Devoted Tolkien fans will recognise “Flies and Spiders” as the title of the chapter of The Hobbit wherein Bilbo and the dwarfs enter the dismal forest Mirkwood on their way to reclaim their hoard of gold from the dragon Smaug. In Mirkwood, the flies are a nuisance, but the spiders are a fatal menace. This season in Tasmania, the roles are reversed.
Life on the farm was pretty intense all winter, and particularly so after my trip in July. As I finally sit down to write this, shearing has come and gone and four tiny cygnets are swimming with their parents on a much-depleted Swan Lake. I’ll give you the shearing and end-of-winter shepherding report in the next Yarn, hopefully fairly soon. Meanwhile, here is the belated trip report.
If over the last few months I’ve given you the impression that growing White Gum wool is all sweetness and light, November was certainly a counterpoint. It was a tough month, and December followed suit. The refrain has been “desperately dry”—we have had only 60% of our annual average rainfall, and our official 12-month rainfall deficit is sitting in the “severe” category.
Last austral spring, my lovely, talented friend Anne Downie (retired woolgrower and textile craftie extraordinaire) knitted a pair of socks from White Gum Wool 4-ply for her son Peter. Peter was headed for a walking trip in Bhutan, something he’d wanted to do for years, and he was delighted with his socks. (Bhutan, by the way, is a country worth paying attention to: any place that worries more about Gross National Happiness than Gross National Product is on the right track as far as I’m concerned.)
One of the best things about going feet-first into the yarn business, and one I didn’t anticipate at all, is getting to know and work with a wide range of talented, creative, determined independent fibre artists: indie pattern designers, hand-dyers, knitters and shop owners who are artists in their own right. I’ve been in awe of the spectrum of ability and the passion for fibre encompassed by the women I’ve met so far.
From my all-time favourite Dr Seuss, The Sleep Book, comes the following character:
A Jedd is in bed, and the bed of a Jedd
Is the softest of beds in the world it is said.
He makes it from pompoms he grows on his head.
And he’s sleeping right now, on the softest of fluff,
Completely exhausted from growing the stuff.
The softest of fluff—and unlike the Jedd, there’s just a bit more to it than piling up the pompoms to sleep on. In honour of all the knitters who’ve recently subscribed to Yarns, I thought I might tell you the little bit I know about how to go from pompoms to knitting wool.
This is not a "proper" Yarn, just a quick note to let you know that ABC Landline is running a segment on my farm and White Gum Wool yarn this coming Sunday, November 24th. The program starts at 12 noon, EDT. It can also be accessed for the following couple of weeks through http://abc.net.au/iview if you go to All Programs, then ABC1 and look for Landline.
In other news, Rangelands Journal in the US has recently published a paper by Fred Provenza and others (including me) entitled Complex Creative Systems. While formally technical, it is an easy read, and gives a good overview of what the nutritional wisdom concept is all about, and how people like me are putting it into practice. Here's the pdf file: Complex Creative Systems, which you can also find on the website under Science, Technical Papers.
Just to let you know, Felix, Clara and Sabrina are doing fine, and have been joined by Vicky-Victoria and Georgie-girl. The names, in case you are wondering, just come to me out of the ether. Actually, I got Vicky's name wrong--tried calling her Lizzie, but it just didn't stick.
And the last bit of news is that the new colours in the 8- and 4-ply yarns are here! The boucle won't make it until sometime in December- it still hasn't left NZ.
Oh, and if you've missed earlier Yarns from the Farm, you can find them all on the website--just click on the last menu item on the home page--Yarns from the Farm.