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.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Yarn, Yarn, Yarn!

 We've got yarn, and are ready for you!
Thick yarns, thin yarns, worsted yarns, solid yarns, heathered yarns, weaving yarns, light yarns, dark yarns, all kinds of yarns!

Our yarns are perfect for clothing.  Shetland sheep, in fact, are one of the BEST clothing breeds on the planet!  You can make warm, lightweight sweaters, stylish vests, cozy wraps, lap warmers (outstanding in the cold car on the way to work in the morning!!), warm cushy socks, cuddly mittens, outstanding hats suitable for men OR women, and even kids!  Make a stylish accent scarf to compliment your work wardrobe or to impress when visiting.  Even small projects can be made from Wheely Wooly Farm yarn such as headbands or super cute headscarves perfect for activities outside!

 Fair Isle Packets, just for fun!
Learn stranded knitting without a big investment!!
We have just what you need to get you started on this fascinating form of knitting.

We even have dyed yarns!
Thanks Claire and Iris (sweet sheep)!!  We have soooo much fun with your yarns!

Go Green!!  Our yarns are locally produced.  That means TENS OF THOUSANDS OF GALLONS OF FUEL were NOT spent to bring you this yarn.  In fact, when you buy our yarn, you'll even know the name of the sheep who produced it! ( Hands down customer favorite!! )

Did you know that much of the yarns available in the shops were shipped here on HUGE, POLLUTING ships across now fragile oceans?  Is that REALLY necessarry?????  Did you know that some of those huge companies buy the wool on one continent, then ship it to another continent for processing, often using chemical scours to "clean" the fibers, then ship the yarn to stores around the world.  That's too much shipping!  Did you know that in some "shipping lanes", there are now dead zones, where the waters and sediment are so heavily polluted and disturbed from ships that aquatic life can no longer make a life there??  Now I love a nice grapefruit in winter, but do we REALLY need to be trashing our oceans for knitting, especially when nicer yarns can be produced right here, just outside our cities?  We can wisen up and reduce senseless practices with one simple act...buying local!  Wheely Wooly Farm does not contribute to the polluting of oceans through shipping just to give you knitting pleasure.  We know so many of you feel a strong need to reduce our human " footprint" on this earth.   We feel the same way, which is one of the reasons we raise our flock of sheep and work so hard to bring you our fine knitting and weaving yarn!

 Our yarns are also SUSTAINABLE!  Our sheep improve the land's fertility.  They knock out unwanted weeds and help eradicate invasive species.  They aerate the soil with perfect tips on cute little hooves.  They enrich the environment for wildlife, one example being allowing ground nesting species of birds to flourish such as meadowlarks.  When you purchase Wheely Wooly Farm yarns, you are making a very smart choice, while significantly discouraging senseless polluting and senseless destruction of the environment.  Your purchase of our yarns promotes sound ecological practices, which in turn promotes adequate habitat for song birds and healthy plant diversity. 

You can reduce your knitting " hoofprint" right here!  When you knit with Wheely Wooly Farm yarns, you are promoting a healthier environment AND a stronger economy.

Happy Green Knitting everyone! 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Wheely Wooly Farm is more than sheep

 Home grown lavender

 Incubating Buff Orpington eggs

 Good laying hens that genuinely free range

 Diversity is a pleasure!!!!!!

Perky colors to remind us of our country's original mission...FREEDOM.

As we approach our country's annual birthday celebration, it's time for us as Americans to do some deep thinking.  Our country is based on FREEDOM.  Freedom works.  People prosper, communities are safer, kindness flourishes.  What doesn't work?  Loss of freedom.  Loss of freedom brings loss of human rights, a trashed ecosystem, and much suffering.  As citizens of the United States of America, it's easy to be complacent in the comforts our parents and grandparents created for us off their backs. But we are losing those hard earned, and assumed freedoms, usually without us noticing.  Have YOU noticed?  Ask around.  Ask country people.  We are losing freedom.  What is important to you?  Do you like to eat?  Do you think eating is important? Do you think food is connected to health?  If you answered yes to even one of these questions, it's time to do some deep thinking.

Wheely Wooly Farm's blog is about light-hearted affairs, and it's kept pretty strickly to sheep.  While I'll happily debate Shetland sheep fleece lengths and trivial matters, our blog is rarely about anything but sheep.  Today, we are going to ask you, our readers, to begin increasing your awareness of your freedom.  Do you think you have the same freedoms today that you had yesterday?  Last week?  Last year?  I hope the answers don't upset you too much. 

It's time to prepare for our country's birthday celebration.  Time to think.  Change used to happen slowly, over time.  It isn't so like that anymore.  Today, changes happen swiftly, sometimes in the middle of the night, on a holiday weekend.  If you value freedoms, it's time to think.  If you think health is an inherent right, time to think.  

Friday, June 22, 2012

I've had so much fun with the sheep in the last few months, I've come to realize that photos of everyone else are falling behind!  The first is Calypso, the world's cutest little pony.  Don't you just love that snip on his nose??   Next is the chalkboard in the barn.  Last is Mona's yarn on the wheel.  That was taken when my camera started having problems.  All of the photos are just out of focus, with this being the best of them all.

Coming up next, I'll put some pictures up of our chickens again...ever popular!  See you in the morning at market!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I KNOW evolution can't be true because...

It's been hot here lately...temps in the low to mid 90's with very high dew points, making the heat and humidity a challenge.  Every attempt at work outside brings on clothes soaked with sweat, and constant swiping of the brow to control the streaming runoff.  As I go about my chores, I can see that the garden has a quite different reaction to the heat than I do.  I just want to wilt in the shade and do quiet work on these stifling days but the plants are going gangbusters!  The are vibrant green, upright, branching out, and growing like crazy.  As I study the changes with my annual sense of amazement, I begin to realize the bugs are driving me nuts.  I have to keep moving and swatting, in between brow swipes, to prevent a rash of bites from flies, mosquitos, and who knows what all else.  The barn swallows are gleeful arielists, chirping in delight as they swoop around and dive to the ground to swallow as many bugs as they can catch.  There are seven birds happily swooping, all filling up on the plethera of bugs.  It occurs to me as I stand there that everything around me is loving the heat and humidity.  The plants are growing like mad, the bugs are buzzing like crazy, and the birds are swooping non-stop.  So if evolution were true, how is it that THEY all feel ENERGIZED in this heat, and I don't? lol

Last night, mild storms brought in beautiful air that is cooler and less humid.  It's a beautiful day.  I'm energized!  The barn swallows are perched in the barn, just looking down at me.  I bet they are tired after all that swooping the last few days!

Heat like what we've had this week requires much extra wok for the livestock.  We replenish their water frequently to keep them drinking, and changes are made in how we move them around.  The rams are in a great place.  They  have cool shade from trees that are outside their pasture.  They can't chew on them, or crush their roots, yet they benefit from the wonderful shade most of the day.  With the nice breeze, they've come through the heat just fine.  It's a lot of work and worry to raise healthy livestock, but getting the good results in health and fine wool is so satisfying!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The joys of summer market and camera issues


Today was the first day of the summer market, and what a joy it was to be there!  The skies were partly cloudy for most of the morning, calming down the high heat.  It was pleasantly hot on the street, and we set up in 70 degree temps!  It's summer!! Not long after getting unpacked, the wonderful smells of coffee and cinnamon buns filled the air, mixed in the gentle breeze with fresh dill, sweet onions, and fragrant soaps!  A couple of booths down from us, gorgeous bomb peony flowers were real eyecatchers in knockout bouquets.  The line for eggrolls was soon very long, and produce stands were very brisk.  By 8am, wagons were strolling by with quarts of blueberries or strawberries half eaten, children riding inside with fingers stained and faces smiling.  

What a joy it is to experience summer in this way!  Just as holidays have their fragrances and sounds, so too does the market.  As I drink in the freshness of it all, seagulls are calling overhead.  Soon, knitters were pondering summer knitting and their next projects.  Some love the natural colors of the sheep, some love Claire's brightly dyed yarns, and some love it all!  One of my favorite things to do is knit by the campfire, or on the beach with my toes in the sand.  With Lake Michigan so close, it's not hard to make it happen!  Today, I heard tales of knitting in the shade under old trees, on decks, and pool side while kids splash around.  How pleasant!  It's the perfect way to pass the time during the heat of summer.

Switching now to the photo above, grrrrr!  I'm having problems with my camera unfortunately.  This photo is of the rams in their pasture.  I have a few boys in there, most of them wethers.  This works out really good as Shetland rams have a deep need to be social organizers.  They MUST have a group to manage, and this drive is deep within their makeup.  Wooly Bear, seen here, is the king of the pen.  He keeps his group in line, and in order.  The underlings know their boundries and are kept out of mischief out of their respect for the top guy.  Without a group to manage, rams can become, well, remodelers of your farm!  It makes me feel good knowing that I have given them the opportunity to live the most natural life for them as I can.  Remember, if you don't give your ram a group to manage, he'll turn his attention to managing YOU!

On a final note, we need rain.  I surely thought I could make it happen by simply putting freshly washed laundry out on the line to dry.  Didn't work.  Any other suggestions? 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Humming along

Can it be that I haven't posted yet this month?  There is never a shortage of things to do on a farm and I guess that's why.  Being an early weather pattern this year, things have hummed along quite nicely.  All the ewes had their lambs, and our lambing percentage is still right on at 125%!  I think it shows that we are successful at maintaining good Shetland stock, without crossbreds sneaking in.  We take pride in our success in this, and find much joy in bringing you genuine Shetland fibers in our yarns!

Speaking of fibers, I've been very busy with fibers!  Our shearing is complete, except one yearling who's rise could go a bit more before shearing.  All (but that one) of our 2012 fleeces are off the hoof, skirted, and stored neatly away on a new shelving system (thanks Lael, for the great idea there!).  Some of the fleeces are washed and spun already, labeled and ready for sale.  We've had a great fiber year this year, and are very pleased with the quality of fibers coming in our yarns!  Watch for them at the market!

So with all the shearing done (all by me with blades), and all the lambs born (with again, a zero mortality rate!!),   all hooves trimmed, and all the fleeces safely and nicely stored for summer spinning, on to the garden!  The tomatoes, corn, onions, radishes, petunias, peppers, marigolds, garlic, daylilies, potatoes, raspberries, blueberries, lettuces, spinach, beans, grapes, and dill are all planted and up nicely, or transplanted.  We moved an arbor, created new paths, had enriched the soil, and are weeding like mad to keep ahead of the vigor!  If only I had the vigor of those weeds!!!  All the lawn mowing equipment broke down this spring...pretty much at the same time....and is mostly fixed now.  Plus, fencing has been repaired and reinforced.

As if that wasn't enough work (!), the hay came early this year, so we began the process of putting up hay in the barn.  I love the work, but my eyes don't!  It's such a satisfying feeling to have hay in the barn.  We'll get more when second cut comes, so our work is not done there, yet.

The work of a farm is hard, and keeps on coming, yet we love it!  The rewards are soft fiber for making warm clothes, luscious fruit, velvety potatoes, sweet onions, fresh eggs, scrumptious milk and yogurt, and one of my favorites...the crows!  Have I introduced you to Winslow yet?  We offered him for sale, but who wants a lone rooster?  He'd be good for breeding if you are looking for good egg layers.  In the meantime, he gives us wonderful crowing...while standing on his tippy toes and squinting his eyes shut.  Yes, as he belts out his wonderful crows, he's usually standing on his upside down water dish, on his tippy toes, neck fully extended, and beak wide open (you can see right down the hatch...cover your ears!), all while squinting his eyes shut tight!  He's a crack up!

So now, the ewes and lambs are out grazing, with the lambs growing remarkably!  Oh!  I haven't introduced you to Hazel yet, have I?  Hazel is a little ewe lamb we have, whom I named after one of the world's fastest knitters, who happens to be from Shetland!  I surely hope the real Hazel doesn't mind having a cute little Shetland lamb named after her!!  I'll have to post pictures of our little Hazel and her twin brother soon.  His name has become "Tindall" somehow...I surely hope the real Hazel Tindall doesn't mind!  They are really cute twins...Hazel is moorit, fading up the fawn side, with Tindall black, who will probably fade up the light gray side. Perfect for Fair Isle knitting, just as the real Hazel is known for!  Stay tuned for more posting on these cute little Shetland twins!  Back to grass...our pastures are doing their job!!  This is the time of year where we become more grass farmers than fiber farmers.  The county fair is in our sights now, and the time has come to begin polishing things up for that.   I know that somewhere in there...time for rest will come...somewhere...I think...

...but not this week!  Strawberries are ready for picking, and we always get a bunch!  Yum!  Fresh strawberries and yogurt!  Makes my stomach growl.

Who's on my bobbin this week?  Last week, it was Mona.  This week it's Lacey.  Her fleece is positively dreamy!  It's a lovely moorit with creams and grays mixed in for a lovely heathery look.  Her fleece came in very fine, clean, and long with a beautiful wave.  After shearing her, I was absolutely DELIGHTED at how she's grown.  She has nice straight legs, a nice level topline, a beautiful balanced neck, and the bright Shetland expression.  Even her tail is Shetlandy nice!  She has a perky Shetland gait, but is very feminine. Lacey is out of Lerwick and Lil' Rainbow.  (For those of you new to our blog, did you know that the folks who run the WI Sheep and Wool Festival have used Wooly Bear's photo as a festival promotion?  Wooly Bear is Lerwick's sire, and Lacey's Rampa.)  Watch for Lacey's dreamy Shetland yarn coming soon!

Also coming, Claire's Marigolds!  Watch for this bright yarn!!!!

And most exciting of all is the market starts this coming Saturday!  How fun it is to see all of you again, and hear of the beautiful garments you've made with Wheely Wooly Farm Yarns over the winter and spring!   We have new things for you, and many lovely colors of yarns!  We're ready and looking forward to seeing you there!

Until then, happy summering everyone!