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Slye and newborn calf
Nancy Slye and her farm manager, Buddy Keister, tag a newborn calf. The method is similar to having one’s ear pierced.
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Northwest of Broadway, Va., halfway up North Mountain Road, a signpost marks Tralfamadore Farm. Herds of Angora goats, English long-wool sheep and llamas wander the poperty. They provide retiree Nancy Slye with plenty of fiber to dye and spin into yarn, which she then uses in her knitted, woven, and rug-hooked creations. The sum is a veritable fiber arts paradise. She sells surplus yarn and fleeces to other fiber artists through the Internet (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The 52-acre farm is also home to peacocks, guinea fowl, Angus cattle, three Pembroke Welsh Corgis, turkeys (named “Thanksgiving” and “Christmas”), chickens, geese, ducks, a cat and a parrot.
Slye resides with the Corgis and the parrot in a sprawling 1890s-era farmhouse. Next to it stands the farm’s original, pre-Civil War house, which Slye has renovated into a fiber arts studio, fitting it with a dyeing kitchen, large woodstove-heated workrooms and storage lofts.
Shelves everywhere are lined with fiber-related books, colorful wool and mohair, and the animal skulls and snake skins she’s collected over the years. According to Slye, the benevolent ghost of Phoebe Miller, whose family first established this farm and who is buried in a grave plot enclosed within the pasture, still haunts the studio.
Slye moved to the Shenandoah Valley in 1993, after living in Richmond, Va., Texas and New York. Here she found a quiet retreat where she could pursue her craft “from sheep to shawl,” volunteer at the Village Library, and still occasionally attend the opera in Washington, D.C