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, June 30, 2010

What do you get when you...

...cross a super friendly ewe with a very personable, docile ram??
Wheely Wooly Lerwick

Ah, Lerwick, could you stand there for a second please?

Ok, that's better! This little lamb takes special handling! He is very personable, just like his Mom, Miss Mona, and Wooly Bear, his sire! He loves "talking" to me. Getting pictures of him is a challenge because he'll be over untying your shoestrings before you know it. So we treat him very carefully, so that we shape him into the ram he is going to become. Look at those beautiful horns and sweet expression! We are really thrilled with him!

This is what was on my bobbin yesterday. Today, it's Lil' Rainbow. I've been spinning outside a lot lately, as the rains have finally subsided and the air is fresh. It's noisy though! We have birds nesting everywhere! Cardinals, meadowlarks, some small bird of prey, robins, song sparrows, bluebirds, gold finches, mourning doves, a wren (who sings his HEART out all day!!), orioles, ovenbirds, and kinglets...and killdeer, and house finches, and a quiet little bird that might be a phoebe, and rats!! the nasty starlings! The sandhill cranes are gathering right up the road, too. And Squirrelly has moved back into our big maple tree. That's always a good sign that the coyotes have moved away for the season.
Wheely Wooly Pumpkin

This is Sweetie's little guy. He, too, is turning out to be an exciting little lamb! He has very fine fleece that is growing in abundance, and really nice horns. His personality is also very friendly. The little nose on the right is Gracelyn.

Here is Lerwick's fleece, sort of parted as he wiggled around. This is the stuff of my dreams! This fiber is very, very soft and has a unique handle that is unmatched by any other breed I've worked with, and I spin many hours a day. It is indescribable. This fiber makes for memorably pleasant knitting yarn and is super comfortable to wear.
Pumpkin and Gracie

Wheely Wooly Lerwick

Lerwick has a really nice build that he is maintaining as he grows! Speaking of! He is growing fast!! We have been very lucky to have nice udders on all of our ewes, and fast growing lambs. Pure luck!
Wooly Bear

Wooly Bear (our Grand Champ. and sire of all of this year's lambs) has beautiful horns! He is half asleep here, relaxing in the shade of his "new" pasture. I just love his face, with black, black fiber, no wrinkles on the snout, bright eyes, and impressive "ramness" to his horns.
Goldie, the farm clown

Goldie loves to sit and look at the sheep with me. He's definitely a "company" kind of cat. When he gets too old to mouse outside, I'm thinking of bringing him indoors and turning him into a therapy cat, for he loves to just sit on laps and look around.
Lucky (on right) and Lucy

Lucky has come out of his horrible bad day last spring. We thought he'd have a permanent kink in his neck, but that has gone away. Today, he waddles all around the farm with no problems. They really stick together! The other night, as I was weeding in the vegetable garden, the two of them came waddling up the mulched path in between the beans and peas. At first, I thought I better shoo them away so they don't run over my new bean sprouts. But then I noticed that on the one side, Lucky was "vacuuming" the bean leaves while on the right side, waddling slightly behind Lucky was Lucy, "vacuuming" the pea leaves! Ok! I LOVE these ducks!! Tonight, Lucy is sitting tight on a clutch of ten duck eggs! After days of thinking about it, and carefully rotating the eggs every little while, she is finally sitting tight. So let's 28 days........stay tuned!

This is Lil' Rainbow's lovely yarn! It has amazing handle and is much softer than I thought it'd be! I'd heard that iset is coarser. That is not my experience with this ewe. She has an abundance of undercoat. That's Shetland for you! Unique, soft, and amazing!

Hope you enjoyed this little tour of the souls we share this farm with!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Full Swing!

Busy, busy, busy! Summer is in full swing around Wheely Wooly Farm! Not much time for rest. There are strawberries to harvest, relatives to visit, friends to giggle with, swimming pools to splash in, gardens to weed, fair projects to complete, floats to build, campfires and grills to fire up, and fiber, fiber, fiber galore! I still haven't sheared Iris, for a variety of reasons. My spinning wheel itself is getting dizzy, and my kitchen is covered in bags of wool. Wooly Bear, our Grand Champ. sire, and Wilbur "the buddy" have a new pasture to graze full of dreamy tall grasses to romp in and tall shade trees nearby for getting past the heat of the day. The girls and lambs are rotating around on lush fresh grass nearly every day, except during heavy downpours, during which they contentedly wait out inside the shed. They seem to really appreciate being out of the worst stressful weather.
Lavender blooms oh so fragrant!

The lettuce has gone bonkers with all the rain and cloudy skies. The salads have been heavenly lately!

The farm market Saturday turned out great, after worrying about stormy weather! The skies were blue and winds virtually calm. A nearby booth had a talented woman singing great songs that fit perfectly with the morning. It was really nice being there! We absolutely love talking with people and hearing about knitting projects, family, sheep, and travel stories! One person talked about a Shetland sweater he has from the Shetland Islands, a favorite garment that he treasures. It's many, many years old and still looks nice even though it gets worn a lot. That sounds like genuine Shetland wool!! Durable and useful.

For those of you asking, here is Redwood's wool in the wash tub, in one of it's many baths before getting spun into yarn. Washing raw wool takes time and skill to get it just right, and the process is not the same for every breed of sheep. Shetlands have a fairly low lanolin content in their wool, which is one of the many reasons I love working with the fiber so much. If you purchase a Shetland fleece that needs lots of soap, or "scouring", you probably don't have a pure Shetland fleece.

These bags of wool were waiting to be washed. This is how the fiber is stored (typically).
The white fiber in this photo is MaryBay, a lovely pure Shetland ewe (who happens to be Honey's mother :). This was taken after the fleece had been washed and was just dry enough to begin preparing for spinning. In natural light, it takes on a beautiful buttery cream color.
More pictures are coming, especially of the sheep! We've been so busy lately, I haven't had much chance to sit out with them. Each morning and evening, when we move the flock, I get to interact with them and give them a good look over to make sure everyone looks right. In the morning, they are ready to graze that lovely grass, so they don't want too many scratches. However, in the evening, it's a whole 'nother story! With bellies full, they are playful and curious, very willing to come over to untie my shoe strings or get a nice pet. Cosmo will actually push his way through the other lambs now for a turn! Gracie is learning to share me, and little Lerwick doesn't miss a chance to "talk"! He always baas a response to me, whether I'm coming or going. He still has his little lamby baa, but it's beginning to change already! All of the lambs have grown soooo much, it's a shock! And Honey is surprising us the most. Since I sheared her, she has turned into an admiring fan! Formerly a tiggerspring-loaded scaredy cat, she is now the first one over for a chin scratch. I've come to learn that handshearing does something in your relationship with the sheep. Don't know why, but it does.

Have you noticed what summer activity is NOT on this list?!? Mowing! Despite all the heavy rains and lush growth, the sheep have been VERY handy! Thannnnnk Youuu Sheeeepies!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Shetland shawl, yarn, farm market, lettuce

I'm making progress on my Swallowtail Shawl...slowly! We are in our busy season, so things will go a little slower for awhile. This is a pleasant knit! The lace pattern is so beautiful! I cannot wait to finish it and take it off the needles!

Gretl's Swallowtail Shawl

What a fun morning we had last Saturday, the first day of our summer farm market! The clouds cleared and the sun came out for a beautiful day! We had a steady stream of people who stopped to talk to us about our sheep, yarns, and our farm. We sure enjoyed talking with everyone!
Handspun Shetland yarns

We brought several handspun fleeces to sell and what a response we had! Enjoy your yarns! If you finish a project, bring it by and share, for we'd love to see it! In fact, if you'd like, we can share a picture of your project on our farm blog!
Display Board

I had a display board up in our booth to show how pretty our yarns look knitted or crochet up into something. It was so much fun putting it together! There are crocheted flowers that I designed, cables, and pretty crocheted and knitted edgings All of the items on the board were made from fleeces for sale that day.
Eden (pure Shetland ewe)

Here is what's on my bobbin today...Eden. She is a black purebred Shetland ewe with a very soft, fine fleece and a long staple length. I just started spinning her fleece and hope to bring some of her yarn to next week's market. This black has some white fibers in it, making for a beautiful, unique look hard to duplicate.
Wheely Wooly lettuce :)

One of the things I love about having a big vegetable garden is the fresh lettuce, spinach, and onions such a garden can bring. With the cooler, wetter June, we've had a wonderful patch of lettuce and spinach to harvest, that cut and come again, again, and again. I especially love 'Green Ice', 'Red Sails', and 'Oakleaf', mixed with baby spinach leaves. It is so tender and flavorful, with a little mild onion sprinkled as a base salad and yum! Lunch everyday!

I was sad to see of all the United Kingdom visits to my blog recently, none responded as being from the Shetland Islands. :( Well, we certainly welcome the people of the United Kingdom, too! Not sure why people south of the Islands would be so interested in my entry about what our current board is working on...

Thank you to all who visited with us at the market Saturday! We really enjoyed talking with all of you and hearing about your knitting! Enjoy knitting with your new Shetland yarns and we hope to see you again next Saturday!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Shiny New Breed Update!

Update! Wow!!! Welcome United Kingdom!!! Are any of you from the Shetland Islands?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Shiny new breed.

Has anyone else noticed something? Have you noticed that the board of our breed organization has/is:
*adding legal documents to our standard, significantly changing how we should select sheep
*changing all the educational materials (website, brochures, handbook, etc)
*rewriting their own disciplinary procedures
*changing how sheep are judged
*changing expectations and sponsorships of judges/shows
*creating new standard operating procedures
*creating new AI regulations
*changing how information is dispensed to the membership and
*creating a membership code of ethics
*significantly delaying release of meeting minutes

I think I got it all? Whew!! That is a LOT of changes for one board!! Has anyone noticed that most, if not all, of these changes are being made without much input from the membership? Have you noticed that the membership is not being "allowed" to see the changes before they become permenant? Have you noticed the SPEED in which these changes are being made? They are being crammed in, fast.

I can't help but voice my worry. Is this group genuinely working for the good of the Shetland breed, or do they have some other goal in mind? I think by the time we all find out, we'll have a shiny new breed.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

So what IS good breeding?

Not going backwards! If you lose something in the pairing of two sheep, two sheep that have nice characteristics, you've not accomplished good breeding. This is time to analyze your program. So if you lose strong backs, or proper expressions or correct hind quarters or even bone density or size of sheep, you've lost something. You've gone backwards. Good breeding will keep the features of the parents. Outstanding breeding keeps the features of the parents AND advances a desired characteristic.

Sheep with weak toplines, dull expressions, incorrect hind quarters, beefy shoulders, heavy bone or wrinkly noses lost something in the pairing of the parents. If a breeder claims that they are just breeding for fleece, and the rest can/will be fixed later...think door to door salesman again!

If super short fleeces are the "true" Shetland sheep, it would be easy to get that while maintaining Shetland conformation and expression characteristics. You would be able to do it without heavy "culling".

Here in the midwest, you'll find a lot of these problems, especially weak toplines. It runs like a disease among flocks because breeders propagating sheep for short fleece haven't paid attention to these other details. If it's so easy to "fix", why don't they? When IS later?

My response to Linda

> Generalizations:
> So does "classic" mean the sheep of 1600-1800 like you say in one post, or does "classic" mean a new kind of Shetland sheep like you say in a different post??
> So "long wool" is a....Shetland with a fiber past a certain length designation (?), or a long wool (?), which is a different class of breeds. These two are VERY different, yet you consistently use them interchangably...which is incorrect. This is one of the consistent "slips" you use that make me suspicious of your true intentions.
> So "long" and "coarse" mean the same thing and are interchangable? This consistent slip has been brought to your attention by many, many people over the years I've been watching. Why haven't you corrected it yet?? The fact that you still use this language is another indicator that makes me not trust.
> I am not mistaken or generalizing, rather I have my nose to the facts. Open your NASSA Handbook to the last'll find the Breed Standard there. Look under Wool. Here is what is says: "Extra fine and soft texture, longish, wavy and well closed" THAT is the genuine, historical Shetland sheep. Striving to raise sheep that fit this description is not generalizing or making mistakes. Rather, it is good breeding. That's why I keep my standard at fingertip-ready reference and use it often. This is the fiber that builds the famous textiles. The standard wool description and the resulting incredible textiles are connected and cannot be broken apart. To make good Shetland textiles, THIS is the fiber you must raise. What you read above is what Wheely Wooly Farm strives to raise, without any scientific speculations, rationalizations, changes of word definitions, dismissals of related cousins, "lost" handbooks, or anything else you can come up with to quietly change the Shetland breed into something new. All of your strategies seem like huge leaps to me, to abandon facts for obscure, speculative, generalizing science, "newly found" information, language mix-ups...from the region of the world that GAVE us the English language to boot! To make overall statements about a WHOLE breed over a LARGE period of time, and place that assumption above ALL the writings and photos, because a few bone or fleece samples were "tested" is really putting your faith in one speculative spot! What if it's flawed? Missing important details? To encourage those working on these fun projects is one thing. To redraft an old, treasured, documented useful breed into a new breed based on this alone is irresponsible.
> Linda, if you want to put all of your faith in that spot, you are welcome to. They are your sheep and you can raise what you like. Enjoy. My sheep and I will not be following you there.

Who's paying for the changes?

I have a question that I think I'll officially address to our breed organization's vice president. That person seems passionate about playing the role of organization firefighter and seems to know a lot of "answers". The question I'm wondering about is this:

Where is the money coming from to make these changes "official" (i.e. legal)?

Are my dues or other financial contributions to our breed organization paying for changes most don't even know are occurring, changes that many feel don't preserve and protect, including myself? I am interested in preserving and protecting Shetland sheep, and that IS the current mission of our organization, which is why I joined. I'm really hoping the answer comes back to my liking.

I saw the future and...

...wait...did I? Well, I can share what I saw at our Midwest regional Shetland sheep show last year. I decided to show for the first time, as many of you know. We drove down that morning with no expectations or hopes of winning anything. We were just coming for the experience. After setting up our pens and sheep nicely, I walked around the other Shetland pens to see who would be my competition in the classes I'd signed up for. It's always fun to look at sweet sheep!

I expected to see sheep that looked like mine, (and some did), as my sheep closely match the 1927 Standard. That's why I chose and brought them. It would never have occurred to me to enter a show with anything less than that. They both had longish/wavy fleeces with fine, soft texture (although Sweetie's was less so), nice conformation, correct tails, and bright expressions. As I walked around the pens and looked over the sheep, I had to stop. Pen after pen, I had to stop and look harder. Were these the sheep that were entered in the show? They didn't look like what I'd expect. They were very different. They had virtually no wool. Their conformation was not what I thought it'd be. The boys had horns unpleasing to the eyes...broken off, tinseey..., some going the fatal route...not what I'd expect to see coming to the showring. I guess I thought that sheep coming to show should look desirable, nice. Hummm. So why the broken and fatal horns, bad conformation? One change promoter told me that fleece was the top breeding goal. Everything else was "fixable" some other time. In the meantime, they were breeding for oodles of lambs with these other problems, just to get the fleece they wanted, and culling dozens and dozens. didn't add up to me. Why not fix these problems now? Surely if that fleece WAS the breed, you wouldn't have to throw away everything else to get it? Surely you could get fleece and the rest of the package, right? Were they selling these lambs with all these other undesirable things, just to say that lamb had the "desired" fleece? Yes! Why I could buy one that minute if I'd wanted. Turns out, there were PILES of lambs like that to choose from!!!

I did see a couple of ewes that I thought were very pretty. I also saw a grey ewe I liked very much, but it was wearing a husky harness. When I saw that, I was shocked. A husky harness on a sheep?? That sheep, as well as others, later made appearances in the ring wearing their harnesses.

As I looked over my competition, I knew it was going to be ok. My sheep were halter trained and ready. If those other sheep were "better", then why weren't they better??

My point is not to be critical of other people's sheep. Rather, I think I saw the future that day. I saw what those in favor of the changes are breeding, selling, and showing. Most of the people proposing these changes live here in the Midwest and have been breeding for these changes for awhile. I saw sheep that are very different from what we used to see. I knew I didn't want to go there. I don't like weak backs, short wool, wrinkly noses and dull expressions. And I don't like the inefficiency of breeding for lambs only to "cull" most of them. I feel fortunate to have been given that look into the future. I can see things with greater clarity. If I hadn't seen that, I wouldn't have believed it if someone else had told me.

I saw the future. I saw a glimpse of what's to come if the changes stick and deepen. Only one word comes to mind over and over as I ponder where that would lead the breed...decline.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Feeling Lucky!

I am feeling very lucky... lucky to have gotten started with Shetlands a few years ago before things began changing so much. I live in the north central part of the United States, where serious changes have occurred within the Shetland breed very recently. BIG changes are on the horizon, of which I am not a part of, thankfully! I'm also feeling lucky that I got my start by spinning and knitting FIRST, before I began shepherding, and ultimately breeding. Why do I feel so lucky it went like it did? INFORMATION!

Wheely Wooly Gracelyn reads her favorite book

When I worked on getting started, I had access to much great information, well beyond the handbook. The Shetland breed organization in our country was focused squarely on protection and preservation of this exceptional breed, something I immediately knew I wanted to be a part of. I knew I wanted to enjoy the benefits of protecting and preserving this lovely breed, and work to keep things together with like-minded shepherds to make this breed available for future shepherds. Afterall, that's what shepherds did in the ME the ability to know and enjoy this breed. I knew early on this was the work I wanted to carry forward.

Today, I see our breed organization falling apart. There is much effort to skew language, history, and related sheep to create a change from a diverse, historical breed to a narrowly confined standardized breed. New shepherds are not getting access to the works of those who protected and preserved like I had. Instead, they are getting piles and piles of "new" information that supposedly all those before them "never found" (you know, the geneticists, university faculty, and of course, the Shetlander themselves). Hummmm.

I also feel bad for the people who didn't have the opportunity to see the problems as they were building. They are now stuck defending a change they don't really want to see happen, but are stuck because that is what their sheep are like. I feel very lucky our farm has not fallen into the trap of those change-makers. We can continue to enjoy the genuine Shetland for what it is. We can continue to protect and preserve, because I was careful enough to buy only those genetics and bring them home to my flock. I don't own one short-fleeced sheep at this time. The shortest staple I have at a twelve month clip is six inches. Most of my fleeces run to eight inches. Last year, Iris went nine inches midside, with britch ten inches. Wooly Bear went nine inches of ultra-fine fiber so soft I was afraid to wash it. When people touch it, their eyes pop wide open with delight. And I can't keep it in stock. Meanwhile, the "consistent head to toe" four inch crimpy fleece I purchased from a long time breeder still sits in my inventory...unsold. It draws people, they touch it, and walk away. Any suggestions on how to sell it? I paid a lot of money for it. I even knitted a scarf from it, a style of which I've sold countless of...but here it still sits....
Scarf for sale...

So where are we today? Luckily, we have good bloodlines to maintain and enough diversity to remain independent. We have many like-minded shepherds around us who have been maintaining the genuine Shetland all along...having stopped supporting our breed organization long ago...and thinking I was crazy to get involved there! I only know one shepherd in my area that sells sheep similiar to what is taking shape in our organization, and that shepherd has said several times that crossbreeding is where money comes in because they cannot sell very many purebreds. I have seen a decline at our regional show as well. People have stopped coming. Last year, I saw whole pick-up loads of sheep brought to the grounds for sale, and whole pick-up loads taken home to the same farm because nobody bought those sheep.

So I am feeling very lucky to have had access to the real, genuine Shetland sheep. There has been some commenting lately that these changes will devalue the long-fibered sheep. I think the opposite will happen. If some want to raise super short, super crimpy fleeces... they are the ones devaluing their flocks because that fleece type is so common on the wool market today, and people find the fleeces extremely limited in usability. Ask any good business person and they will tell you your lifeblood in business is diversity. I know I won't be getting rid of that!! We will continue to strive to breed sheep with fiber diversity head to tail, longish and wavy, soft and fine texture...with bright expressions and straight toplines...just as the standard English.

I feel lucky. I know these changes will increase the value of my sheep quickly so that by two or three years from now, people will be looking for that "sheep like we used to know...the pretty ones with the long wool that is so nice to spin up and wonderful to wear!" You'll find THAT wool here.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Family Reunion

As many of you know, I love spinning Shetland fiber. After a few years of spinning, I thought to myself hey! Why not look for fiber to spin from OTHER Northern European Short Tailed breeds...aka Shetland cousins! Since Shetlands have a large "family", I thought I'd have myself a little family reunion! Sounded fun, and I couldn't wait to get started!
Peonies from my garden, before the heavy rains came

So I launched myself in first learning the names of the cousins...let's see, there is Spael, Villseau, Icelandic, Da...ok! That didn't take long to get tangled in unpronouncable names in other European languages! So...maybe I can look up each of these breeds and find out statistics about them! That was fun! I combed the internet hours and hours while winter winds whipped outside my window. Huddling each night in my cozy pajamas, I traveled to far away places, read heart-breaking stories, and met new sheep enthusiasts as passionate about sheep as myself, where it was daytime, and I was awake at 2am! Information was hard to find, and breeders even harder to find. One nice site I found early on is called North Shed. It tells about the diversity and general historical uses of the cousins in short form and provides nice pictures! Look on the links here to the right of my blog and you can click on it for hours of fun.

Ok, so after digging like a mole in the darkness, I found some breeders and put in requests for fiber samples representative of that respective breed, and sometimes I felt brave enough to ask for notes on the breed! Air mail!! This was fun!

When packages arrived, I waited to open them for when I could really sit down and document them. After assessing each type of fiber, I slowly began preparing them for spinning, then began to spin. Slowly, in the chill of winter's midst and long into spring's brightness, I carefully drafted the respective cousin's fiber and gained a new appreciation for how diverse the fibers can be!!

Rya Wool from Sweden

This is a lock from the cousin called Rya. It LOOKs like a double coated Shetland lock, except it has much less fine undercoat. Someone not real experienced with Shetland fleece didn't pick up on that when discussing the lock. Another person, who owns Shetlands but doesn't spin thought it was Shetland fiber. It measures just over 7 inches long, and is like our moorit color...both typical of the breed according to the preservationist breeder. The pictures of the Rya sheep stunned me! It was like having Shetland sheep staring back at me in the photos. They were beautiful. I would not have been able to tell the Rya sheep from the Shetland if each was unidentified in a photo, standing side by side. I stared and stared.....Anyway! By looks, you can see lustre, staple length, and many other characteristics typical of Shetland wool. Ok, I thought to myself, they are obviously cousins! But wow! There is nothing to educate a spinner than the spinning itself!!!!!!! I learned that Rya wool LOOKs the same, but sure doesn't FEEL the same in the end! It is a beautiful wool that was quite easy to draft and spin, just like Shetland. However, it has a much different handle to it and the yarn looks and feels much, much different. It behaves strangely to me. as I expected it would be like Shetland. It moves differently, acts differently, drapes, curls, twists, lays differently. I could easily see why this beautiful wool was so valued in centuries past, especially for tapestries and weavings. I suddenly had an interest in finding pictures of tapestries!
While doing that research, I'd come to learn something. Here in America, the word rug means something you make to put on the floor and walk on or wipe your feet on. American rugs are typically placed just inside doors or in cold places where you would stand, or where you'd like some cushion, or a place for children to sit and play with toys. In the primarily non-English speaking country where this Rya wool came from, the word rug carried a shockingly different meaning! It meant BEDCOVERING! Turns out, Rya wool was not a "carpet" wool as we think of it here in America, but a wool used to cover whole families who slept in one "bed". The locks of wool were tied tightly onto a woven material and were used fleece side down to human skin like a quilt for protection from Norse cold!!! (Which suddenly makes me wonder...did the idiom "snug as a bug in a rug" come from this?? :) Rugs were also made to hang over the one entry door to keep blowing snow and wind out. Can you imagine what it took to live pre-furnace days?!? Because this cousin had LONG wool, people and their families were able to survive. Wow. We SOOOOOO lose that point in life today.
Forget-Me-Not Flowers on the forest floor

I have come to find my internet travels, breeder contacts, and new spinning experiences to be full of surprises, excitement, and deeper love for the ability to spin fiber myself. Like the quiet little flowers brightly blooming on the forest floor, I've come to learn we must not forget the roots of Shetland sheep and their cousins, and how bright or not bright their futures may be, for just as the flowers grow mere inches tall, so too the future of these breeds can be overlooked. If someone tells you long fiber is not historical in the Shetland cousins OR the Shetlands themselves, think again door to door salesman. Long fiber has long been the shield of protection from modern milling exploits and commercial interest for both the sheep and the people who loved them and kept them. Wheely Wooly Farm will honor those facts by continuing to protect the Shetland breed as it always was, handshearing and handspinning their wool, and enjoying the stunning garments that result. We will continue to bring the past forward to you, our customers to the best of our ability, without compromise. And perhaps you too, can snuggle in the warmth and protection wool provides from the cold, just as people have done for as long as we know. It's an amazing thing, and for all of that, we are grateful.

Monday, June 7, 2010

No Appendix A for us.

As many of you know, Wheely Wooly Farm specializes in a special type of long, colorful, fiber that creates lovely handspinning wool, which is exceptional in it's knitting qualities, produces stunning textiles, and is a pleasure to wear. (It also comes with a long, fascinating and rich history!!) Our fiber is not only a dream to spin AND knit, but it is worth your time as well, since we raise only genuinely historical fiber that maintains durable integrity. The garments we produce and the yarn we sell are a good buy in this tough economy, as they will keep you warm and covered for a long time to come and keep you looking and feeling great!

It is for these reasons that we feel we cannot support the recent changes adopted by the standing Board of Directors within our breed organization, made mostly without member awareness. Many feel the changes will dramatically reduce the quality of fleece Shetland breeders produce in the future, spawning shorter, weaker fleeces that are more typical of other breeds, usually with reduced end value. Since this is not historical for a Northern European Short Tail breed, nor is it typical of historical Shetland textiles, we feel we cannot support those changes.

Wheely Wooly Farm will continue to strive for true genuine, amazing, Shetland fiber so that we may continue to bring a bit of the past forward to our customers. In reassurance to the inquiries we've had...don't worry... the sheep are safe with us!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Sheep are on my mind...

...where ever I go.
(giggle, giggle)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Gracie and Grass

There is one plant that I love so much, I'll lug it around with me over the years and moves...chives! It just seems to me that spring is not spring without the dayglow purple pompoms that brighten up any winter-weary soil. I love watching for the first bright green spikes growing out of a brown clump! They are so fragrant, I just stand in the garden, breathing deeply of the springy smell of oniony chives and longing for fresh salads. I use chives on salads, potatoes and of course, anything mexican!

So if I don't have any clumps, I plant seeds and make a line of chives in my garden, where ever I happen to be. I grow them, divide them, divide them and divide them. They are moved around a LOT as my whims guide me. Not sure why, but I LOVE chives!

Gwennie and Gracie have loved the spring grass. Gwennie is in great shape after nursing her lamb these last weeks, but Gracie was her only lamb. Gracie, meanwhile, has gained FAST! She is FAT! Her wool is long (yippee!) which makes her look even fatter! She is so social and sweet, we really love little Gracie.
We rotate the sheep around on the grass to keep them on clean ground. Works GREAT! You can see some are sheared, some not at the time of this picture. That is because I shear them myself and I don't do it all in one day. Gwennie will be sheared last, sometime in late June perhaps. As of today, most are sheared and done.

Thank you to those who responded to my request for Shetland lace patterns! I will have some fun things to look through now. I am soooooo anxious to begin spinning Wooly Bear, but NO! I must finish spinning the fleece I'm working on now...I haven't been dubbed "The Finisher" for nothing!

This weekend, I giddily began knitting on the Swallowtail shawl again. It is such a pleasant knit! I'm on the Lily of the Valley repeat, I think row 9. Row 2 has mistakes that I didn't realize I'd made until a few rows later (!) . Sometimes I'll carefully rip back and make things perfect. This time, even though it's lace, I decided the mistake wasn't too serious so I'll just continue on.

Hope all of you had a Memorial Day that wasn't too sad. Here in my state, we have many sad stories of young soldiers who gave their lives in this agonizingly long battle we are stuck in. One didn't even make it out of our country, and was gunned down by a fellow American at Fort Hood, TX. I'm confident I'll never forget the their stories.