January and the New Year!
This January we have been blessed with wonderfully warm weather, lots of snow, and even a bit of rain (oh joy). The warmer days have given us a lot of fog and frost, which covers all the plants in beautiful crystals. Our typical January is cold, with amazing bright sun. This month has been a bit dreary and reminds me of December.
We welcomed 2023 with dear friends, standing outside near a fire, and chatting about all the new adventures to come. At the start of the month, we released our first-ever yarn and pattern kit! I worked with Alla Hale, who wrote the "Snowbird" hat pattern after I gave her a skein of experimental yarn. The yarn is called WAM! because it is wool, alpaca, and mohair. The wool is from my flock of Cheviots, so the yarn is strong, soft, and has a nice halo when knitted up. After the initial pattern was created I got to work in the mill making more of the yarn. This was the first time I replicated a yarn I produced prior, so a big step forward for me! You can find the kits in the new Badgerface Fiber section of the shop, and if you use the code "snowbird" you will get free shipping! A picture of the hat and the sheep who grew the wool is below.
Life on the farm has been good so far this year, we have enjoyed the typical up and downs of the winter, and are happy to have time for indoor crafting. Soon the lambs will be here and life will pick up, for now, we are enjoying some creative space and rest.
A word from the Pepper, the milling dog
Typically the sheep get this section of the newsletter, but I have been promoted to "mill dog" which boy howdy, let me tell ya! It's a job! Good thing I am a Blue Heeler and "smart as a whip" per the boss lady, so I can handle the big jobs.
In this new role I am expected to arrive at the mill early in the morning with the boss lady, as she adjusts the humidity and temperature of the mill, and powers on the machines, I am expected to find any misplaced sheep berry and promptly eat it. Wouldn't want a mess now, would we?! I am also expected to jump up on anyone to comes to the mill, smash my face into theirs if they happen to bend over and ensure they smell appropriate. Once the first two jobs are completed I can take my position atop the sheepskin and watch the spinner all day. I typically take a long nap, knowing that the boss lady has prepared the fiber well and it will spin all day long. I will stay on the sheepskin while people walk around me, and if the shop vac tries to clean up I will attack it! If the boss lady leaves for the house, I will wait for her by the door. Heaven forbid they let me out and forget about me! If this happens I will bark my most annoying, high-pitched bark until someone opens the door. I am a very polite mill dog, once doors are open I will wait until you invite me in! Which ensures a good amount of cold air enters the mill.
I really enjoy this new position, but I am excited about the coming spring when I can return to my first job, herding the sheep. For now, I will continue to monitor that spinner while resting on the sheepskin. Please let the boss lady know you want to visit the mill so I can jump on you!
A Bale of Wool and the Flow of the Mill
On a crisp Sunday afternoon, my friend Marcus arrived at the farm with 8 wool bales for me. Marcus is a sheep shearer, he travels all over the midwest shearing larger farms and ranches, and selects the best fleece for me. As the winter fades into spring, (which I completely understand how absurd this sounds to people who live in an urban area. I assure you, we are fastly approaching spring) the season of shearing arrives, which is done before lambing. For Marcus, this is the start of a very busy season of shearing sheep, sometimes up to 200 plus a day! The shearing group he works with takes the wool from the shepherd who, in most cases, sees the wool as a byproduct or has no interest in marketing it or making it into yarn, and sells it to one of the large wool brokers. The brokers pull the wool out of each bale, skirt it, repack it, and class it. Classing of the wool is a grading system, the wool is graded on how fine it is (microns), its color and strength, and spinning capacity (number of bends per unit length along the fiber). Once this is done, the wool is sold on the larger market and the shepherd will receive a payment. On the day the wool arrived at my farm the price for fine wool was $.75 per lb.
If you take a look at the picture of the bales you will see writing on them, COR is Corriedale (perfect for a sock blend), R is Rambouillet which is part of the Merino family, SUF is suffolk (ummm washable socks and cable yarn). I also got a few bags of colored Rambouillet, some fine colored Columbia (drool), Dorset, and Tunis! I am very excited for the Tunis, which is an American breed and very old. I now have all the fleeces needed for my #merica Spin with Ewe class, and hopefully yarn box! The fleeces will also help me create the Yarn and Roving CSA, which I am really excited about. I will announce that at the start of next month, which is coming soon.
In the mill I feel we are hitting our stride! We have a good flow to the work now and I am really confident in the process, and proud of the yarn I am making. I have been so blessed to have so many wonderful friends and people in this fiber community, without them I would never be able to keep this flow up. People have come to the mill often to help skirt, which is the initial step before washing. During skirting, all of the poo bits and short cuts are removed, as well as areas with too much VM. Having help saves me hours each week, and is just a blessing.
I am excited to see all my hard work, and the hard work and support of my friends and community, starting to really pay off!
Farm goods, Events, and all the Fun!
We are really excited about all the things that we are able to offer this year. We have lots of meat in the freezer to offer customers, we have a batch of newly finished naturally tanned lambswool sheepskins in the shop, and our first pattern kit! I will be adding more yarn and events as the weeks go on, and Jake has been busy weaving new beautiful scarves out of the yarn I am making.
Please check out the upcoming line up for the Spin with Ewe, I have partnered with many awesome shepherds to offer some really cool roving to spin! We also moved the Fiber Friday to Sunday Funday, which is the first Sunday of the month. You can find the listing on my website in the classes and events section. Also, we hope you will join us for the first "Brew and Knit with Ewe" coming up next month!
We still have lots of meat in the freezer if you are looking for a delicious protein to add to your dinner plate. We also have one lamb available as a whole or half, which will be processed next week. Please let me know if you are interested in some lamb to fill your freezer.
As always, thank you for reading this far and I hope to see ewe soon!
Theresa, Jake, Padruig, Opal, and the whole flock.
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