Saturday, October 20, 2012

Rhinebeck Sheep & Wool Festival 2012

It's finally here!  The Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival!!!  I may have gotten a little excited about it. Well, at least this guy seems to be giving me a look that says - Chill!  Haven't you ever seen a sheep before!?

(I have seen sheep before - close up and personal, mind you.  Still not touching them though.)

As planned, we left super early so we could get a good parking spot right near the gate.  I know some folks like to park in the back so they can get out quickly, but we like to be right up front.  L- brought a fantastic breakfast.  So we put out the tea table and china and sat, enjoying the morning.  Spinach quiche, fresh fruit, greek yogurt and croissants were the perfect start to the day along with piping hot coffee.

We sat enjoying our breakfast and watched people who watched us.  It was really friendly, everyone so excited about the festival, groups of friends chatting about the classes and the yarns.  Some of the more distant travelers came in groups on buses.

Before we knew it, it was time to go in.  L- off to her class and I, off to ... well just stopping in the first building before heading over to see the sheep.

The farmer's were still clipping and fluffing the sheep to prepare them for the judging and auctions.  I still can't understand how they convince the sheep to stand on those tables for their haircuts (fleece-cuts?), but they just pop them up there and start trimming away.  Of course there's plenty of kibitzing about the trimming.  This guy needs a bit more off the left.

My first stop was to see the color on these beauties.   Sun bleached gold tips with a creamy base.  The picture doesn't do it justice.

The pens were filled to the brim.  Usually 2 large or 4 smaller sheep per pen.  They just hang out and eat while they wait for their turn to be fluffed.

I really enjoy seeing all of the different breeds each year.  I'm not sure just what they are, but I understand that a lot of them are rare and endangered breeds from smaller farms.

Some of them were pretty curious about the folks who were curious about them.

Some of them might have thought we were a little nuts...

Or maybe disturbing their grazing a bit...

I loved these guys though.  They had the whole pen-grazing thing down to a "T".

The guy on the right would pick up some hay and toss it back, the one on the right waited for his pen mate to toss it onto its' head, and then he plucked it off.  Much more efficient than stretching all the way to the pile on the ground.  Clever boy.

I stopped in at the Ulster County Handspinners Guild where they were giving free lessons in drop spindle spinning.  I gave it a try - it was fun!  Very calming.  Mine is the skinny piece of yarn at the top there.  I wasn't too terribly lame at it.  The beginner's drop spindle stays on the list!

Next I was off to the border collie trials.  4 sheep, 1 dog and 1 human keeping the choreographed ballet from turning into a bloodbath.

This 5-year old border collie was fast, responsive and did I mention she was fast?

She would turn on a dime, run a huge circle around the sheep and turn back again before the sheep even had a chance to take 5 steps.

Once she got them walking nicely behind the shepherd, she kept her distance and zig-zagged back and forth to keep them moving where she was told to move them.  I just can't help but think that our little pup would love playing with the sheep like this.  She's almost old enough...

After picking up L- from her class, we headed out to the shops.  First we went through the big shops.  We don't buy there, just look and occasionally touch.  But you have to be careful about touching because some of those yarns are so soft and silky it makes you want to buy then and there.  And these guys all have web sites - and sales.  Even though it's a festival, you won't find a lot on sale at these displays.

Of course they have fantastic displays.  This simple little shawl had the cutest stitch pattern.  I'll have to look it up when I get home.

It looks like little leaves all in a row.

This lady is from Wales and her booth has examples of all types of wool fun - from knitting to weaving.  I had heard that the wool from across the pond wasn't as silky soft as American wool - and after fingering some of the samples, I have to agree.  That delicate grey lace shawl in the foreground looked so lovely, but it felt like it was made from itchy twigs.  Of course, that also gave it more body to hold open the lacework patterns.  But still...too scratchy.

I had to go and look at mohair just to recover.  These were the color of the fall leaves and sunset combined.  Lovely.  Expensive!  But lovely.

This angora bunny also helped me get over the Welsh wool.  Hey - maybe our pup would like...on second thought, she would probably see this as dinner.  Nevermind.

Of course it would not be a festival without judging.  And these goats were ready for it.

This guy, however, seemed a little ticked off at his handlers holding methodology.  Since he didn't have any horns, she was forced to hang on tightly to his beard.  There was a look in his eye that said - let go.  just one second, let go.  I dare you.

We headed on home with one last look at the sheep.  Love this chocolate fleece.

And the llamas.  I think I'm allergic to these guys.  I started sneezing the minute we got near them.  That's okay though.  They spit and I'm not sure if our pup would herd them - or run far away, really fast from them.

So all in all, I got my drop spindle, roving, a hand-dyed sock yarn, a contribution to cancer research sock yarn, border collie rescue contribution and a very wonderful time with L-.  We looked, bought, got jostled, looked some more walked until we dropped.

I can't wait until next year!  Maybe after a little heating pad action on my back, but still - very excited!

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