Opera, lovely as ever, had made some phone calls in which she tried to get us involved in the wool show at the Stampede. We knew somebody, who knew somebody, who was looking for people to man the Alberta Lamb Producers booth for a few shifts over Stampede. The connection was good (same people were managing the wool show)... and Opera offered our services in any way they felt useful; mentioning, of course, that we are aiming to apprentice as Wool Judges, and we'd Scribe, we'd Steward, we'd Shadow, or shovel poop if need be. We were accepted as booth warmers for 3 shifts, starting Thursday morning at 8:30am.
We're calling that a win/win situation, as our feet would be firmly in the door, and we'd be able to make new contacts.
On Tuesday the phone rang, and we were advised that we'd been promoted to Wool Judges for the show, as someone had dropped out. We were also advised that confidence would be a very good thing.
I was jumping up and down at the time, so I'm not sure if I sounded as confident as I had intended.
Opera didn't initially take it well, but I have to say the girl warms up to an idea, given enough time.
We spent 2 days studying the sheep that we expected in the show. We made up some excellent spreadsheets. Opera talked to our Wool Judging teacher and got a little inside information on what to expect. Everything is good. Apparently he (Morris, that is) had been contacted about our skills, and advised that we were up to the job. If Morris believes in us, then we do too.
Me and BFML went to the SAIT Bookstore and bought O and me lab coats, and other geeky tools that are helpful when judging wool. Opera made us binders full of info on the sheep we were to expect. We both calmed down. We received supportive emails. We hung with our peeps and expressed.. hmmm... confidence.
On Thursday morning we went to the Stampede grounds and received our official gate admissions for the week, and headed to the Ag building. We were immediately whisked away for a free Stampede Breakfast upstairs in some fancy-dancy room. I have to say that I was feeling quite important at that point. Also confident.
Eventually we made our way downstairs into the ring where we'd only days before watched sheep shearing. The central part was thick with sawdust, and there were perhaps 6 tables of fleeces on display - around 40, total. We had a good look around, made some decisions regarding redistributing the classes, and got at it. First we went around the tables and inspected the yearlings (just to make sure that no full sized fleece had been placed there in error). Then we took a second tour, this time applying micron and yield estimates. We didn't have scribes, nor stewards, but we did have time constraints. We had figured that we had between 2 and 3 minutes per fleece, all in.. which I'm sure, according to Morris, is about 1 minute and 30 seconds more that we needed. By trip three (where all other criteria are judged), we were both feeling:
For real. You forget the seats surrounding the ring. You forget everything but what is in front of you. Fleece. (You do remember Morris though. "Are you finished yet?")
It was all quite interesting really. When we took our first tour around, we had identified a fleece in a particular category that certainly appeared to be a winner. We were both anxious to know if our m/y estimates, combined with all of the other subjective and objective criteria would combine to show this fleece as the winner of its category. By the end of judging, it had not only been declared the winner of its class, but as grand champion as well. It really underlined to me that I could trust our judgment and that we absolutely knew what we were doing.
After we were completely done with the judging, we were taken upstairs for lunch (two free meals in one day! Yayyy!), and we did all of the calculations for the show. Once everything was signed, sealed, and delivered both of us felt a little like we'd been hit by a truck. I was completely and absolutely spent.
The rest of our Stampede was fun; we did two partial days at the booth, we visited Ron at the Buffalo Gold booth (and were given bags of bison fleece to spin). The Sheep Breeders tried to steal us from the Lamb Producers (they were unsuccessful). We spun a lot, answered plenty of questions (O most of all, she's the smart one).. and we laughed our heads off. Thanks to BFML who ferried us back and forth day in and day out.
Today? The Sheep Breeders Association called to say that the two champion fleeces had been auctioned on Monday morning, and the purchaser had donated the fleece to O and me. We've decided to send out samples to Olds to be analyzed to back up our micron estimates. We can confirm yields ourselves by washing the fleece.
That kind of stuff builds confidence. Yes it does.
Rhinebeck? Prepare to hear from us.
(ps: I won two ribbons at Stampede. One for knitting/Western Theme, and one for spinning. It was all very exciting!)