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.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Clunk Day

lol!  Well, I don't have any pictures of Clunk Day, but yesterday was it.  What on earth is Cluck Day, you wonder?  Around here, Clunk Day is feared as the most challenging day of the whole year, and this year, we did it the day after Christmas!  It's the day we break up our breeding groups and put all the rams back together in one space...a VERY, VERY SMALL SPACE, so that they can only clunk horns, not whack!

Wheely Wooly Whirlwind (Whirly) and Wheely Wooly Moonlight were outstanding rams during their time with their girls.  The ewes were very happy in their groups, too.  You can tell by the sparkle in their eyes and the quality of their fleeces.  The rams take very good care of their groups, and I always hate to break that up when it's time.  Wheely Wooly Splash (Splashy) was also a very good ram, and of course, Wooly Bear was king.  He's a piece of cake...a testament to the outstanding value of a ram with good temperament!!  All of them were good rams and all the ewes are content and healthy coming out of breeding season.

So where do the rams go?  In prior years, I put them back together in a makeshift wire fence pen in the barn...just big enough for them to move around, but not big enough for any backing and whacking.  When you put rams back together, they smell like their ewes, and that is what creates all the trouble!  Rams are very protective and defensive of their group of girls, and they take their rights to them very seriously.  So when you put the rams all back together, with the scent of all the ewes mixed in on their wool, it creates defensive chaos.  They feel threatened by each other, and feel a strong need to drive each other away.  They will defend to the death, if they feel it necessary.  So putting the rams back together is always a worrisome time.  So far each year, it's not been too bad and I think the way I handle them, and the temperament I breed for helps in a very big way.  They are kept in this small pen for about a day.

Why the small pen?  Well, it gives them the opportunity to move around, get reacquainted, and realize they are all more girls around.  They sort of get reintroduced that they are all guys and that they don't need to be so defensive anymore.  In this process, they scurry around, rubbing their horns on the sides of each other, pushing each other around, or standing head to head, pushing on each other.  From the moment you put them back together, they are grunting, growling, and clunking horns.  You can hear the clunks and clicks as they rustle around in the straw.  This year, I have them in a stall in the barn that is more secure than others, and has a nice window for light and fresh air.  As they rustle around, their horns clunk on the walls, on each other, and on their water bucket.  Yep.  It's clunk day!

This is the day I spend a lot of time out in the barn, just finding things to do.  I frequently keep watch over them, and check on them frequently to make sure clunking is all that is going on.  If things get out of hand, I must intervene with a nice splash of cold water.  Works like a charm!  I also feed them small amounts, frequently, to keep them occupied and busy and moving (i.e. rubbing on each other) until they all smell alike and feel less rammy.  Also a great charm!

Well, all that was yesterday.  On our barn check late last night, the rams were all laying down and peaceful.  Perfect!  This morning, still all peaceful.  No karate-chopped boards, no splinters, no injuries.  Perfect!  I think we've made it through another year of Clunk Day!  Whew!

Friday, December 21, 2012


Well, the last 35 hours have been interesting!  We had a peaceful week, with some drizzly rain, bare grass, mild temps.  Then, the forecasters told us we were gonna get hit by a blizzard!  We always take their warnings seriously, hoping to be laughing at the end that they were blissfully wrong.  Not this time!  Good thing we take these things seriously!

With supplies stocked up, flashlights ready, and animals secured, we waited for the storm to hit.  It started Wed. evening, around midnight, with a quiet snowfall.  Nothing serious.  By dawn, snow was falling harder and the wind had picked up.  Schools called off classes the night before, due to the massive amount of snow predicted to fall, along with higher winds.  It was a cozy day in the barn and in the house.  I had made chicken and dumplings the day before so I wouldn't have to cook much the day of the blizzard.  You can't cook for extended periods of time on those kinds of days because you never know when the power will go out!

As the day progressed, the snow piled up!  Swifty had a ball playing out there!  The geese stayed in, the horses were content to hang out in their stalls, and the sheep lulled over their cud, half awake.   By nightfall, things were drifting pretty bad.   The plows passed the farmhouse time and time again.  Sheesh!  I've never seen them plow so frequently!

Bedtime came, and it was time to stop worrying.  I had knit on my sweater, with the lights on the tree twinkling nearby.  Hot coffee was a frequent delight of the day.

This morning....WOW!  That was a dump of a storm!  Our driveway was invisible, except the massive rock hard boulders the plows left at the head near the road!  We didn't get mail yesterday.  Bucking out of the driveway this morning required 4 low in the truck, with care to not punch out and go right over the road and off the other side!  Our plow guy slid off the neighbor's driveway, down a hill, and right into their raspberry patch!  We had to wait for a wrecker to pull him out...

The sheep and everyone are still cozy in the barn, our plow guy has been freed from the raspberry canes, our driveway is plowed, and the skies are bright and sunny.  There's over a foot of snow out there!  It surely will be a VERY white christmas!

For those readers who are local, hope you all made it through this blizzard safely!  Here's to safe travel and good holiday cheer as we head straight into the holiday festivities!  Take care everyone!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Pretty Headbands for Holidays


Wheely Wooly Farm is running a sale on our headbands for a limited time, while supplies last!  Base color on all of them is black from our ewe, Mona.  The crocheted borders are in a range of beautiful colors.  Some have coordinating flowers, some have different colored flowers that accent the borders.  There are only a few left, so if you want one, be sure to contact us.  You can either call or email.  These headbands make great gifts for girls (daughters, nieces, neighbors, babysitters, etc.), but are also popular with women.  There are two sizes, but quantities of those sizes varies.  I'm working on making more...

Have a great start to the week everyone!  

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Heading into Holidays

Country Boy, Wilbur

Things have really quieted down here on the farm lately.  This is a time of year to look forward to, except for the bad weather we know will come.  We've had about three inches of snow so far, and that came nicely.  It's packy and perfect for building snowsheep for viewing out the windows!  For the most part, our temperatures have been mild.  How nice that is, for there is less ice smashing out of water buckets each day.  The snow is also nice for keeping water buckets shiny clean.  Snow crystals act like little scrubbers, so if you have dirt in your buckets, just swipe some snow around inside for a nice clean bucket in no time.

With daylength getting to the shortest of the year, there are many stretches of time for knitting and spinning.  I've been doing a lot of both lately.  I'm trying to get caught up in spinning, while the knitting is on my Wooly Bear sweater.  I really like the pattern on it.  You can see pictures of it a few blogs back.  I can't WAIT to wear it!  It's so warm and soft on my lap, I love it already!

It's also time to start thinking of 4-H projects.  Last year it was mittens made from handspun yarn.  This year, perhaps a pair of socks will be the goal!  Socks can be knit so simply that they closely resemble mitten skills such as working in the round, ribbing, and picking up stitches.  The decreases are a cinch (simply knit two together), if you remember where you must work them.  Better yet, socks don't have thumbs...something that would make the knitter happy.  I could spin the yarn, which would make the socks fall in the knit category for the fair, or the knitter could spin the yarn which would put the entry in the sheep category.  Either way, options are there.  Last year's mittens were entirely the knitter's project from fiber preparation to dyeing to spinning to finishing.  Fun!!!  I always love watching these projects become reality!

The mild evenings we've been having are nice for spending time out in the barn, scratching chins and brushing horses.  It's really nice time to get away from the bustle of modern day life.  If you need a break from traffic, long work hours, or crowded places, the barn is the place to be! 

We hope you are all having a really nice warm up to the holiday season!  We'll be continuing at the market for several more dates so be sure to look for us!  New yarns from new sheep come nearly every week, as well as new colors.  See you there!

Friday, December 7, 2012


Meet Pomander and Hyssop, two delightfully smart geese!

Fun!  Earlier this year, back at the end of summer, two beautiful geese came to live at Wheely Wooly Farm! We are very happy at getting them.  It was not easy.  Finding a goose to buy is not easy, but as fall came, ads started popping up offering geese for sale.  We did not get them from such an ad, rather, we knew the person who had them.  I had first seen them at this person's house earlier in the summer, and before that, I had heard she had baby geese.  I've wanted to get geese for a long time.  Finally, here they are!

The gander (male goose) is on the left.  The goose (female goose) is on the right.  She looks more feminine and is lighter all around.  They are called Pomeranian geese, which is a breed from overseas.  These two have feather markings known in the goose world as 'saddlebacked', for the gray coloring over their backs.  They have bright pinkish orange bills and legs which are bright and beautiful!  Their size is impressive considering they are just babies born this year!  Geese grow fast.  

The pomeranians were a popular breed extending from modern day Poland to Germany and all along the Baltic sea coastal areas.  They were/are considered a common farm goose well loved for their meat and feathers.  Interestingly, they come from basically the same region as the Friesian Sheep come from, maybe extending a little further east than the sheep do.  Of all the goose breeds available, I'm always fascinated that my choices tend to the regions of my ancesters, before I know where the breeds come from.  Fascinating stuff.

Pomander got his name because he is a POMeranian gANDER.  His size is impressive even though these geese are in the medium size class...meaning they are not the largest of the goose breeds.  I guess I'm just used to chickens. lol

HYSSop got her name from the idea that I surely hope she'll hiss at me someday!  I'm hoping they will pair up and give me goslings next spring.  I'm hoping she'll sit on a nest and be protective when I come quietly around in excitement...and hiss in defense of her eggs.  You never know with geese, so we'll see.

In the months and weeks they've been here, many common attitudes about geese have been completely dissolved.  For example, they do not attack you!  I'm sure they would if I was mean to them, but if you give them what they need, they'll hang around and enjoy your company just as you enjoy theirs.  Second, they do not require a boatload of work!  In fact, they've been the easiest animal on the farm!  They graze grass and do not need supplemental feed.  They do not fly away, so do not require expensive fencing.   We put them in the barn at night and they spend their days outside snoozing and grazing.  They are peaceful...well, that is except the morning run out of the barn, in which they honk in delight!  Always a joy to see them happily heading out for a day of grazing.  Also, they are NOT stupid!  They are very bright and alert, easy to train, and easy to herd anywhere you want them to go.

Yes, we are enjoying our geese!  I can see why they were so loved and useful to normal farms and families over the centuries.  So what do geese have to do with sheep?  This IS a sheep farm blog afterall!  Stay tuned to learn why on earth sheep would need geese nearby!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I'm knitting, Sophie's snoozin, Swifty's....

Good Boy Swifty...chew on your bone now...
(Swifty claimed this chair as his own.  Such a good shepherd I am to let him have it! :)

 Uh oh!  Where ya goin' Swifty?  Aren't you gonna chew on your bone?
 Oh Swiffffff-tttttyyyyyy....where are you gooooo-innnngggg?

That's a nice boy!  Just chew on your bone now, so I can knit.
(Doggies love a good bone.)

Canine joy.  Life is good for a sheep dog!

I may be making slow clothes, but I DON'T have a slow dog! giggle, giggle
Funny how that works:  I need a fast dog to make slow clothes.  Huh.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Slow clothes and an accidental realization.

Oh, Sophie!

That's a picture of my lap.  One snuggly kitten, and one giggling knitter are in this picture!  How does one shoo her away?  I was knitting on the left front of my Wooly Bear sweater when she came along.  I was only a few stitches into the row.  She can sniff out a knitter in seconds!  I tried to discourage her by putting her down, but discouragement accepted!  She just jumped up again and again, eventually winning her battle for my lap with purring persistence.  Why do I let her do that? lol

The part of the sweater that is behind her and over most of her body is the back of the sweater.  I needed it to measure how many rows to knit on the left front up to the armhole.  As I was comparing back and forth, she became covered more and more.  It didn't take long for me to realize how comfortably warm this sweater will be!  You have a layer of warm air around you yet your skin can still breathe.  How wonderful!  When I folded it up and placed it back in my knitting basket, I instantly felt cold.  

On another thought, I read in today's paper about that terrible garment factory fire overseas.  I really don't want to comment on that as this is sheep blog about sheep and wool farming.  I will say though that my heart really hurts for those people.  How awful.

Of course, you can't help but think of your own clothing supply and sources in light of this horrible news.  As I was thinking about this, I was knitting on my sweater.  Then it slowly dawned on me that just as raising your own food can bring you better nutrition and joy in life, so too can knitting some of your own clothes bring you good things.  I get so frustrated driving around to all the stores, searching for clothing that fit properly and that I like.  Hours and hours are spent on this.  Yet here I am, spending hours working on my sweater, but they are very pleasant hours where I'm warm, my brain can relax, and I can gain joy out of what I'm doing.  I began to realize that slow clothes...that is clothes that take time to make with your own hands...bring many good things, and perhaps stop some bad things.  It was all just an accidental realization.

It takes more than a year to make a sweater like this.  First, it takes a whole year of good and thoughtful care for the sheep to grow high quality wool.  Actually, it took me two years of intense research to decide how to even PICK a ram for my ewes.  The breeding decisions take time and care.  So after the sheep is cared for by you for a whole mud, good nutrition, good hoof care and good social life, you shear him.  That takes me somewhere between 25 minutes to an hour.  It then takes two hours for me to clean the fleece, then three days for it to dry nicely, then a week to spin it.  Then, the yarn is washed again to set the twist, and given three more days to dry.  At that time, I spend an hour balling the skeins up and getting my supplies ready for knitting.  With my pattern and needles ready, I begin many hours of knitting.  This is slow.  And yet, the result is so satisfying!  The quality in the garment is outstanding!  The fibers trap warm air next to my skin, making me feel protected and cozy.  The yarn has proper ease in it, so it moves WITH you, rather than making it feel like you have a layer of snake skin on you, restricting your reaching or bending.  The fibers allow moisture to move out, so that your skin doesn't get clammy and sweaty, thus preventing rashes on the skin and stinky body odor from bacteria growth.  It's a cinch to wash, taking less time than waiting around for the wash machine to finish.  The colors are not dyes, so they don't fade, bleed, or wash out.  In fact, the colors are rich and harmonious.  They are pleasant to look at, and blend nicely with many other colors because they are indeed the colors of nature.  Nature is an amazing thing.

As I was knitting along, Sophie occasionally stretching under the sweater, I was appreciating my accidental realization.  Slow clothes.  Nice!