Tag Archives: color sheep

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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Lamb update

We’re nothing if not consistent!?  Every year, we breed our ewes to a natural color (non-white) ram.  First two years, every lamb was white, even for our natural colored ewe.  This year, we have 7 lambs so far and they are all dark colored.  I think some are brown and some are black, but I will just have to observe and learn.  This winter when things are quieter, I will have to put some more study into color genetics to understand what is dominant, etc.

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Scout’s new best friend Chaplin

We’re so consistent here that even the cat who happened through and adopted us nearly two weeks ago is also black?!  He is fitting right in.  He is fast friends with the dogs and comfortable with the chickens and the sheep.

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Spring means lambing season

Our first lamb of 2015 was born 2 days ago.  And she is the first natural color lamb born on this farm!  And, she looks just like her papa.

Hoglah is such an attentive mother that she makes it hard to get any pictures.  Here is one taken inside of the pasture jug.

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Most of my attempts today resulted in this:

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Hoglah very deliberately placed herself between me and her little one.

But I did manage to catch a glimpse of the two together.  Mama enjoying the fresh green grass and some dandelion blossoms and her ewe lamb testing out her legs.

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New growth is popping out everywhere as seen here:

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American Plum (Prunus americana) Blossoms

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Tamarack (Larix laricina)

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Introducing Carver

Noah, Micah, Hoglah and Carver

Noah, Micah, Hoglah and Carver on a mild winter day

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Carver, registered Coopworth ram

Our new registered Coopworth Ram joined the flock back in December, but I’m just now getting around to formally introducing him.  He is named in honor of George Washington Carver, a wise and remarkable man who was a botanist and inventor in the early 20th century.

George Washington Carver was concerned about the way in which the mono-culture cropping of cotton was depleting the soil in the south and he worked hard to develop, research and promote alternative crops that could be grown by poor farm families to meet their own nutritional needs, replenish depleted soils and provide income as well.  These crops included peanuts, sweet potatoes and soybeans and when used in a rotation with cotton helped to restore nitrogen to the soil.

George Washington Carver was born in the 1860’s and died in 1943.  He was one of the first black students to attend Iowa State Agricultural College in Ames, IA and obtained his Masters degree there.  He was a researcher and teacher at the Tuskegee Institute for most of his adult life.  The George Washington Carver National Monument near Diamond, MO was the first national monument dedicated to an African American.  On his grave was written, He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world.

Good words to live by!  What an inspirational man!

Sources: http://www.blackiowa.org/exhibits/past-exhibits/george-washington-carver/ (a temporary exhibit at the African American Museum of Iowa designed by curator Susan Kuecker – my friend Sharon’s sister!) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Washington_Carver

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Autumn Larch Farm in the news!

http://www.thecountrytoday.com/farm/article_e48e8378-9ffb-11e4-95f0-1b864b8c63f9.html

Shear delight: Autumn Larch Farm produces wool, meat, garlic for growing markets

Posted: Monday, January 19, 2015 10:54 am

PRENTICE — At Autumn Larch Farm, keeping customers happy is a top priority. Owner Jane Hansen prefers working face-to-face with the people who buy the farm’s products, whether it is wool, meat or garden produce.

“Having that feedback is very important to me,” she said. “It makes it more fulfilling.”

Though she moves around her farm with the confidence usually formed from decades of experience, Hansen wasn’t always a farmer. She grew up in the suburbs of southeastern Wisconsin and practiced as an architect, designing commercial buildings from schools to shopping centers.

In 1999, she and her husband, Chris, decided they were ready for a change and bought a house with a barn near Prentice in southern Price County.

“We didn’t know we would be farmers,” Hansen said.

Hansen planted a garden and its success led to selling at farmers’ markets.

Although not organic, Hansen uses non-chemical means to control weeds and pests, and uses antibiotics and wormers when necessary for animal health. She added laying hens to the farm for eggs, then began raising meat chickens.

In 2009, she began buying feeder lambs to raise grassfed meat on the farm’s six acres of pasture. In 2012, she expanded her flock to include breeding stock.

Hansen learned to knit as a child and rediscovered the art while living with a Norwegian roommate in college.

“It’s a big deal in Norway,” Hansen said. “She turned me into a fiber snob.”

Autumn Larch is home to a small flock of Coopworth sheep. Developed by a team of scientists in New Zealand from Romney and Border Leicester sheep, the Coopworth is a medium-sized, dual-purpose breed used for both meat and wool. Coopworth wool is in the coarser range, making it suitable for outerwear. The breed can be white or natural colored. Most of Hansen’s ewes are white, but her current ram is natural colored.

“I’m hoping to breed more colored sheep but they keep coming out white,” she said.

Last year, Hansen added a California Variegated Mutant wether to her flock. CVMs produce a fine wool that is easy to spin, durable and with a beautiful luster.

In addition to providing another type of wool, the wether will keep Hansen’s ram and ewe lambs company when they are separated from the rest of the mature ewes.

Once the sheep are sheared, the raw wool goes to Blue Hills Fiber Mill in Bruce for processing into spun yarn or roving. Roving is wool that is carded and drawn into long, narrow bundles. It is used by spinners and other fiber artists.

Wool from lambs is combined, but wool from individual ewes and rams is kept separate. Hansen labels each skein and attaches a photo of the sheep it came from, allowing artists to request wool from a specific sheep.

In addition to her own knitting projects, Hansen combines her handmade soaps she also sells with wool to make felted soap.

“It’s like having a washcloth built right in,” she said.

Lambs not kept for breeding are sold for meat. Hansen said she’s discovered there is a demand for grassfed lamb in the younger generations.

She believes mutton, consumed in the mid-century when better meat was shipped to feed soldiers, gave lamb a bad reputation among that generation, but people are rediscovering lamb. Hansen said she and her husband enjoy leg of lamb, which Chris prepares with slow, indirect heat and smoke.

“It’s delicious,” she said. “There are never any leftovers.”

Autumn Larch Farm also markets sheep skins. The skins are tanned in Milwaukee to preserve them and used in motorcycle seat covers, neonatal units and people who are bedridden and suffering from skin problems.

Along with its wool and lamb, Autumn Larch Farm is a producer of garlic for the wholesale market. Hansen plants about 1,500 cloves of garlic in the fall. Two are a hardneck variety, German Red and Russian Red, and a third is a softneck type, Inchelium Red.

Softneck garlic is milder and the kind you’ll find in most grocery stores. Hardneck garlic has more complex flavors and is closer to wild garlic, but may not store as well.

Hansen said her personal favorite is the German Red.

“It’s fabulous,” she said. “It grows really, really well in this cold, wet climate.”

The sheep enjoy the garlic as well. Hansen mixes it in with their feed to boost their immunity and as a natural pest control.

Garlic emerges about the same time as crocus in the spring, which Hansen says lets her know spring is finally here.

Garlic can be susceptible to poor weather. Two years ago, the cold wet spring caused much of her garlic cloves to rot in the ground before they sprouted.

Marketing products from her farm, especially in an area as lightly populated as north central Wisconsin, has been a challenge. She often drives great distances to reach her customers at farmers markets and craft shows.

“It is a struggle to build a farmers’ market and a customer base,” she said.

Hansen said with her wool, she has worked to connect with fiber artists who are looking for quality, Wisconsin-produced wool. She attends craft shows and the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival to meet spinners and knitters.

She also plans to promote fiber arts this month by teaching a sock knitting class at the Yarn Barn in Phillips.

Hansen became involved in Price Direct, an effort to build markets for local foods in Price County in 2005. That led to her involvement in statewide efforts, including Buy Local Buy Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Local Food Network. She serves as the coordinator for the Wisconsin Local Food Summit, now in its ninth year. This year’s summit is Jan. 30-31 in Wisconsin Rapids.

Hansen said building a diverse farm has been rewarding.

Though in an area of Wisconsin with fewer farms, Hansen uses management-intensive grazing to make the most from the farm’s six acres of pasture. The majority of the farm’s acres are wet and wooded, not suitable for farming.

“I like making use of our land,” she said.

Hansen is also making use of her experience as an architect. Along with designing an addition to her home and building a chicken coop, Hansen said she uses her problem-solving skills every day.

“There’s always a project on a farm,” she said.

A diversified operation

A diversified operation

Jane Hansen of Price County has built Autumn Larch Farm into a very diversified operation. Along with wool and lamb meat, Hansen grows vegetables and garlic, makes soap, and has raised chickens for eggs and meat.

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Registered Coopworth Ram Sold

This 2 year old (born April, 2012), natural color, proven Coopworth ram is no longer available.

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Hemlock spent 2 weeks inside at shearing time, but otherwise is pastured and outwintered.  His April 2014 shearing: 7.26# grease weight, Staple Length 140mm, Crimp 3.5 per inch, 39 micron

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Contact / Inquiries

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Welcome Flax!

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What a cute little guy!

I decided that I have many situations where a sheep ‘buddy’ would be helpful.

First, I have so few ewes that I only need one ram.  This means that there are times during the year when the ram is by himself.

Second, I don’t breed my ewes while they are lambs.  I wait until they are yearlings.  This means they spend the first winter away from the adult ewes who are with the ram starting in December.

Having a wether is a great way to provide a buddy in each of these circumstances.  I could just select a ram from my own flock and castrate him, but a wether is an opportunity to have a different wool around to play with (since he can neither breed or be bred and therefore does not risk cross breeding in my purebred Coopworth flock).  I thought a lot about what breed I would like to branch out into.  I determined that I would like to have a CVM.  This is a rare breed and helping to maintain or increase their numbers appealed to me.  CVM is also a fine wool breed and this contrasts with the Coopworth which is a long wool breed.  Now I will have within my flock wool that is appropriate for close to my skin and wool that is long, lustrous and appropriate for outerwear, rugs, etc.  CVM stands for California Variegated Mutant which is the natural color variant of the breed Romeldale.

I located this little fella at Hillspring Eco-Farm.  He was born in late February of this year.  Linda, from Hillspring, named him Flax in line with her fabric and fiber theme for naming this year.  The photo above was taken shortly after he arrived on our farm in late May.  He spent about a week on his own and then another week on the other side of the fence from Hemlock, our ram.  They were introduced by being crowded into a pen for about 30 hours where Hemlock couldn’t do any damage as he established that he was boss.  They have since been grazing together amicably and seem to confirm that having a buddy is comforting.

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Summer is upon us

 

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Lambs and grass are both growing – perfect timing!  Micah had a lovely set of twin ewe lambs just a couple days after my last post.  That brings our total to 4 ram lambs and 4 ewe lambs – same as last year, though a different math to get us there.  I weighed everyone just a couple days ago and it is quite amazing how quickly the single ram lambs grow in comparison to the rest, though they are all growing quite well.

Also, all the lambs are white again this year in spite of the fact that I have a natural color ram.  I intend to study this further.  All of my ewes are identified in their registration paperwork as white with natural color heritage, except Noah who is natural color herself.  Both of the rams I have used for breeding have been natural color and yet I still get only white lambs.  I believe this is because white wool was a big priority in the early development of the Coopworth breed in New Zealand.  This probably means that white wool is a dominant trait and it will require patience and persistence to increase the number of natural color sheep in my flock.

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Tamarack time has come and gone

My farm is named for the glorious second round of color that we get each year.  The maples, aspen and birches have their blaze of color here near the end of September each year.  Things might be pretty colorless and dismal after that, but we are blessed with the golden hue that the tamaracks (larches) take on a couple weeks later.  Sunshine is rare and eagerly anticipated during this time and when it does shine the golden tamaracks are so bright they are hard to look at.  I put on my sunglasses and gaze away!Image

This photo shows the tamaracks in all their glory.  The foreground includes the sheep fellas on the farm.  The tall dark and handsome guy is Hemlock.  He arrived here from Hidden Valley Farm back in early September.  He will be meeting our ewes Hoglah, Mahlah, Noah, Micah and Tirzah in just a couple weeks.  We’re looking for May lambs so they can comfortably be born and raised on pasture.

As I write this, tonight, we’re in a deep freeze.  I think we had a high of 12 or 13 degrees Fahrenheit today.  And we have 6″ or so of snow on the ground.  Winter is definitely here in a big way.  We did get a good dose of that blessed sunshine today, though.  Lovely to look at from inside, but I did stick my nose out a few times to keep all the critters fed and watered.

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More babies

We had a busy morning here.  Now, I have to acknowledge that this is relative.  Larger sheep farms that have 100’s of lambs born in a few weeks would chuckle that the arrive of 3 lambs could be considered a busy morning.

Tirzah had twins during the wee hours – first a ewe and then a ram lamb.  Then after the sun was up, Mahlah had a ram lamb.  All are settled into field pens and are very content.

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Mahlah with her single in front and Tirzah with her twins behind

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Noah’s little ewe is becoming more active

All white lambs so far.  The ewe lamb born this morning has a small black spot on her shoulder, but that is it, still hoping for some color sheep from the remaining two ewes.

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