Black Sheep Gathering 2017- #2

I had too many photos for one post (as usual) so here is another of the weekend spent at Black Sheep Gathering. In the last post I mentioned Peyton, the new BFL ram. He just wrote a post on Rusty’s blog that you might want to check out.IMG_0526

In case you wondered what it was like to stay at BSG in a tent…here’s a photo of my camping spot. This wouldn’t have been fun if there was rain, but this time BSG was dry.


The whole reason for going on a Road Trip with Sheep is to show them (and maybe to sell a few). We showed on Saturday morning. The crew that showed up to help include Deborah and Brenda, Farm Club members, and Doris, who knitted that beautiful shawl in the last post, and Vicki, who has sheep and Border Collies back home. None had shown sheep before so we had a quick sheep showing lesson before the show started and then brought the sheep to the holding pen. There weren’t enough Jacobs this year (one other breeder) and we were showing against some Shetlands in the NCWGA Primitive Breeds Division.


There were no yearling rams entered so first up was the Ram Lamb class.


The 4-horn lamb on the left here was awarded Reserve Champion Ram.


Next was the Yearling Ewe class.



It was followed by the Ewe Lamb class.


The judge liked Jennie (front) best.


The yearling ewe, Vixen (on the left), and Jennie (right) went into the Champion class…


…and Jennie got Reserve Champion Ewe.


As I say all the time, I couldn’t do this without the help of my friends…including the people who took photos and sent them to me. Thanks! Everyone had a fun experience and they all went home with blue ribbons.


I don’t know how many fleeces were entered in the Wool Show but these tables were full and there was a long line of buyers waiting outside.


I checked back an hour or so later and there weren’t a lot of fleeces left.


Saturday night there is always a potluck followed by the Spinners Lead competition. You can find handspun items in the most unusual places. (made by Marilyn from CA). It was so unusually hot for Eugene that attendance was lower at both these events. But we found familiar faces.


Doris and I took the yearling ewes to the Spinners Lead, wearing our shawls. We had both won first place in the classes in the Fiber Arts Show. Mine was in the woven division and Doris’ was in the knitted division where she also was awarded Best Use of Natural Colored Wool.


Other California friends were there.  Marilyn wore the shawl that she had woven the previous day in the Sheep-to-Shawl contest. Her Hangtown Guild won that competition and she borrowed a sheep to enter this show.


Beth knit this beautiful shawl and also borrowed a sheep.


This was Doris’ first time at BSG, first time entering this event, and first finished handspun project!!


I took Cindy in the show and she wore a scarf woven of the leftovers from the shawl I wore. All the entries in this show are handspun or felted.


This is the smallest sheep I’ve ever seen at this show and she was quite a crowd pleaser.


The next day I was sitting in the barn and spinning and glad that I didn’t have to take a sheep into the Black Sheep Cup (Supreme Champion) competition in the heat of the afternoon when I realized “uh oh, I do have to take sheep into the ring for the Young Flock competition”. Thanks to Doug and Karen who quickly helped me get the sheep to their appropriate spot in the ring, although I wasn’t exactly dressed for showing in my tank top, shorts, and Birkenstocks.


I loaded up and got on the road about 4:30. View heading south.

MJ Adventure Team Goes to MD – Day 3 continued

Did I mention in this post how much there is to see at MDSW? I heard someone describe it as the Disney World for sheep and fiber people.

After seeing the fiber entries and the Jacob sheep I started with the tents at the top of the fairgrounds. It had been raining the day before so it’s a good thing that commercial tents are provided for outside vendors. There is mud to contend with but many vendors put straw down which helps with that.


The first tent I entered was the Equipment Auction tent. Have you ever seen so many spinning wheels in one place?


There were wheels (including several great wheels), carders, looms, and all kinds of miscellaneous equipment. Incredible.


Customers were lined up outside their favorite vendor booths. One thing that was so fun about this show was that since all the other fiber shows I have seen are on the west coast almost all the vendors were new to me.


In one of the fiber booths I found this cute bunny.


Ears, anyone?


Silverware creatures.



Dog or lamb coats made of felted wool.




At 1:00 I went back to the barn to help with the Jacob sheep show. These are Royal’s two yearling rams. Royal’s other helpers were his two granddaughters who were sheep handling novices so I was glad to help out.


The girls did well showing the ewes and were fun to work with. After the show I spent more time looking at the barns full of sheep. The Livestock Conservancy (I think–or maybe it was MDSW) organized a display of sheep breeds that weren’t necessarily being shown, along with educational information about them.


Dorset, a breed from England that was first imported in 1885.

Clun Forest-2

Clun Forest, a British breed first imported into North America (Canada) in 1970.


The Cotswold is another English breed with long, lustrous wool.  The mature sheep weigh up to 230 lbs (ewes) and 300 lbs (rams).


The Icelandic sheep is considered to be one of the world’s oldest and purest breeds, with 1100 years of producing meat, milk, and fiber.

Leicester Longwool-4

Leicester Longwool, a sheep, also originally from England, that produces 11-18 pounds of lustrous curly wool that may grow to 14″ in a year.

Leicester Longwool

Another Leicester Longwool.


Rambouillet ram. The Rambouillet is a fine-wooled sheep that was derived after prized Merinos were sent to France in 1786 and raised in a closed flock for many generations. They are now make up a large part of the commercial herds on the western range of the U.S., providing fine wool while producing crossbred lambs for market.

Romeldale cross

This is a Romeldale cross. Colored sheep, even if not a pure breed, can be registered with the Natural Colored Wool Association

Scottish Blackface-2

Scottish Blackface is the most common breed in the United Kingdom and was imported to the U.S. in 1861.

There will be more sheep photos in another post, because there are a lot more sheep to be mentioned.

Rug hooking

While I was in the barn my friends were shopping.


When we got back to the house that night everyone showed off their purchases. Mine were meager compared to some of the others. But none of them bought a sheep…


This is Shenandoah, one of the sheep that I showed, and that got a ride to California on the Mendenhall truck.

One More State Fair Post

Before I get back to my Road Trip blogs I have a few more photos to share. No big surprises in this post like there were in the last one, but Dona sent me the great photos that she had taken of the show. And since I’m writing another fair post I’ll include a few others as well.

I didn’t see much of the fair besides the livestock area but I walked around briefly. Here is what caught my eye.


On the wall of the livestock office.


Another longhorn, this time with not-so-symmetrical horns.


A “corn-box” for children.


This seems like a good idea for kids but I think I’d want it far from my house. It’s hard to tell in the photo but there are metal bars hanging at each station for banging “music making”.


I always like walking through “The Farm” to get ideas for my garden. I like these bricks that made the corners of the raised beds. It would be easy to change the location of the beds.


Back to the show ring. Rotor was sometimes reluctant at moving around the ring.


Here he is at the head of the class of Shetlands and Karakuls.


This is the Primitive Breeds Champion judging.



None of my other sheep did as well as Rotor. The judge preferred his fleece over that of my other sheep, although I think they are just fine. Meridian Honey, shown by my husband, had won Champion Jacob ewe at Black Sheep Gathering in June, but she was last in this class. That is part of showing any livestock, especially Jacob sheep. There is such a wide variety in acceptable traits in our sheep that it may not really be appropriate to judge them against each other. That is why Jacobs used to be judged by “card-grading”. Each sheep would get a “grade” based on the characteristics–not putting one of a similar grade above another. But that’s not how it’s done in traditional livestock shows.


These are my two yearling ewes, Meridian Honey and Meridian Zinnia.


This is the Jacob portion of the Primitive Breeds ewe lamb class. The two lambs without much color have a bit more on the other side. They are sisters and my friend, Mary, has bought one of them.


Here is our Flock entry in the Primitive Breeds Division.


Rotor’s debut on the photo stage after winning this show. See the previous blog for his other winning photos.

Big Wins at the CA State Fair – 2016

We interrupt this blog series…

I am not even half way through sharing photos and stories about our recent Road Trip, but for the last four days I have been at the State Fair and I have to share that experience.

Every year I wonder if it’s really worth the time and effort to go to the fair. My friends and I go to Black Sheep Gathering because…hmmm…why do we go? It’s a Road Trip With Sheep. I just bring sheep, look at fiber, and hang around with my friends. That can’t be said for the California State Fair. Although it’s close to home, it’s a lot of work. I set up a big display booth and my Farm Club friends and I staff it all day. It’s hot (105 this year), dusty, and I stay every night until about 8:30 because there are so many people still in the barn. We are under pressure to keep the area spotless and be nice to everyone because we are in contention for a couple of major awards for the display.


For Farm Club member, Mary, who is also a new farm owner, this was a new experience. She has been here before but it’s different when you have your own sheep. Before we can put the sheep in the barn they are checked by the veterinarians.


Once the sheep are settled in their pens we start with the display.

There is prestige and a good monetary award at stake for the Marketing Program that “should be directed at potential customers and show case the exhibitors Breeding Program and Operation”. Here is the scorecard:

  1. 20% Display. Clearly demonstrates it’s purpose, message and/or image.
  2. 20% Effective use of display materials. Paper, wood, metal, plastic, plants, etc.
  3. 20% Use of color and signage. Graphics and signage to create impact and storyline, QR codes
  4. 5% Special Effects. Movement, sound, audio visual, participatory element
  5. 20% Effective Use of Handout Materials. Flyers, pamphlets, business cards, recipes, children’s materials, etc.
  6. 15% Craftsmanship. Well constructed, balanced and has an overall finished, artistic, visual appeal.


Here is the finished display.



I’m glad that I had the last minute thought to provide a Touching Table. That came to me when I was looking for something else in the barn and came across these horns. We’ll expand on this next year. I was especially glad I thought about this when I realized that I had forgotten to bring the A-frame that holds some of our other interactive display material.

In addition to the Marketing Program, there are Herdsman awards that are offered “to encourage attractive, educational, and high quality presentations of all livestock exhibits”.  The Herdsman Award is judged on :

  1. 65% General Appearance
    1. 25% Neatness/cleanliness of bedding and aisle
    2. 10% Signage, banners, QR codes
    3. 10% Creative use of plants and special exhibit materials
    4. 20% Condition/cleanliness of animals
    5. 10% Educational material, marketing, breed promotion)
  2. 25% Feed Alleys/Tack Pen
    1. 15% Free of debris, not obstructed
    2. 10% Tack storage
  3. 10% Conduct
    1. 5% Exhibitor sportsmanship and cooperation with other exhibitors and staff
    2. 5% Public interaction and accessibility

In addition there is Best Educational Presentation over all the species entered in the three week run of the fair.

Farm Club members help to set up the display and come each day to staff the area and answer endless questions.


This is the crew that was at the fair on Friday.


I think they worry that I will forget to eat. On $2 Sample Thursday (all the fair food booths have to include a $2 item on their menus) they returned with this treat for me. I have a good photo of all of them eating their selections but they wouldn’t let me use it.

Other faces in the barn include:


This Lincoln across the aisle from us.


Suffolk ram that was just down the aisle.


Longhorn steer at the other end of the barn.


This is one of Mary’s new lambs who seemed delighted with the attention.


The yearling ram, Meridian Rotor, standing behind the “DO NOT PET THE RAMS” sign.


We spent the four days answering questions

  • Q: Is he normal? A: Yes, Jacob sheep can have 2 or 4 horns. (And that info is on the other sign right in front of the ram.)
  • Q: Where are the pigs? A: Out there (pointing).
  • Q: How do you get get it from this (wool in bucket) to this (carded sliver that I’m spinning)? A: We explain. Next year I will include the carders and carded batts, etc to more easily explain that.
  • Q: What happens if it breaks (fiber I’m spinning)?. A: Demonstrate how to join it.
  • Q: Where are the cows? A: Longhorns are at the other end of the barn. The dairy cows were here last week.IMG_3174-2

I spun three skeins of singles yarn while I was there.

But it’s really supposed to be all about the sheep show.IMG_3167

Mary and Russ practicing with their sheep.


Dona, Mary, and Amy prepping sheep for the show. We don’t do all the fitting that other breeds do. That morning I had taken each sheep to the wash stall to clean their legs and feet. We wiped their noses and cleaned the grime off the eartags. Then we pretty much just brushed off the straw and were ready to go.


The show started with yearling rams and I was thrilled when Rotor was placed first in his class and then awarded Champion Ram of the Primitive Breeds Division. The judge was not as happy with the rest of my sheep and they were interspersed with or at the end of the line-up of Shetland and Karakul sheep that were also in our division. Even Honey, who was champion Jacob ewe at Black Sheep Gathering, was placed last in her class.


The breed show was Saturday. On Sunday champions from all 14 Divisions compete for the award of Supreme Champion. Rotor lo0ks pretty small in that line-up. (Some of those smaller sheep ahead of him are ram lambs that won their divisions.) As the judge went down the line he stopped and scrutinized him more than the others.


He was one of four rams pulled out of the line-up to be in contention for the award.


Thanks to Dona who got these great photos of us in the ring. In this photo the judge is discussing the four rams and said that although he wouldn’t ever want a Jacob (at least I think I heard that) he was very impressed with Rotor.


He awarded Rotor Supreme Champion Ram of the State Fair!!!


Here is me right after with all my loot.

Oh yeah, some of that is for the Herdsman and Marketing awards. Usually that is the highlight for me because I don’t expect to win with my sheep.


From right to left: Supreme Champion Ram (banner and buckle); Best Educational Presentation (Herdsman); Best Program (Marketing); Third Best Educational Presentation over all the species for the three weeks of the fair; Second in Herdsman; Best Marketing Program.


Of all the years showing in 4-H and later with our dairy and then with sheep, I’ve never had a belt buckle! I guess I need some Wranglers to go with it. And maybe some boots. I realized after the show that I hadn’t even changed into my (work) boots for the show and I was wearing those sandals through the whole thing. The excuse is that it the show was at 5 p.m. in the afternoon of a 105 degree day. (I was wearing jeans though. This picture was taken later at home.)

More Sheep View at BSG

Sheep aren’t the only fiber animals at Black Sheep Gathering.Angora show

The Angora goat show was on Saturday. But it’s mostly about sheep.


It’s not always easy to get a good photo of sheep when they are in small pens.

Shetland ram 2

This is a Shetland ram.


Blue-faced Leicester.


This sheep posed nicely.


Here is a Jacob look-alike, at least from the spots. No Jacob has ears that big.


The Young Flock competition is on Saturday at the end of all the other shows and there is a special prize for the best Young Flock of the whole show. A young flock is made up of two ewe lambs and one ram lamb from a single breeder.


I had the Jacob young flock in the competition.


Sheep seen in the vendor hall.

Navajo-churro wool

Look at these beautiful curls on a Navajo-churro lamb fleece.

Teeswater wool

Speaking of curls, this spectacular 12″ fleece is on this…


…Teeswater sheep.

Black Sheep Gathering 2016

Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene, Oregon is an event I always look forward to. I don’t go as a vendor so it’s not work. It’s more like a road trip with sheep. Usually friends and Farm Club members (who are friends too) carpool but this year we were all on different schedules and instead we met up once we were in Oregon.


Loaded and ready to go. I took ten sheep, five of which were going to a new home. Fortunately only two were yearlings and the rest were lambs or I wouldn’t have had room. That was Thursday. It was a long day because I just couldn’t seem to stay awake for the drive. I left the house at 6:30 a.m. but stopped at several rest stops to take short naps and finally pulled into the fairgrounds about 4:30.

Black Sheep Gathering opened Friday morning with too many choices. What is a fiber fanatic to do? Watch the wool show? Watch the sheep show? Go to class? Shop?


Several friends participated in the Sheep-to-Shawl competition on Friday in which teams have five hours to prep fiber, spin yarn, and weave a shawl.



They spent many hours prior to the event dyeing and spinning the warp yarn, warping the loom, and sampling…


…to determine how they would use this beautiful fiber to spin the weft yarn.


Weaver, Gynna, wove a beautiful shawl (but I didn’t get a photo when it was finished).

Walking back to the barn to get ready for the Jacob sheep show I saw…Shetland ram

…this Shetland ram displaying his ribbon.


Time to take the sheep to the show ring. IMG_2073

Even though we had spent time working with the sheep they were not always cooperative. That is ram lambs, Marv and Meyer.


A friend who lives in Davis helped me show. That’s the judge inspecting Meyer’s fleece.


Checking Marv’s fleece.


This is Lauren, one of the yearling ewes. I hadn’t planned to sell her but she stayed in Oregon as a trade for another yearling. (That will be another story.)IMG_2159

Meridian Marv (Meridian Rotor x Meridian Marilyn) won Champion Jacob Ram…15031 Honey-BSG

…and yearling, Meridian Honey (Meridian Alex x Meridian Hot Lips), was Champion Jacob Ewe.



It’s fun to win ribbons and trophies, but there were only two of us exhibiting sheep and I was the lucky one this year. In other years they have won the ribbons. The other breeder has beautiful sheep too and I  brought three of them home with me.


This is one of them and she will be introduced formally in another post.

State Fair 2015

I missed the State Fair last year because I was in Texas waiting for a grandbaby to be born. Coming back to the fair this year I decided that I wanted to change my display. The fair offers Marketing Awards for each species for those who put some effort into the displays that are with their livestock. I put a lot of thought and effort into this and Farm Club members also helped with some of the behind the scenes stuff as well as being there every day of the fair.IMG_5623This is what the main part of the display looked like. I used rusty tin (and I didn’t have to do the DIY TV shows’ trick of using acid on perfectly new tin to make it look that way) for the background as well as additional signage over the sheep pens. I focused on Farm Club and the idea of local marketing of wool, lamb and promoting consumer education while many of the other sheep exhibitors primarily promote marketing breeding stock. 

IMG_5567 I created a Jacob sheep puppet  as a craft project for kids to take home and came up with a crossword puzzle unique to our farm.

IMG_5568 Part of marketing is using social media and the award description even specified use of QR codes. There is this blog, Rusty’s blog, a Meridian Jacobs Facebook page, MJ Ravelry group, a MJ YouTube channel and even Pinterest and Instagram (which I didn’t put on the sign). IMG_5586This is the fifth or sixth year that I have provided pregnant ewes for the Nursery that is managed by the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. This doesn’t have anything to do with the Marketing Award, but the people at the vet school are so appreciative of this that I continue to do it.IMG_5585Isadora, one of the new mom’s would probably rather be home, but she really has it rather nice at the fair–always plenty of food and a blowing fan when it is getting very hot.

I think our CA State Fair has a lot going for it. I did not do my regular pre-sheep-show visit to the fair because of our trip to Texas and the work to get ready, but I looked at a few other parts while I was there. IMG_5591At the other end of the barn there are the longhorns. I am afraid that this is a dying breed–not the cattle, but the people who bring them to the fair. There are only a few exhibitors left now and I hope that someone else will choose to show them because they are always fun to see.IMG_5589Same with sheep, right?IMG_5625I always like to see the part they call the Farm. We have modeled some of our garden ideas from what we have seen here. No reason to throw out tires when they can be used to grow vegies. They had a stack of three for potatoes which I thought was very clever. At harvest time just pull off the tires.IMG_5730I took this photo for my husband. In the Counties Exhibit Hall I saw this cycling jersey promoting the Tour de Manure.IMG_5622Back at the barn, I love to see the beautiful Clydesdales. IMG_5616 They make my yearling ram look rather small.IMG_5637

The fair runs for three weeks and the sheep are in the nursery for the whole time. But the sheep show is only four days. Good thing because it is exhausting talking to so many people. The moderate weather for the last week of the fair contributed to record crowds. I had to bring additional panels to “protect” the rams from people  being too close and not reading the “Do not pet rams. Do not grab horns.” sign.

IMG_5641 Of course the point of going to the fair is to show sheep although my focus is on the marketing award because it’s hard to compete in classes with many breeds of sheep. Those are my two yearling rams.

IMG_5713 I was pleased that Meridian Crosby won Reserve Champion ram in the Heritage Breeds Division.  He was not cooperative for the photo but hopefully the official photographer got one.

IMG_5716 Both rams were happy to get back in their pen after the ordeal of the show ring.

The work paid off.IMG_5745

I won the Marketing Award as well as Herdsman and Best Program directed at the General Public. I found out later that I also won the Marketing Award over all the livestock species for the full run of the fair! I can’t say thank you enough to Farm Club and a couple of other friends who helped at the fair. I couldn’t do this without you.IMG_5760A successful few days, but all of us were glad to go home.