"Feed my sheep..."
For someone who knits as much as I do, I don’t spend much time around sheep. That all changed on my recent trip to Wisconsin.
After spending a lovely morning in Monroe, my husband and I drove out to a farm. Along the way, Jocelyn of Orange Kitten Yarns had advised us to keep an eye out for barn quilts which are quilt squares painted onto the sides of barns. I’d never heard of this, and was delighted how it added to our driving experience. It felt like an artistic grown-up scavenger hunt.
After a short drive, we arrived at
Homestead Wool and Gift Farm
Jim and Sandy Ryan were delighted to share their farm with us, telling us about the marvelous fibers Sandy makes. No one was more excited when Sandy asked, “would you like to feed the sheep?” nor was anyone more surprised when Jim produced a box of Nabisco Nilla Wafers! Evidently I have more things in common with sheep than I realized!
Wellies on (it was a muddy, muddy day!), we trudged out to where Sandy’s flocks of sheep, llamas, and dogs have their happy home. One shake of a cookie box and we had company:
What a great, memorable experience. I look at the yarn Sandy gave me to knit, and it has a special quality to it now. I’ve seen the sheep. I've shared cookies with them. We’re connected.
I was surprised how distinct each sheep was. In the short time I met them, it was easy to spot unique personalities. There is something meaningful about a sheep’s eyes. They look at you like they know great secrets. I was unsettled to know how many of Sandy’s happy sheep are “rescue” sheep. She’s good at her mission; they all look quite contented now to me.
Sheep get a bad rap for being “not too smart.” Their emotional bonds--to owners, their offspring, and each other--shows that for the lie that it is. Sheep form strong relationships and even have “best friends.” Life has taught me that is the very best kind of smart, astute choice of snack foods aside.
Afterwards, Sandy took us to her workroom to show us how fleece gets from sheep to needles. I’ve tried very hard (and mostly succeeded) to keep out of the whole spinning thing, but that doesn’t squelch my appreciation for those who do. Look at this carding drum! Don’t you just yearn to touch all that artful fluffiness?
Sandy gave me three different yarns. It’s not often I get to pick my own project, so I loved the opportunity to match these very different fibers with Ravelry searches for projects.
First was a lush, chocolate brown in ungulating widths. I decided not to relegate this to a purely winter project (it’s rather chunky), but to pair it with some creamy lace-weight for a squiggle lace shawl I could wear year round.
Then came a cheery hank of high-voltage green. A Ravelry search for projects using 50g of yarn yielded a smart set of fingerless gloves. This is perhaps one of Ravelry’s best features--you can wander through pictures of possibilities based on whatever yarn you’ve got.
And finally, two hanks of very sheepy art yarn, complete with curly-cues that feel like they’re right off a sheep’s back (but cleaner, of course). While this would serve as a dramatic trim to just about anything, I’m going to knit them into a stunning scarf to keep those Chicago winds at bay.
While the farm is a charming place to visit, there is no shop here--you’ll need to catch up with the sheep’s fleecy output at local yarnshops like Orange Kitten or online. If you find yourself driving near Monroe, however, look them up and tell them DestiKNITions sent you.
Don’t forget to bring them some Nilla Wafers--you’ll make instant friends.
Next, we wander north to Verona and New Glarus.