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.

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, 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!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Did you know?

Everyone has heard of the black sheep.  You know, the one shepherds supposedly always wanted to get rid of?  The one who 'contaminated' the white wool?  Well, there is some of that thinking around the world, but there is also another view not often shared...that of the treasured black sheep!

A few weeks ago, back when the weather was still more like winter than spring, I discovered an old book that had a section on old timers, sheep, and spinning.  It was part of a series known as Foxfire.  I found the old stories pleasantly interesting as I read about how people in days past here in America tended their sheep.  There are so many different ways to "do" sheep, that it made for interesting reading.  Amongst the old time stories, was a story about the value of black sheep.  Rather than being the cast out sheep or the sheep nobody liked, the black sheep 'disappeared' so as not to be stolen or taken because the black wool was treasured.  It meant less work in that the black wool didn't need the extra step to be dyed, and the black was a color most men preferred to wear.  The black wool never faded or bled into other colors.  It showed less dirt, and it was coveted because it was not real common!
 Some of our black sheep running out to grazing with their mothers last spring.
Not every sheep in this picture is a Shetland.

People who have Shetland sheep are lucky people!  We have the rich black color preserved in our breed, and that black color is loved and appreciated! It's fun to save our pretty white wools from other breeds for dyes yet having the rich blacks of the Shetlands.  Our flock has a diverse range of blacks.  Our deepest blacks are really a very difficult to tell dark brown.  Our lightest blacks are a tweedy blend of color of various shades of gray or brown.  Shetland colors are so much fun!  I wonder what the old timers in America would have thought of our Shetland sheep today? 
 An example of 'Shetland black', a very dark brown that appears all black in most natural light.

It's fun to read the old timey stories, and see how as a nation, we have grown.  The need and desire for wool is still strong today, as people treasure their wool socks, mittens, hats, scarves, and sweaters!  Wool is renewable, all natural, and can be easily raised by people who don't own massive chemical plants or oil refineries.  And, I might add, wool comes off of some pretty good eating, too!  Sorry....

Anyhoo, guess what?  It's almost summer farm market season already!  We are working hard to be ready, but I must admit, we are scrambling to be ready!  And it doesn't help when some days, rather than getting ready, I'm chasing sheep!  The thoughts of coffee smells, fresh flowers, and scrumptious egg rolls wafting on the air brings alluring memories for the excitement of sunny mornings at market!  We hope you all plan to come, even if you are from out of Wisconsin!  Our market is huge, and draws thousands of people each week.  Every week, I'm talking to people from other states, so if you are ever near Wisconsin, come check us out!
I'll leave you with the lovely image of our flowering spring tree!
Hope to see you this summer!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Breaking news...sheep on grass! lol

Well I haven't had much time to take pictures or blog much!  The good news is the sheep are now grazing!  Yippee!!  We are all happy about that!

The bad news is we've had a little trouble with lambs stuck in the fence.  One little moorit ram lamb has been tangled twice already.  Yesterday, he was in a boggy spot when he became entangled somehow.  We've been checking on them every little while and it's a good thing we do!  Everyone is fine, and today he is grazing just like all the others, except for the mud on his lovely wool!

Easing the sheep on grass is a slow process.  Many people have no idea how time consuming a flock can be in the spring with lambing, winter stress, and the return to summer grazing.  First, the shepherd must ease the sheep back on their rumens time to build up healthy bacteria to digest the grass.  If you don't take care to give the sheep time to ease on, they can bloat up, and if the bloat is bad enough, they can die.

Second, the lambs must be trained how to move with the flock without worry or stress, and how to find their mothers again if they get mixed up.  Even though the lambs are not nursing as much now, they still seek out the comfort and guidance of their mothers, and the mothers are still seeking the lambs and trying to keep them within sight.  They don't like being separated too far.

Third, the lambs need to be trained on the fence.  We had them all trained, and could confidently trust they'd be fine all day, until juicy grass was on the other side!  Now the lambs are getting a review of what happens if they stick their heads through the fence to reach that good spot, even though there are LOTS of juicy grass patches INSIDE the fence! Sigh...

And last, I hate to say it but...even some of the ewes need a tad of a reminder not to touch the fence!  Sigh...

After several days of running them out and in, their bellies are plenty full of the best nutrition in the world, everyone has napped in the sun and warmed winter's chill out of their bones, and now the sillies set in!!  It is great wisdom that a shepherd not sit on the sofa all winter and get out of shape! for the sheep will put your fitness to the test when the sillies set in!  Sigh...

TG for Border Collies!!!!