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Michele Wipplinger–Recollections on my Mentor

Winter/Spring 2011

For many, it has been a wild and wooly winter but with guarded enthusiasm I feel spring is fast approaching! Today is the first day of spring and although we have sunshine and 40s today tomorrow Old Man Winter will deliver a few inches of snow and then Ms Spring bounces back with a dash of rain to wash his wrath away. It is a battle of the seasons in March and April. Spring’s merry little breezes and stronger sun bring back our birds that fly south in autumn. It is always a delight to see the cardinal and bluebird return, although not too far off, they take safe harbor in the valleys below. And the Canada geese have started to take flight north and always I have to stop and gaze upward sometimes shouting “welcome home!” as they cruise toward the river and northward. And while all those wonderful things occur, in a day, the temperature drops the wind turns high, the snow is flying and Old Man Winter says “not so soon my dear”. It is an exciting season…the season of Sprinter!

sd10cThe sheep and last spring’s lambs faired the winter nicely. But of course they have good digs, great hay and attentive shepherds. We had some pretty hefty snowfalls and our first was the lambs first snow and it was a wonderful sight to open the barn doors the following morning and watch them take in 18″ of snow and all its characteristics! They quickly adapted to more and more snow, giving them less and less loafing lot outside the barn. There just was nowhere else to put the snow for a few months. We had to shovel their roof off twice as we had two ice storms which put an enormous strain on any of the less pitched roofs. Roof raking and shoveling roofs was a common cry around New England. But today, the snow is fast disappearing in the barnyards and shearing approaches this Saturday. Plan A and plan B are in effect for the fleece skirting depending on the weather conditions. The sheep show visible desire to be shorn. They are pretty sedentary and a bit itchy around the edges at this point. And so that annual rite of passage will usher in daffodils, crocus and more arrivals, not least of which is my favorite bird, the Phoebe. Then, I know spring is truly here.

The hens also survived nicely all winter. We have NH Reds now and they really are a good-natured, hearty chicken. They layed eggs all winter and although they were not free-ranging during the coldest months they had a nice protected outside coop and could come and go as the weather permitted. They are now back out and about, slowing down the traffic on our back road as they cross to and fro. I was walking back up from the barn the other day and looked down our dirt road and watched them walking toward me in a line across the road like a band of good friends out for a stroll. Bianca, our older hen spent the winter with Peach and Crystal in the big barn. Peach suffered a bad tendon strain and had to be quarantined for a few months so Crystal got to be her barn mate. Crystal is also getting arthritic in the front leg so they made a perfect match. Bianca was the subject of a mean chicken attack in the coop in December and had to be moved so the three of them made a fine group! After shearing, Peach and Crystal will return to the flock and Bianca, well, that remains to be decided as to whether she joins them again or stays on her own.

sd10aAfter a few years hiatus, we are once again are having our sugar maple trees tapped and so far the season is awesome! Our friends took our farm on as part of their family sugar operation and the sap has been flowing strong for the past two weeks. Along with permanent tubing in the lower sugar bush they hung buckets on our old maples along the road. I love the look of the old time way coupled with the new efficiency of plastic tubing. How sweet it is!

sd10dThe summer workshops here at the farm are now posted on Events. Michele Wipplinger of Earthues will be here for our sixth year, this year teaching the highly sought after workshop The Color Institute, a five day color theory class, created by Michele and a must have for anyone wanting a professional study of color theory and application.

sd10bI am also delighted to be hosting artist Joan Morris for a five day workshop, Shaped Resist Dyeing with Indigo and Vegetal Dyes. Joan only teaches a few times throughout the year around the country so if surface design and shibori techniques using natural dyes peak your interest, studying with Joan is paramount for your learning portfolio.

The workshop descriptions, instructor bios, registration information, lodging links, directions and a peek at the workshop setting are available for you to peruse at Events. Long Ridge Farm is a destination for natural dyeing in New England, and the summer workshops are a great opportunity to enjoy learning while taking in our beautiful summer season in New England on a working sheep farm. Not to mention the catered lunches are divine!

In other news, my yarns and fibers are now available on the web site. For those of you who do not want to dye your own, this is the perfect solution for naturally dyed fibers created from our very special flock of CVM/Romeldales. You can find yarns, kits and spinning fibers here.

I will be teaching natural dyeing in a number of locations this summer as well. Along with classes at the farm which you can view at Events I will also be in Medina, Ohio for a two day indigo workshop in June. Contact me at if this location and topic might suit you. I will be teaching Indigo July 9th at Canterbury Shaker Village in Canterbury, NH and a basics natural dye workshop at Six Loose Ladies in Proctorsville, VT September 17th. Feel free to contact the hosts or myself for further information!

I am most excited to be traveling once again to France in April, this year to attend ISEND 2011, the International Symposium and Exposition on Natural Dyes. Before the conference I will travel through the Bordeaux Region for a few days of touring, eating great food and enjoying the fabulous wines of that region. I will be sharing the trip on Facebook and my blog and will do a review of the conference for Facebook page, Long Ridge Farm, and become a friend, bookmark it and watch for news as it comes in! I will be running a giveaway to all who “like” Long Ridge Farm on Facebook so please join in the fun! Once you click the “like” tab you will be in the running for the drawing to be held in late May. There will be two winners and I promise a nice gift!

I now offer dye house services. They include scouring and mordanting your fibers (protein and cellulose) for your natural dyeing as well as custom natural dyeing of your yarns and fibers. We will choose the colors together and I will do the dye work for you. Check with me on rates and further information through my contact information below.

Thank you for taking a moment to catch up with me. I hope you will consider dyeing with me this year at Long Ridge Farm or on the road, visit me on the show circuit through the year from NH to Rhinebeck.

As our year turns away from the grays and neutrals of winter and toward the vavoom splash of spring, I hope you’ll take time to put color into your life each and every day. May spring renew your spirit and fire up your senses!