News From New England… from Joan Chapin

In spite of back-to-back snow “bombs” in January that resulted in building losses around the area, New England sheep and wool folks are looking forward – to several planned activities that signal spring.

Connecticut Sheep Breeders and the University of Connecticut College of Agriculture will hold its Blue Ribbon Sheep Forum on February 19, 2011, at the campus in Storrs. Margaret Howard will speak on color genetics. Her seminar will present concepts and techniques that can be employed to control, replicate and predict the fleece colors you produce. An overview of pigment production will precede a discussion of how to identify your lamb’s color pattern. Curiosity and a pen are all you need bring! Margaret will probably have copies of her book on this topic available. Other workshops will be held on wool quality, grass-fed lambs, and predator control.

The New Hampshire Spinners’ & Dyers’ Guild is ready for its annual fashion show, pot luck, and afternoon mini-workshops on February 13th. The fashion show will operate differently this year and I will report back later on how it went, as it will be my first time attending.
When NHS&DG meets in different available halls (fire dept., church) for its activities, a new and difficult issue has been raised. The president of the Guild wrote in the last newsletter, “Some groups have been asked to have liability insurance if they wish to use a facility. We have a picker, wheel and dyepot to lend out which makes us open to additional liability. We looked into insurance and found that in addition to this type of insurance, the board members must also be covered in their role of running the guild…I would not be willing to put myself and family at risk of legal action against the guild, nor would I expect any members to be at risk. The board decided not to lend out equipment until the issue is resolved.”
Since we have been thinking about this issue, I’ve learned that vendors at the November New England Fiber Festival (Eastern States Exposition Grounds) must show proof of $100,000. liability insurance for the two days of the show including the day before and day after.

And I’ve also learned that local Farmers’ Markets also require that you pay for liability insurance in order to sell your products. I raise this issue, wondering what others have found to be a reasonable solution particularly for sheep shows and for individual vendors.

Planning for the New Hampshire Sheep & Wool festival is gaining momentum. Merrilyn Patch wrote: “New to the NH sheep and wool festival (May 14 -15) this year is the wool breed sheep show on Sunday. This is a chance for NH breeders to show their wool breed sheep. It is being judged by Mr. Joe Miller from Starks, Me. longtime breeder of many wool sheep including merinos, moorits , lincolns, and many others. He will also be giving a talk on how to get the most money for your fleeces following the show Sunday afternoon. The show will be split into fine wools, medium wools, long wools and primitives. We are hoping in the future to expand on this show by adding more classes and opening it up more.” Now that’s exciting! Another place to show off Blues! The other contest that I find exciting is the fleece competition, where the judge gives reasons as (s)he evaluates fleeces, and the public is invited to attend. Now there’s a learning experience, denied to us at most fleece competitions!

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