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, July 21, 2012

The Farm: We raise fiber and Wheely Wooly Moonlight

Are we a hobby farm?  An Old MacDonald farm?  An old-fashioned farm?  We aren't any of those things.  Wheely Wooly Farm is a business that specializes in producing fibers suitable for clothing.  We are genuinely family run, we contentedly live right next to the sheep pastures and sheep barn, and we strive to raise the highest quality fiber Shetland sheep can provide.  Why Shetlands?  Because Shetland fiber far surpasses common meat sheep fiber in quality, softness, spinability, color, and wearability.  You just can't beat the high quality fibers Shetlands easily provide!

Some people ask us if we are an heirloom farm.  The answer is...yes and no.  Shetland sheep are an heirloom breed in that they were a significant part of a culture's ability to feed itself, and grow it's economy through time with wool products.  Over how much time?  Over a thousand years!  They are an animal of economy and purpose.  We do not keep Shetland sheep just for the "heirloom" aspect, rather, we keep them for their outstanding economies in current times.  And in a time of drought and heat, when feedstuffs will be hard to come by in the months to come, they are proving themselves for sure!  So yes, we have an heirloom breed of livestock, but no, we do not keep them just for that purpose.  They are my job.
Wheely Wooly Moonlight
born 4-5-12

Isn't he beautiful??  This little ram lamb has bright, soft eyes, a lovely head and perfect horns, a sweet and gentle personality, and a fast growth rate (for a Shetland!).  He's thriving (and so is his mom) despite the drought and heat.  He's "black" in color right now, but you can sort of see some chocolatey browns coming through with careful study.  It'd be easy to think that's sun damage, but it's actually been there all along, before the hot sunny days.  I'm sure he'll fade to a lighter color due to genetics, in time, for that is what we love and seek in Shetland sheep.

His personality is really just ideal, and we here at Wheely Wooly Farm are very pleased to be raising such wonderful stock for small farms!!!  But there is more!  His fleece is very special.  It's longish and wavy, with the fineness that Wooly Bear has passed on to all his offspring.  Now Moonlight is out of Twilight, that little fellow we kept over from last year.  Twilight was the little ram that went to school with us to teach kids about sheep, geography, fiber arts and animal husbandry.  Twilight's fleece is very fine and soft, with a staple length of at least four inches (I haven't measured it yet), and is very light, dense, and dreamy!  He obviously passed that on to his little Moonlight!

Our breeding goals are fiber quality, then personality, then conformation.  Why is conformation third on the list?  Because if you don't have good fiber or a gentle temperament, who cares what the rest looks like?!?  So many farms put temperament somewhere off the list of fact, if you mention you breed for that, you usually get a good laugh and face credibility issues.  I just don't get that, cause what I hear repeatedly over the years is this "I got rid of that one because it was mean" or "that one was trucked, it was sooo mean!" or "it got mean when it grew up so it's in the freezer now, HAH!".  We see a real disconnect here....

Today was a beautiful farm market again!  Think long sundresses, the clicking of bike chains passing by with smiley people and baskets loaded with the leaves, stems, and flowers of all sorts sticking out!  I swear someone was baking cookies out there this morning!  Oh the drifts of coffee in the air, and fresh dill, and the long lines for blueberries and the fragrant basil!  Bright zinnias, snapdragons and bobbing sunflowers smiling at me as people stroll, faces hidden...the seagulls calling overhead in playful summer morning flight.  Edgy concrete softened, city noise faded, gray lost, nerves gentled.  Passersby delighting in a squeeze of soft yarn or a good long sniff of fresh wool...then stories of memories or favorite long-worn clothes and grandmas, and wistful dreaming of something new to have.  These are the sights and sounds of summer market.  After our years of being there now, of introducing our farm and sheep and yarn, we too have become a favorite experience and destination for knitters, gift givers, and soon-to-be knitters.   We've succeeded in making that long lost connection that clothing, too, has sustainability.  Clothing is a choice, just like food.  Wool connects us to the past in health and culture, and links us to the future in it's safety and soundness.  It is useful, cozy, warm, pretty and smart. It has been re-discovered. 

We hope you enjoyed learning a little more about our farm and what we do!  Stay tuned!  More about the farm is coming up!    

No comments:

Post a Comment