Saturday Morning at the Fair
Gibson did a bit of running amok. He loves elevators. Soon as one opens he jets inside, spins around, and just smiles back at you. It's on you to race in with him or else he ends up on some mystery floor and you have the second act of a bad romantic comedy. So I did a lot of running into elevators. There's never a dull moment with a Border Collie on board.
After a team breakfast with the rest of the Storey Authors I started exploring the fair. I walked through the ALBC tents first, to meet the animals who had come along with their farmers on exhibit. There were sheep, llamas, goats, alpacas, chickens, cows, geese and pigs inside that space along with booths to ask any question you wanted about everything from milking techniques to bacon yields. I spent most of my time eyeing a flock of beautiful Leicester Longwools from West Virginia and left with a naturally colored gray ball of roving to try out on my wheel when I got home.
Since I already dropped fifteen dollars, I decided to spend another ten and then call it quits for the day. I got six bags of seeds from Southern Seed Exchange (who was running a special) and pocketed them like magical golden tickets in a chocolate bar. Out of all the things I could buy at the fair—and there was everything from tee shirts to llamas— I was thrilled about a winter harvest of kale, hearty lettuce, and other greens. I think this means I'm growing up.
Shopping done I made my way to the indoor conference room where, believe it or not, eight chickens were going to die in front of 600 people. If that sounds a little horrific or exploitive, it wasn't. This was a demonstration of chicken harvesting equipment and a detailed instruction from Joel Salatin. For those who know me, you know that hearing Joel speak (Even about chicken guts) is a treat and an honor. I look up to that man, very much so. And I wasn't alone in my admiration either, there were literally hundreds of people, from little kids to a few elderly Amish couples listening in on the best ways to process their birds. Everyone had baited breath...
Four Cornish Crosses and four Freedom Rangers were slaughtered quickly and without fuss in an 8-cone, wheel of killing cones. From there they went through some Cadilac scalding and defeathering aparati and were then handed to Joel, who could clean them perfectly in under 30 seconds. I took mental and physical notes and considered the whole workshop a success. The fact that everyone was more interested in actually learning about harvesting the animals and no one was there for the shock value or protest was a huge jump in the DIY community's mindset to me. This is progress, when we can talk about preparing dinner without writhing in our seats worried about the fact an animal had to die so we can eat hot wings. Of course an animal had to die. And the people at the event were not interested in the politics or argument as much as the most humane and ethical ways of going from chick to chicken sandwich. I applaud the whole fair for pulling it off. And Joel made it all seem possible, easy, and was vastly entertaining on stage.
After Joel's talk I met up with Brett and some CAF readers. Meredith and her friend Tara were there, along with some interns from Polyface that were rooming with her outside of Seven Springs. This is one of my favorite things about the MEN fair, it's meeting up with readers in person. Comments and emails are wonderful, but actually having someone show up for a workshop in person at my home or at the fair is the bee's knees.
By this point the Fair was in full swing. At least 20,000 people were milling around, shopping and absorbing classes and workshops all over. It wasn't even lunch yet and the place was swarming with eager people clammoring to take the Urban Beekeeping or Emergency Prepping workshops. Indoor classes abounded, outdoor demos and tent talks lit up the atmosphere. It was like a crunchy Southern Tent Revival, only you know, with alpacas. Brett and I were overwhelmed and headed inside to the conference center area. There was a HUGE gymnasium-sized book store set up and walkways of vendors and more conference areas. Brett and I both wanted to hear a local teacher (local to us in Veryork, not PA) from Green Mountain College talk about common homesteading mistakes. His talk was so packed we sat on the floor between rows of chairs. I could not believe the crowds, even compared to last year.
I think this self-reliance thing is catching on....
More later! I'll write about my talks, people I met, the keynote and sitting next to Temple Grandin for dinner! It was AMAZING!
P.S. I am announcing a spring Herbalism 101 workshop for April later today, taught by a trained herbalist and good friend, author and television personality, Kathy Harrison!
P.P.S. People have asked me about the text ads on the site and if they click on them does CAF get money? The answer is yes, that is how it works. You can click them or ignore them, that's your call.
P.P.P.S. Also announcing a garlic seed giveaway tonight from Annie's Seeds! This blog is ON FIRE people!