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My view of this great country,  seen from the vantage point of my little farm in the hills of Central Virginia…where Thomas Jefferson once traveled to visit family that lived nearby.  Where a few stones throws away in the Cumberland Courthouse came the first official call for freedom,  for the forming of the world’s first free self ruled nation…drafted and sent to the Virginia House of Burgesses.   (There is a marker for anyone driving through Cumberland Courthouse and we in the county celebrate it every year calling it Patriot’s Day.)  

From this vantage point,  I witnessed the discourse of this election.  It was heated,  it was robust but I will say…not unlike many elections.  It did not surprise me how nasty and emotional and robust it got. It is just we have short memories as a nation.  There have always been lies told, a biased media in the tank for one candidate or another.  Heck,  during the election between Adams and Jefferson,  one paper claimed one should not vote for the other because he is dead. In this election it was all about the labels.  It was about one party striving to define a voter by putting them in a box, labeling them  and then predicting how they will vote.  It was about another party loosing touch with that voter and hence tried to predermine who they thought would appeal to an electorate they did not know and could not define,  so bought into the labels the other side was using.  

 This election back fired on both parties, simply because both parties forgot something.  People don’t fit neatly into any box,  they are not their labels.  The media was biased,  but not in the way you might think.  Their bias was in how they perceived their audience.  They bought into and decided to orchestrate this labeling business. And in doing so,  thought they could sway an election.  You see,  they began to believe their own hype, their own spin.  They stopped listening to who they were talking to.  Instead, they began talking at,  talking past, dictating to,  lying to… a people that did not exist. 

You see the media and both parties thought they knew what motivated folks,  if they could define them.  They thought poor rural folks who were not college graduates would vote one way.  They thought college educated women would vote one way.  They thought urban blacks would vote one way.  They thought LGBT folks would vote one way.  They thought all Hispanics would vote one way.  They thought the military would vote one way.  They thought Catholics,  Jews,  Pagans,  and so on would vote one way.  

And then there was the name calling.  If you are for the second amendment,  you are a dumb hick and hold your bible too tightly.  If you are for gun control,  you are anti American.  If you are for a strong border you are a biggot.  If you are an uneducated white man and for one candidate,  you are a sexist. If you are a white woman and for another candidate you are a feminazi.  And one candidate in particular thought those voting for her opponent were in a basket of deplorables and labeled them xenophobic,  homophobic and so on.  And the media ramped up the name calling and labeling to a fever pitch. 

And the people often sited talking points the media put out there, labeling their friends and family in much of the discourse on Twitter, Facebook and such.  Even in my own family….when we were NOT face to face,  but behind the veil of Facebook, might dabble in the labeling. 

And where the label bias really affected the discourse was in the polling.  Oh my glorious God…the POLLING!  Have we ever seen so much polling?   There were the national polls, there were the state polls,  there were college polls, there were newspaper polls.  And as the election came closer,  these polls were put out daily. And yet… They got it wrong.  And not for the reasons you might think.  It was not the questions they were asking,  it was not the demographic of folks they were canvassing. It was their label bias.  They were not interpreting the data correctly because of the boxes they were putting people in.  But the funny thing is, is that people are not their labels. They do not fit neat and tidy into those boxes.  They do not vote according to how the media,  the parties, the pollsters thought they should vote.  

I am sure I am not alone when I say that we all know and have aquaintences that defy what we might have first thought of them.  I live in a very rural area that has a variety of folks. We have black, white,  Hispanic,  gay,  young families,  older retired (sort of.. many have farms so…they never retire)  and so on.  I know conservative gay people and young people that are liberal on social issues,  but conservative on fiscal issues.  I know women that are against abortion. I know some people who have never voted.  I know some people that will travel across the country for a political cause.  I know military folks that start out life voting liberal then change their thinking. 

So what does this all mean when it came to this crazy election?   The Democrat party had a candidate that whom they thought would win by a landslide because they thought she had broad appeal to who they thought were most people… people who thought like how most of the media thought because,  after all,  the media thought they labelled people correctly.  And the media,  most of them are college educated,  ride the train in first class,  many are married to people involved in government and they of course understood what drove people.  They knew what women wanted,  they knew what white college educated men wanted.  They knew what Hispanics wanted,  they knew what blacks wanted. And since they were the media,  they could convince others what they wanted,  or at least shame them into it.  Some of the media, ok,  let’s be honest,  most of it…was the Democrat Party Superpack.  They thought they had this in the bag,  because the polling said so,  right? 

Now shifting over to the Republican Party.  They believed this label stuff too.  Only because so many in the established leadership failed to leave the Washington Beltway and bothered to really get a feel for what the people were thinking. Or find out what has been happening in their lives. What was their job situation,  what are their fears for the future? What are they looking for in a candidate? They lost touch with the voter.  They had no idea it was not only going to be all about the issues,  but about personality.  Yes but not in the way you think.  Imagine the shock when the voters dismissed the Republican party’s chosen son,  Jeb Bush.  Why?  Wasn’t he accomplished,  believed in all the right things the typical conservative voters want?  He might have been right on some….some of the issues.  But wrong on personality. Imagine the shock when voters chose loud,  crude,  bombastic Donald Trump?  And dear readers,  the reason was… conservative,  bible holding evangelist,  gun loving, constitution purists… Wanted a BULLY! How about that label?  Yes.  They have been getting tired of being beaten up on by the label toting democrats and they were going to throw a label at them.  And have a champion willing to get dirt under his fingernails. And what farmer does not like that?  

Of course it got messy,  because now both sides were name calling.  And the names and labels were divisive, rude,  crude,  disgusting. It was a battle.  Many got hurt.  Families fought,  friends fought. The media had their spin machine in high gear.  And they did something amazing.  They stopped covering the candidates.  They did not do journalism.  Wikee Leaks filled on the vacuum and reported on the back room deals of the Democratic Party and their campaign. Media tried to cover this up,  but word did get out.  And the media totally ignored the last three weeks of the Republican campaign.  Because their candidate got razor sharp and bypassed the media and pulled an FDR.  Right, Trump’s version of Roosevelt’s whistle stop campaign.  Only he used the Trump jet. The schedule Trump maintained was dizzying. Sometimes he visited nine states in 72 hours.  He had rally after rally,  with tens of thousands of people attending… at a moment’s notice.  And guess what?  The name calling stopped,  well,  mostly.  It was all about the issues.  It was about issues actual people,  not labeled people,  not imagined people, not what the media or either party thought people should care about… But issues that real actual people cared about.  A strong military,  strong, safe border,  protecting the constitution,  getting rid of Obamacare that was bankrupting individuals and businesses alike,  bringing back the coal industry,  getting our respect back overseas,  renegotiating our trade deals to bring manufacturing back and manyany jobs back. 

In other words,  bringing back our greatness.  Since the mainstream media would not cover his words or his speeches,  Trump put his face in front as many Americans as possible.  In fairness, Fox Business did cover most all of his speeches.  

In the end, the media believed their own hype and labels,  the pollsters had eggs on their faces… and the American people did not vote their labels.  They voted… Imagine this…. They voted the issues.  Issues that were important to them based on their actual lives.  And as the results were coming in,  the media was dumbfounded.  They could not believe the candidate,  the one they attached every disgusting label they could think of…. sexist,  bully,  homophobic,  biggot,  xenophobic,  stupid,  deplorable, ….won.  Smarter folks than I will be studying this election. But in the end,  the people defied their labels. Neither the media or either party listened to the people,  they tried to define them instead.  

And this shepherd, from her little vantage point at the doorstep of where the idea of this country was first proclaimed watched,  like I watch my sheep, with caring and understanding. And yes,  I argued my views like many of you. Yet  I am so grateful I wake up on my farm in freedom. I do not care what labels we call each other,  because we all wear the best label,  American. 

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“I keep sheep and my sheep keep me. ”

As one wanders through life making choices one hopes is in line with their purpose… sometimes you stumble on an ah-ha  moment.  I have been struggling with the notion that perhaps farming is not for me after all.  It has been tough this last year especially as I singularly work at the daily chores, feeding all the hungry mouths. 

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There is just so much,  not to mention household stuff that goes undone (Why can’t there be maid service at home and not just at hotels!) And to pay the bills,  I have gone back to doing corporate travel.  And fortunately I work out of the house,  but it does take up some 25 hours weekly.

Well back to the subject at hand.  One of my goals with the farm is to manufacture an end product derived from the Shetland wool.  I have produced yarn and roving and other supplies for spinners and knitters…but in the back of my mind,  I wanted it to be clothing. So I had this notion,  why not try to obtain one of the antique sock machines used at the turn of the century?  Well that journey alone had a few dead ends as I learned more about these machines and to evaluate them.  But finally I made a wise purchase.  I then went about the business of learning how to use it.  I had lots of sock yarn I have dyed,  so last Christmas,  all of my family received socks and I have posted some for sale in my farm shop on Etsy. 

The other part of the equation was getting usable yarn from the wool fleeces I have been collecting. I was working with a mill close by for a few years in the hopes of achieving a sock yarn.  But her experience with her equipment and the unusual qualities of Shetland fleeces did not lead us to that goal.  And by now… I had a very good fix in my mind what the yarn needed to be.  No more than fingering weight,  smooth with no slubs,  two ply and a little nylon mixed in. 

So last fall,  while vending at the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival, I stumbled upon a booth for Gurdy Run Fiber Mill.  I looked at all the sock yarn she had on display and asked a few questions.  She specialized in sock yarn.  Music to my ears of course.  So I decided to give her a try.  She let me wash my fleeces so the incoming weight would be less and my costs less too. And another piece of luck… She was in Halifax PA,  on the way to my youngest son’s college and I could drop off fleeces instead of adding the cost of shipping.  So we dropped off 9 fleeces and crossed our fingers. 

Nearly five months later… The yarn came.  Cost was not too bad.. a rare thing from a mill.  And the eighteen pounds of Moorit and Shaela colored yarn… was what I had been seeking for the last five years. 

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I was eager to try it on my machine.  I tweaked the tension… And made two pairs of socks, a Shaela pair in my husband’s size and a Moorit pair in mine.

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They were strong and had the unique silky feel of Shetland.  And there it was… a realization I had achieved a major farm goal that few are doing…growing the fiber and manufacturing a piece of clothing on the farm. It is done with vegetables,  soap,  and meat.  But not with clothing.  Local sourcing clothing has happened little since mass production,  especially since it has gone overseas.  But there is a movement afoot (yes,  pun intended)  to grow the fiber arts.  And with it,  a quest for locally sourced clothing.  A farm is a business and the numbers have to work,  but also the work has to have meaning. If the heart is happy,  the body might not mind the sacrifice and work.  We will see if this part is true,  stay tuned. 

Oh and visit the farm shop for your own 1910 Shepherd’s Socks.  They will be posted soon along side the colorful hand dyed socks I mentioned. 

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