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.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Definitely Sockupied!

Can't wait for pink socks on those dreary winter days!

Oh, I'm definitely sock-upied these days!  I LOVE knitting socks, I love knitting in the round, I love making my own warmth and comfort for those dreary, long, dark, freezing winter days.  These socks are not only all of that, but they are something much more!  Stay tuned to learn more about why these socks are so special, and what that means to our farm.  There have been some changes here and boy, am I ever excited in what we will be able to bring you in the future!

In the meantime, we are having a very nice fall here.  While a frost or two has already come and the zinnias are gone, the grass is still growing bright green.  How nice that is for the sheep!  We've been supplementing them with some hay now, but they can continue to be out on pasture without much worry, which is precisely where they prefer to be.  The wind has blown cold the last week or so, but as you know, that doesn't faze a shetland sheep much!  They are perfectly content out in the open, grazing, chewing cud, and just watching the sun move across the sky.  The trees still hold many of their colorful leaves, yet leaves cover the ground in many places.  Some of the maple leaves get fed to the livestock, as they find them absolutely delicious.  Apples left on the trees are also scrumptious treats, especially for Wooly Bear.  He loves treats!

Oddly enough, as I'm typing this, thunder is rumbling off in the distance, and the skies are gray.  Seems we're in for a nice autumny rain.  Oh good...clean sheep!  Also, we have repairs to make in the barn, compliments of Wink.  Not sure what he is thinking these days, but it seems anything vertical has held great appeal for him lately...which makes so much more work for the shepherdess!  Lerwick is super content with his ewes, but Lil' Rainbow has decided she does not want to be in that group.  When we bought Lil' Rainbow, her previous shepherd had all kinds of trouble keeping her in the fence, but that has not been a problem here until now!  Every day, I was finding her outside her breeding group's fence, in the lane (also fenced...they are double fenced).  She'd be contentedly laying down and chewing her cud, or grazing, happily just over the fence from Lerwick.  Huh!  We'd put her back and a few hours later, there she'd be the lane!  She was very easy to get back into her group, until finally, we decided she'd had enough time with the ram and let her return to the ewe group.  Every day is an adventure! lol

Shepherding truly is like a box of never know what you're gonna get!

Friday, October 25, 2013

2 x 4's

Whack! Crash! *&%^*#@ SSpppplllliiittttcrackwhack!


Wink just remodeled my barn again.  He might be wandering around the barn aisle with a 2 x 4 stuck to his head.....

Monday, October 21, 2013

Got Socks?

Lavender Romney Fun!

Every once in awhile, I buy yarn from someone.  Rarely from a yarn shop, I seek yarn from other small farm producers who are raising sheep for a living.  Fun!  What pleasant surprises to be discovered!  

If a spinner only works with their own yarn, growth is limited.  I really enjoy so many different breeds of sheep's wool that as much as I love Shetlands (and I'll always have them as long as I can be a shepherd), I do love working with other fibers.  The picture above is from Romney sheep that live maybe two hours south of our farm.  The sheep live in a moderate sized flock, graze all summer, and are utilized for meat and yarn.  Romney is coarser than any of the sheep I raise, but the yarn is well known for high quality sock fiber.  It's cushy, strong, and warm.  I bought two skeins of worsted weight yarn in this lovely lavender color specifically to make warm, cushy boot socks for winter.  So far?  I love it!

Now is a super good time to get those socks knitted!  The cold weather is just beginning here in the north, with a stiff, cold wind blowing today.  Time to put on some mittens and pull up the hood!  The sheep were delighted to get out and graze this morning.  They love this 'shetlandy' kind of weather and are unfazed.

The sock above:  knitted on size 5 double points.  I cast on 40 stitches, dividing them 10, 20, 10.  I always knit the first row, then switch (in this case) to k3, p1 ribbing.  Sometimes I like a good long cuff, so this ribbing goes for just over two inches.  Then I switched to simply knitting every round until the sock measured six and a half inches long all together.  Now, I'm working on the heel flap.  Fun!  I'll keep you posted.  Hope you are enjoying knitting socks, or searching for someone in your community who can get you started on this most useful, creative, and fun skill!  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Frost is coming soon

Enjoy it before they are gone!

All summer long, I spin to a view of flowers near my work space, but those flowers are cut out of the garden with care to ensure more blooms to come.  In the fall, things change!  With frost looming around the corner, and the flower bed loaded with blooms, it's time to go wild and bring them all in!  There are lovely vases all over the house now, filled with the most beautiful array of purples, pinks, and yellows.  What a great view out of the corner of my eye as I work!

Hope you enjoy a little perk from these lovely flowers, too!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A pleasant autumn scene

We are truly lucky to have the pleasures of wool!  If you look back in history, virtually no civilization has survived without sheep and goats, and the products these incredibly useful animals give us.  I love sheep because you can keep and enjoy them for years and years, yet still use the wool for warm clothing with incredibly high performance in the cold months, and up here in the north, that is very important!

This picture above is a scene from our booth a couple of years ago.  I love the autumn leaves and it's one of my favorite pictures, even though there wasn't much yarn left that day.  I love the natural colors of our sheep.  Sometimes I put natural colors together, sometimes I add in dyed colors, sometimes I use just one natural color and one dyed color.  The flower sets are popular additions to felted items, coats, purses, backpacks, hats, headbands, sweaters, and even mittens!  Wool is such a wonderful thing to design with, it is easy for me to understand why so many people are loving wool and rediscovering it.  

Today, I'm plying the Romney singles I had spun awhile back.  I also have several bobbins of singles from Iris's fleece to ply.  Iris is getting old, I hate to admit.  Yet her fleece, while not as soft as it was years ago, is still beautiful, and I think some of it might go into sales. 

Things are very quiet around here now, as the rams are in with the girls and everyone is incredibly peaceful.  It's a nice treat after the baas of spring lambs learning how to stick with the flock during daily movement.  This time of year brings lots of fat tummies from green summer grasses, bright and sparkly eyes, and lots of whirly chin action during contented cud chewing...and after the rain we had this past weekend, fuzzy, clean fleeces you can hardly resist touching!

Hope you are all enjoying this lovely autumn day!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Rained Out

Is rain a good thing, or a bad thing?  I guess it's all about perspective, I guess!  When I lived in the city, rain was a nusiance or bad thing.  It was messy.  My shoes got dirty.  My car got dirty.  It made grass grow so that somebody had the chore of cutting the grass again.

On a farm, the perspective is definitely not the same!  Here at the farm, rain is much wanted!  It cleans the fleece on the sheep after a dusty dry spell.  Soft rainwater cleanses the fleeces, making them soft.  The sheep shake off extra water, fluffing up those lovely locks, making a spinner notice each fleece's beauty.  Rain perks up the garden.  It kick starts the pastures for longer and more nutritious grazing.  It replenishes ground water.  It softens the soil.  It gives the shepherd a break from hard work outside.  There are so many benefits, one can't help but be thankful for a rainy day, especially after a long dry spell.
Part of our booth

Today, we had lots of rain.  It started gently falling yesterday.  The air is warm and a light fog is hanging above the ground.  The trees are beginning to turn their brilliant autumn colors, with the sumac turning fiery russet reds.  It's beautiful.  As I walk around the farm with Swifty happily running along, I sense oxygen in the air and I just want to breathe deeply.  The air feels so fresh.  I don't want to come inside, yet I look forward to my rainy day time in the house.

I was listening to a talk show host on national t.v. lately, joking about what NOT to tweet  It was funny in the context of the show and the topic they were on.  But right away, I began to think about the differences of how I thought of rain over the years of my life, depending on where I lived.  I have found that urban people are not that interested in talking about weather much these days.  When I go to gatherings with more urban people, I don't talk weather much, or try not to as I don't want to be boring.   However, when I attend events with a rural presence, weather is very much an important and dominant topic.  Weather is so important to our economy, food supply, and daily living.  On a farm, you notice the changes of the weather, and how the land, animals, and plants respond.  You notice little things that are actually big things...things that can mean making it or not on the farm.  Good weather gives you bounty, if you plan for it.  Bounty gives you strength to survive bad weather, if you plan for it.  

It may have been a rain out today, but I feel as refreshed as the grasses out there in the pastures...more upright, ready to grow.  I feel as though I've flung off the fatigue of weeks in a row of hard work outside in the heat and bugs.  The edge of weeks of working without rest have softened in the gray skies and temporary slower pace.  

We hope you had a nice day indoors today!  Hopefully in the weeks to come, the rain will come during the week.  Don't forget to check out our Etsy shop if you'd like to buy yarn before the next market!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Chimp

I deviate...

This is The Chimp.  He's one of our roosters.  His name is actually Blackie...which migrated to Blackie-Midnight....which then became Chimpy, or The Chimp.  Chimpy loves cracked corn or watermelon.  In fact, if you give him some, he makes chimpanzee noises!  Oohhoohhoohhaahhaahhaahh!  Hence, he is now belovedly known around here as...The Chimp.

Even handsome roosters who are talented at making chimpanzee noises have to get a bath sometimes...

I know I know....he's not a sheep! :)