Ballyhoo Fiber Emporium
Sustainability in Every Skein!


Ballyhoo Fiber Emporium podcast for fiber artists and producers featuring farm tips, sheep education, industry guests, farm updates, and more!


I try to separate religion from farm posts. It's not easy when my farm is based around one of, if not the oldest profession. Let's face it, as soon as Adam and Eve were kicked out of Eden/proto-man settled in one place, they were raising flocks for fiber, milk and meat. My sheepdog is named Ezekiel and my crook is called Moses. I lead a Biblical life.

Ballyhoo had a week of epic proportions, fit for Charleton Heston and his technicolor beard. It involved a lot of letting go, and I'm not good at that. Having let the bees go, Zeke and I went to The Woolery and bought an Ashford Traveler. I can now take fiber from the sheep all the way through spinning my own yarn to knitting an item! SO EXCITING! More on that later.....

Leeloo appears to be pregnant after all. She was sheared so late that she didn't have enough fleece to support a pregnancy through the very long, brutal winter. I didn't remove the rams until April. She had us guessing on Shearing Day, and she appears rounder with a growing udder. It will be nice to have little lambs as the current ones get weaned.

I've decided not to show fleeces this year in favor of getting the whole lot processed as soon as possible. Lovely Joan at Fiber Frenzy is waiting for yarn and I would like a room of my house free of stacked bags of skirted fleeces! Besides, now that I spin I'm dying to get my hands on more roving! The neck wool and felted chunks are destined to become cat beds, my latest artistic endeavour. All things have a purpose.

I have to write a career paper for my Summer Session I class. How do I write about everything I do? What do I do? I am mother, shepherdess, nurse, ad man, designer, manual labor, landscaper, fiber processor, cook, maid, archivist, salesman, purchaser, teacher.... I've been feeling a sweet and unexpected amount of recognition lately; it's almost a relief, really. On Saturday I was spinning publicly; it garnered more interest than any other fiber activity I've demonstrated! A lady passed by with her two young children and uttered possibly the sweetest sentence ever directed at me: "She's an artist. This is her craft."

Thank you, stranger, for recognizing what I do and why.

There are so many moments that I could write about: fishing with Mary, Tucker not eating, having to let someone go at the shop, a bad week at school, the Americana Worldfest. But all I want to relate, and I'm not sure I can find the words, is the correlation in my weekend between Kaddish and Mi Sheberach.

Kaddish is a prayer said twice in Jewish services; once as a congregation, and again at the end with a minyan, a group of 10 or more. While it is the prayer said at burials and on the anniversary of deaths, the actual words of the Kaddish prayer are those of hope, appeals for peace, and praise for the Maker of The Universe. The Mourner's Kaddish must be said with a group so that those who are reeling from loss do not have to stand alone. The foundation of Judaism is community. There's no such thing as a Lone Wolf. When sheep feel troubled they stay in the center of the flock. There's safety in numbers; it's difficult to falter when you stand shoulder to shoulder with those who understand how you feel. Likewise in their darkest moments, mourners stand in the midst of empathy and ask God, the Creator of All and the True Judge, to bring peace to all the earth. Peace, when all they feel is turmoil. It seems cruel, but it's a kind of tough love. Judaism has very important processes in place to make sure that mourners are given space to grieve, but are never removed from life. 'You are here,' it says, 'you will continue. The pain will ease. Keep moving forward, through each gate the structure provides, and come back to life.'

Last week marked the one year anniversary, or yarzheit, of someone who was very dear to me. I have lost enough to recognize the cycle of grief, to prepare for the waves that inevitably hit with the wisdom of knowing that they will pass. It's better not to fight. I experienced my moments of sorrow, comforted others who share the same loss, and tried to honor that person's memory by continuing her good work. It wasn't enough. I needed to say Kaddish. All things combined to keep from service on Friday night, but I made it for the last 10 minutes! I made it in time to read a little and to hear the voices around me in unison, buoying me up, calling me out of the emotional tar....

I believe in first seeing to my animals, so I let the dogs out immediately instead of going to the bathroom myself. I can't remember what made me follow them outside. I stood on the porch in the dark, watching lightning bugs and listening to the dogs rustle in the grass. The neighbors raced up in their minivan, roaring into their driveway like a checkered flag awaited.
My three dogs were outside. Their dogs were outside, barking at their goats. I listened for more noise, confused. The neighbors were out of their van, looking underneath.
I could see Champagne and Tucker.
"Is he over there?" they called.
"No," I yelled back. Pause. "You didn't hit him, did you?"
"We think so," came the reply.
I turned the flashlight on and swept the front yard. Zeke came running up. Relief washed over me. Then he collapsed at my feet on the front porch. I quickly put Champagne and Tucker in the house. So dark. So late! I didn't want to drive anywhere. Where would I go? 10pm on a Friday? Our regular vet would be open at 8am. Surely he could wait. Could he wait?

Nobody slept that night, except Zeke in a Vicodin-fueled exhaustion. He could stand. He could put weight on his legs. But he wouldn't stand, and he couldn't walk without falling over. His feet, chin, and testicles had abrasions (later we'd find a giant patch of road rash on his hip), but all in all he looked okay. No swelling in the abdomen, no change in breathing, gums and conjuntivi normal, tail tone and range of motion in all limbs normal. On the way to the vet I vascillated between confidence that x-rays were merely a precaution and the nauseating terror that he would have to be put down. I started saying Mi Sheberach.

Mi Sheberach is prayed once per service. It is an appeal to God for complete healing - body, mind, and spirit - for those we know and also for those who have no one to pray for them. We are all suffering from something all the time. I'm reminded of it every time I pray, and this helps me to be more empathetic in my dealings with others. (Not always. I am human.) God made me. God made Zeke. I care for Zeke, and regardless of how the Almighty feels about animals, God cares about me, ergo I can pray for Zeke and God will listen.

That said, I have some personal issues with this particular prayer. I've lost a lot of people for whom I prayed, and it hurts. I know prayer is not a guarantee, and I'm not the Boss of Wellness. It just sucks when the answer is no, especially when you're asking on someone else's behalf! Aren't altruistic deeds supposed to be rewarded? Then again, is it altruistic to pray for someone to heal because their release from this plane of existence (and the suffering that accompanies it) will hurt me?

Back to Zeke.

Border Collies are not good at slowing down. I think stillness is more painful to Zeke than his broken pelvis. He's become the kid who breaks his leg just as school lets out - no sheep for the rest of the summer, no hikes, no puppy class for at least a month. He can't even chase the cats! Turns out he doesn't have to. Widget hovers over him like a doting nursemaid, a perpetual crease in his brow. He's licked Zeke's hips, followed him around, complained to us when Zeke whines, and I've caught him lying against Zeke's side more than once. Turns out the old fussbudget really does care.

For his part, Zeke hasn't missed a meal. He did miss one night in bed with me and he needs help standing up. He's getting better already. He's learned to pee, limp, get up and down the steps, and roll over. Yesterday he impressed Auntie Mary by going fishing in the pond with us. I wish he would take a page out of Hope's book and lie in the grass where he can observe without moving. It's not in his nature. Zeke is a team player, a doer, a loyal worker with true grit. And he has a lot of fans praying for him, sending him good wishes and "pink bubble thoughts". They seem to be working beautifully.

Since Champagne was diagnosed her diet has become 80/20 home-cooked food. This evening I stopped by the grocery for more chicken (this week is chicken, wheat germ, molasses, green beans, sweet potato, and squash) and the weekend caught up to me. I couldn't help crying. Tucker hasn't been eating, Champagne's tumor is growing. I know they are both old and much of my emotional energy goes to processing their upcoming, devastating, inevitable demise. As I do that work I have been comforting myself that at least I'll have Zeke. To almost lose him, on a week that I am grieving a tremendous loss, knowing what lies ahead.... I needed to say Kaddish to express the tangle of emotions in my heart. I needed Mi Sheberach not just for Zeke but for myself. My life is in a state of rather wonderful flux. I'm finding what works and I'm finding it easier to recognize and let go of things that don't. Fabulous opportunities are presenting themselves. I'm blessed to be surrounded by a network of incredible people (and if you're reading this, you're included). I am busy every day from dawn til far past dusk with things I love, and that is truly miraculous. Still it remains that change is incredibly uncomfortable and loss, while inevitable, never gets any easier.

As I write this the cancer dog sleeps with her head on my thigh, the convalescent sleeps on my left foot, and the geriatric giant is licking the carpet. "Bless those in need of healing with refuah shlema". Healing does come. I know this. It's not always the way we asked for, and sometimes we are left behind to heal on the inside when those we love depart. "May there be abundant peace from Heaven, and life, upon us".

Peace that stills the young injured pup, peace between Mac and all living things, peace for a young possum who lost his mother. Peace for Leeloo when she delivers, for the new birds in their respective flocks, in my neighborhood and peace in my friends' hearts. Peace for Tucker's body and mind, peace that slows Champagne slipping away. Peace for me when it's time to let her go. And peace for all of you.