Wednesday, December 09, 2009

with the sheep again

Thanks for all your kind words about the Library Journal article! We were thrilled around here. My mom had a good visit and went home with: 7 skeins of Icelandic handspun (blurry photo was all I could snap), Winter 2010 Olympics clothing for my nephews, 3 wool dress hats (The Bay--Hudson Bay Outfitters- has world's largest selection of winter hats, apparently!) and other goodies. I also think she managed to have some rest, which is important as she is often caring for other family members at home.

It's amazing how fast the temperature drops here. We're now down to temperatures of -20C or -4F and that's sometimes the high! This morning, for the first time, the dogs really didn't want to take an early morning stroll...they ran out into the yard and ran right back in! I didn't blame them as the temperature, without wind chill, was -24C or -11F. With wind chill readings, it was -34C or -29F. We walked just a few blocks at lunch time instead.

Yesterday, I went with a friend to Sheeples, a sheep farm and woolen processing mill in the Interlake Region. This is 90 minutes north of Winnipeg. We had a nice drive in the bright sunshine and the first thing we did was visit the sheep. These were super friendly Merino cross sheep with lovely thick wool growing. The flock was bred with other breeds for color, too. These are most of the outdoor photos I got--turns out my digital camera does not appreciate super cold temperatures. I will post the indoor mill photos in the next post.

There's always access to the barns with these sheep runs. Also, there is a guard llama and a farm dog and that's scares off the coyotes, which are very close by. If you look closely at this photo, you'll see brush at the back of the scene. In the Interlake region, there are some trees growing naturally every so often and it's called "the bush." In the summertime, they frequently get moose up there, and they also see a lot of deer, elk, and timber wolves.

The wool these sheep grow is super fine and very nicely processed. The Sheeples approach is to spin a semi-worsted yarn or offer a pin drafted roving to handspinners. It's very close to a worsted yarn or a combed top.

The flock itself has an interesting origin. Back in 2002, I visited a sheep farm in Wellandport, Ontario...not that far from the Niagara border. I mentioned this farm briefly in Knit Green. Their focus was handspun yarn and they had all sorts of knitted products in an on-farm gift shop...a great sustainable model! The farmer's first name was Hillie and when she sold her farm, she sold the flock to Joe and Kim, the Sheeples' farmers. Weird that I may have met either these exact sheep or their parents before, in another province... this is not six degrees of separation. More like no degrees of separation?

When we stood around meeting the sheep (here's my friend C. petting a very sociable lamb), I was bundled up in two hats, two sets of mittens, and a down parka. My feet, in their winter boots (good down to -25) were a bit cold, but otherwise, I was ok. C. (born in Saskatchewan) said it was a good test of my winter gear. What she didn't say is that it was a good test for me, too. I tried to enjoy the bright sunshine and not notice the cold.

This worked until I noticed the farmer's beard was freezing up around his mouth! Luckily, the indoor mill area was toasty warm. More about that in my next post. In the meanwhile, I am enjoying winter time here so far...especially since it grows such nice wool!

For those who know my professor-he is famously comfortable at low temperatures- he's been wearing his wool hat and down parka outdoors, and claims his leather gloves may not be warm enough. I saw him put on wool socks this morning and a long sleeve shirt. He's even possibly revising his opinion about soup--he ate a large helping of homemade potato soup last night for dinner. (I did tell him that if he felt it wasn't cold enough yet, he was welcome to go sit on the curb until he was properly ready to enjoy hot soup, but he didn't take me up on it!)

A new theory: when it's below 0F (-18C), he might even like soup...

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Blogger Alison said...

Brrrr... But how cool is that that you made that connection with those sheep and farmers!

--AlisonH at

December 9, 2009 at 2:41 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

It's been a bizarre weather day here today....wind, 2" rain, sun, thunderstorms, wind, up to 58 degrees F and low to be 20. Crazy, this is December? It's definitely a soup day here in PA! Love your sheep pics and tale! (btw, cameras do not like cold but seem to function if kept between you and the inside of your parka!)

December 9, 2009 at 4:22 PM  
Blogger Willow said...

I am just not a cold weather person. But you are making me think that, maybe, living in a cold climate might be interesting, especially if there were sheep and roving, yummy sweaters and hot soup around.

Stay warm!

December 9, 2009 at 6:06 PM  

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