack and unpack easily.

Written for Brentwood Lifestyle magazine in Brentwood, TN.

Mother’s Day Blessings

Here’s an article I’ve posted in the past, and it’s still oh-so-true.

Mother's Day pic

What I have learned from my mother

By Susan Baldani

What qualities does one need to be a wonderful mother? Well, let’s see. Kindness, selflessness, a loving heart, a caring personality, an abundance of patience, acceptance and wisdom are just a few necessary qualities. Fortunately for me, my mother has all of these and more.

Even though I never had children of my own, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to be a stepmother and, in the last few years, a grandmother, or in my case, a MeMa. I fell into these roles rather easily, I believe, because I had such a great role model in my mother (and grandmothers). Not that the men in my life haven’t influenced me positively as well, but this article is, after all, to celebrate Mother’s Day.

I learned that my needs have to sometimes be overlooked in order to make others happy. That sacrifice is a form of love and not something to begrudge.  I learned that giving to others makes me much happier than any gift I could give myself.  I learned how to bring comfort, even when I feel like I’m the one who needs comforting, and that it’s better to get up to help when all I want is to do is lie down.  These are traits I have tried to carry over into all of my relationships.

My mom is also one of my very best friends. I can talk to her about anything and she will never judge me, criticize me, or try to make decisions for me and my future.  She will give me advice, but knows that I need to make some mistakes to find my own true path in life, and hitting a few speed bumps along the journey is the only way to really find the right destination.

My life has been filled with many successes, both personally and professionally. My mother has encouraged me to take advantage of opportunities that have arisen and has been my tireless cheerleader. I couldn’t have accomplished what I have without the belief instilled in me to trust in my own decisions.

I know I am so very fortunate to still have my mom. Some of my friends have already had to say goodbye to theirs, and my heart truly breaks for them since I know what a hole I would have in my life without my mother. No matter how old I get, I will always need my mommy.  Happy Mother’s Day!


Written for The Country Register, published across the U.S. and Canada.