Sunday, August 16, 2009

Michigan Fiber Festival (2009): Animals

While some of us prefer to buy our wool off the animal, some prefer to go right to the source. There were a number of local alpaca, sheep, and goat farmers with animals to show, register, and even sell. The person I bummed a ride off of was looking for something but didn't end up finding anything quite to her liking.

Viewing the animals was a lot like going to the fair, but with only animals that were good for fiber.

First thing we happened on was a herding dog demonstration by Tim Curts of Crowded Byre Farm. He was working with a dog that was good at most of the skills but didn't work too hard to be perfect. He kept Tim on his toes.
They had a very sweet border collie he was giving away because it just couldn't learn sheep herding. Amy had a hard time letting it go. (She couldn't take a second dog...and don't look at me! I'm not getting one.)

There were a slew of angora rabbits (mostly white) from a breeder in St Louis. (Not quite local, but it's a bit easier to pack and cart a bunch of rabbits than the larger animals!) They were big, and then looked twice as big because of the fluff factor. This one was having its fur combed out. (I guess you could also think of it as "harvesting" the fur.)
Most were going for about $100; large males were $125.

There were about half a dozen pens with alpaca. Unfortunately they were all shorn so I didn't get to admire their locks.
They all appeared pretty friendly (if a little shy). There were several in this beautiful caramel colour. And their "mop top" hairdos are completely endearing. (These were going for $400 each, if you're curious.)

There were a lot of varieties of goats. I made no effort to keep them straight. This one was quite an individual. Not afraid of the camera and in fact appeared to be preening and posing.
You can tell she's thinking, "That's right...I look goood."

We caught the tail end of a judged event. (Think Westminster Dog Show.) The four little goats being shown also thought they looked pretty good. The light one in this pic acted like a little princess, but the dark one took home the prize.
From there we could see the youngest festival participants: these two kids were born just the night before!
Momma was very proud and protective, but she let us take a few pictures.

Then we got some serious hair:
Poor curly locks could hardly see!

And then some curly horns:
Coming from a commercial farming background (as opposed to hobby farming) where we had one type of chicken (the most common layers), Angus cows for meat, the most common sheep variety, and friends had only Holsteins, etc., it's very interesting to go to a gathering like this and see just how many varieties are available. But of course, what type you get is determined by what you need. (My parents, for instance, had no need for a long-haired goat.)

I still had no yearning to get one for myself. (Thank goodness.) It was a little more exciting to think that my ride might take one home in the back of her truck. But she was in no rush and saw no bargains or must-haves.

And now, before I sign off, let me remind you of the final National Geographic page where they show one great picture that for some reason just didn't quite make it into one of the stories included in the magazine. It didn't fit with the article, but they can't not print it. With that in mind, I give you my bulgy-eyed sheep:
He moved a little and blurred my picture, but I still can't resist showing him off. (And no, he's not scared, he's just bulgy-eyed!)

Hope you've enjoyed the post; not a lot of info, but I hope the pictures let you experience some of the animal fun I had. Well, I guess I have one tip that I learned from a sheep owner: think "cat," not "dog" while petting a sheep. That is to say, pet down the side of the neck, or behind the back of the head; not on the nose.

Now you know for the next time you meet a sheep and want to say hi correctly.


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  2. I'm glad to hear you're reading along, Betty. I would appreciate it if you didn't advertise other sites without asking me first.

    Thanks for reading!


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