Everywhere a Yak

Everywhere a Yak

Image copyright Bijou Basin Ranch.

Sometimes I get the feeling that fiber is everywhere. I expect to find it in spinning class, and certainly at a wool market, but it can be a delightful surprise anywhere.

I was riding my bicycle late last week, just finishing up mile 45 or so and beginning to feel tired of the wind and bumpy roads. I turned a corner and saw what looked at first like fringed cows…Yaks!

I must have had yaks on the brain. (First goats, now yaks—what next?) In spinning class the week before, Maggie Casey tempted us to stay a little past quitting time with a handful each of yak fluff. Spinning it had its challenges, but the fiber flowed out of my hands and into a luxurious yarn.

Then last week at the Estes Park Wool Market, I ran into Carl and Eileen Koop of Bijou Basin Ranch, whose yak farm in rural Colorado I once visited for a story on local fiber. Although they live far out into the country, their hospitality and their gorgeous beasts draw visitors from far and wide.

Image copyright Bijou Basin Ranch.

Yaks on the Farm
I just stumbled upon that yak farm last week (and didn't stop to get up close), but you may want to take a planned approach to visiting a fiber farm. Here are some tips, excerpted from "Following Fiber to the Source" from Knits Weekend 2010. You can find the full text of the article, including details of visiting the Koops' working yak farm, here.  

Preparing for a Fiber-Farm Visit
When you visit a fiber farm or ranch, you don't want to arrive after a long drive and find no one there—or get hopelessly lost and not arrive at all! The following tips can make your visit a success.

Call ahead
Not all times are good for a visit: The farmer may be away for the day, the vet may be there—or the farm may not be able to host visitors at all because of insurance restrictions. The owner can suggest a good time and also give you directions, which are especially helpful in rural areas. Alternatively, check for an announced open-farm day.

Leave animals at home and ask before you bring children
Your dog may be a natural sheepdog, but a strange dog may stress animals (even if he or she is left in the car). And farms can be a great place for kids to learn, but they're also full of equipment that can cause injury. Ask the farmers about young visitors and respect their wishes.

Wear closed-toe shoes and long pants
My family had a saying that no horse ever stands still as long as it does when standing on your foot. The same goes for sheep, goats, yaks, and other animals. To protect your feet from injury and your legs from scratches, dress defensively.

Bring a checkbook and your camera
Not all farms have fiber or other products for sale, but you may be able to pick up some yarn and take a few pictures of the critters who grew it.

I hope you get in some great fiber encounters this summer!

Happy spinning,

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