For years, I’ve harbored a dream of having a couple of goats in my yard in Decatur. Pygmy goats. Nigerian dwarf dairy goats, to be exact. And more recently, I narrowed my breed choice down to Nigoras--a dual-purpose dairy and fiber cross of Nigerian dwarfs and angoras.
Do I have enough room for all of these critters—not to mention the two
dorks dogs, calico cat, and fourteen hens already living there—on my little but fierce city lot in Decatur, Georgia? Of course not. But that does not keep me from poring over books on keeping backyard goats and rabbits, studying up on Shetland sheep in the US on websites and at the Minnesota State Fair last month, and taking a class in beekeeping.
Yeah. I’m gonna need a bigger yard.
Not to mention that for all the reading and browsing and class-taking, I’m a rank beginner and am a little intimidated by the idea of taking on the care of hoofstock.
I was intimidated, that is, until the Georgia Fiber Fest a few weeks ago.
As you know, Whiskeyknitters love us a road trip. Our latest jaunt was southwest of Atlanta, to Columbus, Georgia, for this two-day gathering of fiber freaks like us for a bunch of classes and workshops on knitting, spinning, weaving, tatting–the list goes on. Who could resist?
The crew were Shannan, myself, and whiskeyknitter Mera. We had each signed up for a couple of classes at the fest, and we were looking forward to cruising the isles of vendors at the expo. I had Bessie–Mera named my spinning wheel Bessie, though I am not exactly sure why–along for the ride.
There were many wonderful things about the weekend–and we will get to some of those in a later post. But the best part of the trip was meeting Susannah, Pam, and Alison (with one L, so you can tell us apart), three farmers who live near the Augusta, Georgia, area–both on the Georgia side and the South Carolina side. Each of them has a farm individually, where they raise goats, sheep, alpacas, and more. Susannah’s farm is called Bella Luna; Alison’s is Phoenix Fiber; and Pam’s is Hard Earth.
Earlier this year the three of them joined forces to open Southern Made, a shop in Augusta where they sell their wares from their farms, hold classes, and spin, weave, and knit.
I walked into the Southern Made booth at the Fiber Fest expo, and instantly I realized that I was amongst My People. There was something about the way their merchandise looked (and smelled, because I’m me), the fact that they noticed the hand-knit shawl I was wearing, and the fact that they got all of my jokes and I got theirs that made me immediately comfortable. We chatted some, and I confessed that I had been thinking about getting a few goats for awhile, and that I’d dreamt of having a few acres of my own for sheep and such. Especially Shetland sheep.
I left the expo, met up with Shannan and Mera, and told them about my new friends. Then moments later I went back inside the Expo as it was closing and invited them to join us for dinner.
And what a dinner it was. There was some kind of motorcycle festival going on outside the pub in downtown Columbus, but I think our table–three whiskeyknitters, three farmers, and Richard, my friend from high school who manages a liquor store in Columbus and shares our fascination with excellent spirits (again, more later!)–was rowdier. We talked and laughed like we’d known each other forever. Made plans to apprentice, farm-sit, and just visit. I confessed to falling in love with a Shetland sheep at the Minnesota State Fair and trying to find photos of her on the internet (okay, yes, I am a sheep-stalker). I think someone offered me a Nigerian dwarf dairy kid somewhere in there. We talked about real estate, too. Acreage, that is.
We discussed sheep breeds–Shetlands, Jacobs, Romeldales, Cotswolds. Goat breeds–angoras, Nigerian dwarf dairies, pygoras. Alpacas–suris and huacayas. Birthing positions of said livestock and what you have to do (believe me, it’s slippery and slimy and probably smells pretty bad). Lamb castration–at which point Richard turned a little pale and assumed the protective position, bless his heart.
The next day I returned to the Southern Made booth at the festival and stocked up–goat’s milk soap, woolly dryer balls, some mohair roving, a book titled The Fleece and Fiber Source Book, and a hilarious little ornament I have named Stinky Bob. He hangs in my kitchen, and when I need to smell farm, I bury my nose in his fleece. I love Stinky Bob.
While Shannan and Mera were in classes in the afternoon, I sat in the Southern Made booth and worked at Bessie (new mad spinning skillz, thanks to the class I had taken the day before); chatted some more with Pam, Alison, and Susannah; and occasionally even answered visitors’ questions like I knew what I was talking about. Sometimes we just sat there and enjoyed a quiet spell. I think that was when I knew we really would be friends for a long, long time.
Shannan and Mera drifted in as their classes ended, and we all hung out some more. Mera tried her hand at the drop spindle kit she bought in the booth. At the end of the day, as we were all packing up to head home, we hugged, took group pictures, exchanged contact info, found one another on Facebook, and made promises to visit–and in fact we now have a date for another Whiskeyknitters’ road trip to the Augusta area in December.
A few days later, a box arrived at my doorstep. I opened it to find two delicious bags of Shetland sheep roving from Alison, along with a note: “I figured if you were going to stalk a Shetland sheep, you may as well spin some Shetland.”
I’m so grateful to have these new
enablers friends in my life. With their wisdom and guidance, my future fiber farm seems more possible every day.