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Michele Wipplinger–Recollections on my Mentor

Winter 2010

A new decade, a new season with tests, challenges and memories.

If I could sketch my vision of winter thus far it would be Old Man Winter with his long gray beard and full cheeks blowing a big frigid blast of cold air at his subjects. His beautiful ice cold blue eyes and red cheeks reign but the temperature from his breath has been less than pleasant. Damn cold. This week we welcomed the “January thaw” with a couple of days in the 40’s and just on the overnight 5″ of fresh snow. I love fresh snow. After all it is winter and with every new coating it covers the sins of a dirty barnyard. The sheep also love a new snow. It’s as good as their daily hay as they traverse their loafing lot licking the pristine freshness. The Farmer’s Almanac predicted a colder than normal winter with less snowfall than normal for New England and so far they are spot on. Now we are in the deep of winter, whatever it holds, for however longs it stays.

We had a very rainy period from June through October and although we succeeded in getting the hay in we got thwarted with wet pastures late summer to fall leaving us unable to spread manure before the snow came. Of course our 1962 John Deere manure spreader threw the conveyor chains which didn’t help matters. We coddle that spreader and have more invested in it than we dare admit. We bought it for $400 about 8 years ago, and it was not pretty. At the time I thought Jack was nuts for buying it as it sat forlorn in the back of an old farm in Jaffrey. But he was sure it would serve us well enough. Jack replaced the entire floor. And that meant removing about 100 original bolts, pulling up the old floor boards, cutting and laying new ones and re-bolting. Then he set the conveyor chains again. Two years ago it blew the drive chain and we had to take it to the local equipment repair place to have that fixed. The sides are cobbed together with pieces of sheet metal and the tires are original but still holding. A manure spreader is a valuable piece of equipment when the alternative is pitching manure by hand!

Hopefully we have a nice group of bred ewes at this point. I say that knowing who was put to the task but not sure exactly for another couple months which ewes took. The weather in November held up nicely with little rain, chilly mornings and sunny days. The breeding group was able to enjoy some last season grazing during the sometimes frenetic pace of breeding. There is nothing more lovely than a flock of sheep in the early morning light, resting on a frosty pasture. Their nirvana. Our flock is small enough that I am able to observe them with relative ease. I know who got bred and on what day just through the course of the daily chores. CVM/Romeldales can produce a variety of colors within the breed standard and that makes the thrill of lambing so exciting. Our lambs will start arriving mid-April. Please contact us about purchasing from our select offering of CVM/Romeldale lambs and keep checking the blog as the season unfolds.

Please visit the Events page for the upcoming shows and workshops for the 2010 year. I am delighted to be joining with Patty Blomgren on a series of fiber workshops here at the farm. Patty is an incredible spinner and teacher and I look forward to having her share her knowledge with those interested in delving into the world of fiber from raw fleece to finished yarns. In addition I will be teaching natural dyeing workshops here at the farm which are posted on theEvents page for those of you who have yearned to get your hands wet and your fiber colored with ancient dyes from cochineal to madder to indigo! Michele Wipplinger will once again return to our farm in August for the annual natural dye workshops. The topics this year are Basilan: Earth Pigments and Infusions from Mali, West Africa a surface design class using new and traditional techniques for mud cloth. This is the second of a three part series on the study of mud cloth. The second workshop is Woad: the Ancient European Blue. We will learn about and dyeing with the blue color that has been used in Europe since the time of Caesar. Further information can be seen on the Events page. Please contact me for further information or to reserve a space for any of the offerings!

Preparations are nearly complete for offering a special selection of yarns from our flock of CVM/Romeldale sheep to include patterns specially created for our fibers. I am excited to introduce the fibers in the next few months on the website. All of the yarns will be offered in naturally dyed hues using Earthues natural dyes in luscious blends of mohair, bombyx silk and alpaca.

sd_winter_2010I have missed my dear Sheltie, Shelley, who passed away in November of 2009. We started looking for a new Sheltie in late fall, thinking it might take some time to find the right match. We contacted breeders and rescue agencies from Maine to Tennessee. We came in contact with many wonderful and caring Sheltie folks. And then one day in early December we received an email from a rescue foster home in Maine. The woman let us know that the next day she would be fostering a female sable/merle Sheltie and perhaps we would be interested. She sent us a picture and within 5 minutes I wrote back a big old yes! It wasn’t her face or her size or her coloring. Nothing stood out as unique. It was just time to start anew. After working through the adoption process, we met the foster parents half way from our house to theirs at Dunkin Donuts at the Epsom circle in NH in the middle of a snowstorm on December 20th. We have named this new, totally energetic, full of love and loyalty Sheltie, Luna. She is the perfect addition to our home. She is a herder of everything, loyal to the bone and beautiful. Sidney, our lab and Webster, the cat, not to mention the chickens and sheep find her the perfect companion.

And now we begin the longest, quietest months of our year here. We await lambing and the days are short, the nights long and meant for preparation and rest. We are set to shear in early March and after that life starts to whip up again with all that spring delivers and offers. Seasons of tests, seasons of challenges, seasons of memories.

May your winter months be peaceful while offering you new challenges to face and dreams to pursue as the seeds of your dreams lay dormant and waiting for the spring sun to let them grow.