Tuesday, May 26, 2015


I am living in the land of extremes.  Last week my little thermometer read 28 F. when I got up in the morning.  Yesterday we hit a record high of 90 F.  The bunnies have a fan on them.  The sheep are panting.   I am desperate to get the wool off them.  Big Jim Baldwin is coming on Sunday and I'm trying to round up some help.  Never have enough boots on the ground.  He's squeezing me in on a Sunday, which he ordinarily never works, because he knows how anxious I am to salvage some wool.   Some of the fleeces are too far gone to save.  Lambing took a toll on the wool.  They put everything into growing the babies.  I'm comforted by the fact that I have a box car full of lambs, 34 to be exact, to grow wool for fall shearing.  Everybody is thriving on the lush green grass the rain and warm temps have given us.  I'm thrilled with the way these Wensleydale/Bluefaced Leicester lambs are turning out.  They are tall and sturdy with thick coats.  It's hard to tell just how the wool will turn out.  I'm hoping for some lustrous curls.  The Nubian goat kids are absolutely gorgeous.  They leap around gracefully in their own ballet troupe.  I'm hoping for some goat milk but the Nubian moms are not anxious to share.  I'm letting the babies have their fill for now.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Maryland Sheep and Wool 2015

I'm back from a Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival that went so smoothly and nicely I can scarcely believe it.   Funny how the harder I work the better the outcome of the festival.  I've never worked so hard in my life, between the farm and supporting the farm, but it was all worthwhile.  What I didn't move in Maryland I can take to the farmer's market.  My corner space in the Main Exhibition Hall continues to be a blessing I didn't ask for.  I was moved there after the fleece sale moved into my old building.  I love the natural light from outside and the extra space an end booth enjoys.  I won't get too cozy as Md. Sheep and Wool tends to move people around.  The weather was perfect - cool and breezy - for sheep and humans.  I could walk around at night and touch noses with the sheep in their stalls.  Kim booked us a spot at the Shepherd's Feast Saturday night and the Shepherd's Breakfast Sunday morning so we didn't have to leave the grounds at all.    We slept on Kim's air mattress in the back of my Honda van, warm as toast in Canadian Army sleeping bags.  After months of sleep deprivation due to lambing and "making stuff" late into the night I got a record nine hours of shut eye Friday night.  Saturday night not so much as my eyes popped open at 4 am.  I should have taken two of Kim's allergy pills instead of one.  Some positive points...

1.  I sold my first Bundaflicka Knitting Tote to Kevin Potter, a shepherd from Lexington, Virginia, and a direct descendant of Beatrix Potter.  It was the Goofy Bird design I lined with Gunlocke office furniture fabric I picked up at the Hemlock festival last fall.  I had five totes made of that fabric and I sold them all, including one special order.

2.  Tote sales were steady and incredibly gratifying, considering the festival was vast and full of totes.  Most customers came back after looking them over then checking out the rest of the show.  One woman bought a tote then came back the next day to pick up another one.  I love my bag ladies.  They keep me sewing, and sewing and sewing.

3.  My new Shepherd's Friend Lip Balm proved to be a good idea.  People didn't balk at the $5.  I had a question I couldn't answer about SPF but told them the beeswax would help protect their lips.  I hope that's true.  Why wouldn't it be?

4.  My Goat Milk Soap was a big success.  I sold out of Peppermint and my Chocolate Espresso was a big hit.  Several people said my soap smells the best of any at the festival.  I was glad to hear that as I spend a fortune on essential oils and keep the soap in closed boxes.  I don't know anyone who wraps all their soaps in quilt fabric like I do, a nice touch that keeps the bars from getting nicked and holds the fragrance in.

5.  The Shepherd's Friend Hand Creme was very well received, with most anybody who tried some in the tester leaving the booth with a jar or two or three.  The macadamia nut oil was a brilliant addition to the creme.  The owner of Columbus Foods, Mike Lawson, suggested it when I balked at the price increase in jojoba oil due to a crop failure in Venezuela.  The macadamia nut oil soaks into the skin so nicely and the price is much easier on the pocket book.

6.  I hired two Boy Scouts to help us pack up at the end of the show, saving many little trips back and forth to the van.  I hope they are around next year.  They made short work of it and we were on the road much sooner.

Some not so positive points...

1.  My yarn was a bust.  No interest in the hand spun basket at all, and only a skein or two of the mill spun left the booth.  Sadly, I don't think most people care where their yarn comes from.  So many vendors buy white wool skeins, dye them and think it's a big deal.  Not so much support for the small hard working shepherd who sits up nights in a cold barn waiting for lambs to be born.  Most commercial yarn comes from "dead wool" that was shorn from sheep killed for meat.  I remember when Linda Cortright of Wild Fibers Magazine told me about that.  She visited a processing facility where the dead wool pile was huge and the live wool pile very small.  When you buy commercial yarn you might be supporting the worst kind of cruelty without knowing it.  There were other small flock shepherds at the show and the ones I spoke to were disappointed as well.  There is the yin and the yang of the fiber art business.  Kim sold a couple of skeins of hand spun wool and angora.  She had a good point - our hand spun baskets are a protest against a world full of commercialism.  I like that.

All in all I think it was a fabulous Maryland year.  I spent time with so many good friends I hardly ever see, like Lisa Merian, Candace Cain, Joanie Schneiber, Piroska Toth, Denise Wilkinson, Kathy Davidson, Lisa Hughes,and others.  I was visited by a group of Tasmanian shepherds and a Congressional Representative from Texas.  My critters were thrilled to see me home, even Coco the cow was bellowing her welcome, standing under the moon in the driveway.  I milked her the next morning and gave her an extra scoop of dairy feed in the mash.  The grass is growing finally and the lambs are thriving.  I'm happy I can provide for them with my skills and energy.   Life on the farm goes on.