The morning was cool and crisp, with heavy damp fog clinging and swirling about, as I drove the sheep away from home.... (she says in a heavy Scottish accent....)
Well, another Celtic Festival under the belt for Fairlight Farm! I'm totally wiped out, but it was a good day and I met allot of nice folks.
Late last week I found out I would have to be set up and have my vehicle out of the area by 8:00 a.m. That was a jolt as the festival itself doesn't start until 9:00 a.m. So.... I tried. I packed the truck up with the cage, hay, water and all the fleeces and fibers and fiberly things I'd need the night before. The day of the event, I merely had to do chores, pack my cooler, load the sheepies and head out. Of course, things have a way of taking longer than I always anticipate so we were on the road a little late, at 7:15. Oh well. We (meaning me and the Shetland boys) pulled up to the gates at 7:45 a.m. Even though it was pretty obvious, I pointed out I was bringing the sheep in and was told to go on through--with the stern admonishment that I had to have my truck out by 8:00 a.m. Yeah, whatever, what were they gonna do, arrest me? I got my truck out by 8:15 and of course it was no big deal.
This year, we were set up in the city of Buffalo's 'old park', which is also the fairgrounds, which translates into livestock buildings. Nice dry buildings. I was a bit uneasy with this being the sheep barn, but took what precautions I could--laying a tarp down so the boys wouldn't be mucking about in old sheep germs.
Patrick & Erin--Irish Dexters
Patrick & Erin--Irish Dexters
We had a wonderful set up, and were sandwiched between Velveteen and her mom (Highland Cattle) and Patrick and Erin (Irish Dexter bull and heifer). Our area was as big as the cattle stalls, so I used the ex-pen to portion off a small area against the front fence so that the boys would have enough room to move about in, but not so much to run about and get themselves scared. All halter lessons went out the window when I was trying to lead them to our area, and it took two strong men and myself to push and pull two tiny little sheep into the barn. How embarrassing.moorit (dark and light) and grey, and samples of all the colors I had in roving (moorit, black, grey, musket) arranged in a basket for folks to touch and handle. I had a grey washed fleece and put part of that out on the table with the hand cards to show more of the process. I also had brochures, business cards and sales lists on the table. I had made some Shetland wool on silk wet felted scarves, so I had those arranged on a rack besides the table. The Festival doesn't seem to be a sales event, so I came more prepared to educate folks on the Shetlands. Of course Angus and Aberdeen, the Shetland boys did the best job of that! I feel like if a person could come up with some sort of small wool item as a memento they would probably sell well. I'm at a loss though. Any ideas out there? I did sell one of my scarves so that paid the gas money out and back anyway!
The day was very cool---upper 60s and lower 70s. It started out foggy and damp, and while there was suppose to be a chance of scattered showers, it started raining around 10:30 and rained steady for an hour or so. (typical Scottish weather, yeah, yeah...) Then it would shower off and on until about mid afternoon. While I felt for the participants, being in the barn I felt quite smug...that is until a leak started right over my table. Best I could tell the only leak in the building! No worries though, I had plenty of plastic and just slapped some over the problem area. While loading the sheep, unloading the sheep and truck and all that, I got pretty warm so it never entered my mind to bring a jacket or maybe dry socks.... Luckily I had packed a small afghan and wore that most of the morning. My kingdom for dry socks!
Angus and Deen were not happy campers, with Deen pretty much shutting down. They were both making like sheep statues by the time I got the booth set up, so I crawled over the panel and set with them for a little while, feeding cookies, and giving out scritches. After that they seemed to be reassured and settled down to the sheepie business of eating. They were such good boys and made hardly a sound all day. At first they were having no part of all these staring people, but by the end of the day, Angus in particular was eating it up and coming up for rubs and pets. Deen never got as comfortable, but he would sniff hands and look people over. Angus and his new friendAngus developed a firm friendship with the teenage boy from the Dexter display. It was a very interesting thing to see. Every time the boy would come over and kneel down, Angus would walk up and go into the typical Shetland trance, and they seemed to be communing with each other. One time the boy was petting Velveteen in the next stall, and Angus did not like that at all. He tried to push his nose into the stall with them, and then seemed a bit huffy about it.
Velveteen's mom thought the brome hay was better in the boy's stall and kept sticking her tongue through, trying to lure some bits out. The boy's were quite intimidated by her, although she was pleasant about it all. I told them they had horns too! They did enjoy sniffing noses with the calf, Velveteen, who was close to their size. I thought I might be able to smuggle that precious looking little calf out with the boys, but alas the plan fell through. ;-) On the other side was the Dexter cattle. Patrick the bull was quite in love with Velveteen's mom and was often vocal about it. Poor guy sounded like nothing so much as a bull elk (or so I'm told, not having actually ever heard a bull elk....). At one point the Clydesdale horse went by pulling a carriage, and nickered. One of the cows answered, and then someone said, now all we need is for the sheep to chime in.. and funnily enough they did! Perhaps they were all speaking animal Celtic-ese.
All the cattle people were very nice and we had many friendly discussions through out the day. It was funny that this year all the livestock were in 'tones of brown'. They thought it hilarious that as we were winding down, I got the boys haltered. They were standing there with their little halters on, waiting just like the big livestock boys and girls. Oh, and the boys were such little gentmen as I led them to the truck after the festival was over. All in the incentive I guess. Folks like to say animals are dumb, but I fear it isn't the animals that are dumb! When it came time to load up, the Dexter's recognized their stock trailer as it was pulled around and became very antsy to be loaded. The placid Highland cow started pacing when her limo, er trailer pulled up, and the little Shetland boys, who had remained calm and quiet all day, began pacing and baaing when I started packing up. They even stood completely still as I buckled their halters on (as opposed to the morning's rodeo of trapping them in the corner and wanting to say some not very nice words as the buckles or sheep wouldn't cooperate).
I took several things to keep busy with, if needed. I took my (hated) drop spindle, some felting projects and even a book. However the day was full of visiting and answering questions, so I never got around to needing to fill my time. On a whole, this crowd was very friendly, interested and respectful. Most people would ask permission before they even tried to pet the sheep, and there were many questions about the sheep, the wool and the processes required to get it to a final product. Both my parent's and sister stopped in and stayed awhile and that also helped to pass the time. I got to go out for a bit and check out some of the vendors--I ended up buying some Blackberry body spray and a little bamboo flute. The spray smells so good--my sister thinks someone might think I'm a cobbler.... ;-)Lively Music on Stage
There were various types of Celtic music going on the whole day--bagpipes, flutes, and other instruments, with some singing and dancing as well. I had a pretty good view of the stage until someone with the stage production pulled a large white van in the way. I could still hear it though, and most of it was quite nice, some of it just a little strange, and a few numbers quite loud and annoying. I really enjoyed the 'sweeter' lilting music. Across the field the giant men in kilts were playing games---tossing telephone poles about as if they were matchsticks (I'm told this is called the caber toss....), and other feats of strength. They consistently got rained on, but soldiered on. Playing in the RainEvery so often a different clan would come marching up, playing their drums, bagpipes and flutes and would put on a little show by the grandstand.
I met several interesting folks as well, there were a couple of ladies who are into the fiber arts and we talked at length about that. One even said, oh, I read your blog! That was a first for me, and I laughed. It made for an interesting conversation as she came up with Boone's name and asked if the boy's were the ones I'd been working with the last few weeks. There was also a lady from Ireland, whose accent was very pronounced. She wondered about the cost of the hand cards in America and we ended up agreeing they were quite expensive! One of the highlights was a visit from a gentlemen, who I believe said he was from Scotland (he was in kilt and stockings to match his accent!). Even better when he lived there he actually had Shetland sheep! Their primary goal was raising the Cheviot (and another breed, which I can't remember) crossed with the Shetland. We talked about how the boys compared to the Shetland sheep over there, and went a little into some of the ideas of breeders, here and there. His accent was well, very Scottish, so I'm pretty sure I didn't catch all that he said, but it was a charming visit, and he told me several times that my sheep were lovely. (My sister says she tells me that, and I said, yes, but you don't matter, this guy is from Scotland! heh..heh)
All in all a good day. Lots of interesting conversation. Many good questions, amusing moments, and some (hopefully) more educated folks--young and old out there. I passed out quite a few business cards and brochures and had several folks express interest in getting into the Shetland breed. I think since it was a 'non-selling' event, people were much more willing to hang around, ask questions and just be sociable, as opposed to sailing by, barely making eye contact. I had everything packed and pulled out around 6:00 p.m., so it was a very long, but satisfying day.
Giant, but Gentle Clydesdale's