Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sheep and Wool

cosymakes farm wool fiber club

I spent most of my last Sunday at the Taylor Bray Farm Sheep Festival. I brought my wheel and hung out with our local spinning guild, putting in a lot of spinning hours. Some of our guild members brought handspun yarn and handknit items to sell, but there were a few of us that were just there to spin and chat. It was fun to answer questions, especially from people who had never seen someone spinning before. Kids would come by and just stare at the wheel and watch what I was doing. I would stop for a moment and ask if they wanted to feel the wool or touch the yarn. A few times parents came by with kids and told them not to touch, but I said it was okay with me and assured them that there was nothing they could do to my wheel or wool that my own two children hadn't already tried! In fact, one girl walked by and stuck her finger right into my flyer (the part with the bobbin and the hooks) while I was spinning. I was scared for a moment because she really could have been hurt, but she was fine and I invited her to go ahead and feel that part of the wheel while it wasn't in motion.

This sounds a little cheesy, but each time a child stopped to watch me or feel the wool, I felt this bit of excitement in me, thinking maybe someday this child would grow to love knitting and spinning the way I do. I have just found it to be a wonderful thing in my life so I love seeing other people take up the craft. I pictured the event as planting seeds in the minds and hearts of people who were there and interested in what was happening. And even if they don't take up the craft on their own, I know through the conversations I had that some people definitely left the event with a new appreciation for these kinds of handcrafts.

sheep shearing

We went to the festival last year as spectators and the same guy was there for the sheep shearing demonstration. He not only described and demonstrated the process of shearing a sheep, but talks all about sheep and wool. I could hear most of it from my spot across the tent and I heard new facts throughout the day (his jokes were the same all day long and many of them I recognized from last year, it made me smile to hear them over and over). At the end of the demo he would pass around bits of the freshly shorn fleece and spin some of it on a simple drop spindle. I remember Josh bringing home a bit of that fleece like a little treasure last year, and this year was no different as many children came by my wheel with a piece of wool clutched in their hands.

sheepherding

I took a break from my spinning a few times to watch the sheep-herding demonstration. I missed this part last year, so it was completely new to me and I was just amazed. I always had this image of sheepdogs working alone, running through fields herding sheep to greener pastures, but that is not how it goes at all. There were always multiple dogs at work, placed by the handler in specific spots in order to guide the sheep just where he wanted them. They were up and down and moving around the field, quick to reply to the handlers commands. They could separate the goats from the sheep, or separate a certain number of sheep from the herd. They put them in the pen and took them out of the pen. The handler would place dogs all along the path where he wanted the sheep to go, putting a dog near the corner to keep the sheep from huddling there instead of heading toward the pen. I never realized how much thinking went into getting a group of sheep to go in one direction.

herding dogs at work (border collies)

Every dog in this photo is at work, even those who are laying down. They worked all day long giving demonstrations at the festival, and the handler said they would go home that afternoon and work more. He said that if anyone is thinking about getting a Border Collie as a pet, they should think twice about it because they really need all that physical activity. 

This guy makes it look easy too

These sheep farmers make it look so easy!

You can see more photos from the festival over on my flickr.

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