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.

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!

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