Monday, September 13, 2010

The Garden State Sheep and Wool Festival

With fall in the air and sweater weather fast approaching, I’ve had a hankering lately to find a good, local sheep and wool festival and spend a whole day around farm animals, farmers and handspun yarn. Of course the biggest and most famous festival in the NJ/NY area is Rhinebeck, but seeing as this was a spur-of-the-moment hankering I was not prepared to drive six hours and spend the night up in NY state, not to mention finding a pet-friendly hotel, asking off from work and loading up the family for a weekend trip. Rhinebeck happens in October like most sheep and wool festivals I’ve been to, and I’d LOVE to go there someday (road trip next year Mom?), but I found that New Jersey has it’s very own sheep and wool festival too, and it took place this past weekend.

The Garden State Sheep and Wool Festival is held each year in Ringoes, NJ at the Hunterdon County Fair Grounds, which is only an hour from our Bayonne home.

So we headed out there on Sunday, and boy was it a beautiful drive! Hunterdon County, NJ has some gorgeous farmland and some beautiful Victorian homes. It reminded us very much of TN. Each time we visit these little Jersey country towns, the desire to move to the country builds and builds. We’d be living there right now if we could afford it.

Mr. S was very excited about seeing sheep and goats and alpacas, but he kept calling it the sheep and wolf festival, and so he was disappointed to not see wolves there, even though I explained that sheep and wolves are not friends.

We saw all kinds of pretty sheep and goats:

But the guy who stole the show was this Jacob Sheep. Jacob Sheep have four horns and are a beautiful animal. This one was the handsomest one we saw:

This is my fourth sheep and wool festival (and the smallest, most local one I’ve been to). Each time I’ve attended these festivals I’ve enjoyed the seeing the alpacas and watching the sheep dog show the most. This festival was no exception. There were gorgeous alpacas there, including this little one:

Mom and babe:

The sheep dog show was nice too. We watched two Border Collies working together to herd ducks through tunnels and into pens.

We also watched a sheep shearing demonstration, and learned all kinds of techniques for getting our sheep to be still and calm, should we ever have sheep. We learned that as long as a sheep has all four feet off the ground they believe they can’t get up and won’t even try it.

Of course the other big reason to go to a sheep and wool festival is the yarn and roving. All of the booths here were stuffed with handspun, hand-dyed yarn and usually staffed by the same farmers who raised and sheared the sheep (or alpaca or rabbit or what have you), dyed the wool and spun it into yarn.

I came away with some beautiful cream wool, some orange wool (purchased only because the color reminds me of TN), and, my favorite, a charcoal gray alpaca/merino blend, which the farmer told me came from an alpaca named Paden and showed me his photo. This particular score will become a winter hat for Mr. T this season.

Getting away to the country and smelling the smells of the barnyard was just what we needed. It reminded us of home and reminded T of his childhood and spending time with his grandfather. I wish we could get away like this every weekend.

Now I’ve got a hankering to visit a county or state fair, since fair season is upon us. T and I are dreaming of funnel cakes, Ferris Wheels and blue ribbon livestock. Hopefully we can find a good fair in our area soon. In the meantime, there’s a small carnival down the street from us that opens this weekend, and since my parents will be up for a visit you can be sure we’ll be there.

1 comment:

Mary said...

Love the pics and the description. I laughed out loud when I read about Seamus's disappointment that no wolves were there! Can't wait to see you!

Love you,

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