Some of you may remember that last June I posted a short video of HunterGatherer, using old-fashioned hand clippers to shear Tufty’s gorgeous Shetland fleece. Well, the stunning fleece which appeared in that self-same video has been on a rather exciting journey since the day it left The Sparrowholding later that summer in the car boot of a friend of a friend, who just so happens to be a keen spinner and knitter.
As you’ll see from the (many!) photos in this blog post charting the fleece’s progress after leaving us, it was first washed to remove any grubbiness (not that our lovely sheep are particularly unhygienic, you understand, but paddock life isn’t immaculate either!).
Tufty looks a gorgeous milk chocolatey brown colour if you see her in the field, but while being washed and spun, her wool seemed to change hue slightly and in some of the photos K. kindly took, it looks almost grey.
After Tufty’s coat of many colours had been washed and allowed to dry, K. (the ‘spinning lady’) discovered that the fleece was so beautifully fine that she didn’t actually need to card (or ‘comb it out’ to you and me) it and she was able to start spinning it into yarn straight away.
Once K. had spun sufficient yarn for her intended purpose – a shawl – she got out her trusty knitting needles and began to create the gorgeous Shetland shawl which you’ll see in the photos below. HunterGatherer and I were so excited to see the end result. Doesn’t it look fab? Now who wouldn’t want to cosy up in that soft sumptuous woolliness on a chilly evening?
The 'spinning lady' spun the yarn and created the shawl with the intention of exhibiting it at the Royal Highland Show at Ingliston near Edinburgh in the summer of 2018. I’ve certainly got the date writ large in my diary and the plan is for HunterGatherer and me to go along and admire it if it is indeed one of the exhibits in the WRI tent. I might even take a photo of it home with me to show the lovely Tufty and her cheeky twins! The process that transforms it from a fluffy fleece to a finely spun yarn is slow and labour-intensive.
However, the end result is absolutely amazing, and perhaps one day either HunterGatherer or I will have to try our hand at spinning so we could create a home-spun yarn here at The Sparrowholding. Time alone will tell...
Whoosh! The past few weeks have flown by, with August already nearly over, and my great intentions to blog about my visit to Perth Show earlier this month have so far shared the fate of myriad other items on my 'to do' list, i.e. they are not yet done! However, Perth Show is such a fun family day out that it would be remiss ... or indeed jolly poor show (pun intended!)... if I couldn't find half an hour amidst the frenzy of everyday life to encapsulate the essence of this fabulous 'town-meets-country' event, which takes place each year on the first Saturday of August on Perth's gloriously green South Inch.
In our haste to get there in sufficient time to wander round the showground for a few hours before picking up SuperGran's secret 80th birthday cake (of which more anon), we cleverly forgot to visit the cash machine in Kinross to source some legal tender for the man on the entry gate, who – it transpired – wasn't armed for credit card transactions. Fortunately, the said kind gentleman advised me that I could buy a ticket online, so I hovered by the entrance on my iPhone and did the necessary. [Note to self for next year: buy online tickets the night before!]
In a previous life, I used to be a regular exhibitor at Perth Show, accompanied by my posse of pedigree Shetland ponies, so the Shetland ring was naturally one of the first places on my itinerary. Another priority, unsurprisingly, was the sheep lines, where a futile search for Shetland sheep revealed that they don't figure on the otherwise prolific list of sheep breeds at the show.
Next stop was the craft tent, where DD1 spent a happy five minutes perusing Tarrag Naegel's gorgeous equine-themed jewellery. Her eye was caught by a new line that features the characteristic farrier's nail pendant plus an additional silver nail shaped into a circle. [That's one Christmas present sorted...]
The final pit stop on our speedy show circuit was the Food and Drink tent, where I could have happily spent the rest of the day browsing the fabulous fare on offer. From gloriously decadent pink raspberry meringues from Mhor to healthy fruit protein snacks from a fabulous health food shop whose name I can't remember (please do let me know if it's you and I'll happily mention your name!), the array of stalls catered for every taste. Better still, we found HunterGatherer in a new role, assisting at the stall of an exciting local start-up, Strathearn Cider Company. DD1 tried out their medium sweet and medium dry amber apple nectar, promptly pronouncing herself to be a fan of both varieties (and she wasn't just saying that because her godmother is a co-owner of the company!!). Our attention was also taken by the Madderty Micro Flavoured Gins stand on the other side of the tent. So much choice - and all local Perthshire companies :-)
All too soon, our flying visit to the Perth Show had to come to an end, as our next destination, the Celebration Cake Station, was due to close at 3pm. A quick trip up Tay Street, along the banks of the eponymous River Tay, and we were there, eager to see how the cake I'd ordered a couple of weeks before had turned out.
As ever, we were NOT disappointed: it was a perfect, personalised cake creation to mark the occasion of SuperGran's 80th birthday! All six grandchildren, her two bridesmaids (from a few years ago...), FarmerBruv and I had each nominated an item that made us think of granny.
The items atop the resultant confection ranged from pink high heels to her old school crest, and from a sheaf of wheat (symbolising her hard-working childhood on her parents' farm) to a four-leafed clover (she had FarmerBruv and Yours Truly searching for those in hayfields for most of our childhood - excellent way to keep children occupied!). The superb birthday lunch the following day at Huntingtower Hotel was a joyous occasion, with the lovely Caroline Trotter on hand to take some stunning shots for posterity.
All in all, despite the odd (metaphorical) hiccup, August has been a pretty good month here at The Sparrowholding :-)
On Saturday morning, I was on a midge-killing mission, having witnessed the distress of FatHorse and the chocolate sheep the previous evening at the hands (or mouths) of the massed midge swarms that were filling every last cm of the night-time air here at the Sparrowholding.
Judging by the number of the wee blighters that were flying around, there must have been heaps of hatchings – possibly due to the one uncharacteristically hot day (also known as ‘summer’ in these parts) earlier in the week. Whatever the reason, the biting beasties were making life extremely uncomfortable for our girls, and I was determined to find something to thwart them.
The slight problem, in the pony’s case, is that she has a huge aversion to the smell of one of the ingredients that seems to be used in almost every insect repellent known to man: the unmistakably lemon scent of citronella. At some point in her past, she’s obviously been sprayed with citronella and it’s given her a fright, because if I even venture to the side of the fence bearing a rag that has the faintest whiff of the substance, our normally placid Highland gentlewoman is transformed into a rearing, runaway wreck.
This being the case, I was desperately seeking a substance that smelt different and worked my way painstakingly along the shelf, sniffing surreptitiously at the nozzle or lid of each bottle or jar – indeed, if I’ve been caught on CCTV, I’ll probably be on my way to an institution for deranged stockwomen as you are reading this.
Eventually, I found a couple of flying-insect repellents that didn’t seem to exude too much lemoniness, and marched purposefully towards the till. However, as I was stomping in my wellies (the one-day summer having giving way to relentless rain) past the sheep and cattle aisle, my eye was caught by an array of showing-related lotions and potions of all colours and persuasions.
I stopped and stared in awe. Lined up for what seemed to be miles along each shelf were a panoply of pampering products with names that promised tantalising transformation.
If I were a Cheviot sheep, I could make my fleece radiant with powders of virtually any shade under the (now non-existent) sun.
Or if my hair was “unmanageable” – which it often is, according to Farmpa – there was a spray that could fix that, too.
The cornucopia of sheep spa and bovine beauty products was simply breath-taking. Of course, I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, the Scottish agricultural show season is currently in full swing, and indeed it’s only a couple of weeks until the wonderful Kinross Show takes place just along the road at the RSPB’s Vane Farm nature reserve. If you live in or around Kinross-shire, hope to see you there. And you can bet my hair is going to be looking gooooood…
PS: Just to whet your appetite for show day, read this blog post about my visit to Kinross Show last year – complete with photographs of ferrets!