Sunday, April 16, 2006

Sheep Shearing Day

Greenberry's Highland Mary
Greenberry's Highland Mary

It has been an eventful couple of days. Friday I spent the day at home, catching up on paperwork for taxes and then taking a break to shear my lovely pure German Mary. "Highland Mary" is named after an early mountain ancestor, who married the son of a Scots immigrant. The pronounciation of "highland" was more like "hey-land". Mary has a wonderful coat; her daughter Bina Wade, also named for an early ancestor, is the best pure German I've produced here. I bred Mary to Storybook Dreams Alm Uncle. He's a little small but has a great textured coat; he's also from different lines so there's good genetic diversity there.

Friday evening fried Kym came over and we walked down the Parkway, dodging traffic. Seems that things are getting busy with the lovely warm weather. I have to go back across the ridge today with the camera. There are some lovely spring sights to be recorded. After our walk we went down to the Hilltop, a local restaurant for a really nice dinner. It was late but several people were still eating. A relative gave us chocolate Easter eggs!

After we came back I loaded up the truck for the trip to Tazewell on Saturday. It didn't take long. To my dismay I realized that I hadn't done enough to get ready. Yarn still needs to be labeled, and I really need to have a lot more by the next show. The piles of dyed roving need to be bagged and labeled, and I need to finish these little bags. Yikes! I comforted myself by working on my crocheted rug while watching an old episode of Dr. Who. I love Netflix!

Better Mountain View
View from Thistle Cove Farm

Despite predictions of rain and storm, I headed out in a silver dawn for Tazewell, watching a swift sunrise in my rearview mirror as I crossed the ridges. The trip is lovely; I headed up the Interstate and then ventured across Bland and Tazewell counties on a country road that wound between high mountain ridges. I got a little lost; took the wrong road out of the town of Tazewell but soon realized my mistake. A cheerful local, probably used to lost travelers, set me onto the right road and I arrived to see a bustling Sandra, busy getting ready for the day. Thistle Cove Farm was as beautiful as always, with blue skies overhead.

Ready for Shearing
Ready for a hair cut

The sheep were all gathered in the barn, dry and ready to be clipped of their heavy fleece. As you can probably tell by the picture, Sandra's sheep are well cared for and live on clean pasture. There's a bit of staw here and there, but nothing that doesn't shake right out of the fleece when you start to process it. Sandra has posted a nice article on the Blue Ridge Gazette blog describing a bit more about the care the sheep receive, and about the process of shearing. I visited with the flock for a few minutes and then headed up the hill with my spinning wheel and stuff to set up a little booth in Sandra's farm store.

Explaining Spinning
Spinning Demonstration

It wasn't long before guests arrive, to see what was happening on the farm. I love talking to interested and interesting people, and soon we were all chatting away about fleece, sheep, processing and spinning. I had to mention (probably too much but I'm excited about it) the festivals we're doing in Meadows of Dan to everyone. Many of the people that came to Sandra's also visit the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Making a Broom
Broom Maker

Sandra took pictures while I talked and there are several posted in a set called "Sheep Shearing Day" at flickr. Watching them as a slideshow is fun. There was a broom maker there, plus a young man who was whittling walking sticks. A Civil War soldier presided over parking and Sandra's Komi Kids Yarn Project donations. When I went into the house after the festivities there were piles and piles of boxes in the hallway. Sandra said they were yarn donations for the children in Russia.

Civil War Reenactor
Enjoying the day

There were a lot of cheerful helpers on hand. Everyone pitched in when the shearer showed up, with one young man guilding the sheep to the shearer, who swiftly clipped off the fleece before the sheep really had time to become annoyed. Sandra gathered the wool quickly and brought the entire fleece to a high table made of plywood on sawhorses. This was the best part of the day for me; plunging elbow deep in wonderful smelling fresh fleece and getting to handle it. We pulled off the messy bits, which is called skirting; there weren't many but these are animals, after all. Even the spectators jumped right in, with everyone taking the opportunity to learn about the wool and what will happen to it after it is sheared and skirted.

Whittling and discussing wood craft

All too soon the shearer left, with some problems of his own to deal with at his farm he couldn't stay long. I could have played with wool all day! I went back up the hill to spin, and talked to several more people throughout early afternoon. I forgot my hat and sunburned my forehead and arms; calendula oil is easing that right now. After things slowed down we sat and chatted about knitting and visited with friends and neighbors.

Church in Tazewell County, Virginia
Church in Tazewell County

Sandra offered a lovely lunch but I had to head for home. I had wakened Dad early to make sure he was feeling all right and promised him I wouldn't be late. I had a lovely trip home, with a detour through the mountains toward Christiansburg. The road wound through beautiful stands of redbud, miles and miles of it, along a rushing mountain stream through a narrow mountain pass. I had a camera disk already filled with pictures and was pressed for time, so I didn't stop along the way. I was tempted by this lovely old building, though, not far out of Tazewell. It was a Methodist Church at one time, and I think the community must be Nebo.

Dolly's hogget fleece
Shetland Hogget Fleece

Of course I came home with wool. This is a hogget fleece from Dolly, a Shetland sheep. A hogget is the fleece of a year old sheep. This wool is just the right length for blending with angora, soft and oh, so crimpy!

Carly's lovely fleece
Shetland Fleece

It's really fun to see a fleece come off a sheep, pick through it on a table, and then put it in a bag and bring it home! This was Carly's fleece, a Shetland sheep with a sweet nature and a gorgeous, just right for me length. Despite the fact I was exhausted last night, I unloaded the fleece and wheel from the truck and started spinning Coopworth. I want that out of the way so I can delve into all this lovely Shetland!

Busy days ahead; the next festival is here on the farm at the end of April. I have a lot to do before then!

Update: Sandra has posted more about Sheep Shearing Day at her blog, with photos of the shearing and of me elbow-deep in fleece and looking thrilled!

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