A beautiful day at the farm doesn't always mean the sun is out, the birds are chirping, the bees are buzzing and the flowers are blooming. As I passed the the local farm on my way home today I saw lines of cars parked on the street and the big sign for "Spring Fest." Naturally I had to drop by and see what I can learn. I love to pick peoples brains where ever I travel so I can gain knowledge for our homestead on all different levels. Whether its just a gardening tip, or some in depth advise on finding the perfect land, everything you can learn is worth your time.
Today was the annual sheep sheering at the farm. There were plants for sale, local artisan goods, and plenty of weaving and spinning demos to see. The best part, lots of friendly knowledgeable people were walking the farm grounds. I feel so inspired.
Lessons of the day:
Tomatillos come in a purple variety. I picked up some seed packs by a company called Hudson Valley Seed Co. Beautiful envelope style packaging with local art that opens up with a little tidbit on the plant, how to take care of the seed, and the artist. Show stopping. I grabbed a few that caught my eye;
Echinacea for medicinal purposes.
Good Bug Blooms a mix of annuals that attract beneficial insects.
Heirloom Goldie Tomatoes that are sweet and melt in your mouth.
Organic Purple Tomatillos to inspire some killer salsas this summer.
"Cattle will eat you out of house and home." The man sheering the sheep was an expert named Jeff 'The Lamb Man' Traver. I had the pleasure of picking his brain after the demonstration. As I asked a few questions about his technique on sheering this lamb, I could hear the experience in his voice. I had to ask more. After introducing myself as the chef/hunter who is working towards her own homestead the advise rolled off his tongue as if he were a good neighbor. In short, he told me about his fascinating life growing up on a farm, how he now works as a butcher and has an amazing business cooking lamb for big events. His advice was as follows;
"Know where your market is. I used to drive 40 minutes to sell my harvest. If you want to sell, you don't want to start a homestead so far away from civilization you have no customers."
"Start with chickens or rabbits. Did you know it was possible to use chickens for heating your home? There is a great book about it."
"Go with a few goats for milk and cheese. They produce much more frequent milk than sheep and are lower maintenance. "
"Cattle will eat you out of house and home. They'll destroy your land in the process."
"Find an abandoned farm, that way you know something can grow there."
"Get yourself some California Variegated Mutants, they are calm and produce beautiful wool for spinning." A sweet woman sitting back in her chair was drop spinning yarn so fluently her eyes may as well been closed. I had never seen such a beautiful relaxing process. She demonstrated to me how to drop spin yarn and explained what the stunning array of spinals she had were used for. I am hooked. She advised me that California Variegated mutant sheep are a good choice for our homestead wool because big industry doesn't buy them since the wool is variegated in color.
"Big industry wants plain ol' white so they can dye and sell it in bulk."
"Send me a love note. I'd be so happy to see your progress and help you along the way." I was lucky enough that an adorable mother an child duo were right next to the demonstration with all of my beginner wool spinning needs. Anoush Fiber Creations at Ambush Bog. The table was full of cute colorful handmade creations from her and her daughters collection. As soon as I had my eyes on the beginner kits Anoush had put together for sale she jumped up to show my how it's done. With simple and comprehensive instruction, I felt like I was ready to go home and begin my fiber art journey. I purchased a kit with a handmade spindle made from wood and an old computer part and some different color natural wool top. This is for drop spinning yarn. I also purchased a kit with different color wool top, natural spun string, handmade felt balls and two felting needles. Anoush was so sweet she even told me I had to take one of her inspiring little felt creations which I thought look like mini felt sushi. Her final advice;
"To use the spun wool for crochet; wrap it tightly around a glass or pull it tightly between your hands, heat some water and add a bit of soap, place the tightly wound yarn into water soap mixture for a few minutes, take it out and hang it with something heavy at the bottom to dry."
"You are just beginning, so get some wool top on Ebay for spinning. It's only about 3$ per oz."
"There are two felted balls in the kit, use one for practicing the technique. Make the other one into a pretty one."
I want to display my gratitude towards each and every person I meet on this life long journey towards our homestead. Thank you beautiful people for sharing your knowledge with a stranger.