Picking up my flock’s wool from Battenkill Fibers for the first time is an experience I will never forget. I had handed over three bags of skirted Shetland wool, which I had labelled: Malcolm, MacDuff, and Pepper, a little fact that mattered only to me. Even in its raw form, I thought the fleeces were beautiful, a rich and creamy color with flecks of beige and grey. But the spun wool was a sight to behold, soft to the touch with a whiff of sheepy delightfulness that I have grown to love.
I’ve procrastinated the washing of this wool, which is needed to remove any vestige of the spinning oil added during processing to help address static, because I was terrified of doing something to ruin it. Last night, I finally accepted the fact that it was ruination NOT to continue with the process of making the most of the gifts of my sheep – the whole point of having a fiber farm.
So I followed Mary Jeanne’s instructions carefully: filling the sink with hot, soapy water, squishing and squeezing the skeins, then rolling them up in towels, and hanging them to drip dry in the downstairs bathroom. All the while I was doing this, I thought about Malcolm, MacDuff, and Pepper.
Pepper was one of three sheep that came to me from Wing and a Prayer farm, a very special place with a most special shepherdess, Tammy White. He is a feisty fella, the smallest of my flock but with the biggest personality next to Auggie, who is truly one of a kind. Pepper has a way of knowing when I’m having a difficult day, and he makes sure to look me right in the eyes as he asks for chin scratches, as though to let me know he has faith in me, even if I feel such faith in myself faltering.
Malcolm was one of Tammy’s flock who came to our farm last summer for sheep camp. He is a noble looking fella, with a touch of haughtiness about him. Even so, he was the first of Tammy’s crew to wander over in my direction and lift his chin for a friendly scratch. We bonded, you might say. When it was time for the flock to leave, Tammy kindly gifted him to me, along with his brother MacDuff.
The Shetland three are much loved here at the farm. In addition to their wool duties, they keep young Bowie in line. Should she get too playful, they have only to step forward and cock their horns in a certain way for Bowie to get the message: back off, girlie!
I’ve come to this fiber business ass backwards, it seems: I’m not (yet) a knitter, I am still learning about the fiber world and all the intricacies of types and gauges of wool. I am an animal lover, I love the idea of caring for the animals that grow such a lovely product, and I love being part of a community which believes so passionately in humane and sustainable farming.
As I sit writing this now, I can see the rack of wool drying. It’s a glorious sight.