Sometimes the planets align and a perfect field trip opportunity just pops up at the right time. We read A New Coat for Anna this week as we studied Germany. (More on that later. I promise.) They never actually say where it takes place, but I think it's post WWII Poland. There is still no money after the war and the shops are empty but Anna desperately needs a new coat. It's a sweet story (based on a true one and you know I love that!) of a mother who, over the course of a year, trades some of her precious possessions to buy wool and then have it spun, woven and finally sewed into a new coat for her daughter.
Well, today we went to a sheep farm open house and visited the sheep, just like Anna did! How fun is that? We stood agape at the shearing. The sheep just go limp and the men who are shearing them just haul them around like a sack of potatoes. (The kids thought that was hysterical.) They don't hurt them, but still, you'd think they'd put up a little bit of a fuss. Interesting note: there are special pants made for sheep shearing. Seriously. There's a niche market for you.
The naked sheep are then put in the "naked sheep pen" (our term) and the fleeces are put on a table where debris is picked out and discarded.
After it's washed and dyed, they run it through this huge carding machine. (Anna and her mother carded theirs by hand.)
Look at those colors! Almost enough to make you want to re-learn how to knit. Almost.
The boys each received little pieces of colored wool as a souvenir. You'd think they were gold. They're storing them in the little wooden gingerbread houses they built at the Lowe's kids program this morning.
Oh, and they had the biggest angora rabbits. Chickens too - we bought some eggs.
If you can't get to a sheep open house, you can still order this wonderful, free sample booklet from Pendleton. It describes the 8 steps from sheep to fabric and gives you a little sample of the product of each stage - even a little vial of lanolin!