Why? That is what everyone asks me when I tell them we got a new sheep.
Yesterday was a good weather day in New England. Perfect for traipsing about with the truck and crates to acquire critters and make new friends. We had prior and gregarious adventures before landing in Guilford, coincidentally at the childhood homestead of our shearer Fred DePaul, and at days’ end we stepped out into the quiet twilight and natural beauty of Not Your Ordinary Farm.
Judy Sopenski lives in the milk house of the old DePaul farm on part of what was approximately 300 acres of south-facing farmland, once kept hayed by hand and irrigated from a mountain spring. Here she pastures her Merino flock, only supplemented with organic grain, and dewormed with natural ingredients and garlic. She has their fleeces hand shorn by Kevin Ford and processed at Green Mountain Spinnery in Vermont into gorgeous, rich yarn.
In the dim we stood near the winter garden, teeming with vegetables under a collapsed greenhouse, discussing flocks next to the noticeably quiet sheep, and the pigs were frolicsome and squeaky in the background.
After selecting our new girl and collecting her, collectively, into a crate and into the half full bed of our truck, we ducked inside of Judy’s magical tiny home to warm up for a minute and take in the wonder of her fiber creations. She has an arsenal of woolen treasures, gorgeously crafted, and we nipped into the barn to rummage a few for the road, now fairly burning with inspiration.
The Merino wool from Not Your Ordinary Farm is not found online, as Judy does not use email, but you can call her to buy her wonderful Weatherhead Hollow Winter Hat kits or “Odd Ball” yarn skeins at 802 251-7298. Very reasonably priced. She also sells at a retail store in Brattleboro, VT called “Knit or Dye”
We named our (not so) little ewe lamb in honor of our dear friend & aspiring fiber artist, Coco, as today is her birthday. Although our beautiful chocolate-y girl is likely bearing child and might be called some derivative of ‘Mary’ in honor of the season of Advent, we chose ‘Laurel’, after Coco’s middle name.
Not long ago I was in Wardsboro, Vermont where I brought three of my Shetland sweeties to be bred with Maybelle Farms‘ Shetland ram “Thistle.” While there, Kathleen Meeks, a great Shetland farmer and fiber artist, introduced me to her “Fig Newkin”, one of Judy’s Merinos. It was a blow-me-over-with-a-feather moment when I met that rich, cocoa-colored lamb, and I asked Kathleen where she came from. Imagine my delight when she discovered that Judy had three more of her kind.
This week, Vermont Public Radio aired “Home Spun”, a well-done radio program which explored the growing popularity/resurgence in the fiber arts, sharing some interesting and informative interviews and comments from guests. It was a tiny honor to have my email read on the air, but as I sat on hold for a live comment, I listened transfixed to the program. In each caller’s or guests’ stories, I heard artists and human interest tales that claimed anthropological presence. The place of farming in our lives, the importance of natural fibers, the animals and people that bring them to us. Our own daily moments weaving and blending into useful and pleasing objects of strength and practical beauty.
A new-friend-of-a-new-friend, sheep ladies, farm friends, fiber-nuts, knitting newbies and oldies. Woolie wonders arriving during Advent.
And that is why.