My friend Andrea and I were invited to our advisor's farm in Knox, NY (just outside Albany) on Saturday to see his sheep getting shorn. Andrea has been -and I will soon be - enrolled as graduate students in the Biodiversity, Conservation and Policy programme at SUNY Albany. Gary Kleppel, the programme director and our advisor, owns a small farm where he has four wool sheep (his wife, Pam, spins) and he is very active in the area trying to help local farmers hold onto their land in the face of high land taxes, competition from commercial farms and encroaching developments.
I arrived in Albany late Friday night, so Andrea and I overslept Saturday morning to arrive a little over an hour late to the sight on the left......the second to last sheep being sheared. That one isn't actually one of Gary's. Barb, the lady who trained his sheepdog, brought her sheep along, too. She has quite a variety, since she trains sheepdogs for work and for competitions, and a dog can be assigned any kind of sheep to work with during a competition. I've actually seen sheep being shorn before, in New Zealand, but I think this young man (17, if I heard correctly) is still apprenticing with his mother. You could really tell, as he nicked the sheep and the fleece came off in bits rather in one piece.
Here's Gary giving us a demonstration with his sheepdog, Tory. His other dog, Hope, is a lost cause and is a house dog, as she isn't willing to bite the sheep, and the sheep know it. After this, Barb gave us a demonstration with her dog, Rhett, and it was pretty amazing to see him driving the sheep away, and then herding them back into their pen so effortlessly. Rhett is going to be competing soon.
After all the sheep are shorn, the fleeces have to get skirted. That involves removing all the heavily matted, dirty and poor quality wool from the topknot on the head, the tail, and the legs. That's Barb at the skirting table teaching Pam how it's done. Andrea and I pitched in, too, pulling away the nasty bits (and let me tell you, the tail region is NASTY!) and removing as much of the grass, twigs and other plant material from the fleece as we could. All in all, it was great fun for a Saturday morning.
Then Andrea and I headed over to her friend Betty's place for lunch. We had homemade pizza in Betty's pasive solar house, which she designed and built herself. In fact, Andrea and I almost rented another of Betty's houses. It was lovely, and the sun room in front was delicious in the cold winter, but it was just too far from school and work.
Andrea and I have signed a lease on an apartment on the second floor of a yellow Victorian in another little town just northeast of Albany city. It's the cutest place, with the original tin ceilings, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and two living rooms! I'll be helping Andrea move in first this weekend, so maybe I'll have some pictures soon.
Gary says the news isn't official yet, but he thinks there will be good news regarding funding for me in the BCP programme! I'll hear from him on April 1st.
Posted by Lana to Bumbling Bees - Girls with Purls at 3/28/2006 02:11:00 PM