I confuse Rhinebeck, NY, home of the Duchess County Fairgrounds, with the Reichenbach Falls of Sherlock Holmes’ tussel with Professor Moriarty in “The Final Problem” perennially. The names of the village in the greater New York metropolitan area and the series of waterfalls in the Alps have a similar sound and if I fast-talk, as I’m prone to do, I’ll hear the names as the same and forget to distinguish. The next thing you know, I’ve built up a romantic adventure in a classical setting, involving sheep’s wool and a nemesis or two.
It didn’t help that this year I was driving one of my old Shetland wether’s fleeces, Moran, to meet up with some folks that wanted to spin it. The character from Arthur Conan Doyles’ “The Empty House,” Moran is a hardcore assassin. The year Moran was born on our farm, his mama had twins and we named his brother “Milverton,” an even more vile enemy of Sherlock Holmes. It was the year of literary names for the lambs. Milverton & Moran, Bingley & Darcy, Dickens, Tolkien, etc..
Moran & Milverton both happen to be incredible sweeties, in real life. They also both have incredibly beautiful fleeces. Very black and grey and soft. The two of them are big on the hugs, too. There is a lucky spinner hugging Moran’s fleece as I type. I am tempted to spin Milverton’s fleece myself, it is so lovely.
In addition to toting a fleece for my one-day adventure off the farm, we loaded the car up at 6 a.m. with a gross of Thelma & Louise yarn, signage and postcards and business cards, apples and go-cups of coffee and cocoa, lists and gifts for friends we were meeting up with, and pies. Not only was I tucking wares to sell at the booth I was a guest at, but I was toting pies for sale to folks that had ordered them for celebrating while they were attending the New York State Sheep & Wool Festival.
Martha, Miranda, Tessa & I drove south on Saturday morning and watched the sun rise, the temperature climb from 30 to 45, the colors alongside the road become more and more vibrant, and got to the gates in the nick of time for opening gun. I had to set up my merchandise at Mary Jeanne Packer’s Battenkill Fiber booth so that I’d be ready for the crowds and then dashed off to check things off my list in the little time I had before I was booth-bound.
The list was long and I was able to check off much of it, including, first off, to find a husband for our Wensleydale ewe lamb, ‘Lil Miss.’ Jeri, at Flying Fibers in Landisville, PA, has a lovely ram named “Ash” that will be moving here next summer to be our Wensleydale dad-on-campus for the 2017 breeding season. Jeri and I had a great chat, farmer-to-farmer, about the matchmaking and reached a shepherdess’ agreement before parting.
I scored a sheep stand so that I can hopefully save my back down the road by teaching my sheep to step up while I trim hooves and shear and inspect and all of the other ways I care for them. For all of these years I’ve been farming, I’ve never had a sheep stand and have always had to put the sheep and goats in a chair hold while I trim their hooves and so on. It is a luxury item and I am looking forward to using it from here on out. I just hope the sheep will cooperate. I conferred with Karin Kennedy, Ensign Brook Farm, and she assured me that the lambs will need to be helped up into the stand, but as 1-year olds, they will hop right up.
Today I practiced with Willow while my friend Tara was here to help me. She and I put the stand together and then popped Willow into place, our little 5-month old Shetland ewe lamb, and she hung out for a few minutes without much fuss. Later, Tara and I tried our best to hold poor, older and huger ewe, Latte, in place on the stand. First we had to pick her up(I am guessing she weighs 300 pounds) and place her on the stand. Tara is actually a weight-lifter, and I am strong from working outside all of the time, so we managed it. But Latte wasn’t at all happy with the new stand. And before we could work on her to dress her sore hoof, we had to give up and treat her on the ground.
I also picked up some new hoof trimmers. Our old hoof trimmers were in awful repair and we’ve been struggling with them for the past year. It feels like an incredible luxury, now, to own new trimmers and a sheep stand.
So, a ram, a sheep stand, and hoof trimmers. Not too shabby.
I also had a chance to visit with so many folk whom I’d had on my ‘meet up’ list while I was sharing time with Beatrice Perron Dahlen of Thread & Ladle in the Battenkill Fibers booth. Beatrice and I were promoting her pattern, the “Gentle Ewe Shawl” and her book, “Maine Knits” alongside our “Thelma & Louise” mohair/cotswold/merino blend yarn. Beatrice, smart, talented, kind and soft-spoken and I were busy, busy, busy in the warm sunshine in front of the booth, chatting with lovely folk from all over. I had a great time meeting new and old friends and the time flew by.
Before you knew it, my time at the festival dwindled and I rendezvoused with Team Wing & A Prayer Farm at the sheepdog demo for a short time to sit and be entertained. We staggered to the car, me pushing a hand-cart with the sheep-stand and my booth props, dwindled supplies and farm tools, Mar carrying the balance of the days’ loot, and loaded up our wares. Mar, Miranda & Tessa had had a blast finding all sorts of beautiful fiber and tools for projects and we chatted excitedly the whole way home, watching the gorgeous full-moon rise above the horizon into a star-filled sky.
It felt good to be back home and I couldn’t have managed the getaway without the tireless and enthusiastic help of my farm girls-all: Miranda, for helping me all week with injured animals and mucking and choring. She picked up grain, hauled manure and more. Martha, for cataloguing my inventory, reorganizing my storage, running to the post office and picking up list-items, keeping the business cards handy, updating the Excel spreadsheet she set up, and throwing hay for hungry sheep or dragging the hose to fill up buckets as necessary. Mom, for peeling apples while I filled pie orders, helping me dig my dahlias so they wouldn’t freeze, picking up butter for crusts, and all of the supermom-things she does. Tessa, for helping me with rinsing and dyeing and skirting fleeces and spinning and climbing fences to feed the Muppets, for helping me remember what I just said, and more. Maggie for pinch-hitting and covering chores so I could take a day-trip out of town and not fret about the health and happiness of the flocks I left behind. Helping me by knowing everyone’s name, by making sure they are all tended to and looked after and then sending me notes to update me. There is just no way I could leave town for a day and enjoy myself without the security that comes with knowing that the person who is closing the barn for you can mother the flocks almost exactly as you would. Right down to feeding the baby mini donkey and caring for the kittens.
This morning, Nite Nite was loose, per usual. And what had she decided to greet me with lest I think about going out of town again?
A beautiful crown of thorns. A beard and headpiece of burrs, encrusted and encircling her darling face.
She is now suffering a bad haircut, but at least the burrs are gone.
A full week, a beautiful weekend, and I even got in a little riding.
Enjoy a few pics of my past couple of days, not including the meet-ups with all of the folk I got to see: