Skirting Wool, Singing Life

Fate and the skirted wool.  Ready for the Mill.

I found the old topless table in the hay loft of the barn a few years ago.  The wooden screen was in the barn too.  I just replaced the wire screen with wire mesh.

These two together have become my skirting table.  Where I lay my wool out to clean it of large pieces of organic debris, like hay, parts of plants and manure.  Anything that gets stuck in the sheep’s wool after a year of grazing and eating hay from the feeders.

Once again I had help skirting my wool from my neighbors.

Fanny and her sister Dalilah pulled their horse and carriage into the driveway at 9am.  They unhitched their horse, Tony, from the carriage and tied him to the metal ring on the barn.  He patiently waited there for the next three hours swatting flies with his tail.

Fanny has helped me skirt wool before, so she got right to work.  And she must have told her younger sister what to expect because Dalilah seemed to know what to do too.

Fanny and Dalilah stood on one side of the table and I was on the other.  I dumped a bag of Merricat’s wool on the table then we lifted the frame up and shook it, hoping to loosen some of the debris.

After that we picked through it, putting the clean wool in one bag and the wool too loaded with hay in a bucket to be thrown away.

We took a break halfway through for soda and potato chips that Jon brought back from town.

I had the sheep shorn early in April while they were still eating hay and it showed.   Even Suzy’s wool which is usually spotless was speckled with hay.  I’ve never had them shorn so early and won’t do that again.

Next spring I’ll give them at least a month on grass, to give their wool a chance to shake loose some of the winter’s hay lodged in it.

Fanny, Dalilah, and I talked while we worked.  When we ran out of conversation, Dahlia started to sing.  Her voice was high and quiet.  I listened carefully to make out the words.

She was singing about putting the clean wool in the bag.

Then she and Fanny told me the most remarkable thing. They said they often make up songs about what they’re doing.

This past winter while they were making wreaths they made up a song about clipping the tips of the evergreens and greeting the people they were making the wreaths for.  The tune was familiar, but the words were their own.

They came up with the words to the song as they worked and perfected it over time.  When their cousins, who live a few miles away, started making wreaths too, they taught them the song so they could sing it while they worked.

Fanny said they don’t write it down and they’ll sing it again this winter if they make more wreaths.  But when they stop making wreaths, they won’t sing the song anymore.

Songs like this are the oral history of the Miller family.   They sing the story of an event in their life.

They sing their life.

And when it’s no longer relevant, because it isn’t written down, the story is eventually lost.

Maybe next year, when Fanny and Dalilah come back to help,  I’ll ask they if we can make up a wool skirting song.

If we do, I will write it down, here on my blog, where I sing my life in a different way.

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