Shetland Sheep: Rich in History, Rich in Textiles

Shetland Sheep: Rich in History, Rich in Textiles! Our farm mission is to enjoy and promote the wonderful diversity of the Shetland breed by fully utilizing to the best of our ability all they have to offer historically. We believe the best preservation and management of this breed includes it's full spectrum of history. We encourage old and new shepherds alike to join in the fun by engaging in fiber arts, especially spinning and knitting, as this breed is so intimately linked with those aspects of the arts.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Violet, Lerwick's lamb

There is one person here on this farm who wanted to try something new in sheep.  This shepherd went shopping for their dream sheep with money saved over two years, and ultimately picked out and brought home some really nice ewes to breed.  Then, the search for a ram began, but one the shepherd really liked was not found in time, so the choice was made to use my purebred Shetland ram, Lerwick on these ewes for the first season.  Wow!  We are so glad we did that!

Meet Violet, one of Lerwick's lambs this year.
Isn't she lovely?
Thanks Lerwick!!

Violet is a keeper!  She is going to have a nice future here on this farm.  Her growth has been fantastic, with great bone density and glistening health.  She has excellent parasite resistance so far, and is a very calm sheep.  She has been raised like a Shetland, purely on grass.  And her fleece has her owner very, very, very excited.  Violet will be sheared this fall, and I have a feeling her fleece will be on the wheel as soon as it's dry!

Her twin is a ram and also has a wonderful fleece suitable for things their owner wants to do, which is dye the fibers and add glitz.  A pack of assorted glitz colors has already been purchased just for this, with money made selling stuff to friends.

I think this shepherd is having a ball with their sheep.  Thanks to Lerwick, things are going well!  A non-Shetland ram has already been selected for Violet this fall, as she has grown so nicely.
It will be really fun to see what happens next!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

B-U-S-Y!

Busy, busy, busy!  Has it really been a month since I've last blogged?  I can hardly believe it!

The local birds planted this lovely sunflower for us last summer.
It measured sixteen inches across!

This summer has been a shepherd's dream weather wise!  We've had the best summer of weather I think I've ever experienced in my lifetime.  Everything is green, the grazing is great, the sheep are cool, and all is well.  Lerwick's lambs are growing beyond my wildest dreams and we'll be keeping one ram lamb over for breeding in the fall.   His name is Scrambler and I'm sorry I haven't had time to take pictures so you can see him!  (The pictures here today are recycled from prior years due to shortage of time this year.)  He's all white, with a longer staple to his lovely fleece.  (How easy I get to sheep talk!!)  Anyway, the weather has been so pleasant that I can hardly believe it.  When storms come through, they give us nice lightning for good growth, and nice rain, without dumping five inches in one dump, like we've had in the past.  There have been no high winds and very little tornado activity, so we are very grateful to say the least!  Temps have been in the fifties at night and seventies to low eighties most days with comfortable summer humidity...which for us is just a little humidity to feel like summer, but not enough to slow a person down.  As many places in our nation in the last few years, we've had so much bad weather, so this reprieve is such a relief.

 Watch for our signs at the market!

So far, market wise, we are having one of our best summers.  I apologize that I didn't have enough blue to meet your needs, but more will be coming in the week ahead.  I'm also thinking of making more hats for sale, as so many of you would like one.   I do have to charge for my labor in knitting them, which makes them more expensive, but if you want high performing, high quality winter wear that has awesome style, our hats are very reasonably priced!  I'll also have a mirror available in our booth now so you don't have to take pictures of yourselves anymore to see how you look! lol  By the way, when a knitter makes something, they can only hope it will look good on the intended person who'll be wearing the garment, when you're knitting 'blind'.  Yet, when you put our hats on, I'm stunned!  Shetland makes people look good!  I'll definitely be making more.

We also came perilously close to selling out of needles last week, so this week, we had new inventory!  Come and check out our colors as we're confident you'll find something you'll like!  I'm hoping that by next week, we'll have more of the larger size needles we offer, too.  I have only one pair left in natural color, but the new ones will be a variety of colors in your favorite picks (as well as more naturals).

Speaking of market, it was a real pleasure and honor to meet Bob, son of a well known antique spinning wheel restorer yesterday!  Every spinner has a soft heart for any and every wheel.  How lucky we were in hearing of your restoration adventures with antique wheels needing to be loved and brought back to life, and more of the museum in Pennsylvania!  It was a pleasure meeting you Bob, and we wish you well in your restoration endeavors in the future!  For those of you who haven't had the opportunity to meet Bob, you can learn more about him here:  spinningwheelrestoration.com

Which brings me to EAA, er...Experimental Aircraft Association.  For those of you who don't know about EAA, it's a fabulous 'air extravaganza' right here in our airy back yard!  It used to draw just shy of one million visitors to our area, but I've learned that this year, the numbers are down to 500,000.  Wow.  That's a big drop, so this year has been quieter than usual  We were disappointed in the warbirds not making their loops over our pastures this year each day during the airshow, like they have in all the years we've lived here.  In fact, I grew up with those goofy old planes, and I guess I missed them!  One new thing that happened to us this year, that has never happened before was a pilot flying extremely low over our pastures...so low in fact, the plane spooked our sheep and they panicked, running all over the place!  Thankfully, they stayed in their fence, and the also panicked shepherd was ready for a second comeback, which thankfully didn't happen.  We've never had a pilot fly so low before.  I saw his face, he was so low!  In fact, it has been an odd year with planes.  A few weeks ago, we noticed a little ultralight buzzing around above our pastures.  He was pretty high for an ultralight, and the pilot was suspended from a little bag, with his hands on the triangle thing for steering.  We all though he seemed so vulnerable up there.  Then, one day, the police were blocking traffic in front of our farm, asking people to turn around and find an alternate route.  Turns out, that ultralight was up flying that evening, and crashed in a field just a short distance from our farm.  We were very sad to hear the pilot died that beautiful evening!  That marks the second air fatality in our neighborhood in two years.

One thing that didn't change was the buzzing skywriters flipping out in their planes just to the east of our peaceful, grazing sheep.  One afternoon, I went out and stood among the ewes and lambs and just watched the pilot flip himself over and over, up and down, all over the place while drawing perfect loops in the sky.  The sheep were unimpressed, just chewing their cud or tearing off grass but I was having fun watching the plane, as I do every year.  But soon, the skies went quiet again...ususually so for EAA.   By week's end, we were beginning to wonder how the whole week went for EAA, as it was not typical out here.  It was quiet.

As I'm writing this, a nice little summer thunderstorm is giving us good rain and cool breezes, with distant thunder.  I will have to say, it has not been a summer of all work, but the shepherdess and family have been able to take nice time away from the farm as well.  It's important to relax and have a little down time, which for me usually spells more great ideas! lol

Well, hope all of you are having a great summer!  If you are ever in our area, be sure to check out our huge market Saturday mornings and experience the joys small farms bring to communities yourselves!  We're confident you won't be disappointed!

 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Callin' all Yarnies!


It's time for some knittin' in the shade!
 
The market is more than Foodie Heaven, it's also a great place for locovore Yarnies!  Don't forget to check out the Wheely Wooly Farm booth (stall 58) for all your knitting, crocheting, and weaving projects.  Here you'll find skeins of Claire's Watermelon, Posie's Wacky Peachy Pink, Abner's Country Green Apple, and more!  And don't forget about our chocolatey browns, creamy beiges, and licorice-y blacks -- all the natural colors we're famous for.  The steamy summertime weather is on it's way so check out your patterns, slip on your sandals, and head on down for some Yarnie fun!

Wool see you there!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

An Exciting Time!

It's an exciting time to be a shepherd!  We here at Wheely Wooly Farm are bursting with ideas and thoughts about things ahead.  The sheep are basically in the dark about all the fun, unfortunately!  They are enjoying this lovely June we've been having...cool, kinda rainy, with lovely periods of fragrant sunshine and lots and lots and lots of rich, green grasses.

In the evenings, when I walk down to their pasture to call them in, my eyes feast on the sight of them out there.  All I have to do is say "Sheep!Sheep!" or "SHEEPIEEEES!" and up spring their heads and off they run to their night pen, usually baaing, to tell all the others it's time to run in.  Once in the night pen, I'll quietly close the gate, then stand amidst them to see that they are all doing well.  With full bellies, most look like they are chewing wads of bubblegum in their cheeks as they chew their cud.  Many of them will walk quietly up to me, and gently push their way as close to me as they can for a chin scratch.  I love those times!  I often spend awhile out there with them, just enjoying who each one is, scratching backs, and giving out sweet nothings.

Our first summer farm market was yesterday and it was indeed a LOVELY day for such an event!  Clouds did hang around, and some other smaller area markets did get a little rain, but we stayed dry.  The air was fragrant with huge bouquets of peonies and other spring flowers, as faceless market goers strolled by behind the pink glories, laughing, and sipping all kinds of coffees that I don't even know the names of.  Music was playing down the street, and children being pulled by in wagons were enjoying the delicious fresh strawberries from their bright red fingers.  The first market is special...a reunion of a community after a long and cold winter.  It was a great day to be there amongst the tens of thousands who felt the same!

The week ahead looks busy with things I need and want to do before the next market.  Everyone loves our summery yarn colors such as Claire's Watermelon or Summer Squash and Posie's Wacky Peachy Pink.  Maewyn's and Lacey's heathering moorit yarns also seem to draw summer knitters.  Good thing I have more of Claire and Posie ready to dye for more, and Maewyn's fleece on deck!  But all things fiber begin first with....more fence rotations! lol  The wheel and the dyepot will have to wait 'til the mosquitos come out at dusk tonight...

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Welcome Back Theresa!

We hope you and your friends have enjoyed revisiting our old posts from 2011!  Welcome back!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sheepy Kind of Weather!

The sheep couldn't be happier!  This month has been so lovely, cool, and pleasant that the sheep are just plain gleeful!  They are sleeping good, eating good, and the lambs have been having a ball in the evenings, just before dark.  The air is so cool and fragrant, yet warm enough for us shepherds to wear short sleeves.  Time is flying so mark your calendars everyone!  Our first market is coming up already on June 21st!



Monday, June 2, 2014

Sheep are more than sweet storybook images!

So many of us know of sheep by the images we see in story books and children's literature, or perhaps by comical characters created to sell products.  Based on those images, it's hard to take sheep seriously, or to imagine sheep as a major contributor to our nation's economy!  But it's true.  Sheep contribute a hefty impact to our economy, and give us so much more than just sweet images!

In studying the statistics produced by the American Sheep Industry Association, one quickly sees how much our nation relies on sheep!  Did you know that nearly 200 million dollars of wool was sold in 2010?  That's A LOT of wool!!  Did you know that also in 2010, Americans ate more than 53 millions pounds of imported sheep milk cheeses?  WOW!  That's not even counting the sheep milk cheeses produced domestically.  Did you know that Americans gobbled up nearly 300 million dollars of retail lamb in 2010?  WOW!  That's A LOT of meat!  Did you know that in 2012, nearly 30 million pounds of wool was clipped from sheep?  WOW!  That's a LOT more wool than my flock produces!!

When we attend the farmer's market, many people are struck by that fact we are a sheep farm, as though an antiquity brought back to life.  That's not surprising considering our state, Wisconsin, is no where near the top of the list for states with the most sheep.  Which is the state with the most sheep by the way?  According to the ASIA, that would be Texas.  What else besides humans like to eat lamb?  Wolves, coyotes, eagles, fox, vultures, ravens, bears, lions, and your neighbor's dog.

Why do American's eat sheep's milk cheeses?  Why because it's highly nutritious, and makes outstanding cheeses, yogurts and positively scrumptious butter!  It's a great source of Vitamins A, B, E, as well as phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and calcium.  In fact, it's more plentiful in those important nutrients than cow's milk is.  And some of the longest living humans in the world come from regions where sheep's milk was consumed from infancy on.

Ever use hand lotion?  Check the label.  You might find lanolin there!  Shampoo?  Yes, many shampoos, conditioners and other body care products use lanolin for it's moisturizing and softening abilities.

There are many other things we rely on sheep for:  surgical sutures, gelatin (used in ice creams, wine, beer, and vinegar, as well as medicine capsules and photography), glue (used in plywood, paper, matches, toys, picture frames, billiard balls, bookbinding and more!), bone (used for crochet needles, dice, chess pieces, buttons, electrical insulators, feed and fertilizers, and blood (used in cancer research, hair conditioners, fertilizers, animal feeds and buttons!).  Even shoes are made with sheep products (hides, leather, pelts)!  Got a graduate in your family this June?  Check out their diploma cover!  It might have been manufactured with sheep products.  Will you be burning candles to celebrate on their grad cake?  How 'bout those candles?  Yes, some candles have sheep products in them.  Soap to clean up before the big party?  Yep, you guessed it.  Lanolin.  Off to vacation?  Head out the the tennis court and hit a few balls off the racket...yep...the racket strings are sometimes made from sheep products.  Even some violin strings are made from sheep!  Going to be traveling this summer?  Think of all the lubricants that keep you on the go!  Yep.  They may also be made with sheep products!  This is not an all inclusive list...just one to give you the idea of how much Americans (and the world) rely on sheep products.  Sheep flocks out grazing with a shepherd is not a historical image, but one that lives with us today, but perhaps forgotten.

Turns out, sheep are far more useful and important to our health, well-being, and economy than a sweet little lambie image in a story book gives us!  So the next time you pop a pill, light a candle, eat ice cream, button a shirt, wash your hair, pull on shoes, or place your graduate's picture in a lovely frame, think about where those products might have come from.  Did it come from sheep?  lol  I don't know, but it's amazing to think about!

Gosh.  We need sheep!  I guess I've given you all something sheepy to talk about at all your grad parties now! lol

Have a great day everyone!