Secret Knitting

Snow has returned, so it seems like the perfect day for the big reveal of the secret knitting.  Beginning with two skeins of our Bertha yarn (that had so many imperfections that they were not salable) here are the perfect lambing accessories.  Our love and admiration of Bertha is knit in to each and every stitch, along with the love and admiration I have for my Sister Shepherdess as I knit a set for her as a surprise gift.

The hand-warmers are the Lambing Mitts from the Tolt Yarn and Wool blog.  The garter band can be worn up to keep our fingers warm during the late night pasture checks, then rolled down when we need to attend to those newborn lambs.  Blue stripes on my sister’s and green stripes on mine so we will be able to sort them out when we lay them down in the barn.

Bertha’s yarn and scraps of our single-flock yarn make these extra special barn-life accessories.

The headband is mash-up of several different patterns knit in a Bertha yarn-dyeing experiment that was inspired by lichen growing on an Adirondack chair.  I think there will be more of this to come after lambing, as both shepherdesses are delighted with the result.  I added a little bit of hand embroidery to match the stripes on our hand-warmers.

An ode to Bertha and a surprise for my Sister Shepherdess – perfect for a snowy, April day.

Sunday Muse

From “Hope and Contraditions in Appalachia” by Travis Stimeling, West Virginia native and associate professor of music history at West Virginia University.  In the quote below he is referring to J. D. Vance, author of ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ and Elizabeth Catte author of ‘What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia’.

“My Appalachia is an Appalachia of contradictions. But unlike Vance’s desolate and hopeless Appalachia, my Appalachia is, like Catte’s, a hopeful one. It’s one in which people still check in on their neighbors and gather together to share a few songs, regardless of their faith, politics, race, or class. It’s one in which I, as a straight white man, can stand proudly in solidarity with my queer neighbors to demand equal treatment under the law and learn more about how to support other people’s life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness through compassionate listening and deliberate action. It’s one where cutting-edge scientific research is conducted every day and where future technologies and traditional folkways both provide guidance toward a bright tomorrow.”

Please take a minute to read “Hope and Contraditions in Appalachia” in its entirety.  Our wish is that it will give you, as it did us, a renewed sense of hope in the future of West Virginia and the Appalachian region.  Elizabeth Catte is challenging our people to take control of the narrative about Appalachia, to counter negativity with our own stories.  Travis Stimeling has inspired us to join in and share more about our home among the hills.   #MyAppalachia

Sheeps and Peeps Farm Kelpie Shawl

One of the best-loved things that we’ve knit in our Sheeps and Peeps Farm Yarn is our Kelpie Shawl – pattern by Jared Flood.  It was knit with size 7 needles.  The main color is our beautiful Posiedon yarn and the contrasting stripes have been knit with our farm yarn – naturally-dyed with Beet leaves, Goldenrod, Hibiscus and Jewelweed.

It is a favorite at farm conferences and is just like wearing a big, warm sheepy hug!

Sunday Muse

“The calf lay shivering while Ophelia nuzzled and prodded.  Before long – twenty minutes, at most – he was trying to stand up.  I watched as he’d make his way to kneeling, then waver and crash into straw.  Ophelia was patient while he found his balance, his long legs awkward beneath him.  Finally he found a teat.  Not an hour old and he stood strong on his brand new legs, poking his snout into her.  I peered in from behind and saw the seal of his tongue against her skin: a perfect suction cup.  It took her the better part of the day to lick him clean.  By afternoon, snow was dripping from the barn roof and he lay in the straw in his fluffy black coat, fresh as if he’d just come from beneath a blow dryer.”  ~ from “Only Half” by Katie Powers, Taproot Magazine, Issue 14::Wild

In a moment of complete serendipity we stumbled on this much loved article where Katie describes her experience of first time calving and milking.  So timely as we await the spring time arrival of Tilly’s and her daughter, Tansy’s calves.  Spring and the miracle of new birth… so much to look forward to.

If you, also, happen to stumble upon this wonderful article, we were those ‘dairy kids’ she describes getting on the school bus in the second paragraph 🙂

Montague and the Girls

Every year the shepherdesses work on the breeding ewe worksheet separately without discussing our breeding philosophy for the year, then compare our results.  This year, as usual, we were very close in our decisions, only differing in one choice.

Along with the new girls, Sadie and Sarah (pictured above), there are several families included in Montague’s group – Serenity and her daughters Harmony and Thalia (one of the three Graces); Maibh (may+v) and her daughters Maire (my+ra) and Matilda; Dolly and her daughters Dahlia, Daisy and Darah (house of the shepherd).  Although some are crosses, all were chosen for their strong Border Leicester bloodlines and to build upon their physical strengths and fleece quality.   We are very excited about breeding season and, of course, we’re already dreaming about next year’s lambs.

Dahlia ~ daughter of Dolly, grand-daughter of Rosey

Frey and His Ladies

Despite his busy schedule (twenty-three ladies in his breeding group), Frey found some time to enjoy the sunshine – as we all were on Sunday after a hectic Saturday finishing breeding preparations and moving sheep.

Frey is in with a beautiful, diverse group of longwool ladies with lovely wool locks – Romney crosses, Coopworth crosses, Border Leicester crosses.  With their bloodlines and his Finn – Teeswater lines, we’re hoping that next year’s lambs will be healthy and strong and produce another beautiful crop of wool.

It is such a joy researching each ewe’s line while making breeding group decisions… traveling back through the history of the flock… remembering special sheep with such fondness.  We’re sometimes surprised by little things that have slipped our minds in the busyness of day to day farm chores.  There are exclamations of “Oh my, Dahlia and Daisy are Dolly’s daughters and Rosey’s grand-daughters!”  Soft, curly fleeces are examined and admired.  Truly, truly each season on the farm has so many little rewards.

Jill ~ Romney cross, now the matriarch of the flock at 10 years old

Frey or Freyr ~ the ruler of peace and fertility, rain and sunshine