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, March 30, 2013

Getting Ready...

The Shepherdess likes a clean house...

This may be a busy farmhouse, but this shepherdess likes some things to be clean!  We are in the midst of getting ready for lambing.  The earliest to lamb should be around April 11th, so we have time yet, but two ewes are on pregnancy watch.  We lamb later than most, especially this year, although we've learned some other much larger flocks are due to lamb about the same time as us this time around.  Getting ready for lambing means cleaning out the 'Flock Box'.  That's my sheepy medicine cabinet, stocked with supplies I'll need for lambs and new moms.  Dates have been checked, syringes replenished, drenches ready to go, and little dixie cups stacked for all those little navel dunks.  I have my dose amounts clearly written and taped to the inside of the box lid, for easy reading in the dark, when I'm cold and a bit bleary-eyed.

The ewes have all had their CD/T shots and have been dewormed.  Everyone is wearing new their hooves trimmed, except Rainbow, 'cause she's HUGE.  Yes, HUGE!  I don't  think I'll ask her to attempt a three-legged balance just now.  Udders have been checked, too. As predictable, the older ewes have large udders coming in, while the first timers have very little started.  

Out in the barn, the ewe pen was enlarged for easier labor of ewes, and new panels were made for lambing jugs.  Clean straw is down in the jugs, although those pesty hens had a ball in my nice clean straw for lambing and there's very little left!  I'm gonna need to search for more straw bales...ha! a drought year!  Barn lights were checked, and this year, I put up a homemade chalk board listing the earliest dates ewes will lamb, who they are, who the ram was, and with space underneath for filling in any lambs each ewe might have.  This part is for me! :)  It helps me stay organized, and it looks cute in the barn.

In the house, I've checked and stocked inside supplies that I've made lists of in years past.  Late at night, I hunt down these lists, and review what I need to check.  Let's see...LOTS of laundry soap, LOTS of liquid hand soap, LOTS of coffee, and snacky-energy types of foods that can be grabbed on the run.  And let's not forget a clean barn coat, and lots of wool socks ready and waiting for the excitement and long, cold nights in the barn!  I've got my NEW flashlight (can you tell I'm excited about that?!), with it's NEW battery on the table by the door, just waiting for those late night checks.  I'll clean everything in the house just before the dates arrive that 'open' the ewes' lambing windows, so I won't have to clean again until things settle down...well, except the floors of course!  Every day, the floors need cleaning on this busy farm!

Unfortunately, I'm already getting worried about bears! giggle, giggle This IS the time they start rambling around, searching for something to satisfy that winter long hunger streak!  Maybe next year, I'll lamb in Jan. or Feb., JUST so I don't have to worry about the bears! lol

With most things checked off the lists, I can relax a little and read up to review all the 'what ifs'.  I call that my  nightmare book...the one that exposes all the things that can go wrong with cute little lambs and new moms.  My hope is that I'll be better at observing and diagnosing things if something goes wrong.  Every year, just before the lambs arrive, I get scared and worried.  I guess it's natural and normal, for I hear a lot of other shepherds say it, too.  You know going in that you'll come through the season tired and needing a rest, but it is very rewarding work overall.  Seeing little lambs leaping around the pastures, playing around their moms, and ganging up for mischief makes it all worthwhile!  It's a wonderful life!

So with the barn, Flock Box, and house all ready, it's time to hurry up and WAIT!  Sigh...that's the hardest part!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

I went over the edge....

...and what fun I've had!!

So what does one do when spring is late, the snow is deep, and the ol' sweater is treasured??  Go over the edge!  This sweater has become a treasured piece of clothing for someone.  It gets worn A LOT here on the farm, to the markets, and to sheepy events.  It's two years old now...or more...I forget.  I made it out of wool I sheared off our purebred Shetland ewe, Sweetie.  Her wool is pretty white.  Then, after preparing it, I spun it up, and knitted this rather simple sweater for someone who wanted warmth when outside ALL the time, even when playing...or catching lambs...or chasing a wayward hen...or pulling carrots...or hunting for eggs...or running with the get the idea!  It's well loved, well worn, and well...washed A LOT!

Yet look at it today!  It still looks great!  Except, it was just plain ol' white, with pink buttons (which I hid here for the picture).  I had always wanted to embellish it, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do, but with so many things to keep me busy around here, and the fact that this particular sweater is frequently flying all around the never got done.  Until now, that is!  What did I do?  I crocheted over the edge!  Fun!  The blue yarn has sparkles in it.  It was the choice of the garment's owner...a pretty spring sky blue.  So I added it to the ends of the sleeves and along the waistline.  One of the nice things about designing and constructing your own clothes is that you can make them perfectly suitable for your liking.  This wearer doesn't like bulk around the neckline, so we kept the blue to the cuffs and waistline.

If you ever feel winter is too long, you should learn to work with wool, if you haven't already!  If you know how to knit, learn to crochet, too.  The two styles of designing garments with yarn are endless fun.  They mix so nicely, bringing new design capabilities for very little work.  I hope this sweater's freshing up will inspire you to learn a new skill.  How about looking up a new border or a new stitch in a knitting or crocheting dictionary?  How about making a new garment that you've never made before, just to learn a new technique?  How about searching the web for a new, interesting technique?  If you learned a new technique once a month, even if just for the winter months, just think of the new ideas you could pursue, new things you could make, and new fun you could have!

I seriously have to did our culture ever move away from wool???!!!???  I can't believe what we had been missing in those synthetic years!  Get wool, have fun, and be warm!! :)

(This message brought to you be Wheely Wooly Farm...Where Warmth Comes Naturally!  Find us on Etsy!)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Thanks, Hyssop! :)

Check this out!
 Thank You Hyssop!!

Isn't this great?! The egg you see in the middle was laid by our resident goose, Hyssop.  It's huge!  (The brown eggs are hen's eggs.) The shell is a beautiful white, but despite that, we didn't find it too easily.  Actually, a hen found it by accident.  Hyssop had buried her lovely egg in the clean straw around the side of her nest, for safe-keeping.  Unfortunately for her, we took it, being the first goose egg ever laid on this farm in our time here!  The egg was brought in the house, washed, then blown out so that we can decorate it and keep it in our fun little collection.  We have eggs from favorite hens, Lucy our duck, and now, Hyssop the Goose!  

I wish I had pictures for you of the yolk!  It was HUGE!  After this first egg, we will now let her sit on her nest and keep the rest of the eggs she lays.  We are hoping she'll hatch out some goslings for us, but that is always uncertain ground.  Will she?  Will she not?  We'll see!
The view from my window this afternoon.

The other thing to report is that spring is nowhere in sight today.  We still haven't heard ONE red-winged blackbird!  This has now broken the record for the latest first singing ever for us.  They are always here the first week of March.  It's not looking good for hearing him anytime soon, as cold air will fall over us for the next several cold I mean nearly down to zero, with highs barely above 20 degrees F.  Surely this will be the last week of such cold.  Today, we'll be getting a few inches of snow in heavy falling, but short-lived.  Wilbur is NOT happy out there today!  But the rams can take this weather very well, and it's no problem for them.  Sure am glad I don't have any lambs yet!!!  This is not good weather for lambs.

I ran out of yarn for my Wooly Bear sweater, so in the middle of spinning other things, I had to spin up a bit more.  Got that done, then washed and dried the skeins.  Now I'm back to working on the sweater and loving it!  I've also finished dozens of skeins that will need dyeing this spring, with more ready to ply.  Soon, I'll be shearing Claire and Posie, and perhaps Misty, Minty, and Phloxie.  They are not purebred Shetlands, so can be sheared early.  In this cold, I'm SO glad nobody is sheared yet!!  In fact, I usually shear Claire in late Feb. or early March.  Not this year!  Not only has it been cold and windy, it's been either snowing or raining, then freezing to hard ice every few days.  I'll wait.  Meanwhile, Claire is contentedly in the barn during high winds, or outside during quieter weather events, happy and warm as can be.

That's the farm update for today.  Have a good day everyone!


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Speaking of Springy Yellow...

You won't want to miss out on this yarn!

Winter is lingering here on Wheely Wooly Farm.  The snow is deep, the ice is hard, and icicles hang everywhere.  Today, the wind is cold and stiff.  As the sun gets higher in the sky each day, it becomes blindingly bright...a wonderful reminder that soon, winter will break and spring will burst forth.  I don't think anyone is complaining about the seemingly delayed exit of winter this year, as we all feel a sense of relief that moisture is here, and sticking around!!

Despite the snowpack outside, I can't help but turn my thoughts to spring.  This bright, sunny yellow yarn is such a treat to the eyes!  It is a soft, creamy yellow that brightens the area.  I would sure love to knit with this yarn myself!!  It would be perfect for a small child's spring/summer sweater or play coat!  Real wool is an outstanding garment fabric for young children as it helps regulate body temperature without overheating, yet keeps them snuggy warm when the sun slips behind clouds.  Real wool also has natural ease in the fabric, which is so important for young bodies busily learning how active they can be!  Have you ever watched a small child try to play in clothes that don't have natural ease?  Their reaching out is restricted, tightened, and uncomfortable.  Why keep children restricted when:

a)  they need encouragement to move around and be healthy and
b)  you are looking for another excuse to knit something fun and cute!

Children who's clothes make them feel tight and clammy/sweaty are not happy children.  Have you ever noticed that they tend to be fussier?  Real wool can alleviate those problems, and allow the child to move more freely, with greater comfort.  Real wool is awesome!  I don't know why we ever moved away from it in the first place...but it's time to come back to the joys of real wool! 

You can find these three skeins for sale in our NEW Etsy Shop!  Find the link on the right side of this blog, in the yellow text.  Don't forget that the first 10 customers will receive a FREE crocheted flower with their order!  Wouldn't that look so cute on a sweater or play coat?  

Have a great day everyone!  I'll keep you posted on the ducklings!  They are growing...yes...faster than weeds and sunflowers!

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Colors of Spring

 Purple and spring just go together!

Oh, I can hardly resist this yarn!  The purple is a lovely color to work with for winter-weary eyes.  You can purchase this yarn direct from our Etsy shop.  Find the link to our shop on the right side of our blog, in the yellow text.  There are three skeins available.
Yellow IS spring, isn't it?

These musical, whistling little ducklings are SUCH a delight!  With pouring rain falling against the window and wind rattling things outside, it is such a special delight to have these little creatures dabbling away under the warmth of their lamp!  

You know what else is good about pouring rain?  CLEAN sheep! lol

Be sure to check out the beautiful yarns in our Etsy shop and don't miss out for your spring knitting!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Things are just DUCKY around here!


Meet our new farm employees!  They are one week old baby Indian Runner ducklings, and we are thrilled to have them!  Along with the two geese, their mission will be to vacuum the pastures and garden of unwanted bugs and weeds.  (I should do an update on the geese...I LOVE our geese!!) They make the cutest little whistling peeping sounds and are very musical!  Even though winter seems to be carrying on here with snow and ice everywhere, spring has actually arrived...if only in the house!  These little ducklings will grow remarkably fast in the weeks to come.  We'll keep you posted!

Have a nice weekend everyone, and don't forget to check out our new shop on Etsy!  We have a beautiful array of yarns available, including some perfect for spring knitting that you won't want to miss!  (Find the link in yellow on the right side of our blog here.)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

NEW! We're on ETSY!

Clang the bells everyone!  We finally did it! We've opened up an Etsy Shop!  So many of you have asked us for opportunities to buy online, so this is for you!  We hope you enjoy shopping our yarns and other products in our new shop!  You can either search the Etsy site for Wheely Wooly Farm, or use this direct link.  Be sure to add it to your favorites so you don't miss what's new.  Enjoy!

Link:  Wheely Wooly Farm's Etsy Shop

Monday, March 4, 2013

Sweet Shepherd Sounds

Sweet Sounds

How could any shepherd be without one of these?  This farm tool is so ancient, so useful, so irreplaceable.  It covers nearly all time.  How many historic farmhouses have had one of these hanging around?

Well, this old farmhouse still has one.  It's still useful, still needed, and still kept handy.  Every new sheep that comes here, wears one, unless they come in a group, in which case, the leader of the group wears it.  One day, it was a lifesaver.  New sheep can get away from you sometimes.  In June, when the grasses are tall, that can be a problem for little Shetlands!   As the sheep panics and runs around, they don't always call out for the flock.  Fear makes them stay quiet sometimes, but still running, searching for the rest.  Shetlands are small.  Their hooves do not make the earth sound like thunder.  A wise shepherd listens for the bell.  The tinkling of the bell tells you where to send the dog.  Thank goodness for bells!  A found sheep is a very good day.  Later, when the sheep is acclimated to the farm and your flock's way of life, the bell can be removed.  Someone will carefully carry it back up to the house for safekeeping, back on it's nail, back in it's place, waiting for the next time of need.  

While the world might be changing, some things never change.

Speaking of bells....CLANG the bells!  We have a very big announcement coming!!!!!!!  Stay tuned to find out what it is!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Historic Farmhouse At Work

This historic farmhouse has been sustaining people and animals for about 130 least.  Brooms have laid in the palms of many generations of people here, sweeping up the life we call farming. A broom has surely been propped by the back door since the first farmer moved in all those many years ago, in another time.  Back then, native peoples were still camping and hunting in the surrounding woods, and fur traders were still making deals down at the trading post.  A lot of meals have been cooked and warmed here, too.  A farm is a place where you can't duck out for a bite to eat.  You can't run down the street for a cup of coffee.  You can't dash to the store to pick up supper.  A farm must sustain it's people throughout the day with ease, for there is much work to be done!

Towels are always drying here.

A working historic farmhouse means the joy of cooking lots of meals.  These meals must sustain at all times of day.  Meals warm chilled bodies in winter when the work outside is tough.  Meals replenish during lambing season, when shepherds stumble around in a sleepy daze.  Meals cool and refresh after sweating out in the blazing sun of summer.  Meals bring contentment when the harvest is put up, stored for winter. Meals bring sleep when there are worries, and meals bring energy when the work is stacked up.  The preparation of food must roll along in a timely way and indeed, it is ongoing.  The result is an endless cycle of dish towels drying on the rack.  I gave up hanging them like I did when I lived in the city.  In the city, my towel (singular) needing only some drying, only some days.  Here, my towels (note plural!) are constantly in need of drying.  There are warm vegetable soups to prepare, roasts to make, loaves of bread to knead, yogurt to warm, and a little something sweet for a treat to sneak in.  There are things to fry, muffins to freeze, and cakes to celebrate with.  Something is always being prepared in anticipation of sustenance while working. 

 Indeed, this ole' historic farmhouse is still at work, still on the job, all these many years later, even though times have changed.  No matter how much the world changes, some things remain the same.