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16th August 2010
Gretchen Wilson
We recently returned from a trip to Highwood, Montana and the above statement became our favorite in the "charm arsenal" of our 1-1/2 year old grandson, Toby. His infant sister, Hosanna, is a beauty - but Toby stole the show.His favorite term came to describe much of our trip!
One stop in our travels was the home of David and Tracey Sturman in St. Ignatius, Montana. They farm 40 acres with horses, and raise Katahdin meat sheep. 10,ooo foot peaks raise literally from their sheep pasture and go straight up. oh wow! A few wool sheep in the flock will make great felt projects.
On our way home we took the scenic Highway 20 at the top of the state. After a cattle drive and the state's highest pass, we came to Tonasket.
First stop was Betty Roberts’ home on Highway 97. The first of many "oh wows" that day. What an inspiring woman! Betty has been quietly, making superb wheels for 40 years. They are engineering and artistic marvels. This plain-spoken, small-town lady engineers these dual-wheel beauties for a huge array of ratios. You can spin anything on one of these! She chooses the wheel’s material from an amazing stock of incredible woods. The blue pine's and apple's bold patterns attracted me the most. She precision handcrafts every part of the wheels - then inlays them! The inlays are natural specimens of flowers and butterflies that - you guessed it - she collects and preserves herself. With a chemist's precision, she mixes resins for the inlays. SO MUCH knowledge and skill wrapped up in one formidable woman - oh wow!
Next stop in Tonasket, was Larkhaven Dairy. Clare and Sam run an artisan cheese making business and small Grade-A sheep and goat dairy. Seeing their home-made, licensed parlor and cheese room were inspirational too! Maybe that "retirement dairy" is not such an impossible idea? Their use of recycled materials was creative and innovative. This year's wool clip was purchased by my client for felting and we offered to pick it up. We started packing Clare's wool and soon realized she had more than estimated. 150 pounds was ALL we could stuff in the overflowing jeep. "Oh wow!" said the Jeep as a suitcase sprung from a window! After buying some great cheese and promising to get the rest of the clip somehow… we pressed on.
Next stop, Ton and Leah Reitveld's farm just around the corner from Larkhaven. Ton was an early breeder of dairy sheep in this state and bought some of our first lambs many years ago. He now farms a nice hillside acreage with CSA crops he sells at markets. Leah is the finest felt artist I have ever known. We missed seeing Leah, but her new yurt felting studio was tucked in a nice hollow and her felt works graced the home. Her menagerie of CVM and Icelandic sheep, llamas and goats greeted us enthusiastically. It was great to reconnect with this family after 10+ years!
Lots of driving.........but memories and inspiration to last a while. Ohhh wowww!