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 18, 2016

What do you think...should we offer this guy for sale?  He's a pretty handsome fellow, with a richness to the black in his fleece that is hard to find.  He'll be medium-sized as an adult.  
Wheely Wooly Spring
I'm putting these thoughts out to the world just for fun.  It's not easy to get rich natural color in yarns these days.  Natural colors are absolutely the best if you like easy care, or knitting/crocheting with other colors.  His fleece is very dense and springy.  Not sure if we want to sell him yet. 

Next up is Shell, the little lamb born wiggling tail first.  This ram has several attributes that we positively love, so he is a keeper for now, not for sale.  As you can see, he tore his ear tag out back when he was a wee fellow.  Shell's fleece is gorgeous!  His mother is Posie, pictured at the side of the blog.  That means he's descended down from our handsome Shetland ram, Lerwick!  Shell gets his name from a lace knitting pattern from the Shetland Islands.  His twin, who's black, is Wheely Wooly Shale, for the Old Shale knitting pattern also thought to be original to Shetland.

 Wheely Wooly Shell

Last is Buzzy.  Don't ask how he got his name...sleep-deprived shepherds I would guess!  BuzzBuzz is very much like a teddy bear, has very bright eyes, amazing fleece, and a very gentle character.  But being of a strong commercial breed, he has virtually zero parasite resistance!  It's been a battle all summer to keep this lamb alive, but I think we made it!  He's out of Beatrice, a ewe born on our farm who also had zero resistance that we worked through with very very very careful observations and vet assistance.  Beatrice has grown out of her parasite problems and today is an absolutely gorgeous, solid, huge ewe with the longest eyelashes you'll ever see!  We are very proud of our work with Bea, and are thrilled to have her, despite the resistance problem.  This year, we are breeding her to a "Star" ram from our flock, which means a sheep that has not needed any deworming his whole life so far, so her lambs next year will not look quite like Buzzy.  We love Buzzy  Isn't he cute?
Buzzy's ear tag fell out by failure, meaning it just came apart somewhere along the way and one day, it was gone, not to be seen again. We've had four tags like that this year, fortunately all were on sheep that were easy to identify.   This is the first year we've had tag failure.  Don't like it.  He'll be getting a new one soon.  But for i.d. purposes around here, no tag needed...just watch out you don't trip over him!   He's fast, loving, gentle and very curious.  

Well, that should give you an idea of what some of the sheep look like, as so many of you ask and want to see!  We started out with all Shetlands, but as a spinner, I loved working with many different types of fleeces.  Because of that interest, we decided not to be solely a Shetland sheep farm.  Despite having other breeds here, we diligently keep and maintain a purebred Shetland flock of our favorite colors, and are now many generations deep into our foundation lines.

More yarns are coming to market in the next two weeks!  Watch for Poppy, Saxony, and Motif.  Poppy's yarns are white so we are leaving some natural, some dyed.  Spinning her fiber has been very dreamy and I'm always very disappointed when it's gone.  Saxony is a moorit purebred Shetland ram lamb who's fiber is incredibly soft with rich chocolatey color to it.  Don't miss out on this gorgeous yarn!  Motif is a very bright expressioned purebred Shetland ram lamb who is as bright-eyed as his sire, Wooly Bear.  Motif is out of Mousa, a gorgeous purebred Shetland ewe, who's out of our flock mascot, Mona.  Everyone knows Mona!  Motif is her 'grandson'.  His fiber is washed and waiting for the next step, so watch for it in a couple of weeks!

Happy knitting/crocheting everyone!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Winter is just around the corner!

It's hard to believe how fast time flies, but it's true, winter is just around the corner here in the northern United States.  Hello again to all of you, our world of friends and fellow sheep admirers!  It's been a long time since we've updated our blog, and I know many of you have mentioned you cannot wait to hear from us again!  The farm has kept us super busy, as has the market, but today I am taking a few moments to say hello again.

While I don't have enough time today to update everyone on the farm, I can say briefly that the flock is beautiful right now!  We've had a great year for fleeces!  Coming in soft and huge, the sheep have converted all that lovely grass into massive amounts of fleece (but a lot of that has been sold already).  Our lambs this year (the largest lamb crop we've ever had) have grown the best we've ever had!  Our lambing season started February 1st with Daisy giving us FOUR!  That was followed up by two more ewes lambing on the 5th with each giving us gorgeous twins, so that was 8 lambs out of three ewes in five the heart of deep cold in February!  Wow, what a start!!!!  The season went on to give us the highest percentage of twins we've ever had, thanks to Holly's investments, whom are not Shetlands, although, we had the highest percentage of twins in our Shetlands this year as well.  Posie, who is a Shetland cross (a Lerwick lamb) gave us an amazing surprise in her lambing moments.  She fell ill, and collapsed in the snow after we let them out in the morning.  We immediately tenderly brought her into the barn, into a comfy pen and nursed her all day.  We later realized she had a lamb presenting tail first.  It was a hard time, as I could not get the lamb turned around.  Time to call the vet!  As we waited for the vet to get here (takes 45 minutes), I was in a panic, thinking I'd surely not get a live lamb.  Then, Posie did what had to be done and the lamb was delivered tail first!  Ever see a wiggling tail come out first?  What a moment!  In all the years we've been doing this, tail first has not happened, and certainly not a wiggling one!  At a point, I could assist, so I did, and amazingly, a live, healthy white lamb was delivered!!!  As he was getting up on his hooves, Posie promptly delivered a second, which shocked us!  She always singles, but here was a little black heap, shaking it's head, alive and well!!  Twins! One white, one black!  Posie came through, survived, both lambs survived, and all did great!  The vet arrived as we were celebrating with joy and was amazed to see our success! (and relieved he wouldn't be pulling a dead lamb)  He gave us bounteous compliments and went on his way, leaving us in happiness!  We named the twins Shell and Shale, for two Shetland lace patterns using those words, lace patterns that are a joy to knit!  (Shale will be for sale.)

There were terribly sad moments to the lambing season as well, with our first ever ewe lost just after lambing.  Awful!  And we lost one lamb.  Another lamb was nearly rejected by his Shetland mother when the first born, a ewe lamb, was so vigorous, she was up and off way across the pen, with bewildered first time mom (Gansey) in tow!  This mother was so worried to watch out for her little ewe lamb, she totally either forgot, or didn't realize another lamb had come out.  He landed by a sheep door, and a wickedly cold draft was blowing in.  I found him not long after, and with frost on his back, and feared he was lost.  But nope!  Alive, and hypothermic!  I raced him into our farm house and brought him back.  But here is where modern life and sheep farming collide...we had to run off to an orthodontist appt. that could not be changed, so little lambie rode along with us, warm and safe!  Later, the mother sort of took him back, but not wanting to take any chances, we milked her and bottle fed the little guy.  He is small as a result of his experiences, so we named him Bobble!  It's perfect!  (We named his moorit ewe twin Bobbin...also perfect as she is so cute!)  Today, Bobble is still about the size of....well....a bobble!  lol  He's healthy, vigorous, but weakened from not being raised by a mother.  He is producing a ton of soft fiber for his size, so I'll be shearing him soon to give him more chance to grow.  One pound of Bobble yarn, coming up!

The summer was a good one for rotational grazing, and the sheep have become quite spoiled by the tasty pastures.  There is no eating down the grass to a good point, THEN rotating, before the sheep decide to rotate themselves so that they can lop off the best of the best!  They like to pick the hottest days, when shepherds and sheep dogs nearly collapse in running them back in!  Speaking of sheep dogs, Swifty has matured into the best asset this farm has, even if he is far from a properly trained sheep dog.  Under graceful management, he has turned into my right arm, and I could never manage the flock without him.  He makes it easy!  For those of you who followed our farm blog in the past, Swifty is our Border Collie.  He's six years old (or something like that!) now, still strong, healthy, and sailing like the wind! But it won't be long before we'll need to train up a new dog.  All of our dogs get socialized on leashes, obedience, and house training before going into flock training, so it takes a long time to get a dog up to speed, a process that I personally love.  I can't wait to have the honor of bringing another dog into the work these amazing creatures are bred to do!

On a side note, the oldest ewe we have in our flock right now is nine years old.  On our first summer flock run through (where we give each sheep a health inspection and parasite check), I discovered she still has ALL of her teeth!  lol!  Shepherdesses are amazed by things the modern world would not even imagine!

The market is keeping us just as busy as the sheep!  We ran a sale on our popular dyed yarns, which kept us very busy, and we've had trouble keeping up inventory on needles and scarf balls, for which we apologize, but a bunch more are coming again!  The natural colors are very low right now, as three of my moorits are not going to give us salable fleeces right now, thanks to Lil' Dipper!  Did I tell you about Lil' Dipper?  Handsome dude!  He was born right about now, last year, under the big dipper in the sky which hangs low over our autumn pastures, hence his name.  We practice very controlled breeding on our farm, but somehow, Dipper managed to disrupt that!... giving us a first ever surprise....with three ewes lambing this summer unexpectedly!  This was not planned, and the lambs made it extremely easy to see who the only possible culprit could be....the fella out there on pasture, grinning....

Anyhow, so the moorits fleeces have been a bit "lambinated" this year, due to lambies jumping onto their mother's backs and playing rock hopping games.  I did manage to get Gracelyn's fleece in, but her next fleece will not be available.  And speaking of Lil' Dipper (now 'Big Dipper....), I sheared him in late August of his lamb's fleece, and spun it up.  I am truly amazed by the intensity of black it is.  Light gets to the yarn, and just stops!  It is the richest, blackest, loveliest  black yarn I've ever seen, and I cannot take my eyes off it.  It's also not like Shetland yarn, as it is thicker and cushier than Shetland (he is out of a Shetland ewe and a non-Shetland ram).  Ideal for hats or mittens, due to it's loft, cush, and softness, it's now at the market and available for purchase.

Well, there is so much more to tell, but time is up!  Come visit us at the market and see all of the beautiful yarns the flock has produced!  Our wraps will be going on sale in October...20% off, so watch for that!  I'm currently working on a dyed wrap, which is our Glacier blue.  It will be trimmed in purple, which is stunningly pretty together!  Can't wait to finish this one and get it out there, for I know everyone is going to love it!  I'm hoping to knit another dyed wrap after that. There are only a few available (in mostly natural colors), as they take up a lot of resources to make each lovely, one of a kind piece that will last you a lifetime of comfort!  So if you have one in mind that you really love, don't wait to get it!

If I get the chance, I'll put up pictures of a wrap and some of our lambs this year!  Not all decisions have been made yet as to who we are keeping, who is to be sold.  We have four Shetland lambs that give me much indecision, so I've taken out my breed standard to scrutinize them further.  So far, Motif (a handsome Shetland black fellow with a perfect tail) and Saxony (a very nordic-looking moorit little guy) really tug at me as keepers, but Cosmic (THE viking of the group!) and Tassel, a very handsome hard to decide!  All of them have Wooly Bear's amazing Shetlandy expression, and all have an amazing gait, very Shetlandy.  These decisions absorb my mind day and night, as they are such a pleasure to have.  Each one will be sheared of their fleeces in the days to come, and their yarn also offered for sale.  Many of our rams are gone now, replaced by new fellas except for Lerwick.  Lerwick passes on outstanding conformation, growth, and the loveliest, densest fleeces you can imagine in Shetlands and other breeds, plus super nice temperament.  We LOVE this guy!  So there is always more to watch for on our tables at the market!  Peerielyn, the little moorit fall lamb from last year is now sheared and her soft chocolatey yarns are available.  Also coming are yarns from Poppy (a Claire x Lerwick lamb), Penny (Posie x Clipper), more Misty, and the natural colored lambs, and more!  And there are only a few of Violet's skeins left, so if you like Violet, don't wait if you have a project in mind for her yarn!

So much to update, but must move on today!  If you cannot make it to our market but would like to pick up more yarn, please email us (click our link on the right side of the blog)!  We ship anywhere in the U.S.   Happy first day of fall everyone, and happy knitting/crocheting!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Shetland Peerie Makkers

 Wheely Wooly Farm has learned of an exciting effort in the Shetland Islands to prevent the loss of exceptional knitting traditions within the Shetland culture.  These traditions have grown out of the keeping of Shetland sheep over the centuries, the very ancestors of our own treasured sheep right here on our farm.  Traditions can only be carried on through the hands of youth, and that is just what a new program called Shetland PeerieMakkers is hoping to do.  Over the next year, it is hoped that more youth will be given opportunities to learn these knitting traditions, who will hopefully continue carrying this special knowledge forward into the future.

 We here at Wheely Wooly Farm are thankful for the opportunity to help keep the exceptional Shetland knitting traditions moving forward into the future.  We feel a special connection to the people of Shetland, through the endearing little sheep that changed our lives, and by the fascinating pursuit of knitting techniques that will provide a lifetime of endless joy.  Please join us in offering support by clicking on this link to learn more! Shetland Peerie Makkers

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Farm News

Noticed longer periods between posts of late?  Well, things have been very busy and we here at Wheely Wooly Farm have had very little time to be sitting at a device such as this, recounting our steps around the barn and pastures.  Farms are always busy places and the days of putting my feet up and reading away the winter hours have dwindled.  There is much to do!!

So we are saying good-bye for awhile.  Writing this blog has been a blast!!  Making so many new friends with all of you has been a special, I got that amazing experience!  Connecting people is a powerful thing.  What fun it has been to experience the connections that come to us in such new ways, and span such huge distances!  We will surely miss giggling through our blog entries as the pace quickens here and sharing/exchanging all things sheep!

We will be back some time but I can't say when that will be. lol!  Thank you everyone for following us, tuning in, and learning what sheep farming is like in the modern world, or for contributing so many interesting perspectives on all things sheep, good eating, and good knitting/crocheting.  We will look forward to seeing you again in the markets and at events!

If you miss following us, catch us out in our communities.  We are the only booth selling genuine Shetland yarns...actually, we are the only booth selling handspun yarns exclusively actually, for many years now.  Keep watch for our sheep signs for soon it will be time to take them off the farmhouse walls, where they wait out winter, and hang them back out in the early morning sunshine on our canopy!  Our farm is expanding so watch for changes and new things in time.

(Actually, I have to mention quickly, I've finished some knitted wraps that are GORGEOUS!  These are unique, one of a kind quality lifetime pieces that you won't find in any store.  I have a black dressier wrap made with genuine Shetland from our flock, with hints of blues in it.  It has a beautiful sky blue trim with glitz crocheted over the two short sides for a lovely, fancier effect, suitable for a night out on a cruise or high style dining.  There is also a moorit genuine Shetland wrap that is wider and longer, with a berry colored lacy trim knitted off the short edges, and attractive black crocheted buttons placed along the border.  This one is perfect for your reading/coffee nook where you recharge your batteries.  It's beautiful!!  Currently on the needles is a lovely white wrap that is stunningly soft and lovely.  Haven't designed how this one will finish yet, as it's already a scramble with lambs and other spring farm work.  Prices range from $295. to $395.  They won't last long so if you'd like one, it'd be best to email us.)

So we'll see you out and about all around our state (as always), if you are here in Wisconsin.  If not, keep checking back here, to the Wheely Wooly Farm post, for we will be back when we have the time!

Friday, January 16, 2015


Well we here at Wheely Wooly Farm hope the new year is finding you fulfilled in satisfying results of your new year's resolutions!  Thank goodness for the fun of this dreamy time of year to help alleviate the winter ills, right?

Speaking of winter ills, our weather has had it's ups and downs.  One week, we are in nasty cold, and the tree frog syndrome of mittens and fingers sticking to everything returns.  That gecko feeling is not my favorite, but you do it and get through it.  The sheep were fine during the cold.  When the wind howled (air temps deep into the teens below zero, with wind chills in the 30's or more below zero), we brought them in to keep their ears warm.  They are VERY appreciative! lol  The next week, things get milder and everyone goes back outside.  Chickadees are hoping around, and an occasional owl is heard hooting off in the far distance.  Sheep are peaceful...laying down, chewing cud, only to occasionally stand and shake out their fleeces, or wander over for a chin scratch and sweet nothings.

Speaking of ups and downs, something that is definitely on the way up is trends in fabrics and food.  There is MUCH excitement out there regarding healthy foods and clothing!  What a wonderful time to be in sheep!  More and more people are coming to appreciate the value of wool.  In fact, some have told me it's like a new discovery for them, having grown up with synthetic clothing.  The discovery of real wool really puts everything else into perspective!  It's like store bought cookies sitting stale in sealed packages, with a chemically after taste verses fresh, gooey homemade cookies hot out of the oven.  Wool performs in ways that astonish.  Some have told me they feel that wearing wool was the first time they ever felt true warmth, and that they won't be without wool ever again!  Funny, that's how I feel! :)

Wool is a sustainably produced product that comes from sheep, who are outstanding in environmental sensitivity to soils, flora and fauna.  In fact, that is another trend to watch, how sheep build and protect soils.  Don't believe a little sheep farmer?  Just take a drive in the country to see all the topsoil in bare, exposed fields blown onto snow, on roads, on houses, cars, and in ditches far from the fields.  It pains us to see such loss.  If you head to the researchers, they are desperately seeking solutions to preserving, and stopping the loss of topsoils.  Sheep are IT!  I love sheep.  Sheep do it all.  You won't see erosion like that on a sheep farm!

So unlike our weather, sheep are on a long run up.  They provide us with a farming model that protects and preserves soils, plants, wildlife, and water.  They happily give us high performance clothing of super high quality.  They feed us incredibly healthful foods.  Have you ever noticed that the most powerful and wealthy cultures on the planet rose out of sheep diets?   Sheep yield important byproducts that all of us would miss (pill casings, buttons, crayons, shampoo, etc.), and don't forget what the image of sheep peacefully grazing on nice pasture does for the mind.  It's an image that has endured through the ages.  Humans love sheep.

The forecasting by trend experts has caught on.  Sheep fever has never gone away.  It will always be with us.  And as more people emerge from synthetic lives and learn the facts, sheep are on the up and up.

Want to support your local sheep farmer?  You can find us at the Appleton Farmer's Market, or contact us for on-farm sales.  We thank you for your support!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Happy Wool Year!

As wool becomes an increasingly popular fabric of choice for warmth, ease of movement, and good health, we here at Wheely Wooly Farm are stepping up to meet your needs!  Our flock of genuine Shetland sheep work hard grazing, leaping, and chewing cud all year to bring you those amazing yarns that have become your favorites.  In a time of flu troubles and wild climate woes, why wear cold clothes when you can wear warm clothes, right?  Lucky us that have figured that out! lol
 The benefits of wool are black and white, and right before our eyes!

Wheely Wooly Farm has a VERY busy year planned ahead...I think it's pretty safe to say the shepherds will not be ruminating in the pastures with the sheep much this summer.
Wool really does hang from trees around here!

We wish you all a very happy new year full of the fun, hopes and dreams the promise of a new year brings!  Hug every buddy, laugh, snuggle up in your cozy wool, and put those dreams to work till the warmer days return.  It indeed is going to be a Happy Wool Year!

Monday, December 8, 2014

1,100 Winters

That's how I've recently seen it described.  What do I mean?  Sheep!  My favorite breed of sheep have been keeping people clothed and warm for 1,100 winters.  Amazing.

Cozy stuff!

It's quite a trip back in time when you think about the Northern European Short Tailed sheep (NESHS).  My favorite breed, Shetlands, are just one member of that family.  Another popular NESHS is the Icelandic.  They, too, are amazing sheep!  Equally amazing is what the Icelandic people accomplished with them.  

There are many different breeds of sheep that can keep you warm, but few have the track record for human clothing quite like the NESHS have.  Most people have no idea.  Never thought about it.  Wouldn't even know to think about it.  Amazing.

One thousand, one hundred winters.  Documented.  Known.  Amazing.  Sheep endure through the ages.  From richest to poorest, sheep endure.  What a story!

Back to the current moment.  We have a few scarf balls left!  Email us if you'd like to know what colors are available, as that's always changing.  Time is running out to give the gift of 1,100 winters!  Don't delay!  Order your yarn today.