Riding Lessons and More in Central Virginia

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Three Bags Full (Well, Nine Actually)

Here's an illustrated mathematical process:
1 Ewe with a year's worth of wool (our model is the delightful and whimsical Baboo, identified by the white spot on her nose):
MINUS 1 Shorn Fleece (yes, if shorn correctly, it all comes off in one beautiful piece):
EQUALS a much more comfortable Baboo come summertime!
Now don't panic - although we have enjoyed a mild winter, I certainly haven't had the sheep shorn this early. I put together this funny equation to illustrate what a bountiful, renewable resource the sheep provide. Previous years' fleeces were spun into lovely charcoal-colored yarn (I still have some available, for all you knitters out there). But the fleeces keep coming each year, and I am not a knitter or spinner, so what to do?

The exciting solution has been to partner with Scarlet Fleece <-- please click on that name to visit their gorgeous, colorful website!! The company owner, Kathy Oliver, is developing a line of American-bred, 100% pure Shetland fiber to market to yarn retailers. She came out to Easy Keeper Farm earlier this week to inspect the sheep's coats for crimp, length, and other qualities, and even purchased nine fleeces from last year to include in her first run of American Shetland. I'll save the fleeces that were too short for felting and other projects with the camp kids this summer.

Kathy also gave me some great tips on cleaning, storing, and recordkeeping to help me manage the ten fleeces due this spring. Soon I'll be able to identify the best wool producer, by weight. I am guessing it will either be Pepper or his eldest daughter, Clementine, with their taller size and long black coats. And yes, the sheep are all purebred Shetlands - next time you're in the lower tackroom, check out Pepper's pedigree. His papers from the North American Shetland Sheep Breeders Association are hanging up right there on the wall!

Friday, February 10, 2012


Thanks to some great help taking care of the animals, I was able to attend the Masters of Foxhounds Association's annual meeting in New York City last month. I figured this blog could also take a little trip away from pony updates and lesson reports, just for one entry, to share some of my discoveries in Manhattan.
The memory of 9/11 is never far away in New York. Walking around the Upper East Side near 65th Street, nowhere near Ground Zero, I came upon this tiny engine company bay. Meticulously painted and maintained, the names of twelve firefighters from this house who died at the Twin Towers are painted on the bright red door. It's hard to imagine the impact of such a huge loss, and this was just one engine company out of the dozens of units responding. Seeing this memorial, so far uptown from the World Trade Center, really made me reflect on the vast scope of that event. True heroes who selflessly ran into burning buildings trying to save as many people as they could.
The photo above is the statue in Central Park honoring Balto, and the other sled dogs, who carried the diptheria medicine 600 miles across the Alaskan wilderness to Nome in 1925. Their amazing feat saved many lives and is commemorated each year by the famous Iditarod dog sled race. This excellent statue is located near the children's zoo and it was fun to watch many New Yorkers walk their own assorted canines past it on a sunny Saturday. Can you imagine today, knowing that your health was dependent on the bravery and strength of a team of dogs to come through for you? What a great true story.

Let's be grateful for those around us who do so much to help others. And next time I'll catch you up on news from the farm.