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Magnetic North - January 04 with Vicki Biggs-Anderson

Magnetic North 1/3/18
 
The True Cost of Love and Art
 
Welcome back to Magnetic North, where our new year dawned, still cold, but without the howling winds that blew out the old one. When I set out to do the first chores of 2018, the change was stunning. The sun and stillness was more a caress, than a slap. I could actually go without the hood of my parka and do all my chores in one trip. For the past week I divided them up out of concern for my life, and by extension, the survival of my two dozen chickens, eleven ducks, two geese and five goats.
 
Going to town for anything more than food was the rule during that nasty spell of weather. But I did make it in to spend a few hours with my fellow fiber fanatics at the butt end of our show at the Johnson Heritage Post. What a deeply delightful time that was. Weavers, needle filters, spinners and knitters, like me, just sitting about demonstrating our favorite things, while greeting curious, or just plain frozen, folks who dropped in. 
 
One day of the exhibit, I brought Julia, one of my two German angora bunnies so that people could see where that to-die-for fiber actually comes from. I set up a Pack ’N Play, the ubiquitous folding soft-sided playpen, for the big, round rabbit and visitors admired and petted her, while I showed them how I use raw angora fiber to create wildly warm mittens. I do that by knitting fat rolls of angora, along with regular wool yarn - a historic technique known as “thrumming.”  I also use cashmere thrums from my goats to make things, however installing a goat in the Heritage Post didn’t seem like a good idea.
 
“How long does it take you to make these?” was an often asked question. In reply, I just laughed and shook my head. Because time has little to do with what I, or most of my fiber friends, love about our art. Instead, making and experimenting and sharing are at the root of it all. And for me, of course, there is having an excuse to keep and feed and clean up after rabbits and goats. 
 
Having critters I love, and that love me back, then getting to relax and create all winter, making beauty things, is beyond satisfying. Why on earth would I count the cost in time or money?
 
The only cost involved that I can say I hate, is that inevitably I have to say goodbye, to suffer the loss of one of my beloveds. Not all are gut-wrenching, though.  I remember one which was actually laugh out loud funny. It involved a chicken, a big White Wyandotte. I named Twisted Sister. It fit her, because she had a beak that crossed, top and bottom, so picking up dry feed like other hens was not to be.
 
Now a true farmer would have culled the chick right off, but not I. Instead, for the several years of her life, Twisted got her egg mash mixed with water, a gruel she could scarf up even with her scissor beak. Naturally, we became fast friends and, when she died one spring day, I decided to have a proper burial for her in one of the raised beds near the goat corral.
 
Armed with Shakespeare’s sonnet 118, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate...” and so forth, I popped Twisted’s body in a fabric feed sack, and dug a hole in the raised bed. Wouldn’t you know, that day the goats got out of their fence and, spying the feed sack in my hands, made a beeline for it and me, just as I was reciting Twisted’s eulogy.
 
“Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,” I said, between curses at the goats as they nipped at Twisted’s burial shroud. “And summer’s lease hath all too short a date...Ahhhh, get off me you fiends!”
Finally, the mood totally blown as I sound the sack around my head to keep it from the leaping goats, I gave in, chucked my dear old friend into the hole and shrieked,’

“Thanks for the eggs!  Amen!”
 
So there you have it, why I do not count the time or treasure involved in surrounding myself with critters. Or in turning their output into art, or in the case of chickens, breakfast. It’s about joy. It’s about love given and returned. And, truth be told, dear friends, it’s about having a never-ending stream of stuff to write about. 
 
For WTIP, this is Vicki Biggs-Anderson with Magnetic North.
 

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