By Joanna Bastian

I imagine Igor Stravinsky composed his “Rite of Spring” (“La Sacre”) during spring, while observing a landscape emerging from winter. Perhaps he listened to a gentle wind blow through the woods — the opening lines of the woodwinds. Flurries of snow grew into dissonant surges of pouring rain as harmonies fractured like ice floes breaking free from the river banks.

And then — the rain and wind ebb. The landscape is soft once more, green sprouts push up through decomposed detritus, steadily stretching towards the sun. A walk across a snow-filled meadow may have inspired the alternating intervals of an octatonic scale: a half-step in a shaded surface still firm beneath his foot, followed by a whole step when he sunk through a patch softened by the sun.

Stravinksky must have navigated a muddy sloped path as he scribbled ostinatos across the page, flowing rivulets of snowmelt, seemingly haphazard but all merging eventually towards the siren call of the river. He writes, “I was guided by no system whatever in ‘Le Sacre du Printemps.’ When I think of the other composers of that time … how much more theoretical their music seems than ‘Le Sacre.’ I had only my ear to help me. I heard and I wrote what I heard. I am the vessel through which ‘Le Sacre passed.”

The sunny hills of McFarland Creek Lamb Ranch melt out early in the season, no doubt something the Romney sheep appreciate. Since the 2014 Carlton Complex fire rearranged the landscape, McFarland Creek flows with more strength through the ranchland, creating a steady roar between the house and the barn.

Photo by Joanna Bastian
Working dogs Alfred and Callie take a break from watching the sheep to greet visitors to McFarland Creek Lamb Ranch.

Alfred and Callie, Maremma sheepdogs, greet owner Katie Haven at the pasture fence. Freshly shorn sheep lazily lounge about in the spring sun, bags of shaved wool lean against the barn wall. The new barn went up shortly after the old barn went down in 2014. The new barn is filled with natural light, the siding on the top half of the building is clear.

“If I don’t shut the door, the sheep will hang out in here all day,” Katie explained. I guess the sheep like the new barn as much as everyone else.

Professional sheep shearer Martin Dibble visited the McFarland Creek Lamb Ranch the day before, administering haircuts. You can watch a video of Martin in action on YouTube, entitled “Martin Dibble Shearing a Sheep.” The sheep looks incredibly relaxed and happy, like I do when I’m getting a haircut … or a massage … or on vacation.

Katie used to transfer the wool for processing to her shop on Poorman Creek, but in the last year she and partner Bill Tackman built a new multi-purpose building on the ranch that includes a big airy space for processing garden produce, a walk-in cooler cooled by creek water, a woodshop, an office and a specialized setup for Katie to wash and dye the wool.

Deep tubs line one wall, with cold- and hot-water faucets. The hot water is supplied by a tankless, on-demand hot-water heater. Large glass jars hold dried flowers and roots that Katie uses in her natural dyes.

McFarland Creek Lamb Ranch wool is available for sale in all forms: raw, roving, batting, and spun yarn dyed with natural dyes. Katie’s yarn can be found online at www.thelambranch.com.

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