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, August 31, 2011
Just as I love the first spring woodland flowers and the first sandy flip flops of summer, I love clucking raspberry canes. It starts around this time of year, when the canes are very tall and lush with vibrant green leaves. As the berries begin to form as little round lumps on the ends of canes, the leaves create a dark canopy over the soil, which creates a cool, shady, safe haven for heat-weary hens. It doesn't take long for the hens to create little paths with tunnels of leaves over them into the patch. On any given dry summer day, you can wander around the farm and find not one hen. Where are they? Go stand by the raspberry patch and listen, and you'll find out!
If you get down on your knees, and peak into the cane tunnels, you will find happy hens there, resting in the shade or perhaps preening their lovely feathers. The soil is moist under their feet. They can see me just fine, peering in at them with a smile! It is here that they find coolness, and safety from summer hawks and other scavengers silently circling overhead. How great it is to have heritage hens, in the heritage raspberries!
Again, I seem too have no control over text placement, or picture order!
The little ewe lamb is Wheely Wooly Lacey. She is a LOVELY ewe, with a really nice fleece! Her conformation is outstanding. She's a sweet, fast growing lamb that has become a valuable part of our flock, considering that our commitment to you is to produce the finest handspinning fleeces we can that are as correct as possible. Our goal is to produce yarn, and ultimately knitted garment performance, that matches the legendary Shetland fiber as accurately as possible. One way we do this is to be sure we don't fall into "fiber fads", or trendiness in fiber production. It's unfortunate that livestock can be caught up in trendiness, but it's true.
The zinnias in our garden are very bright this year. And aren't bachelor's buttons obligitory?? The white pumpkin marched right up the pea trellis, and over, and down the other side, then through the wire....to find JUST the right spot to grow a new pumpkin!
And last, Penny, my lovely hen. She's old. She's valuable. She's useful. We love her! ...and she still lays eggs...
...what ting? I didn't hear a ting!...did you?
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Ok, the pictures are here, but I seem to have no control of the order or placement! Below is Wheely Wooly Gracelyn, a lovely yearling ewe! Her fleece is long and wavy, making it very easy to spin. The fineness and softness are most noticable when plying! It is such a joy to spin her fiber! I sheared her last February...a case of not being able to wait....and her yarn is nearly sold out. I'm going to be shearing her again, perhaps this week. We feel very lucky to have her! She loves to untie my shoe laces. Friendly would be an understatement for this little ewe!
The other pictures give you an idea of how alive our farm is. We have an abundance of butterflies, honey bees, hummingbirds, zipper spiders, and many other things. It's been a great year for monarchs and yellow swallowtails. I've lived in places where these things are not around, and I found it very unnerving.
The pumpkins have had no trouble growing this year....and thankfully, we got them planted this year! There are several HUGE ones. I'm sure we'll be rolling them around for they will be too heavy to lift.
The little pink flowers are 'Double Click' cosmos. I grow cosmos every year. Wouldn't seem right not to.
The sunflower with the bee is a variety called 'Teddy Bear'. Fun! Just a quick tour! Next time, chickens!
Monday, August 29, 2011
Oh Iris! You're such a good helper around the farm! Shetland sheep are great for keeping your farm looking neat and tidy. Since we use portable fencing, I can put the sheep where the eating is good as the farm moves through summer. By the time the sheep are done with their work, everything looks pruned up real nice...like a park!
Every day continues to be a busy spinning day, with lots of joy in working with the fiber. Our 2011 fleeces are really nice this year. I hope to have more fiber to sell in the future, as I know a lot of you have been asking! Meanwhile, even in the heat of summer, our yarn sales continue to be strong, with many, many repeat customers. The yarn truly sells itself!
Stay tuned for photos from around the farm!
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Here is the Cat's Paw Lace Scarf I made from Wooly Bear's fleece. Some of you who've followed my blog all along might think I'm bragging or something, for I know you've seen it before...giggle, giggle! Don't forget we have new people coming on all the time, and this time the picture is up per request. The scarf was entered in the garment made with handspun fiber class, which was judged by the sheep judge, not the knitting judge. The fiber was the main component, as was the preparation of the fiber, spinning, and knitting skill. It was really fun to work on a project straight out of the Shetland Islands, with real Shetland wool! This is why I designed handspinning classes in my Shetland Showcase (stolen and dubbed Handy Shepherd by MSSBA) at the WI Sheep and Wool Festival...to get the fiber BACK into the hands of knitters. You can change the breed's fleece into something shorter and more consistent, but that changes characteristics of the fiber that currently cannot be measured scientifically. What a shame to throw that away! I'm thankful that even though my idea was stolen, it WAS implemented and people are beginning to reconnect high quality genuine Shetland fiber (i.e. longish and wavy) with the textiles (fair isle, socks, gloves, mittens, tams, sweaters, and speed knitting, along with the least often knitted lace shawls). Shetland fiber has fame in it via lace, but it truly is a working fiber for working clothes. It has amazing characteristics to it that makes it extremely comfortable to wear. If you haven't knit with it yet, don't wait any longer! Get the real deal, longish and wavy fiber that is soft and fine and I'm sure you won't want to knit with anything else after that experience! (giggle, giggle again!)
Back to here at the farm. Two zipper spiders have moved into the Black-eyed Susans in front of the barn while other webs are forming ALL over the place each night. So in between spinning and harvesting, I'm sweeping webs from the barn, shed, and coop! That's a lot of sweeping......
What's on my bobbin today? Mona. Her fiber is a joy to spin and the color is a beautiful black, not the dark brown Shetland color, but black. I knit a beautiful swatch from that fiber, but am still spinning singles from her fleece. I've also been busy spinning some other fibers as well, and combining them with my Shetland wool in combination knit/crochet garments. So lovely! My knitting projects are selling right off the needles before I can finish them lately. The weather has been gorgeous...so refreshing to report that we are not having unruly weather!!! The grass is still green and great for grazing. The little boys are on their own now. Wheely Wooly Splash is a knockout! He has the finest wool our farm has produced yet, outstanding horns, perfect health and a very gentle temperment. He's now halter trained, and nearly ready to go.
**Edit! I almost forgot! If you are taking sheep to the festival this year, NOW's the time to get those little hooves off pasture and into halter training! It's already getting late, but you could still train a sheep if you practice every day! Remember, Shetlands are only shown in one of two ways....
1. with a SHEEP halter or
2. with no halter
Shetlands are NOT shown in the meat carcass hold!!! That means, DO NOT pull your sheep's head up to the ceiling nor stretch out it's body as if it were already on the meat hooks, headless!! Second, ONLY show your sheep without a halter IFFFFFFFF you and your sheep know each other and are very comfortable together through partnering and frequent handling. People who work frequently with their sheep and have a trusting relationship can do a beautiful job showing an animal halterless. DO NOTTTTT throw your sheep into the back of a pick-up truck fresh off 364.9 days on pasture, and expect yourself OR your sheep to be good ambassadors of the breed! Lasty, DO NOTTTTT put your sheep in dog collars, dog leads, or husky harnesses!!!!!!!!!!!! Work with your sheepies now! The results will make you look more professional. End of edit**
As for harvesting, the peach tree came through for us with a bountiful crop that we treasure! The cucumbers...well...they got a little large.....but we still make pickles out of them for fun! The tomatoes are just now ripening...latest we've ever experienced! We're usually about done with tomatoes by now. The potatoes were outstanding! Onions, outstanding! Raspberries...outstanding! Good garden year. Up next, pears then later, apples and more raspberries...and the sweet corn has been heavenly! Peppers, too! Sigh...I love the garden!
Happy summering everyone!...the summer timer is about to ting!
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
The first fair with animal projects has turned out to be a very memorable one for our family, and life changing! One bantam rooster, and one yearling dairy doe have given us memories we'll never forget! In both projects, trophies were taken in showmanship all the way up to the top, even over experienced teenagers who have good stock, and have shown for a long time!! We can't wait to get started on next year's goals!
Many people asked why we didn't take sheep to the fair. Truth is, many people are still trying to figure out why we are not in the horse project, for horses have been a love and passion for ME, not our 4-Her for my life time. The horses were left at home for two reasons: first, the project is not top priority for our 4-Her, and second, the project is not a good fit for our family. So then everyone was asking, why not the sheep? Easy. Disease. We treasure our flock and have come to realize we have really good genetics of genuine Shetland sheep. The real deal. We have very soft, fine, easy spinning fleeces that are a joy to wear. Since we have worked so hard to build our flock up, (even though it's still small), we didn't want to risk bringing home disease to our land or flock. The market sheep at the fair, by the way, exploded! More than doubled from last year...that's a lot more pens!
Considering that the fair is all about youth, we really carry that on here at home. It's not about what us adults are doing, rather, it's about what interests youth. It has become a top priority to protect our sheep from disease. They are outstandingly healthy with very little input. What a joy it is to have sheep like that! I wish our dairy ewe was like that!!
And what have we learned about goats?? They are not sheep! They are fun and personable, and were a great first year project. And the chickens were a natural because we've always had and loved our chickens. Right now, we have a really mixed small flock that is soooo pretty when they are out on the lawn! Penny is a six-year old Australorp, Sweetie Tweetie is a five year old Polish, Silks is a five year old Silkie (and we ADORE her!), Chickaline is a four year old Silkie cross, Muffy is a five year old Americauna (who lays blue eggs), Mable is a beautiful Barred Plymouth Rock who lays LOVELY brown eggs. There are four roosters, all Bantam Partridge Cochins or Cochin crosses...Eddie, Teddie, Half and Half, and Jazzy. They live in separate cages with rotational release for bug diving in the grass.
Company's here...gotta go!
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Pumpkin's handspun yarn is outstandingly soft, and has beautiful coloring, which the judge loved. It is very hard to get such beautiful coloring with dyes. This natural color will never wash out, fade, or bleed! Shetland sheep are very special! Pumpkin, by the way, is Wooly Bear's lamb. More blue ribbons in Wooly Bear's line!
Here is a photo of the Best in Show Knitted exhibit, with it's ribbons! Not bad! Made entirely with Shetland fiber. The colors are very bright and appealing, especially for a doll.
American Girl Doll Poncho, Best in Show
The heat has subsided for the week, so we are busy doing things around the farm. The rams are getting an expanded pasture with two places for shade, rather than just one. The sheep got rotated to new ground again, and barn stalls are getting a thorough cleaning. It's cobweb season here on the farm, and if we don't keep the webs down, it would look like Halloween around here! Charlotte seems to be everywhere.....
Stay tuned for more fair pictures! I know some of you are waiting a long time to see them!
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Oh Eddie boy, you are so handsome at the fair! The little chicken on the cage (on right) has his name written on it. Eddie is a bantam cochin rooster who is five years old. We raised him from a day old chick. He spends his summers chasin' hens all around the farm and bug-diving in the grass. In winter, he scratches around in the barn for tidbits of spilled grain. Being used to humans and handling, he was a great pick for a first year poultry project! His comb has survived many wicked winters and showed bright red the day of the show. The judge said he was in great shape for his age, but that his wing feathers were off just a bit. We knew Eddie was not a blue ribbon bird, but he was the ticket to the fair in poultry. He won a beautiful red second place ribbon out of five birds. Not bad Eddie boy!! What DID come home was three huge trophies for showmanship and herdsman awards!!! Yep! ALLLL showmanship trophies came home with us!!! This has been a knockout great first animal project fair!!! Photos of the trophies and Wooly Bear's Cat's Paw lace still coming!
Monday, August 8, 2011
Sunday, August 7, 2011
Just got home from our county fair! This was truly the most amazing experience we've had! Two animals went as projects...Eddie the rooster, and Primrose the yearling dairy doe. WOW, WOW, WOW!!! Came home with FOUR trophies each over a foot tall!! Eddie won a second place (he IS FIVE years old afterall...giggle, giggle...he looks VERY handsome with his pretty red ribbon!), while Primrose won a blue first in her dairy class! But the trophies are for showmanship!!!!!!!! Not only for age group, but for ALLLLLLLL age groups (that's human, not animal) in both poultry AND goats!!!!!!!!!!! Plus, Outstanding Poultry Barn Award...yet another trophy!!! That one was earned through hard work and attentiveness, and one very cutely decorated bird cage!!
As for myself, I entered in open class. I thought it would be fun to exhibit Wooly Bear's lamb's wool in my Cat's Paw lace scarf I made. I figured putting his wool to the test in a handspinning class of another judge would put Wooly Bear to the test. I anxiously awaited the results. BLUE!!!! The judge loved it!!!!!!! Wooly Bear continues to keep us in the blue ribbons!!! I also exhibited a skein of yarn I spun from Sweetie's little ram Pumpkin. BLUE!!!!!!!!!! The judge also loved it!!! My dairy ewe won a second in her carded wool, while one Shetland won a second and the other Shetland won a blue!
Also, a knitted poncho (a junior entry) for an American Girl doll won BLUE!!!! The poncho is made from handspun Shetland yarn, dyed here at home with kool-aid....fun! It's trimmed with purple fringe and embellished with a lazy daisy on the front...pictures coming soon!!!! It not only won a blue first place, it won BEST IN SHOW OUTSTANDING Award!!!!!!!!!!!! Yippeee!!!!
We all had a great fair and can't wait to start getting ready for next year's fair!!! Stay tuned for pictures!!