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.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Thank You! Remembering 2010

All of us here at Wheely Wooly Farm want to express our gratitude to all our sheepy friends, customers, students, and supporters for your contributions in making our 2010 another smashing year! It has been another exciting year filled with fun and growth!

The year started with the busyness of spinning many fleeces in preparation for our sales seasons. January, February, and March were peaceful, contemplative, and orderly. I took the opportunity to learn new skills that resulted in fun new items for customers to expand their own creative energies. We stayed warm in our cozy Shetland wool socks while the snow kept falling, making for nearly the snowiest winter here on record. Blizzards, high winds, and deep drifts kept the sheep inside our pole building, in a large loafing area near a large door that opens on sunny days. Then, spring hit!

First to happen was great thawing and dream duck puddles! Lakes appeared where there are usually none, while we anticipated our lambing season. The girls were prepared weeks ahead and their health closely monitored while we waited....and waited....and waited. As we waited, we learned of major changes made within our breed organization that was quite a shock! We closely followed the story, in disbelief, as things unfolded. Just as things were exploding, I got word that I was about to lose someone very dear to me. A very, very short time later, that loss happened, just as our ewes began getting restless, ready to lamb! All of the events combined made for a very busy spring full of life and death! Saddened by loss, yet thrilled by every lamb being born healthy and strong created emotions so spring-like...first warm, bright sunshine followed by the cool shadowing of a thick dark cloud of sadness suddenly blowing over the bright spring sun. Just as the air rapidly blew pockets of warmth and chill, so too did my feelings blow frequently from delight to change. How does a family adjust when the anchor of an elderly member is gone? What a spring it was!

First born Wheely Wooly Pumpkin, minutes old

As the days warmed, we delighted in our little lambs, especially the last lamb born, whom we named Wheely Wooly Lerwick for the main seaport in the Shetland Islands; a place where Shetland fiber and goods have been traded and transported around the world for centuries. We knew we had something special in this little lamb! His wool is outstanding, his face bright, horns excellent, and his conformation just a dream! We are definitely feeling lucky to have this little guy! Our Grand Champion Ram, Wooly Bear came through for us, passing on his outstanding I gave him a huge, tight hug! (...and later, lots of pumpkins!)

Soon the grass began to grow, and the lettuce became succulent, fresh food, giving us strength as we sheared our flock. Before we knew it, the summer sales season had arrived, and we were ready! We spent the summer and fall traveling frequently, delighting in meeting many new people who also love sheep, fiber, knitting, crocheting, and many other fiber arts! To say Shetland sheep hit the road would be an understatement! Knowledge of our special flock of fiber producers grew rapidly, as many people tried Shetland yarn for the very first time. As the sun trekked across the summer sky, we found ourselves getting to know customers by name as they delighted in the initial yarn they purchased and came back to acquire more. Our yarns traveled all over the country and we heard of gift giving, projects, and pure delight at finding our beautiful handspun yarns!

Honey's fleece, sheared by me

September brought the fun of our Sheep and Wool Festival. The festival was a bundle of excitement this year for us! First was the expansion of the Shetland activities over the weekend spawned by the program I put together last year that I called 'Shetland Showcase'! (To read more about Shetland Showcase, see my earlier blogs starting in Feb. of 2010.) My idea was loved by the planners of the Saturday Shetland much so that they took my ideas, changed the name, wrote me I wasn't welcome, and put on the events themselves! Also in that weekend,

...giggle, giggle...

was a scheduling conflict I had made by mistake, putting our market booth far north of festival grounds Saturday morning! Plus, I had some shopping I really wanted to do, friends to meet up with, and a new Border Collie puppy to train! Whew! That was a lot of excitement for one weekend! So here's what we did! I shopped, yakked and hugged old friends all day Friday, sold yarn Saturday morning from our market booth far away, then swooped back down to the festival first chance we could leave Sunday morning, where we met up with more friends and exposed Swifty the Puppy to dog trials. Driving home Sunday, we engaged in our usual post-festival activity of sipping coffee and reflecting on all the excitement of the weekend while Swifty zonked out on my feet. We came to realize that many people expressed their anger of the hijacking of Shetland Showcase while at the same time feeling a desire to pick up Shetland fiber once again and participate in the activities I had built into Shetland Showcase (now dubbed "Handy Shepherd"). That anger came through later in our annual elections! WOW! Shetland shepherd numbers had been declining here in the midwest, and I've heard nationally as well due to the rough and tumble politics of change. My goal in designing Shetland Showcase was to help alleviate the tension that was reaching explosive levels, and to help restore the fun of the breed by getting the fiber BACK into the hands of fiber artists, with hopes to preserve and protect this stunning breed. Whew! Talk about taking on a lot of fun and exciting stuff! It was a great weekend!

We were barely home when the phone started ringing! Sales of our yarns increased rapidly as we continued to hit the road! Fall went REALLY fast! Again, we delighted in meeting so many fellow fiber artists! We hardly noticed the coming of winter and had to scramble to set up our breeding groups...getting them in just in the nick of planned time! Even Wheely Wooly Farm display of yarn at a summer market

the huge blizzard, which dumped 12.3 inches of snowfall and drifts seemed barely noticed. Only one rough spot came along...keeping one very special and talented Border Collie puppy "quiet" for TWO whole weeks after his little surgery! That was quite a bump in the road but we (and the sofa) got through it ok!
The acquisition of Swifty will require new spinning skills in the year to come!

As the holiday season unfolded, we were able to meet with family and friends, and take the time to dismantle our breeding groups. Worried our rams would give us grief, we planned strategically to be home to handle the problems if necessary. Upon being put together, they played bumper cars without earnst for a bit, then ran circles like race cars around their tight space, taking turns resting in the center and tagging each other with bumps or whacks, then... layed down and napped! Ok! Great!! Works for me! What a laugh I got out of that! Can I dream that all my fall seasons will end like this in the future?!? Makes me giggle.

Thank you, thank you, thank you we now extend to all of you out there who helped us grow with this awesome little breed of sheep! (Yes, that also means those with differing goals and opinions than our own! We appreciate you, too!) Thank you Shetland Island shepherds for giving us the opportunity to enjoy your special little sheep and carry on your treasure to the best of our ability! We LOVE you! And a HUGGGGGEEEEE thank you goes out to those who worked SOOOO hard in the beginning of Shetlands being here on the North American continent to PROTECT AND PRESERVE this unique fiber producer from change and modernization, that pesky ongoing problem that never seems to go away as the decades pass by! We wish our newly elected board members much luck and success at restoring protection and preservation to the organization's mission! Thank you to all our customers, friends, 4-Her's and everyone (!) for trusting us to teach you how to spin, knit, and make treasured heirloom creations for yourselves and your families! We appreciate your business and hope to see you again in 2011! We wish you much success with your projects in the coming year! Happy, Happy New Year everyone!

I got a new camera for Christmas! :) :) :)

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