Polwarths….and Farewell

Last stop – the beautiful Tarndwarncoort, just outside the tiny village of Birregurra. My host, Wendy, picked me up at the train station, gave me a quick tour of the village and then we headed for Tarndwarncoort.
Here is where I stayed in the original homestead.

From the information provided to me on arrival:
“Welcome to Tarndwarncoort”. The name derives from the local Gulidjan’s people’s term for the landscape surrounding the property. Looking from the north towards the homestead, you would see a series of low, sandy hills. The Gulidjan’s thought it resembled the pattern a bandicoot [small to medium-sized terrestrial marsupial omnivore – thanks Google Australia!] would make as it bounced along.”
The Dennis family have lived and farmed here since 1840. In 1880 Polwarth sheep were developed here and registered as Australia’s first breed of sheep. The Polwarth breed was created by crossing a Saxon Merino with a Lincoln to creat a Corriedale. Then, crossing that back to the Saxon Merino to create the Polwarth.

I loved staying in the homestead. look where I got to eat my breakfast and spend time knitting in the evenings.

And what could be more perfect than to be located across from the Wool Room!

Here’s a peek at the interior as well as the room where local knitters and spinners gather.




Like on many farms before, I met great dogs ….. Jock

And Saffa

Observed the local wildlife and plantings…




I chose my fleeces. Wendy let me “sample” and so I soon will have three beautiful shades of Polwarth headed my way.

Wendy and Dave dropped me off for a visit to the National Wool Museum in Geelong…

…but not before we had some lunch at the Black Sheep Cafe next door

The museum deserves a blog post of its own, but here are a couple highlights:
…a Jacquard loom

…a statue of a shearer shearing ( notice the belt supporting him – I saw one of these in an wool shed earlier in the trip)

And in another gallery…

…a machine set up with 1500 teasels (a plant with a spiny flower head) that brushed the finished woven blankets just enough to give them a finished, fuzzy look.

On my last day, Dave took me out into the paddocks to see the sheep. They are divided into rams, ewes with lambs, weathers and weaners and the white and dark colored sheep are kept separate as it is important for the white wool to stay that way for commercial purposes. Here are some photos of these beautiful sheep…sometimes they stayed still enough for me to get a few shots!





A last look at rural Australia and I am on my way home, having had the adventure of a lifetime.

Thanks to all those, both here and at home, that made this possible. To my New Australian friends, I hope to return and meet you all again someday and see more of your beautiful sheep (and dogs!)


Published in: on November 30, 2012 at 4:18 am  Comments (7)  
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Colored Corriedales and Baling Day

Adele and I headed for Wangandary (near Wangaretta) on Sunday to Marion’s farm, Wilanjie, and her wonderful Coloured Corriedales. This, however, was to be more than a visit – it was Baling Day for this wool group of friends. They come together to pool fleeces of similar color, length and fineness and have the wool processed. The costs are shared by percentage of that grower’s contribution to the pool, as are the profits when the products are sold in markets and other sales venues.
Here, Marie arrives with some bales of wool to go into,the pool.

The members discuss the fleeces as they carefully examine them.

Next, the wool gets put into the bag for baling…

…and then stomped down by one agile individual!

I got a chance to look at fleeces – and be gifted some beautiful ones. thank you, ladies!

Marion and I had a chance to look at her sheep.

Alpaca Nelson Mandela takes care of part of his flock (seems to be alpacas here doing this work, rather than llamas, keeping them safe from foxes and dogs)

And, these sheep, too, like their treats. I like Marion’s idea of using gutters for the feeding. It spreads the sheep out more than my pans and are easy to move about. Yet another idea that may be finding its way to our farm!

They have. Different ear tagging system here. One smaller nationally required tag and a larger flock tag. The colors of the tags are also national and rotate through a 12 year cycle. This year is purple.


Look at this wool!

Marion and I had a short time to discuss weaving and other things. Here is a beautiful overshot piece she did.

Another chance to see some cockatoos…


Another beautiful Australian sunrise…

…and then it was time to head to the train station for the next – and final – farm stay. I wanted Marcos to hop into my suitcase, but he preferred his little bed!


Last stop….


Published in: on November 29, 2012 at 11:46 pm  Comments (2)  
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English Leicesters and a Weaving Adventure

That lovely little ewe at the end of the last post is an English Leicester (also known as a Leicester Longwool in the States). These sheep are at my new friend Adele’s home near Everton Upper. They are really very sweet sheep.


Like ours, they enjoy their treats. Adele uses a mixture of chopped lucerne (from Google Australia: “Lucerne can be successfully made into hay from October to April in the irrigation areas of northern Victoria and from November to March in southern Victoria” – think “alfalfa”) and, I think, heifer growth pellets (seem to have misplaced those notes!).

Don’t you just love this photo?! I think it may find itself into a frame for our wall when I get home.

This little girl was also a favorite (I call her “my ewe” but she just wouldn’t fit into my suitcase!

Adele has one (remaining) Cashmere goat, who was very curious about what I was doing there….


…which was – sorting fleeces!


Adele let me choose all the colors I wanted from this year’s shearing – more fleeces coming in a couple months!
Adele took me to the nearby town of Beechworth where I visited the Old School House Gallery, which houses a gallery in which some of Adele’s wool group have things for sale.

Next, we dropped in to the Spindrift Weaving Studio of David Beckworth in Whorouly. There are some amazing looms here. David has a 42″ George Wood Dobby Loom – 24 shafts with a fly shuttle. Also a Jacquard loom which would be the equivalent to having a 385 shaft loom.

Here is a sample from this loom, as well as the plan for the pattern and then the stand on which the cards for this loom are punched. I could barely understand the explanation of how it all worked but it was fascinating and David and Ian in this studio are two very talented weavers.


Ian explained to me how he weaves a “cross warp weave” in the Peter Collingwood macro gauze style. It was fascinating seeing how he had transformed a loom to accomplish this and I was very pleased to be able to bring home a sample of his work. This photo shows an example of this style but mine is done with naturally dyed wool.


Thanks, Adele, for getting me to all these special places and for inviting me to stay in your home. I am really looking forward to spinning all those beautiful English Leicester fleeces!

Next stop…….

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Published in: on November 29, 2012 at 10:40 am  Comments (4)  
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Corowa and Merino x Australian Bond Sheep

Well, that “teaser” at the end of the last post was some Merino x Australian Bonds! I was lucky enough to be able to make arrangements to visit Shirley’s place near Corowa where she has these sheep. She and John and Sue comprise Karoa Fibers who really focus on providing high quality wool for hand spinners.

They were kind enough to let me visit and we met at Shirley’s place, John and Sue living a distance from there. They had set Shirley’s shed up with a typical stall display, as well as many of the fleeces from this year’s shearing. They had some other visitors coming soon so I was able to take advantage of that and see their products.




And, yes, some of this wool is finding its way to my farm! Here is John skirting a fleece. I chose half of two contrasting color fleeces ( no surprise to anyone who knows me!) for a total of 4.5 kilos (about 10 pounds).


Isn’t this beautiful? I chose fleeces that weren’t quite as fine, to better suit my spinning style, but, if my notes are correct, this breed’s wool runs in the 19-22 micron range.

Shirley has a number of these sheep at her place and John and Sue have about 600 more at their place. Here, Shirley had tossed them some tortillas (I think) which they came up to eat!

We left Shirley’s farm (and her sweet little Kelpie)

And went to the Shire offices for lunch and a quick look at a quilt show there. Two memorable quilts were one showcasing Australian wildlife and, of course, one with sheep!


We made our way to the local gallery where I had a chance to shop ( they have some of their creations there) and meet the artist who created a mat I bought showing some historical sites in Corowa which is famous for the place where Australia came together as one country.

Next, on to Everton Upper and….


Published in: on November 29, 2012 at 6:29 am  Comments (2)  
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From Murrumbateman to Albury-Wodonga

I’ve been out of easy email access and no WiFi (well, it is rural Australia, after all!) but I will try to catch you up a little in amy travels.

I last left you in Murrumbateman. I had to leave all of Broni’s beautiful Merinos behind but she did send me off with a couple of bottles of Australian ginger beer (lucky I don’t live here or I’d be drinking way too much of this sweet drink!)

She also sent me off with a small part of a Merino fleece, so now my traveling arrangement looked like this!

On the several hour train trip to Albury I saw a lot of this

Upon arrival, I met up with a tour guide who took me around. We went to Lake Hume and the dam near there. Australia has a complex water system (at least in this area) and some of it gets released to farms.



It was a beautiful area. I added a couple more birds to my Australian bird list:

A top – knot pigeon

Not a very good shot but you can just see his top-knot. And a couple Gullahs (and I have probably spelled this wrong but can’t find my notes right now!)

And maybe a better kangaroo shot than last time. This one was on a military base where, my guide said, they are free to come and go!

My guide was trying hard to come up with a sheep farm for me to visit in the area and came up with…..a Dorper flock. Even though not “my” kind of sheep (hair rather than wool) it was really nice to meet Rob, the farmer, and really nice of him to spend time with me on short notice. I got a little lost on his breed development but I think it involved at least Merino, Dorset and White Suffolk. They had also done some breeding to eliminate the hair to get better skins (pelts).

He runs, I think, about 2500 sheep on 2000 acres, with 400-500 acres as crops. We discussed back lining for lice and fleas and the price of lamb (not good). He then invited us in for “a cuppa” and we were off to my next stop in Corowa for the next wooly adventure!



Published in: on November 28, 2012 at 10:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Land of Oz (Coloured Merinos) – Day 2

Our oldest daughter said we had gone to the Land of Oz on this trip and I really believe she’s right after spending another full day with Broni and Mac and their Coloured Merinos.

We had time to chat and exchange stories but mostly I think I must have asked Broni amillion questions. thanks for your patience, Broni!

Before Broni picked me up for the day, I had a chance to get up early and see an Australian sunrise where I am staying.



After that beautiful start to the day, Broni picked me up and we headed off to the farm. We had a chance to trade stories and share our experiences with sheep (hers much greater than mine!) It was not all talk, however. We had “poddies” ( bottle babies) to feed


And the oldest rams needed a bit of bread. The grey one is an Australian Champion.



Broni offered me the opportunity to ride up top so I could get some video from that vantage point. Luckily she is a very good driver as we were not always on roads – going through paddocks and crossing through small streams.



I really could not get enough of these beautiful sheep.





Most of them were very happy to be near us, but can you spot the shy one in this photo? She eventually joined the others.


They do not need to feed salt as the paddocks are rich in it but the sheep do have access to mineral blocks.


We were accompanied on our chores today by two farm dogs, Bridie and Bear. They held back sheep on either side of paddock gates, letting us drive through the gates. Good job, girls, we couldn’t have done it without you!



A couple more sheep – no, you have not seen enough!


OK, there were a few other animals around.
Sulfur crested Cockatoos ( who swoop down to get any grain the sheep miss)


Rainbow Bee-eaters -absolutely gorgeous


And, of course, it would not be Australia without these guys. Not a great photo but hope to get better ones later.


Thanks, Broni and Mac for all your hospitality, answering endless questions, and letting me be a part of two magical days on your farm as I begin the wooly adventures part of my trip to Australia.


Published in: on November 21, 2012 at 10:24 pm  Comments (6)  
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Headed for Merino Land

I began the wooly part of my adventure today. Got up early to catch a train but found out that, due to extensive work on the tracks, it would be a bus for a couple hours and then a train for the last hour or so. It all worked out fine. I tried to take photos from the train ( the bus was just on main highways) but it was hard as I couldn’t see what was coming up and , of course, I was really only interested in seeing some sheep ( or maybe kangaroos) but it was tricky. The scenery was vast and very green.


Yes, those tiny things around the water ARE sheep. I will enlarge at home where I have better photo management!

I had made arrangements with a very nice couple to visit their Colored Merinos – several hundred on about 800 acres. We visited all the different groups:

Rams (who love bread – who knew?!)

Ewes with lambs


Look at this mom and babe….


And look at this wool!

I got to visit their wool shed and see their shearing set up and how the wool is packed. My host, Broni, is a wool classer so I learned a lot about the process from her.


I spend another day with them tomorrow – for more wooly adventures!


Published in: on November 20, 2012 at 8:30 am  Comments (10)  

Taronga Zoo

We had planned to visit the Sydney Zoo and it was a good choice.
There probably was a way to drive there but the popular way to go was by ferry across the Sydney Harbour.

Upon arrival, we had to choose how to get up to the zoo entrance. A cable car sounded more fun than a bus, but who knew they’d be this tiny?!


But, it was worth it. We focused our visit on the Australian animals, although there were also African animals and others (and a lot of animatronic dinosaurs scattered throughout the zoo, charming the many little children around).

But, back to the “locals”:



This sign informed the humans to keep out of the animal area, but the animals were free to wander around and did.


We had heard that Red Kangaroos could be dangerous but a zoo volunteer ( docent) said the females weren’t and they were the ones in this area. Which is good because they were really close!



Someone else you could get up close to we’re the koalas. We could see them in the trees, but could also go into a special area to get REALLY close (it is against the law to touch them, which was really hard when you’re this close!)


Someone you would not want to touch is a Tasmanian Devil, actually endangered now due to a face-deforming tumor virus. The zoo has begun a breeding program to try and save the species.



When I saw there was a farm there, we had to look for sheep. Not many, but it’s a start!


Of course, what’s a farm without chickens or “chooks” as they are called here. We liked the way they got their fresh food.


And, like ours at home, they seem to want to lay all their eggs in one nest box!


As in the States, the goats seem to be pretty clever (which is why we don’t have any on our farm!)


Back across the Harbour and on to the next adventure!


Published in: on November 19, 2012 at 9:53 am  Comments (6)  
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An Australian Wooly Adventure

Day 1: we arrived in Australia this morning and …….no sign of sheep yet! However, we did see some interesting architecture and the Harbour:

Opera House


Sydney Harbour Bridge


And just interesting buildings


We took in a street market where we found a fiber vendor



A train tour of the Royal Botanic Garden let us see the plant life that is so very different here. Very lush and green.




And some architecture with the garden. This was for housing tropical plants.


And these were based on some Aboriginal constructions


Well, there was a little “wildlife”……..an Australian Ibis.

More tomorrow!


Published in: on November 18, 2012 at 8:24 am  Comments (4)