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