The weekend after Columbus Day in October marks one of my favorite weekends of the year: The New York State Sheep and Wool Festival! This festival is held at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds, which has to be the most beautiful fairgrounds in the state. It consists of a sheep show, fiber vendors and contests, delicious food and more. This is the last time of the year that we show our sheep, and the last time we see many of our sheep friends before the winter. This year we took six sheep to show. Unfortunately, I had an interview on Sunday so I wasn't able to stay for the show, but my awesome friend Anna stayed with my parents to get the showing done. I was bummed, since this was the second show this fall I missed (I was in the UK during the Big E), but was glad I got one day to enjoy the festival and get the sheep ready.
I recently purchased sheep blankets from a fellow breeder, and what a difference they made! It made the process of picking straw and hay out of the sheep so much easier, as it kept them clean during travel in the trailer. One thing I struggle with my fleeces is frizziness, and I think having these blankets on for a couple days really helped cut it down. The first time we put the blankets on for the Big E, it was a chore. They seemed to not mind them this time around and getting them on and off was much easier. This show is a breeze to get ready for, as they are mostly fitted from the Big E a few weeks prior. Just a few minutes on the stand for some touching up and we are ready to go!
It always amazes me how much the sheep seem to love the shows. They always are so content laying in the pens with a cool breeze coming through the barn. They love the attention of festival goers, and don't mind me coming into the pen to give them some love. At home, they see me coming and know something was up! I was so thankful to have my friend Anna with me this weekend. She's a very talented animal-handler. My dad also appreciated it, as someone else was there to help me get the sheep ready and he could enjoy shopping the festival with my mom.
After having a fun day on Saturday fitting sheep and shopping, I helped prep the sheep Sunday morning and headed out to Syracuse for my interview. Dad and Anna took over showing with the help of my friend Chris (who I know also from Cornell), and I received text message updates after each class. My flock did incredibly well! My very handsome yearling ram, Joseph, placed second in his class. Simon, my ram lamb, placed sixth in a very large class of lambs. This was much better than I was expecting for him. I love his fleece, but he has a long way to go to fill out into the type of broad ram I'd like in my flock.
My yearling ewes placed 5th and 10th in another very large class, but as a pair they got FIRST! I am used to placing middle of the class, but a first place is fairly rare for me and is very exciting. My ewe lambs placed 2nd and 3rd, and 5th overall for pairs. Lastly, we got 2nd in flock (very exciting!!!!!), and 4th for pen of three lambs (one ram lamb and two ewe lambs). For the best fleece class, each breeder is allowed to exhibit one sheep and it can be any age, either gender. We brought Joe, my yearling ram, out because I am just in awe of the consistency and density of his fleece. The judge did something that most never do; he pulled the best sheep out from each breed to compare. Joe was pulled out for the Lincoln. He then actually placed each one. Most judges just choose one sheep for best fleece and do not actually place the class. I really appreciate the way he chose one from each breed, and also that he took the time to place them.
This show is different from all the others we attend. We are not showing against Lincolns only. Rather, classes are separated by color of wool (white and natural colored) and type of wool (fine, medium and long). So in our classes, we are showing against Romneys, Wensleydales, Cotswolds, Shetland, and any other longwool breed. Romneys are very difficult to compete against, and there are some exceptional Romney breeders in the Northeast. So to place toward the top of the class at this show is a great honor! The judge commented that he really liked my flock, which is a wonderful compliment. It's great that after over 12 years of breeding, I am finally accomplishing something with regards to my breeding program.
I really cannot thank my friend Anna for all her help this weekend, and for my friend Chris for helping out during the show! I was frustrated that I was double booked this weekend, but knew that my flock was in good hands.
Next up... a summary of my luscious yarn purchases and other festival goodies!
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.