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.

Monday, December 8, 2014

1,100 Winters

That's how I've recently seen it described.  What do I mean?  Sheep!  My favorite breed of sheep have been keeping people clothed and warm for 1,100 winters.  Amazing.

Cozy stuff!

It's quite a trip back in time when you think about the Northern European Short Tailed sheep (NESHS).  My favorite breed, Shetlands, are just one member of that family.  Another popular NESHS is the Icelandic.  They, too, are amazing sheep!  Equally amazing is what the Icelandic people accomplished with them.  

There are many different breeds of sheep that can keep you warm, but few have the track record for human clothing quite like the NESHS have.  Most people have no idea.  Never thought about it.  Wouldn't even know to think about it.  Amazing.

One thousand, one hundred winters.  Documented.  Known.  Amazing.  Sheep endure through the ages.  From richest to poorest, sheep endure.  What a story!

Back to the current moment.  We have a few scarf balls left!  Email us if you'd like to know what colors are available, as that's always changing.  Time is running out to give the gift of 1,100 winters!  Don't delay!  Order your yarn today.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Staying Warm

 Cats are SMART!
We really ought to follow their lead...

 My favorite sweater.
Have you made a favorite sweater?
I want to make another one...
Yarn for sale!
Limited selection, but perfect for christmas lists.

Time is beginning to run out on shopping for the holidays!  With behind the scenes things happening, I have a pretty low inventory, despite new fleeces coming off the wheel, but we still have some lovely skeins perfect for the holidays.  If you had seen a yarn you liked but didn't see us at the market, just email us.  We also have a few scarf balls left...email for colors.  Actually, I don't have enough of any one fleece left for making a sweater, but will again in the future.  Hope all of you are having a good transition to winter and are making knitwear for your loved ones like mad!  lol

Friday, November 14, 2014

Barn Mittens

Mix it up!  ...do do...mix it up....do do

These barn mittens were a super fun project of mixing up the yarns.  Someone I know had a ton of spun singles of all sorts of lovely fibers, and didn't know what to do with them all.  Singles have rumored reputations that have been unfounded here at this farm.  We decided to trust our instincts and put them to the test of durability and ruggedness by plunging them into daily living on a busy sheep farm to see what would happen.  The results have been very pleasing!

First, we mixed up the colors.  There is no logic behind the design of color in these mittens.  It was literally, knit until the ball runs out kind of thing.  We took multiple colors and just threw them in where needed, with the gray as the overall base color of the mittens.  The red added a nice touch, giving them an almost festive feel.  Several different balls were employed in the making of these mittens.  All yarns were about the same gauge...roughly a worsted weight running a tad on the bulky side.  There were occasional slubs along the way, that simply added warmth and character to these artistic wearables.

The end result is a pair of mittens that has now endured one of the roughest winters ever thrown at us...countless soakings by water buckets, freezing tight to bucket handles and stall latches, smoothing feathers, lugging hay, and occasionally being snatched out of coat pockets by creatures who put EVERYTHING in their mouths ALL OF THE TIME! lol

What have we learned? 
1.  There is no such thing as 'waste yarn'.
2.  There is no such thing as yarn without a purpose
3.  Singles are strong, durable, and warm
4.  Not every knitting project has to be a carefully designed, well thought out, detailed kind of thing
5.  Free-form knitting results in fun and satisfaction

So go ahead and wing it!  See what you can do.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Pretty Sheep

Just a couple of fun pictures of pretty sheep.  These are a couple of years old already but so pretty to look back on, I couldn't resist!  (Both these fleeces and the year after's are long sold out.)
 Plain Handsome!
Plain pretty!

We are very low on inventory right now.  The variety is in good shape, with many colors to choose from, but there are only a few skeins of each left, with some colors getting perilously low.  Wheely Wooly Farm will be taking a break from the winter farm market to catch up and plan for the future, as changes are in the works!  (They will take time...)  I will only have one pelt left coming in later at the end of this year, so we are getting too low on nearly everything.  One comment back from a customer recently was about how nice pelts are in the car during the bitter cold of winter.  Turn the pelt fleece side down over the legs for toasty warmth while driving or riding along, sipping coffee and enjoying time with family.  No need to freeze or blast the heat!

Sheep are wonderful animals who have great lives on small sheep farms, and who give us the most amazing array of useful products, both as live animals, and after.  They are personable, have their own unique voices of which you can call them by name, and will be your friend if you are kind to them.  From peace and contentment, to warmth, to healthful eating, sheep give it all!

Winter projects are also lined up.  We are expanding our recordkeeping to a new format, which will be done as the flurries fly.  I'm very excited about all of the changes and am ALMOST...ALMOST! looking forward to snow this year. lol  It will be good time to work on the office side of shepherding.

I was thinking recently of how much wool I was wearing on a day when it was about 35 degrees outside (just above freezing)...realizing how much I rely on wool for daily living.  Of the so many advantages to wool, I realized that wool is unlike any 'engineered' fabric in that it is so much more flexible, with nicer, more forgiving ease when you have to bend over to pick up hoses, barn cats (ya gotta scratch those ears!), and bits of hay dropped along the way.  Wearing wool works for busy shepherds because we need to move our bodies in sheepyyoga types of ways and synthetics just can't compete!  They do not have the give, the ease, the flex that real wool has.  Wool is truly an outstanding, high quality fabric that works for everyone.

But of course, one of the best advantages wool clothing gives, are pretty sheep to look at all year long!  You knew that was coming...right?

P.S.  To Friday Harbor..welcome again!  Oak Lawn...I see you :)  J.J. Keller...well....unspoken! lol

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Variety is the spice of life!

As many of you already know, we love Shetland sheep, but from the very start of our farm, we did not want to limit ourselves to just one breed.  After spending a few years building our Shetland flock to where we most wanted it, it was time to migrate into other kinds of fun, and fun it has been!

An interesting thing about sheep...coarse wool sells.  I'm not sure WHY that is, but it is amazingly so.  We did not carry coarser wools from down breeds until recently.  Yet we noticed that farms that specialize in coarser wools are doing quite well in a down economy.  Why is that?  It was a fun puzzle to look into!

One thing I have longed to do is get into the down breeds of fiber and play around.  What fun we've had!  Here is a sock I made recently with down wool.  A barely carded sample of fluff sits next to it to give you an example of staple length.  Staples run about two and a half inches, fresh off a lamb.  A twelve month clip would be at least double that.

This yarn is a handspun 2-ply of about light worsted weight.  It is very easy to spin this fiber finely, but surprisesuprise!  The very crimpy, cushy nature of the fibers pops the yarn up into a much thicker gauge than one might expect. (Not all down breeds do this.)  Upon learning about it, I went out and bought myself some of these sheep and I've been enthralled with them ever since!  I've already wintered over with socks from this breed and WWOOOWWW!  I'm HOOKED! :)  I guess you'd have to be a yarnie to understand such fun and rewarding obsessions....

Purple Cushy Socks with pink trim, knitted on size 4 dbl pts.
Winter?  What winter? lol

In my early years with Shetlands, I kept hearing a certain group of people fiestly stating nobody WANTS coarser wools.  That always puzzled me because people specializing in breeds that produce coarser wools are doing great...have floored the sheep community in fact.  After years of selling to the public now, I have a more accurate picture of what people go for, and well...that fiesty group was just plain wrong.  So I have made it a point to raise all types of fibers, from cobwebby to coarse.  Variety truly has been the spice of life for this yarnie!!

I do believe that with these socks, you can actually trick your feet into believing winter never came.  My cushy socks were put to the test in one of the coldest winters on record here.  I do believe we had over 60 nights well below zero, and too much snow to boot!  Now Shetland socks are equally awesome, and I rely heavily on them to get my outside chores done, but these socks have the high honors of passing the test, too.

It is always fun to try new fibers and expand your yarnie experiences.  This has been a very fun adventure that is just beginning.  There is much more exploring to do and funny, there just does not seem to be enough time in the day to do it all!  Variety truly is the spice of life.
Blazing yellow/orange maple leaves brighten the autumn landscape.

Coming off the wheel...Honey, who is now all spun, and an old fleece from Starlight, which is spinning up like silk!  Very silky.  Also, lots of down wool for wheely warm winter socks.  Whirly (Wheely Wooly Whirlwind) and Lacey are now sold out.  If you are looking for Whirly-type yarn, Lerwick has two or three skeins left that are similiar.  They are 'brothers'.

Hope you are all knitting the projects of your dreams everyone!  If any of you figure out how to add hours to the day for more yarnie fun, please let us know...will you?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Geese, Fall Color, and Swirly Whirly Mittens

Beautiful fall has come to Wheely Wooly Farm, and a gorgeous one it has been so far!  The grass has been very green, the trees have turned vivid colors rich in reds, oranges, yellows and light greens, and the days have been a calm, peaceful warm.

Today, I'll throw in a picture of the geese, as our geese blog entries have been so popular.  We love our geese.  They are very hardy, cheap to feed, and they clean up under the apple trees first thing in the morning, doing a better job than any human has ever done.  The two vacuum cleaners with them (the ducks) are outstanding on a small farm.  They vacuum up so many bad bugs that I don't know how we got along without them!  Pleasant to have around, cheap to feed, and very hardy, I could only add one complaint...they like to muddy up the hens water, so keep hen water separate from the geese and ducks.


Pommander in front, Hyssop behind, and the vacuum cleaners.
This year, Hyssop gave us 42 eggs!
 After ample moisture this summer, our fall colors are outstanding!

Whirlwind's Swirly Mittens
Made from a purebred Shetland ram (black) and Claire's dyed blue trims.

Whirly (Wheely Wooly Whirlwind...a twin born during a passing tornado) has a rich black color to his fiber, with the brown barely, barely noticable.  His fiber is very soft and ideal for mittens.  His fleece has unbelievable density to it and takes me much more time to shear as the more blows I make, the more the fiber just keeps coming off one spot.  He has sired some beautiful lambs for us that are keepers, including Pansey, the cute little white ewe!  Whirly threw lots of twins himself, and his own twin, Maewyn, has been a valuable addition to our flock.  Whirlwind was named by a family member who was taking shelter in our barn during the passing storm, and asked if he could name this little lamb Whirlwind.  It was quite a day!

The mittens are a pretty basic pattern.  I spun the yarn on my wheel (the whole fleece) into two ply with a bit of a loose twist...typical of my style.  I love soft, warm yarns and I hate to throw too much twist in and tighten up the natural beauty of Shetland yarn too much.  This style makes for a loftier yarn that traps more warmth, so badly needed here in the midwest, where temps in winter can suck every ounce of happiness out of your being in a hurry, like the wind! lol  The swirly blue flowers are crocheted from Claire's yarn.  She is not a Shetland of course, but her yarn paired nicely with Whirly's.  The big swirly flower helps block the wind from that part of the hand.  Someone pointed out that the flowers make perfect nose swipes....giggle giggle.  Ok!  I guess that would work, too!  These high performing mittens were not hard to make and anyone could do it with just two skeins of Wheely Wooly Farm yarn.  Be sure to find yarn that is of light worsted to worsted weight to be warm enough around here.  I knit these mittens on size 4 double points.  If you don't know how to crochet the flowers, we have them made and ready for you in a variety of colors!  Just hand sew them on when the mittens are finished.

(Speaking of Maewyn and looser twist, I made myself a pair of mittens from Maewyn's fleece a couple of years ago.  They are my barn mittens, that take frozen metal stall latches, iced up water bucket handles, stinky creatures, and mud...lots of mud...slimy dog sticks, lambing, and all sorts of other daily barn scenarios.  Despite the looser twist, these mittens are still in perfect, functional use!  Trust me...they go through more than anyone else practically could throw at them! lol  We are confident that your mittens will last you many happy years.)

Customers who have tried on these mittens have described them as 'heavenly', 'soft!', 'cozy', and 'the snuggiest mittens I've ever experienced'.   Try some Wheely Wooly Farm yarns for yourself and make a pair for everyone in your family!  What a wonderful way to love them all, with a cozy, warm pair of mittens!

(Did you know?  Mittens are a fast knit, and patterns are everywhere.  There is plenty of time to make a pair for family members in time for the holidays if you hurry!)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Check out CUTE diaper cover!

Check out the photo of the cute diaper cover sent in by happy customer, Michelle.  Isn't it CUTE! (Right side of blog by customer testimonials)

Wheely Wooly Farm yarns are known for their softness and other wonderful natural qualities.  Come check us out this weekend at the farm market, as we gear up for knitters' favorite season and see for yourself!  We will be bringing old favorites, new yarns, and new colors to select from for scarves.  So browse your patterns, scope out the condition of your worn out hatsglovesmittenssockssweatersetc. and head on down to pick up some new yarn that will replace all the old stuff!

Don't forget your christmas list!  (For others, silly!)  Actually, keep yourself in mind for a sweet christmas gift of yarn for a new pair of mittens or socks or a new hat for yourself!  Knitters so often forget to knit new stuff for themselves, so this holiday season, don't forget your own personal list!  And don't forget to get something for the other knitters and crocheters in your life.  Wheely Wooly Farm yarns have become favorite packages in their lightness under the tree, yet are so special and talked about upon opening...and just like in our booth every weekend...every one's gotta squeeze the yarn!  What a nice gift to give.

Pictures of Whirly's swirly flower mittens coming next, as promised, but we just wanted to point out the world's cutest diaper cover first.

Happy planning for knitting season everyone and we'll see you Saturday!


Monday, September 29, 2014

More Winnings!

For those of you who know who is winning all this stuff, here is the update!

Advanced Showmanship Reserve Champion!

Saturday was yet another fun day for the shepherds on Wheely Wooly Farm!  There was no market that day due to Appleton's splendid Oktoberfest, which is a huge event separate from the weekly market activities.  It's a great day to deviate from the world of sheep, into the fascinating and incredibly diverse world of poultry.  This year, the focus was on moving up in the hardest category of showmanship.  Advanced showmanship is for the smartest, wisest, and brightest!  lol  Well, it IS the category of those who have earned top trophies at least three times in other qualifying events, just to get INTO the competition.  Our competitor succeeded at that right out of the gate and rapidly advanced.  

However, Advanced showmanship has been the most fun!  The competition includes competitors from the entire state.  These competitors know their stuff, and work very hard at winning.  This is no piece of cake!  So this year, it is with many smiles and lots of sweat that this trophy now graces the pile of other trophies in the farmhouse on Wheely Wooly Farm!

This time, it's a golden chicken.  It's been a long wait for a golden chicken!!  Funny, the things that inspire...

Back to the sheep...you know I can't stay off the topic of sheep long lol...as fall progresses, changes need to take place in the flock.  This is the time of year the rams really shine.  They've spent the last many, many months as obscure, good boys hangin' out, chewing cud, and listening to the birds while laying in the shade, but things are a changin' based on the whacking sounds coming from their pen!  As you get closer, you hear their grunts and the sound of horns clicking, as they tussle to the vibes of hormones.  I always wonder what is must be like to be such sweet creatures that are totally hijacked by those raging, wild hormones every fall!  

As the cool air moves in, the rams seem to wake up and realize they have a very important job to do.  Don't try to stop them! lol  This year, Lerwick is getting the same ewes he got last year, as we really liked the results of those pairings.  Wooly Bear has a batch of ewes that give a variety of color in fleeces that we love.  Some of the white ewes are going to a new, non-Shetland ram whom we also love!  Fall is an exciting time, as you put months of planning and dreaming into progress!  They will all go together this year around Oct. 1st.  We planned it late this year for a variety of very, very, very exciting, and scary reasons!!!!!!!!!!!!  But I cannot share about that at this time.

It's also a sad time as we have to say goodbye to some we love.  Some changes have been made to make those days easier, and that was really nice,  Plus, hay comes in, the barn is cleaned out and ready, and it's time to repair fences and stash them away for the next grazing season.  Speaking of grazing, our ewes are STILL out grazing!  The grass is in great shape and we'll be able to go awhile yet.  It's been a good year that way.  The flock is well trained now (meaning the lambs we're keeping) in moving away from our sheep dog, moving through pens and grazing spaces, so things are very peaceful around here and everyone is content with the exception of the hijacked rams.  I'm always amazed at how they turn  into poor fellows, at the whims of hormones and whacks, knocking themselves senseless and clicking horns like ceaseless chatter!  Nature is an amazing thing!  And how handsome they are, in their glory!  

As a shepherd, ya gotta love the rams.  If you don't, it would be so much harder!  The rams have a natural beauty all their own of might, power and brilliance...and I love to admire them....on the OTHER side of the fence! lol

Up next, either Whirly's awesome natural colored mittens with bright blue swirly flowers or the purple yarn I just dyed for socks.  Coming off the wheel, more Claire and more Iris, then more Shetland black. Have a great day everyone! 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Sock Season's Comin'! Are ya Ready?

The weather has turned cool and crisp here on Wheely Wooly Farm!  The pastures are deep green, the grazing is good, and the sheep are very, very happy.  There is a peacefulness about them out in the late summer sunlight, all heads down, so content and quiet.  The air has been pretty fresh, and the goldfinches are tweeting all day lately.

When the evenings come, it's time already to pour some delicious apple cider and slip on some warm, cozy sheepy socks!  Oh what a simple pleasure in life!  What??!??  You don't have any?  Well it's time to learn and make yourself some!  Oh?  You can knit almost anything?  Time to head on down to the Wheely Wooly Farm booth and pick up some of the finest yarns on the planet and make yourself some luxury!

 A pair I made last year.  Um...they are on my feet this very moment! 
In this photo, I had just turned the heel and picked up the stitches.

Wheely Wooly Farm has lots of wonderful yarns to choose from that would make perfect socks for a cozy feeling that cannot be bought in any store!  We have a range of natural Shetland colors as well as dyed colors from some of our white sheep just waiting for you.  Markets the rest of the season will be hit and miss for us, so if you want to be sure to know if we'll be there, email us towards the end of the week and we can let you know.

So why be cold and have frozen feet this winter when you can luxuriate in the natural warmth of Wheely Wooly Farm yarns?Your feet work hard for you all day long!  Don't leave them out in the cold!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Too much rain!

Well we're not flooded out, but definitely soggy.  Rain has been coming too frequently and the grass has too much water content.

With Labor Day comes no break for the barn spiders.  They sure are busy this time of year, and are spinning far more than I have time for!  lol  I guess they have more hands than I do.

This little buddy's for sale!  He's a Wooly Bear Grandson.

We've been having a ball working the sheep with Swifty lately.  For those of you new to our blog, Swifty is our awesome little Border Collie sheep dog.  He has a ton of natural talent and instinct, which frankly, has saved me time and time again!!  I've learned I can hold back and just let him go where he needs to go, cause he already sees and understands where he needs to position himself next.  His wait command even works despite his great excitement at getting to work sheep!  Before we head out the door, we tell him "Sheep?"  and he is R-E-A-D-Y!  Afterwards, he loves a refreshing shower from the hose.

Swifty...a super good boy!

Hope all of you had a great weekend here at the end of summer!  We here at the farm are looking forward to local apple cider and relief from the humidity.  What does a shepherd do when it's humid?  Why use it as an excuse to spin of course! lol

P.S.  We WILL be at the market Saturday morning unless it is rainy again, to be of service to our non-festival attending customers.  Wool see you there!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Violet, Lerwick's lamb

There is one person here on this farm who wanted to try something new in sheep.  This shepherd went shopping for their dream sheep with money saved over two years, and ultimately picked out and brought home some really nice ewes to breed.  Then, the search for a ram began, but one the shepherd really liked was not found in time, so the choice was made to use my purebred Shetland ram, Lerwick on these ewes for the first season.  Wow!  We are so glad we did that!

Meet Violet, one of Lerwick's lambs this year.
Isn't she lovely?
Thanks Lerwick!!

Violet is a keeper!  She is going to have a nice future here on this farm.  Her growth has been fantastic, with great bone density and glistening health.  She has excellent parasite resistance so far, and is a very calm sheep.  She has been raised like a Shetland, purely on grass.  And her fleece has her owner very, very, very excited.  Violet will be sheared this fall, and I have a feeling her fleece will be on the wheel as soon as it's dry!

Her twin is a ram and also has a wonderful fleece suitable for things their owner wants to do, which is dye the fibers and add glitz.  A pack of assorted glitz colors has already been purchased just for this, with money made selling stuff to friends.

I think this shepherd is having a ball with their sheep.  Thanks to Lerwick, things are going well!  A non-Shetland ram has already been selected for Violet this fall, as she has grown so nicely.
It will be really fun to see what happens next!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

B-U-S-Y!

Busy, busy, busy!  Has it really been a month since I've last blogged?  I can hardly believe it!

The local birds planted this lovely sunflower for us last summer.
It measured sixteen inches across!

This summer has been a shepherd's dream weather wise!  We've had the best summer of weather I think I've ever experienced in my lifetime.  Everything is green, the grazing is great, the sheep are cool, and all is well.  Lerwick's lambs are growing beyond my wildest dreams and we'll be keeping one ram lamb over for breeding in the fall.   His name is Scrambler and I'm sorry I haven't had time to take pictures so you can see him!  (The pictures here today are recycled from prior years due to shortage of time this year.)  He's all white, with a longer staple to his lovely fleece.  (How easy I get to sheep talk!!)  Anyway, the weather has been so pleasant that I can hardly believe it.  When storms come through, they give us nice lightning for good growth, and nice rain, without dumping five inches in one dump, like we've had in the past.  There have been no high winds and very little tornado activity, so we are very grateful to say the least!  Temps have been in the fifties at night and seventies to low eighties most days with comfortable summer humidity...which for us is just a little humidity to feel like summer, but not enough to slow a person down.  As many places in our nation in the last few years, we've had so much bad weather, so this reprieve is such a relief.

 Watch for our signs at the market!

So far, market wise, we are having one of our best summers.  I apologize that I didn't have enough blue to meet your needs, but more will be coming in the week ahead.  I'm also thinking of making more hats for sale, as so many of you would like one.   I do have to charge for my labor in knitting them, which makes them more expensive, but if you want high performing, high quality winter wear that has awesome style, our hats are very reasonably priced!  I'll also have a mirror available in our booth now so you don't have to take pictures of yourselves anymore to see how you look! lol  By the way, when a knitter makes something, they can only hope it will look good on the intended person who'll be wearing the garment, when you're knitting 'blind'.  Yet, when you put our hats on, I'm stunned!  Shetland makes people look good!  I'll definitely be making more.

We also came perilously close to selling out of needles last week, so this week, we had new inventory!  Come and check out our colors as we're confident you'll find something you'll like!  I'm hoping that by next week, we'll have more of the larger size needles we offer, too.  I have only one pair left in natural color, but the new ones will be a variety of colors in your favorite picks (as well as more naturals).

Speaking of market, it was a real pleasure and honor to meet Bob, son of a well known antique spinning wheel restorer yesterday!  Every spinner has a soft heart for any and every wheel.  How lucky we were in hearing of your restoration adventures with antique wheels needing to be loved and brought back to life, and more of the museum in Pennsylvania!  It was a pleasure meeting you Bob, and we wish you well in your restoration endeavors in the future!  For those of you who haven't had the opportunity to meet Bob, you can learn more about him here:  spinningwheelrestoration.com

Which brings me to EAA, er...Experimental Aircraft Association.  For those of you who don't know about EAA, it's a fabulous 'air extravaganza' right here in our airy back yard!  It used to draw just shy of one million visitors to our area, but I've learned that this year, the numbers are down to 500,000.  Wow.  That's a big drop, so this year has been quieter than usual  We were disappointed in the warbirds not making their loops over our pastures this year each day during the airshow, like they have in all the years we've lived here.  In fact, I grew up with those goofy old planes, and I guess I missed them!  One new thing that happened to us this year, that has never happened before was a pilot flying extremely low over our pastures...so low in fact, the plane spooked our sheep and they panicked, running all over the place!  Thankfully, they stayed in their fence, and the also panicked shepherd was ready for a second comeback, which thankfully didn't happen.  We've never had a pilot fly so low before.  I saw his face, he was so low!  In fact, it has been an odd year with planes.  A few weeks ago, we noticed a little ultralight buzzing around above our pastures.  He was pretty high for an ultralight, and the pilot was suspended from a little bag, with his hands on the triangle thing for steering.  We all though he seemed so vulnerable up there.  Then, one day, the police were blocking traffic in front of our farm, asking people to turn around and find an alternate route.  Turns out, that ultralight was up flying that evening, and crashed in a field just a short distance from our farm.  We were very sad to hear the pilot died that beautiful evening!  That marks the second air fatality in our neighborhood in two years.

One thing that didn't change was the buzzing skywriters flipping out in their planes just to the east of our peaceful, grazing sheep.  One afternoon, I went out and stood among the ewes and lambs and just watched the pilot flip himself over and over, up and down, all over the place while drawing perfect loops in the sky.  The sheep were unimpressed, just chewing their cud or tearing off grass but I was having fun watching the plane, as I do every year.  But soon, the skies went quiet again...ususually so for EAA.   By week's end, we were beginning to wonder how the whole week went for EAA, as it was not typical out here.  It was quiet.

As I'm writing this, a nice little summer thunderstorm is giving us good rain and cool breezes, with distant thunder.  I will have to say, it has not been a summer of all work, but the shepherdess and family have been able to take nice time away from the farm as well.  It's important to relax and have a little down time, which for me usually spells more great ideas! lol

Well, hope all of you are having a great summer!  If you are ever in our area, be sure to check out our huge market Saturday mornings and experience the joys small farms bring to communities yourselves!  We're confident you won't be disappointed!

 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Callin' all Yarnies!


It's time for some knittin' in the shade!
 
The market is more than Foodie Heaven, it's also a great place for locovore Yarnies!  Don't forget to check out the Wheely Wooly Farm booth (stall 58) for all your knitting, crocheting, and weaving projects.  Here you'll find skeins of Claire's Watermelon, Posie's Wacky Peachy Pink, Abner's Country Green Apple, and more!  And don't forget about our chocolatey browns, creamy beiges, and licorice-y blacks -- all the natural colors we're famous for.  The steamy summertime weather is on it's way so check out your patterns, slip on your sandals, and head on down for some Yarnie fun!

Wool see you there!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

An Exciting Time!

It's an exciting time to be a shepherd!  We here at Wheely Wooly Farm are bursting with ideas and thoughts about things ahead.  The sheep are basically in the dark about all the fun, unfortunately!  They are enjoying this lovely June we've been having...cool, kinda rainy, with lovely periods of fragrant sunshine and lots and lots and lots of rich, green grasses.

In the evenings, when I walk down to their pasture to call them in, my eyes feast on the sight of them out there.  All I have to do is say "Sheep!Sheep!" or "SHEEPIEEEES!" and up spring their heads and off they run to their night pen, usually baaing, to tell all the others it's time to run in.  Once in the night pen, I'll quietly close the gate, then stand amidst them to see that they are all doing well.  With full bellies, most look like they are chewing wads of bubblegum in their cheeks as they chew their cud.  Many of them will walk quietly up to me, and gently push their way as close to me as they can for a chin scratch.  I love those times!  I often spend awhile out there with them, just enjoying who each one is, scratching backs, and giving out sweet nothings.

Our first summer farm market was yesterday and it was indeed a LOVELY day for such an event!  Clouds did hang around, and some other smaller area markets did get a little rain, but we stayed dry.  The air was fragrant with huge bouquets of peonies and other spring flowers, as faceless market goers strolled by behind the pink glories, laughing, and sipping all kinds of coffees that I don't even know the names of.  Music was playing down the street, and children being pulled by in wagons were enjoying the delicious fresh strawberries from their bright red fingers.  The first market is special...a reunion of a community after a long and cold winter.  It was a great day to be there amongst the tens of thousands who felt the same!

The week ahead looks busy with things I need and want to do before the next market.  Everyone loves our summery yarn colors such as Claire's Watermelon or Summer Squash and Posie's Wacky Peachy Pink.  Maewyn's and Lacey's heathering moorit yarns also seem to draw summer knitters.  Good thing I have more of Claire and Posie ready to dye for more, and Maewyn's fleece on deck!  But all things fiber begin first with....more fence rotations! lol  The wheel and the dyepot will have to wait 'til the mosquitos come out at dusk tonight...

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Welcome Back Theresa!

We hope you and your friends have enjoyed revisiting our old posts from 2011!  Welcome back!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sheepy Kind of Weather!

The sheep couldn't be happier!  This month has been so lovely, cool, and pleasant that the sheep are just plain gleeful!  They are sleeping good, eating good, and the lambs have been having a ball in the evenings, just before dark.  The air is so cool and fragrant, yet warm enough for us shepherds to wear short sleeves.  Time is flying so mark your calendars everyone!  Our first market is coming up already on June 21st!



Monday, June 2, 2014

Sheep are more than sweet storybook images!

So many of us know of sheep by the images we see in story books and children's literature, or perhaps by comical characters created to sell products.  Based on those images, it's hard to take sheep seriously, or to imagine sheep as a major contributor to our nation's economy!  But it's true.  Sheep contribute a hefty impact to our economy, and give us so much more than just sweet images!

In studying the statistics produced by the American Sheep Industry Association, one quickly sees how much our nation relies on sheep!  Did you know that nearly 200 million dollars of wool was sold in 2010?  That's A LOT of wool!!  Did you know that also in 2010, Americans ate more than 53 millions pounds of imported sheep milk cheeses?  WOW!  That's not even counting the sheep milk cheeses produced domestically.  Did you know that Americans gobbled up nearly 300 million dollars of retail lamb in 2010?  WOW!  That's A LOT of meat!  Did you know that in 2012, nearly 30 million pounds of wool was clipped from sheep?  WOW!  That's a LOT more wool than my flock produces!!

When we attend the farmer's market, many people are struck by that fact we are a sheep farm, as though an antiquity brought back to life.  That's not surprising considering our state, Wisconsin, is no where near the top of the list for states with the most sheep.  Which is the state with the most sheep by the way?  According to the ASIA, that would be Texas.  What else besides humans like to eat lamb?  Wolves, coyotes, eagles, fox, vultures, ravens, bears, lions, and your neighbor's dog.

Why do American's eat sheep's milk cheeses?  Why because it's highly nutritious, and makes outstanding cheeses, yogurts and positively scrumptious butter!  It's a great source of Vitamins A, B, E, as well as phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and calcium.  In fact, it's more plentiful in those important nutrients than cow's milk is.  And some of the longest living humans in the world come from regions where sheep's milk was consumed from infancy on.

Ever use hand lotion?  Check the label.  You might find lanolin there!  Shampoo?  Yes, many shampoos, conditioners and other body care products use lanolin for it's moisturizing and softening abilities.

There are many other things we rely on sheep for:  surgical sutures, gelatin (used in ice creams, wine, beer, and vinegar, as well as medicine capsules and photography), glue (used in plywood, paper, matches, toys, picture frames, billiard balls, bookbinding and more!), bone (used for crochet needles, dice, chess pieces, buttons, electrical insulators, feed and fertilizers, and blood (used in cancer research, hair conditioners, fertilizers, animal feeds and buttons!).  Even shoes are made with sheep products (hides, leather, pelts)!  Got a graduate in your family this June?  Check out their diploma cover!  It might have been manufactured with sheep products.  Will you be burning candles to celebrate on their grad cake?  How 'bout those candles?  Yes, some candles have sheep products in them.  Soap to clean up before the big party?  Yep, you guessed it.  Lanolin.  Off to vacation?  Head out the the tennis court and hit a few balls off the racket...yep...the racket strings are sometimes made from sheep products.  Even some violin strings are made from sheep!  Going to be traveling this summer?  Think of all the lubricants that keep you on the go!  Yep.  They may also be made with sheep products!  This is not an all inclusive list...just one to give you the idea of how much Americans (and the world) rely on sheep products.  Sheep flocks out grazing with a shepherd is not a historical image, but one that lives with us today, but perhaps forgotten.

Turns out, sheep are far more useful and important to our health, well-being, and economy than a sweet little lambie image in a story book gives us!  So the next time you pop a pill, light a candle, eat ice cream, button a shirt, wash your hair, pull on shoes, or place your graduate's picture in a lovely frame, think about where those products might have come from.  Did it come from sheep?  lol  I don't know, but it's amazing to think about!

Gosh.  We need sheep!  I guess I've given you all something sheepy to talk about at all your grad parties now! lol

Have a great day everyone!


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Did you know?

Everyone has heard of the black sheep.  You know, the one shepherds supposedly always wanted to get rid of?  The one who 'contaminated' the white wool?  Well, there is some of that thinking around the world, but there is also another view not often shared...that of the treasured black sheep!

A few weeks ago, back when the weather was still more like winter than spring, I discovered an old book that had a section on old timers, sheep, and spinning.  It was part of a series known as Foxfire.  I found the old stories pleasantly interesting as I read about how people in days past here in America tended their sheep.  There are so many different ways to "do" sheep, that it made for interesting reading.  Amongst the old time stories, was a story about the value of black sheep.  Rather than being the cast out sheep or the sheep nobody liked, the black sheep 'disappeared' so as not to be stolen or taken because the black wool was treasured.  It meant less work in that the black wool didn't need the extra step to be dyed, and the black was a color most men preferred to wear.  The black wool never faded or bled into other colors.  It showed less dirt, and it was coveted because it was not real common!
 Some of our black sheep running out to grazing with their mothers last spring.
Not every sheep in this picture is a Shetland.

People who have Shetland sheep are lucky people!  We have the rich black color preserved in our breed, and that black color is loved and appreciated! It's fun to save our pretty white wools from other breeds for dyes yet having the rich blacks of the Shetlands.  Our flock has a diverse range of blacks.  Our deepest blacks are really a very difficult to tell dark brown.  Our lightest blacks are a tweedy blend of color of various shades of gray or brown.  Shetland colors are so much fun!  I wonder what the old timers in America would have thought of our Shetland sheep today? 
 An example of 'Shetland black', a very dark brown that appears all black in most natural light.

It's fun to read the old timey stories, and see how as a nation, we have grown.  The need and desire for wool is still strong today, as people treasure their wool socks, mittens, hats, scarves, and sweaters!  Wool is renewable, all natural, and can be easily raised by people who don't own massive chemical plants or oil refineries.  And, I might add, wool comes off of some pretty good eating, too!  Sorry....

Anyhoo, guess what?  It's almost summer farm market season already!  We are working hard to be ready, but I must admit, we are scrambling to be ready!  And it doesn't help when some days, rather than getting ready, I'm chasing sheep!  The thoughts of coffee smells, fresh flowers, and scrumptious egg rolls wafting on the air brings alluring memories for the excitement of sunny mornings at market!  We hope you all plan to come, even if you are from out of Wisconsin!  Our market is huge, and draws thousands of people each week.  Every week, I'm talking to people from other states, so if you are ever near Wisconsin, come check us out!
I'll leave you with the lovely image of our flowering spring tree!
Hope to see you this summer!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Breaking news...sheep on grass! lol

Well I haven't had much time to take pictures or blog much!  The good news is the sheep are now grazing!  Yippee!!  We are all happy about that!

The bad news is we've had a little trouble with lambs stuck in the fence.  One little moorit ram lamb has been tangled twice already.  Yesterday, he was in a boggy spot when he became entangled somehow.  We've been checking on them every little while and it's a good thing we do!  Everyone is fine, and today he is grazing just like all the others, except for the mud on his lovely wool!

Easing the sheep on grass is a slow process.  Many people have no idea how time consuming a flock can be in the spring with lambing, winter stress, and the return to summer grazing.  First, the shepherd must ease the sheep back on grass...giving their rumens time to build up healthy bacteria to digest the grass.  If you don't take care to give the sheep time to ease on, they can bloat up, and if the bloat is bad enough, they can die.

Second, the lambs must be trained how to move with the flock without worry or stress, and how to find their mothers again if they get mixed up.  Even though the lambs are not nursing as much now, they still seek out the comfort and guidance of their mothers, and the mothers are still seeking the lambs and trying to keep them within sight.  They don't like being separated too far.

Third, the lambs need to be trained on the fence.  We had them all trained, and could confidently trust they'd be fine all day, until juicy grass was on the other side!  Now the lambs are getting a review of what happens if they stick their heads through the fence to reach that good spot, even though there are LOTS of juicy grass patches INSIDE the fence! Sigh...

And last, I hate to say it but...even some of the ewes need a tad of a reminder not to touch the fence!  Sigh...

After several days of running them out and in, their bellies are plenty full of the best nutrition in the world, everyone has napped in the sun and warmed winter's chill out of their bones, and now the sillies set in!!  It is great wisdom that a shepherd not sit on the sofa all winter and get out of shape! for the sheep will put your fitness to the test when the sillies set in!  Sigh...

TG for Border Collies!!!!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Showing and Mittens in May!

I wore my wool socks and mittens out to do my chores this morning, and my winter coat!  Crazy!

The sheep are still not out on grass as it's been too cold for the grass to grow properly.  I've been walking my pastures and am very pleased to see how our improvements have materialized!  The sheep will be getting good eating when the warmth finally comes!

The farm is a very busy place, with lots happening, lots going on, but the sheep are just basically stuck and waiting it out at this point.  We are body clipping other animals, hoof trimming, and caring for other babies and loving every second of it.  Decisions are being made as to what shows to attend this year, and who to take.  We will not be showing any sheep, as the person showing doesn't want to do that, especially Shetlands.  Our very historic wool has sold extremely well over the years and people seem to love it just like we do, so we will be doing our sixth market season this summer!  We've had huge success first with showing sheep, then other species, but had a LOT more fun showing in other venues, and we've brought home many top trophies, including Grand and Reserve Champion, and top poultry showman three years in a row, and Champion of Champions in another species, as well as top herdsman trophies!  So there are many decisions to make, paperwork to fill out, and travel plans to pull together.  At this point, it's all speculation right now as it's early in the season.  We've now been outstanding in the shows in THREE species of animals!!!!  That is really something to be proud of, and shows excellence is at work here at Wheely Wooly Farm!  We'll keep trying in the season ahead!  In fact, we are going to switch family lines and see if we can do it again!  F-U-N!

The reason I'm sharing about showing is that I think it's a great idea to get off the farm and present your daily work before others.  It helps you set goals, and see where you are doing well and where you could do better.  It helps you focus on what you like, and gives you a better sense of direction for improvement.  I love doing that kind of thing.

So in this time of the lambs nearly weaning themselves off their mothers, and the grass nearly ready for grazing, our thoughts are turning to the show season, goal setting, tossing around ideas, and maybe making plans.  And maybe...just maybe...the warm air will find us as we work on this, and bring sweet summer back to our farm!



Thursday, May 1, 2014

Shetlandy Weather

The sheep are very happy...that is when they can be outside!  We've had lots of rain in all forms, from mist to light showers to heavy downpours to fog to quiet times to high winds and driving rain then back again to drizzle or simply just a quiet break.  I send the sheep out and they gleefully run out, then play after eating up some hay.  Afternoons are for snoozing.  What a life! lol  Then evenings are back to lamb races and playfulness, with everyone up and just enjoying being out.

During some of the heavier rains, I've run them in earlier simply because our land is very, very boggy right now!  Our soils are quite slippery when wet, and water has been pooling on the surface.  Not good!  So in they come, until the saturated ground can drain a bit.

The turnout pasture is a compromise space.  The sheep cannot go out on grazing just yet, as our grasses are still too short, still recovering from being buried under nearly five foot tall snow drifts for five months.  We are hoping that by sometime this weekend, we can put up fence into the grasses to get the sheep started.  Boy, that will be a very happy day for them!  And me.  It's always a joy to see them back to what sheep do best...graze.

In the meantime, it's been a good week for spinning, of which I've done a lot of.  It's also great for listening to the rain on the barn roof and observing the lambs at play!

There is always something to do on a sheep farm!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Every animal is a soul.

When you work with animals every day, you really see how each one is a soul.  They have their own feelings, personalities, and quirks.  Charlotte is a pest, in a sweet, loving sort of way.  Iris likes being back a bit, but will come in for chin scratches at times.  Mona knows she's the boss, but does the job with respectful dignity.  It's a big and important job to keep the flock in order, and she doesn't take her responsibility with slack.   Misty is a fun babysitter, leaping and playing with the lambs even though she towers over them like a semi over a moped.  Wilbur is just there...always steady, always keeping the calm.  Primrose is sweet as can be, but comes with a bit of edge sometimes.  Honey, well, she is just plum sweet.  In fact, I still think of her as a lamb.

When animals leave the farm, you realize there is a void where their personalities once were.  Yesterday was another day of animals leaving the farm, and I miss them already!  They went to a great home, where their personalities and sweetness will hopefully blossom more lives, but it still leaves me with sadness.  Whether it's culling, or starting a new flock, I always hope to utilize a soul as much as possible here, to the best they can be before I let them go.  It's part of loving being a shepherd.  Sometimes, as in the case of yesterday, I let some go for the potential of the future.

Being a shepherdess to a flock of sheep is an enriching experience, filled with adventure, creativity, and challenges.  It's one of the best jobs in the world and I don't take it for granted on any day!

On a less mushy note...well...maybe not less mushy...it's pouring rain here today.  The wind is howling, rattling windows, shaking the barn walls, and making the east doors so heavy, they are dangerous to open.  It takes a whole body to control the closing of the east barn door today, so that it doesn't slam and break something.  The weather will be like this most of the week to come, so it will be good for spinning!  The fields won't be dry for weeks yet and cleaning out the deep bedding in the barn will just have to wait, for the ground is just too wet for hauling it away.  The temps. are in the upper 40's but with the wind and rain, I'm still wearing my winter coat and Maewyn's wooly mittens.  I know spring is out there SOMEWHERE! lol  If you've seen it, will you send some to the north please?  Thanks!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Looking for a break soon!

With the winter behind us now, lambing done awhile back with lambs already weaning themselves off their mothers, and shearing wrapping up soon, we here at Wheely Wooly Farm are looking forward to rest.  The barn has been spruced up, the grass is beginning to green up and the fencing is ready and waiting.  It will be no big deal to get the sheep started on grass soon.  After that, we will finally have some down time to relax and enjoy!

In the meantime, we are still getting periods of heavy rain mixed in with drier days.  When it rains, I like working on little projects a bit here and there.  Check this out!

Pretty Granny Squares from Claire and Posie's wool!

We have lots of tidbits of yarn stached away here, that we've been saving for work just such as this.  It is super fun, and very easy.  Once you get the pattern down, it's easily memorized and away you go.  The color combinations are fun to experiment with and before you know it, you have a pile of squares to sew together for a project.  The yarn tails are not sewn in here, obviously.  I didn't think you'd mind seeing them fresh off the crochet hook.  We are currently out of many of these colors but Posie's 2014 fleece is currently on the wheel, and Claire's is drying...waiting to be spun.  My spinning is slow this time of year until I get all the fleeces in, hooves trimmed, fencing up, and so on.  Then, it's back to the joys of spinning away fleece by fleece!  Can't wait!

Hope you are all enjoying the freshness of spring!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Busy, busy, busy!!


A pretty wool hot pad knit during gentle spring rains.

Things have been very, very busy around here.  There is much to do.  The grass is beginning to green up, which surely seems very late for most of you across our vast country.  Up here where we live, spring is late and this year is quite late!  We are just now hearing the spring peepers in the moist fields and woods.

When we are not out in the barn working, we have little moments in the house to work on smaller, quicker knitting projects.  Above is the latest simple, yet rewarding little project.  It measures about nine inches across and was made in less than a day.  It's nice and thick for insulating hot dishes on the table.  It looks purply here in the picture but in reality, it's a lovely country apple red with deeper maroons speckled with a touch of russet and yellow/green.  The true color doesn't show at all in this picture.

Shearing has stopped due to heavy rains last week.  I put the sheep out until one day it rained so hard, I was afraid the little lambs would wash away...no kidding!  We had gotten over four inches of rain last weekend in about two days, so the sheep stayed in a day or two, but are back out again.  In fact, despite more rain, the pasture has dried out enough to expand their spring space a bit.  The lambs have even more space to race around in the mornings and evenings when they pack together and spring up and down the pasture as fast as they can go.

As we tend the livestock, meadow larks can be heard in the distance, and the air is heavy with humidity.  The warmth is sooooooo refreshing!!!!!!!!  Our little wren has returned.  One year, he didn't and boy, did we ever miss him!  I hope he'll stay.  Most years, he doesn't find a mate and his nest, all prepared and ready, lays empty.

Here's a parting bit of fun:


Couldn't resist sharing! lol

Have a great day everyone!  And thank you to our latest group for inviting us to share about the sheep farming life!  We had a lot of fun and were impressed by the interest and curiosity of everyone!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The lambs are growing!


Wait a minute!  That's not your mother!

Flocks are social groups.  The sheep have relationships to each other, and in my flock, the ewes seem to care for and love other ewes' lambs.  This ewe is Minty.  She has nothing to do with Shetland, and technically, I don't own her.  She is a young ewe, who had her own lamb...a handsome fellow who is all white.  So who is this little fellow?

Minty is not only a great mother to her own lamb, who is growing immensly, but she mothers the other ewe's lambs as well.  The lambs know they can play on her safely and she won't mind.  Notice that she is so relaxed, she's chewing her cud while the little guy plays?  This little guy is one of Lerwick's lambs, and he is difinitely not that little anymore! lol

Spring has been quite calm this year so far up until today.  Lightning hit the farmhouse this afternoon, but no problems resulted from it.  There was much heavy rain and as I looked out the window, I began to worry my little lambs would be washed away, so I ran out and put them back in the barn.  Everyone got a good bath, and happily took advantage of the cloudy, rainy afternoon to take extra naps.  Later, the lambs were discussing the day's events in the creep feeder, all gathered around, leaping, and seemingly having a great little lamb party.

Guess I won't be shearing for a couple of days!  The fleeces left to be sheared will now be super soft and clean from the rain water.  Love that!

  

Friday, March 21, 2014

Lambing is done!

Quick update:  we are all done with lambing now!  The ewes and their lambs are all mixed together, with the lambs having a blast racing around, leaping, and playing together.  It's a super fun time to be on a sheep farm!

Our weather has moderated thankfully, but that brings lots of glop, muck, and mud.  But the robins, red-winged blackbirds and sandhill cranes are here and we are so delighted, the mud is a distant afterthought.

Meanwhile, the barn needs lots of tending after that brutal winter.  Light bulbs need replacing, door handles broke, bedding froze rock hard in a deep layer, and sheep fencing needs to be put back together.  The work is rewarding, and quite pleasant when leaping lambs are racing around and playing!

We are also working on bringing in this year's fleeces, but that is a work in progress with all the barn repairs needed.  We are very excited about some of the fleeces!  There will be whites, and many natural colors for a wonderful array of yarns to come.

Meanwhile, wait until you see what we've been working on in the house, after dark!

Have a great weekend everyone, and hope you have some nice spring weather to enjoy!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

I Juusssttt Couldn't....


...shear Maewyn just yet!

It's been a cold winter.  Very cold.  Unusually cold.  So cold, we've busted numerous records.

Just last night, we had sub-zero temperatures.  Cold is stressful.  It's warming up nicely today, but as you can see, taking a fleece early would be selfish.  This little lamb is very grateful for his mother's warmth!  In prior years, I'd take the fleeces starting in February already.  This year, we were having negative twenty below temps through the night in  February!  What a shock that would be to the ewe to have her lush fleece taken from her in a time of need!

As the days warm up and the nights moderate, the ewes are happy to make the trip to the beauty salon!  Shetlands are very wooly sheep, and just like us shrugging off the layers and feeling greater mobility, the sheep also feel a sense of spring and happiness at shrugging off the thick, wooly, insulating layers that cover them.  

We know that caring for our livestock well is important to today's customer, as it's on the minds of so many.  Small family farms are capable of delivering the kind of care that huge producers just can't give.  We've come to learn that even jacketed fleeces will still have tidbits of straw, hay, or grasses in them, not to mention other problems.  We've decided that jacketing just jacks up the price of the wool (as the cost of coats can be expensive overall with various sizes needed, and washing), and deprives the moms of what they need to help their lambs get off to a great start.  Sheep are seasonal breeders.  They breed best when they lamb in cold temperatures.  They need their fleeces here in the north until the grip of winter breaks.  So far, I've only sheared three ewes, all intentionally not bred this year.  I left half an inch of wool on them, as I plan on shearing them again in the fall.  The rest will be sheared as the days warm up and I can't wait!!

Our fleeces are not perfectly VM clean, but we know now that our customers understand and don't mind.  People LOVE sheep! and want the best for them!  We do, too!  I think the little lamb in the photo above surely thanks the wisdom of customers who buy our fleeces and yarns!

P.S.  Maewyn's fleece mostly sold out very rapidly last season.  I saved her britch wool for mittens for myself and I've been heavily reliant on their soft, cozy warmth during this most challenging winter.  Her fleece won't be available this year until markets in June.  If you'd like to enjoy Maewyn's luxury,  stop by in those first couple of markets if you want to avoid being disappointed! 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

It's warm! It's warm!

Boy, have we had a treat here on Wheely Wooly Farm!  We had our first 50 degree day in four months!  All of us had to relearn how to dress when going outside.  How liberating it is to step out the door in normal shoes, and bendable arms!!

The sudden spring warmth sends us into a rush of good things to do.  The barn always needs good spring cleaning, especially this year as everything froze so tight.  There is hauling, repairing, replacing, and scrubbing to do.  All of the lambs make the work a challenge as they are so cute boinging around in my peripherial vision that I can't help but take a few minutes to watch and enjoy them!  What a treat they are!

We are still attending the market and will for the next two Saturdays unless a lambing crisis pops up.  We have some bright colors left for your knitting pleasure, and a little of all the natural colors except dove gray, which is very low right now.  We are also sold out of all but one pair of needles.  Some scarves have been marked down, so if you've been longing for one you've seen, now is a good time to pick it up for a very reasonable price!!

Shearing here on the farm has begun and I must say, even though winter was rough, the fleeces are coming in very fine and soft!  It's amazing to me how that works.  Despite the cold, our staple length overall is not as long as it's been in the past and I think that is because the sheep had to work so hard to maintain body warmth, that they didn't put the growth in the fibers.  Warmer, snowier winters definitely bring us our longest staple lengths, but that is not this year.  This is a rewarding time of year and we are enjoying our work every day in bringing in fleeces, raising the lambs, and spring cleaning around the farm.  There is always plenty to do!

And as I write this, a hen is pecking around out the window!  What a lovely sight!!

Hope all of  you are also getting to enjoy a reprieve from the cold!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sub-Zero Baby Blitz!

Oops!  Whose that??

Cold!  It's cold!  Frigid...icy....frosty....nippy...stinging....stiff...broke...stuck...fall...numb...COLD!  

Monday, February 24, 2014

The report from here...

Cold.  Icy.  Cold.  Windy.  Cold.  Frost everywhere.  Cold.

Very thankful for brightly colored wool socks, thick wooly mittens, warm wooly scarves and hats, and warm wooly sweaters that help make it all tolerable, 'cause....it's COLD!  So COLD!

It's cold.

Friday, February 21, 2014

What?! More Polar Air?! No Way!

Sigh...more polar air is coming.  Next week we are forecast to have several nights nearly 20 degrees below zero in a row.  Really?????  Sigh....

From what I've heard, this winter will smash the records for worst winter ever.  We've done pretty good so far, but it's not easy.  I have a heavy heart.  I'm stalling out my usual Feb. barn activities and schedule so that the flock is the least stressed as possible.

Yesterday, we had pouring rain, thunder, and lightning.  Crazy!  Today, as the colder air moves in, we are getting strong gusts of wind up to 50 mph.

Spring O Spring...where are you?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Nice Market, Nice Snow, Nice Warm Up

Saturday was a really nice day at the market!  The roads were clean, the sun was out, and even though it was nearly zero degrees, people were ready to come out and shop.  The dyed yarns were very popular as knitters everywhere are looking for bright colors to cheer up the winter blahs.  Claire and Posie's yarns were the hot items of the morning!

Yesterday, we had several inches of powdery snow.  This was a very polite little snowstorm with just a little wind, and it was fairly fast moving through our area.  It's beautiful out there today...considering it's winter.

Today, we are having a beautiful warm up FOR ONCE! lol  It will get above freezing for the first time in weeks.  The weather data is overwhelming...more snow than usual, more sub-zero days than usual, more this and that.  It's been quite a winter.

Unless we have a disasterous spring, the change in seasons this year will be very sweet!

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Pack!

Oh goody!  We have a new pack!  Their howls scared the daylights out of me last night.  Now I know why everyone in the barn has been so anxious lately!

It just goes against human instinct to stand around when several somethings are howling so close by.....big, loud howls...not cute, high-pitched yips and yowls.

All doors are secure, all gaps are covered, all fences are tight.  Unfortunately, this pack seems bold.  Instead of running away, they ran closer.

Don't like it.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Sheepy Valentines!

 Sheep have no access to candy so....they send love!
 Flowers and fiber...they just go together don't they?
And who would want candy when you can have warm, sweetheart wooly socks!

We here at Wheely Wooly Farm wish you all a happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What a relief!


Delightful January Blossoms! (in the farmhouse, of course)

The worst of the deep cold is passing and what a relief that is!  Yesterday was a busy day.  We had lows nearly 20 degrees below zero for again a couple of days.  After so many stretches of cold like that, even animals that can handle it become stressed.  We were on careful alert for anyone showing signs that the cold was becoming too much for them.  We ended up having to tend three animals to get them warmed up and ok again. Frequent checks were the order of the day!!  It is such a relief that today is warming up, with warmer air due to arrive by tomorrow.  

The sheep are doing fine, but are definitely getting bored with this weather!  Nothing would please them more than a nice day outside.  The geese have had no trouble with the cold.  They simply sit down on their feet and wait for a warm up.  They happily live in the coldest part of the barn but go outside on nice days...a kind of day we haven't had in......three months! lol

This winter has given us several nights of fear.  When it gets so cold, we worry that someone will be lost.  You go into winter with the best stock you can, as healthy as you can get them, but the rest is up to fate.  You shelter them, tend them, protect them, but there is only so much you can do.  The cold we've had this winter is unlike anything I've ever experienced before, and I did not think it was possible we could have a winter like this, of ceaseless cold.  I'm very grateful we have Shetland sheep!  Their fuzzy, wooly bodies protect them in extraordinary ways which give them the ability to get through the cold as long as there is little or no wind.  Bringing them in to the barn works great!

Today the sun is shining brightly and the air is beginning to warm.  The flock is getting more playful.  We all surely hope we've seen the last of the deep cold!  Relief feels so good!  Perhaps we can go back to enjoying a normal winter day, with bright light and spring tweets in the trees from our resident wild birds!  

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Knitting Samples Poster

Boy, am I behind!  Here is the knitting samples poster I promised I'd put up awhile ago.  The black backing is sort of a foam board, very sturdy and light weight (and relatively cheap).  The samples are different knit stitches from garter, stockinette, k2p2 ribbing, Cat's Paw Lace (very simple lace knitting using yarn overs and decreasing), and a sample of increasing, and one of decreasing.  They are all very simple and perfect for beginners.  Underneath the swatch is the name of the stitch or what the swatch is, and the pattern (in the case of Cat's Paw lace).  It was a great project that earned not only a blue ribbon, but Best In Show!

An excellent teaching tool to learn some new techniques!

I think the poster created some bad feelings among some people as they didn't understand that someone so young could possibly DO such COMPLICATED work.  I'm not sure what has happened to good learning attitudes here in America, but so many people think the easiest things are too challenging for kids.  You have to work over and past those people.  If you look back in history, children were knitting much more challenging things than this, and doing so regularly and easily.  Somehow in our modern world, asking youth to learn things seems to have been lost.  This poster became a local symbol that youth CAN and DO learn at an amazing rate, and they can do more than you think they can!  It took three days for the Best In Show ribbon to be placed on the poster, as hard feelings seemed to be swirling around among some adults.  I don't think some of those adults ever 'healed' from their feelings.  The youth who made these swatches had no problem making them.  The hard part came in writing up the patterns perfectly! lol  But that, too, was excellent work in diligence, neatness, and proofreading...and was far from overwhelming.  The other hard part was centering the title.  Oops.  The rest of the yarn on this skein was made into scarves for dolls and sold at the market.  The whole project was a great experience and fun, too!

Knitting is an amazing thing.  There is so much you can do with it!  It connects modern youth to the generations of the past.  It prepares youth for more complicated thinking.  It encourages flexing problem-solving skills.  Knitting brings people together!  Knitting is very satisfying.  It gives the knitter a sense of accomplishment.  It gives you new clothes to wear.  It's a creative endeavor that will amuse for a lifetime, and so much more!  What's NOT to love about knitting?  

We hope you enjoy seeing this poster, and we encourage anyone out there to try it with your youth!  Pick something simple, or more challenging based on the skills of your knitter and see what comes of it!  This poster idea will also work with crochet, and would be equally fun, I'm sure!  

By the way, adults can make their own "Swatch Libraries" by simply starting with basic stitches, then moving up to more things.  Once you master garter stitch, stockinette, ribbing, increasing, and decreasing, then you can begin to explore other ways of casting on, increasing, decreasing, and yarn overs.  The combinations will keep you busy for a very long time.  In times past, these swatches were sewn together into long scarves to hang on walls or store in drawers as a sort of stitch dictionary to keep for future use.  How cool!  If you crochet, make swatches of single crochet, half double crochet, double crochet, triple crochet, and so on.  Fun!  It's a great study in gauge and how the different stitches work together. 

Or in crochet, make a poster of different ways to make granny squares, using color or technique!  What a great study of such a cool thing!  The fun is endless. 

We hope we've inspired you to try some swatch making for your own fun, and creating stitch dictionaries for yourself!  If you have any other great ideas, leave a comment and share!

Happy Swatching everyone!


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

How 'bout some color on a cold Jan. day?

 Daylilies in our garden

It's very cold here.  I believe it's colder here than anywhere else in the nation...perhaps even including Alaska!  The weather has been crazy and we are having many nights around twenty degrees below zero or much more.  Such cold is not normal around here for so many nights, so we are quite busy keeping up and keeping everyone as comfortable as possible.  The animals want to lay down to keep warm, which is good, but you have to stimulate them to get up and run around every little while.  Stock tanks have to be watched carefully every few hours because the tank heaters evaporate the water quickly.  If the water gets too low, the heaters will burn out.  Everyone needs higher fat feed to help maintain their weight and have energy during days of shivering.  Shivering is good.  Pens have been constricted so that stocking density is tighter.  This helps everyone sleep closer together and feed off each other's body heat.  Works really well.  Then when the sun comes out and the wind dies down, outside they go!  Last years ewe lambs get VERY leapy...gleeful to have some fun in the sun.  You'd think they would have outgrown lamb races by now, but on a day of release like that, the lambs are off once again.  It's so fun to watch!  That means, I'm outside for hours and hours in weather like this.  TG for WOOL!!!!!

What other problems does the cold create?  Doors don't work properly, metal snaps in two like twigs, bedding freezes tight which creates uneven surfaces, latches freeze tight to your mittens the instant you touch them, buckets crack and break just sitting there, mirrors crack in two, and salt for walkways doesn't work.

Fortunately, the sun is shining nearly every day and that has been a very good thing.  So despite the cold, the days are a bit of a reprieve.  Indoors, it doesn't take much to make the ol' farmhouse feel cozy!  All it takes is a little baking, or spinning, or planting of seeds for next summer's flowers and one can fool oneself into thinking winter is far away for just a bit.  I finished another pair of wool socks...again a Romney yarn I spun.  I spun it in it's natural whitish color, then dyed the yarn afterwards a beautiful bright mango color.  Fun on a cold winter day!!  With all the snow and ice, color is virtually gone from the natural landscape.  How nice it is to put such bright colors on my feet on these cold winter days!  
Some other pretty dyed colors on Wheely Wooly Farm yarns...perfect for whitewashed January days!

We surely hope all of you out there are also keeping warm and that your flocks (if you have one) are safe!