From the Barn to the Yarn in Hopland
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 4 minutes from the opening of online registration.
The participants are varied and have traveled from all over the USA. 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 travelling shearers, used to shearing flocks of 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 a number of the group using vacation from their “day job” to attend this class including a hair dresser looking to expand her scope. 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” concluded 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 4th annual Barn to Yarn celebration on Saturday, May 12th. There will be displays and demonstrations including herding sheep with a sheepdog (performed by Tom Trent from the Redwood Empire Sheepdog Association), shearing, knitting, felting, spinning and weaving.
“Our amazing team of experts and volunteers will help attendees at Barn to Yarn to try their hand 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 during 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 (103) 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. Matthew Topsfield brings rare knitting skills all the way from the Outer Hebrides of Scotland which he will share with attendees who might enjoy making a “fisherman's gansey”.
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/BarntoYarn2018 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-3pm on May 12th. For more information contact Hannah Bird, (707) 744-1424, Ext. 105, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spring is here, flowers are blooming and wildlife abounds. The UC Hopland Research and Extension Center (HREC) is inviting the community to join NatureFest on April 27 and 28 to revel in the joys of the outdoors!
NatureFest brings together scientists, researchers and the community in a variety of experiences to enjoy the biodiversity found in the oak woodlands of Northern California. The celebration will begin with a delicious locally sourced dinner and the talk “Bear Essential? The Past, Present, and Potential Future of Grizzlies in California” by Dr. Peter Alagona, author and associate professor at UC Santa Barbara on April 27. Activities will continue bright and early on April 28 with the opportunity to join bird watching hikes with Peregrine Audubon Society and to explore the leaf litter of the woodlands in the search for scorpions with Dr. Lauren Esposito of the California Academy of Sciences. From 11am-3pm on the 28th scientists, naturalists, volunteers and community members of all ages are encouraged to join the “Bioblitz for All” in search of new species.
“The concept of a bioblitz is to connect researchers, experts and all members of the community in a combined effort to survey a specific piece of land over a set period of time,” said Hannah Bird, HREC community educator. “In our case we will be hiking a beautiful trail on the University of California owned property taking us into oak woodland, through creeks and across grasslands. Experts and naturalists will help us search for and identify critters, we'll then record them using a cell phone app called iNaturalist. Using tools like iNaturalist, which link us with a community of experts, allows us all to become citizen scientists,” Bird said. “Researchers only have so many pairs of eyes. Observations of species can be magnified greatly when the public get involved and submit their findings through an online platform.”
At 2:30pm, as the Bioblitz draws to a close participants are encouraged to join John Griffith of the California Conservation Corps for the bioblitz dance, this dance has become a social media sensation and every participant is welcome to bring their own personal dance moves to add to the event.
Folk musicians The Real Sarahs and Gwyneth Moreland will help attendees to relax after a day in nature with organic harmonies that enchant and uplift the spirit from 3-5pm. These singer-songwriters create magic with voices in harmony, acoustic instruments, and the energetic connection between artists and audience. With a breadth of influences, you are likely to hear threads of folk, jazz, blues, and country running through their songs.
Visitors are encouraged to join any or all of the events during the weekend. The events are suitable for a wide range of ages and experiences. Photographers will have an opportunity to display their skills during a competition for the best pictures taken during the weekend. Prizes will be given not only for the best pictures of wildlife but also for pictures that express the wonder and awe of nature.
“We hope that NatureFest will include all those who enjoy getting outdoors and observing nature – from the roly poly researching toddler to the keen gardener, hiker or aspiring teen wildlife biologist,” Bird said.
Tickets prices vary from $5-$60 for the different events, all prices are listed at http://bit.ly/NatureFest2018. Registration in advance is encouraged, all tickets are $5 more on the door. April 23rd is the deadline to register for the Friday April 27 dinner. Registration can be made online or by calling Hannah Bird at (707) 744-1424, Ext. 105. All events will begin at the Rod Shippey Hall, 4070 University Road, Hopland. NatureFest is supported by Charlie and Joan Kelly, VisitMendocino, Peregrine Audubon Society, 4-H, California Conservation Corps, Terra Savia, Blue Quail Wine and The California Naturalist Program.
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.
During 2017 over 3800 hours of volunteer time were offered at HREC! Our incredible volunteer team helps across all areas from citizen science on our phenology project to working with children and adults at our educational events. The California Conservation Corps also volunteer their time and enjoy learning new skills such as chainsaw safety and technique with us.
We are thrilled to welcome a number of new youth volunteers to this program at the beginning of 2018, including 16 year old Hercules Almond who comes to us with a sharp mind and wonderful way of expressing himself and the world around him, enjoy this, the first blog post from Hercules as he expresses his first experiences on our site:
"Driving up through the light mid-morning mist that envelopes the hilltops on the way to the Hopland Research and Extension Center (HREC) is ever a joyous and smile-inducing trip to undertake from my home in Hopland. While I've only begun to truly frequent it, it has always been a place that I have enjoyed venturing to immensely, with its landscape rolling at points, being steep in others, sheep spotting the various fields and pastures as the sun may begin to shine through the cloud cover and bathe it all in a warm glow.
I find myself slightly taken aback by the sheer scope of activities and goings-on that occur here… between the vast diversity of flora, the myriad of fauna that can call it home, the enormous plethora of sheep, and how the local ecosystem works in concert with the factors that contribute to its development and evolution, the entire acreage holds so much potential for all manners of research, study, and boundless expansion upon our understanding of the natural world out here and all around us.
To be completely honest, I've been ecstatic about almost everything to do with nature and the wilderness since I was a small child, fascinated by the most miniscule of insects and most gargantuan of trees at the very same time, loving nothing better than to live out away from all the noise and congestion of both cities and towns in general. I'm at peace with little but the sounds of the wind and birds surrounding me as I stand in a damp forest or on the top of a high cliff that overlooks beauty that can seldom be found elsewhere outside places such as HREC... I feel genuinely lucky to have the opportunity to volunteer here and be in the midst of working side-by-side with the remarkable individuals who devote time to helping here."
submitted by Hopland REC Director, Dr. Kim Rodrigues
Since arriving as the Director for HREC in 2013-2014, I have been committed to protecting all of the amazing resources here at the Hopland Research and Extension Center (HREC,) with a dedicated effort to saving wildlife and reducing losses of sheep. As one of the last remaining sheep research facilities and one of the largest flocks in our immediate area, the sheep are prey to coyotes and other potential predators on the landscape.
With increasing numbers of wildlife across the region, state and nation, conflicts between humans and wildlife are increasing. Our workshop at HREC on August 31, 2017 focused on living with wildlife while managing livestock, with an overarching goal to seek a shared understanding of non-lethal tools through research, implementation and education.
Over 80 participants from a diversity of backgrounds including researchers, ranchers, community members and non-profits attended. All participants experienced demonstrations of several non-lethal tools, including some exciting applications of scary devices, such as Halloween decorations, collars to protect sheep with strobe lights and canine avoidance noises built into them, fencing with an electric charge, lion proof pens and flagging attached to deter movement across the fencing and more. Many participants wanted more hands-on field time with the ranchers using these tools and HREC is working to develop this for late spring/early summer of 2018.
We explored new and emerging research with Dr. Brashares and his team only to learn that it “depends.” Everything is situational and place-based and this is a key lesson or outcome from the meeting. The situational questions asked of each rancher on the panel may help inform the choice of tools and the mix of tools to reduce losses.
We learned that there are practical barriers – such as time, money and labor, as well as scientific barriers to fully implementing non-lethal tools. Yet, one common message was to mix and match tools and vary them frequently. “Match” the tools to your specific situation(s) and mix them up over time and space frequently. Many creative ideas came up to help share tools and other resources and the concept of a lending library with non-lethal tools available to ranchers emerged as a local action HREC will explore further with our community partners.
We understand the importance of strong working relationships and diverse partnerships and we will work with the participants who were able to attend and outreach to partners, such as local agricultural commissioner and staff, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Wildlife Services to ensure we are all working together.
We learned from and valued the diverse perspectives and there was a tremendous sense of respect for all people present that allowed a dynamic and safe learning environment.
Already, HREC is moving forward with new research to better track and document the work of our large guard dogs (LGDs) as a tool to prevent losses of livestock. The concept of putting GPS collars on our dogs and tracking their movements over a variety of pasture types and sizes and landscapes is already being discussed and outlined by HREC staff and research colleagues. It is recognized that LGDs can and do kill wildlife, so they are not truly a “non-lethal” tool yet they remain one of the most important tools livestock managers rely on to protect their animals. Lethal controls are still used in combination with non-lethal tools – snares, calling, shooting – in most ranching situations but not all. Yet all ranchers shared their goals to reduce losses of both livestock and wildlife and agreed that preventing losses is the best approach in all cases.
I welcome you to visit our HREC site and you can review the amazing graphic art that captured the essence of the workshop, as well as the rancher panel interviews, the presentations and more online. Please join us for future events.
Together, we may find innovative tools and solutions and keep ranching viable in our communities to prevent further fragmentation and conversion to other uses, saving both livestock and wildlife.
In December 2016 we held our first workshop to share research and allow community conversation regarding ranching in an area rich in carnivores and the challenges that this poses. On August 31st we will be offering the follow up to this event, explaining current research efforts and the new data that has been collected on various methods of predator prevention.
We hope you can join us!
Date: August 31, 2017
Time: 9:00 AM - 3:00 PM (Registration from 8:30am)
A series of brief research updates by UC ANR and other UC colleagues will detail ongoing work in the science and history of non-lethal carnivore control. Field demonstrations will allow direct experience of traditional and emerging non-lethal tools, including fencing types, guardian dogs, turbo fladry, Foxlights and e-Shepherd collars. Facilitated dialogue among diverse participants will be integrated throughout the day's presentations including a rancher panel with representatives from the beef and lamb sector and from the coast to further inland. We look forward to hosting a range of speakers and participants, understanding new findings, building new partnerships, and moving toward solutions to manage for livestock and natural resource conservation.
This workshop promises to be of value to ranchers, agencies, non-profits, researchers and all those with an interest in tackling the challenges associated with ranching in a landscape rich in wildlife.
We hope you can join us at Hopland for this important and exciting event!
$25 per person, includes lunch.
No one turned away due to lack of funds - email email@example.com for more details
Contact: Hannah Bird (707) 744 1424 ext 105 firstname.lastname@example.org
Sponsor: Hopland Research and Extension Center/UC Berkeley
Location: Rod Shippey Hall, UC Hopland Research and Extension Center 4070 University Road, Hopland CA 95449