Friday, October 05, 2007
The Royal (Agricultural) Show
I haven't been since I was a teen. The Royal Show is an institution in my city. It started as a show for agricultural competitions, stock trading and to show city folk how country folk lived. Over the years it's commercialised, so for many the focus of the show is showbags (themed bags filled with lollies or plastic tat), fairground rides, and sideshow alley. But they do still have cattle auctions on the first day, and all kinds of produce on display. This year I was most interested in the shed where, by some alignment of the gods, the rabbits and the alpacas were housed together. I loved the deep, deep irony in that on one side of the showground was the 'animal nursery' - a range of various animals set in pens with crowd dividers so there was no risk of anyone petting them. Wander round to the judging sheds, and you could pet the exact same animals as much as you wanted. We saw pigs and goats and a million kinds of rabbits (I do dream of getting a rabbit, so went with half an eye to testing whether I was allergic and what breed I might like) and alpacas and sheep and dogs all for show.
(you could even pet the emus. Though they seemed pretty attached to their owner).
Not only that, but the infamous dairy pavilion had plenty of free samples of milk and fudge and cheese and this delicious gingerbread icecream, because we got there early. Badly Coloured Boy tried some new breed of potato in a potato salad sample I didn't try (good work putting bacon in the potato salad, Potato Marketing Board. Way to prevent all the Islamic, Jewish and vegetarian showgoers from trying your produce). There were strawberries and jam and sausage to try too.
(a shorn alpaca. Funny, huh?)
As far as alpaca fleece and yarn goes, they have a long way to catch up with the sheep. A few balls of 8-ply cream, two dyed green were for sale in the pavilion. No fleece available. But in the sheep pavilion, Bilby yarns was present as The Melanian Sheep Association. I've never actually been to their store, but damn they're lovely people! I didn't get a single patronising or surprised-at-young-person-knitting comment. My request for yarns dyed with natural dyes was regarded as a normal, albeit presently unfulfillable request. My request for handturned crochet hooks? Well, they have a couple of handturners they know who might be convinced to make them as one-offs for me. They'll find out and let me know. I bought a few balls of machine spun naturally coloured sock yarn ($4 per 50g!), but was rather lusting after a chocolate colour that was only available in handspun. I picked out a couple of skeins for a scarf, then Badly Coloured Boy leaned over and said "Do you have enough for a jumper? I'd like a jumper made out of this."
(a terrible photo, but it shows off the luscious colour shifts in the dark brown (apparently technically 'black' in sheep-breeding terms).
BCB has never, ever expressed a desire for anything handknit from me ever before, let alone a wool that is still a tiny bit scratchy and hand-wash only! Apparently he's forgoing easy care and super soft because he liked the man at the stall, and the idea that the yarn was locally grown and handspun. So now I have a zillion skeins of handspun. At a cost of $6 per 50g. So, um, instead of showbags filled with Cadbury chocolate and Pirates of the Carribbean merchandise, we came home with locally produced yarn, locally produced dried fruit leathers, and a few drawer-scenting blocks for my unintended yarn stash. God I'm a hippy.
(and to finish it off, the fruitcake and boiled plum pudding entries in the cooking competition).