24 June 2008

A really super cool birthday gift

A couple of days ago, I recieved a parcel in the mail from my sister, who lives in Lithuania. Inside was a plastic bag filled with raw sheep's wool, and a postcard from Ireland, inscribed very simply "Happy Birthday".

Surely something was missing.

Where was the story?

I mean ... I knew she and her husband had gone back to Lithuania from Canada via Ireland ... and I knew there were sheep in Ireland ... but ... that's just not enough pieces to build a cohesive narrative.

Today, I got an email from my sister with the rest of the tale:

Yup, there's a story! It was supposed to be accompanied by pictures, but we have searched all of our memory cards and can't find the photos from our stop. I was really* hoping we'd find them, but it looks like something went wrong (like, just maybe there wasn't a memory card in the camera at the time - oops!).

So...I had really really wanted to bring you some Lithuanian fleece for your birthday when we came to Canada. I hunted and hunted (and hunted), but couldn't find any, or anyone who could tell me where to find some. Most of the sheep places are further to the east, and without a car and a grip on Lithuanian agricultural language, it was impossible to work something out. Anyway, my second option was to find some fleece in Ireland. This seemed at least linguistically manageable, so as soon as we were off the plane, I started looking for places. I did some asking around, and a nice lady at a woolens shop suggested that I ask a sheep farmer.

While we were driving around the winding back roads of Ireland, we passed a big sheep farm, and I made Nathan turn the car around and go back (not easy on those one-lane, skinny roads!). It looked like the kind of place that raises sheep for a living - lots of big sheds, and tons of pasture. I went up to the front door and knocked, waited, and knocked some more, but no one came. I was sooooo disappointed, but I think Nathan was relieved. "Are you seriously going to ring their doorbell and ask them for fleece?" Hey - I was on a mission.

The next evening, while we were headed out for supper from the castle tower, we drove around yet another bend in the road, and lo-and-behold...there were two kids and two guys out wrangling sheep and doing the shearing! There was a small dip at the edge of the road, so I told Nathan to quickly pull over. We got out of the car, and I ran across the road to the fence where the guys were working. The older guy, who I think was the owner, was directing sheep traffic and watching as the other guy wrestled the sheep and sheared them. They were inside a small fenced area, and he had the electric clippers hooked up to a tall metal rigging. The owner guy was super friendly, and said "hello" even while I was on my way over. I said "hi" and asked how the shearing was going. They had just gotten started, and the worker guy was fighting to keep the sheep he was shearing on it's back. I told the owner guy that I had a weird question, and wanted to know if he had any fleece for sale. I told him that my sister in Canada has a few sheep and does her own carding and spinning. He hardly even blinked, and just said "oh, sure" and walked over to the fleece that was piling up as it came off the sheep the shearing guy was holding. He scooped up a handful, then wrapped it around a few times until he had a bunch, came back to me and said, "is that good?" It was *fresh* off the sheep - I saw those bits come off! I asked him how much, but he just said "bah" and waved me away. We watched the sheaing for a few more minutes, and they smiled for the camera (man, I wish those had worked out!). The sheaing guy had a big grin on his face the whole time - I think he was getting a kick out of it, and he was super nice to us. The owner guy told me they were Suffolk sheep, and the farm was just outside of Navan, Ireland. The area was beautiful, with rolling green hills, and lush trees bending in archways over the road. I'm pretty sure those were some very happy sheep!

Anyway, that is what I was determined to get you for your birthday, and I am sooooo glad that it made it to you! We mailed it from a little post office on the edge of Dublin (also no easy feat - traffic in Ireland is crazy!). I saw the post office, and yelled "stop!" I had my Tim Horton's cup in my hand (did I tell you we found a Tim Horton's coffee-from-a-machine place at a gas station outside Dublin? Too cool!), we parked illegally at the gas station, ran across the road, stole a box from the stack of unpacking that the lady at the convenience store was doing (well, I think she was tossing them anyway), bought a role of tape, and packed it up on the floor of this little convenience store/post-office place. We smelled like sheep, but it was worth it!

Hope you enjoy your fleece - we had fun getting it!

Now isn't that quite the story?

My sister is a stunningly talented writer. She is also stubborn and determined to accomplish what she sets her mind to ... and how lucky for me that this time, she set her mind to acquiring European fleece for me to spin!

I have already washed, carded and spun some of the wool. It's delightfully crimpy, and is working up into a lovely midweight yarn. I think I'll make it into something with Aran cables. After all, it's Irish wool!


1 comment:

  1. What a COOL gift!!!! Hope you have fun making something neat & special with it!!



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