Category Archives: Farm

A Feature in Wisconsin Farmers Union News!

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Jane holds Portia, a young Coopworth lamb (photo by Danielle Endvick)

I’m really excited and honored to have Autumn Larch Farm LLC and Three Rivers Fibershed featured in a story in Wisconsin Farmers Union News. My goals of rebuilding the health of the land I live and farm on through raising and encouraging a diversity of plants and animals and through rotational grazing, chemical free gardening, natural dyes, etc. along with raising awareness for food and fiber consumers aligns so well with the work of Wisconsin Farmers Union (WFU) and Three Rivers Fibershed (TRF). I’m proud to be a member of both organizations!

“Wisconsin Farmers Union, a member-driven organization, is committed to enhancing the quality of life for family farmers, rural communities, and all people through educational opportunities, cooperative endeavors, and civic engagement.”

The Three Rivers Fibershed, an affiliate branch of Fibershed, is working to develop regional fiber systems that build soil health and protect the wellbeing of our biosphere

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Bianca and Portia, the first lambs of the 2021 season (photo by Danielle Endvick)

Danielle Endvick, Communications Director at WFU and the author of this story, came out for a farm visit and interview in mid May. We had a lovely day for our conversation and she informed me that it was particularly exciting because mine was her first in-person farm interview since the beginning of the pandemic. We had a good conversation and a tour around the farm and into the studio. I was so pleased to have this opportunity to continue to bring these two wonderful groups of dedicated farmers and advocates together and to make the membership of both groups aware of one another and hopefully help to create opportunities for collaboration. A chance to talk about my passion for local fiber was such a treat!

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A sampling of the farmyarn in Jane’s studio at Autumn Larch Farm LLC (photo by Danielle Endvick)

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Filed under Farm, Fiber Arts, Fibershed, natural dyes, Policy, Sheep, Sustainability, Wool

The Shop is Open!

Fiber Fun at the Farm.

We’ve got a lovely space over our new garage that I have claimed as my wool studio! My shop has always been open by appointment. And, it’s really exciting for me to begin to have regular shop hours, coinciding with the 3rd Thursday meetings of the North Central Wisconsin Fiber Guild. The guild has been gathering virtually during the last year because of the pandemic. I’m really pleased to host fiber enthusiasts virtually and in person here in the studio!

Tomorrow is the first official shop hours – 3:00 to 7:00 PM CT. Come any time during that window. Just stop by to see what I have in the shop. Or stay to visit with other fiber fans. Bring along a project to work on if you have time linger. If you are too distant to join us in person, please let me know and I can send you a link to gather with us virtually from 5:00 to 6:30 PM. We’ll save fiber guild Show-and-Tell for during that time.

This information applies for tomorrow and for 3rd Thursdays ongoing (June 17th, July 15th, August 19th and so on…)

What’s in the shop, you ask? Wool grown here and milled into yarn and roving within the Three Rivers Fibershed bio-region. I raise Coopworth sheep and also have a few Romeldale CVM wethers. Mostly natural colors and also a limited quantity of naturally plant dyed (by me) yarn and roving. I have some raw wool. And some small samplers of many colors that are perfect for needle felting projects. There are also 100% wool dryer balls available.

A medley of the yarn and roving in the shop
This represents the full range of natural colors from my Coopworth flock

In addition to wool, I also make soap. I’ve got plain (uncovered) bars of soap as well as some that have been wrapped in our wool and felted (be me).

I’ve got dye plants (Japanese Indigo and Red Dye Hopi Amaranth) for sale as well as dried indigo leaves.

The ducks are laying well and I do have eggs for sale. The garlic is growing really nicely and will be ready for harvesting in late July. Sometime soon I expect to have garlic scapes on hand.

I missed an opportunity by not having solar dye jars ready during the recent heat wave. I’m going to remedy that by getting some jars of color started tomorrow afternoon. I can talk about that when our fiber friends are tuned in virtually.

Solar dye jars filled with plant material (marigolds, dyer’s coreopsis, cosmos and holly hocks)

I look forward to seeing you!

I’m following CDC guidelines regarding the pandemic and ask that you please wear a mask if you have not yet been fully vaccinated. The fan will be on to keep the studio space well ventilated. And, I’ll have a hand sanitizer in the studio as well as a hand washing station outside near the studio entrance.

Please let me know if you will be coming either in person or virtually. If virtually, I will send you a link. If in person, I can give you directions on finding us, where to park and where on the property the studio is located.

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A Virtual Holiday Pop-up hosted by Three Rivers Fibershed

On December 12th and 13th, 2020, Three Rivers Fibershed is hosting a virtual holiday pop-up on their Instagram page!

I love being a shepherd to my small flock of Coopworth and Romeldale CVM sheep and I’m super excited and honored to be a producer member of Three Rivers Fibershed alongside Alejandra, Stacy, Theresa, Patti, Kelly, Beth and Melissa.

Here are the links to all our Instagram pages so you can follow along during the virtual pop-up and also to keep up with our lovely sheep and our wool products in the future:

A Woolen Forest Farm & Studio
Autumn Larch Farm LLC
Dresow Family Farm
Get Bentz Farm
Holly Ridge Farm
Namekagon Valley Farm & Studio
Priory Farm LLC
Wool & Feather Farm

We would love for you to purchase our products, of course. And, we would be extremely grateful to you if you could help spread the word about our shepherds, our fiber and our fibershed by liking and sharing our posts.

Local Fiber, Local Labor, Local Dye

Three Rivers Fibershed develops regional fiber systems that build soil and protect the health of our biosphere here in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and South Dakota. Our strategic geography is centered in Minneapolis and extends out in a 175 mile radius. Three Rivers Fibershed is an affiliate of Fibershed. “Fibershed develops regional and regenerative fiber systems on behalf of independent working producers, by expanding opportunities to implement carbon farming, forming catalytic foundations to rebuild regional manufacturing, and through connecting end-users to farms and ranches through public education.

Our flocks and farms are counting on your support, especially during this pandemic year when it is harder for us to attend in person events.  Our direct-to-you farm raised fiber is most probably more expensive than the larger corporate brands, but there are no hidden costs that are being paid elsewhere by the environment or by far away laborers.  We work very hard to raise quality wool and care deeply about our small flocks of sheep and the land that sustains them.

You can ask me anything about a skein of yarn or ball of roving: Where was it milled?  What sort of antics did the sheep who grew it get up to when she was in her lambhood?  Can I recognize her voice from a distance?
My flock and I are a team – year on year we have improved the health of the soil beneath our permanent pastures.  Healthy soil means more carbon stored and we are turning sunshine and earth’s elements into wool.  Amazing, glorious wool: biodegradable, renewable, warm even when wet; varieties from soft as babies skin to sturdy enough for under our feet as rugs and over our heads as roofs – wool.

Please check out my online shop when you have a chance.  I welcome any questions you may have.  If you are thinking about gifts for the fiber fans in your life and aren’t sure what they need/want, you will find e-gift cards in the shop – a perfect virtual stocking stuffer that allows them to pick the perfect thing for their next project.

And remember to check the Three Rivers Fibershed Instagram page often on Dec. 12th and 13th, 2020. You’ll be in for a treat as each shepherd takes over the stories with in-depth information about their farm, flock and fiber!

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Filed under Farm, Fiber Arts, Fibershed, natural dyes, Reduce, reuse, recycle, Sheep, Sustainability, Wool

Learning about dyeing with plants

Coopworth roving dyed with dried Japanese Indigo leaves

I’m loving this learning about dyeing with natural materials. Except that the learning curve is so very steep. The really great thing, though, is that even when I don’t get the colors I expected, I still get really beautiful results. BTW, the beautiful and saturated blues I got in the picture above is my beginners luck experience.

I’m a proud producer member of Three Rivers Fibershed. Though I had been interested in the idea of natural dyes prior to joining them, it is really the Fibershed ethic of Local Labor, Local Fiber and Local Dye that encouraged me to begin this journey into local dye plants.

I began raising Japanese indigo several years ago. I have tried to master the fermentation techniques that are a common way of extracting color from indigo, but have not had success with that…yet! I will continue to experiment this summer, but with tiny jars until I gain more confidence. Sea Spell Fiber’s over-extraction stories on Instagram have been invaluable to learning the process.

Japanese indigo extraction experiment
Japanese indigo extraction experiment

Happily, I have had success extracting color from indigo by two other techniques – the dried indigo technique that I first learned about from Deb McClintock’s webpage. And the fresh leaf technique that is like creating an indigo smoothie. You just swirl it up and shazam, it turns the wool a beautiful aqua blue green! Watching the oxidation take place before your eyes is really cool too. I did this experiment with my niece and her good buddy since it involved nothing but indigo and water. And, I’ve learned that where indigo is native, it is considered to be really healthy stuff. In fact, if we are wearing clothes that are dyed with real indigo leaves, the clothing may be healthful to our skin!?!

Fresh Japanese Indigo “smoothie”
The results of dyeing with that indigo smoothie – it is after that when I learned about the wonders of using a paint strainer to keep the plant material away from my wool.

I’m probably most excited about using things that are either food waste or plants that are less than desirable in my environment. In the food waste department, I have worked with avocado pits and skins and onion skins. And, in the less desirable plant department (weeds, non-native invasives, etc.), I have so far done dye experiments with curly dock seeds, stinging nettle leaves and tansy blossoms.

The experiments will continue. My knowledge will grow. The highly enjoyable journey continues! If you would like to get your hands on a skein of naturally dyed Coopworth yarn or roving, have a look at the ever changing color lineup in my online store. And watch for posts of my dye journey on Instagram

Tansy and Japanese indigo over-dyed with tansy.
Tansy and Japanese indigo over-dyed with tansy. Coopworth roving.
Autumn aspen leaf dyed Coopworth yarn
Hollyhock blossom dyed Coopworth yarn and roving
Elderberry dye pot
Elderberry dyed Coopworth yarn – berries tend to be “fugitive dyes” – not likely to stay this lovely pink long-term. They will fade to a pleasing blue-grey.
Marigolds, rudbekia and calendula destined for drying and later wool dyeing.

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Filed under Family and friends, Farm, Fermentation, Fiber Arts, Fibershed, gardening, natural dyes, Reduce, reuse, recycle, Research, Sustainability, Wool

One Year – One Outfit

Three Rivers Fibershed (TRF)is an affiliate of Fibershed which was founded by Rebecca Burgess and has been developing “regional fiber systems that build soil & protect the health of our biosphere.”

A “Fibershed” is a strategic geography, like a foodshed or watershed, a way to engage our community and local resources. The Fibershed model allows small farms to produce fiber while maintaining a diverse and healthy ecosystem in small pockets. The Three Rivers Fibershed focuses on a radius of 175 miles from the Textile Center in Minneapolis, and includes portions of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and South Dakota.

Fibershed places the responsibility of where our clothing comes from- its production and construction- in our hands and within our community. It offers transparency, traceability, and accountability to each individual involved from the provider to processor to consumer. Fibershed champions the use of sustainable, locally sourced raw animal and vegetable fiber which has been ethically grown and raised, purchased at a fair price from environmentally responsible producers, and finally processed in a safe environment where all workers are treated and paid fairly. Consumers are deliberate and intentional in their clothing purchases, buying less clothing, but that is made to last a lifetime, whose story and background forms a direct and personal connection between producer and consumer while supporting a local industry with familiar faces and direct contact.

Our Fibershed aims to be inclusive, providing opportunities for connection among farmers and mills, artists and makers, consumers and everyone in between.

The Three Rivers Fibershed Board

One year one outfit is a maker challenge where participants aim to make a locally sourced outfit in one year using the Fibershed principles of Local Fiber, Local Labor, and Local Dyes. The Three Rivers Fibershed is facilitating the formation of a group to support each other in working to create local outfits starting with the first of four events to help support folks interested in giving it a try!

More details can be found at: http://www.threeriversfibershed.com/blog/

January 12, 2019 from 11 am to 2 pm in Edina, MN is the kick-off meeting for the One Year – One Outfit project. Please consider setting a challenge for yourself and join us on the 12th if you can, or learn more here.

I (Jane of Autumn Larch Farm LLC) will be attending the kick-off meeting as a fiber source/producer member of TRF and also as a maker. I’m excited to be scheming about my locally sourced outfit, the constraints and the opportunities these constraints present!

Coopworth yarn in varying weights and a range of natural colors from creamy white through almost black.
I’ll be bringing sheep specific Coopworth wool yarn and roving with me to Edina so that project participants can get rolling on their outfits right away.

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Coopworth Ram – Sold

Update: Seneca has now moved to his new home and new girlfriends!

Registered and Performance Designated by American Coopworth Registry

‘Seneca’ was born in April 2015.

White with Natural Color lineage.  His lambs have been all white when paired with a white ewe and all natural color when paired with a natural color ewe.

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Greenin’ and Grazin’ in Taylor and Price

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Jane’s flock of registered Coopworth sheep (and one Romeldale CVM wether “Uncle Flax”)

Thanks to a generous Local Initiatives grant from Wisconsin Farmers Union (WFU), the Taylor/Price Chapter of WFU is hosting a pasture walk series this summer.

 

Diversified Vegetable Farm – July 19, 5:30pm-8pm at We Grow LLC, Rebecca and Eric Zuleger near Westboro, WI.

This farm walk will cover Rebecca and Eric’s 7 acre organic (not USDA certified) vegetable operation providing for their 20-week CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) along with heritage breed, pasture-raised hogs. The farm walk will also touch on organic soil amendments, cover cropping for green manure and forage, pastured poultry and high-tunnel vegetable production. Tour their recently completed pack shed with post-harvest handling equipment.

The walk will include guest speaker Rick Knopp, soils agronomist.  He will focus on soil testing and recommendations of how to organically rejuvenate worn out soil.

N7975 Zimmerman Rd, Westboro, WI 54490.  Directions:  From state highway 13 in Westboro (approx. 15 miles north of Medford) travel west on highway D two miles. Then travel south two miles on Zimmerman Rd. We Grow is located at N7975 which is on the southwest corner of the intersection of Rindt and Zimmerman Roads.

Sheep Pasture Walk and FAMACHA Training Workshop – July 20th, 10am – 4pm FAMACHA workshop (registration required – space is limited) and 4-6pm pasture walk (open to the public) at Autumn Larch Farm LLC, Jane Hansen in Ogema, WI.

The pasture walk will highlight various techniques employed to help reduce parasite load and chemical wormer use in small ruminants; non-chemical techniques for managing brush and weeds; incorporating native grasses and legumes; pasture condition scoring; and winter hay feeding strategies to increase soil fertility  Representatives from the USDA NRCS office in Taylor County will have information about Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) funding.  Medford Veterinary Clinic has been invited to attend and weigh-in on parasite and health issues in sheep.

Attention Small Ruminant producers: Register to be trained in the use of the FAMACHA technique in determining whether or not to worm individual animals.  This workshop is taking place earlier the same day: 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM 7/20/18.  Space is limited.  Deadline to register: 7/16/18.  Registration brochure

Autumn Larch Farm LLC raises registered Coopworth sheep for wool, meat, breeding stock and enjoyment; heirloom garlic, handcrafted soap and more.  Jane coordinates the North Central WI Fiber Guild, is a producer member of the Three Rivers Fibershed and also a member of the Taylor/Price chapter of WI Farmers Union.

W7120 County Road O, Prentice, WI.  Directions: From State Highway 13 near Ogema, turn west onto County Road O and continue six miles. From State Highway 8 east of Catawba, turn south onto County Road O and continue eight miles. Farm is on the north side of County Road O.

Dairy Pasture Walk – September, 20th, 12:30-3pm at Hillside Dairy Farm, Linda and Jerry Ceylor in Catawba, WI.

The walk will include guest speaker Dr. Silvia Able-Caines, Ruminant Nutritionist with Organic Valley.  She will be addressing the challenges of a no-grain diet and parasite control in organic cattle.  In addition, we will tour the facilities and see the Ceylor’s rotational grazing system.

Gerald & Linda began farming in Washington in 1990 but due to urbanization moved to Catawba in 1997 with their two children.  They currently milk 40 crossbred dairy cows and raise replacement heifers on an all-forage, no-grain diet, and are on the all-grass milk route with Organic Valley.  Their facilities include a coverall free stall barn and a double 4 herringbone milking parlor.  Ceylor’s manage 400 acres which includes 115 acres of pasture.  Linda serves on the Wisconsin Farmer’s Union Board as the District One Director.

N3689 Riley Rd, Catawba, WI  54515.  DirectionsFrom Catawba, WI, take Highway 8 approximately one mile west and turn left, (south), on Woodlawn Road and go .5 mile.  Turn right, (west), onto Lawrence Street and go one mile.  Turn left, (south), onto Riley Road and go 2 miles to the farm on the right.

For more information, please contact:  Jane Hansen at autumnlarch@gmail.com or (715) 767-5958.

 

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Names for the new girls

I don’t name all of my sheep… only the ones who will stay with us long term and I make this decision through observation and record keeping.  Criteria involved include health, wool quality and the criteria required to meet the requirements for the American Coopworth Registry’s Performance Designation.

From the Spring 2017 lamb crop, 3 ewes joined the breeding flock and have received a name.  Each year, I come up with a theme to select the names.  I had tree names  one year (Hemlock, Tamarack, Balsam) and hot beverage names another (Mocha, Cocoa, Java, Cappuccino), for example.

This year, to commemorate the unprecedented number of women who have stepped up to run for public office, I decided to name these 3 yearlings after famous female leaders from history.

Introducing:

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‘Empress’ Zoe, Cleopatra and ‘Queen’ Victoria

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Zoe

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Cleopatra

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Victoria

 

Here’s some info about the trend in women running for office at greater numbers: http://time.com/5107499/record-number-of-women-are-running-for-office/ and https://www.npr.org/2018/02/20/585542531/more-than-twice-as-many-women-are-running-for-congress-in-2018-compared-to-2016

If you are interested in running for office yourself (at any level), here are a couple of great resources: https://www.wfan.org/our-programs/plate-to-politicssm/ and https://voterunlead.org/

 

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Lambs are so cute!

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Our lambs arrived between May 13th and June 12th this year.  More dark colored than white.  More ewes than rams.  Everyone is lively and growing well.

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Winter is certainly here!

But, it took a long time to arrive.

I timed my final harvest of carrots down to about the last possible second.

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This was the first week of December and the ground hadn’t yet frozen.  If I had gotten to this job just a day or two earlier, it would not have involved snow.

As you can see, the chickens have been moved into their winter quarters inside the garden fence where I can run an extension cord to plug their coop in for supplemental light and a heated water dish.

The garlic seed is snugly tucked into the ground and poultry net has been strung around the garlic beds in case the chickens get over exuberant.

At this point, the sheep were still getting most of their nutrition from grazing.  As you can see here, the lawn was still quite green.  Plenty of forage was available in most of the pasture.  This is really remarkable.  Often, by mid October I am feeding hay because there is no forage left, but this year it just kept right on growing until it got covered with snow in early December.

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I take pasture photos at 6 standard locations on the first of each month as a form of research and record keeping.  This was the 12/1/16 photo of Paddock 1.

Today, we are experiencing a real winter deep freeze.  The benefit of weather so cold that I’m reluctant to step outside is that I do finally get around to the paperwork and computer projects that had been languishing when I was working on outside projects.

I’m very pleased to have finally made a bunch of updates to my little online store.  Have a look: https://squareup.com/store/autumn-larch-farm-llc.  There you will find soaps, sheepskins, raw fleeces, roving, yarn and more.

If you live nearby, save the postage and contact us to set up a time to stop in and do your shopping in person.  If you live farther away, this little online store is a great option for having a look at the products available and getting them delivered right to your door via USPS.

Stay warm and enjoy the vibrant sunshine that usually comes with the bitter cold.

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Filed under Farm, Fiber Arts, gardening, Getting Organized, Research, Seasons, Sheep