Sunday, May 5, 2013

Wooly Saturday

I can sympathize
When Kali informed me that we were going to the 40th Annual Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival with two of her colleagues, I decided I'd rather go to the dentist.  (Kali's a fiber artist - especially a weaver and quilter - in her spare time, but because these activities are so time consuming she hasn't woven anything in years, so I questioned the need to spend a sunny spring Saturday perusing yarn she'll never get around to using.)  Also, the festival was at the Howard County Fairgrounds west of Baltimore, a 2-3/4-hour drive each way.  But, being a devoted husband (and owing Kali several favors), I went along grudgingly.

Grooming in preparation for showing - and not too happy about it
The festival bills itself as the largest such festival in the world.  While that might be debatable (there are similar festivals in Rhinebeck, New York, each fall, as Kali's colleagues will attest), what was indisputable was that the place was packed.  And, who knew that there were so many itinerant yarn and wool retailers in the entire world, each of whose booths looked exactly like the booth of the adjacent retailers?

The festival featured wool craft demonstrations (e.g., spinning, weaving, felting - felting's really "big" right now), sheep judging, sheepdog shepherding demonstrations, sheep shearing contests, sheep's milk and goat's milk cheeses and soaps and, of course, lots of grilled lamb - plus all the carnival standards like greasy, Cheese-Whiz larded French fries, Sno-Cones, and hot dogs.

But, the festival also featured lots and lots of sheep of every breed and description.  I was in a pretty sour mood all morning, but once we went into the barns and started looking over the animals, my mood improved significantly and by late afternoon, I was actually enjoying myself.

Jacob sheep (that looked more like goats to me)
The absolute best part of the day was a small moment when I had an opportunity to sink my hand deeply into the incredibly dense, thick wool of a ewe that had yet to be shorn.  It felt like I was immersing my hand into a thick, warm pudding.  When I withdrew my hand, it was coated with greasy lanolin.  Boy, am I a city rube or what?

Sheepdog herding demonstration
Another great moment:  I was astonished at the poses assumed by the sheepdogs.  Though they're thoroughly trained and would never hurt the sheep, when the dogs were moving the sheep around the ring and through challenges, they assumed the pose everyone associates with a wolf about to attack - low on the front legs, ears back, and ready to pounce.  I'd be intimidated and terrified if I were a sheep.

Kali petting a recently shorn alpaca
The shorn alpacas looked like aliens with their huge, unshorn heads and skinny bodies
Kali bought a felting kit and two skeins of wool rovings (carded and dyed wool ready to be spun into yarn or used for felting - a new word for me) and two cones of yarn for weaving.  We also bought a half-gallon of Massachusetts maple syrup (a great price) and two puppets (a Wild Turkey [because we collect all things turkey] and a goat [to attract attention at my preserve's public programs related to invasive plant management]).


packrat said...


That first sheep looks like he's singing a capella; probably "Wooly Bully."

A highly-entertaining post, with excellent photos. I especially like the one of the herding sheepdog. My dog, Becca--who's half Border Collie half Queensland Heeler--has the same herding instinct. When other animals or humans are approaching she goes down into that herding posture. Some people think it's really cute, and some are intimidated.

robin andrea said...

Looks like it was a fun adventure. I've never seen shorn llamas, what an interesting sight!

Carolyn H said...

Sounds like fun, to me. Well, not the drive so much. But the rest of your excursion does.

Scott said...

Carolyn and Robin Andrea: Once I got over being cranky, I had a fine day (not counting the drive). In fact, on the way back, about 40 minutes from home, traffic on I-95 came to a dead standstill. Newsradio reported a major accident ahead, but we were right at an exit ramp, so we got off the freeway and wended our way through the back roads and avoided the tie-up--another good part of the day!

I too, had never seen a shorn alpaca, Robin Andrea. The poor beasts looked really bizarre--just like out of a science fiction movie!

Scott said...

"Wooly Bully" indeed!

The dogs' postures intimidated me, Packrat. They weren't cute when they were in their herding mode. I support reintroduc8ing wolves into the West, but I don't ever want to encounter one personally.