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.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Don't forget Valentine's Day!

Sweetie

Yep!  It's coming in less than a week!  Here on the farm, we feel a little of Valentine's Day everyday.  Sheep are really very sweet individuals, but this particular sheep is the sweetest living being I've ever met in my life.  Her name is Sweetie and on May 4th of this year, she'll be 10 years old already!!  We positively adore this girl!  She's a Shetland ewe who's given us many beautiful babies, such as Lil' Pumpkin,  Twilight, Pansy, and that beautiful ram, Starlight.  Last spring, she gave us Nasturtium, the little ewe with socks.  Twilight was especially memorable in that he went to school with us to meet the kids and show them what woolly sheep are like.  Starlight's wool sold too fast, and there wasn't enough to go around!  It is amazing how time flies, so we decided not to breed Sweetie this year, even though she is in top health and still has all her teeth.  (Funny, the things shepherds get excited about! lol)

So are you ready for Valentine's Day?  This year, how 'bout remembering some of the Valentine's of years past.  What special memories come to mind?  When those things happened then, could you have imagined, looking back from today, how much they came to mean?  The day we bought Sweetie was very memorable, but who could have ever known what she would grow to mean to us today?  We are so thankful to have her and care for her!  She has changed our lives in countless ways, and her yarns have brought connections to humans all over the world.  Do you have any memories that have grown in importance through the years to something so much more today than when they were created?

Here's to a happy Valentine's Day to you all...and happy reminiscing!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Shetland Wool Socks

Greetings all!  Hope you are getting through this rather mild January and all your knitting projects!  It seems this month that our sock blogs are very popular.  Search back in our archives for blogs about socks.  Shetland sheep produce wonderful wool for socks!  If you haven't made any socks out of Shetland wool, try it!  The wool off our sheep has been a real pleasure to spin, knit, and wear.

One blog you can quickly find is from August 2012.  In it, I blogged about our ewe Lacey and her wool.  I still have those socks!  They went on to win us blue ribbons as somehow, I knit that one pair without one mistake, which is definitely not typical for me.  Socks are wonderful things in that you can make mistakes because they rarely interfere with the integrity of the socks, and if they are for yourself, you can decide if it's worth the time to rip them back...or not! lol

Anyhoo, when knitting for judging, perfect is best.  I had no idea if the judges would like my socks or not, but that's why you enter in the first place!  It's a great way to see how you are doing and get some feedback.

We hope you will take some time to either knit some socks for yourself and those you know, or learn how!  It is a great and handy skill, but I must warn you....that is if you have yet to learn how....that once you can do it, people will be pestering you for socks forever on!

Happy sock knitting everyone!

P.S.  Our other sheep also produce wool that is wonderful in socks.  We seek a certain quality of wool and if a sheep doesn't have that, we wouldn't own it!  It's hard to find good sock wool, but you can find it here on Wheely Wooly Farm.  You can either email us, or seek us out at the farm market come summer.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Happy New Year!

 How 'bout some nice color to start off the new year?

Happy New Year everyone!  We hope you had a nice holiday break...knitting or crocheting we hope! lol  This year, we are skipping our typical annual new year's post as we sort of did that already a few posts back.  This has been the biggest year Wheely Wooly Farm has seen yet and we were quite delighted to collapse at the end and take a break!  

 Can I do that?
lol

Ok, we can't quite go that far in taking a break, as the sheep still need tending, chores still need doing, and we've got our work lined up and waiting.   In fact, we are behind on some things so we've decided, after hard thought, to delay returning to market until June.  Our inventory is very low and things need doing around the farm so it was decided that to be our best, we better take the time it takes to get things supplied well again.  

So this year, we've tried some new things, one of which is shearing more lambs in early fall.  Some of that fiber has already hit the sales table and is gone already, such as some of Peerielyn and Lil' Dipper, but Motif's yarn is finished, Tassel's yarn is nearly done, and Bobble is on the wheel right now.  Lincoln was sheared and will be soon spun, and others, so watch for these lovely fleeces come spring!  Speaking of Bobble, he's the little guy that nearly froze to death, and had to ride along in the truck to town one day...see a few posts back for his story.  Well Bobble's fiber is simple sensational!  It's being spun up quite finely and will be outstandingly suitable for very special lace.  His fiber is incredibly soft and fine, being lamb's wool and Shetland, and the most outstanding natural black you might ever find!  This hard to find and incredible yarn will be for sale separately, and there is very little to sell...and I won't have more!  Bobble, by the way, is spending his winter hanging out with BuzzBuzz...and what a pair they are!  Pure mischief.


 Very popular headbands designed and created by Wheely Wooly Farm...and sold out by September.

Other news to report from the year is that we had the opportunity to connect with some of our farm's "ancestors" this year, through a chance meeting.  Through this fortuitous meeting, we received some exciting documents on the beginnings of this farm and we are truly amazed at what we have learned!  After that day, we have taken time to learn more and what an amazing journey that has been! 

In October, we welcomed a new barn cat to the farm, except she's not in the barn yet! lol  She was obtained by calling a local program called the TNR Program, which stands for trap, neuter and release.  We'll write more about her in the months to come!  She's beautiful and unique so we can't wait to show you pictures of her!  Cats are required around here, and are very useful farm employees.  One morning last fall, I opened the curtains to find Paws (another barn kitty we have) high up in the willow tree, swatting at his tail hanging down behind and under him!  It became a morning of instant giggling...how often does one get to start the day like that?!? 

And this year, our products travelled farther and wider into the world that we could have ever imagined...going as far away as Israel, Qatar, Japan, and Africa, and more! 

There is so much more to 2016, but it's time to get going.  Thank you to all our wonderful customers and friends who make Wheely Wooly Farm such a fulfilling success!  Without you, we couldn't do it all!  We are working hard to bring you so much more great yarn and ideas for your projects, gifts and garments in 2017!  Happy New Year everyone and happy knitting!    



Monday, December 19, 2016

Awwww...puppies!

What a cutie!
Puppies and this time of year just go together, don't they?  

Wheely Wooly Farm is a very busy place and things are changing all the time, faster than we could ever blog about!  As with so many sheep farms, we too have dogs to help us with the sheep, but we are not very good at blogging about them.  The training of the dogs brings hours of fun and even more hours of giggles.  We don't know what we'd do without our helpers!

In our travels with our booth, we get asked a lot of questions on if we have dogs.  Dogs just might be one of the most popular things on this planet, and we've discovered that stories about our dogs seem to be relished.  Over the years we've cracked up many a customer and their friends with our silly short dog stories, as so many people can relate to the silly antics of dogs.  Living on a sheep farm gives you ample stories to tell!  We consider the dogs as farm employees with health plans, as they have been brought here to fulfill a specific purpose.  And none of us know how we would manage our daily work here without them.  We could say with confidence that the dogs provide 98 percent good work, with a wee bit of chaos from time to time! (like say scaring the sheep half to death trying to run in the barn door with a five foot tree branch in their mouth after a storm...and getting stuck, or by sitting on top of the hay as if it's a mountain, peacefully overseeing the flock but leaving us dumb humans to wonder how on earth we'll get them safely down!)

More puppies!
Fluffy, poofy, super soft little balls of mischief!

Other stories aren't on the funny side, such as once after cull day, one dog howled for weeks, breaking our hearts!  And it's not real funny when a rambunctious puppy dives into the fresh clean water you just put in the stock tank, or gives you a huge beautiful paw print on your clean shirt just as you need to leave the farm, giving you a new kind of farm style.

So this is the most common time of year we have acquired puppies over the last nearly two and a half decades, which always brings our thoughts back around to those special years when a new puppy came home, as we reminisce about training, progress and funny stories.

With that, here is a picture of a baby corgi puppy!  The new owners were having a ball socializing their new pup, until nap time came.  So cute!
 Does this photo remind you of anyone?

Happy holidays everyone, and we hope you have a safe and joyful season of peace and festivities!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Wheely Wooly Tassel


Wheely Wooly Tassel

Handsome fellow, isn't he?  This is Tassel, a Shetland ram lamb in our flock.  We don't keep all of our rams, but a few have been kept to see how they will grow out.  Tassel has rich color to his fleece and it is very soft and luxurious.  That rich color is permanent and is not only beautiful in your knitting, but is excellent for knitting with other colors, helping them pop!  He was sheared at the end of summer.  His twin, Tammy, is a lovely moorit (chocolatey brown).  Tammy was named for the type of hats (i.e. tams) knitted in and south of the Shetland Islands.  Both have excellent density of fibers, bright expressions, straight toplines and nice fluke Shetland tails.  And how 'bout those gorgeous horns...quite a crown of glory!

Behind Tassel is Smily...without the e before the y so his name would fit on his eartag.  Smily is not a purebred Shetland so he will have a different type of fiber, of which we are also very excited to get.  He has not been sheared yet, and won't be now until spring.

If you are looking for high performance yarns that are very pleasant to knit or crochet with, and even more pleasant to wear, visit us at the farm market and pick up some of the best yarn around!  Wheely Wooly Farm yarns also make great gifts for that special knitter or crocheter in your life! 

I'll leave you with the best photo ever from our farm, that of Tassel's sire enjoying his own Thanksgiving treat!

Yes, his nose is completely inside the pumpkin, as far as his horns would allow!

A special note added in here a few days after posting this...it seems some old followers of my blog have been reminiscing and re-reading some of my old posts of 2011.  On November 16, 2011, I wrote notes about our fall breeding thoughts.  I went back and re-read it myself, and it still amuses me!  It is so much fun to go back and re-read these old posts and re-visit the pictures.  We still breed for the older style fleeces, and with the nasty winters we've had in the last decade (breaking every winter record I didn't realize existed), we are even bigger believers in the right fleece for the climate.  And with a house full of fiber busy bodies, the variety within fleeces has given us endless fun over years of time, and we feel like there is still so much ahead of us we'd like to do.  Our flock had now reached a point where we are at our limit, and still barely meeting demand.  This has occurred during a time when we have been losing competitors every year as other farms and shops close up.

If you are new to our farm blog, make a hot cup of coffee or tea, put your feet up, and take a look back at some of our old stuff, for you might enjoy what you find!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone and hope you enjoy pumpkin pie as much as the sheep do!



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
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 days...in 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 fellow...so 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!