The Busiest Weekend

Just a taste of an amazing, action-packed weekend at Sheep and Pickle Farm

6 – 9 am Saturday – Milking goats at Fat Toad Farm (my real job)

9am Saturday – I set up an elaborate, heavy-duty chute network to capture and butcher my wild jumping sheep, Janet, once and for all.

10am  – Successfully moved the flock through the chute and into the paddock, Janet included, using bribes of grain and minerals

11am  – Went to the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival, where I took admission money for two hours as a volunteer.  Highlights include just saying “hi” to people excited about fiber, and using the word “baa” as the password for readmission for festival goers stepping out to their cars (there were no stamps or ticket stubs)

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12pm  – Mom arrives at the festival, and scopes it out while I am being baah’ed at at Admissions.

1:30 pm – I am done volunteering and checking out all of Vermont’s fabulous fiber producers while eating a very tasty hot italian lamb sausage.  I was very curious to see what other producers are making.  The most interesting situation at the Sheep and Wool festival was that there were many local producers with medium wools (Romney, Icelandic, Border Leicester) and many yarnshop vendors carrying Merino from Australia, but very little in the way of local fine wool.  I’m not sure if I should try vending next year- we’ll see!

3:30 pm – Back over the hill to Brookfield with Mom in time for…

4:30 pm – …milking!

6:30 pm – Dinner and strategy session with Mom about dyeing yarn tomorrow, followed by mixing the red and blue dyes.

6-9am Sunday – milking those goats again.

9am – Managing the sheep

10am – I’m setting up the dye area and soaking the yarn with Mom.  We’re just diving in – no test yarns or anything because we just don’t have time.  Lots of plastic wrap and contractor’s plastic here.

11am – 2:30 pm  – Mom, Priscilla and I are madly painting yarn various shades of red, trying to get all 14 skeins in the dyelot to match.  With all of the handmade variety in temperatures and saturation and dye mixtures, we’ll never replicate the colors we created today so everything has to be as similar as possible.

Sheep and Pickle Farm Hand-Painted Yarn

2:30 pm – Priscilla, Mom and I are stealing a few minutes to eat the lunch I somehow made while we were busy painting the red yarn.  Friends of Jaska’s arrive from out of town while Jaska is trying to make sausage from last year’s frozen mutton.

3pm – Now we are frantically painting yarn blue and gray.  Priscilla has gone home to do work.

Vermont Hand-dyed yarn

4pm – Mom and I finish, hang the yarn to dry, hug, and she goes home and I need to go…

4:30pm – …milk goats, again.  Phew!

6:30pm – Think that the day is done here?  Not a chance- Mari from Green Mountain Girls Farm has come with a trailer to collect Janet.  I pen the sheep while Mari completes the very delicate backing of the horse trailer through multiple narrow gates so that it lines up with the pen.  We won’t have to haul a huge, angry sheep across open space thanks to Mari’s backing skills (with a standard transmission, no less!)

7:00pm – Mari and I capture the wild sheep with fierce determination.  As a team, Jake, Priscilla, Jaska, Mari and I smoothly load the sheep into the trailer by bodily carrying her.  We’re proud to have loaded an unpredictable and potentially dangerous large animal so smoothly.

7:15pm – Mari is driving across the field when we here “CRUNCH”.  The trailer stops moving.  Old farm fields often have old, broken down fencing and loose wires, and Mari found some with the trailer.

7:30pm – Three small people are trying to remove heavily-twisted 10 gauge wire dating from 1972ish from around the axle of the trailer.  The space is too small for our fencing tool.  I pinch my hand very hard and everyone is straining to use only appropriate language.

8:00pm – We’ve cut the wire as short as we can and we’re driving to the the Royal Butcher, two towns away.  We leave Janet, comfortable in the trailer with water and hay, overnight in the Royal Butcher parking lot.

8:45pm – Mari and I are ready to leave the Royal Butcher.  Uno the dog, who had patiently sat in the truck for the whole adventure has been released to do a little business.  We call him back…nothing.  We call again.  Nothing.  Mari and I look at each other- today has been long enough!  We see Uno’s wagging tail under one of the floodlights at the butcher shop.   Phew.  Time to go home and go to bed!