It's been quite a while since I've updated you all about what's been happening at Orchard View! Starting a job, still finishing my graduate work, and purchasing a house have all left very little excess time.
March 16th-19th was Ag Literacy Week in New York. This week is sponsored by New York Agriculture in the Classroom and each year, a book is chosen to be read in elementary schools across the state. The books are chosen to be very educational; no talking animals, representative of the topic, teach a practical lesson, etc. The reading of the book is accompanied by hands-on activities for the kids.
I was very excited last year when I found that this year's book was going to be "Weaving the Rainbow" by George Ella Lyon. This book goes over the process of shearing sheep to weaving.
If you read my blog or follow my Facebook, you know how passionate I am about sheep and wool, and educating others about those two things, so you can only imagine my excitement! Now that I'm back home living in western NY, I got in contact with my local Cooperative Extension office to become a volunteer. I was even more excited when I found out that I'd have the opportunity to read at the elementary school I attended as a kid.
We planned four different stations for the kids to rotate through:
1. Reading of the book
2. Learning about fleece- hands on fleece feeling, spinning demonstration, crochet demonstration
3. Hands-on making of a felted ball
4. Meet bottle baby lambs
I got in contact with Diane who owns/operates Acorn Works Fiber Processing, a local fiber processing business, to help with the spinning demonstration, and I donated a Lincoln fleece. Another local sheep farm, Maple Lawn Farm, provided the lambs for the afternoon.
I was a part of the "learning about fleece" room. Diane brought her spinning wheel and demonstrated spinning. She conveniently also had some of my wool spun up, so I could show kids a finished product! An extension employee gave a crochet demonstration and had different types of yarn and finished products like hats and scarves to see and feel. I brought in some of my raw Lincoln Longwool wool, Diane brought some Merino and Romney wool, and we also had crossbred meat-breed wool to use for a fleece discussion, which was the part that I ran. The kids rotated through each of the three stations in our classroom and I had 10 minutes to talk about the process of shearing and steps to make wool become yarn.
I started by discussing the difference between the different types of wool, and used an analogy of different dog breeds to discuss why the wool from different sheep looked and felt different from each other. I then had them feel the four different fleeces and pick out their favorite. Hands-down my Lincoln fleece was the favorite of the day (if you need another reason to buy my fleeces, just trust the 2nd graders! haha), and they really didn't like the feel of the meat breed wool. I then had them smell the fleece, to which the response was a lot of "ewwww"s and scrunched noses (again, they all agreed mine smelled the best). We talked about the process of washing and then showed a set of carders to talk about how the wool is "combed". Next, the kids got to feel the roving and we discussed the process of dying. Finally, we talked about how the roving becomes yarn by way of Diane's spinning demonstration.
This event was a lot of fun! The kids asked wonderful questions like how the shears work to cut the wool off and whether it hurts the sheep, and why the wool felt "sticky", which led to great discussions about lanolin. They definitely learned a lot throughout the afternoon, and it really demonstrated the importance of agricultural education in today's school system, where most kids have no idea what happen on farms.
A big thanks to New York Ag in the Classroom for planning, Battenkill Fiber Mill for donating time & resources to make the roving, and Genesee County Cooperative Extension for coordinating the event locally. Events like these happen throughout the state for Ag Literacy Week and volunteers spend a lot of time getting the books and corresponding materials (like the wool & roving samples) sent around the state, so thank you to everyone!
Goodness I am WAY behind in keeping you all updated with our farm happenings... It's been a crazy time of the year with lambing, finishing up this semester of graduate school at Cornell, and everything else that happens when the world wakes up in the spring.
Last month in April, I had the pleasure of attending the Genesee Valley Handspinner's Guild (http://www.gvhg.org/) meeting to participate in their current "sheep study". Each month, members of the guild receive a small sample of a different breed of sheep so they can learn about breeds, textures, and discover new types of sheep. In March, we supplied the guild with some of our Lincoln lamb wool, and I wanted to attend the meeting to see what members thought of our wool and what they did with it. The results were pretty impressive, as you can tell from the photos below!
While I don't spin, being a member of the guild will hopefully serve as a way to promote not only our business, but our breed and I look forward to being involved in the future. Maybe they'll even teach me how to spin one day!
Back in March, I received an email from the Cornell Small Farms program asking for submissions for the summer issue of the Small Farms Quarterly publication, specifically regarding the "New Farmer" section. I thought about this for a while, and what I could say to educate and promote my breed. I decided it would be fun to put together an article about the things I've learned raising my Lincoln sheep. I enlisted the help of Dave Popielinski, a long-time friend who I purchased my first sheep from (way back in 7th grade!), and together we came up with a list of 8 lessons we've learned. We entitled it: Counting our Blessings: Lessons Learned from Raising Heritage Lincoln Longwool Sheep.
Please check out the article at: http://smallfarms.cornell.edu/2013/07/01/counting-our-blessings/ We'd love to hear your feedback! (There's also an article this issue on how to build panels, jugs and creep feeders for sheep barns)
A big thanks to Veronica and Leah for their editing help.
This past week, we had two surprise ewe lambs born at the Genesee Country Village and Museum. We keep a few (this year 5) of our sheep at this local living history museum to represent heritage breeds. They have been a hit with museum visitors and there's even a naming contest going on at the museum to name the two lambs. When visitors arrive, they are encouraged to go visit the farm and enter the contest. The contest will be running through the month of June. No word yet from the museum whether there will be a prize for the winner, but I'll let you know if I find anything out!
It's fitting that we bring our sheep to the museum every summer because this museum is where we first learned about Lincoln sheep!
Photos courtesy of Ruby Foote, Genesee Country Village and Museum photographer.
It's time again for the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival! It's of our family's favorite times of the year and we look forward to seeing how our lambs look compared to everyone else, and seeing friends we haven't seen since last fall (or last year's show!). Unfortunately, our sheep aren't looking as good this year as we always hope, but you never know!
If you're in the area, the show is held at the Howard County Fairgrounds, West Friendship, MD.
Entry to the fairgrounds is free and goes Saturday 9-6, Sunday 9-5.
Look for our red sign with the apples and leaves around it in the big main sheep barn next to the show ring!
Emmaline Long, main owner of Orchard View Farm, has a passion for Lincoln sheep and loves educating others about her breed and farm, She currently serves as the Vice President of the National Lincoln Breeders Association.
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