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A Loominous Life

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At the loom, Linda Apuzzo is weaving a mohair shawl with fiber from her goat Angelina.

It all started when Big Wig and Thumper moved in. The two beige angora rabbits had come to live on Laughing Wolf Farm, a circa 1860s Pennsylvania Dutch, four-acre spread in Shrewsbury, Pa., complete with a red barn, smoke-house, pasture and farmhouse.

Their owner, Linda Apuzzo, had learned that the rabbits’ long, downy hair could be spun into soft yarn. One class later, she was hooked, up to her elbows dyeing and spinning yarn. A loom—and a menagerie—soon materialized.

Her peaceable kingdom of 28 animals now includes two dogs, six cats and Petunia, a 125-pound adopted pig who had been enduring life squashed in a Cockeysville apartment. There are also cashmere and angora goats, Karakul sheep, alpacas and rabbits—all bought for their fiber, which Apuzzo, a longtime AIDS research project director at the School of Medicine, now at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, spins into yarn.

Today, surrounded by cascades of jewel-colored shawls, blankets, scarves and baskets overflowing with her hand-spun yarns, Apuzzo is bent over the loom weaving an airy mohair shawl. “I always wanted to live on a farm with animals,” she says.

Apuzzo got her life-long wish in 1994. That’s when she and her husband, Chuck Spoler, a study coordinator in the Division of Infectious Diseases, bought the farm and made the big move from downtown Baltimore to rural Pennsylvania. They peeled away years of paint, linoleum and wallpaper and filled the place with art and old furnishings.

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Apuzzo and friends at Laughing Wolf Farm.

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“The farm is where we belong,” says Apuzzo. “There’s so much good, creative energy here.” Fingers flying over the loom, she explains her philosophy. Raising animals in a healthy, friendly environment and creating something with their fiber, like the shawls, is an organic and elementally satisfying process, she says.

Of course, it takes time and energy to care for the likes of Big Wig, Thumper and all the rest. Mornings, for Apuzzo, start at 5:15 a.m. when she feeds the animals. After work, she’s back in the barn cleaning stalls, filling feed and water buckets, and tending the animals’ veterinary needs.

Chores like these add about 15 hours to her weekly workload, but Apuzzo wouldn’t live any other way. “It’s what gives me a spiritual connection to the planet,” she says.

—Lydia Levis Bloch

 

 

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