Archive for October 2009

Geoffrey the Ram goes to Tintagel Farm

Geoffrey the Ram goes to Tintagel Farm

Geoffrey, a Border Leicester ram which I had used for two years, found a wonderful new home and breeding assignment when he was purchased this summer by Leslie Orndorff of Tintagel Farm in south central Pennsylvania.

At left: Leslie Orndorff of Tintagel Farm with her new breeding ram, Geoffrey, who was bred by Nancy Weik of Overlook Manor Farm.

Leslie is a renowned fiber artist who combines Border Leicester wool with mohair from her angora goats to produce lustrous, hand-dyed spinning fibers and yarn.  She liked Geoffrey for his dense fleece, thanks to some infusion of English AI bloodlines.  Besides his desirable fiber, I found him to be an outstanding ewe sire.

Geoffrey should feel right at home at her picturesque farm with historic stone barns and grassy hillocks; the original Tintagel in England is where King Arthur was born.


The Beauty of Autumn in Rappahannock County

Pictures do a much better job of illustrating the exceptional beauty of Rappahannock County during Autumn.  Mountains seem to move closer in the crisp, clean air, and the golden light sets off the reds, yellows and oranges of foliage and the harvest.

Wits End Farm Participates in the Rappahannock County Farm Tour

Farm Tour
Dave and I worked like beavers on steroids to prepare for the Rappahannock County Farm Tour. The ‘purpose of the exercise,’ as my father would say, was educating the public about local food production and sustainable agriculture.

At right: Sylvia Rowand; caterer, gardening coach and local food expert; greets Hannah (r) and her sister, two Bluefaced Leicester ewe lambs penned beneath the maple tree in front of our house. Sylvie and her husband operate Laughing Duck Gardens; check out her blog at

To that end, we planned a busy schedule for the two days, featuring sheep shearing, natural dying and handspinning demonstrations. We had the studio ready for visitors with our own hand-dyed and handpainted Leicester and Bluefaced Leicester fiber and yarns on display.

Wits End fiber

At left: Visitors viewed fiber produced and dyed on the farm.

Visitors seemed to really enjoy the ‘magic’ of natural dying. Originally, I had purchased natural dyes known for their dramatic coloration of wool; alkanet and madder. However, in reviewing the subject for the demonstrations, I realized that some wonderful native dyestuffs, each with their own history, were at their peak and grew on our property. So, it became a trifecta of natural dying, local harvesting and a history lesson. I focused on goldenrod and black walnuts over the weekend, and the visitors were as enthuasistic about the results as I was.

Natural dying
At right: It was magic: Three batches of Border Leicester yarn dyed with goldenrod flowers harvested from the fields of Wits End Farm.

Rain and cold temperatures on Saturday meant only the heartiest two dozen made it to Wits End Farm, but their enthusiasm more than made up for their small number. Sunday offered a perfect blue sky and warm wind. The sun made the fall colors dazzle.  Farm visitors met the animals and watched the dying demonstrations in much more comfort, as the sheep happily cropped fresh grass. We finished the day in the most pleasant possible way when neighbors dropped by and we found ourselves sipping wine and eating munchies on the front porch. Everyone was tired from the weekend, and our finger food became everyone’s dinner that night.

Below: Dave’s 1955 Allis Chalmers Tractor, Model WD45, presided behind the barn, under Sunday’s blue skies.

Dave's Tractor