Yarn and chickens. What do they have in common?
The answer that I came to early this (sleepless) morning: quarantine.
A few years ago before we needed to travel so much, my family and I kept chickens. Many, many chickens of various kinds, sizes, origins, etc. You might have guessed that we are a DIY, can-do kind of family, and chickens made sense for us: eggs fresh from the backyard; some responsibility for the kids; fun with egg hatching, raising, and bird watching. But each time we considered introducing a new bird to the flock, we had to set up a quarantine. Sometimes it was a small fenced off area, sometimes it was the garage. It was always a measure of safety: disease and defense.
If you have ever raised chickens you know that the pecking order is an actual-factual, real thing. Literally. And the latter part if the quarantine period was partially about slow, controlled integration that gave all the birds time to get to know one another. Likewise, if you have raised fowl, you know how quickly disease can run through a flock. So, early stages of quarantine are often about sorting the healthy from the sick. As a side bar, we once had an adopted rooster who had a bad case of chicken pox. He would try to crow and all that would come out was a sad little cough. He hit the road shortly after the quarantine began.
As a yarn shepherd, I find that my time with the chickens has informed my approach to fiber. I fear the moth-infested fiber as much as I feared a diseased chicken; and my main drive it to protect my flock. When new fiber comes into the house, it undergoes two rounds of quarantine: first, it stays downstairs in plastic, far, far, far away from what my partner has dubbed “the yarn room.” Once it passes this two week test, I’ll send it upstairs, where it remains in plastic for another couple of weeks. *If* the fiber has passed this test, it will be removed from its plastic wrapper and integrated into the tubs of yarn waiting to welcome it into the stash.
Sometimes the current stashed yarn gets feisty about newcomers. MadTosh does not always want to play with Knitpicks; sock yarn does not always want to mingle with sweater yarn. But once I reshuffle, upend the old structures, rearrange, and refluff the fiber all seems to settle into new patterns, welcoming the once-quarantied skeins into the stash.
I’ll leave you with a little serenade from one of our old friends, aptly named, My Pet Chicken: