We’re about to launch into Feb-EWE-ary — nope, that’s not a misspelling, but rather a monthlong celebration on the Vineyard of everything related to sheep. People often think of February as downtime on the Island, but insiders know it’s the biggest month of the year for all things woolly. The broad series of programs is a collaboration of Island sheep enthusiasts, spearheaded by Slough Farm, and includes the Agricultural Society, FARM Institute, and Martha’s Vineyard Museum.
Julie Scott, Slough Farm’s executive director, says about the woolly animals, “There were definitely more sheep than people for a long time. They are such amazing, multi-purpose animals, from wool to their grazing abilities, meat, and milk … Sheep have a lot to offer in a small package.”
A Sheep-Shearing Shindig kicks off the celebration on Jan. 28, from 11 am to 1 pm at the Ag Hall Animal Barn — it sounds like a blast. Shepherd, shearer, butcher, and fiber enthusiast Siri Swanson of Yankee Rock Farm will be sharing her knowledge. And you can pet sheep, check out the museum’s traveling textile show, and learn all about shearing and sheep fiber as the Tunis sheep of Slough Farm get their annual trim before lambing starts in March. Norah Kyle, education and public programs manager at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, will be demonstrating some of the steps that take raw wool and turn it into finished products. (Free. No registration required.)
That evening, at Slough Farm, you can gather with Amy DuFault of Southeastern New England Fibershed from 5 to 7 pm, joining fellow sheep and fiber enthusiasts for a casual fireside chat about collaborations. Bring a project to work on, or just engage in crafting-related conversation. Free. For information and registration, email email@example.com.
To accompany its new textile-related exhibition “Woven,” the museum is launching a new program called Martha’s Vineyard’s Woolly History on Thursdays, Feb. 2 to 23, from 5:30 to 7 pm. Kyle and the museum’s renowned research librarian Bow Van Riper will delve into how sheep and wool became such a lucrative industry on the Island, and why that changed. The course features special guests, hands-on experiences with artifacts and textile processes, gallery visits, and more. Best for ages 16 and up. $60 for MVM members, $75 for nonmembers. Registration is required, and closes Jan. 28 at noon. Information and registration at mvmuseum.org/register-for-mvs-wooly-history.
Slough Farm is offering a two-day Tanning Workshop with Bethany Cantwell of Aurora Blue Farm on Saturday, Feb. 4, and Sunday, Feb. 5, from 9 am to 3 pm. Students will learn how to tan a Slough Farm Tunis sheepskin from start to finish, using natural methods and traditional, hand-hewn tools. ($100. Attendance required for both days. Lunch is provided on both days. Scholarships available. Registration required. Information and registration at bit.ly/SloughTanning).
On Thursday, Feb. 9, from 5 to 7 pm, there will be a Sheep Butchery demonstration at the FARM Institute with Charlie Granquist, who will discuss sheep anatomy and the best way to process it, as well as uses and cooking methods for various parts of the animal. (Free. For registration and information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Beginner and intermediate knitters alike will enjoy the online, four-week Slough Mittens Knit Along with Prin VanGulden, beginning on Tuesday, Feb. 14, to knit mittens with yarn from Slough’s own heritage-breed Tunis sheep. There is an optional in-person kickoff on Friday, Feb. 10, from 6 to 8 pm in the Slough Farm Fiber Classroom, to chat about stitches and patterns and select your yarn. (Free. To learn more and register, email email@example.com.)
VanGulden will also conduct a Felting Weekend at Slough Farm on Saturday, Feb. 11, and Sunday, Feb. 12, from 9 am to 3 pm. Saturday covers the basics of needle felting, while making a large, collaborative wall hanging for the new classroom at Slough Farm. On Sunday, you will use the skills to create your own felted wall hanging to take home. (Registration and attendance on both days required. All supplies provided. Fee is $25 for both days. For information and registration, visit sloughfarm.org/register/feb-ewe-ary-felting-weekend.)
Hosted at Slough Farm in partnership with the Ag Society, a Hands-on Livestock Health and Wellness workshop will be led by Dr. Erin Masur, a doctor of veterinary medicine, on Saturday, Feb. 18, from 9 am to 3 pm. Dr. Masur will be covering a DIY Fecal workshop, deworming basics, holistic parasite management (pasture rotation and soil conservation), basic first aid, and biosecurity (transmissible diseases and ectoparasites). The talk will focus on sheep and goats, but poultry and cattle raisers are welcome to attend. (Free. All supplies and lunch included. For information and registration, visit bit.ly/livestockhealthMasur.
Back at the museum is a weekend of drop-in Fiber Fun on Saturday, Feb. 18, and Sunday, Feb. 19, from 10 am to 4 pm, where you will watch modern fiber artists work, follow the thread from sheep to sweater in our wool processing demonstration, visit the textile exhibit “Woven,” and make your own woolly wonder to take home. (Free with museum admission.) For more drop-in fun at the museum, head over to Woolly Winter Break from Monday, Feb. 27, to Friday, March 3, from 10 am to 4 pm. Each day, you can explore the process that turns raw wool into something wearable, with make-and-take activities daily. (Free with museum admission.)
The museum is also starting up a new 4-H Crafts of Yesteryear Club for kids ages 9 to 12 that will shed new light on old-fashioned farming with artifact exploration, hands-on projects, and field trips to historic Island farms. Every month, the club will focus on a different theme, and work on a craft typically completed that time of year on historic Island farms, processing everything from butter and cheese to wool, making candles, and more. The Crafts of Yesteryear Club meets one Saturday a month from 3 to 4 pm from February through May and September through December. Sign up at bit.ly/4-H_Sheep.
Scott says, “It’s easy to forget how agricultural Martha’s Vineyard has been historically, and how much it still is, considering what’s happening with development, the influx of people, and the things that have had to happen to accommodate them all. But, in actuality, Martha’s Vineyard is really agricultural, and sheep are such a big part of that history.”
For more information, visit bit.ly/Feb-Ewe-Ary.