Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valentine's Day at Rising Meadows Farm

Bobbie, Catherine and I spent Valentine's morning at Rising Meadow's Farm in Liberty for their biannual "Shearing Day."

Of course I had a great time, since I really like knitting and have been curious about the wool process. Bobbie and Cat assured me that they had a good time too. But, on one occasion, I noticed Bobbie standing in the smelly barn of sheep and poop and thought I detected a glimmer of a forced smile. She assured me it was nothing and that she absolutely loved being in a sheep barn. (Is she the sweetest sister or what!)

At the end of this post, I'm going to jot down some of the details I learned about the wool process. Right now, I'm thinking that the whole idea of spinning my own wool is a silly romantic notion and that it seems like way too much effort when there is lovely yarn for sale everywhere.

Here's a sheep in the shearing pen waiting its turn.

Master shearer Kevin Ford doing his thing.

The sheared among the unsheared. On the unsheared ones, you could feel the sticky lanolin in their wool. On the sheared ones, their coats (?) still felt a couple inches thick...and soooo soft.

Careful, Kevin!

Bobbie and Catherine observing the shearing. Love Cat's new do!

I thought shearers used electric razors, but these shearers used manual scissors.

After each sheep was sheered, its fleece was put on a wired table outside the barn where people picked off some yukky, unuseable pieces (called skirting the fleeces). Then, they put the good parts (95% I guess) in a bag and weighed it and offered it for sale at $8.50 per pound.

Master Shearer Kevin Ford on the right and one of the farm family members on the left. Kevin was on USA's shearing team in Norway last year.

Undyed rovings for sale.

Yarn for sale. They also had sheepskin rugs for sale.

Cat and Bobbie = BobCat!

The farm served a free lunch (dessert donations appreciated). We ate outside the farmhouse kitchen steps on a little rock wall. On the menu: lamb chili, corn chowder, sandwiches on homemade bread, fruit tea, and lots of desserts.

They also had lamb meat for sale and Catherine and I bought some. Joe's mom was going to make something special for dinner.

Me and the original Bobcat.

Bobbie got some variegated orange/yellow and plain yellow wool for a scarf.

I chose some variegated green wool for mittens.

Hello Yarn.

When I dropped Bobbie back at home, we winded her skeins into balls, played with Maggie (Magpie to me) and then my sweet sister gave me most of her stashed yarn!!! Now with my JBW gift certificate, my recyled sweaters and Bobbie's yarns, I have a treasure trove stash. What recession?

At home, I made some lamb stew for dinner and then knitted the night away watching a movie with Jim. Stupid movie but I didn't care. I had a great Valentine's day!

After weeks of asking questions on Ravelry and viewing tutorials, after just a few hours at the farm, I have a much better grasp of the process. Here's what I learned.

1. People buy the fleeces and then they wash it in their washing machine. They fill up the machine with hot water, put in a little shampoo, then lower the fleece into the water and let it soak awhile. No agitation. Drain the water. Clean out the grimy machine. Do this again at least twice I think. One person said they add hair conditioner on the last washing.

2. Card the wool. Brush it for hours and hours and hours with a comb to get all the fibers going in the same direction. Get out the twigs and briars, etc. I might have missed something...but I think they now have "rovings."

3. Use a spinning wheel or a spindle to make yarn from the rovings.

4. Yarn can be left natural color or it can be dyed. (Rovings can also be dyed.)

OR . . . wear slippers and bathrobe while sitting at computer and shopping at Jimmy Beans Wool. OR, visit Common Threads yarn shop to examine all the yummy yarns where all this work is already done.

While I see how this whole process could be satisfying and even fun...I think at least for now, I want to concentrate on the knitting and designing parts of the process.


  1. haha you are so wild cuddling up with your yarn. that place looked like fun, i wanna go when i come home! and we can definitely skip the sheep barn crap part, right? i've already been, i've already seen pictures..let's just eat lunch and call it a day.

  2. Well my! oh! my! I've skein it all now!

  3. Well, he had me type it for him... but he said it.. in French even...