Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Shearing Day 2015

We will host our Annual Shearing Day on Saturday, March 7th, from 9 am - 3 pm (come and go as you wish). Our farm is located at 13275 Blair Street, Holland, Michigan. We will be shearing our Polypay sheep that day, and our open house is geared toward folks who want to see shearing on a working farm and learn more about wool production. This event is free.

Fiber artists will demonstrate their work, and wool products (roving, yarn, etc.) will be available to purchase in our little on-farm shop.

The open house is suitable for families and folks of all ages, though very small children sometimes are bothered by the noise and smells of a sheep barn. Wear old clothing and dress warmly--we shear in a barn.

For blog posts and photos about other years' shearing days, click here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A New Weaver

Yesterday I was lucky enough to visit a weaver-wannabe and help her set up her loom. I warned her that I'm not all that good at this stuff (not surprisingly--I have a handy husband I rely on for spatial and mechanical stuff).

Our job was to put together her cherry Norwood jack loom. It was so easy to put together I felt a little guilty. It's a beautiful loom, and so well-constructed.

We talked a little about where the loom came from, about warping, and about what her first project would be. And I was on my way in under an hour.

I'll go back with some warp soon, and we'll give warping a try. Fortunately, it has a sectional beam, or I'd have to call in a real expert.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Allergic to Wool?

I often hear folks admire our wool products and then turn away, sighing, "I'm allergic to wool." There are a few folks who are genuinely allergic to the lanolin in wool. Can't help them, although over time the lanolin washes out and should cause less of a problem.

But the rest of those who are "allergic" to wool may be reacting to something else. The large wool manufacturers need to get a lot of ick out of the raw wool (imagine wearing the same clothes for a year!) and an easy way to do that is to use harsh chemicals. Some of us are simply sensitive to the way commercial wool is produced. Our wool is cleaned using soap and water.

In addition, hay naturally gets in the wool over the course of a year. Each fleece is skirted after shearing, which just means we pull off the worst parts and discard them.

In the washing and carding process at the mill some of the remaining hay comes out of the wool, and some is just broken up into really fine little pieces and continues to be present in the wool. You may not see it, but you may be itching because of the microscopic bits of hay that remain. I can remember being itchy all day as a kid when I wore a wool sweater--even through the turtleneck underneath! So I am sympathetic when folks tell me they're allergic to wool. I get it. But please don't dismiss a wonderful resource just because of a bad experience. 

Socks are a great thing for people who are sensitive (but not truly allergic), because we have less sensitive nerve endings in our feet than we do, say, around our necks. I am able to wear our socks with no problem at all.

So--are you allergic to wool? Or just sensitive?

*Originally posted on October 7, 2010. Updated. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

What Do Farmers Do in the Wintertime?

One of the questions that I get asked a bit when I fish for blog topics is "What do farmers do in the wintertime?" I can't begin to answer for all farmers, but I can tell you some of the things we do in the wintertime. 

First of all we rest a bit. We set an exhausting pace in the spring, summer and fall, and winter is a gift to us in some ways. 

We continue to ship beans and wool near and far. We hand sort beans (taking out the splits and non-bean things like stones). We also continue with the farmers markets, though even they slow down in the winter (shorter days, every other week, etc.)

We catch up on paperwork, and get things ready for the accountant who does our taxes. 

We take time to learn new things and sometimes even network with other farmers. (Sorry for the blurry photo--this is my version of "taking notes".)

We order nutrients and seed for the coming season. And we dream about and plan for summer projects.

In some ways, winter is a respite. But the cold weather brings additional chores. The Farmer spends a good amount of time keeping the driveways clear. 

While we don't have the summer labor of moving animals to fresh pasture, they do need feeding twice a day. We monitor and adjust what they're fed depending on how far along they are in pregnancy and the quality of the hay we have on hand. Eventually we will shear them in preparation for lambing.

As the weather allows, we fix equipment in preparation for the coming year.

I hope this helps to answer the question about what happens on a farm in winter. Feel free to ask any additional questions in the comment section. I'm happy to try to answer...

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Winter Shop Hours and Market Schedule

It's been nearly a month since I last blogged. Perhaps you were too busy with family gatherings and holiday celebrations to notice my bloggy neglect. I certainly was too busy to notice...

This blog post is just a reminder that we have open farm shop hours each Friday afternoon from 1 - 4 pm. Our farm is located at 13275 Blair Street, Holland, MI 49424. Feel free to drive out if you need a fresh infusion of wool or beans in your life. 

In addition to farm shop hours, you can find us at farmers markets (yes, even in the winter!). To the best of our knowledge, our market schedule is as follows:

Jan. 10 - Fulton Street, Sweetwater
Jan. 17 - Holland Pop-Up Winter Market, Sweetwater
Jan. 24 - Fulton Street
Jan. 31 - Holland, Sweetwater
Feb. 7 - Fulton Street
Feb. 14 - Holland, Sweetwater
Feb. 21 - Fulton Street
Feb. 28 - Holland, Sweetwater
Mar. 7 - Shearing Day at Shady Side Farm (more about that later)

For more up to date information about markets and other goings-on, consider liking our farm page on facebook.

Happy 2015 to each and every one of you.

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