at the mill
After seeing the sheep...
When we went inside, the mill seemed so warm and comfortable!
Heidi, the farm dog, agreed. She apparently has a wool stuffed bed under a table, because if a bed is not provided for her, she makes one out of the wool in the mill! This mutt's sweet nature was just a delight. She greeted us at the car and accompanied us affectionately almost wherever we went. She's not allowed inside the farmhouse, but instead stays in a little mudroom in the sunshine, where she was happy to doze as well. In her spare time, she herds sheep, scares away coyotes, and patrols the farm.
The mill itself was about 1500 square feet, and it was full of fleeces, equipment, and projects. The reason we were there was to look at and discuss the processing equipment, so my friend C. set to work asking questions and I looked around.
The yarn lined up neatly was mostly commercial yarns--purchased in order to use occasionally in weaving, on the knitting machine, and in practice. There was really very little to buy (good for me, since I'm on a fiber diet...) since the Sheeples folks had just finished a busy show season and were doing custom orders. They'd sold practically all of their own wool yarns! I got to admire other batches of alpaca and fine wool as it was processed though, and that was a treat! Touching things is free!
Joe and Kim had two looms in the work area. One was warped and if the yarn spinning is going smoothly, Joe can sit down and weave while the machines are going. The other, smaller looom was not warped--there doesn't seem to be time to keep all this equipment going full steam at once.
Some of the most interesting equipment included a rewired washing machine, exclusively used for washing fleece. Also, there was a homemade "humidifier." This involved a large canning pot on a stove. It sounds funny, but when it is so cold, there is very low humidity. Static cling isn't just a nuisance when fibers are that dry....so unless the mill is humidified, the machines don't work well and the fibers don't get processed into pindrafted roving or yarn.
One thing I realized is how incredibly necessary it is to be a self starter who is mechanically inclined with an operation like this. The mill was way, way off the beaten track. If one of the machines broke or wasn't adjusted quite right--well, it was up to Joe to fix that. I was very impressed by how carefully he'd thought out each stage of the processing.