Friday, May 10, 2013

More Research

The manuscript I’m working on now has sheep shearing and wool spinning in it. There is a lot you can find on YouTube, but it isn’t the same as seeing something in real life. So, when I got the notice months ago about the Pierce College Farmwalk and saw that they were going to have sheep shearing and wool spinning, I was thrilled.

Pierce is a Los Angeles Community College, but what sets it apart is that it is on 400 acres and a lot of that is devoted to agriculture. It is so nice to be driving past houses and businesses and suddenly get to Pierce and see golden rolling hills with black steers grazing on them. All that open space sitting in the middle of the San Fernando Valley. The Farmwalk is an annual event where they open up the farm area to the public. I used to go when my son was small but haven’t been for years.

I got there early and it was already quite warm. I was surprised at how many people were there already, but then what a great place to take your kids on a Sunday.

It was wonderful to walk back into the campus and enter the farm area. I went past the chickens and the cows on display. I skipped the goats and kept going to the sheep area. True to their promise there were sheep and sheep shearing. I got to talk to the sheep shearer along with watching the actual shearing. I talked to spinners, both wheel and drop spindle. I fed a donkey a carrot. I pet one of the sheared sheep and got to look into his strange eyes with the horizontal iris.

I got a handful of freshly sheared wool and some that had already been washed. I learned about dying wool and preparing it for spinning.

When I was satisfied that I had all the information and pictures that I needed, I left the sheep area and went to this secret part of the farm area that is usually off limits. It’s a canyon with a pond and warnings about what to do if you run into dangerous wildlife. Luckily, I just saw a bunch of birds.

On the way back I encountered two sheriffs on horseback and got to talk to them about their jobs. You never know when that information might be useful. Further on I encountered a man who told me all about cotton and how silk was made. I had no idea they boiled the abandoned cocoons and got a fluff of fibers from them.

My last stop was at a rescue ambulance where I talked to a firefighter - paramedic. He was most generous with explaining their procedures to me. I also got to see the inside of the rig. It’s amazing how big they are.

By then, I’d been walking for two hours and it was just past noon. The sun was direct and the air was unseasonably hot (well into the 80s) and I was ready to go home.

My tufts of wool are sitting next to my computer. I have lots of photos to use to remind myself of what I saw. And I was able to add some nice little touches to my sheep shearing scene as well as describe their surroundings. Having fun and doing research - what could be better.

This was supposed to post last week, but I hit the wrong key. In the meantime I went to the Maryland Wool and Sheep Festival and saw an amazing array of sheep. I had no idea there were so many different kinds. I saw even more sheep during my trip to Mount Vernon along with a loom and spinning wheels. It's kind of cool doing research from coast to coast.

1 comment:

Linda O. Johnston said...

Pierce College does have some interesting and different programs, Betty. Your venture there sounds like a lot of fun.