On Monday morning a group of 25 strangers gathered in front of the lambing barn at the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center. “If you survive the week, you'll be in a rare group” commented John Harper, Livestock and Natural Resources Advisor to the class. This heralds the beginning of the sheep shearing school, an intensive week long class, which is so eagerly anticipated that space on the class was filled in just 6 minutes from the opening of online registration.
The participants are varied and have traveled from as far afield as Washington, Virginia and Texas. As they introduce themselves they explain their motivations for joining this class and a common theme begins to emerge “there's just no one else to shear my sheep”. Many of the participants work with smaller sheep flocks and it is not economical to employ traveling shearers, used to shearing flocks or hundreds or thousands, for just a few sheep. These small flocks are increasing across Mendocino County and the need for qualified shearers who are sympathetic to the needs of small producers is high. The group mix might surprise some, with over 20 female participants and number of the group using vacation from their “day job” to attend this class including a tax accountant, fashion designer, environmental restoration consultant and an art gallery manager. During the introduction it is made clear to all that shearing is not as easy task “a full day of shearing is equivalent to running a marathon” completed Harper as he led the class into the barn to get started.
“One of my favorite things about this school is the range of people who are brought together for such an intensive experience” commented Hannah Bird, HREC community educator. “At the end of the week you always see such pride in their achievement, and the possibility of a new economic string to their bow, we're proud to see that being expressed in our community through Matt Gilbert and his family, a past shearing school participant who has now opened Mendocino Wool and Fiber, our local wool mill”.
Alongside a renewed interest in keeping small flocks of sheep, there has also been increased practice of fiber arts such as knitting and felting in the last 20 years, particularly amongst millennials. Celebrity knitters such as Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz might be partly responsible, but the many qualities of wool as a fiber are greatly appreciated by local spinners, knitters and artists.
To get a taste of the entire process from sheep to scarf, HREC invites the community to their 3rd annual Barn to Yarn celebration on Saturday, May 13th. There will be displays and demonstrations from herding sheep with a sheepdog, performed by Kevin Owens from the Redwood Empire Sheepdog Association, to shearing, knitting, felting, spinning and weaving.
“Our amazing team of experts and volunteers will help attendees at Barn to Yarn to try their hand at working with wool – this is such a great day for all the family from kids to the committed fiber artist. We'll even be creating a beautiful shawl in the 5 hours of the event which will be offered at silent auction through the day. What could be a better Mother's Day present?” added Bird. Guest of honor, Jean Near (102) will be adding to the event with stories of over 100 years living in Mendocino, ranching merino sheep which are prized for their wool over many of those years.
Admission is $10 for adults, children under 12 $5. HREC asks visitors to leave their pets at home to protect the site and the sheep resident there. Bring your own picnic and all utensils; tea, coffee and water will be available. Visit http://bit.ly/BarnToYarn to find out more and purchase your ticket. Barn to Yarn will be held at the Rod Shippey Hall, 4070 University Road, Hopland, CA 95449 from 9am-2pm on May 13th. For more information contact Hannah Bird, (707) 744-1424, Ext. 105, email@example.com.
Acorns are dropping from the mighty oaks at the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center (HREC) – marking a time to celebrate the 5,358 acres of oak woodland and rangeland at the facility.
On Oct. 15 the doors to the center will open, inviting the public to join scientists and staff as they enjoy the fruits of the season with a farm-to-table luncheon, live bluegrass music and an oak-inspired silent auction. Funds from this event will support educational programming at the site.
The event offers the community the chance to learn about the research being conducted and enjoy the best in local produce.
“From 10 a.m. to 12 noon there will be optional field tours of some of our key research projects, where visitors can meet the scientists, see what tools they use and what they are learning about our environment,” said Hannah Bird, community educator at HREC.
Participants can choose from four field experiences, including large mammal wildlife research using the latest in drone technology with UC Berkeley researcher Justin Brashares to a relaxed visit in the vineyard tasting Mediterranean wine varietals with UC Cooperative Extension viticulture advisor Glenn McGourty. A stroll with the HREC director will offer a visit to the Shippey Hall, woodworking and mechanic shops, lambing barn and greenhouse to experience a slice of the diversity of research, outreach and teaching offered on the site.
A three-course luncheon runs from 12 to 3 p.m. and includes presentations from HREC director Kim Rodrigues, live bluegrass music from local band “Gibson Creek” and the silent auction.
“We've been so grateful to all those who have offered artwork, jewelry, food and oak woodland experiences for this silent auction,” Bird said. “I'm going to struggle not to bid for them all myself.”
Auction items include gorgeous oak paintings, a stunning oak table made by Ben Frey, a dinner and farm tour with Magruder Ranch and a family science adventure kit focused on our woodlands, alongside books, posters and photographs.
Funds raised at the event will support the creation of a new nature trail to Parson's Creek, which cannot currently be safely accessed during school field trips.
“We are now offering many more opportunities for the public to visit our site. More than 500 K-12 students and 2,000 community members visit annually, yet we cannot currently access the creek safely,” Rodrigues said. “This trail will open up great opportunities for riparian educational activities with our local students.”
Tickets cost $65 for adults and $15 for children.
or by calling Hannah Bird at (707) 744-1424, Ext. 105. The registration deadline is by October 11. The event will be at the Rod Shippey Hall, 4070 University Road, Hopland.
Due to the nature of the research with sheep and a commitment to using guard dogs as part of a predator control program, no dogs are allowed on UC ANR HREC for public events.
More on our speakers
Justin Brashares, Ph.D., is an associate professor at UC Berkeley in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. His focus areas include
the catastrophic global decline of biodiversity widely recognized as among the most pressing problems we face as a society. His research attempts to understand how consumption of wild animals and conversion of natural habitats affects the dynamics of animal communities and the persistence of populations. Work in his group extends beyond traditional animal conservation to consider the economic, political and cultural factors that drive and, in turn, are driven by, changes in wildlife abundance and diversity. Through these efforts, his group strives to propose empirically based, interdisciplinary strategies for biodiversity conservation.
Glenn McGourty is the UC Cooperative Extension viticulture and plant science advisor for Lake and Mendocino counties. He received a bachelor's degree in botany from Humboldt State University in 1974 and an master's degree in plant soil and water science from the University of Nevada, Reno, in 1979. McGourty joined UC Cooperative Extension in 1987, and works with winegrape growers, wineries, nurseries, landscapers and vegetable growers. Present research activities include evaluating 14 Mediterranean winegrape varieties; clonal trials of Sauvignon blanc, comparison of organic, biodynamic and conventional farming for their effects on winegrape and soil quality; and evaluation of cover crop species.
Prahlada Papper is an educator and naturalist as well as a graduate researcher at UC Berkeley in David Ackerly's ecology lab. His research at the Hopland Research and Extension Center involves the genetic and ecological diversity of California oaks. Papper doesn't really expect to find answers to the age old mysteries of oaks, but does think that by using modern tools like genome sequencing and ecological models, we can look at some of the old questions in new ways.
Kim Rodrigues, Ph.D. is the director of the Hopland Research and Extension Center. She began her UC career with Cooperative Extension in 1991 as a forestry and natural resources advisor for Humboldt and Del Norte counties. She became the county director two years later. Her research and extension activities have focused on environmental policy and engagement of the public in resolving environmental conflicts. Her experience, coupled with a great passion for HREC's 5,300 acres of oak woodland and a keen desire to reach out to the community to encourage collaboration and partnerships, offers new opportunities and exciting times at HREC./span>