Skirting Wool With Lena and Fanny

Lena, Fanny and me skirting wool

Ever since I read Barbara Kingsolver’s book Flight Behavior where she describes a scene of women skirting wool together I’ve wondered what it would be like to skirt wool with other women.

So when it was time to skirt my wool, I thought of our new neighbors.

Jon picked up Lena and Fanny Miller at 7 am so we could work while it was still cool out. They got out of the car barefoot (we were the same in that way) wearing black bonnets, (they took them off when they started working, they’re only for traveling) and carrying a small locust sprout in a baggie with water to keep the roots wet.

Yesterday while we were making plans for them to come to the farm to help me, I mentioned that I’d love a locust spout for our house.  Last spring the Miller’s cleared woods filled with locust trees to make a field where their vegetables are now growing.  The locust sprouts are still peeking up between the rows of squash and tomatoes.

Lena and Fanny had never skirted wool before but they picked it up quickly.

I explained how to shake the wool then pick out the big pieces of hay, dirt, and dried feces. They were not afraid to ask questions and even reminded me to tell them exactly what they needed to know to do the job right. Then they surprised me by doing the cleanup and prep work between each coat of wool without me having to tell them what to do.

They watched and learned after seeing me do it once.

The conversation flowed as we asked and answered the questions that people do when they’re getting to know each other. I told them about each sheep as we skirted their wool.   They told me about milking cows by hand and their boyfriends.

What would have taken me at least three hours to do was done in an hour and a half.  And since skirting wool is a tedius job, it was a lot more fun.

Afterward, we washed the lanolin from our hands and Lena asked if I could order a stencil online that she could use for the quilt she’s making for herself.  She and the other women will hand stitch it one day at the end of the month while the men build a barn on their farm.

Then Jon showed them pictures on his computer that he had taken of us working. I showed them my Busy Bee quilt, Lena crouching on the floor to get a closer look. And Fanny marveled at our fish tank in a way that I think people who grew up watching TV couldn’t.

Lena will turn 21 next April and she’s already looking for odd jobs to do.  When she’s 21 she’ll be able to keep the money she earns while still living at home, helping with chores instead of paying rent.

Lena looked at the pile of firewood on the grass and I told them how I liked to stack wood.  “You should have the little kids come and help,” she said, “they can move the wood into the shed and you can stack it.”

I thought about how I like working alone, that I’m used to working alone.  And I thought of how Lena and Fanny are used to working together, how they just expect everyone to do what they can to help.

That’s a new way of thinking for me.

But I’m already beginning to wonder if there is anything else they can help with around the farm or in my studio.  Working with Lena and Fanny has made me consider that there are other ways of getting things done than just doing them myself.

5 thoughts on “Skirting Wool With Lena and Fanny

  1. What a joy to work with others who know how to work. How wise and healthy not to wear shoes. Looks like you have met some ‘sisters from another mother.’ Admirably self-contained, never clingy.

  2. such precious photos of you with the amish girls…doing an ancient task…women have done for centuries…timeless work.

    1. Yes Nancy, I felt that as we worked. I love to see the cut of their dresses from the back. They are so classic. And the color combinations, though limited are beautiful.

  3. I just finished flight behaviour myself and thought of you and jon, thinking how much you would love it.Kingsolver is one of my favourites. If you haven’t read the poison wood bible I recommend it. All of her books are genius!

    1. I haven’t read it Rose, but it’s on my list. There is actually a copy of it in our Little free Library. I think this is a good time to take it out for myself. 🙂

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