Monday, April 30, 2012

Flowers! Or, Wine Labels!

It isn't raining tonight, but I will take this opportunity, as April turns to May, to share some flowers. At Grandma's outside:
And inside, lilies from church:
And gorgeous roses sent for her birthday:

And back home, a sprig of lilac:

What, not in a flowery mood? How about wine labels? Perhaps because I don't drink, I find wine labels almost endlessly amusing. Remember this before you ask me to stop at a liquor store with you, because the camera will be coming out, and I'll be giggling.

I mean, come on. Toasted Head? And a bear breathing fire?
If I drink this, will I truly Be Radiant?
Is this like, "I bought a box of wine?"
I bet they wanted to call it Chill, but that sounded like an instruction. Do you even chill rieslings?
I'd rather actually have cake.
Pretty colors!
They're all conundrums to me, quite frankly.
Well, there you have it. Welcome May!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sheep! And Other Things. But Mostly Sheep!

Apparently fresh air + sunshine is my kryptonite, as I was much too tired after spending the afternoon at the Sheepshearing Festival at Gore Place yesterday to post here. Or maybe Glee is my kryptonite, as I'm currently working through the first season* (on dvd from the library). Or maybe it's the combination. Whatever the reason, here I am a day later, having forced myself to turn the TV off so I can share many sheep and shearing pictures with you. Aren't you lucky?
*It's great fun, in a suspend-your-disbelief kind of way, and it's very addictive. I'm about 2/3 through season one, and will report my thoughts after I get through the rest. It won't be long.

First, though, I do want to mention a hockey thing: TSN had a half-hour show* on the top 25 bloopers of the NHL season. It's pretty awesome; if you're a hockey fan, it's really worth the time.
*Canada's love of--and respect for--hockey almost outweighs its winters, when I think of places to live. Almost.

Now! Sheep! As a pun-loving friend of mine said of my day, "Sheep thrills," and that was the day for me. Although, can I start with something non-sheep-related? Look at these guys:
Cute, right? See the sign behind them? "Alpacas of..."?

Apparently that sign, and the fact that they were in the clearly-labeled "alpaca tent", were facts lost on the woman next to me, who kept saying, "Hi, llamas! Hi, llamas!" I mean, I admit I can't always tell which is which*, but the signs were kind of a big hint.
*Unscientifically, I think the llamas are always taller, though, and they have a look in their eye that does hint about their tendency to spit.

In another point of confusion, I feel I have lost perspective of the non-knitterly point of view, so those of you who don't knit, tell me this: Would you refer to what is sheared off a sheep as fur? I heard it called that more than once, and was puzzled. Is the term fleece a jargon one that I have unconsciously assimilated? What about fiber? I think I'm in too deeply to see this issue clearly. Not that that bothers me! I just would have thought that attending a sheepshearing festival would indicate a little more interest in the specifics. But no reason they have to know about it to come see it, I suppose.

Onward! Let's get some other non-sheep pictures out of the way. This guy, for instance, was very sweet.
As were the lilacs! My mother was so pleased to have arrived in their season. We both love the smell.
It was a beautiful day. Slightly chilly in the shade, or when the breeze picked up, but almost completely sunny, and if you were out of the breeze, it was marvelous. I kept my jacket on, but unzipped, and usually wore my scarf as well, but was okay without gloves, which would tell me more about how the temperature felt than numbers would.

In the house, they had a lace-making display that was frankly stunning.

I didn't learn much, as the woman was thoroughly explaining to others the best way to learn (which was her way, I suspect), but it sure was something to see.

Also to see, in the same room, for some reason, a chicken display.
I don't really have anything more to say about that. Some things just require a picture.

The sheep shearing was in two tents, one for the electric shearing and one for the old-fashioned way.

The electric team had a good sense of humor:
And both men there were friendly and informative.

The shears are a little scary:
Though I suppose no more so than the others:
And he sharpened them between sheep. Wicked.

They had a few sheep penned in waiting, and one was a mother with her 6-week-old. Baby wanted mama.
Staying close.

Now look at the set-up for the electric shearing: a square of plywood on the ground. Okay, technically a rectangle.
One was certainly close to the action, but everyone wanted to be close, and it was a bit claustrophobic for me. In particular, there was a girl of perhaps ten who pushed around me, back and forth, this side and that, before the shearing started and after, and when I was ready to smack her, I moved away. It was certainly neat to watch an expert at work, just too close for me.
In contrast to this set-up, the hand-shearer had an enclosure much larger, but one could see more clearly, and there was less pushing and shoving along the pen "walls". More civilized.

The sheep waited to one side, in a sub-pen.
Can you guess who had already had her turn?
We might be nervous...if we could see what was coming.
The sheep was so relaxed during this process that a little girl near me asked her mother if it was dead.
Whether it's because he's so experienced, or whether they sedate the animals, I couldn't say, but these sheep were relaxed. I came along in the middle of this one:
And I swear the sheep was enjoying it.
No fight at all.
It's blurry, but see that smile?
Coming down to the end...
And before long the sheep is back in the pen, 10-15 pounds lighter, and the fleece is on the ground, waiting to be bagged and sold (only $20, what a bargain!).
I patted this one's back, and was frankly amazed at the lanolin-y feel. It's one thing to know they have lanolin in the fleece, but feeling it was something else.

I caught the beginning of another sheep's session, and learned that they start with a manicure. She seems happy about it.
And then it began again.
And she's still smiling. Amazing.

I also don't know how he can stand bent over like that. I swear the blood was rushing to my head in sympathy. The pros may shear quickly, but though he was wasting no time, it took a while.

Even the Nutcracker was interested.
I know, I know, not a nutcracker. But from that angle... No, they had re-enactors at the festival. I saw them parading:
And playing music, which I quite enjoyed:
There was a whole little area of them, doing historically accurate things, including "shooting".
When the leader yelled fire, they aimed, and a group behind them shouted, "Bang!" Meanwhile, the shoppers down the hill paid no attention. Slightly surreal.

Later, I noticed a pair wander away from the area for a rest. I suppose in the official area, one can't check one's phone.
Or let one's hair down, so to speak.

Though it seems you can play the violin:

Or nap.

There were refreshments available, and mid-afternoon I bought strawberries and sat in the sun eating them.
They were pretty darn good, as well as the most healthy thing I ate there. (Soft pretzel and ice-cream cone being the others.)

And it left me with a box to put something in.
Can you believe the crimp? That texture amazes me. There were bits blowing around, so I brought a few home to play with. (They are, as you can imagine, not exactly clean, so the box was handy.)
Someone was VERY interested in the smell, which is sheepy as well as a little ... farm-like. After I'd picked the bits up, I had used an anti-bacterial wipe, but judging by the cats' reaction to my hand, it didn't get all the good stuff off. (I washed my hands pretty thoroughly at that point, as you might imagine.)

He showed no interest in the other thing I brought home, but that's nothing new, and to be honest, I don't encourage him to be interested in yarn, however pretty.
It's hardly in my best interest to have him noticing the yarn, as from there it's a short step to playing with. No, thank you! This is a skein from Mind's Eye in Cambridge, whose yarns I haven't tried yet, and it feels so nice. They had so many beautiful colors, it was hard to choose.

I did NOT buy yarn at the next booth, though it was lovely too. My first reason was that none of the colors spoke to me, and my second reason was that I picked up a skein and noticed that it was $75. Not even a big skein! Whew. She did lovely work, and the crafter is worthy of her hire and all that, but whew.

One final note to the summary of this very good day. When I sat on the grass before I got the strawberries, I was (of course) knitting. This is the sock, you may remember:
I'm working on the foot. A woman stopped to talk to me, and asked if I'd bought the yarn there. I suppose there are knitters who could make most of a sock in four hours, though I'm not one of them. I said no, but that I did buy some yarn there, so it would be socks soon, and I pulled it out of my bag to show her. She then asked if I'd made the socks I was wearing, and I said yes, because I did. Remember these?
And she commended me on my taste in yarns, and walked on. So tell me: What do those three yarns have in common? I mean, I like them all, but other than that?