Greene County Sheep and Fiber Festival

My idea of a lazy Sunday: waking up naturally, eating a light breakfast, and then sitting down with a nice book in the cool morning air. After working all week I feel that in order to take full advantage of my opportunity to rest I should do very little. However, this sentiment is not shared by the Masterson household. On my first day off, I got up at 7 o’clock to drive 2 hours out of town to the Greene County Sheep and Fiber Festival. “The what?” you ask. Let me show you:

…Ok so before we begin, I have to confess my failures. The festival was titled after the primary animal being presented: sheep. But there were also goats and alpacas at the festival because all of these can be sheared for fiber that we use in making clothes. So here is the confession. Though I thought I had documented this trip well, it turns out I don’t have a single picture of a sheep! However, I have many pictures of alpacas and goats, which I will now show.

these two alpacas were not particularly fond of the crowds so they just sat here all day.

You may be wondering, “What is the difference between an alpaca and a llama?” In short, a llama is almost twice the size of an alpaca, and it has a rougher coat. To learn more about the difference, consider visiting this link I found: Alpaca vs. Llama. While llamas have been bred to carry large loads, alpacas have been bred for their coats, which are quite soft!

This alpaca has a full coat. It might be time for a shearing soon.


In the summer months, it can be uncomfortably hot for a sheep or alpaca with a full coat. At the festival we got to witness a sheep and a llama being sheared for the summer. As the narrator of the demonstration explained, the animals do not particularly enjoy the process, but they do feel much more comfortable afterwards.

Remember the two alpacas from the first picture, the ones that sat down all day? Today was their day to be sheared too!

Snowflake, on the right, has just been sheared. His buddy Reunion came with him to keep him company.

Alpacas are herd animals and they don’t particularly enjoy being alone. If you bought a single alpaca and gave it a field for a home, it would run around the field frantically searching for its herd. I learned that it is very bad taste to own only one alpaca. Yes, the narrator told us that these two were buddies and they didn’t like to be separated. Snowflake wouldn’t get up to be sheared unless they brought Reunion, who was born during a family reunion, too. While the two animals are oddly unbalanced here, Reunion was sheared later in the day. I’m sure there were a few hours in which Reunion was quite jealous of Snowflake’s cool new cut.

Alpacas are tiny underneath their coats! This is not Reunion and Snowflake, by the way. This is a different pair of buddies.


Here are some goats being raised to graze and produce fiber. They are not milking goats.


This is an assortment of scraps from dyed sheep and alpaca fibers. They were being used as part of a felting craft.


The kind lady in charge of the felting craft center was very adamant that felting was a rigorous and time consuming process. She said it could take hours to make anything of substance! I left this table rather puzzled as to why then they had chosen it as a craft at an afternoon fair.

Although I neglected to take any pictures of living, baaaa-ing sheep, I did manage to remember to photograph my lunch, a lamb pita. The folks I went to the festival with said this picture is horrible because the pita is half-eaten. Well, yes, it is. But I didn’t remember to take a picture until halfway through the meal! I’m sorry. I’m deeply sorry!

My delicious half-eaten lamb pita

As we were leaving the festival, I spotted two more furry, white-coated animals. These two, also buddies, were riding in style.

Motor Home Poodles


I hope you enjoyed today’s blog. If you are lucky, tomorrow’s blog will actually have pictures of what it is titled after.



Visiting Wendell and Tanya Berry, Part 1

I drove from Nashville to Cincinnati today, and on the way I stopped to meet the author Wendell Berry. I got stuck in a big traffic jam on I-65 around Mammoth Cave that lasted nearly 2 1/2 hours! I called Wendell to tell him what happened and he said, “I’m sorry, don’t fret, we’ll have time for a visit. I’ll be here when you arrive, with any luck.” I drove on through the jam and went flying fast as I could.

I pulled off the highway a bit past 5PM and started paying close attention. I had always imagined Wendell Berry’s farm land looking like the rolling hills of Kentucky I had biked up and down with my father 3 years ago, but the exit I pulled of on was a different landscape. There were still hulls, but here were far more drastic, jagged, and covered in dark green forest. It was raining a grey misty rain just as it was the night before, and the scene felt altogether cold, but also more intense. I was looking very intensely, trying to match this land with the descriptions from Berry’s novels and autobiographical works. I rode 6 miles up and down a winding two lane road running alongside the Kentucky River. The river was on my left through the trees, and in between it and my road were what I took to be the lowlands. In contrast with the continuous hills, there were 100 yards of flat, green land from the bank of the river to the road. I suppose this is what floods when the rains raise the river.

I pulled up the Berry’s driveway on the right side of the road. The way ran parallel to the main road but also climbed the hill. To my left, the hill between the roads was in tall grass, fenced in. It held two grazing sheep, lolling in the drizzling rain. They seemed to acknowledge someone driving their way. On the hill to my right were three more sheep and a donkey (Wendell said he also has a llama but I did not see it). The driveway simply dead-ended into their sidewalk. I parked behind a car, got out, and gathered my things while the Berry’s friendly dog, Maggie, jumped up to meet me. She then returned to the porch making my way clear. I brought with me a poster, program, and recording from my senior recital.

Tanya Berry, a small, sharp, white-haired woman with glasses and a quick wit, welcomed me in and offered me a glass of water. The living room was cozy after driving in the rain. There was an upright piano, a slanted letter-writing dest, and a bookshelf covering the back wall, filled from corner to corner. We walked on through into the kitchen and dining room, which also held a ceiling-high bookshelf, also full. It is worth noting the ease which this situation took on.  I did not feel nervous and most everything around me encouraged me to feel at home. Wendell was upstairs fixing to come down when his great-nephew in the fourth grade called with an important request. Wendell came downstairs and took the call while I talked with Tanya about music and graduating from college.

Meeting Wendell Berry, after he got off the phone, felt very casual. Perhaps being numbed by hours of traffic along with some conscious effort to interact adeptly, I felt more casual than I wished I had. I am so grateful for the experience and everything it meant, but I fear now while recording it that I may have been less mentally present than I would have wished to be. But here is a paradox: to have taken the time at Wendell’s house to mentally process the state of “being at Wendell’s house” would have taken me mentally away from the conversation presently at hand. Thus I can say the greatest sign that I was mentally present at Wendell’s house is that I don’t remember being so.

The three of us sat down at the kitchen table and talked about countless things. There is no way I can unravel the entirety, so here I present a list of things we talked about. If you care to know more details, ask about one of these as a starting point, perhaps. We spoke about composing, electronic music, music notation, how to write for a performer, the recital, songwriting, English programs, Lipscomb, the Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, the difference between the two, Alexander Campbell, spiritual dualism, its consequences on man’s treatment of the physical world, the church’s perpetuation of this dualism, the church’s responsibility and possibility for enacting change in this perspective, the nature-oriented language of scripture, conservation and exploitation, farming this summer, farming terminology, balancing animals and plants on a farm, land use, closing the market at Reeger’s, farmers markets, the growing season, the weather, living by the river, why I am going to farm, what I will do with music now that I have graduated, my expectations for the summer, his animals (the llama included), a reading list he gave me, The Land Institute, perennial and annual crops, and much more, including his new solar panels and his skepticism as to how precisely the power company is measuring their input.

(Stayed tuned for part 2)

(I realize there is little about Wendell’s persona here, but this picture will do for now)

Wendell on his porch