FORT EDWARD, N.Y. — Norma Glacy grew up on a small Washington County, N.Y., dairy farm, so she’s well-acquainted with animals.
However, something clicked deep inside her following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that told her it was time to get back to basics, on a personal level.
After a bit of soul-searching, she went to school and earned a degree in animal science from Cornell University. Four years ago she started Crazy Legs Farm, which is now home to 44 purebred Romney sheep in rural Fort Edward, about 10 miles from her childhood home.
“I need animals,” said Glacy, 61. “I knew I needed to get back to my roots. I’m the animal person here. My husband handles the machinery. We do the haying together and work together on almost anything that needs doing.”
On April 26-27, Glacy and her husband, Jim, welcomed hundreds of people to their 61-acre property, one of 15 stops on the 22nd Annual Washington County Fiber Tour.
According to the tour’s website, www.washingtoncountyfibertour.org, the annual event “is dedicated to educating the general public and the craft community about the amazing variety of fiber producing animals being raised in the area. The participants demonstrate the animal husbandry and the processes involved in converting these fibers into the textiles used in our everyday lives.”
In addition to the picturesque landscape, with dozens of sheep and lambs running about, visitors could also take in spinning and felting demonstrations by local artisans, and learn about the history of antique spinning wheels from master craftsman Lee Smith of Granville, N.Y.
The sheep provide a variety of needs — fiber for yarns and blankets, meat products and composted manure for the farm’s extensive gardens.
“They are a major part of our pursuit of a self-sufficient lifestyle and keep our farm heritage alive,” Glacy said.
The couple built a new barn last year where a variety of items are displayed such as raw fleece, roving — the technical name for washed and carded fleece — yearn, and plush, warm sheepskin hides for babies.
“All of my grandchildren have a sheepskin,” Glacy said.
She processes some raw fleece on her own and sends some to Battenkill Fibers Carding and Spinning Mill in nearby Greenwich, N.Y. This operation, also on the tour, plays a major role in providing infrastructure support for the local fiber trade, which keeps growing each year in this part of New York, bordering Vermont.
“There’s just more return to the land,” Glacy said. “And sheep are a lot less work than dairy cows, that’s for sure.”
Other farms on the tour raise llamas, alpacas, Angora goats and Angora rabbits, all sources of high-quality fiber. Most are in southern Washington County, an area that’s attracted quite a few people from downstate metropolitan New York who want to enjoy the benefits of rural country life, even if it’s on a part-time basis.
However, a new addition to this year’s tour is Dancing Ewe Farm in Granville, which is located to the north and specializes in the production of Tuscan-style Pecorino, a raw sheep’s milk cheese. The farm’s flock of 120 Fresian-cross ewes also produces a medium-grade fleece that can be transformed into many outwear garments.
Glacy said her flock is at just the right size for the time and energy she can devote to the business. Both she and her husband have other non-farm jobs, too.
“I’m not trying to be crazy,” she said, smiling.
But she does whatever she can to promote fiber, at her farm and elsewhere. Glacy chairs a fleece show at the annual Southern Adirondack Fiber Festival at Washington County Fairgrounds in Greenwich. This year’s event, with 120 vendors, is scheduled for Sept. 27-28.
“The great thing about fiber is that you can make things yourself and do the whole project from start to finish,” Glacy said.