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, March 19, 2010

Blue spring!

What's this?? Could it be?? YES! That's blue sky! We have had a very nice winter this year, but the skies were cloudy most of the time, and fog occurred frequently. We had ideal snow cover starting with our blizzard back in December, which covered the plants nicely. That snow stuck around all winter, keeping the ground so nicely insulated that frost didn't penetrate very deep this year. WOOHOO! We escaped the horrible -17 degree stuff this year!! I couldn't believe my camera actually took this picture of clear blue.

So is this bluebird yarn or blue sky yarn? As cozy as the cloudy skies and fog are in winter, I just love the return of springy blue skies! Soon I'll be watching for those puffy white June clouds that all remind me of sheep!
What's this? A dead cat?
Uh oh. Dead chickens?
Wait...whose tracks are those? Here's your test...what doesn't belong?

Warm, gooshy gloppy, sticky mud. JUST what we wanted!

No, those aren't dead animals. They are happy animals soaking up the warm sunshine and dozing. The hens were dust bathing. It's sort of like "chicky play dead". Sometimes they flap their wings and open all their feathers so the dust gets to the skin. Then they put their heads upside down in the dust and roll over or around, occasionally adding a wing flap to make a cloud of dust. It's an important and necessary kind of bathing to keep them emotionally and physically healthy. And Goldie? Well, if his paws aren't skidding around the corner in the barn, or if he's not rolling off the coop roof, or if he's not getting rides on his favorite door, or if he's not stalking you in the garden, or rubbing against your pruning shears while you're trying to cut, he's playing dead.
Wooly Bear likes the sun, too. I cannot wait to shear him! His wool is so fine and long. I sure wish he didn't enjoy wearing his dinner on his head! His neck wool is pretty messy. He's not a very tall ram and since I ground feed, he found ways to burrow into the hay....every day. :( Despite the vm, I'm going to comb his neck wool to remove the vm because it is so amazingly soft!! He also has a lot of vm just around the top of his horns and the neck area close to his horns. :( The rest of his wool is nice and clean. I know I cannot coat him next year because his wool would surely matt up under a coat. I'll just have to hope he'll stop putting his dinner on his head I guess! In the meantime, I sure love his wool! This is where I freeze up....WHAT am I going to do with his yarn?? He is such a nice example of historic Shetland sheep. The preservation of these sheep is the mission of our breed organization in the USA, or at least it was! Who knows where that is going, but there are certainly many changes taking place. As Wooly Bear gets older, his fleece will not be as soft as hormones rage with age. This is characteristic for all Shetland rams, so it's easy to freeze up on what special thing to do with his lamb's fleece!

I have that Shetland wether carded up and ready for spinning, however I got a little distracted this week with this exceptionally fine weather. :) I cleaned up the garden, pruned the fall-bearing raspberries, pruned the fruit trees, and cleaned up Coopville. I even had laundry hanging out on the line! Horses have been going by on the road and neighbors all catch up every day. I'm trying to keep spinning, and I have to get ready for my next group of knitting students. And we recently shopped for buttons for sweaters. FUN! And we delivered something for a community service project we worked on. Sooooo nice to have clean, easy roads.

So now the frost is out of the ground and mud season is settling down with some areas getting firm and dry already. WOOHOO! Two years ago, we had the worst mud season ever since that year, the frost was very deep. I'm pulling old annuals out of the garden I left for interest over the winter, being careful to only step on designated walking paths to protect soil structure and aeration. Earthworms are everywhere! Better yet, the ground is warm enough to release the earthy aromas now! Oh, I love that! The smell of earth and green.....sniffffffffffffff.....ahhhhh! Oh, did you hear that? The song sparrows are back.....


  1. I am new to Shetland sheep. I'm actually new to raising any sheep, but I have two and love them dearly and they give me wonderful fiber. I would love to learn more about the breed and when I'm ready to breed my ewe, I want to move closer to the traditional version of Shetlands... my income is limited and I'm WAY out on the east coast of Virginia... but I know I have much to learn.

  2. Welcome to Shetland sheep Cate! I'm confident you'll be delighted with them! These sheep provide great wool for spinning, knitting, and wearing. They also have wonderful personalities and are just great to have around. Enjoy the learning process for there is much to explore with this breed! Amy