Every spring on shearing day I hold aside a handful of special fleeces from my flock. Sometimes it's a fleece from a sheep who holds a dear place in my heart. And some fleeces are simply masterpieces of wool, crimp and lanolin. We keep our eyes peeled those truly special fleeces on shearing day.
After a shorn sheep stands, shakes and scrambles from the shearing board we take a minute to examine the goods. If the goods are super-good, then everyone pauses to pull locks, fondle and admire. Back in March, that was the case for a number of fleeces.Those fleeces did not travel with the rest to the fiber mill. I rolled them carefully and stowed them in the wool shed.
When packing up last Friday for the Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair I stuffed those special fleeces into the back of my Volvo along with my shelving racks and tote bins filled with yarn. These five were destined for the fleece competition at the festival: two moorit fleeces (one from Latte and Cognac); a snowy white Cormo fleece from Dune; Issey's dazzling white Cormo Cross fleece; and a stunning silver, speckled fleece from Cilantro, a burly Cormo Cross-bred wether.
In the moments before the start of the festival Saturday morning, after putting finishig touches on my booth, I hustled over to the Exhibit Hall to enter my fleeces in the show. Judging takes place behind closed doors. I spent the morning manning my booth. Saturday's weather set a record for the coldest, dampest, rainiest Memorial Day in recent years - at least for the Mass. Sheep & Wool. Neverthless, intrepid fiberists donned in foul weather gear filed through the barns and stalls. My little stall under the grandstand was drafty, but dry.
At 2 pm the exhibit hall opened up to the public. I took a break from my booth to see how we fared in the fleece competion.
When I stepped into the exhibit hall, I looked immediately at the fleece show results posted on the wall. I was elated to see beside the words "Grand Champion" was my name. But it didn't tell me whose fleece this was. I quickly made my way down the aisle toward the only fleece weraing a purple rosette. On this cold, drear day my heart was warmed to discover that Cilantro, my most ornery, robust wether, had captured top honors in the fleece show.
His flockmates also fared well: Dune took first in the Purebred Fine White Wool class; Latte took second place (to Cilantro) in the colored fine wool class; Issey took a red ribbon in the Cross bred class.
Poor Cognac didn't take a ribbon at all. Although she has a gorgeous fleece that received very nice comments from the judge, other fleeces captured the judge's fancy in her class. I wished I could have spent more time studying all the fleeces in that hall, but I had to get back to business in my booth.
As it turns out, Cognac had another entry, of sorts, in the competitions at the wool festival.
Kat Parks, my former farm assistant, happens to be a terrific photographer. She had entered two photos she had taken of my sheep in the sheep photography competition. Before leaving the Exhibit Hall, I stopped at the photo competition table.
I was delighted to see that Kat's photo - of my ewe Cognac and another ewe Pumpkin- had garnered the blue ribbon in the sheep photo contest.
With her permission I'm sharing it here:
A lovely profile shot. Great Although Cognac's fleece didn't win any prizes in the fleece show, her pretty face helped woo the judges in the photo competition.
Congrats to Kat, for taking terrific sheep photos - and to Cilantro and his flockmates for growing awesome fleeces. And congrats, Cognac and Pumpkin, for being photogenic.
Thank you to the many volunteers who make this show happen and to everyone who braved the elements to attend the fair and stopped by Foxfire Fiber & Designs. What lousy weather, but still a good day. Great to see so many familiar faces.