Weekend before last, both authors of The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook—Carol Ekarius and I—flew to Minnesota for the Shepherd's Harvest Festival, which was celebrating its 15th year. It's a lovely event, held at the Washington County Fairgrounds in Lake Elmo, east of the Twin Cities but easy to reach from the metropolitan area. This gathering has many of the attributes of the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival although on a smaller and more intimate scale.
They've got music. This is Paul Imholte, who's an amazing multi-instrumentalist.
I first encountered Paul and his music when Shelley Hermanson and I were judging the skein contest. Before he began to play, Paul came over to ask if it would be okay for him to set up nearby. I really appreciated being asked, because judging requires both concentration and, in this case, conversation between the judges, but we took a quick look at him and his instruments, took a mental leap, and said "No problem!" So we got to listen while we worked. It was a good choice.
That beautifully built cart in the background stores and transports Paul's instruments and CDs. It's a very efficient and versatile set-up. We got to enjoy his music at several other locations. Sometimes there were 20 or 30 people standing around tapping their feet or dancing in place. In the case of the photo above (which I took while we were doing one of our two book signings), a young fellow was learning what to do when the music won't let you stand still.
According to the program, there were other musicians. But because of where and how I was working, I didn't happen to hear any of the others.
There was shopping—several barns full. I'm highlighting Bleating Heart Haven for two reasons: one was that they were selling their own fiber in a very constructive way. . . .
The other is that their yarns were clearly labeled as to fiber components (specific fiber types, at the breed or grade level). As large and shiny as the labels were, they didn't interfere with shoppers' ability to look at and evaluate the skeins, which were lovely.
Bleating Heart Haven does a great job of farm-to-finished processing, design, and marketing of its fiber. It was so easy to browse and know what I was looking at! Bleating Heart Haven has a variety of types of animals producing their fibers. Even booths with single-source fibers could benefit from clear labeling of their breed-specific and home-grown yarns. Usually I have to hunt for the presence and identity of the yarns I'm most interested in.
The animals were over in another set of barns. The shepherds and farmers were on site to educate the public, sell wool or stock, and otherwise be ambassadors for their breeds. Here's a young Horned Dorset lamb with a shepherd who had interested onlookers—with good reason—every time I passed by.
The barns were stroller- and wheelchair-accessible, as were the animals.
The weather for the weekend was perfect, and there were plenty of visitors to the festival, but it never felt crowded.
Some of the sheep went on walkabouts to look at the people. Sometimes they got to go outside and enjoy the grass.
(Yes, there was a booth with lefse. I didn't have time to try it and compare it to our family's versions. It's true, I'm pretty spoiled by our family's versions, and when I read other recipes, I tend to think, "They're making it too complicated, too rich, too . . . not perfect." Norwegians can be very opinionated about their lefse.)
Other sheep helped demonstrate what rooing is (collecting wool as it naturally sheds: shears are used only on bits that haven't quite loosened up enough, and the rest is just hand-gathered). The folks below represented the Fine Fleece Shetland Sheep Association. That young sheep was experiencing her first rooing. She was very calm about it all. I think she was ready for her summer wardrobe.
What's funny in that picture is the way the sheep fits (or doesn't fit) a standard grooming (or fitting) stand, any more than her "shearing" process fits the usual trimming technique used for sheep being shown in competition. That vertical structure at the left in the photo is usually used to support the sheep's head while it's being groomed, so it won't jump off the stand or get its ears nicked by the shears. This little one just needed a halter tied to the post to make sure she stayed safe. But all of the sheep I saw at this show were calm because the whole event was so low-key.
Carol wanted to take home Babydoll Southdowns.
Note the size (the bandanna will give you scale).
For comparison, here's a regular Southdown whose picture I took at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival the previous weekend, over waist-high on the person leading it. This bigger Southdown was trimmed for show on one of the stands like the Shetland above is standing on, but its head likely fit in the brace.
Another barn was packed with llamas (both regular and the long-fleece suris). . . .
. . . and alpacas (both huacaya and suri).
One large stall contained baskets of more than a dozen types of fiber for people to look at closely and even touch. The photo shows just one section.
It wasn't fancy, but it was very smart to do and interesting. People enjoyed the ability to compare side-by-side a number of different types of fibers.
And then there was me and Carol.
We presented three programs, all as slide-talks. We both have ties to Minnesota and were glad to be part of the event. Our Saturday evening talk (where this photo was taken: thanks, Sarah Jane!) was about how we wrote the book. Then on Sunday we gave one talk for people who want to use different types of fibers and another for people who want to grow and sell fibers to folks like us.
Here's the weird thing. While Carol and I both live in Colorado (and have also lived in Minnesota), our homes are about four hours apart. We haven't seen each other in person since the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival last year. We met up at the airport to fly to Shepherd's Harvest, boarded the plane, found our seats, and Carol mentioned she'd brought her knitting. I asked to see it, and she pulled it out.
"Wait a minute," I said. "BFL?" (Bluefaced Leicester)
It was. She's making her mother a shawl from worsted-weight yarn.
She pulled out the tag: Lisa Souza Knitwear and Dyeworks.
"WAIT just a minute." I pulled out my knitting. "BFL. Lisa Souza. SOCK weight."
We're both working wool from the same sheep breed. Obtained from the same source, and the same small-scale dyer. We're even working with the same hand-dyed color: Forbidden City.
This was NOT planned.
What are the chances?
And that's how the visit to Shepherd's Harvest went: serendipitously well.