- Author: Hannah Bird
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, email@example.com.
- Author: Hannah Bird
A little late in the month, but here is our August newsletter!
And more about our upcoming "Hopland Hikes" event:
"Over 5,300 acres of oak woodland, chaparral and rangeland will be opened up on Saturday, September 12th from 10am-12pm for a guided public hike at the Hopland Research and Extension Center. Dr. Kim Rodrigues the Center Director will guide visitors on a 2 hour hike and share some of the exciting research and education activities, how the public can get involved at the site and where bears like to bathe!
This black bear has been captured on trail camera, enjoying a break in one of the water troughs at HREC, during a study conducted by Dr. Justin Brashares which examines how wildlife movement is affected by fencing.
“The Hopland Research and Extension Center (HREC) is one of 9 centers across the state owned by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources division. This is a great opportunity for the public to visit the site and learn about the important research that has been conducted here over the last 60 years. Research projects have encompassed many different disciplines ranging from Dr. Bob Lane's groundbreaking research into Lyme disease and other tick borne diseases to Dr. Donna Gillette's work on ancient petroglyph style markings on the site, found to be over 5000 years old! This is a great opportunity for the public to visit this beautiful property, we are also hoping to build a community of docents to help run these hikes on a monthly basis in 2016. There is so much to see on the site we can't cover it all in just one hike!” Commented Hannah Bird, Community Educator at HREC.
Participants are encouraged to wear clothing suitable for hiking whatever the weather and to bring a water bottle. Hikes will take place on roads or trails – but terrain may be steep and uneven at times. No dogs are allowed on the hike due to the presence of guard animals on the site used for sheep protection.
Those who would like to share a potluck lunch after the hike are encouraged to bring along plates, utensils, cups and an item of food to share.
This is a free event but participants are encouraged to sign up in advance at: http://ow.ly/R9BJo . Hikers will meet at the Rod Shippey Hall, 4070 University Road, Hopland CA 95449 at 10am on Saturday, September 12th. For more information contact Hannah Bird, (707) 744-1424, Ext. 105, firstname.lastname@example.org.