Tag Archives: Sugar Valley Shepherds

The Superheroes Of Loganton: An Interview With The Sugar Valley Shepherds.

The gray sky threatened snow the entire 2 hour drive north to Clinton County, a drive that was unremarkable until I reached the exit for Loganton.  Pennsylvania Route 880 is, simply, farms.  One right after the other, occasionally interrupted by a store, a church, some houses, an Amish schoolhouse.  The Amish children were playing outside as I drove by and their black clothes stood out starkly against the gray-brown of the fields.

A few miles later:  Sugar Valley Rural Charter School (SVRCS).  Composed of several buildings, the school currently has more than 280 children enrolled, from kindergarten through Grade 12.  Among its many strengths, the school prides itself with its mission to give the students every opportunity to learn by doing.  Which is part of the reason why I was there.

Weeks earlier, I received an email from Abigail Schrack, a Social Studies teacher at SVRCS, inviting me to meet their resident Fleece To Shawl team:

“Sugar Valley Rural Charter School is a small school in Loganton, PA. Our students come from a multi-county area, and in the high school we have begun a social studies course centered around fleece to shawl. The students choose to take this class, and it is quite a commitment: learning social studies to meet Pennsylvania State Standards while learning to card a raw fleece, spin the carded wool into yarn, and weave that yarn into a wearable shawl (or practice scarf). This year we have another phenomenal group of students up for the challenge of the competition at the PA Farm Show. Our team is known as the Sugar Valley Shepherds, and our theme this year is all about superheroes. The Shepherds will be donating the proceeds from the shawl auction to the Bixler family, a local father and son who were badly burned in a farm accident.*”

Abby met me soon after I arrived, and I recognized her immediately as one of the many competitors from the last Sheep To Shawl competition I attended (2010).  After a quick stop at the classroom, she led me to the building’s back porch and pointed to the field beyond:  “Those are our sheep.”

SVRCS's sheep, cared for year-round by the students. The fleece that will be used in the competition is from Mary, the sheep on the right.

We went back to the classroom to wait for the students to arrive.  Looking around the room, the word “typical” was definitely not among the adjectives going through my head.  A giant time line of dates and events stretched across the back wall, just above the room-length wooden workbench on which sat six (six!) spinning wheels.

Schacht spinning wheels. I know you were wondering.

The bookshelves contained typical Social Studies texts, many modern fiction titles, and… yarn.

Textbooks + yarn = a class I wish I could take

A couple of looms stood against the wall.  One will be used on Friday, January 6th during a school-wide demonstration of the team’s skills, while the other will accompany the team to the Farm Show next week.

This is the one that's going to Harrisburg next week.

The students arrived, I turned my nifty iPod recorder on, and the interview began.

(A few notes about the recording:  1) Yes, I was sitting right next to the recorder; 2) The questions asked came either from me or from Abby; 3) my apologies for the variable volume.)

Interview With Sugar Valley Shepherds

Superheroes, indeed.  It became clear to me that this story was equally about the incredible generosity and selflessness these kids demonstrate, as well as a team interview.

The team’s costumes arrived while I was there:

Shanin B. models the mask, which will be painted green, the school color, for the competition.

What would a superhero be without her trusty cape? And yes... she's sporting a tail.

While we talked, we were joined by Wayne and Francie Appleman, veteran Sheep To Shawl competitors, class mentors… and Abby’s parents.  Just as I had recognized Abby, I immediately recognized her parents from years past.  As we chatted, the kids quickly set the room up to practice.  Three of the six spinning wheels, the loom, and the carder’s seat made a compact square next to the classroom entrance, and as soon as team weaver David M. was ready, they began their time trial – a shortened one, since the actual competition is 3 hours long.

Matthew S. carding. "Don't brush. Flick."

Kaeleigh K., Leah M., and Shanin B. - makin' it look easy.

Bobbins were flying...

Team captain/weaver David M.

As the students practiced, Wayne and I chatted about the school, when he asked if I had ever spun before.  Just a little, I said… on a drop spindle.  Then suddenly…

... I was spinning! Not very well, for sure, but after about 10 minutes, I completely understood how people get hooked on this.

Before I knew it, class had ended, the wheels and the loom were back in their places and the students left for the day.  Abby, her parents and I chatted a little while longer, although truth be told I could’ve stood there all evening.  The 2 hour drive back to Harrisburg was as uneventful as the drive up to Loganton, and I started to mentally compose this interview for the blog.  One thing I know I can’t capture accurately, though, is how lucky these kids are to be able to use their skills to help a family in need… and how lucky the rest of us are to be in their company.

* Click here if you’d like to learn a little more about the Bixler Family.
The Turbotville National Bank currently has a fund set up to collect donations that are used towards the Bixler Family’s medical needs.


Filed under 2012 PA Farm Show

Coming Tomorrow: The Sugar Valley Shepherds.

As you all know, I traveled to Loganton, PA today to interview The Sugar Valley Shepherds, and it was… amazing.  So amazing, in fact, that in order tell this story properly, I really need a night’s worth of sleep first (long day, with a LOT of driving).  I know, I know… you don’t want to be kept waiting, but it’ll be worth it.  In the meantime, here are a few pictures from the day:

Yarn and Social Studies textbooks... doesn't get much better than this. I'm not kidding.


Team Sugar Valley Shepherds, practicing at the wheels.


Who is that masked woman? You'll find out tomorrow.


Filed under 2012 PA Farm Show

Who, What, Where, When, Why.

Notice anything new about this blog?  No???  Look again.  Forget it – just click here to view the new 2012 PA Farm Show page.  To get things going, I’ve packed it with all the F/S2S info you could possibly want.  Keep checking back for updates.

Tomorrow, I’ll be heading up to lovely Loganton, PA for my interview with the Sugar Valley Shepherds… I can’t wait!

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On With It.

Well hello there, 2012.  Glad you’re here – 2011 and I weren’t exactly the best of friends.  Looking forward to a better relationship with you.  No, I don’t expect you to do all the work.  Here’s what I plan to contribute:

  • Continue to reconnect with old friends (Facebook, I love you for this), and go visit them.  Cathy and Nancy, I’m lookin’ right at you;
  • Continue to volunteer at my favorite organization, and try to volunteer more at my daughter’s school;
  • Connect with more local fiber artists and groups, and share their stories here;
  • Knit for charity, knit for family, knit for friends, knit… for profit?  Look into it.
  • At the end of each day, be able to honestly say to myself, “I did my best work today, and I can do it again tomorrow.”

I hope everyone had a happy and peaceful holiday season.  Now let’s move on…


You already know that I’m live-blogging the Fleece and Sheep To Shawl contests at the 2012 PA Farm Show (on Jan. 11th.  At 10 am and 3 pm.  In the Sale Arena.  But you knew all that already.).  Maybe it’s because I didn’t cover these events last year, but I’m so unbelievably excited for the show this year… and this is from a hard-core, born-and-bred city girl.  Besides spending the one whole day there, I’ll be back with my husband and daughter on a different day for our annual family visit, when we buy locally-produced honey and maple syrup, meet a few of the 6,000 farm animals being shown, meet the Dairy Princess (which ought to be my daughter, given the amount of dairy products bought and consumed in our household), and eat.  The Farm Show’s food court is somewhat reminiscent of the Roman Coliseum – part combat sport, part entertainment – but oh so worth it.  Milkshake, anyone?

Coming real soon:  random Farm Show news, and a highly-anticipated interview with the Sugar Valley Shepherds, a Fleece To Shawl team from Sugar Valley Rural Charter School, in Loganton, PA.  This team consists of students in Abigail Schrack’s Social Studies class, where learning about Civics, Government, and History combine seamlessly with carding, spinning, and weaving.  Interest piqued yet?  Keep reading…


Filed under 2012 PA Farm Show