The Benefits of Wool – and it’s many uses

So wool has many uses other than as clothing!!!

Clothing as previously discussed in the first blog post of this title

Carpets

Blankets

Bedding, both blankets and duvets or Baavets (as one company call themselves!!)

Mulch or weed suppressant mats to put round plants. There is also the added benefit of moisture conservation!

Fertiliser. It takes a while to break down, but when you toss wool into the compost pile, it adds beneficial nutrients, including calcium and sodium. It’s about 9% nitrogen, 1% phosphate, and 2% potash, too

Pet wares, horse blankets, saddle cloths, pet beds…

Upholstery the stuffing for chairs etc and the fabrics to cover them

Insulation for homes. It has an excellent R value and also provides an acoustic buffer

Insulation in outer wear coats etc

Uniforms for firefighters as some types like merino have the right properties

Furniture and soft furnishings like cushions

Packing boxes for thermal packaging as an alternative to polystyrene

Bricks. Mixed with seaweed and added to bricks to improve durability and environmental impacts

Lanolin products, salves, balms for all sorts including one of the best for breast feeding mummas!! But lanolin can also be used in cosmetics, lubricants and adhesive tapes!

Cleaning products, especially for soaking up the spills due to its absorbency!

Pianos, woollen felt covers the hammers inside the piano!! It also makes acoustic insulation for machinery!!

The Benefits of Wool – Wearing

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the benefits of wearing and using wool! so I thought it might be a good idea to get some of these thoughts out into a blog post!

Benefits of Wool:

Natural, renewable fibre – Wool comes from sheep and is a renewable source of material! Using wool in clothing is great for the environment and far better than using the synthetic alternatives!!

Wool is a natural protein fibre found on the backs of the millions of sheep you see over the world. It is considered one of the most effective forms of all-weather protection, and man-made fibres with the same properties have yet to be produced.

It’s biodegradable
That’s right, it naturally decomposes into the soil releasing valuable nutrients back into the earth. Compared to synthetic materials, it’s a very quick decomposer too!

It’s renewable
For as long as there’s grass to graze, sheep will grow producing a woolly fleece, a renewable fibre source. And woolgrowers actively work to protect the natural environment, enhancing the sustainability of the wool industry to enable future generations to benefit from this warm natural material.

It’s breathable
As wool fibres are packed together, tiny pockets of air form allowing the material to absorb and release moisture. This could be moisture in the atmosphere, or perspiration from the wearer. This makes wool an extremely breathable material and helps you avoid any clamminess when you head inside from the colder outdoors.

It reacts to your body
Wool is also able to react to any changes in your body temperature. It’s an active fibre that helps you to stay warm when it’s cold and cools you when it’s warm. This makes it the perfect material all throughout the year, helping you minimise your wardrobe and maximise the sustainability of your closet!

Wool keeps you dry. Wool fibres wick moisture away from your skin and can absorb around 30% of their weight before you feel wet. This moisture is then released from the fabric through evaporation.

It’s static resistant
As wool can absorb moisture from your body or the surrounding air, it rarely creates static electricity like synthetic fibres do, keeping you cosy and comfortable and avoiding any awkward clinging.

It’s easy to clean
As its primary function is to protect the body of a sheep to the surrounding environment, wool fibres have a natural protective outer layer. This helps to prevent any marks or stains from being absorbed, so the dirt sits of the surface and is easily removed.

It’s anti-wrinkle
Each wool fibre is structured much like a coiled string, allowing it to return to its natural shape after being bent, so woollen items tend not to crease or wrinkle. This makes them the perfect addition to you everyday bag or great items to pack when you’re going on holiday.

It’s odour-resistant
As wool can absorb the moisture from your skin, and therefore the sweat when you perspire, wool can even help to absorb any odour from sweating that is only released upon washing. So wool clothing is great for layering up in post-workout when you need to brave the cooler air outside.

Wool doesn’t stink! Wool products are also highly odor resistant due to natural, anti-microbial properties that don’t allow bacteria to bind and subsequently grow on the fibres in the fabric.

It’s eco-friendly – wool has eco credentials! It’s a natural, renewable product that biodegrades much quicker than synthetic fabrics. It’s got a long lifespan and is frequently and easily recycled and reused. It is also a carbon store; pure organic carbon makes up 50% of the weight of wool. And research is now investigating the health and wellbeing benefits of wool. Wool bedding and sleepwear has been associated with a better night’s sleep, promoting sleep onset and improving sleep efficiency. Merino wool has also been found to help people that suffer from chronic skin conditions, despite misconceptions of it being “itchy”, due to its moisture and temperature management qualities.

Warm even when wet. When fibres absorb moisture, they also release small amounts of heat, which can help you stay warm on a cool, wet day.

High warmth to weight ratio. A wool shirt is significantly warmer than a synthetic shirt of the same fabric weight.

Soft skin feel, not itchy. Wool fibres are often treated to reduce the prominence of natural scales, which cause the rough, itchy feel of old wool products. This increases the carbon footprint of the wool production process though and there are many breeds of sheep that produce next to skin soft wool naturally!! For example some of our beauties here!!

Very low flammability. Wool naturally extinguishes itself and will not catch on fire. It will also not melt or stick to your skin like synthetics will.

What else could you add??

Sheep Sunday, and then we got a Ram!

So we have decided the best way of expanding our flock is to start lambing. So the hunt for a ram began!

We initially though borrowing one would be our best chance, but quickly realised a lot of people keep a closed flock for many many reasons.

So we sat down and thought about lots of different sheep breeds that we know of locally…

Then I saw them!

Kerry Hill and Valais cross ram lambs!!!

We went up to visit them and after a squish of the fleeces and a look at their little faces we chose one to collect the following day!!

When we got him he was five months old, so he is now 8 months old and has grown a LOT! He is now getting almost as big as Lamb Chops!

If not as chunky!

His horns are growing in and whilst we wonder if he will be up to the job at the end of September… this year, he most definitely will for next year!!

So next year, his first shearing…. Do I add his wool to our current blend or do I save his fleece for hand spinning…. ????

Smallholding Sunday

A little update on the holding! a little of what we have gotten up to this summer!

We have…. Giant courgettes, hoof trimming the sheep, honey harvesting, plum picking, a grape harvest, some beans and a new little chap hanging about more and more!

A Sunday dinner completely made and grown and raised by us, bottled rhubarb gin, the starts of a Holly run, an onion harvest and LOTS of berries.

All sorts of lovely stuff growing in the veg garden and Polytunnel!

We have baled, both big bales and hand baled small bales, we dropped the fleeces at the wool mill, made fire bricks from sawdust and paper…

And all this, as well as having summer adventures with the boys, dyeing yarn, forest school and so much more!!

Such a fab summer!!

Sheepy Sunday

So after the 3 witches we acquired Wolfie!

She is a welsh white type sheep and was a bottle lamb that one of my neighbour’s wives acquired to raise.

We acquired her when she had transitioned into the neighbour’s garden and was spending more time munching flower beds and pooping on the front doorstep than cutting the grass! Particularly the pooping on the front door step!

We got her about Christmas time and popped her into the field with our guys and she looked at the other sheep as if to say what are these things…. and why why why are you leaving me with them! I think she would have followed us to the house and come in through the front door if she was allowed!

She is a lovely little sheep and is always at the gate after some sheep nuts and a fuss, as long as she has heard us coming. Once in a while we make it into the field before she spots us and then the little leaps and gambols she does are just adorable.

She has the most beautiful thick fleece too!!

Wolfie’s wool is blended into the Rustic ranges of wool we have in our Etsy shop here!

Sheepy Sunday

So we have done Wanda’s Story and Baarbara’s Story….

Here is the story of the three witches!!

Basically we swapped three sheep for some large bales of haylage the summer after we had Wanda and Babs!

Not a hugely exciting story, but we ended up with Garlick, Og and Weatherwax, which for the literary savvy among you will tell you I like reading the Terry Pratchett books!!

These three are all Llanwennog sheep and James cannot tell the difference between most of our Llanwennogs!

So in this picture we have Weatherwax, who is the biggest of the three up front to the left, Og in the middle front, she is easily recognisable as she tore out one of her tags early on and has a funny little left ear. Garlick is getting increasingly difficult to spot as she and a more recent acquisition are remarkably similar now the recent acquisition is growing up!! But she has a petite slim face and is the smaller of the three witches!

So our flock grew from 2 to 5! The hope was that these three would be relatively tame and join Wanda, but no they joined the suspicious Baarbara and hung round at the back, not coming close enough to hand feed but always within range of thrown nuts!!

They are hard to catch and a bit wild, but this has provided us with entertainment, in he form of Weatherwax diving under James when he was trying to catch her, her boosting him up and him effectively riding her as she ran round the pen! She was eventually caught, wormed and hooves trimmed!

If you want to find out more about Llanwennogs as a breed click here

Find their beautiful wool here for sale!

Sheepy Sunday!

So last Month I told you some of Wanda’s story….

Up this month is Baabara!

Baabara is a mule most likely, Welsh white… something along those lines! She is the white faced one in this picture and is the MOST suspicious sheep you will ever meet!!

When they come up for feed in the field, Baabara is always right at the back! She is the hardest to catch, utterly unmotivated by food and a talented escape artist like her friend Wanda!

I say friend, but the pair of them tolerate on another and that’s about it!! Baabara prefers to mix with a few of the Llanwenogs!

She was given to us by neighbour who had her as an odd one out in their flock of Lleyn sheep to keep Wanda company in our fields and it helped to keep Wanda from wandering!!

She has a beautiful full soft fleece and it makes for gorgeous yarn!!

You can try out some of her wares here!! All spun up locally here in West Wales and dyed by me!

Woolly Wednesday – Socks

Lets talk socks!

Now I love sock weight yarns… I certainly dye up enough of them! and I love socks knitted out of them…. but I am finding with more limited knitting time these days with the two kids, a smallholding and a few businesses to sort that sock weight yarn socks just takes an age….. I have definitely been more in the mood for quick and easy finish projects.

More recently I have been using the DK yarns to make up socks! The Rustic ranges of DK both make up gorgeous socks and the Hilltop does too!

I have even designed a few patterns for DK weight socks!! You can find them here on Ravelry, or in my Etsy shop.

I have been knitting up some custom socks for a smallholder friend and her husband and have the second set of two pairs ready to go to her. The farmer whose fleeces became the Hilltop yarn blend has requested a pair of socks as well made up from the yarn from his sheep. He is currently living in the hat I knit him!

So…. I thought I would add in a plain set of DK socks as a free pattern… You can download the pattern here!! Hop on over and join the FB discussion I would love to see the socks you knit up!

I have also hit upon another idea!

I fancy a collaborative Knitalong!!

I thought a scarf, as this would allow newer knitters to join in the fun.

So I thought:

  • DK yarn
  • 2/3 colours
  • 4mm needles
  • Cast on 30 stitches

Then each week a person in the group is chosen to provide the patterning idea for the next week’s worth of knitting.

This could be a new stitch you have been itching to try, a bit of colour work or anything you fancy, as long as you keep to the stitch count!!

Hop over, join the FB group and add a comment to the thread with the image above, then go get your needles and yarn ready! I am thinking a February 28th start date??

Smallholding Sunday

I am starting a series of blog posts, about the things we get done and need to do around the holding…. maybe accountability, maybe a kick up the bum when we need it, maybe all just pie in the sky….. I will add videos onto the YouTube Channel for a monthly tour of the main bits of the holding as well! Hopefully around the same time as my monthly updates posts!

So for a first posting, maybe a list of to dos I seem to add to almost daily. These are over and above our daily chores of feeding and watering the animals which has to be done whatever the weather, although the chickens didn’t like the snow we had recently!

So my list at the moment:

  • Barn gutterings and down pipes (this will have to wait till later in the year and for a dry time, but we have managed to repair the middle barn sidings so far less water incursion there)
  • Tin hut finishing (there are MANY small and large jobs for this to happen but it will happen this year!)
  • New duck enclosure, they need a new house, more space and we plan to add it onto the current large chicken run
  • New willow plantings, both basketry and biofuel (J has finally said the whole little field can be put to willow!! Yay!! Well other than my dye beds, which will move up to allow for the duck enclosure to be added.
  • Renovate chicken shed enclosure after fox incursion last year, make the run ‘walk in able’
  • Make a hedgehog enclosure, Holly will need a safe outdoor garden space to live in come the spring, with log piles, a shallow pond and sleeping box.
  • 2 long hedgerows to cut and reshape into a hedge rather than the tangled mess, and to also add to our wood supplies for next year.
  • Camping pitch x1 in the far pasture.
  • Start clearing the holding field for building work/landscaping though this will be an ongoing project over the next few years. I plan to build a cabin to run courses and more forest school etc.
  • Planting, growing, harvesting, fruit and veg
  • Planting and growing dye plants
  • Ongoing garden projects, both for the children and for flowers and prettiness!
  • Make a pond
  • Make more wildlife garden areas
  • Plant trees
  • Continue clearing and sorting the inside of the barns, removing rubbish, from years of accumulation both by us and the previous owners. Making workable areas and storage.
  • Pigs, at some point in the springtime the pigs will head off on their final journey to the abattoir

We have always had lots of plans each year for this place, last year we did a lot of gardening and we managed a few final fencing jobs, some holiday let building, a pig house, and a play palace for the boys. In fact since we bought the place in 2014 we have built a house, started and almost completed a second, built a veg garden, three huge raised beds and a polytunnel, planted an orchard, fenced and fenced and fenced. We have built a fruit cage, planted withy beds, a dome and a tunnel, more gardening after beating back enormous bramble forests….

So far this year, we have managed to start cutting back one of the hedgerows, the longest in fact! We are about halfway down the inner side, the outer side was done by tractor flail cutting. So just the tops to do on that half and then into the really overstood half! This has so far gained us about 5 foot more garden space for the holiday let. Now I need to chip the brash and get the willow fedge planted and the holiday let garden can rest till spring, when patio, gate building and planting will start in earnest. The far field hedge will allow us to plant some quick growing pines, for biodiversity, screening and firewood and also to prepare the camping pitch and compost loo site for the summer months.

We have planted our little horse chestnut tree, we have mastered sourdough and we have measured, planned out and written a to order list for the three new enclosures or extensions we need to build.

Smallholding update!

Living the dream!!!

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!! 😁