Tag Archives: Coopworth

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

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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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

Raw Coopworth and Romeldale CVM fleeces available

Shearing this spring yielded lovely fleeces.  Then lambing commenced and I have been slow to share info about the fleeces – but here they are!

All of my sheep wear coats during the fall, winter and spring to help keep their wool as clean as possible.  Each of the fleeces have been very carefully skirted to remove vegetable matter and soiled wool.  In most cases there are two options available, 1: the main body of the fleece with virtually no vegetable matter and very clean wool – this is to be sold as one unit and 2: the margins which have a small amount of vegetable matter and are just a bit more soiled – this can be purchased in smaller amounts which I will weigh out and sell by the pound.

If you don’t see a fleece here that meets your needs please let me know.  I do still have some wool available from earlier shearings.

White 100% Coopworth raw fleeces:

Hoglah: 7″ staple, 3 crimps/inch, lustrous.  Full fleece available.  Also, 2.25# available at $10.50/#.

Tirzah: 5.5″ staple, 5 crimps/inch, very fine for Coopworth.  Full fleece available.  Also, 2.7# available at $10.50/#.

Seneca: 4.5″ staple (also was sheared in the fall), 3 crimps/inch.  Full fleece available.  Also, 1.6# available at $10.50/#.

Tamarack: 6.5″ staple, 3 crimps/inch.  Full fleece available.  Also, 1.8# available at $10.50/#.

 

Natural Color 100% Coopworth raw fleeces:

Noah: 6″ staple, 3 crimps/inch.  Full fleece available.  Her black wool has mellowed to a lovely silver/grey.

Cappuccino: 5.5″ staple, 5 crimps/inch.  Full fleece is sold.   3.4# available at $10.50/#.

Java: 5.5″ staple, 4 crimps/inch.  Her fleece is the darkest brown I have.  Full fleece available.

 

Badger color 100% Romeldale CVM raw fleece:

‘Flax’: 3.5″ staple, 11 crimps/inch – super fine – perfect for against the skin items.  Full fleece available (oatmeal color).   Also, 3.4# mixed oatmeal/grey/brown is available at $16/#.

Contact us with your questions or to reserve the raw fleeces of your choice.

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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

New Ideas Part 2

In New Ideas Part 1, I introduced the Spring 2015 issue of Spin-Off magazine with the theme “A Celebration of Stash”, referring to the materials spinners, knitters and any other hobbyists have stored away for some future project.  I always try to look to my personal collection or “stash” before I look elsewhere when starting something new.

Earlier this year I taught a class on knitting with multiple colors, which is technically called stranded knitting, but is often referred to as Fair Isle knitting.  My introduction to the technique was through Norwegian patterns and basically you create a picture with each stitch by carrying the yarn behind (the strand) in a horizontal float and knitting with it where appropriate to the picture.

In preparation for teaching the class, I borrowed a number of books from the library.  I found one in particular that I really  like and have since added it to my personal library (Thanks Santa!):  Mastering Color Knitting by Melissa Leapman

The students in my class had taken the sock knitting class last year, and are now adept at working on double point needles, so we started off with a small project to learn the basics of working with two colors.  I found a project on Ravelry: Colour-stranded Cup Cozy, by Anna Daku that I thought would be a good way for them to master the skills of stranding (reading the grid paper diagram, creating the horizontal floats, etc.) before advancing to a larger project like a hat, cowl, mittens, etc.

cup cozy

Slide one of these washable wool cup cozies onto a cup from your local coffee shop and your coffee will stay warmer and your finger tips won’t smart.  And…you’ll be styling!

For my larger project – I’ve been wanting to make myself a hat with ear flaps for a while.  So, I started digging through my collection of yarn but didn’t find any that was the right thickness or color.  I’m currently trying to bring some semblance of order to my office space and so I had my collection of dribs and drabs from classes, workshops and my own experimentation pulled out and I found something I could get really excited about!  But, was it enough for an ear flap hat?

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Handed carded Coopworth wool dyed with fresh indigo leaves

Background on the dyed wool: My friend Terry grows her own Japanese Indigo to use in dyeing wool from her Shetland sheep flock.  A while back, when she was gearing up to do some dyeing, she decided to make a mini workshop out of it.  I was thrilled to participate and brought along a small bag of white Coopworth wool from my flock to see how it would take the dye.  What you see above is the result!  Terry soaked the indigo leaves overnight in rain water at room temperature and from that preparation extracted the deeper blue.  The icy pale blue is the exhaust from the same preparation.  The warm caramel tan is a second extraction after boiling the leaves.  What a range!  What beautiful colors that are completely comfortable together!  If you would like to learn more about dyeing with plant materials (it is on my bucket list), a good source of information is The Dyer’s Garden by Rita Buchanan.

OK, so now I’m determined to get an ear flap had out of this little bit of lovely wool.  I spun singles and plied them into a two-ply yarn.  If felt like I was over plying, but I finally got a yarn that was balanced after washing to set the twist.  The gauge swatch knit up to about 7 sts per inch using US size 2 needles.  I started out with 74 yards of darker blue, 58 yards of lighter blue and 64 yards of tan.  To keep this challenging, my search uncovered many hat patterns for two colors of yarn and gauges of 6 sts per inch.  I knew it was crucial for me to use all three colors in order to have enough yarn.

So, I adapted several patterns I like.  I started with the ear flaps from Cap for Learning Stranded Knitting by Cynthia Wasner.  Then I moved on to the star pattern from Norwegian Star Earflap Hat by Tiennie.  But, to make the hat large enough, I added one more star.  From here, I alternated between the three colors and looked to the peeries and borders shown in Mastering Color Knitting for inspiration.  I pulled out a pad of graph paper and drew my pictures for each section.

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The end result seen from the stranded side

Coopworth wool is on the coarser end of the wool fiber diameter spectrum*, which makes it extremely durable, though perhaps a bit itchy on my forehead.  For this reason, as well as to eliminate the risk of snagging the floats and to make it extra warm and wind proof, I chose to line the hat with a thin polar fleece.  I made a search online to get ideas for how to shape the polar fleece lining and discovered a marvelous resource… from right here in Wisconsin!  TECHknitting: Fully lining hats with polar fleece a blog post by TECHknitter was just exactly what I was looking for.

Even though I had added stitches, my hat was still a bit snug when I finished lining it, so I searched the house for something to slightly stretch the hat over while blocking it.

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Lined hat during blocking

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The smallest ice cream bucket in our collection was just the thing.  My new ear flap hat fits just perfectly now!

And here’s what is left.  Phew!

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*Coopworth fiber diameter = 35-39, Merino fiber diameter = 18 – 24

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Filed under Fiber Arts, Natural world

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle…Repurpose

And, note to self, refrain from breaking in the first place!

I used to have a lovely blue farmers market canopy with an aluminum structure that folded up compactly and was light and easy to set up.  It was great for shade, and did work in a light rain, but wasn’t water proof and tended to weep as it got wetter.

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Phillips Farmers Market, July 2007

Some of you may recognize the young entrepreneur set up next to me.  My young friend Travis looks much more grown up these days.

One day, I set up at Knox Creek Heritage Center for an event and a number of friends joined me in the shelter of this canopy.  We were demonstrating spinning and quilting, etc. and enjoying a good visit.  It began to rain, then a wind got started.  I added a tarp on the windy side and we shuffled into a smaller circle under the canopy.  Then the wind really got going with the tarp acting as a sail and I secured it to the back of the truck.

We were prepared to wait out the weather, but then the gale really got going and attendees began to scatter.  One of the event organizers came running to me, out of breath, and asked me to move the truck to clear an access path for other vehicles.  I jumped up, started the truck and peered every which way, fearful that I would hit someone and deafened by the torrential rain.

My friends sheltering inside the canopy were shouting and screaming for me to stop, but I couldn’t hear them.  In my haste to help clear the way, I had completely forgotten about the tethers to the truck.  The aluminum supports were bent beyond repair.

I do hate to toss out anything that has any useful life left in it.  And so, I have held onto that fabric and the aluminum structure.  In 2011, our wonderful farm intern, Martha, cut several squares from the blue fabric to fashion curtains for nest boxes for our hens.

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Scout and Sophie taking a break

Last year, I used a chunk of that blue fabric to recover Scout’s winter coat, which had gotten shabby.

And just this fall, I gave up struggling with the one size too large sheep coats I had put on my 3 lambs who will be joining the breeding flock.  I sewed new smaller ones for them from some more of that blue fabric.

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A Coopworth ewe lamb modeling her well fitting coat

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Flax the CVM wether was between sizes in my coat inventory as well

In the meantime, my husband Chris kept looking at that aluminum structure and thinking there must be a better use for it than cashing it in for scrap.  Last year he made himself a boot shelf in his coat closet using some of the aluminum sections as a rack and just this week I have one in mine!

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My closet – all dolled up for picture day

This addition was a good excuse to give the closet a good wipe down and evaluate which items should be moved on to new owners due to disuse and which were beyond using any longer.

BTW: Coats for sheep are intended to keep their wool clean, rather than to keep them warm – the wool does that.  For those not finding themselves with an old canopy to cut up, or less motivated to sew, I highly recommend Rocky Sheep Company as a friendly source for extremely durable, well designed sheep covers.

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Filed under Farm, Fiber Arts, Reduce, reuse, recycle, Sustainability

Felted Soap Workshop

Back in October I taught a felted soap class at the studio at Wisconsin Concrete Park in Phillips, WI.

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Students and their lovely creations

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Coopworth wool that has been dyed, prepared on a drum carder and awaiting color blending magic

I brought along books about fiber and quite a bunch of examples of items that I had felted.  Not only soaps, but also knitted and felted items such as handbags, a cup cozy and mittens.

“Felting” wool is basically what happens when you put a sweater through the hot cycle in your washer and discover with chagrin that you have created doll clothes accidentally.

This explanation for how felting happens comes from BioTechnology Learning Hub: “The exposed edges of the cuticle cells point towards the tip of the fibre, creating a jagged edge. This allows fibres to slip over one another easily in one direction but not the other, giving wool the ability to felt.

Felt is created when wool fibres are agitated in water – they slip over one another and the scales interlock, preventing the fibre from returning to its original shape. The process can be controlled to create very dense fabrics such as felt and wool blanket and jacket fabric, but can also be caused unintentionally during laundering and ruin a garment.”

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Microscopic image of wool

 

Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ESEM_color_wool.jpg

Using wool’s ability to felt to our advantage, we wrapped my handcrafted herbal soaps in colorful rolags made by blending colors using hand carders.  As part of the class, I taught each of the students how to properly use hand carders to prepare the fiber.  I also explained how color blending can be used to make infinite new and dynamic colors using a few batts of dyed wool.  We soaked the wrapped soaps with warm water and agitated the wool by rubbing it in circles on each surface until the wool had just begun to felt together, then we rinsed them, pressed them dry in a towel and set them out to dry and be admired.

Soap that has been wrapped in wool has become a popular gift item.  It brightens any decor.  Felted soaps are like having a wash cloth built right in and they work great to scrub a gardener’s hands clean.  The wool continues to shrink so that it is always tight against the soap.  The wool wrapper helps the soap to last longer as long as the soap isn’t allowed to sit in water, which would cause the wool to wick and soften the soap.

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Soaps, felted soaps, wool rolags and hand carders

UPDATE: Last spring I had the opportunity to teach this workshop again in an abbreviated fashion for a couple of groups of 4-H youth at UWEX Price County Project Fun Day.  The activity was well received and a couple of kids held off on using their soaps so that they could submit them for exhibit at the Price County Fair.

Each child selected their own colors and learned to use the hand cards to create a rolag for wrapping around their bar of soap.  I also gave a short talk about how soap is made and the characteristics of wool that allows it to felt.

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Price County 4-H Youth at Project Fun Day

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Price County 4-H Youth at Project Fun Day

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