Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival- Part One

23 May

We’re back from the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival- and what a wonderful time I had! When the gang picked me up on Saturday after my workshop- I was literally high on happiness.  I love all the animals and the yarn; I’ve never been so pumped about something!

SO first- the animals. They had a poll barn set up with pens of different fiber animals for demonstrations and for sale. There were alpacas, angora goats (produce Mohair- not angora, don’t ask why), angora rabbits, Como sheep, and llamas. I was able to pick up a baby lamb, and pet the alpacas, which are very friendly animals. We spoke with the angora rabbit representative for a good half hour about her experience with the critters.  She lives in a town house and dedicates her second bedroom for the rabbitry, where she keeps four Frech Angora Rabbits.

These are big bunnies- and they love to be pet. They’re about the size of a big fluffy cat. They can’t be left alone or they will fight with each other, so they live in big dog crates- the size I have for Ira the Terrible. She lets them out one at a time to play in the back yard for a few hours a day. She says she clips them twice a year and gets about a cubic yard of fur each year (I’m estimating based on the box she showed us.) She spins the fiber with a bit of wool for her own personal use and doesn’t distribute; she is more interested in promoting the rabbits than selling the fiber.

I can see how raising these rabbits would be a great hobby for the fiber enthusiast who lives in an urban area. I’m going to learn to spin before I make any major life commitments (such as buying some rabbits), but I’m having fun daydreaming about the possibilities!

My other favorite critter from the festival was the llama. OH MY GAWD- these are awesome animals. We spoke with a woman who is about my mom’s age who has been breeding and showing llamas for about 15 years now. They enjoy human company- and are very dog like in that manner. They hava a habit of spitting- but it’s mostly at each other to display dominance over feeding order- kind of like the proverbial pecking order. The breeder said she’s been caught in the cross-fire about 8 times in her career and it’s pretty nasty, but they’ve never spit at her directly.

See this little guy in the pen? His name is Preston and he’s only 3 weeks old! Here I am below petting him outside the pen. The handlers walked around with the animals on leashes like dogs and kids and silly adults like myself would run up to take pictures. The animals were very accommodating. Here I am being one of those silly adults:

I know it looks like I have a pained expression on my face- but that’s just me being overly excited! When I’m so happy I can’t stand it- I get this weird sad look.  I can’t explain it. But believe me- I was in heaven while petting this little guy. He arched his neck in contentment as I pet him. I’m in love…

We watched some of the sheep dog trials; the hubby really enjoyed that (the one picture I got that wasn’t blurry is the one at the top of this post). And we watched them sheer a sheep. The sheep was surprisingly docile, and didn’t really resist the sheerer. Here are some pictures of the process- you can kinda tell that the sheep was alert but not overly stressed out.

Here are a few shots of them clipping the hoofs after the sheering

Pretty cool- these guys travel all over the eastern coast and central states sheering sheep. They clip about 14,000 head a year, wow!

Overall- I was really impressed by the show. And I love how I was able to see the fiber through the entire process- from the herding, to the clipping, to the spinning, to the dyeing, and finally to the retail sale. All in one location! Awesome.

I feel like I need to talk a bit about my reaction to all this. I mean- I’m a City Planner with emphasis on Urban Design for Christ’s sake- how could I even be remotely interested in a rural activity like husbandry?  And I’m the feminazi who explodes at any sexist comment (like, “take it like a man” or “crying like a little girl”)- how can I possibly be interested in a domestic craft like spinning and knitting? And yet, here I am: giddy about fiber and high on life after this festival. I can’t explain it, but maybe that’s the point. No matter who we think we should be, we can’t change who we are inside.

I’ve been strong-arming myself to be the tough smart girl fighting to be a corporate leader because I learned somewhere along the way that women have to do this to prove that they are as capable as men. And I’ve made myself miserable in the process. I’m not a leader, and I’m not fit for the corporate world. I think my depression is a manifestation of this internal fight between who I think I should be and who I am. Thankfully I’ve had the last year to really look inside myself- and I’m very happy with what I’m finding. It’s not at all what I expected to find, and that is probably why I’m so pleased to find it.

Thanks everyone for listening and stopping by. I’ll take some pictures of my yarn and purchases from the Festival and post them soon. Thanks!


2 Responses to “Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival- Part One”

  1. Lois May 23, 2011 at 6:40 pm #

    It sounds like it was a great weekend! Good weather, too. You certainly have found a connection with yarn start to finish.

  2. Deb W May 27, 2011 at 12:31 pm #

    I am SO glad you enjoyed the Festival! We really appreciate the feedback.

    I linked to your blog from the comment you made on ‘Punkin’s Patch’ blog. Sara and I are friends, and along with Dianne at Tanglewood Farm, and others you met at the festival, are a group of people who all know each other and share a love of all things fiber, animals, gardening, etc…………….

    Well, I would sell fiber and/or yarn, but I was there to represent the rabbit club I belong to, and their objectives, not just my own ventures. I’m not sure who owns the bunnies you pictured, but they are beautiful – ones I would be happy to own myself.

    I’m not particularly a feminist, but you may be interested to find that in the British Isles, the center of wool production, especially in the 19th and early 20th century, ALL the wool carders were men, and in some areas, so were the weavers – all men. Both men and women spun the wool, so the craft is not gender – specific. The term ‘spinster’ comes from a previous era, when farmers paid their taxes in spun wool. They didn’t have time to spin all that wool into yarn, so unmarried women – who needed to support themselves – did so by taking in fleece and spinning it into yarn in exchange for a fee = ‘spinsters.’ They were simply being entrepreneurs, seeing a need and filling it, to their own advantage. So learning to spin need not be a guilty pleasure for you.

    If you said you are an Urban PIanner while we were talking, I missed that, but as you know, diversity is the key to successful urban planning! Greenspace, some of it devoted to community gardens, and individual ‘urban farmers’ all contribute to the successful mix. There are also ‘rain gardens’ to manage rain runoff to look into, and let us never forget that composting is one of the most important ways to recycle, saves landfill space and possible methane production there from green waste.

    If you don’t already get Urban Farm Magazine, may I recommend it?

    Also, if you have not heard of the Dervaes Family, they are an interesting bunch who have taken Urban Farming to an unbelievable strata –

    I know this is all far from just a simple desire to learn to spin and make your own yarn, but I think you may find as you get into it, that so many aspects of it tie in with your profession.

    WOW what great knitting you do! I wish you the best on your own ventures, and I hope we’ll see you again at the KSFF!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: