Monday, October 17, 2011

Rhinebeck Sheep & Wool Festival

This past weekend was the big Rhinebeck Sheep & Wool Festival!  My girlfriend, Laurel, and I went last year and had so much fun, we decided to make it a yearly event.  

We started planning our trip over a month ago, bought our tickets online, planned out what we wanted to  buy, which events to see, when to arrive - the whole nine yards.  The night before the festival trip, we were Skyping until late, going over the last minute details.  I backed up my smartphone and emptied it out, charged the batteries to get ready for a day of photos.  Got the food prepped for our breakfast tailgating. Found the comfy camp chairs to lounge in. Reviewed my knitting pattern picks for the coming year, jotting down the yardage requirements,  I was ready to go.

It was a beautiful day!  I got up early and got everything together and dragged it all down to the south driveway to wait for Laurel to arrive.  With extra time on my hands I snapped some photos of the apple tree's last fruit and some of the flowers in bloom around the garden.  A full moon was still peeping out between the trees.  A perfect Fall day was ahead.

Laurel arrived and we headed out to Rhinebeck, about an hour's drive from our neck of the woods.  We took the back roads - past the horse farms, fall foliage covered mountains, ponds full of geese and pastures of cows and sheep.  Perfect!

We arrived early - parking in row 2!!! (Last year we were in the 15th row of the third parking field - about 1/2 hour away from the gate.) We set up our tailgate breakfast and sat down to enjoy.  Laurel brought little tables and she laid out beautiful embroidered linens, napkins with Battenberg lace and china plates and teacups.  Hot coffee was the first order of business. (click, click, click - many photos were taken!)

We served up the hot quiche, fresh tomato slices, feta cheese, olives, mini blueberry muffins, fresh fruit - a veritable feast.  It was wonderful to relax, enjoy our breakfast and look out over the hills surrounding the festival.  

Our tailgating did not go unnoticed!  In addition to the friendly comments from passers-by, we also posed for pictures for a few folks.  We both got a real kick out of it and it added to the cheer of the morning.

A few minutes before the gates opened, we cleaned up, packed up and made our way over.  It wasn't long before we were on our way into the festival!

The first barn we went through had yarn, yarn and more yarn.  Mostly alpaca and merino blends in a rainbow of colors.  The prices went from $12 to $136 a skein (yikes!).  Fortunately I didn't fall in love with anything in the first barn.  The second barn had what I was looking for - icelandic roving (unspun wool fibers).  I found a big fluffy ounce of a beautiful undyed gray roving and quickly snatched it up ($1 - bargain!!!).  Onward to the sheep.  

In the sheep pens, I saw the most beautiful chocolate Leicester sheep.  Their fleece was a subtle red to pure chocolate - gorgeous.  The farmer was kind enough to hop into the pen so I could snap a photo.  This is when I discovered that my smartphone was missing.  ACK!!!!! A careful review of my pockets, purse, shopping bag - no camera.  Laurel handed me the keys to the car and continued to browse the displays - I headed back to the parking lot. (So glad we were close to the gate.)

I checked with the gate - no smartphone there.  I checked the car - going through the truck, seats and even under the darn thing - nothing.  All my morning photos - gone.  Smartphone - gone.  Not good.  The people at the gate suggested I check at the lost and found by the main buildings, so I decided to call and have the phone shut off just in case I had lost it for good.  I was really p.o.'d!  All my careful planning for nothing!!  The day was ruined for me!!!  My life was over!!!!

Okay - this was when I realized that I really needed to just let it go.  There was no point to obsessing to the brink of madness over this.  The phone was off, I still might find it, it was a beautiful day and on top of it all, I wasn't about to ruin Laurel's trip with my stupid stupid stupid smartphone loss.  Besides, I could still get a few photos with my cellphone.  So, what this means to you is - the photo above is a stock photo of a Leicester sheep ( I swear I saw this guy - or at least one of his close relatives at the festival).  And not too many other photos because not only is my cellphone kind of smashed up right now - long story, but basically I fell off the truck when we were moving the watering tank and landed right on the darn thing - added bonus, it also gives me a bit of a shock whenever I use it and then view screen whites out so when you're taking a picture you can't really see what it is.

Before I went back to find Laurel, I took a few moments to Zen-out watching sheep shearing.  I never saw this done in real-life.  It was so cool!

The shearer takes the sheep and flips it onto it's back by grabbing onto it's horns and using his knees to hold it in cradled position.  He needs to make sure the surface that the sheep is resting on is flat or else the sheep thinks that it is going to fall and then it makes every effort imaginable to try to get up and get out of there (the sheep freaks out).  He starts shearing at the neck, goes across the chest and around the legs, then down the belly, around the back legs and finally across the back.  The fleece comes off in one giant greasy dirt and poo-encrusted piece.  The sheep jumps up, looks slightly embarrassed about being naked in front of so many people and tries to run off.  The shearer catches the sheep and holding it by the horn and tail, strongly encourages it to return to the holding pen.  The sheep, not wanting the other sheep to see it is naked, tries to go any other place besides the holding pen.  The shearer calls for backup and together, with his assistant, they convince the sheep that the holding pen isn't a bad place to be - and after all, it is much better than a roasting pan.  The sheep gets the message and trots into the holding pen.

These icelandic sheep were so cute!  Their purebred lineage goes back 1100 years - one of the oldest lines of sheep.  They have naturally docked tails - just like our pup, and mottled coloration - just like our pup.  I wanted to get some to bring home for her, but I settled on just getting the roving instead.  Laurel thought this was a wise choice.

These wensleydales traveled all the way from West Virginia to be at the show.  They are a rare breed so no fleece or roving left for sale(did I mention we were 9th in line to get in to the festival? and they are already sold out?).  The farmer is picking through the fleece to get out the bits of hay (and poo) that are embedded in it.  Since these guys have long curly locks, he can't just have them trimmed a bit for showing, so he has to pick the bits out by hand.  See how he's pressed up against the sheep?  That's so it will stay still for him.  The farmer's say it is to "gentle" the sheep.  I say it's because they don't want the sheep to jump and kick them.  Sheep are not those calm and placid beasts you see in the pictures unless you're using a telephoto lens.  They really don't appreciate being approached and handled by strangers.    They don't see the need to have their fleece sparkly cleaned and primped.  They have more of a "I want to be left alone" kind of attitude.

I'm not sure what breed this little fellow is - he ate his sign, but he was also too cute!  His little ears were like black velvet and the blue/gray fleece was stunning.  He was a petite little thing.  Most adorable.  I thought our pup would have a great time with him since they are about the same size.  Surely my DH wouldn't mind sheep grazing on the lawn - helping with the mowing.   Laurel pointed out that they would eat my flowers too.  Oh well.

After oh-ing and aw-ing over the sheep, we headed back to the display barns to finish shopping.  A quick bite for lunch and then we watched the herding dogs play frisbee.  More shopping in the big buildings (not many bargains there) and before we knew it it was time for the competitions.

The drop spindle competition was first - the competitors had 15 minutes to spin as much as possible.  They spun and chatted and chatted some more - except for this one woman in the corner, she just spun.  Guess who won?  Yup, the woman who just spun.  Good strategy.

Next up was the spinning wheel competition.  Our drop spindle winner competed in this as well.  The wheels ranged from a home-made fly-wheel and pvc contraption to a slick aero-space design.  The rules were the same - 15 minutes to spin all you can.  They spun and spun and spun - and kept spinning because the timer never went off, so they actually went for about 22 minutes before the judges noticed that the timer didn't go off.  The winner? PVC girl.  Her homemade wheel blew the others out of the water.

Finally, the chopstick knitting competition.   2 chopsticks, 20 stitches and a ball of yarn.  15 minutes, knit as much as you can.  This competition had a much larger field.  The chopsticks were handed out and the competitors started sanding off the splinters.  Time was called to cast-on.  They used all types of cast-on methods, but the method used by the serious competitors was a double needle knit-on cast-on.  This made  the first row of knitting looser so you could get going faster.  Smart.  While the remaining contestants were getting it together, the competitors continued to sand and sharpen their chopsticks.  Strategy is everything at the chopstick knitting competition.  Both American and European styles were used, but it became quickly apparent that the European "pick" was outpacing the American "throw" by a long-shot.  The competitors started out chit-chatting, but when the 7 minute mark was called, they all hushed up and got to knitting faster.  And faster. And faster!  Again, a woman in the corner came out 1st.  59 rows in 15 minutes (they fixed the timer problem).

It was late afternoon and Laurel and I had had it.  I needed one more skein of wool and my shopping would be complete.  We stopped back in the Ulster County barn (shop local, shop often!) and I found my skein.  We headed back to the car.

I took one more look around the trunk in hopes of finding my smartphone - nothing.  Laurel did the same - and YES! She found it!! Sitting right there!!!  Black case on a black background.  I don't know how I could have possibly missed that.  I borrowed her charger to give my cellphone some juice, called to get my smartphone reconnected and checked to see if they really had disconnected it.  They had - all of my morning pictures were gone.  But it was okay.  We had a great time and a lot of great memories from the day.  Besides - somewhere out there is a picture of two ladies tailgating at the Rhinebeck Sheep & Wool festival.

Time to get knitting!

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