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.

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!