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Michele Wipplinger–Recollections on my Mentor

Fall 2011

Our summer and fall months this year have been nearly perfect in New Hampshire with the exception of Hurricane Irene who opened the water faucet full throttle. Our last summer workshop ended Friday August 26th. Typically I will leave the workshop barn as is for a few days after classes so I can soak up the wonderful memories. It’s nice to stop by and reflect on the remembered stories, friendships, learning and laughter. But on August 26th all hands were on deck to empty the area out and reset for the sheep to come back from pasture to weather out the storm. We were told to brace for 50-75 mph winds and heavy rains depending on the path. As of the 26th the path was projected to be directly over our little town.

The 27th was a beautiful day. It was hard to imagine something so ominous somewhere south of us with eyes on New England. India Flint had finished up her workshop here and was headed north to Maine to teach at Haystack. I drove her to the eastern part of New Hampshire where she picked up a car and pootled off into blue skies ahead. I got home early afternoon and we wrapped up the things that needed doing before the rain and then it fell in buckets all night and throughout the next day. Irene’s path had wobbled slightly to the west over Vermont and had weakened significantly but the rain was relentless and as most heard, New England suffered massive flooding and destruction. More than a month later, many side roads are still impassable in the North Country and the memories will be long-lasting. It was surreal on the 29th to awake to clear blue skies. Mother Nature is one heck of a woman and Irene was not very nice

Late April I traveled to France with a friend to tour the Bordeaux region followed by a week in LaRochelle for ISEND2011, the International Symposium and Exhibition of Natural Dyes. It was an amazing week of lectures, presentations, outings, demonstrations and other events all under the heading of natural dyes. More than 500 participants from 56 countries convened for the conference, with the backdrop a lovely seaport on the Atlantic coast. You can read my review at Turkey Red Journal which should be available within the next few weeks.

In June, I had the good fortune to travel to Ohio to teach dyeing with indigo for two days. Medina Spinners and Weavers hosted me and not only was the setting fantastic but so were the students. We had loads of fun while we learned. Everyone went away with a clear understanding of the methods and techniques needed to dye with the only natural blue dye in the world.

sd11bThe summer workshops here at the farm were fabulous. You can read about them through my blog and events. I am delighted to report that Joan Morris will be teaching again in the summer of 2012 as will India Flint who will return to teach in August. I will be posting the courses at Long Ridge Farm by mid-November. If you want to stay informed feel free to sign up on the mailing list. Personally I was awestruck at the level of talent and energy given in the workshops and am delighted to be planning for next year’s classes this early in the season.

My focus has shifted regarding natural dyeing this year. From my experience in France at ISEND2011 to the workshops here at the farm I realize more than ever that natural color is precious. Nothing rooted, pulsing or alive is inexhaustible. I sell natural dyes in extract and raw form which is a wonderful thing, yet I see they are becoming increasingly unavailable and/or more expensive at every turn. And while these natural dyestuffs offer amazing color results I ask that you respect their limited and precious offerings in your dyepots. Experiment with color value and fabrics and fibers to learn how to maximize your color without compromising the very life source that gifts your fabric.

sd11aIn July, after a long and difficult period of failing health, our dear old black lab, Sidney, gave up the fight. We first met Sidney when he was left in our barn late one night in April 2001. A drop off. The following morning my husband, I and Sidney all took a look at each other and decided to take a chance. He was 2 years old at the time.

The following ten years proved immensely challenging as he was extremely protective and unkindly to anyone outside “his” family. We learned where he had come from and it was a dreadful existence. He deserved to be fearful. Although we never could win the fight toward the outside world, we did win his trust on the farm. He became known as Sweet Bear, the Big Black Boogie Man and the Pook (short for spook). He was a heck of a friend and a black lab love. He lived past our dear Sheltie, Shelley, Ursus, our gray cat, and Haley, another lovely rescue pup. They all loved him as they each had their own story to tell. He got know Luna, Kalie and Webster; our current animal companions.

July 20th Sidney couldn’t do any more living. We honored his wishes and he took the day in stride, more genteel than he’d ever been in our ten years together.

What do we know of the animal world? We cannot presume to understand their way. As I watch the living on our farm each day from the chickens, to the sheep, dogs and cats I find an amazing dynamic going on at any given moment. A dog plays with a cat, a cat lies in the sun with a hen, a hen hangs with the sheep, a dog hangs with the sheep during chores. Although they are fortunate for our care we are truly blessed to be in their midst?

As you live your days, on all counts: Be mindful. Be thoughtful. Notice the little things. Don’t quit because it’s hard. Work harder because it’s hard. Care. Say thank you.

Earth’s gifts are a blessing. Treat them as such.

Peace. In this most quiet time of the year,