Category Archives: Sheep and wool shows

Winter returns

Handdyed, handspun cashgora yarn (by a spinner in Tajikistan)
Handdyed, handspun cashgora yarn (by a spinner in Tajikistan)

I can truthfully say we are still waiting for our goat babies.  The spring-like weather is disappearing tonight, and we face some crazy windchills in the next few days, and I am down with the chest flu (milder than it could be if I had not had my flu shot, but it’s punched me up a bit).

And so we hope that we do not have to have babies arrive with 20-40 mph wind gusts, but if we do, we will manage.  I do not use heat lamps, as straw, hay and inquisitive goats all make for a very volatile situation.  We rely on windbreaks, getting babies dry quickly, and getting them fed up with colostrum ASAP (and lots and lots of straw).  And so we continue our sleepless nights, but tonight I have a reprieve and Sam is doing the late night and early morning checks.  Maybe by the end of the day tomorrow I will feel better :*)

Kiwi Pop Studio yarn
Kiwi Pop Studio yarn

In the meantime, I am resting and ogling my NETA Spa purchases, and also my raffle win.  I am totally over the moon with my Tajik handspun/handdyed cashgora yarn from Casey at Port Fiber, my purchases from Cari Balbo/Ridge Pond Herbals, and also my very unexpected skein of yarn from the raffle at the Spa Fashion Show (Kiwi Pop Studio)!  I have to consult Ravelry for a nice project that will make the most of my cashgora yarn, and for my raffle prize, I am beginning to picture it as an accent to a larger shawl project.  Not sure where I will go with that one, it is not one of those skeins that would have called to me all alone, but now that I have it home, I really see the potential of the sparkle and the glitz and color!

Cari Balbo's Ridge Pond Herbals eye balm, hand cream, tallow face cream, and solid bar skin cream
Cari Balbo’s Ridge Pond Herbals eye balm, hand cream, tallow face cream, and solid bar skin cream

It’s all good, and the whole point of the Spa weekend at the end of February is still just as compelling as it was 15 years ago:  it’s a great break during the winter to meet up with fiber friends and just have a great time relaxing, spinning, knitting, crocheting, and generally having a good time, with a lot of laughs.  The spur to keep up the good spirits until the warmth returns late in the spring.  And so it goes.  Nice.  Very nice!

Almost there, I think!

Betsy waiting for breakfast
Betsy waiting for breakfast

I spent a lot of time early last week worrying about being away in Freeport for the NETA Spa event.  Leaving my son to carry on the late night and early morning checks, which we usually split between us, and worrying that Betsy the First Timer might run into a problem.   In the end, mid-afternoon last Thursday, I took off and headed down to Freeport.  (I am one of the Spa event organizers and there was work to be done setting up the vendor areas, and some put-our-head-together meetings as well).  I ended up staying through the Saturday late afternoon fashion show (I am the emcee, so it was something I needed to do if at all possible) and then came on home.  To no babies in progress :*/

Delta's bum
Delta’s bum

Sam and I texted many times every day, and he posted me photos of goat bums galore.  Over thinking these things is tough.  You want to be observant and ready for anything, but then all the little signs you think are significant just turn out to be little bumps in the road, showing progress, but not a predictable finish line.

Eleganza scratches an itch
Eleganza scratches an itch

There are three girls that should be having their babies anytime now.  (Did I really just say that again??!)  Betsy, Delta, and Eleganza.  Eleganza’s udder has blossomed in the past few days, Betsy’s and Delta’s as well, although Eleganza is outpacing the other two in that department.  Delta and Betsy have had totally slack ligament bands at the base of their tails for at least 10 days, so that hasn’t proven to be a help either.

Delta picking through some promising straw
Delta picking through some promising straw

Betsy is so miserable.  The poor thing can barely move her back legs.  You can tell that the baby is pressing on the nerves in her back end and she can only walk in a very stilted manner.  I feel for her and wish that she would get to it, already!

The beginning of every kidding or lambing season always begins this way.  Exhaustion sets in from doing the late and early checks, and eventually we go away and sleep in a little, only to find the little ones out there with mom, clean, fed and dry.  And so it goes!  I think I will get back to my knitting now…

February warm up week

It’s almost unreal.  The temperatures have been very kind to us, although it’s disconcerting when I think that we are in the middle to the end of February, and really it’s not too normal for weather like this (40s approaching 50).  But there is nothing to be done about it, so we are enjoying it!

Feeding frenzy
Feeding frenzy

The animals are enjoying it as well, although the snow is still so deep that their movement is curtailed a bit.  We are watching our girls like hawks, and this afternoon we noticed that Betsy, our yearling, is losing her “mucous plug” today.  So it won’t be long and she will be having her baby.  Hard to tell how long it might be, but I would expect it to be in the next 24 hours, hopefully sooner.

While waiting for babies a few of us have been getting ready for the SPA NETA spin and knit weekend coming up, this weekend!  I am supposed to be heading down to Freeport (Maine) tomorrow so that we can get the ballroom ready for the vendors, as they will be coming in on Friday to set up their wares.  The big kick-off is Friday evening, so we are all getting excited.  It’s a great weekend full of fun and folks we may not see from one end of the year to the other.  And Freeport is full of fiber-loving people everywhere you look (every hotel common area is crammed with knitters, crocheters, and spinners.  Awesome!).

Betsy, a year ago
Betsy, a year ago

So we watch and wait.  I was supposed to go to a dual birthday luncheon tomorrow before heading down to Freeport (a good friend and I have February birthdays), but we shall see how things progress here with our Betsy.  She is a peach, but a first freshener, so we really want to monitor her closely.

More news soon, I hope!

 

Post-Rhinebeck week

Lovely yard behind our AirBnb house
Lovely yard behind our AirBnb house

I am finally able to write about my adventures at the NY Sheep and Wool Show!  Retirement has its benefits, for sure.

Traveling to Rhinebeck, NY, with a lovely group of fiber friends is the highlight of the year.  The Hudson Valley is usually at its peak of fall color; we rent a house, bring lots of lovely food and libations, and just have a great time.  The sheep and wool show is absolutely fantastic as well!  (Not an afterthought and certainly our reason for being there).  We also get to visit with many vendor friends who are there at the show.  Sometimes this is the only visit we get.

View from the porch
View from the porch

This year our AirBnb rental got a little mixed up, and we ended up staying in a different place than usual.  Lovely, large farmhouse, with all the seating and sprawl areas that we could have wanted, and a great kitchen as well.  You never know how those things are going to work out, but it was a great choice.  With the drought in the northeast continuing, we ended up having perfect weather, too.  Sunday was almost too hot!

Shetland fleece on the drying rack
Shetland fleece on the drying rack

Having had a lovely flock of Coopworth and Border Leicester sheep and crosses for many years, I really never need anything at a sheep and wool show (I have tons of roving and yarn left from our crew).  But in the last year or two I have been loving the adventure of trying out wools from different breeds of sheep.  This year I knew that I wanted to find a Shetland fleece, as that is something I have never spun or knit with.

Foster Family Farm yarn
Foster Family Farm yarn

There were a plethora of fleeces to choose from, and I had a difficult time deciding.  I knew I wanted a dark fleece if I could find one, but a reddish-brown one was second on my list as that is a color you don’t find in Coopworth or Border Leicester sheep.  And so I came away with a lovely small fleece, just enough for me to have some fun with, and maybe spin up for a small shawl.  This hogget (or yearling fleece) came from a farm on Cape Cod, Freddy’s Farm Shetlands.  Lovely, very clean fleece.  This one is not a dual-coated Shetland, as many are (Shetlands are considered a “primitive” breed, so they would typically have a hairy outer fleece layer with very soft undercoat.  And you really want to keep those two products separate when spinning!).  So I waited in the long line in the fleece area, got to look at what everyone else around me was buying, and had a great time!

Romney/silk roving
Romney/silk roving

I also found more little treasures at the show:  some beautiful Romney/silk roving, and two skeins of Wensleydale/Romney yarn.  I bought enough of the roving to possibly make myself a sweater or a vest.  The red yarn is for a cowl, Purl Soho’s pattern ‘Cowl with a Twist.’

And so it goes.  Yesterday was so beautiful and warm that I was able to wash the whole Shetland fleece, and it was almost totally dry by dark.  I also plied up some Coopworth grey singles yarn to use for the accent color on the red cowl.  It was a beautiful day all around, and our Rhinebeck weekend was pretty spectacular!

 

Fiber Frolicking adventures

Beezus and our little man, having a moment at the rock (gratuitous goat photo)
Beezus and our little man, having a moment at the rock (gratuitous goat photo)

This past weekend was the annual Maine Fiber Frolic, and I did not have a vendor space this year.  I will be very honest:  I was thrilled not to have the frantic packing of the car on Thursday night, the frantic drive from work on Friday afternoon to set up, and then the two days of standing.  I love greeting people and chatting with them, but it’s still the work year for me and it’s an exhausting part of the year on top of the usual stuff.  (Last week I had all kinds of meetings, and our daily schedule began its topsy-turvy dive toward the end.  The high schoolers having their finals, the seniors having their marching practice, the middle schoolers getting ready for Community Studies field trips and a day of community service.)  It’s wonderful and crazy, and at the same time we are trying to get our libraries put in order and inventoried before the last day on the 19th.  But, enough of that, the weekend is what was so special!!!

Bergman beauty
Bergman beauty

Our friend Pam, of Hatchtown Farm, and I had a date to go to the Fiber Frolic just for the day on Sunday.  We were not in any hurry.  I had some extra fence-moving to do in the morning, and we really didn’t get on the road until 9-ish.  The Windsor fairgrounds are a perfect size, not too large, and when we got there we mosied across to the barns where the fleece sale and show is, and next door to this is the ‘used equipment’ area.  You probably can see where this is headed!  I never have a chance to get into the used equipment area when I am vending and have a booth to watch, so this was a voyeur’s treat (so I thought!).  We walked in and were greeted by a group of lovely volunteers we know, and they were all pointing us to the back of the barn area.  There stood a Bergman 8-harness countermarch loom, handmade in 1936!  Loom bench and a huge assortment of reeds were also with it.  It’s a compact, folding loom, unlike any I have ever seen.  I have read about Bergmans, but they were made out on the west coast and they are not thick on the ground out here in New England.

Well, my eyes just about popped out of my head!  I have been looking for a 4-harness counterbalance loom as that would have been all I could afford to buy new.  8 harnesses would have tipped me over the edge, and a countermarch is one step more wonderful (and more expensive) than the counterbalance!  I think my ears were ringing, I couldn’t really take it all in.  A wonderful weaver in the Maine community who is about to move to the west coast was waxing eloquent about it and showed me all kinds of things on the loom (which I am not sure that I will remember!), and I just fell in love with it.  To top off the amazing goodness of all this is the fact that the people who had it for sale didn’t want to have to take it home on Sunday afternoon, so they had lowered the price to something so amazingly affordable that I couldn’t pass it up.  Mama mia!

But that is only when the adventure began!  I didn’t go to the Fiber Frolic thinking that I was going to buy a loom, and after handing over my check, Pam and I took in the Frolic sites, visited all of our vendor friends, had lunch, and headed back to the used equipment barn and decided to get started on packing up the loom and getting my Subaru Forester loaded.  Other friends, Mudd and Esther Sharrigan (vendors – Nordic Weevs), helped by scraping up a bunch of baling twine to tie up the folding ends of the loom so we could move it without something swinging loose and breaking.  (And Mudd came over and stayed with us, helped with the tie-up, and generally oversaw the action).  Then the fair staff brought their little 4-wheeler and trailer in and we got this extremely solid and heavy loom out of the barn, and I backed my car up.  Hmm.  And that is where it all hit the fan!  Not really much of a shock: I was thinking positively, but not very analytically about the size of the new baby!

If it weren’t for another friend, Tracy, I am really not sure what I would have done.  She didn’t think it would fit into her Toyota Sienna van if it didn’t go into my Subaru, but it fit perfectly, so Pam and I drove it back home, John helped us unload it into the driveway, and then we went back to the fairgrounds, now quite empty, dropped the van off for Tracy, and then headed home with all the loom accoutrements in my car.  Phew!  That was a close one.  But I am over the moon about the loom, and even though it needs some serious dusting and wood treatment, it is a gem.  I don’t usually have such good luck with things like this.  What a great adventure and a wonderful day!

The absolute bestest part about all of this is that my summer break is only two weeks away, so I will have all the time I need to get this beauty cleaned up and humming.

(Shh.  I am not going to think about what it’s going to take to get it out of the living room and up into the loft).

Back to work, and a treat ahead

Afternoon choretime sky
Afternoon choretime sky

Getting back into the swing of things! And still hoping for some warmer weather.

This morning it was -22F and blowing here. By the time I made it up to the goats with my gallons of hot water and molasses, I could barely breathe. I keep my nose and mouth wrapped up in temps like this, but it didn’t seem to be making much difference today. Obsessively scanning the 10-day forecasts multiple times a day, I am seeing that nighttime temperatures are going to be slowly rising, which is the fact that I keep a death grip on. And daytime temperatures are going to be doing a little dance up and down, but by next week we should be seeing pretty steady 20-degree+ days. It will feel like a preview of the breath of spring!

But the big excitement in my week: NETA (New England Textile Arts) Spa weekend is coming up! I have been impressed into a little service for the weekend, but it is a pleasure. It’s such a great thing for the toughest time in the season. Spinners, knitters, crocheters and rug hookers converge on Freeport, Maine, and fill up all the hotels, inns and B&Bs. All the common areas of these places are full of chatter and fiber work, with new friends and acquaintances being formed each day. We have 20 vendors at the Hilton Garden, and lots of great food and friendship can be found anywhere you go. It’s a bright spot during some of the coldest days of the year. Sigh. I can hardly wait! The Harraseeket Inn has a fabulous salt water pool! My favorite.

Fiber frolicking 2014

Our booth at the Fiber Frolic
Our booth at the Fiber Frolic

We had a gorgeous weekend for the Fiber Frolic of 2014. So beautiful, however, that it was over 80F and no one was really looking to be touchy-feely with wool! But the crowds were there, and it was lovely to see all our usual customers and visitors. A new booth neighbor to my left was just delightful, and by the end of the day today we were all eating homemade ice cream from the ice cream  truck. Standing on a concrete floor all day is tiring, and it was good to get home and unload the car after I did chores and had a nice visit with the goatie crowd.

My yarn display. Not everything, but what was there was good
My yarn display. Not everything, but what was there was good

We finally have some good weather, and the multiple feet of snow and incredibly cold temperatures are now just a fading memory. The green and blooming trees are a delight. (My sinuses don’t appreciate the tree pollen and the mold, but it’s a hazard of this time of year. Bummer.)

And so another year at the Frolic is finished. I have a lot more product coming from the processor, so I will need to rethink marketing. Maybe it’s time to re-do the website and start selling online. Sigh. Too much to think about until school is out. 2 weeks and counting :*)

Winged Weekend Warriors Part 2

The sorting mess in the driveway
The sorting mess in the driveway

It’s no longer the weekend, although I had great intentions of getting a blog post out by Sunday night. I am burning the midnight oil getting ready for this coming weekend’s Maine Fiber Frolic. I always think I am going to be better prepared to pack up my car on Thursday afternoon, in readiness to blast off directly from work on Friday to set up at the Windsor Fair grounds. But as usual, even yesterday afternoon, I was most definitely not prepared.

One of the reasons that I am so ill-prepared is that about two weeks ago I discovered a wool-moth infestation in some fleeces I had upstairs in my fiber area. This is one of the fears that all fiber folk have, and sometimes even constant vigilance is not enough.

Inside the freezer.  The wool mess takes over!
Inside the freezer. The wool mess takes over!

The offenders in my fiber loft were a few dirty fleeces housed in plastic bags that I had left open slightly so that they would not form condensation and felt. Near-hysterical panic set in and I had to weed out all the affected items. To start with, I just took everything outside and lined them up in the driveway for an inspection and sorting (thank goodness for a nice stretch of weather and a holiday weekend). Anything that was infected went on the compost pile and John turned it under, many times. Everything else went into the freezer, and every day as I came home, I took more out and washed and washed, in extremely hot water, and then dried in the sun, not to return to the house until it was in storage bins. Interestingly enough, nothing that was wrapped up tightly in cotton sheets was affected. Nor was anything closed up in brown paper.

The day after the gruesome discovery, a Saturday, good friend Chris came to my rescue and helped out all day, toting and organizing. Our driveway resembled a disaster zone, thank goodness not on a larger scale of any kind, like a real natural disaster.

There haven’t been enough hours in each day for me to feel like I am not running faster just to keep falling behind. But anything going to the Fiber Frolic either was not in the house at the time, or has been washed to within an inch of its little life and put into containers. No more open-air wool hangouts in our house for sure!

The upshot of it all is that I have a lot of fiber loft organizing to do. It’s time. The Weekend of the Wool Moth Warriors is over, but the battle and the preventive planning will continue for a long time to come. However, before anything goes back upstairs, even in containers, we are going to be doing some spraying. I hate chemicals and avoid them at all turns if I can, but I do not think we can eradicate lurking bugs without it. Ugh. I cannot believe that after almost a lifetime of living with wool and fiber products openly in our house, that we got hit. Luckily, the problem came to light before packing up for the Frolic. The alternative doesn’t even bear contemplation.

Not Rhinebeck

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This is definitely the weekend that I look forward to when I can.  The New York Sheep and Wool Show in the Hudson Valley in Rhinebeck.  Wow.  it’s quite the festival.  A lot of our friends are down there, and I am hoping the weather was as beautiful there today as it was here. Spectacular day, actually.

Since none of our spinning group could get down there, we decided to have a ‘Not at Rhinebeck’ party.  As usual, we outdid ourselves with the potluck food, and I am still in a quasi-food coma!  It was a blast, as always.  I guess we just can’t help ourselves.  Everyone converged on our house, and it was a blast.  Lots of laughter, great food and some spinning and knitting actually ensued as well.

Maybe next year we will get to NY!

Fiber Frolic 2013

It couldn’t have been more hot and humid if it had tried! Not too many people were very interested in cuddling wool, but our goat milk soaps were a big hit. The heat and humidity was so bad it made me feel sick. Luckily there was a breeze coming through our building, so if I stood in the aisle, I could feel it.

The booth came together quite nicely, and I got one photo of it at some point during a lull in the traffic.

In spite of the heat, it was still a great time. Got to see a lot of friendly faces, bumped into some old friends I have not seen in quite awhile, and met many new people as well. It’s always good!

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