Sunday, May 6, 2012

Why I like farmers and neighbors

I've recently read the speech given by Wendell Berry for the 2012 Jefferson Lecture for the National Endowment for the Humanities. Have you read it? No? Then you can do so here. Grab some tea and get comfortable. It's long and worth every word. In it, he espouses the importance and necessity of rooted living, of affection for the land, and story. It's really gotten me thinking about community, and of course, about art. I think one of the things that draws me to feltmaking is its connection to land, animals, and the lifestyle that supports it. Shepherds mean a lot to me. However, many times I have no connection to the person who raised the sheep whose wool I use. They often are in New Zealand or Australia, land of merino.
 So, in an effort to connect more to those who inhabit my community, I've made my second visit to Old Pine Farm on the outskirts of Ann Arbor. It's really a special place. They do an excellent job making sure their animals are well cared for, enjoy grass and fresh air, and are ethically treated. Kris, who owns the farm, just happens to have sheep of my favorite variety: Navajo Churro. These are such amazing beasts, sporting many, many horns and looking absolutely feral. The Navajo Churro is one of the very first sheep brought to the new world, are super hardy, and factor importantly to the Navajo people's spiritual life. They are considered"threatened" by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.  I was lucky enough to have first pick of her fleeces after her animals were sheared. I have more than enough to keep me busy for the next couple months with this great long wool!

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