Shetland Sheep: Rich in History, Rich in Textiles

Shetland Sheep: Rich in History, Rich in Textiles! Our farm mission is to enjoy and promote the wonderful diversity of the Shetland breed by fully utilizing to the best of our ability all they have to offer historically. We believe the best preservation and management of this breed includes it's full spectrum of history. We encourage old and new shepherds alike to join in the fun by engaging in fiber arts, especially spinning and knitting, as this breed is so intimately linked with those aspects of the arts.

Tuesday, 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!

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