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Spring Fiber Jubilee

--- Tall Grass Farm hosting event this weekend

Photographs by Mike Heine/The Week

Donna Lenz Wright/The Week

(Published April 4, 2007, 12:53 p.m.)

For the 11th year in a row, Sam and Susan Miller will open their family farm this Saturday to host their Spring Fiber Jubilee featuring their angora goats and the variety of high-quality textiles their mohair produces.

For those who haven't had the pleasure of attending one of the Miller's jubilees, it's a day of down-home family fun, an opportunity to learn about green agriculture and its products and a chance to purchase items essentially impossible to find in a local store.

"It's evolved over the years from when we had our second Angora goat shearing," said Susan Miller. "My husband said as long as we have to do this twice a year we should have an event of it."

And so began the biannual event held the first Saturdays of April and October at their farm in Richmond Township.

The Millers raise angora goats and make blankets, throws, clothes and yarn from the hair-mohair. For some products they mix the hair from their two llamas with the mohair to make even more unique items. Other items are mixed with standard virgin wool.

"The event has really grown over the years because we've connected with other people in the alternative agriculture industry and invited them to bring their items to sell at the jubilees," Miller continued. "We support each other in terms of keeping these small Wisconsin businesses going.

"(The jubilee is) about helping other alternative farmers prosper and getting the word and education out there to interested people."

This is no craft fair or farmers market. The vendors don't pay a booth fee, allowing the Millers to be more discriminative in whom they allow to sell products at the jubilee and gives smaller farmers the chance to meet more people.

"This is perfect for people looking for something really unique and outside the mainstream for things for themselves or for gifts."

"Alternative farmers are people who care about the environment and are focused on good husbandry of the land and animals; there are no industry farmers at this event."

Event-goers will have the opportunity to see a goat sheared every 30 minutes and are invited to feel the soft hair used in their products.

"We have a wide range of people who come. There are families with kids-and Sam is so wonderful with them. He brings a goat out and lets the kids touch her. Then he lets them touch her again after shearing when they feel so silky and soft."

The Millers have gotten some great feedback from jubilee-goers over the years.

"They love coming here and I've had folks tell me that if they had a conflict with another plan, they choose this. We really enjoy seeing each other year after year."

Kids come up with great questions, Miller said. After seeing the goat struggle against being sheared, most ask if it hurts.

"We tell them, 'No, they just don't like it, just like a kid who doesn't want to get a haircut.' Then we tell them that their hair grows an inch a month and if they're not shorn they're subject to illness-too much heat and moisture on their skin is not good and they can get 'goaty lice,' we call it.

"They'll also ask how old they are and how smart they are. We tell them that they're as intelligent as a 7-year-old child and that puts it in perspective for them."

People have told Miller that they like coming year after year because it's on a real farm-a down-home event.

"They enjoy being in the barn and around the animals. It's cozy, warm, fuzzy and so different than anything, say like at the state fair park or the Wisconsin Sheep and Goat Festival-way different than that. We have lots of people that come and spend the whole day here."

The Fiber Jubilee is Saturday, April 7, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at N6623 Lake Lorraine Road, Delavan (in Richmond Township). No dogs or smoking are allowed and children must be under the supervision of an adult at all times. Roadside parking is available and all four tires must be off of the road. For more information, call (608) 883-2025 or visit www.mohairconnection.com.

2007 Fiber Jubilee Schedule and Vendors

10 a.m.-3:30 p.m.-Shearing on the half-hour by David Kier, master shearer

11 a.m.-1 p.m.-Music

10 a.m.-2 p.m.-Lunch from the good cooks of the Richmond Methodist Church

10 a.m.-4 p.m.-Vendors:

--- Tall Grass Farm mohair blankets, raw mohair, roving and yarn, natural goat milk soap, and distinctive handcrafted wearables.

--- Black Oak baskets and wool.

--- Coed Mawr Woolen Mill's therapeutic wool-filled mattresses, quilts and comforters; and glass knitting needles, spinning wheels and roving.

--- Londondairy Alpacas' fiber, yarn, fine apparel items and adorable visiting alpacas.

--- White Dove Farm's unique felt items, knitting kits and Corriedale wool.

--- Studio S Fiber Arts' tools and supplies for weaving, spinning, knitting and other fiber arts.

--- Charitable Handworks' organic lotion bars.

--- J & L Farm's Border Leicester wool and roving; and farm-fresh lamb.

--- Sunnyfield Farm's all-natural local honey.

--- The Wee Croft's Finn sheep wool, roving and yarn; and knitting patterns and kits.

--- Thomsen Merinos' buttery-soft merino yarn, combed top, roving and hand-combed locks.

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