Sunday, January 29, 2012

a bunch of black sheep

When I planned to host this winter wool work class I had visualized something very particular. I imagined people driving through snow squalls to the farm from apartments and cities all around, braving the winter weather to be welcomed into the warm embrace of a wood stove. I imagined snow-covered sheep watching us from their hay piles, a pony warm in his stall, and folks knitting to music and noshing on comfort foods like soup and chili spooned out of mason jars, lost in conversation. That wasn't how it went at all.

Instead the thermometer almost reached fifty degrees and I stood inside the hay bale chicken coop holding a 6-week old Freedom Ranger by the body explaining their story and place in the farm's plan. I was in a light sweater, jeans, and bandana. I wasn't even wearing wool. You could see every puddle of water, legions of mud, ugly bit of trash, and every other imperfection and ugliness working farms have. There was a flooded mud room with a black pipe, a cat scared to leave her realm behind the washing machine, and folks who booked a hotel room downtown ended up being bumped to a local B&B because Gordon Ramsey's film crew needed their hotel rooms...

That said: yesterday's Black Sheep Wool Workshop was one of the best events the far has ever hosted. Readers from Montreal, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York, and just down route 22. The weather wasn't frightful, but the food was plentiful and all the guests seemed to enjoy the event. We started out with brunch, then went on a short warm-weather farm tour, then came inside to learn how to handwash, card, and spin wool with a drop spindle. After a while the energy of the event took over and I just stood back and watched. Two people were winding the drum carder with four others sat with their spindles. A pair of dedicated attendees with an open copy of the ol' Reader Digests' Back to Basics, tried to get someone's spinning machine to work. Others were already starting to learn how to knit on the supplies they brought from home. Tim Bronson stopped by for a few minutes to take photos of the event and the pigs' last day. (In a few hours they will be slaughtered). I can't wait to show you what he shot, including many photos of King George, who wasn't shy of crowds and spent the day in the middle of the workshop, loafing about, large and in charge.

After a hearty lunch we all just enjoyed the quiet fervor of a knitting circle, people sitting all over the farmhouse knitting and chatting until the lights started to fade and the table lamps needed to be lit. It went well over the usual workshop end time and none of us cared, knitting is a five-course meal.

I loved this event, and I especially enjoyed meeting the folks who I only know as emails and comment names. Everyone was so kind, some brought gifts (like Taylor Ham Pork Roll from New Jersey, jonquils, and letterpress images of sheep, horses, and bee keeping!) and there was left over food to feed several more people than I planned, folks went home with whatever I could unload on them. Some left with garbage bags of fleece (no joke). Some left with a plate of pie and a smile.

Some folks left eventually because they were going to be filmed at the "reveal dinner" of the new Gordon Ramsey show filming downtown. They had no idea (neither did I) when they signed up for a CAF class it would coincide with the Cambridge Hotel's filming of Hotel Hell , and while they did get bumped from their rooms they were invited to be at the dinner and in the television program. Who knew they'd learn to hand wash wool and then get on a reality show?

So today, post workshop is a day of reloading and re-upping the farms needs. The farrier comes today (new appointment time), the pigs are done in, and a truckload of hay gets delivered. Usual management, plus heavier moments like gunshots and butchering. It'll be a long one, but rest at sunset will be savored like Cathy Daughton's potato soup...

Next Saturday: Mountain Music Workshop at the farm! Still 3 spots left if anyone wants to come and learn the basics of making traditional stringed Appalachian style music part of your life. It starts with wanting to learn. It is that simple.

15 Comments:

Blogger Buttons said...

Oh I am so happy I came across your blog. I have been reading it and admiring your way with words.
The way you can turn an ordinary inconvenience like the mud and turn it into a masterpiece of words.
You truly have a gift I love that.
I wish I had of been there it sounds very interesting I am sure all your patrons enjoyed there time at your work shop I doubt if the Hell Kitchen guy could really top that. I am sure they enjoyed the luck of seeing him though. B

January 29, 2012 at 8:37 AM  
Blogger Odie Langley said...

Great story and great pictures Jenna. Glad it was such a success.

January 29, 2012 at 9:09 AM  
Blogger Janet said...

I was thinking if you yesterday - so glad it went well! Your life is getting fuller and fuller - I little thought back when you 'bought the farm' and I suggested you could now have the space for hands on workshops that you would run with it like you have!! Congrats and since we get your yesterday's weather today up here, I'm looking forward to a respite from the wood in - ashes out routine for today.
Go Jenna go!

January 29, 2012 at 9:22 AM  
Blogger bookkm said...

As I drifted off last night, I wondered how your day went. So glad it went well.

January 29, 2012 at 9:37 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

I'd love to come next weekend if only you lived closer. I don't need another hobby but the music while doing our Civil War reenacting would be great fun.

January 29, 2012 at 10:14 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

thanks all, it was a great day!

January 29, 2012 at 10:15 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Christine where are you from?

January 29, 2012 at 10:15 AM  
Blogger Stacie said...

I already know how to knit and spin, but man, that sounds like a good time! Maybe someday I can find the money and time to fly across the states and make it to one of these things....

January 29, 2012 at 11:48 AM  
OpenID T. Crockett said...

I was one of the lucky attendees yesterday and I have to say, if it is at all possible for you to attend one of Jenna's workshops, do it! She is even more charming and funny in person, and through this space she's brought together a wonderful group of similarly minded people. So in short, you can't go wrong.

PS Gordon Ramsay is much taller in person than he appears on TV (and much nicer).

January 29, 2012 at 4:09 PM  
Blogger Glyndalyn said...

Congratulations on a great workshop.

January 29, 2012 at 5:27 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

Such good fun at the workshop!!! Thank you (and everyone else) for being so welcoming and so much fun! :D

And the hotel experience was... interesting. Wouldn't stay there again, but would definitely go for the food again! Mr Ramsay is quite nice, i was relieved ;)

January 29, 2012 at 5:51 PM  
Blogger DarcC said...

Can't wait for the next wool workshop, the one I get to be at :)

January 29, 2012 at 6:45 PM  
Blogger Jess said...

Looks like a great time! Wish we didn't live so far away :(

January 29, 2012 at 8:42 PM  
Blogger tngaston said...

Jenna:

Thanks for having us! It was a great time, and I loved meeting you and the other attendees.

January 30, 2012 at 2:09 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

Indiana, I'm not sure where you are but I presume it would be a bit of a hike.

January 31, 2012 at 7:14 PM  

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