Wisconsin's Alice in Dairyland Rochelle Ripp will join Bleating Heart Haven owners Cindy Ellenbecker and John Rezachek on Saturday, Nov. 17, for their inaugural Homespun Holiday event.
The day will include a christening of the new barn which houses sheep, goats and alpacas, and the start of the holiday sales season for fiber arts products made on site.
For the fiber farm cottage business in southeastern Calumet County, the occasion will represent the culmination of a recovery from a June 24 fire which destroyed the remodeled former dairy barn, which was a century or more old.
Fortunately, all of the animals except three German Angora rabbits were in the adjacent pasture paddocks at the time and the only major losses in addition to the building were some equipment, exterior damage to nearby buildings, and blackening of some foliage.
At mid-afternoon on Nov. 17, Ripp will preside at a christening of the new 32x77-foot barn with goat's milk. The structure was built by Cleary Building Corp., while Rezachek designed the inside housing and feeding facilities for the wool-producing animals.
Ironically, Ripp was in Calumet County at the time of the barn fire at Bleating Heart Haven, attending the county's Sundae on a Dairy Farm at Stumpf Dairy in the town of Harrison. A town fire truck which was on display at that event was summoned as a backup for fighting the fire, a task which required the resources of nine area fire departments.
For Ripp's visit, which is set for 1:30-3:30 p.m., the scheduled activities include sheep shearing, wood carding, wool spinning on a wheel, and drop spindle weaving. She will address the crowd briefly about her Alice in Dairyland activities before taking part in the new barn christening and posing for pictures with children and animals.
At Bleating Heart Haven, Ellenbecker and Rezachek raise Cormo, Shetland, Corriedale-Merino, Cotwold, Blue-Faced Leiceste, and California Variegated Mutant sheep, Angora goats, and Huacaya alpacas for the great variety of fibers that they provide. The goats are sheared twice year.
Ellenbecker washes, dyes, spins, knits and weaves the fibers. Any excess volume is sold to a commercial buyer.
Rezachek cards the fibers and also makes baskets and furniture from willow trees that grow on the property.
In 2006, he built a fiber arts studio which was then converted into a sales shop in 2011.
For the Homespun Holiday kickoff on Nov. 17, which is being co-sponsored by the Calumet County Economic Development Corporation, eight other vendors from the area will have their locally-produced items on display and for sale. They will be set up inside the new barn, starting at 10 a.m.
Those vendors will include fused glass jewelry (pendants, earrings, medallions) maker Sarah Birschbach of Hilbert, acrylic and oil painting artist Dan Green of Hilbert (he has a painting of Bleating Heart's old barn), handcrafter Mary Schuler of Chilton with totes, makeup bags, travel bags and handbags, and Meadowpath Photography of Greenleaf (fine art photos, note cards and picture taking of children with farm animals).
In the food and beverage vendor category with products for sale on site will be the Sattler Lamb Farm of Chilton, Trout Springs Winery of Wayside, Terra Verde Coffeehouse of Chilton, and Trust Local Foods of Appleton (goat and sheep cheese, soaps and other locally grown and produced foods).
The Homespun Holiday promotion is designed to showcase a part of the agricultural diversity in Calumet County and to call attention to the growth of the wool and animal fiber industry in the state. The written request for an appearance by Alice in Dairyland noted that homespun wool is often considered as something of the past, but this event is geared to show such products are gaining popularity today.
Bleating Heart Haven offers classes at the farm, has an art fair weekend there (the 2013 dates are May 18-19), and will be open for the Homespun Holiday sales days from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays from Nov. 17 through Dec. 23. The address is W1993 Thede Road, located 1.25 miles west of Highway 32/57 just northwest of New Holstein.
The cottage business's website is at www.bleatinghearthaven.com and its email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. The telephone number is 920-286-0971.