Well, we did it! We had our second successful regional meeting here at my farm in Weathersfield, Vermont, last weekend. Royal Unzicker and fellow traveller, Tom Hmm…(not sure, will look it up) from N.J. arrived Friday, but before arriving, called to say they were in bumper to bumper traffic and would be late. No big surprise: this is Foliage Weekend in New England, and they came up 91 through Hartford and Springfield. They finally got close, called again, and I met them at the Chinese restaurant in Springfield for a late dinner. Meanwhile, Ruth and Bill Ross called, also late, and facing traffic. They finally said they’d get a motel room somewhere. (Hmm, I thought, not bloody likely!) And then called back around 10:30, just after John got back from Grandparents’ Day in N.J., to say they stopped at three motels in Bennington, and were told, “There isn’t a free room between here and the Canadian border,” so they called back and at my urging, just drove through, and arrived around midnight, with Annie, their Scottish collie in tow.
Next morning, Laura and her parents arrived from Pa., Cheryl from Massachusetts, and Cindy and Megan from Vermont, later joined by Donald from New Hampshire, and Suzie from Vermont. And Sunday morning, Joan and Melissa, from Vermont, and Mila, Peter, and Chris, from Vermont, new to jacob sheep, as of this meeting, where they bought my last two ewe lambs of the year. So, we ended up with 19 people from five states, not a bad turnout at all. I was thrilled.
Saturday we looked at my sheep, unloaded my ram which I bought in Pa. at the last gathering, which Royal graciously kept in Pa., used for breeding, and brought up in his trailer. Here are my sheep and in the foreground, goats. I was too busy to take these while people were here, so I just took them. I am hoping to have some more photos sent to me from those who attended, which I’ll post later.
We also looked at the geese, the turkeys, the chickens, and the biggest hit, the pigs, two tamworths, who live in the woods behind the house, in a big paddock surrounded by electro-netting.
We began the “formal” program around ll a.m., when most everyone had arrived. Cindy gave a demonstration of needle felting. She’s a whiz at this, had some of her work with her, which caught Cheryl’s imagination. She went home with some of Cindy’s work, getting a head start on Christmas shopping, I guess!
Here’s Cindy, with Megan to her left, Tom to her right, Suzie across, Donald behind Tom, and Laura’s parents in the background, everyone watching as she punches the barbed needle in the fleece, over and over again to felt it. (When I tried it once at her house a couple of years ago, I managed to succeed in puncturing my thumb and finger a couple of times each, and decided needle felting was definitely not my gift!)
After that, at Cheryl’s request, we took one of her unskirted fleeces, Suzie threw it onto my skirting table (lower than usual, because the garbage cans I usually balance it on were down at the sheep shed, and we were up at the house, so water buckets had to do. Since we were only skirting one fleece, it wasn’t a big deal.
Here, Betty, Cheryl, and Suzie stand at the skirting table (which Betty made with chicken wire and some 1 x 4’s,not very fancy!) while Suzie explains how to skirt, what to take out, and then, rolls up the fleece in the proper way for displaying it. (Suzie and I, along with friends, Lise and Sally, attend each other’s shearings each spring, along with others, and skirt all the fleeces as they come off the sheep.) After rolling up Cheryl’s fleece, we went onto the porch, where I had a washed and dried fleece, and picked it, lock by lock, and then carded it. Meanwhile, the fleece we were washing was soaking. After Suzie demonstrated the carder, and I demonstrated combing, we went back, rinsed the soaking fleece, spun it in the drier, and put it out on the hammock to dry. Here’s the picking:
That’s Lizzie, my puppy, who is not the well behaved girl I’d like her to be, but is improving on a daily basis, standing next to me, waiting for attention.
After this process, we were all ready for lunch. Everyone brought stuff to add to the mix. Hmm…wait a minute: that’s not how it went: we ate lunch first! Oh, well…Lunch was still a feast. And then, we all got a lesson in how to sex geese, as Donald did so with my four American buff geese, while everyone watched, undoubtedly, as happy as I was, not to be doing it myself. I carefully marked each goose and the one gander with a permanent magic marker, which I’m sorry to say was not discernible after three days! Oh, well. Next time, I guess I can do it myself and use nail polish or something.
Mid-afternoon, Royal was eager for us all to visit Donald’s farm. Donald is a remarkable man: artist (gorgeous oversized paintings…some may remember his three 4 x 8 panels of jacob sheep hanging in the barn when the AGM was here a few years ago.), farmer, shepherd, plantsman, birdman…in his spare time, he designs gardens for large estates, and since he has a big ol’ rambling farmhouse, with only his son living there most of the time, and then, not home much, he overwinters large container plants for his clients in his living room, parlor and greenhouse, where they are joined by his many birds, some in cages, some flying free, and his whippets. The walls are adorned by his paintings, some on canvases, some right on the walls, as he was inspired to decorate them. In the kitchen on the big ol’ wood cookstove, Ruth saw a tea pot which impressed her. Other artworks hang on other walls. Outside, he showed Mila, who is hoping to milk her goats, his milking parlor (now defunct, but still can be learned from) and then we walked past the emus, into the barn and out to the meadow, to see some of his sheep, and then across the road to see most of the flock.
What a wonderful field trip!
When we got back to Betty’s farm, it was without Laura and parents, who left from Donald’s, but Mila called her husband and son, and they joined us for dinner. With the leftovers from lunch and a ham and macaroni and cheese, and beef stew, plus the pies and cheesecake, we ate well. Then Tom had to leave, because he is allergic to dogs, and had enough challenges in the two hours inside, with Lizzie and Annie (who’d found a friendly skunk outside, or some such animal which left her smelling interesting, at best.) Annie got a cleaning with a magic formula of Ruth’s, which included peroxide, baking soda, vinegar and warm, sudsy water, and she smelled much better. We took Peter and Chris, Mila’s family, for a flashlight tour of the farm, especially the pigs, still a high point. (In fact, it seems like several people here are now going to get pigs next spring. Between seeing them in the woods, where they don’t smell at all, and eating the ham, I guess we convinced them!)
Stayed up much too late again. In the morning, Joan and Melissa arrived, while I was doing chores, and everyone else was showering and packing up. (Royal and Tom left at 6:30 a.m.: both their wives were flying in and they had “meet them at the airport” duty.) Cheryl left around 10 a.m., when Ruth and Bill, Joan and Melissa, took off for the Wool Arts Tour in N.H., about an hour from our farm, and home from there. I stayed home and cleaned and did wash, and took a nap, up too late for two nights. The next day, I was on duty at the Wool Tour, helping out my friend, Sue, at her sales booth, which turned out to be a challenge, because they had two alpacas in the same area, and I’m violently allergic to alpacas! The allergy pills worked for the most part, and though I didn’t get a headache, I did end up sleeping a lot the next day! (another allergic reaction I have from time to time. Thank God the benedryl doesn’t make me sleepy, as it does Tom! I can take it in advance and keep away most problems. He dare not, or he falls asleep, not good while driving!)
It was a great time. I got to meet lots of new people and renew old acquaintances, and visit with friends. It appeared everyone else had a good time, as well. Bill decided our shower head needed replacing, so took it apart, cleaned it, and today, we received in the mail a brand new one, along with two black walnuts, which we will plant, and hopefully, see some nuts before we die, and photos of Ruth and Bill’s flock.
For those unable to be here…I hope that next meeting, probably not until sometime next spring (we have to fit these things in between lambing, shows, and breeding, not to mention the AGM), will tempt you, and you’ll have time to go. As for the AGM, the board would like the AGM to be in our region this year. I’m hoping we can put something together in N.J. or Pa. Any takers? Email me if you have any interest. I’m happy to make up food and bring it so that wouldn’t be an issue and you won’t have to deal with caterers…assuming you can deal with plain old homecooked food. We had enough talent and then some, here this past weekend, to put on an incredible AGM. HOw about it, folks?