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, March 21, 2017

Lambs...what?! It's March already???

What?!  Wait a minute...it's MARCH already! lol  Boy, time sure flies around here!  It's easy to see why we lose track of time a bit around this busy sheep farm...just look at these cuties to the left!  Lambing season arrived here on Wheely Wooly Farm and has been completed as of last Saturday.  The barn is now full of popcorn!  The hard winter days of cold and blowing snow have been replaced by singing birds, sunshine, and leaping lambs.

To the left here is Chipping (in the background).  Yes, Chipping.  His ears are very, very, very large!  The moment he was born, his ears went up and haven't come back down since!!  He's a bright little fella with just the conformation we were aiming for.  It doesn't always go that way, so lucky us this year!  His name is Chipping...old English for market.  Yes...I knowIknow....it has other meanings but who cares.  He's my sheep! :)  It's perfect for him because his personality and vigor match his upright ears, a very chipper little guy.

In front of him is Blackberry.  She's super soft and on a tear around the pen!  Her ears are higher now, too.  Both of these lambs are out of Cardigan, the first born out of Claire last year.  Cardigan has grown into a gorgeous ram with his mother's lovely fleece and super nice temperament.  So we held him over to see what he could produce.  This ram is what we've called a "STAR" sheep on our farm, a label we give to any sheep that resists parasites on their own, one that doesn't need drenching with dewormers.  Cardigan has that vigor.  Let's hope he's able to pass some of that on to his lambs!  Time will tell.

So with lambing season complete and the barn chores so much fun that it takes WAY longer to get them done (you know, all the awwww's and giggles, and 'so cute's and all), we've progressed to shearing.  (Actually, we were shearing some before lambs when the weather was good.)  Some fleeces are already washed and ready for the wheel.  In organizing the wool storage area, I discovered a forgotten Lil' Rainbow fleece!  That was exciting!  Her fleeces spin up easy and are a real joy to work with, so I'll actually have more Rainbow fleece available.  It's on the wheel now and almost finished.

Today I'll end with something I made last summer.  It's a dish towel embroidered in purple yarn for our ewe Violet.  She had twins last year, in between barn checks.  When I next checked on the moms, there she was, with two adorable, bright little lambs all boingy, with full tummies, and good to go next to her!  Don't know how she did that so fast, but it was a moment we'll never forget, so we stitched it on a towel.  Problem is, it's so cute, I can't bear to use it!  It hangs in a nice place in the farm kitchen where we can see it every day and remember how cute they all were.

THAT is sheep fever, folks! :)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Little Bit of Honey

This is my dear Honey.  Yes, she is a dear!  Today I had a most pleasant surprise email from a customer.  It was very moving for me, for this wonderful customer, Liz, had purchased some Wheely Wooly Farm yarn on two separate occasions and with her amazing talent, made a very special shawl, then wrote to tell us about it, and show us lovely pictures!  It made my day!  The shawl is absolutely gorgeous!

Beautiful Honey
Purebred Shetland Ewe

Honey is as sweet as honey, and in fact was given that name by my DH, who adored her.  Honey loves people, and will come to you asking for chin scratches and sweet nothings any time you might be available!  She's the color of honey on the tips of her wool, with this lovely creaminess to light brown mid-lock.   Her fiber is a dream to spin and she gave us a lamb, whom we named Hap.  Haps are the historic names of everyday working shawls in the Shetland Islands, shawls you really live with, that you wear all day, that have to survive all that Shetland women did in a typical day 100 years ago.  
 Hap (left) and Honey, who'd been sheared.
Notice her creamy white wool when sheared?
Wheely Wooly Farm sheep often change color when sheared...total fun!

 A shawl I made with Honey's yarn, with more mistakes than I care to admit.
Tip of the day...don't knit lace  a) with no markers cause you can't wait til you get home, b) children around that want you to watch a new thing they're doing and c) on a day you feel so invincible that you think a life line is completely unnecessary!! lol

 Baby Misty!  Taken when she was a wee lamb.
Today, Misty towers over nearly everyone else.
And watch out you don't trip over her...she's VERY friendly!

Misty is not a Shetland, but rather a crossbred of guessable breeding (purchased off farm).  In fact, I have her latest fleece on the wheel now, being spun.  We'll be bringing more of Pink Poodle, Glacier, and other popular colors to market soon!  I also just spun through Violet and Minty (and Penny!  Watch for lovely Penny's yarn, new!).  Minty is Scrambler's mother.  There are a few skeins of Scrambler left to purchase as well.

Honey's natural colored fleece.  Makes a spinner's hands just want to get spinning!

Liz's shawl has Honey's yarn for the main part, then trimmed with Misty's lovely Pink Poodle yarn.  The two colors are gorgeous together, for Shetland sheep natural colors have an unusual quality about them in that they pair exceptionally well with dyed colors.  Liz's talent really shines in the making of this shawl in how she paired the colors, and I hope she wears it at the market some day for all to see!  I'm guessing it will be a show stopper and she'll get a lot of compliments!

You can see more of Liz's work, her review of Wheely Wooly Farm yarn, and read more of her ambitions by clicking on the link at the right side of our blog.  Look for her Swatch Stories to read more of small farm yarn and the local movement!

Thank you Liz, and to all of our customers who've brought your projects back for us to see!  We appreciate you all and cannot wait for summer and the fun market brings in sharing projects and ideas!

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!