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, July 28, 2009


It's hard to believe, but two beautiful Cayuga ducks now live on our farm! They are all black, with a green to purply sheen in the sunlight. We chose just one drake (male) and a hen (female), with hopes of hatching out eggs next summer. They are very docile, quiet, and easy so far! I feel like I've purchased a vacuum for the garden. We let them out in the pumpkins this evening and were amazed at their exceptional vision in spotting bugs and vacuuming them up with their broad bills. They didn't go far, always sticking together. We enjoyed watching them. It made for a peaceful and relaxing summer evening to be remembered when the winter winds blow!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Why Wheely Wooly?

I'm not the only one who likes wool around here! This is our little house kitty, Sophie. If any wool is out, she makes a cozy nest to sleep in. I can't blame her, the wool is so cushy and soft and warm!

It is the wool that gave us the idea of our farm. I hadn't realized how cold I always was during the wintery months. After making my first pair of wool mittens and wool scarf (I NEVER wore scarves before), I cannot tolerate the cold without them! If I'm wearing wool, driving around is no problem. Outside farm chores get done more efficiently and with greater pleasure when you're not subconsciously cold. I now see visitors to our farm freeze in the winter and they cannot understand how I can tolerate the cold. They are so cold in non-wool garments, just like I used to be! Now that I know what WARM feels like, you won't catch me outside without wool on! I've also come to rely on wool garments in the house, too. I understand now that being cold can affect your mood, appetite, and productivity. Being cold all the time is tiring and taxing.

The wheely part of our name comes from spinning. I always have wool on my spinning wheel. Spinning is a very satisfying activity that can be started or put down at a moment's notice, without need to count stitches or remember where you are. It is relaxing, allowing me to think about things and process all the busyness of my day. Sometimes I have to stop spinning, and cannot make it back to my wheel for a day or two, or longer! But that is won't spoil. I spin at all times of the day. Mornings are peaceful and a time to slowly wake up near a bright window. Evenings are relaxing, giving me time to unwind. During the day, I'll spin while doing other things around the house like laundry or cooking or waiting for a call. If it rains, or a snowstorm blows in, or it's hot...yippie! I'm spinning!

So the name Wheely Wooly Farm comes from spinning and wool and to give our guests a memory of it all as visitors are part of what we do. We volunteer for groups in our area by inviting them out to our "Fiber Fun Day on the Farm". We teach them about our Shetland sheep and angora rabbits, do spinning demos, and show all the yarn and things I've personally made for my family out of that yarn. These days generate a lot of new friends and great fun, plus lots of laughter. The farm brings people together.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sweet Shetland Sheep!

Shetland sheep are very sweet. Here is our little ewe, Sweetie. We purchased her for her lovely, soft beaver coat and small size. She is perfect for our daughter who was not wanting to be lugged around by a huge animal. It couldn't have turned out sweeter! This little ewe has a personality that is sweet as can be, and her wool is so soft and lovely that we have decided not to sell her yarn. My daughter has claimed this little sheep as her own!

Shetland sheep can be wild if not handled or taught to trust their shepherd. This ewe was a challenge to catch until we brought her home and worked with her a bit. She was naturally elusive and shy. In time, she learned to trust us and to be haltered. Soon she was going on walks around the farm.

Today, you can walk up to her and pet her, or put her on the halter for hoof trimming or whatever you want to do. She has a sweetness and gentleness about her that is amazing. She is also playful, often pouncing all the way to the barn each night! Her wool is very easy to shear with blades, and makes very soft, bouncy yarn. This year, her fleece of 12 months yielded 4 1/2 pounds of wool, skirted! Here is Sweetie just after shearing.

Of course, little girls love to have fun with their sheep! My daughter made an Easter bonnet just for her!

We carefully designed holes for her soft ears and were sure to place the flowers in back so she wouldn't be tempted to snack on them. What we didn't figure out was that she was sooo wooly, her hat kept falling over her eyes! Sweetie has been a treasured addition to our flock!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hand Shearing Iris

Here is Iris in full fleece back in June. She was much wider with all that wool! Being a purebred shetland ewe, she has a lovely beaver coat that is long and soft. I first fell in love with Iris when I purchased her fleece two or three years ago. I so enjoyed spinning and knitting with the wool, I went back and bought her fleece the next year. That fleece was so nice, too! It spun so easily on my wheel that it didn't take long to get the huge fleece completely spun. I made many fine pairs of socks from the yarn I spun. Those socks have made winter farm chores far more comfortable! Being a musket in color, the yarn is beautiful undyed. I have also sold some of her yarn for knitting, and have been commissioned to make socks and a lace scarf from her fleece which are finished and sold.

Since I loved her fleece so much, I asked her owners if I could buy her. They said yes! When I brought her home, she was overweight (they had nice pasture!) and really wild. So I penned her in a smaller space for quarantine, and to try to gain her trust. Each day, I worked with her to accept my presence and touch. I believe wild sheep experience too much stress. When you have to handle them, the sheep and handlers are more likely to not enjoy the work, and be more likely to get injured. Plus, stress and wool production do not go together! After a couple of weeks, I could catch her in a reasonable few minutes, and I had her accepting a halter without struggle. A couple more weeks later and she was my best behaved walker on the politely walking along by my side! She accepted me and trusted me that being handled was a positive thing, thus making things safer and less stressful for everybody. This paid off big time at shearing! Here is what she looked like after all that wool came off.
I hand sheared her myself, using scissors around her face and neck, and blades for the rest of her fleece. Shearing beaver coats is a cinch as the wool is so clean next to their bodies, and long. It is easy to get the blades into the wool and do a nice snip without risk of second cuts. She is of good weight now, is trusting and easy to handle when needed, and produced a huge, soft fleece for me this year. I'm proud of my work with her!

Iris has become a valuable addition to our flock and yarn inventory. The garments made from her wool have been a joy to work with and wear. A winter day without a pair of Iris socks to wear is a bad day. We are so glad to have her!