Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Dancing And Goats And Alpacas, Oh My!

The second half of our trip was spent driving down many a back road in search of dance halls and fibre farms (not bran and I did not see William Shatner even once).

We managed to make it to 5 dances. Not bad considering we didn’t make it to one until Thursday night in Glencoe Mills (you will recall the insane map from my previous post).
Friday night was Southwest Margaree (not to be confused with other such closely named places as Northwest Margaree, South-south-west Margaree, North-east-east-west Margaree, Margaree Harbour, and just plain old Margaree). It’s ok, the firefighters and ambulance drivers know or are related to everyone. This was a great dance. We weren’t able to make it to this one last year because of serious after college crashing out which may have stemmed from attending too many dances during school week! However, this year we did not lay down after getting to our B&B (Hillsborough B&B) thus ensuring our ability to meet up with college friends at the dance. The only pictures I got were of peoples’ backs, a frequent problem at square dances. You spin around a lot!

The next night was West Mabou. We tried to go to the Mabou dance on our way down, but Bruce was feeling under the weather so we gave it a miss (it is an hour from the college and and hour back to the college so really I think that was for the best). As it was, we were only a few minutes from our next B&B Clayton Farm with a 4th generation dairy farm operator. The great thing about this was that we knew two of the guests from college and had dinner with two more (the Red Shoe Pub is a very popular place to eat in Mabou and tables come at a premium so it’s not unusual to share a table and conversation with good company). And the final couple were roped into going to experience the dance by our friends Jo and Simon so when we sat down to breakfast the next morning, there was a good amount of hooting and hollering and carrying on. I think it might just have been the best breakfast of the trip. Bruce and I played a few tunes for people before we all took off. The dance was great too.

The real trick to surviving the dances is threefold: 1. You don’t jump up and down like an over exuberant git and your knees will thank you for it. 2. You don’t dance every set. There are plenty throughout the evening and each one lasts about 20 minutes (2 jig sets and a reel set). 3. You go outside and cool down, even if it’s raining because you’re likely pretty wet anyways. Other than pulling a muscle in my neck which left me immobilized for a few days and was more attributed to lugging around way too much summer weight clothing in my bag than dancing, I suffered little in the way of ill effects on this years dance circuit.

On Sunday we took a break from the dances (more because there wasn’t one to go to) and we went to the Mabou Coal Mines music festival. $5 got you in for the afternoon to see a bunch of up and coming muscians and dancers and a boat ride up the coast. And it didn’t rain the whole time we were there. A miracle in music.

If you look at the right side of this picture, you can actually see a seam of coal. The town of Mabou Coal Mines dried up when it became too expensive to pull the coal out of the hills. Now there's just the port left. Here are a few pictures of our boat ride.

Bruce made a friend.
This one is my National Geographic shot of a heron in flight from a moving boat. Monday we were back at the dance hall, this time Brook Village (another winding road and wondering when you’ll get there. This hall was absolutely jammed with people. We met up with a couple from Embrum who hold a family square set weekend each month so there’s hope for us to get in a few more dances before next year. But we left early as there wasn’t enough room in that hall to turn around and fart and you hoped dearly that no one else thought there was!

When we weren’t off to a dance, we combed the countryside looking for yarn and fibre to spin. I purposely didn’t bring along my accordion this year so there’s be more room in the car for some very squishable yarns and rovings and I wasn’t disappointed.

We went to Baadeck Yarns in Baddeck where I hoped to get some Fleece Artist yarn or perhaps a kit, but the wet weather had stymied that idea. Poor woman couldn’t get any because the wet weather was making it impossible to dry the newest stuff. I believe I bought a bit of sock yarn from a new producer in Quebec (I’ll tell you about it when it comes out of the stash) and some Fleece Artist sliver for spinning.

When we got to Mabou, we seemingly drove straight to the Mabou Ridge Fibre Processing Mill and met with the owner and some of the animals. She’s not up and running presently due to some legal issues, but we’ll check back in with them next year to see how things are going then. We did come away with a lovely couple of bags of roving though, some corriadale and alpaca and some straight up yummy brown alpaca. I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

These are her goats. Their beards were very stiff. From their drool. ICK! Soft mohair though!

This is a brother of the alpaca at the top of this post. They are such characters.

Then on our way back into town (all of 10 minutes down the road) we stumbled into the barnyard of Bellemeade Farms, a lovely little shop on a working farm with hand dyed, hand painted stuff. I purchased dyed fleece and some skeins of yarn.

The greatest thing about travelling around Cape Breton is that at any moment, you can come across a hammered-in homemade sign at the side of the road that says, "MOHAIR" with an arrow. No indication how far you'll have to go before finding this trove of goat hair. But follow it we did. I said, let's just try 5 minutes down the road. Afterall, we were about to leave the island at this point and this was yet another unexpected detour.

So after 10 minutes, and having left the paved road, we came upon this little place at the very end of a road. The goats had been sold (the farmers had retired) but there was plently of fibre to be had from this lady's stash. I don't remember her name. I'll dig it out when I spin the fibre. It was worth the trip though.
The last place we went for fibre was in Nova Scotia proper near Wolfville at Gasperau Valley Fibres. I spent every last dime of my mad money in that place and I still want to lay down from the vapours. Jo at Celtic Memory Yarns tells it wonderfully and I will direct you to her post about it. Irony of ironies, we were almost there at the very same time. I should have loved the opportunity to meet her there.
Next installment, I'll tell you about us getting dressed up in Sherbrooke Village.

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