Once a month I am going to tell you the story of our sheep and how we came to acquire them!
First up is our first sheep on the smallholding, Wanda. She is a Beulah Speckled Face sheep, which you can see more in later photographs.
Wanda turned up in the lane and on our yard just before I had Mati so three years ago next month. She was scared, alone bedraggled and very, very thin. We managed to coax her into our barn, but as we had sold all our hay bales that year we couldn’t keep her in there for long. Plus the barn was still a bit filthy from having been loaned out to a local farmer.
We called everyone we could think of and then a few more, trying desperately to find her owners. I sent a photo to a local lady who works for animal health and she came out to see her once we had put her out into the field.
She would come running for a bucket of feed and we managed to have a look at her ear tag numbers, which the lovely lady ran for us, to no avail as her last home recorded was on the English borders!! A heck of a long way from here! She also noted on her visit that Wanda was at least 4 years old having no teeth, and at some point recently had had scab. The scab is a notifiable disease but it had been treated, so we were warned to be watchful of her and to not let her out of the field, unless the owners came. Wanda was particularly not allowed to see other sheep until we were certain the scab was clear.
So she stayed in the field, and we put up signs as instructed. Then after 14 days she became ours…. so we got ourselves a flock number and became sheep keepers, easy we thought…..
After the 14 days were up Wanda decided she did not like the solitary life she was leading and tested every single fence, gate and hedgerow on a daily basis. She got out more times than I care to say! Remember at this point I was heavily pregnant with Mati and shouldn’t touch sheep and this continued till I had Mati in a sling for our round ups. She tried joining flocks in both of our neighbours’ fields.
We walked the lanes pretty much daily with a bucket of feed to round her up and bring her back. She happily followed me and the feed anywhere, but it became exhausting. One day we thought she had completely gone forever, as it took us walking halfway down the track that goes through the valley to the next village and part way back up before she heard me and came running for the feed. This last one was a mile and a half of walking, which doesn’t sound much, but just after having a baby, losing a scary amount of blood post birth…. still being paper white and having a toddler to wrangle along the way as well as babywearing it was enough.
We went round all the fences, gates and hedges and tried every field. Eventually we found a field she couldn’t escape from. The relief was immense! We had also in the meantime been speaking to a neighbouring farmer who kept sheep. He had a spare ewe…. and offered her to us as a friend for Wanda to help her settle into the fields and maybe stay put! Finally the friend for Wanda arrived in May 2018, but more on her in a later post!#
Wanda by May was fattening up despite her long walks…. and her fleece was growing back. The scab was completely clear. She was a very confident sheep, didn’t mind Sookie the dog (to be fair Sookie the neurotic spaniel was more afraid of Wanda!) If Will got too close and over enthusiastic then she would head butt him and put him on his bum!
These days, at probably about a minimum of 7 years old, she is still the most friendly sheep, coming running to sound of my voice. Greedy when the bucket comes out, happy to be hand fed by anyone and not fussed if she muscles in on the horse nuts too! She is now shorn every year, wormed regularly and has to have lots of hoof trims as her hooves curl in all sorts of directions! She could live to be 10-12 years old, but some live to about 20! She is certainly stubborn enough to manage that! She helps to coax some of the more nervous ones over with her enthusiasm, but also doesn’t like too many others crowding around her. She will liberally give out head butts if the mood takes her. I love her attitude!!
She is one of our bigger sheep and produces a great huge soft bouncy fleece every year! It sure makes some wonderful or should I say Wanda-full yarn!
If you fancy a bit of Wanda wool head on over to the Etsy shop, anything with Rustic in the name has Wanda fleece in!
Each week I am going to spotlight a yarn, pattern or something wooly!!
This week it is the turn of the new Hilltop DK yarn!
Just before Christmas the local Mill rang to say that the yarn from this year’s shearing was able to be collected! Sooooo Exciting!!!! So I hopped in the car and drove the twenty minutes to the mill to collect it ASAP!
This year we had two different lots spun up. I purchased the fleeces from my neighbours new yearling lamb flock, who are Balwen and Torddu, basically Welsh hill sheep. Hence the name of the blend! I was super excited to see what this blend of fleece had turned out like! It is GORGEOUS!!
Its is bouncy and super warm when knitted up. I have already knit up a hat for the farmer, so he can wear the sheep to feed the sheep and I don’t think it has left his head these past weeks with the snow and ice! I have also knitted up a pair of double knit socks for James in this yarn.
James reckons they are the warmest socks he has (and he has a number of pairs of supposedly thermal ones!!) They also look to be really hardwearing as boot socks. Something I most definitely look for when choosing yarn for socks for my husband as he is soooo hardwearing on socks. I have watched many a beautiful pair disintegrate into holes rather too rapidly for my liking. I am not talking of little darnable holes either!! A pair of size 10 socks is just over a skein of yarn, so why not grab two and do contrasting cuffs and toes??
The feel of the yarn is akin to that of the Icelandic wool and as such I don’t feel that it is suitable for neck wear for example, but as a sweater I might line the collar line, but it would do well as a good outdoor sweater for the winter months. Especially working outside in the cold. I have managed to dye some of the yarn up already and it is drinking the dye in beautifully making for really rich colours with plenty of depth.
I will be releasing the natural coloured yarn and two rich deep colourways on Friday this week!!!!! (did you see the sneak peek on Instagram??)
Into the wild via the Etsy store, so if you fancy grabbing a skein or two pop over to the shop on Friday! In the meantime there are plenty of gorgeous yarns to coo over and buy in the shop already!! Including our popular Rustic with Alpaca DK, Pure Llanwenog DK (even in a rainbow of miniskeins!! And as always our ever popular sock yarns!!
Two 100g skeins of our pure Llanwenog Aran weight yarn
A professional grade dye specially blended for you, in two colours and you can choose the base colour, and either a tonal or contrasting colour!
A full set of instructions helping you to get the effect you want from your own hand dyed yarn!
A perfect gift for a knitter or crocheted for Christmas to give them a taste of creating their own unique yarns!!
The yarn is a gorgeous pure Llanwenog yarn, from the sheep here on our holding. These sheep grow enormously bouncy fleeces and we take them to a local mill, literally a few miles up the road from us here is West Wales where they get scoured, sorted and spun up into a wonderful yarn, which is next to skin soft, and fabulous to knit with.
So many people say this to us!! And it always makes me laugh a little, yes in so very many ways we are living the dream, but I really don’t think a lot of people realise how much hard work the dream is!!
Take this week for example!!
All the rain and wind, meant slipped roof tiles and James braving the ladders to fix them, because water had started to come in through the ceiling in the boys room!!
We had a small electrical fire resulting in us losing our immersion heater…. no big deal we light the Esse for hot water mostly at this time of year! But more wood hauling…
More water around than ever it seems…. and for some strange reason multiple air locks in the water pipes of the house (seems to be a weekly occurrence requiring us to drain the system)
So we go puddle jumping to feed the animals and the pigs are happily digging themselves ponds!!
Rats!!!!! (And foxes!! We have lost 10 chickens this year to two fox attacks one where they clear chewed through the wiring of the cage!) but back to the rats, they have increased hugely this year and now as well as trapping the beasts we have to repair rat damage building the ducks a new home and repairing the floor of the chicken house, despite having “rat proof” feeders! We also have a nest in the workshop, so each time we go to get firewood we catch movement out the corner of our eyes and they are wily beasts avoiding the traps set or even bold enough to lick them clean without tripping them!!
And we have been working hard on the new build! James has painted the internals walls, the rear access ramp and front steps have been built by our wonderful builder!
And that’s before we even get started on the effects of Covid, isolations and lockdowns….
BUT would I swap this?? Would I go back to life before????
A million times no!!
Thank fully living here we have been (until this week) sheltered somewhat from Covid effects and having the land here means we have always had something to do and somewhere to go! The land allows us to get outside every day, to work, to look after our animals and to play.
We have the time and space to grow our own food and raise our own animals for eggs and meat and wool. So we know where our food comes from and how they have been raised and treated, which is important to us and waking round at this time of year both shows me how much we have done and how much more we have to do to put everything to bed for winter, then the willow harvesting can begin and I can put in more fedges, new plantings and try to soak up some of the water!!
We have some snippets of time to follow our own interests and this will hopefully increase as the years go by and things get more under control!!
Tomorrow we bring in the horses for winter and move the sheep into a more sheltered field for the winter, and maybe a bit more gardening or repairing…. today we eat a roast dinner from our own animals and our own veg and maybe I’ll steal some time to knit!!
And one day we will have field shelters, under control gardens and land, rat proof poultry pens, and a holiday let up and running!! So rather than living the dream more working towards or on the dream!! 😁
We have been busy as bees round the holding still, but since the start of lockdown in March we have not had any significant rainfall!!! 10 weeks!!
Things are tinder dry outside…. we are having to regularly water everywhere and currently just the other side of our nearest village there is a forestry and field fire that the forestry services and a helicopter have been battling since Sunday evening…
Thankfully there is some rain forecast tonight and for at least the morning tomorrow! The earth here will give a sigh of relief I expect when it starts to fall!!
In the meantime here a few snapshots of the past few weeks here! New fencing, shearing, turning out the horses, new chicks, new play stuff for the boys, elderflowers and a lot more!!
All hand dyed by me here at the smallholding and all the wool for the yarn is either locally sourced or homegrown!! From our own Sheep!!!!! So that’s gorgeous fleece from Wanda, Baabara, Wolfy and the three witches!!!!
This time the wool has been blended with a little alpaca and the natural grey that the yarn became is beautiful!!
My wonderful mother helped me out and test knit a huge batch of an early dyeing of the yarn making this gorgeous Ribbon Wrap (pattern link here)
The wrap was knitted up in the Silverleaf of the grey, Gentian or blue, Thistle or purple and the Plantain or Green colourways and is huge and so warm and snuggly!!
Other colourways on offer are the red or Bettany, yellow or Gorse, Pink is Campion and the orange is Valerian!!
The natural grey is also available to buy from Friday!!
This will all go live in the Etsy shop on Friday morning!!
There will be a discount code for the launch weekend simply put in the code YARNLAUNCH to receive 10% off all yarns in the shop over the weekend!!
In addition to the Rustic with alpaca, there is a small amount of Rustic, which is just the blend of the wool in a few of the colourways!! Great if you need a smaller amount for colourworking!!
There is also a new sock yarn colourway coming this weekend!! This colourway is called Lockdown Sunset, there are only 10 skeins available and I will be using 50% of the profits from this yarn to buy some extra cans to donate to our local food bank which is struggling with donations given the challenging times we are facing!
Can you spot Lockdown Sunset in the yarn mountain???