Schiele Museum of Natural History

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Recently, a good friend and I did a day trip to the Schiele Museum and Planetarium in Gastonia, NC, which is a couple hours drive from us.  It was a field trip I had been looking forward to all school year.  For our science work, we have been focusing on earth science, rocks + fossils, dinosaurs, and outer space.  I visited this museum as a college student either for an ecology class or field natural history, and it left an impression on me!  I thought it would be so neat to share this with the kids, to let them see the constellations in such a neat way in the planetarium, the life size dinosaurs, and all the other exhibits.  Of course, the kids thought it was a blast to skip our regular school day and do a day trip.  They absolutely loved it, especially because we shared the experience with friends we love.  My only regret was that it felt pretty rushed and the kids were flying through and not taking much time to read and learn as they went, more so just taking it all in.  We can always make another trip!

The outdoor exhibits weren’t open but we had fun running through the woods and exploring it all, reading the placards when we could.  It would definitely be neat to go back when these outdoor exhibits are open!  Wren eventually lost steam and by the time we were due for the planetarium show at 12pm, she was pretty much done.  Needless to say,  I stepped out with the screaming baby while the others enjoyed the show.  We ate a picnic lunch that was hurried/interrupted by the rain and then we scooted off to nearby Ikea.  It was a bit of a feat taking 8 children into Ikea between my friend and I, and we were hurrying because it was a Friday and we wanted to do our best to avoid weekend traffic in the rain.  We ended up taking longer than expected, and the bed frame I was looking for for Philippa was out of stock 😦 but I would say it was still a success and really, really fun.  We returned home tired but also energized.  It was a fun way to culminate our science work for the year and a reminder of some of the best parts of homeschooling–experiential, hands-on learning together as a family + with friends.

a visit to Bovidae Farm

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You guys.  I am so excited to share a little about this beautiful local sheep farm we visited a couple of weeks ago.  The last weekend of October is the big Southeastern Animal and Fiber Festival (SAFF) in our town, and literally I was planning on going to spend my yarn dollars at one booth only, the Bovidae Farm booth.  My friends and I were all super bummed when we realized they weren’t at the festival and made plans to visit the farm instead (because you can only otherwise purchase their yarn at their farm).

My friend Jennifer and I planned a visit together, Jennifer having been there before and also introducing me to their wool through her designs with Appalachian knits where she worked to highlight the fiber of the Appalachian region.  We drove out (about a 45 minute drive from our home) one frosty Friday morning, a light dusting of snow was on the ground at the farm.  We had packed a picnic lunch and I told the children this would be a homeschool field trip and to ask as many questions of the owners as they could think of.  Rose and Jim were so generous and kind, having opened their little yarn store (which is the downstairs of their home) just for us, setting out some blocks for the children and a few sheepy toys.  It was an absolute delight to meet them.  They have been shepherds for 30 years, with a flock now of 70 Dorset sheep on 100 acres.  They care for them entirely on their own, but mostly the work is done by Jim, as Rose’s health has limited her.  Phoebe told Jim he reminded her of Peter from Heidi, and she also told him her “where do sheep go to get a hair cut?” joke (answer: the Baa-baa shop).  I think that warmed them up to us pretty quickly. 🙂  It was incredible to see their many spinning wheels and learn about their different functions and uses.  I regret that I didn’t get to try spinning because I mostly had Wren in my arms, but I hope to maybe give it a try the next time we visit.  Rose mostly uses fiber for weaving and had a couple of large looms, while Jim mostly spins.  He spent time letting each of the children try out all of his wheels and teaching them as much as they were interested in learning.  He let them run around and explore on their property, invited them to help him move the fencing, and let them pet and feed a couple of the rams.  He also let them sit on his tractor, which made Noah’s day for sure.

We hope to go back in the spring/early summer for shearing, to watch the whole process and spend some more time there.  Jim told us that they usually send their fleeces to a mill in Maine to be cleaned, dyed and spun.  I have been so eager to get my hands on their wool, and so happy to support a local sheep farm.  I bought a few skeins of their worsted weight yarn for some Hyak socks for myself and Brandon, and maybe some mitts for the children.  I couldn’t resist some of their pink worsted weight yarn for a wooly cropped flax sweater for Phoebe.  I cast on already but it seems the neck is really wide and I might knit it with a larger needle as it has been hurting my hands a bit to work on it at such a tight gauge.  It is the sheepy-ist and most rustic yarn I’ve used, quite squishy, dry, and full of lanolin.  I love it so much, and love knowing that knitting with it supports Jim and Rose’s work and care for the sheep.  Oh, I also bought a couple balls of their sport weight wool with plans to knit the Isle of Purbeck shawl.  Cannot wait!

It was so life-giving to spend time there, and I couldn’t stop talking about it with Brandon for the next few days.  What a wealth of knowledge those folks have and what a gift it was to be allowed onto their farm, to explore, learn, and get our hands into wool and take some home with us.  If any of you are interested in visiting their farm and yarn store, please know you are more than welcome, simply contact them via email or phone to plan your visit.

We are all looking forward to our visit in the spring and to spending some more time with these lovely folks + sheep.