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.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Geese, Fall Color, and Swirly Whirly Mittens

Beautiful fall has come to Wheely Wooly Farm, and a gorgeous one it has been so far!  The grass has been very green, the trees have turned vivid colors rich in reds, oranges, yellows and light greens, and the days have been a calm, peaceful warm.

Today, I'll throw in a picture of the geese, as our geese blog entries have been so popular.  We love our geese.  They are very hardy, cheap to feed, and they clean up under the apple trees first thing in the morning, doing a better job than any human has ever done.  The two vacuum cleaners with them (the ducks) are outstanding on a small farm.  They vacuum up so many bad bugs that I don't know how we got along without them!  Pleasant to have around, cheap to feed, and very hardy, I could only add one complaint...they like to muddy up the hens water, so keep hen water separate from the geese and ducks.


Pommander in front, Hyssop behind, and the vacuum cleaners.
This year, Hyssop gave us 42 eggs!
 After ample moisture this summer, our fall colors are outstanding!

Whirlwind's Swirly Mittens
Made from a purebred Shetland ram (black) and Claire's dyed blue trims.

Whirly (Wheely Wooly Whirlwind...a twin born during a passing tornado) has a rich black color to his fiber, with the brown barely, barely noticable.  His fiber is very soft and ideal for mittens.  His fleece has unbelievable density to it and takes me much more time to shear as the more blows I make, the more the fiber just keeps coming off one spot.  He has sired some beautiful lambs for us that are keepers, including Pansey, the cute little white ewe!  Whirly threw lots of twins himself, and his own twin, Maewyn, has been a valuable addition to our flock.  Whirlwind was named by a family member who was taking shelter in our barn during the passing storm, and asked if he could name this little lamb Whirlwind.  It was quite a day!

The mittens are a pretty basic pattern.  I spun the yarn on my wheel (the whole fleece) into two ply with a bit of a loose twist...typical of my style.  I love soft, warm yarns and I hate to throw too much twist in and tighten up the natural beauty of Shetland yarn too much.  This style makes for a loftier yarn that traps more warmth, so badly needed here in the midwest, where temps in winter can suck every ounce of happiness out of your being in a hurry, like the wind! lol  The swirly blue flowers are crocheted from Claire's yarn.  She is not a Shetland of course, but her yarn paired nicely with Whirly's.  The big swirly flower helps block the wind from that part of the hand.  Someone pointed out that the flowers make perfect nose swipes....giggle giggle.  Ok!  I guess that would work, too!  These high performing mittens were not hard to make and anyone could do it with just two skeins of Wheely Wooly Farm yarn.  Be sure to find yarn that is of light worsted to worsted weight to be warm enough around here.  I knit these mittens on size 4 double points.  If you don't know how to crochet the flowers, we have them made and ready for you in a variety of colors!  Just hand sew them on when the mittens are finished.

(Speaking of Maewyn and looser twist, I made myself a pair of mittens from Maewyn's fleece a couple of years ago.  They are my barn mittens, that take frozen metal stall latches, iced up water bucket handles, stinky creatures, and mud...lots of mud...slimy dog sticks, lambing, and all sorts of other daily barn scenarios.  Despite the looser twist, these mittens are still in perfect, functional use!  Trust me...they go through more than anyone else practically could throw at them! lol  We are confident that your mittens will last you many happy years.)

Customers who have tried on these mittens have described them as 'heavenly', 'soft!', 'cozy', and 'the snuggiest mittens I've ever experienced'.   Try some Wheely Wooly Farm yarns for yourself and make a pair for everyone in your family!  What a wonderful way to love them all, with a cozy, warm pair of mittens!

(Did you know?  Mittens are a fast knit, and patterns are everywhere.  There is plenty of time to make a pair for family members in time for the holidays if you hurry!)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Check out CUTE diaper cover!

Check out the photo of the cute diaper cover sent in by happy customer, Michelle.  Isn't it CUTE! (Right side of blog by customer testimonials)

Wheely Wooly Farm yarns are known for their softness and other wonderful natural qualities.  Come check us out this weekend at the farm market, as we gear up for knitters' favorite season and see for yourself!  We will be bringing old favorites, new yarns, and new colors to select from for scarves.  So browse your patterns, scope out the condition of your worn out hatsglovesmittenssockssweatersetc. and head on down to pick up some new yarn that will replace all the old stuff!

Don't forget your christmas list!  (For others, silly!)  Actually, keep yourself in mind for a sweet christmas gift of yarn for a new pair of mittens or socks or a new hat for yourself!  Knitters so often forget to knit new stuff for themselves, so this holiday season, don't forget your own personal list!  And don't forget to get something for the other knitters and crocheters in your life.  Wheely Wooly Farm yarns have become favorite packages in their lightness under the tree, yet are so special and talked about upon opening...and just like in our booth every weekend...every one's gotta squeeze the yarn!  What a nice gift to give.

Pictures of Whirly's swirly flower mittens coming next, as promised, but we just wanted to point out the world's cutest diaper cover first.

Happy planning for knitting season everyone and we'll see you Saturday!


Monday, September 29, 2014

More Winnings!

For those of you who know who is winning all this stuff, here is the update!

Advanced Showmanship Reserve Champion!

Saturday was yet another fun day for the shepherds on Wheely Wooly Farm!  There was no market that day due to Appleton's splendid Oktoberfest, which is a huge event separate from the weekly market activities.  It's a great day to deviate from the world of sheep, into the fascinating and incredibly diverse world of poultry.  This year, the focus was on moving up in the hardest category of showmanship.  Advanced showmanship is for the smartest, wisest, and brightest!  lol  Well, it IS the category of those who have earned top trophies at least three times in other qualifying events, just to get INTO the competition.  Our competitor succeeded at that right out of the gate and rapidly advanced.  

However, Advanced showmanship has been the most fun!  The competition includes competitors from the entire state.  These competitors know their stuff, and work very hard at winning.  This is no piece of cake!  So this year, it is with many smiles and lots of sweat that this trophy now graces the pile of other trophies in the farmhouse on Wheely Wooly Farm!

This time, it's a golden chicken.  It's been a long wait for a golden chicken!!  Funny, the things that inspire...

Back to the sheep...you know I can't stay off the topic of sheep long lol...as fall progresses, changes need to take place in the flock.  This is the time of year the rams really shine.  They've spent the last many, many months as obscure, good boys hangin' out, chewing cud, and listening to the birds while laying in the shade, but things are a changin' based on the whacking sounds coming from their pen!  As you get closer, you hear their grunts and the sound of horns clicking, as they tussle to the vibes of hormones.  I always wonder what is must be like to be such sweet creatures that are totally hijacked by those raging, wild hormones every fall!  

As the cool air moves in, the rams seem to wake up and realize they have a very important job to do.  Don't try to stop them! lol  This year, Lerwick is getting the same ewes he got last year, as we really liked the results of those pairings.  Wooly Bear has a batch of ewes that give a variety of color in fleeces that we love.  Some of the white ewes are going to a new, non-Shetland ram whom we also love!  Fall is an exciting time, as you put months of planning and dreaming into progress!  They will all go together this year around Oct. 1st.  We planned it late this year for a variety of very, very, very exciting, and scary reasons!!!!!!!!!!!!  But I cannot share about that at this time.

It's also a sad time as we have to say goodbye to some we love.  Some changes have been made to make those days easier, and that was really nice,  Plus, hay comes in, the barn is cleaned out and ready, and it's time to repair fences and stash them away for the next grazing season.  Speaking of grazing, our ewes are STILL out grazing!  The grass is in great shape and we'll be able to go awhile yet.  It's been a good year that way.  The flock is well trained now (meaning the lambs we're keeping) in moving away from our sheep dog, moving through pens and grazing spaces, so things are very peaceful around here and everyone is content with the exception of the hijacked rams.  I'm always amazed at how they turn  into poor fellows, at the whims of hormones and whacks, knocking themselves senseless and clicking horns like ceaseless chatter!  Nature is an amazing thing!  And how handsome they are, in their glory!  

As a shepherd, ya gotta love the rams.  If you don't, it would be so much harder!  The rams have a natural beauty all their own of might, power and brilliance...and I love to admire them....on the OTHER side of the fence! lol

Up next, either Whirly's awesome natural colored mittens with bright blue swirly flowers or the purple yarn I just dyed for socks.  Coming off the wheel, more Claire and more Iris, then more Shetland black. Have a great day everyone! 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Sock Season's Comin'! Are ya Ready?

The weather has turned cool and crisp here on Wheely Wooly Farm!  The pastures are deep green, the grazing is good, and the sheep are very, very happy.  There is a peacefulness about them out in the late summer sunlight, all heads down, so content and quiet.  The air has been pretty fresh, and the goldfinches are tweeting all day lately.

When the evenings come, it's time already to pour some delicious apple cider and slip on some warm, cozy sheepy socks!  Oh what a simple pleasure in life!  What??!??  You don't have any?  Well it's time to learn and make yourself some!  Oh?  You can knit almost anything?  Time to head on down to the Wheely Wooly Farm booth and pick up some of the finest yarns on the planet and make yourself some luxury!

 A pair I made last year.  Um...they are on my feet this very moment! 
In this photo, I had just turned the heel and picked up the stitches.

Wheely Wooly Farm has lots of wonderful yarns to choose from that would make perfect socks for a cozy feeling that cannot be bought in any store!  We have a range of natural Shetland colors as well as dyed colors from some of our white sheep just waiting for you.  Markets the rest of the season will be hit and miss for us, so if you want to be sure to know if we'll be there, email us towards the end of the week and we can let you know.

So why be cold and have frozen feet this winter when you can luxuriate in the natural warmth of Wheely Wooly Farm yarns?Your feet work hard for you all day long!  Don't leave them out in the cold!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Too much rain!

Well we're not flooded out, but definitely soggy.  Rain has been coming too frequently and the grass has too much water content.

With Labor Day comes no break for the barn spiders.  They sure are busy this time of year, and are spinning far more than I have time for!  lol  I guess they have more hands than I do.

This little buddy's for sale!  He's a Wooly Bear Grandson.

We've been having a ball working the sheep with Swifty lately.  For those of you new to our blog, Swifty is our awesome little Border Collie sheep dog.  He has a ton of natural talent and instinct, which frankly, has saved me time and time again!!  I've learned I can hold back and just let him go where he needs to go, cause he already sees and understands where he needs to position himself next.  His wait command even works despite his great excitement at getting to work sheep!  Before we head out the door, we tell him "Sheep?"  and he is R-E-A-D-Y!  Afterwards, he loves a refreshing shower from the hose.

Swifty...a super good boy!

Hope all of you had a great weekend here at the end of summer!  We here at the farm are looking forward to local apple cider and relief from the humidity.  What does a shepherd do when it's humid?  Why use it as an excuse to spin of course! lol

P.S.  We WILL be at the market Saturday morning unless it is rainy again, to be of service to our non-festival attending customers.  Wool see you there!

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!