Robin

Robin has his favorite spots around the barnyard.  He spends a lot of time alone, huddled on either side of the barn.  But he also likes the old stone barn foundation.  A place to lean his head maybe.

Socks, Doing It Her Way

Socks

I reached up and plucked two yellow crab apples from the tree in the barnyard. Before I even had a chance to turn around Asher had come up behind me and nudged my elbow with his head.

Issachar was next then Suzy. Soon I was surrounded by sheep all asking for apples.  I gave them one each then picked a couple for Fanny and Lulu who were the last to show up.

Except for Socks.

Socks was standing apart from the other animals.  When I stopped picking apples, she went back into the barn.

Socks does the same thing when it’s time for hay.  All the sheep crowd around as I fluff up the hay in the feeders.  But Socks stands apart from them waiting till things calm down then finds an empty spot at the feeder.

In this way, Socks reminds me of myself.

I was never one to join the crowd.  I’d rather not push and fight to get upfront, even if it meant missing out on something. I’d stand behind the crowd away from everyone else, not wanting to join in.  But also, really wanting to be noticed, even if I didn’t admit it to myself.

This behavior shaped my life in some ways that were fine and others that weren’t.  It wasn’t only about not joining in.  I shied away from anything or person that was popular.  So I’m sure I missed out on opportunities that might have benefited me.

But then, I did always did somehow find my own small tribes that seemed to work for me.

I’m still not comfortable in big crowds or large gatherings of people, but I’m better at finding the people who are good for me. And lately, I am more pushy than I used to be.  More determined to get what I want.

So I picked two small apples and brought them to Socks.  She gobbled them up one after the other while the rest of the sheep were still under the tree munching away.

I honestly don’t know if I’ve reinforced this behavior in Socks by empathizing with her,  and that’s why she does it or if it really is her nature.

Either way, Socks still gets as much to eat as everyone else, she just does it in her own way.

Issachar and Liam. I’ll be Getting My Yarn Soon

Issachar and Liam (that  Lulu behind them)

Soon I’ll be getting my wool back from the Vermont Fiber Mill.  It’s usually done sometime late in September or early October.

I combined all the wool from the white sheep and am dying half of it lilac and half light blue.  Some of the light blue will be twisted together with Issachar’s black wool to make a barber pole yarn.  I’ve done this with Issachars wool and white wool, but never with a dyed color before.

It’s always exciting to get my wool back but especially when I’ve done something new.

I kept Constance’s wool natural and will make dryer balls from most of Asher’s roving.

I wish I could remember what I chose to do with the wool from Lori, Suzy, Biddy, and Socks. I know I dyed some of it and kept some natural.  Often when I get to the mill and Deb, the owner, and I start talking and looking through the color choices, I get so caught up in it, that I forget to write down what colors I decided on.

So that will be a surprise and something to look forward to also.

Asher And Liam

In the winter the sheep huddle together to stay warm.  In the summer they often put their heads together to keep the insects away.

Liam usually claims the spot in the pole barn by the door that leads into the big barn.  The air is always a little cooler there.

Liam And Suzy, Thinking About Wool

Liam and his mother Suzy were resting together in the pole barn.  They don’t spend as much time together as they used to. Suzy usually hangs around with the other older ewes like Socks and Biddy.

In two weeks I’ll bring the sheep’s wool to the Vermont Fiber Mill.  I haven’t even thought of what I’ll do with it all yet.  I’ll look at my notes from the last shearing to remind me of what I had last fall and how quickly it sold.

I have a lot of wool from the twins, Asher and Issachar so I’ll probably use some of that for roving and dryer balls.  Maybe I’ll barber pole some of it with Kim’s wool too.

I’ll be dying some of the white and some of the grays.  The only sheep I don’t have wool from is Robin.  His was so slow to grow back.  But it’s coming in nice now so I’ll have some for next spring.

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.

Liam

Unlike many places around the world, it was another peaceful morning in the barn.  Once again I left the pasture gate open so the animals could graze in the cool of the night and early morning, without being bothered by bugs.

A gentle breeze blew through the barn as the sheep rested content with full bellies.

Full Moon Fiber Art