Sunday, September 28, 2014

Adventures in Yarn Farming

Obviously, one of my main hobbies is reading and then writing about what I read.  However, I am fascinated by a variety of subjects, one if which is the world of knitting, spinning, and sheep raising.  I currently have about 14 sheep who provide entertainment, meat, and piles and piles of gorgeous wool.

Adventures in Yarn Farming is written by Barbara Parry, a shepherd and self-professed "yarn farmer" in New England.  Each year, she delivers hundreds of lambs and produces more wool than I think I can imagine.  In this book, we follow her adventures in raising sheep throughout a year.

The year starts with wool shearing and then the highlight- lamb delivery, which I know from experience is quite a stressful situation.  I can't imagine doing it on the level that she and her family and farm hands do.  However, Parry writes so warmly and lovingly of this part of her job- the delivering of countless lambs and then the care of all of the mother sheep and their new lambs.  I well know that happy, cozy feeling of leaving a lit barn that is full of mama sheep talking to their new babies.

Next, we follow this farm into summer, when the pastures are lush and green and there is hay to be made and lambs to be weaned (not a pleasant process, she assures us), and a big garden to be tended.

With fall comes fleeces to be skirted, spun, and dyed, the ram put in with the ewes, and the now-grown lambs sent to butcher.

Finally, winter appears and all of the sheep return to the barn to huddle together while inside, there is spinning and knitting to be done!

This is such a pretty book.  It is chock full of gorgeous photographs documenting a beautiful journey from a newborn lamb to a skein of yarn.  Along the way are recipes for meals from the garden, instructions for various dying methods, and, of course plenty of knitting patterns.  There is a spring cardigan that I am eyeing.

The book is arranged in essay form with such topics as the hijinks that Parry's goats got up to to weaning lambs to sending wool to the mill.  Parry is not just a gifted fiber artist; she is a very skilled writer.  There is nothing flat or dry about this book.

I would highly recommend reading this if, of course, you are interested in the world of fiber.  But if you're not, this would still be a pretty coffee-table style read-something to page through to take a look at another world.  I really, really liked this book.   In fact, I like it so much that I'm putting it on my Christmas list.


6 comments:

  1. I'm glad I'm not the one who has to deal with the sheep on our property -- it's a ton of work. It was fascinating to read about in this book though (and the pictures made it all look so lovely). What breed do you have?

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    1. It is a ridiculous amount of work. I can't imagine doing it on this level. We have Coopworth sheep-a fairly rare breed brought over from New Zealand to West Virginia. They're a cross of Blue-Faced Leicester (the kind of sheep this author has) and Romneys.

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  2. Nice! I love Blue-Faced Leicester wool and it seems crossing it with Romney would make a good all-purpose breed. We have Rambouillet but I do not like working with the short staple wool. I hope we can switch to a longwool breed at some point.

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  3. Ooh.... wow. Do you spin as well? do you sell yarn?

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    1. Yep! The eventual plan is to *seriously* sell wool/rovings, but for now it's kind of a casual thing. There are a couple of local knitting shops that buy raw fleeces to teach spinning classes. Interestingly, that is the raw fleeces that the knitting store owners get excited about.

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    2. I should add that my spinning is, ahem, rather rough at the moment. I do love to spin through a good British period drama, though. My plan is to get really good this winter.

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