From Watershed to Fibershed

“Fibershed” is a term coined by Rebecca Burgess, it represents regional fiber resources from plants and animals such as sheep, goat, or alpaca, manufacturing mills that process raw fibers into clothing, and a local market. To understand this term, it is helpful to consider better known watersheds, bodies of water that link up to larger bodies of water. Visiting Taughannook Falls has expanded my view of Cayuga Lake’s watershed beyond just Six Mile Creek and Beebe Lake (part of Fall Creek), and has contributed to my understanding of a regional “fibershed.”

Cayuga Lake Watershed; Photo Courtesy David Arellanes
Cayuga Lake Watershed; Photo Courtesy David Arellanes

In total there are about 11 different stream and spring water sources that contribute to the mass of water in Cayuga Lake.

There is extensive biodiversity in the Taughannook Creek. Infographics explain the diversity of vegetation and animal life based on their position in the gorges, exposure to sunlight, and water. Seeing the distinction within Taughaunook as one part of Cayuga Lake’s watershed conveys how unique each creek/ spring can be as it contributes to the larger body of water, Cayuga Lake. When the water from Taughaunook travels to Cayuga Lake, it remains there for a few years, travels to Lake Ontario and eventually into the Atlantic Ocean.

Taughaunook Falls infographic biodiversity; Photograph courtesy David Arellanes
Taughannook Falls infographic biodiversity; Photograph Courtesy David Arellanes
Photo Courtesy David Arellanes
Small waterfall; Photo Courtesy David Arellanes

veg on gorge

Photo Courtesy David Arellanes
Vegetation on Gorges; Photo Courtesy David Arellanes

The highlight of Taughannook Creek is a waterfall that is over 200 feet high.

215 Foot Waterfall; Photo Courtesy David Arellanes
215 foot waterfall; Photo Courtesy David Arellanes
Waterbed of 215 foot waterfall; Photo Courtesy David Arellanes
Waterbed of 215 foot waterfall; Photo Courtesy David Arellanes

Below are photographs of the vegetation surrounding the waterfall. I was surprised to see the still purple flowers since the waterfall is dynamic and constantly moving the water where it falls.

Abundant purple flowers growing in the waterbed; Photo Courtesy David Arellanes
Abundant purple flowers growing in the waterbed; Photo Courtesy David Arellanes
Purple flowers growing on waterbed; Photo Courtesy David Arellanes
Detail purple flowers; Photo Courtesy David Arellanes
Green vegetation to the left of the waterfall; Photo Courtesy David Arellanes
Green vegetation to the left of the waterfall; Photo Courtesy David Arellanes

The biodiversity in Taughannook Falls and as an extension, Cayuga Lake, parallels with the diversity of the New York fibershed. New York has several animal fiber resources that include several breeds of sheep, goats, and alpacas. Below is a map of about 40 fiber farms in New York. To date, about 150 family farms have been found who cultivate animals for fibers.

40/150 NY Fiber Farms
40 out of 150 NY Fiber Farms

As part of my Master’s project, I will be learning more about the specific breeds of fiber animals in NY, amount of fleece derived, processing steps/ mills, and the final products produced for the market. This can help expand knowledge about regional U.S. fibersheds, and encourage designers to support of local fiber resources in NY. Learning about these fiber resources can help determine what the highlight or peak in a fibershed is. I would consider the 200 foot Taughannook waterfall as a major highlight and peak of the Cayuga Lake watershed.

The fibershed’s peak may not exceed 200 feet like the waterfall, but the experience of visiting a fiber farm and seeing all of the animals in a tour may stimulate similar feelings of excitement and awe. I just finished reading a book called “Sheepish: Two Women, Fifty Sheep, and Enough Wool to Save the Planet” by Catherine Friend, and she expresses that oxytocin gets released when people interact with the cute sheep on her farm. People develop emotional bonds with the fiber animals based on visual appeal, physical interaction, and gaining a sense of the animal’s personality.

Exploring parallels between watersheds and fibersheds is essential as both have a strong presence in our communities, and can positively contribute to our physical and psychological well-being.

Previous blogs about NY fibershed: 

https://helentrejo.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/local-discoveries-for-sustainable-fashion-design/

https://helentrejo.wordpress.com/2013/03/03/sheep-farm/

https://helentrejo.wordpress.com/2013/04/27/ag-day-celebration-of-agriculture/

Inspiration link!

6 Comments Add yours

  1. So glad you found my blog so I could find you back! Your Master’s project sounds very exciting, and I look forward to hearing more about it!

    1. Helen Trejo says:

      Thanks! I’m glad I found your blog also! 🙂

  2. Hello, very nice work. I am wondering if you have thought at all about flax production for linen fiber. Individuals throughout the Northeast are growing flax for very small-scale linen production. There will be a symposium in August of 2016, in western Massachusetts.

    1. Helen Trejo says:

      Hi Lisa! Yes, I am very interested in learning more about flax farms, do you know what the name of the symposium is?

      1. We have not yet chosen a name, or a location. We surely will put notices in Spin Off Magazine and in PLY Magazine.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s