Category Archives: Farm

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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Filed under Farm, Health, Livestock Handling, Local Food, Natural world, Research, Sheep, Sustainability

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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Filed under Farm, Fiber Arts, Policy, Sheep

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

Garlic

Having spent much of late July and most of August harvesting, curing and cleaning garlic, I am happy to report that the 2016 garlic crop is now ready and available for sale!

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German Red Hardneck garlic

I raise three different varieties: German Red, Russian and Inchelium Red garlic.  The German Red and the Russian are both hard necked rocambole varieties (A. sativum var. ophioscorodon) and the Inchelium Red is a soft necked artichoke variety (A. sativum var. sativum).  The German Red is the variety I raise in the largest quantities.  The Inchelium Red is the only softneck and I generally braid some of it.

German Red Hardneck Garlic

German Red Hardneck Garlic

Inchelium Red Softneck Garlic

Inchelium Red Softneck Garlic

My garlic is planted in mid October, mulched heavily with dried leaves and wood shavings and left for the winter.   It begins to emerge just as the soil begins to warm in the spring at about the same time as the crocuses.  The hard necked varieties develop a scape or flower stalk which I remove when they have developed sufficiently to create a loop – if I snap them off any sooner, the scape will often continue to grow and I would rather have that energy go into bulb development.  The scapes are edible.  I use them similarly to green onions.  They are great in soups and sautés.  We are quite distant from major population centers, so it has been difficult to develop a market for the large number of scapes that are produced here, but in some places scapes are highly sought after.  Besides using them our own cooking, I have discovered that my sheep enjoy them as well.

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German Red garlic

Weeding is critical and can have a major impact on the size of the bulbs, as can soil fertility.  I leave the mulch in place in the spring and this helps to reduce the amount of weeding required.

In mid to late summer depending on the growing conditions, the leaves of the garlic plants begin to die back, starting with the lowest leaves first.  When about 3 of the leaves have died back on each variety, I begin to dig a few bulbs to see if that variety is ready to harvest.  The soft necked garlic is always the first to be harvested.  I try to harvest when the soil is dry because this makes curing and cleaning much easier, but this isn’t always an option in our temperate climate.

I tie the garlic in bunches of about 20 bulbs or so and hang the bunches in our barn to cure for a couple weeks.  Then I bring the bunches back down and prepare them for sale.  The Inchelium Red is sorted by size and condition before the tops are trimmed in order to select the ones I will use for braiding.  The rest are trimmed (roots and tops) as soon as I bring down the bunches.

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Garlic hanging to cure

Since reading GROWING GREAT GARLIC by Ron Engeland, I have been using a simple tool described in the book for sorting the garlic by size.

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Simple tool for sorting garlic by size

It may seem ironic to put the very best quality garlic back into the ground, but by saving and planting the best garlic each year, I have continued to improve my crop year after year and have developed varieties that are perfectly suited to my growing conditions…and to receiving ribbons at the county fair 🙂

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Sheep Handling Facility

Sounds fancy, doesn’t it?  I’m so excited!  I mentioned in an earlier post that this was in the works and I finally got it completed and ran the sheep through it yesterday.

Here are some pictures and then I will describe what it is and how it works:

My sheep are not so tame that I can simply walk up to them and work with them.  I have to contain them in some way in order to give vaccinations, dose with wormers, weight them, check their body condition score, etc.

In the past, I hauled hog panels out to the pasture and created an enclosure where I worked with them.  This was time consuming, tough on my back and not very efficient.  As I mentioned in a blog post this March (Getting Organized…Hopefully…Yes!), I had the brainstorm to carve a small sheep handling area out of a corner of the barn.  I included some pictures of the construction in a May blog post (Update on Organizing).

I may someday invest in gates and chutes made specifically for the purpose, but for now, I’m happy to try out this low cost option and see how it works, tweak it if necessary and save a lot of time over my old method while also keeping my sheep much more comfortable and reducing their stress.

I used hog panels and lumber already on hand.  I did all of the construction myself, but also need to give my husband Chris a big thank-you for the custom channels he fabricated for me on the table saw and planer.  I cut hog panels to 24″ width and they lift and lower beautifully (guillotine like) in these channels to allow one sheep at a time to move forward toward the enclosure with the scale.

During the test run yesterday, I weighed each sheep, wormed her with garlic juice, checked her body condition (all except the yearlings are a little on the pudgy side) and checked her eyelids using the Famacha method to get a sense of parasite load.

The facility worked great!  It seemed to be intuitive for them.  They moved through with ease.  In the past, I have had trouble getting each sheep to step up onto the scale because the surface is different and they are concerned about their footing.  But, in this arrangement, they see that by moving forward, they are moving closer to exiting the chute and so they stepped up for their turn without any trepidation.

The chute is a bit wide.  18″ is recommended, but my scale is 20″ and the hog panels have verticals on 8″ centers, so I had to go with a 24″ wide gate.  Because the chute is a little too wide, the sheep were able to turn around and squeeze past one another.  But, I was able to easily advance one sheep at a time with the guillotine lift gates.  And, with repeated runs through the chute each time we “practice” with subsequent uses of the chute for shearing, vaccinating, etc. my flock will become more accustomed to it.

What a wonderful thing to have checked off my ‘get organized’ to do list!

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Filed under Farm, Getting Organized, Livestock Handling, Reduce, reuse, recycle, Sheep