Festivals

 

Last weekend I was a visitor at the New York Sheep & Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY with my friends from NYC, Lysa & Hazel.  We’re three peas in a pod with our enthusiasm for animals and fiber, art & food so we thoroughly enjoyed time together cooing over our new fascination, Paco-Vicuñas, sheep & goats of all breeds, a Spitters Club parade and Border Collie demonstrations.  I so enjoyed being a tourist and meeting other farmers, getting the low-down on their experiences, fondling fiber for 8 hours, treating ourselves to roving & yarn that we didn’t really need (hello – I have a farm with 40+ fiber animals!) The wind was biting outside, but the foliage was brilliant and the bluebird sky made for a bright and cheery day.  Besides, there was a hot cider/hot chocolate booth that the 4-H was running and indoor viewing/shopping, so there was ample opportunity for warm-ups.  I made no attempt to curb my excitement about attending, so in retrospect, I should ask Lysa & Hazel’s forgiveness for having to endure my prattle about the this and the that from the first to final steps.  We finished our time together in agreement that the best pizza we’d ever had was  at Posto Pizzeria, where we warmed up from the inside out, before departing our separate routes home.

For ten years I have been a member of the Vermont Sheep & Goat Association which annually hosts the Sheep & Wool Festival in Tunbridge, VT. A considerably smaller affair than Rhinebeck, but no less perfect.  The week prior to the NY Festival, we participated for our first time and had a vendor booth where we hoped to sell our farm’s fiber. I had been working on arranging and staging our products under my farmers’ market tent in the barnyard beforehand with the aid of my good friends Meleen & John Dupre’s lovely antique furnishings as props.

Staying up all hours of the nights dotting i’s and crossing t’s, I scavenged more props from friends, located every last skein of yarn and fluff of roving, packaged and labeled and weighed and measured.

The forecast was potentially sketchy. I’d anticipated complications so went a day early to set up before the rain. My friend Debbie & her daughter Robin met me to lend a hand. Both were going to be participating in the festival for workshops and teaching, so they’d also arrived early to deliver their equipment.

As I neared the fairgrounds, my phone rang and it was Robin. She & Debbie were coaching me about the proper entrance to park and unload. I laughed out loud when they told me to be looking for two sexy girls in white t-shirts near the gate with the sheep signs on it. Sure enough, I pulled around the corner in my overfull truck and there were my 50-something & 70-something mother & daughter team, waving and waving! I pointed my precarious load down the hilly entrance, my public radio station struck up Igor Stravinsky’s “Firebird” and I fell into procession behind another farmer whose vanity plates read “WOOL.” A strong beginning.

It took about an hour for the three of us to unload and set up. Daylight was waning and I sent Debbie & Robin on their way so they could get home before dark. They had a 45 minute commute over the mountains. I still had to enter my fleeces into the fleece judging contest and then zip my tent down for the night.

The next day when I’d seen the two of them, I mentioned to Robin that I woke up at 3 that morning, ready to go. I was so excited that I could not sleep and just wanted to get there. Robin told me that apparently her mom had done the same thing. For 23 out of the 26 years of the Vermont Sheep & Wool Festival, Debbie had had a vendor booth selling her mittens, Mohair rovings, and yarn. This was the first year she wasn’t setting up a booth.

There were characters of all types – extreme fiber enthusiasts, apologizing fiber-stash junkies, farmers, wanna-be farmers, happy go lucky visitors from all over the place. I met a neat woman who sells custom coats for sheep out of her gypsy caravan-style tiny house that she uses for sleeping in as well as selling goods from. I think it would have also made a great chicken coop. I watched a tiny bit of the border collie sheep dog demos. I got to enjoy a goat cart that paraded the fairgrounds for both days.

It’s fun to speculate and complain and enthuse about the weather. And there was all of that in the weekend’s event. We only had a rainy Saturday, but I got to hear about the past 26 years worth of weather from seasoned veterans. It could’ve poured the entire weekend. It could’ve been blowing like the dickens. We could’ve had a hurricane. We could’ve had snow!

There are too many animals at home to leave unattended to try to stay over somewhere local to the festival and I would’ve been stressed being away from them for an entire day. I’m a hardy soul and don’t mind being a road-warrior when I have to be, so I commuted back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

Next year I’d just as soon sleep over in my booth, better yet, bring my animals with me and stay in the barn there.

Delivering the goods, folks. For fiber products we’ve got the most gorgeous alpaca felt, Mohair rovings, Shetland yarn, Shetland fleeces, raw fibers for spinning, yarn for knitting and rug-hooking, and felting fiber for needle & wet felting fiber arts. Char’s exquisite and detailed aprons made the trip, some kits for D.I.Y. crafters, a little bit of this and that.

I was thrilled to sell Debbie’s thrummed mittens in our booth. After all, they are made from our Shetland fiber and her/our Angora Goats’ fiber. They are representative of our farm’s fiber, though it is her skill & energy that puts together the finished product. The mittens flew off the shelves in the first hour of the Festival’s opening.

Char & Jim were around to swap shifts on the farm to help with the animals and to come and assist me so I wouldn’t have to sit cross-legged with my commuter cups of coffee all weekend. Char panics a bit when you put her in charge of sales transactions. With an audience, she becomes like a deer-in-headlights and can’t add 1 + 1. What happens, usually, is that the customer tries to help her out and then she will become more embarrassed than when she started. So mostly I sent her out to forage for us – “Char, can you get us something hot to drink?” “Char, go see the Border Collie demos and come back and tell me about it!” “Char, how about checking out the maple cotton candy?” I was grateful for the help and the positive energy. It goes a long way on a 10-hour shift in the rain.

I had insecurities: What if it poured and no one visited our booth? What if we weren’t competitively priced because we’re too small of an operation? What if we went home with everything we arrived with? What if something happened to the animals while I was away? Would my wool entries into the fleece judging contest be laughed at, scoffed at? Would I be accepted by the others or would I be mocked for my small fiber farm? Would I be taken seriously or would the other farmers/vendors think my farm was a farce? What if, what if, what if?

The answers to those questions were that yes, it poured, but folks still visited our booth. We were most certainly competitively priced, but we were a small operation in the scheme of things. We did not go home with everything we arrived with. Nothing happened to the animals while I was away. And,

We won TWO ribbons in the fleece judging contest!

Little 5 month old Royal won 3rd place for his beautiful dark moorit fleece and Bunny, my loud but gorgeous 2 ½ year old Shetland ewe, won Class Champion for her amazing and ample fleece.

Festive, indeed.

 

overlooking the Hudson before arriving in Rhinebeck, NY

IMG_7012 Cotswolds at the NYS Sheep & Wool Festival

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“Spitters Parade” at NYS Sheep & Wool Festival

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Love this yarn display at the NYS Sheep & Wool Festival

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“Oh! Do you mind if I take your picture?” “Sure, no problem!” “Is it a little Shetland ram lamb?” “Yup!”

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Paco Vacuna from Victory Farms in Braymer, MO Soft, deer-like alpaca-vacuna crosses with fiber like clouds.

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Hansen Crafts electric spinner mini wheels – they were so fun to try! But I didn’t know what to do with my feet – it’s like going from a standard shift transmission to an automatic!

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Fiber Craft Studio natural dyes I brought home some black walnut to add to my indigo dyes and some osage orange to play around with bright colors. Lysa also bought some and we’re going to compare our results after we’re finished dyeing.

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Travel wheels – portable wheels for travelling spinners – I could use one of these for when I’m at the farmers’ market in the summer.

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Fiber festival friends

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Turkish Drop Spindle demonstration – Hazel & Lysa each went home with one. Lysa uses her drop spindle regularly at home, but liked the center pull option on this style. We talked Hazel into spinning and starting off with a drop spindle!

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Toss was a 5 year old Border Collie with skills – I could have watched her all day!

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Leafy Llamas at the NYS Sheep & Wool Festival

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Paco Vacuna spun fiber. Softest fiber I’ve ever touched.

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A tour of the booth at the Vermont Sheep & Wool Festival starts with our adorable pincushions & business card house(thanks Charlotte Lyons!)

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Our Shetland wool at the Vermont Sheep & Wool Festival. This fleece belonged to Pansy.

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roving and aprons and feathers and more in our booth

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Ta-dah! And yes, I even brought the hay rack for display. If you could’ve seen the back of my truck as I drove down the road….

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Our alpaca & shetland roving bumps for spinning – we called them cinnamon rolls, because that is what they looked like! Only everybody loved the old fashioned shopping cart. Thanks, Meleen!

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Tunbridge, Vermont – home of the Worlds Fair. The Vermont Sheep & Wool Festival holds their event here every year, and it couldn’t be more perfect.

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The place where all of the fleeces go at the Vermont Sheep & Wool Festival – do you know how excited I was about entering fleeces from our farm? Can you imagine how nervous I was, walking up the hill to enter them? I had no idea what I was in for. Brand new to the scene.

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Hello awesome hat! This needlefelter said “sure you can take my picture, but you have to take my card!” Clever lady! Susi Ryan at the “Felted Gnome Knows” gives needlefelting workshops in Essex Junction, VT.

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Farmer Tam holding Royal’s third place fleece. Not too shabby for this little lamb’s first shearing.

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Katie at Sheep & Pickle Farm with her husband Matt had a booth in the barn at the Vermont Sheep & Wool Festival. It was much cozier in there!

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our busy booth at the VS&WF

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Let’s hear it for Bunny! I don’t usually bad-mouth my animals, but I’ve always said that Bunny’s redeeming value was that she has a beautiful fleece. She is our loudest, wariest, least friendly sheep, along with her mom Winky. The two of them, of course, have the best fiber in our entire flock. You win, Bunny. Baaa all you want from here on out.

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Team Snazzy Goat kept us entertained pretty constantly throughout the weekend at the Vermont Sheep & Wool Festival.

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Close up of Royal’s 3rd place winning fleece. I just entered it for the heck of it, but now that I know we’ve got contenders, I’ll be more careful in selecting next year. It was encouraging to get positive recognition for our fleeces. I’ve really been in the dark about how we stood against other fiber flocks, just raising our animals the best way we could.

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We had a great location along the entry way of the Vermont Sheep & Wool Festival. Many of our visitors would stop and see us on the way into the festival, then visit us again on their way out. It was fun to see & hear from them how their day went, see the wares they purchased, and sometimes, to send them home with things from our farm!

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Jim drove, hurray, on the last day of the Vermont Sheep & Wool Festival. I got to be a passenger and enjoy the ride and take in the foliage.

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The day after the Vermont Sheep & Wool Festival, I told Bunny the great news about her fleece. She acted indifferent, but deep down, I think she appreciated it.

 

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Hey … ribbons! And, a class champion! You and Bunny should be congratulated! That’s really fantastic … I am envious indeed. Enter again next year, win a few more ribbons, and the accumulating successes will pay dividends as your for-sale offerings increase. The awards are well deserved, you’ve worked really hard. Sounds like a good time was had by all … but that you probably need a vacation now! D

  2. love hearing the stories and looking at all your photos!! I think i’ll have to head to the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival next year!!! Congrats you again dear friend!!

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