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.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Snowball is, well, snowballing!

 Polar Bear is growing up....FAST!

Isn't he cute!  Polar Bear is Posie's little lamb, and the youngest in our flock, yet he is the fastest growing of all.  His rate of gain has been impressive and we are pleased!  Remember when I posted about him back when he was born?  I kept wanting to call him Snowball for some reason, even though we named him Polar Bear.  Then one night, as we were discussing the lambs, it dawned on one of us that little Snowball would be a good name for him because he is BEGINNING to snowball.  Just imagine a great big snowball sailing towards you....oh boy!  I hope he stays the nice little guy he is now and doesn't become a big, nasty snowball!  Notice his little horns?  And his fleece is really, really nice!  The way it's looking now, we will use him for the East Friesian flock, but it's too early to tell yet.  So far, we're pleased!

The market on Saturday was really, really nice, too!  It was pleasantly cloudy and overcast, with a coolness to the air.  I think some thought is wasn't summer enough, and it wasn't, but for a shepherdess who is definitely blazing hot sun and drought weary (I guess it is forever ingrained in my mind), it was very pleasant!  And I could be away from the farm knowing my sheep were getting some good grazing.  Despite the coolness, there was a LOT of great food to be found!  I noticed the onions, cucumbers, flowers, beans, and such were definitely selling out.  And for us, being in between pasta and a European style baker....well things were great!  You don't want to miss it!

Today is again a beautiful day with fresh air, singing birds, and lots of green grass.  In fact, it's so lovely out there, I really shouldn't be in here blogging!  So I'll keep it shorter for today.
A hatchery hen caught galloping across the lawn an hour ago.

Coming up next, pictures of Wheely Wooly Peat, who will be for sale as soon as he's weaned!  He's very handsome...a moorit fellow with white on his right cheek, and somebody's gonna be lucky to get him!  

Happy Summer Evening everyone!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Is it Wednesday Already?

Where has this week gone?  Things have been very busy here on the farm.  It's been hot and humid, but in a pleasant sort of way...I know that sounds strange, but summer is here and it's been nice.

We rotated everyone earlier in the week to their new, fresh grazing ground.  It takes time to move the fences and the grasses are lush, so putting up fence takes longer.  Speaking of wonderful to have the grass grow this year!!!  I don't think I'll ever take grass growth for granted ever again!  We've had a lot of rain and the grass is deep.  The sheep are VERY happy, and the lambs are growing great!

It's looking like market weather next Saturday is going to be very nice, so mark your calendars to be there!  The strawberries are ripe, the lettuces are very tasty, and early onions and carrots are ready for you.  Grab your grocery list, your favorite market bag, and head on over Saturday morning.  Don't forget to plan your next knitting project!  We have lots of lovely yarns freshly spun and ready for just the right special project you might have in mind.  Remember to come early as when a fleece sells out, it's gone until next year!

I'll leave you with a picture of some yarns that will be for sale Saturday morning.  These three skeins sell as a package, with the blue making a beautiful complement to the black.  If you'd like to buy them, but cannot make it to market, you can purchase them from our Etsy Shop (find the link to the right here on our farm blog).  Etsy is so convenient!  You can shop anytime, use your credit card, and the yarns will be shipped right to your doorstep!

Beautiful Shetland yarns with Claire's (East Friesian) Blue Ice

Coming up next (if I can get a picture!) Bear is really starting to.....well......SNOWBALL! lol  (Oh, he's sooooo cute...wait 'til you see!)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Rainout Today!

We are sad to say that it's pouring with some lightning this morning, so we won't be at the market today.  We'll miss being there!!  I've put a few new things up in our Etsy shop for you to browse so check us out there.

Have a good day everyone and stay dry!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

New Etsy Shop Listings!

 Claire's Watermelon Yarn with one skein Country Green.  Fun!

We've begun putting more listings up in our Etsy Shop just for you!  These fun colors are being sold in a package to ensure you have enough for your project.  These bright colors are so fun to work with and will bring happiness to any dreary winter day.  Check out our shop by clicking on the right side of our blog to see what else we've stocked our store with!  We will also have these yarn packages available next Saturday at the farm market.  This huge market is one you won't want to miss!  For details, click on the market sun.
Even a busy shepherdess has to stop and smell the irises. :)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Great Start to Market Season

One of our new canopy signs.

Whew!  Our first market day of the summer is now past and a good one it was!  The day started out at dawn with gentle rain showers, but they soon stopped in time for everything to be dry and fresh at set up time.  It turns out we had everything with us that we needed, and everything was ready.  As the morning progressed, the crowd grew, the music was playing, and those fun massive bouquets began strolling past our booth, leaving behind a lingering smell of summer.  Waifs of delicious fresh brewed coffee tickled our noses and soon the sheep questions were underway!  It's always fun to share about the flock and what it's like to live with sheep every day.  

Each year, we see trends in colors or designs come and go but I think this year a new consciousness is emerging that excites us a great deal!  It seems that more than anything, people are becoming more conscientious about responsibility to our environment in how we choose products we use.  This is wonderful for us, as we have worked hard to bring a green product to market that makes for top quality clothing!  Sheep are green, and have been for millennia.

For example, sheep's cloven hooves take care of the soil, aerating roots.  They graze grasses which benefits the land, birds, and wildlife in numerous ways.  They eat unwanted weeds, especially those growing around rocks where other livestock dare not go.  Sheep are easy on the land, allowing it to flourish and regenerate.  They disperse their manure themselves, making fossil fuels unnecessary to move the manure around by machine.  Our fences from day one have been solar powered, requiring no coal burning electricity to operate.  Sheep are easy to rotate, which prevents parasites and disease from building up in the soil, and prevents compaction.  They drink little water and require very little, if any, fossil fuel generated grains to survive.  Speaking of fossil fuels, our sheep produce clothing RIGHT HERE!  You don't have to worry that the world's oceans are being further polluted through unnecessary shipping to enjoy knitting! The list goes on and on...

But the biggest advantage for us, besides the fact they are entertaining, cute, and pleasant to have around, is that they bring us a regenerative, renewable source of outstanding quality fiber in which to make warm, high performance clothing with.  In my pre-wool days, I had no idea how cold I was all the time, but I DO remember being sick all the time!  Thankfully, those days are long gone.  On top of all that, playing around with colors, gauges, and knit/crochet combinations is endlessly entertaining and fun, with very, very, very satisfying results!  What's not to love about sheep?  They are GREEN! :)

Well, we'll come back to this topic again sometime soon.  In the meantime, don't forget that you can shop our etsy store if you'd like Wheely Wooly yarn and cannot make it to market.  I will be putting more things up for sale there in the week ahead, so watch for that if you are interested.  Wheely Wooly Farm yarns are a great way to express your interests in living green!  If you are looking to live with a greener conscience, come discover sheep.  Then, make a statement, wear wool!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Do I hear snorkeling?

lol...can you hear it?

This picture was taken awhile back of the little boys out grazing.  The weather has been so nice, and the grass is growing fast, even on the lawn.  It's such a treat after the brown blaze of last summer's drought!

We will be offering some sheep for sale sometime this summer, so watch for their profiles and ads.  There aren't very many, so if you are looking to add to your flock, keep an eye out for our posts about sheep for sale here on our blog.  We will also put up signs at the market, too, when we are ready.

I'm working on some knitting, dyeing, and other things in preparation for Saturday's market.  It's coming up quick!  Looks like the weather will be good, too, so be sure to write out your grocery list, look at your patterns, and come to market to stock up!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Halter training rams and fleeces

Yes, I halter train ALL rams here.  In fact, I think it's insane NOT to.  Rams are unpredictable, social torpedos who NEED to clunk around.  If they are afraid of you, watch out!  If they understand you, and you can communicate with them, they are a lot safer, and much more pleasant to have around!!  I've never understood how people move or handle sheep they are terrified of?  Or don't have trained to be handled?  Or don't ever touch unless they have the animal flipped upside down?  How do you get to know/see/feel/and assess a sheep if you never touch it, or get near it????????

I don't know the answers to those questions.  I handle all my sheep frequently.  I not only move them around, but I attend their births, trim their hooves, shear them, give them shots when needed, deworm them if needed, feed them treats, pick things out of their fleeces, do body condition scoring on them,  rotate them on pasture, and kiss their lambs.  (I knowIknow I shouldn't do that, but who can resist? :)  I also process their fleeces into yarn, then knit it up as fast as I can! :)  Then, I delight in wearing what I've made, knowing that my sheep have a great life, a great purpose, and that they've made a great contribution, just as they have for thousands of years.  It's why sheep and humanity have never been separated.  Humans love sheep, always have.  I digress.

My Shetland rams all have horns. I halter train them all.  It takes time, and they learn it at different times/rates, but they all learn it.  I've been very thankful for being able to throw a halter on the leader of a group and lead them all in during emergencies.  The horns are no big deal with a halter.  You just have to make your loop bigger.  And believe me, emergencies DO come up...things you could never think of, but happen.

I mean, which would you rather do?...DRAG or chase, or scare a ram into a new pen during breeding season, hoping he won't turn on you and whack you? (and hoping you won't get wounded in the drag struggle...he as terrified of you as you are of him)...or walk straight up to him while he's chewin' cud, put the halter on him, have him follow you out the gate like a dog just out of obedience school, walk along side you on a loose lead to the girls pen, stand patiently while you remove the halter at the gate, then you open the gate and he goes right on in?  I'll take the second reality any day!

There are many pointers, tips, and demos I could do for people who are interested in halter training rams or any sheep.  In fact, I have been helping people for years learn how to better manage their sheep with halters for a variety of purposes.  That's one of the reasons I designed Shetland Showcase, because after we attended a sheep show, we were SWAMPED with questions on how we had halter trained our sheep.  People were desperate for the answers, and we knew we could help.

If you'd like to learn more about halter training rams, give us an email by clicking on our email to the right here on the blog.  We'd be happy to answer any questions you might have.
Fleeces bagged up after shearing in the 2013 season, skirted, weighed, and waiting for the next step.

I hope we were able to answer some questions tonight about halter training Shetland rams.  If not, don't be shy!  Email us!  In the meantime, our first market is fast approaching, and we are still getting ready.  More yarn has been dyed!  I'll have lots of colors to choose from that you won't want to miss!  We are in a NEW LOCATION this year, just across from Gabriel Furniture.  Watch for the purple tent as we joyfully celebrate our fifth year at this wonderful market!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Yarny Good Time!


I got down the yarn dyeing pot the other day and had lots of fun.  I had dozens of skeins of two-ply yarns ready and waiting for just the right time to dye up.  There are several colors and all turned out so pretty!  All of the skeins are handspun by me here on our farm, with all fibers coming from our own flock of friendly  sheep.

 These are just some of the skeins freshly dyed for the upcoming markets.
Speaking of the farm market, NEXT Saturday is our first day already!
YIKES!  We'll be ready!
That's good just stay right there so I can get everything out the door and loaded into the truck.
It'll work out great if you aren't trying to climb into the boxes or dash out the door.....
Wait a're not on WOOL!
Huh!  Kitties can sleep on something other than wool? lol
Who knew?

Monday, June 3, 2013

My Favorite Poodles

Every year after shearing the rams, I can't help but think of how they go from big, fierce fellows to, well, something more akin to poodles!
 My big boys, suddenly not so big!  
I think they are reduced to a third after shearing...
 A Wheely Wooly Farm fleece, hand sheared by me, spring 2013.
I love the variegation of color here!  Makes a handspinner drool.
Handspinning retains that special color in the yarn.
I guess they got plenty to eat over winter!  It's always nice when you find good body condition under all that fleece.  Here, they are in our handy dandy holding pen just outside the barn, while I work on them.

 Ahh!  That late spring air feels so good after my shearing!

'scuse me!  WHO is already wearing his dinner on his head??? lol
I hate feeding alfalfa, but that's all we could get in last year's drought.
I reallyreallyreallyreally hope we can get ALL grass this year!!!!!

The fleeces from these fellas came in real nice this year, and are skirted, bagged, and ready for washing.  I always have to remove the fibers from around their horn area, as they felt that up pretty good with all that horn action (i.e. clunkin' around), so the top of the head fleece and around the neck has been removed and thrown out.  Some of my ewes are still not showing much rise yet, which would make them much harder to shear.  Sweetie is always the last to go...she's out of AI stock (Island Skeld).  The rams always go earlier, and therefore always seem to get done first.  I think I'm down to the final dozen or so sheep left to shear.

Happy Monday everyone!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

We're off to market soon!

Watch for the purple tent!

It's a positively lovely morning on this first day of June, 2013!  The air is fresh, everything is green, and all is well.  The sheep have good grazing, the lambs have been growing at an astounding rate (the most we've ever seen in any of our lamb crops in any other year), and the fiber is on the wheel!  And happily, little Polar Bear is thriving and Posie has turned out to be an excellent, attentive mum!  I am still shearing some of the sheep who's rise is just right about now, but many are done.  We will have many natural colors to choose from, and all the skeins will be labeled with your favorite sheep's name on them, as usual!  I just plied over a dozen skeins of Claire's wool, and we will be expanding our bright dyed colors this year as they are so pretty with our natural colors and are also popular!  

Our first market date is coming up in mid June so watch for more details!  We don't know exactly where our booth will be located yet, but we'll let you know when we find out.  I still have signs to paint and some other things to get ready, so I'm sure the time will pass quickly between now and then!  

In the meantime, browse over your patterns to find nice projects for summer knitting.  I love summer knitting.  It's so nice to sit under the shade of a tree, or on the beach and just quietly work on a project while hearing the sounds of nature around me.  It's such a nice way to have a little quiet time in such a hectic and noisy world!  And it's so satisfying to make your own garments to wear!  I LOVE my Wooly Bear sweater!  I've worn it on many occasions this spring, and I always get compliments on it.  It's so cozy and warm and perfect for taking the chill off my arms.  I love wearing it when we are traveling around, too, as it's so much more comfortable than a stiff coat.  You, too, can enjoy the comfortable benefits of Shetland wool and the satisfaction of knitting by stopping by our booth and seeing what there is for your own wardrobe!

We hope you have enjoyed our farm blog as we've shared our delights and challenges over the last winter!  If you won't be in the area for our farm market, but are interested in our yarns and supporting our family farm, you can shop in our etsy shop by clicking on the link on the right side of our blog.  Watch for new items to be coming soon there, too!

Happy knitting everyone, and we look forward to seeing all of you again soon!