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, July 20, 2011

Celebrate Colonel Dailley Day is coming!

Everyone out there knows how much I love and enjoy genuine Shetland sheep! As a very busy shepherdess, spinner and knitter, I work closely with the sheep and fiber all day, every day. Therefore, I have lots of time to think about how much I enjoy this work!

In the early days, our farm brought awareness to the continent that a small group was working hard to change the history of our breed, in fiber, conformation, expression, and facts about the history. Our concerns worked! Today, awareness of the changes is strong, and more people are getting active to stop our breed history from being rewritten.

Then, our little ram lamb won a surprising victory as Grand Champion Ram, setting off sirens in those working to create new history! In fact each year, genuine Shetland sheep, with longish wavy drapey fleeces (just like our ram) win big...something I quickly learned frustrates that group immensly! Thus, our name was added to their already long list of breeders to hate.

That experience resulted in my design of Shetland Showcase, a multiple day program designed to restore fun in the breed, give new shepherds a forum for learning, and to promote the fiber/textile connection. Shetland sheep are one of the world's premier hand spinning/ hand knitting breeds, responsible for a vast array of amazing textiles...all from a very tiny part of the world! A small organization called MSSBA...the group of people feverishly working to change all of the Shetland sheep in North America to something like a new sheep bred in Scotland proper, promptly took my idea of Shetland Showcase and ran it as something they renamed "Handy Shepherd". It may not be quite what I had in mind, but it did restore the vital link between the fiber and the textiles! It will now be harder to rewrite that history, just as I had hoped!

After that, I turned my attention to the extremely unprofessional and foul language allowed to post on our national organization's chat list. It worked! I've since found out that the list is controlled by the group who wants to rewrite the breed and it's history, so that even if you are a paid member of our organization, you cannot participate on this forum if they so choose. Hence, I worked to fix this problem, causing one of the moderators to immediately lose her position, and the organization began working to regain control of a chat list gone astray.


The tension is growing. Last year, that brewing tension resulted in confrontations by those wanting to force change of the breed onto those who love the original, genuine breed. This year, exhibitors of genuine longish wavy fleeces will be needing added security, and I know the festival organizers are trying to figure out just how to protect them and manage a safe environment for all. A serious task indeed.

As our general membership's awareness of these problems grows, and as they grapple with how to safely handle this year's challenges, I've already moved on to the next exciting project before me! One thing I've definitely picked up from the group of change is an absence of gratitude in the flock that first set hoof in North America. Why would they have gratitude for something they don't want to keep?? That sure isn't the case here!!!! We here at Wheely Wooly Farm are very appreciative of the one person who literally gifted these incredible sheep to us! That person would be Colonel G. Dailley of Quebec, Canada. Therefore, I've created a Celebrate Col. Dailley Day, a day to honor him and his amazing work/talents/ and struggles. I've picked October 13th as the annual day we will celebrate him here on our farm, and in our literature, for that is the very day in 1980 when the hooves of the very first flock in North America set down on North American soil. That is a day none of us should forget! I've shared my ideas with some key people, so stay tuned!

Part of my motivation for this annual day of celebration is to express my gratitude for his work, and the ongoing work of his family in maintaining that original flock to this very day!!! Without their sacrifices and hard work, I would not have had the opportunity to discover this amazing breed! The other part of my motivation in creating this celebration is to help keep the facts straight. Last year, I was very bothered by a board member in our national organization skewing the facts way off to attempt rewritting the history! I was also very bothered by the slanderous comments made about the very movers and shakers who worked hard to keep this breed going and growing! That is going to stop right here, on our farm. We have since enjoyed many great conversations with the earliest of people who brought us these sheep, and have learned that my ram, and many other genuine longish wavy fleeced sheep are indeed very special and very real. In fact, I've learned that genuine Shetland sheep in the US and Canada are definitely in the majority, and that they are loved and treasured by their shepherds.

Our farm has already had a profound impact in our country and elsewhere. We treasure this breed, as so many of you out there also do! Our work has kept the changers busy at the end of their fire hoses, constantly trying to drench the flames of truth with new history and control. What they can't seem to gain control of, though, is that thousands and thousands of people just LOVE those beautiful, genuine sheep! Stay tuned!

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