shearing day


Shearing Day, at Rising Meadow Farm in Liberty, NC. You could feel the excitement in the air - the culmination of months of waiting is this morning, when the 75 beautiful rams and ewes of Rising Meadow lose their fluffy winter coats and usher in spring. And the weather did not disappoint! Cloudy, but nearly 60 degrees. This is why we live in the South, for Februaries like these. 

The rams are being shorn today, and one by one they move from a holding pen inside the barn to their stage, a wooden platform where two strong shearers take on between 4 - 10 pounds of fluff. It is magical - seeing the outside of the coat be slowly snipped away to reveal, sometimes, completely different colors and textures underneath. The rams are atypically calm during this process, lying on their backs in strange angles, and yet totally at peace with this process. It's amazing to witness. The whole fleece gets picked up and carried out to the skirting table, where the fleece is picked over, weighed and bagged, to the delight of spinners and fiber enthusiasts roaming around, checking out all of the beautiful fibers for sale. 

There are CVM Romedale, Corriedale, Navajo Churro and Dorset, all with different locks, crimp, staple length, smiling eyes, and personalities. How am I supposed to just pick one fleece?! I decide on a heathery grey Corriedale, with flecks of tan, brown, black. I love the way that the lanolin feels on my hands, and at the same time I can't wait to get it home, wash it out and card it up to see what it will become. 

For lunch, we have lamb chili and homemade bread, sweet conversations and strangers becoming friends, neighbors reuniting. It was fun to experience both as someone new to the area and the community, and someone who felt instantly at home, even amongst folks I had never met. After saying goodbye to the llamas, alpacas, ewes, chickens and cows, hauling 4 pounds of Leah's fleece to my car and driving home with sheepy smells and fond memories in tow. For me, the banner displayed proudly on the shearing barn says it all: great wool grows in North Carolina. I am so happy to call this place home. 

natural dyes: mushrooms take 1

Last week I had an unexpected opportunity from a farm nearby, and I came to be the owner of some aged shitake mushrooms. They were past the point that they could be eaten, which would have definitely been my first choice (mushrooms forever), so I thought I'd finallytry my hand at some natural dyeing. Home they came and in the dye pot they went. 

I didn't use a mordant, but did soak the yarn (Moeke yarns Elena) in hot water before dropping in the dye pot. I boiled the mushrooms for about an hour and the water turned this really lovely mahogany color that the photographs didn't quite capture. I was so excited! I put the yarn in the pot at about 170 degrees for around 45 minutes, swirling occasionally, and then let the yarn sit in the pot overnight with the heat off and the lid on. 

My results were less than stellar, to be sure. The yarn basically didn't change color from its original shade, which was crazy with the water color being such a deep brown. It seemed like it had gone down a shade or so towards brown, but it turned out that was just the color change from the wool being wet. Ha! 

The next day I went to my public library and picked out about 6 books on natural dyeing, so I think my future attempts will go much better. This was just a shot-in-the-dark, I-randomly-decided-to-do-this sort of activity (and I have frozen some additional mushrooms to try again later), so I'm not too disappointed. Sometimes it's just fun to try new things and see where it will take you.