Preparing for the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival

Every year has been a little different at the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival at the Tunbridge Fairgrounds in Tunbridge, VT, September 30-October 1.  Even if you don’t knit, it’s a ton of fun with great food and lots of opportunities to learn more about fibercraft.

In the past, I have brought natural-color Cormo X yarn – soft yarn in natural white, gray and brown shades.   Additionally, I’ve brought some hand-processed batts for handspinners and felters.

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This year is a little different.  The last run of Cormo X yarn will be for sale, available in eight (yes!) attractive and wearable colors plus three natural shades.  We will be debuting our Bluefaced Leicester yarn, which is soft and silky with a subtle sheen.  I hope you are as excited as I am to touch this awesome yarn.  Our BFL yarn comes in two natural colors and supplies are limited.

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We will also be offering raw fleece in several formats.  We have small packets of hand-selected Bluefaced Leicester and Border Leicester locks for crafting.  Border Leicester fleece is on offer in larger volumes.  I know many handspinners with they could sample more fleeces with a little less commitment to a whole sheep.  I have chosen to offer fleece in smaller purchase units so that you can enjoy a pound or three of quality fleece without being tired of it by the end.  I’ve been there.

Additionally, gorgeous and intriguing pelts made by Vermont Natural Sheepskins will be on offer in both white and natural shades.

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So please come by our booth in the animal barn.  Friendly lambs want to nibble you, and I want to hear what you think of this blog.

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UVM Pasture Walk at Cloverworks Farm

Hi All,

If you are buying a farm, reclaiming a pasture, or even just considering getting into small ruminants, please join us for a pasture walk at Cloverworks Farm!

The Deets:

Join UVM Extension and the VSGA at Cloverworks Farm in Albany, where farmers Katie and Matt have moved their operation from rented pastures to their own place with 40 Border and Bluefaced Leicester sheep. Learn how to identify your pasture’s needs and deficits and learn to plan an improvement strategy through haying, mowing and rotational grazing. Careful application of soil amendments will also be covered. Light refreshments served. Please wear booties provided for biosecurity.

Location: 4558 Creek Rd., Irasburg, VT 05845

To register, call Katie Sullivan at (802) 324-2039 or email at cloverworksfarm@gmail.com

Free to members; $5 for non-members

The Problem Child

Each day, we take down the old paddock for each group of sheep and build a new one in its place.  Simple enough.  I spend my time picking up Electronet, laying out Electronet, setting up Electronet.

But we have one sheep who makes the whole process trickier.  Nevermind that the adult ewes haven’t figured out that moving willingly out of the old paddock will be rewarded with a new paddock in short order.  There’s no reasoning with some critters.  But the lambs have a problem child: Sue Perkins.

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Sue was hand-raised by us, and views humans as friends.  She is especially fond of Matt and comes running to his special Sue-call.  But she also views herself as an exception to general sheep rules.  She feels that she can approach us for petting anytime, even when we are trying to drive the sheep from one place to another or dealing with an emergency.  She is first on the scene if someone has a bucket in their hand just to check on whether there is grain inside, so carrying medication or other non-food items must be considered from a Sue-attack context.

And when it comes time to move fence in the lamb area, she has this irritating habit of testing the fence delicately with her nose to see if it is on, and then diving under it to get on the new pasture while her friends pace at the fence line.

Yesterday, I caught her in the act- totally busted!  She didn’t go low enough and is actually caught in the lowest wire.  Clearly, I need to think through some ways to teach this valuable ewe some respect for the fence!

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A Day about Pigs

We are having a little piggy-roast next weekend in honor of Matt…getting older, let’s say.  We brought a live pig home last week.   She was cute as could be – a 60lb gilt (young sow) with endearing eyes.  She loved the apples and sheep grain I offered and would batt her long eyelashes at me.  When Mary Lake came to dispatch the piggy with adorable son Hugo in tow, I felt more hesitation than usual.  We don’t have facilities to keep a pig, however, and the thought of crackling pork was enough to go on with the matter.  Mary said that our little pig had some parasite damage to her liver and kidneys and wouldn’t have been a good candidate to bear many litters of piglets.  That’s some consolation, and we will revisit the idea of raising pigs in our farm plans for next year.

Our first act after slaughter was to figure out a way to remove the hair from the pig.  The skin of a slaughtered pig is the tastiest part, but no one wants scruffy hairs all over their plate.  Youtube to the rescue – we found a technique where you put a towel on the carcass, pour boiling water on the towel, and then scrape the hair off.  Easier said than done!  We were having high winds, and the towels cooled rapidly.  The hair was as attached as ever and the knife shaved the pig more than it epilated it.  We tried a few more water-pours, but didn’t make much progress.  Time to throw in the towel, as it were.

So we moved on to Plan B.  When Plan B involves a blowtorch, you know it’s a good plan.  I dutifully torched all of the remaining hair off that hide.  The smell was terrible, but the job was oddly satisfying.  Matt and I had to neaten up quickly as we had a date at a restaurant that we love that is closing this fall.  Wouldn’t want to go to a real-tablecloth restaurant reeking of blood and scorched hair.

The pig is hanging in our cellar fridge, but we have had a little advanced sample of the liver today.  I’m keen to do a better job of using our animals nose-to-tail to honor their sacrifice.  I found a promising recipe for liver pate that came out very well.  The pate is quite rich and satisfying, featuring the mineral-y liver flavor very favorably.   The kidneys were cooked up for the chickens this time, but I’d be keen to hear any good recipes for those if you have them!

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