Again, I apologize for the delay in posting about the last couple days of my trip!
Today, my last full day in the U.K. was the day I was looking forward to the most! I have been following the Risby Flock of Lincoln Longwools since I first heard about their flock after Louise's wool wedding dress made international news! Get ready for photo overload!
We headed from York to a little village in Lincolnshire called Market Rasen. This was just over an hour and half to the southeast. We headed over the Humber Bridge, a very large suspension bridge and into Lincolnshire. The views were amazing and the agriculture larger than other areas we traveled to throughout the week. We drove through the little village of Market Rasen and down several very small curvy roads before catching our first glimpse of Risby Grange. From what people who had been on this trip before said, finding them was much easier this time!
Upon arriving at their drive, we headed up a long lane up a hill surrounded by sheep pastures. We got out of the bus and were on top of a hill overlooking Lincolnshire, with the Lincoln Cathedral peaking out of the horizon. I kept thinking (as I have been all week), “Is this even real???!!!”. When we first arrived, we had tea together and Louise shared with us the history of their flock.
First of all, I apologize for the delay in this post! Exhaustion and the second leg of my trip got the better of me, followed by catching up on work upon my return. But I didn’t want everyone to miss out on my last two days. Next, I apologize for the technicality and numbers of this post! I learned SO MUCH from this day and wanted to record it all for U.S. producers who may be interested in how the U.K. wool marketing is done. We don’t have anything like this in the states, so I was fascinated by how organized and successful this system seems. Feel free to scroll through the photos if you’re not into the technicalities of wool marking!
Today we headed south to the city of Bradford to visit the British Wool Marketing Board. This cooperative handles 90% of the wool in the UK through a series of depots throughout the country, but only makes up for 2% of the global market. The main depot and the Wool Board headquarters are located in Bradford. When we walked into the headquarters, there were beautiful wool products everywhere; a display with a wool suit, an amazing chair upholstered with knit wool fabric. We headed into a conference room to hear a presentation about the Wool Board, its history and its purpose.
Have you ever seen 4,000 sheep in one place? Today I did at the Melton Morbary Market auction. We travelled two hours south of York to Melton Morbary to view their market which happens every Tuesday. Keith Harding met us at the market to show us around and explain the process. Farmers bring their sheep, cattle, poultry and other animals to be sold via an auction. This time of year farms are selling the lambs they have raised all year, along with cull ewes and breeding ewes ready for tupping. Many of the fattened lambs are mules that Martyn showed us yesterday, the Swaledale x Border Leicester crosses. The sheep are separated into pens of mostly 10 sheep (some are 12 or 20, and other random assortments depending on age and size) and they are weighed for an average weight per head. The auctioneer then auctions each pen off by price per head. He will announce the average weight per pen (ie. 40 kilo), and the price the buyer pays is per head for the whole pen. It moved very quickly and was hard to follow!
Today we headed an hour and a half south to the city of Lincoln. It was a cooler, drizzly day with rain on and off, but nothing too substantial. While everyone else headed to the Museum of Lincolnshire Life, I headed to the Lincoln Cathedral. The cathedral is an important icon for the city of Lincoln and I was interested to see how it compared to the York Minster. It began construction in 1192 and continued until around 1245. In 1237 the central tower collapsed (similar to the York Minster) and in 1311 the tower was replaced by a spire that made it the tallest building in the world for nearly 238 years. I had less than hour to walk around and had just missed the 11:00am tour so the lady at the entrance gave me some great pamphlets and information to do a quick tour myself. The nave of the Lincoln seemed slightly bigger, and I really enjoyed all the stained glass. The glass windows seemed brighter than those in the York Minster, probably because more of them have been renovated. Along the side of the nave were the most beautiful depictions of the twelve stations I have ever seen, carved completely from wood! This cathedral had a north and south transept, just like the York, with a choir right behind them. When I arrived, someone was practicing at the organ in the choir and whole church was filled with music. It gave me chills! The church contains a treasury, which now houses a collection of artifacts from the church. There were challis that dated back to the 14th century and earlier! That’s a piece of silver that was used for communion before our county was even thought of! The age was just astonishing! While chatting with a woman in the treasury, the Duty Clerk came in and I had a really nice talk with him about his role as the Duty Clerk and the prayers and Eucharist services he conducts daily. Along the north transept is a cloister with windows that look out into a grassy yard. That was one of the most beautiful parts to me. In the back of the church, there is a little carving on a column called an imp. The story is that he caused so much havoc that one of the angels turned him into stone. I began to run out of time by the time I got to the back of the church, so rushed through the small prayer rooms to the south. I stopped to enjoy the fount at the back of the nave before leaving. The fount is made of marble and was constructed in the 12th century. It is still used for baptisms today. I ended up with a few extra minutes and walked into some of the cute shops in Lincoln on my way back to meet the group.
Today we traveled one hour northwest of York to a small country town called Masham for their annual sheep festival. It was only day three of the trip but it has already surpassed all my expectations! I was very excited to see my first UK Lincolns, so upon arriving I headed right to the sheep show. This was a small show so there were only three breeders, but all the sheep were gorgeous. Within ten minutes of arriving, Keith Harding of Swepstone Lincoln Flock roped me into giving him a hand showing. I say "roped in", but really I volunteered! There was no way I was going to turn down an opportunity to show a UK Lincoln! I helped him get the sheep ready, and into the showring we went- white coats and all. This show is very relaxed, without an actual show ring, and showing in general is very relaxed here. No touching the feet to set them up, no walking circles around the ring, and only one person showing each sheep. I have to say, it was definitely my type of showing! Keith had two gimmer lambs (ewe lambs) and two ram lambs, but no shearlings (one year old sheep). The judge was Rod Dart from Illinois who is on the trip, and he of course had to give me a hard time in the ring; "When was your lamb born?", "Why does your sheep look dirty?". I had a hard time figuring out how they judge the different pairs. They do top gimmer and top male, followed by top overall sheep where they judge the gimmers against the males. There is also pen of three with one male and two gimmers, but they can be different ages. Keith ended up with top male! This was so much fun and my life is officially complete now! Dad was showing my own sheep at the Big E in Massachusetts today, so I didn't completely slack off :)
My first full day in York was spent exploring the gorgeous city. After the deepest sleep I've had in a long time, I was refreshed and ready for a day of walking.
I had my first introduction to an English breakfast; toast and eggs with beans, mushrooms, tomato and "black pudding". Also known as blood pudding, it is made with sheep blood and pork fat. I did try one bite, but I don't think I will be trying it again... I am loving all the tea though!
After breakfast, a few of our group met a tour guide at the York Minster Cathedral for a walking tour of the city. The first thing our tour guide said to remember was "The history of York is the history of England". We started at the Minster and spent a good part of the morning exploring it's beauty! The building of the Minster began in 1225 and was finished by 1425. It has over 128 stained glass windows; over 1/2 of the stained glass windows in the whole country of England! It is also the largest Gothic cathedral north of the Alps.
ell I have made it to York, England! The trip was a breeze, though exhausting. Easy transfers from BUF --> PHL --> Manchester. Overnight plane rides are no fun and managed to leave you completely exhausted despite just sitting for hours on end!
I am here as part of a trip organized by the National Lincoln Sheep Breeder's Association to visit and tour Lincoln flocks in the UK and learn about their sheep and wool production. In total there are 18 of us from New York to Washington who are a part of this trip.
Upon arrival, and making it through customs (the agent was extremely grumpy this morning!) we met at a small cafe at the train station to wait for the others to land. After meeting up with the rest of the group of Lincoln breeders in Manchester we took the train to York. I unfortunately was completely exhausted and fell asleep on the train and missed all the scenery and farmland between the two cities. It's ok- I really needed the sleep!
I just wanted to take a minute to say how thankful I am for blessed I was this past 2015 year! I had a gorgeous crop of lambs in the spring, reaped the benefits of new pasture acreage, did well at my shows, sold the most fleeces I ever have, and was featured on Woolful podcast. I couldn't be happier with the direction my farm and business are going, and look forward to an even better year in 2016. Thank you everyone for your support!
Can you believe Thanksgiving is next week? I feel each year just goes faster and faster with no time to slow down- except, of course, when you're knitting while binge-watching the newest Netflix show.
This fall I have been working on (and plan to start...) several handmade gifts for Christmas and babies entering the world this coming winter. Every year, I try to give friends and family handmade, DIY gifts, which often end up being knitted. Cowls and earwarmers, baby snugglers and blankets are all things that knit up quickly and make very practical gifts.
In recent years, I have knitted all my sisters the Bubblegum cowl from FiberFlux, as well as a braided knit headband from Owls Wake Up blog. Both are free patterns that I discovered on Pintrest.
The Bubblegum cowl uses chunky yarn on large needles to make a very soft, quick knit accessory. For people who may be new to knitting (which I was when I first made this pattern), it is a great introduction to following a pattern and working on knit/purl stitches. And for those of you experienced knitters, this is a quick project that can easily be done in an evening- even for slow knitters like me!
The braided headband was how I learned to do the cable stitch- and to be honest, it is the only cable knit stitch pattern I've done so far! I was a bit nervous to start, but because cable is all you have to worry about for this pattern, it is easy to follow and great for those wanting to learn cables. When chunky yarn is used, this is also a very quick-to-knit pattern that is soft and warm.
Both of these patterns make warm, attractive accessories to give to family and friends. Those who I've made them for wear them regularly throughout the winter months!
Interested in these patterns, but don't know what type of yarn to try? I suggest you try some of my Orchard View worsted Lincoln Longwool yarn for a warm, durable winter accessory! Available in both natural colored (gray) and white, this yarn will meet all your winter knitting and gift-giving needs.
Honestly, this summer has been a complete whirlwind. Between weddings (friends, family and my younger sister's), family outings, my real job, and the first summer in my own house, I really don't even know how I've had time to breathe! As a result, my fiber has taken a bit of a back burner. I'm hoping with our fall shearing coming up in a few weeks and cooler weather arriving that skirting, washing, selling, etc. will pick back up again.
Over the last month, we had two shows: the Big E in West Springfield, Mass. which is a regular fair and the New York Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY. Both shows went pretty well- no 1st place ribbons, but the competition for Lincoln Longwools in the Northeast is tough with many great flocks and to place in the top half (which I did consistently) is good for me! :)
I was really looking forward to the NY Sheep & Wool Festival this year because of my growing interest in fiber arts over the last six months. Though I haven't had time to sit and work on many knitting projects, I've been listening to many podcasts including knit.fm, KnitPicks, 6Bits Storybooks, and of course Woolful, which I've written about previously. All of them are filled with inspiring stories, tips, tricks and tutorials and are worth listening to if you're at all interested in fiber arts! This year in Rhinebeck I ran across several vendors who I've listened to in these podcasts and walked away with too much new yarn, including Shelter from Brooklyn Tweed to make a hat and five skeins of O-wool (which is unbelievably gorgeous by the way!) to make a cowl. I also purchased some pretty yarn from Battenkill made with NY wool- probably for another cowl. It's great to see companies working to support US farms, mills and spinners.
The other exciting news to share is that I was interviewed for Woolful Podcast! I emailed Ashley back in the spring, letting her know how much I appreciated her work and how inspiring it has been for my fiber interest. She emailed me back over the summer and asked if I could be interviewed. Of course I was thrilled- not only because I love the podcast so much, but because I appreciate any opportunity to tell others about the Lincoln Longwool breed. The podcast aired today, and I would love to know your thoughts- I'm debating on whether I'll listen to it because I felt like such a clown gushing about how much I love my sheep, but I guess it's the truth!
You can listen to the Podcast on the Woolful website, or through your favorite podcast streaming app (itunes, stitcher, etc.)
Thanks in advance for listening and supporting Ashley's great work!
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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