Wool and Herbals Retreat Report


Am tired! But here I am, finally!

Casper, exhausted, though I’m not sure he did anything:
And we had a blast!

I’ve had one-day workshops at the farm since I moved here, but this was my first multi-day event holding the smaller, more intimate retreats that I want to do now. There were good and bad things about holding the large retreats as I have the last few years. Now that I am here, on a good road with close access to the interstate and my own health-department approved kitchen, I wanted to start holding retreats here. I wanted a more intimate atmosphere, the environment of the farm, in-depth workshops that don’t come and go in three hours, and a quality experience. The wool and herbals retreat this past weekend was the first, and I am so excited about how it went.

I’m pulling this review off of Sharon Brown’s Facebook note about her experience here:

Just got home from Suzanne’s retreat. Wow, what an awesome time we had! Laura P. is an amazing woman and teacher. She showed us how to shear sheep, skirt the wool, card the wool and spin the wool. She also held the herb class. This woman is a wealth of information and I’m so excited about the next retreat in July where she will do more on herbs.

I like these smaller retreats much better. At the big retreats Suzanne hardly had a chance to say hi because she was juggling so many balls in the air at one time. With the smaller retreats held at her farm she spends time with all of her guests and this is one funny woman- She’ll have you laughing until you have tears in your eyes.

Also, you really bond with the other attendees.

If you get a chance to do one of her retreats you need to go! You’ll have so much fun and leave with a wealth of knowledge.”

This comment comes from Kelly Myers (whose wonderful husband Mark cleaned out my chicken house):

We are so glad we went to the retreat. We learned so much from Laura and Suzanne and our fellow attendees, got to experience many aspects of farm life and country living, met such nice people, laughed a lot and made good friends!

We have been home almost an entire day now and we have talked about nothing but our experiences at the retreat. It was truly something we are both so glad we did and will look forward to attending again.

LauraP truly is a walking encyclopedia of knowledge and a fantastic teacher. I was so proud to have her here giving workshops, and she will be back at the retreat in July. It also felt so good to me that all of the attendees seemed so genuinely excited and had so much fun. I loved seeing people enjoying the farm, really experiencing the farm, not just passing through for a few hours at the party after the retreat as in years past. This wasn’t a milking retreat, but I took them all milking. There was bottle feeding Maia, there was egg collecting, there was walking and sitting on the deck overlooking the pastures and petting the horses and even chicken house cleaning (voluntarily!). The attendees were a fabulous, friendly group and they really bonded and made friendships, especially those who stayed all three days.

I did all the cooking myself and they ate well–leg of lamb and homemade pizzas and pies and ice cream from Glory Bee, just to name a few of the items on the menu. In this format, I was able to sit down with attendees, talk and laugh and tell stories.

Yes, there was shearing and skirting and carding and spinning and making herbal salves and all kinds of great learning experiences, but it was also a retreat to a farm. THAT is the foundation of the experience I want to offer here, and I love how it went.

Bottle feeding Maia:
Milking lessons with Glory Bee:
Practicing “sheep sitting” with one of the Tunis lambs. (They weren’t being sheared, but they were smaller for practice.)
My friend Sarah’s son Liam came to do the actual heavy sheep sitting job:
Laura demonstrating shearing with Crazy:
Attendees practicing shearing on calm pup Annabelle:
Laura, taking Annabelle’s coat off:
Happy skirting:
And then there was washing and wool drying on top of cars in the sun and the breeze:
And combing and carding and coloring and spinning and sitting on the back porch:
Joe and Lisa from Woolweaver Farms, where I got my Tunis lambs, came to demonstrate and discuss scrapie tags, and attendees got to do some sheep herding to round them up for tagging.
The herbals day included hiking and collecting and learning to make salves and tinctures and other herbal concoctions.
I have more retreats coming up!

Here’s what’s open for registration now.

June Cows, Cheese, Soap, and Baking

October Prepper’s Paradise

(The July retreat is full and closed to registration now.)
Come see us! Your adventure is waiting!

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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on May 6, 2013  

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13 Responses | RSS feed for comments on this post

  1. 5-6

    I sure wish I could have come. It sounds like you packed a whole lotta stuff in just 3 days there. Looks like everyone had a great time and learned so much.

  2. 5-6

    Had such a great time! Can’t wait to see you in July. :sheep:

  3. 5-6

    The retreat was awesome! So much learned, so much fun… and we couldn’t have had more perfect weather. Thank you again, Suzanne, for opening your home to us, and to LauraP for sharing your bountiful wisdom. :clover:

  4. 5-6

    Looks like a lot of fun! Barefoot with with chicken in the driveway, my kind of retreat!

  5. 5-6

    This was my dream workshop… wish I lived closer! How did you wash the fleece?

  6. 5-6

    I had one of the most joyable times this past Saturday at the retreat. I was so impressed with Suzanne and Laura for their wealth of information and the new friends I was able to meet. These ladies and the team gentleman were so kind and offer information at the drop of a hat. Ladies I hope to see all of you again. It was so relaxing to get away from the hustle and bustle that my life is in right now. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart for such a fantastic time. :snoopy: :chicken:

  7. 5-6

    Cabynfeve- She ( Laura P.) filled the washer with HOT water, she also has a fine mesh bag( both ends are open) that ties over the agitator of a TOP load washer. She attaches it, adds the wool and then ties it off at the top. It’s hard to explain, but when she’s finished- it’s like the washer has a mesh rounded sides that has the wool secure inside of it. After adding a cup of Dawn dish detergent she lets the wool sit in there for 30 minutes–this was a soak only- and then she checks it. When she was satisfied that the wool was pretty much lanolin free, she put the machine on spin. She then, took the bag out and we laid the wool on plastic on top of Linda’s car to dry.

  8. 5-6

    HEY! Those of us who live far, far away, without the funds to come for a retreat, would like to see that picture of the mystery man, too!

  9. 5-6

    We are one day back from the retreat, husband Mark’s first day back to work and at 10:15 a.m. I received a text from him. It read, “I am BUSY. I am bored. There are no chickens to watch here.” He read my mind!
    One stinkin’ day away from Sassafras Farm and I miss the donkeys, horses, chickens (especially the little bantam rooster who thinks he is the boss), goats, sheep, dogs, cats, cows (kisses to BP), tadpoles, butterflies and the goose (who is bossy!).
    I miss Suzanne (the amazing) and the lovely Laura (encyclopedias have NOTHING on this lady).
    Suzanne welcomed us into her world with a hug and immediately lined us up for food cafeteria style! YUM! We continued through that first day following her around like little ducklings, trying to keep up with her energy, wanting to see all the wonderfulness that was to be seen. I watched with excited eager eyes as she brought Glory Bee into be milked and then demonstrated and instructed and encouraged us to try our hands at milking. Suzanne was inspiring enough to make me feel like I could have handled the whole milking thing on my own for the rest of the retreat. (Ha!)
    Laura got down to business with the sheep on Day 1. She was totally a hands on teacher and drew us all in to get down and dirty with the learning of how to flip sheep, calm sheep, sheer sheep and love sheep. I had no idea there was so much to learn about sheep or that there was a person who could teach me so much about them in one afternoon!
    Laura then instructed us in the skirting and cleaning of the wool so we would have Crazy’s and Annabelle’s fine fleece to work with on Day 2. We all had very soft hands by the end of the Day 1. Lanolin rocks!
    In between all these activities we ate. We ate. A lot. Suzanne cooked herself silly serving fresh from the oven bread with every meal and homemade pies with homemade ice cream (thank you Glory Bee!) every evening for dessert!
    On Day 2 we set about learning the art of spinning wool. We cleaned and carded and practiced spinning with different types of drop spindles and spinning wheels. We were given spindles made by Laura to take home and please ask me if I have any wool! Yes sir, yes sir, many bags full! Some of the participants had prior experience, while some, like me, had none. While we sat on Suzanne’s back porch playing with wool, we learned, practiced, chatted, laughed, took pictures and made friends. The making friends part was as glorious as feeling the soft fluffiness of that wool and just as impacting as what we learning.
    And, WE ATE.
    Day 3 brought in more participants that we welcomed with open arms. With shovels, knives, notepads and camera’s we hiked downward, upward and over yonder with Laura leading the pack and sharing her incredibly vast wealth of knowledge concerning plants of all types. We identified, picked and gathered bags of herbs (formerly known to some of us as weeds, but now known as precious sustainers and supporters of life) and hauled our treasures to the studio where we cleaned, dried, infused, and made green salve. I could write pages about what Laura taught us that day on the farm but I fear I would do no justice to what the actual experience was like. I will say that spending a day picking weeds (I mean herbs), with Laura, while picking her brain too, is just about priceless.
    And when I thought we were done, I was wrong! Suzanne ran us all back uphill to show us how to collect pine tar and shared her recipe for her use of it with us! The fun and exercise was never ending!
    And, WE ATE.
    The most surprising part of the entire retreat was how much I learned from the participants. Ladies (and my husband,) from all different places had so much knowledge and were so willing to share. I learned things I had wanted to learn about but had not thought that I would find answers at that time, with people I had never met, way, way, way out in the boonies of West Virginia. Meeting these ladies was a gift.
    Actually, the entire experience was a gift that I will not take for granted. I encourage anyone who is thinking about retreating to Suzanne’s haven to not hesitate. If you spend a day or few there you may leave as awestruck and as smart as I did!
    So before you go to Suzanne’s, prepare yourself before hand by storing up sleep! Each night I left the farm longing for a hot shower and bed, only to find that sleep was evasive as my head spun about with new found knowledge and faces of new friends, and the waves of light, drifting sleep I did find were nothing but flashes of chickens clucking, cow milking, sheep spinning, walking around and finally just plowing through poop dreams. Good dreams! Except for the ones where the goose was loudly honking – wait- that was Mark snoring and THAT was no dream!
    Thank you for the gift of this retreat Suzanne, Laura and everyone who was there. I treasure you all. I am grateful and I am honored to say I know you. I miss you all! And I concur with Mark- I miss the chickens!

    Kelly Myers

  10. 5-6

    Sure wish I lived closer! I’d love to come! Thanx for posting for those of us who can’t. :)

  11. 5-7

    Kelly- you nailed it! What you put into words is spot on.

  12. 5-8

    Kelly I couldn’t have put it any better! It was totally worth the 30 hour round trip drive. It was my favorite vacation ever!

  13. 5-14

    What a wonderful way to take a holiday spending time in the hills of beautiful WV with Suzanne at her farm.

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