At one time I dreamed of ditching it all and having a farm in the country. I loved the idea of making and using yarn from sheep and rabbits I knew personally. Well, I did move far out into the country and lived there for quite some time but the farm never came to be. Nowadays I am happy with my town life but am still drawn to yarn that has a lineage traceable to the farm and animals from which it came.
I am also a book lover and these four lovely books have allowed me to vicariously enjoy the world of fiber farming and wool processing as I use wonderful, natural and often locally grown fiber to handspin, knit and weave.
Barbara Parry’s story of her New England farm, Adventures in Yarn Farming: Four Seasons On a New England Fiber Farm, is both informative and visually inviting. Parry describes herself as a shepherdess and textile artisan. Both of those sides of herself thrive on her western Massachusetts “fiber farm” as she raises sheep for their wool and uses her own product for knitting and weaving projects. The book follows the farm’s processes and procedures from spring to summer to fall to winter, from shearing to awaiting new lambs to making hay to lamb weaning to the final steps in the making of yarn. Sprinkled throughout are directions for knitting garments and accessories, including patterns by name knitwear designers. Abundant, eye-catching photos rivet the reader’s attention in their own right.
Ruminations of a Grumpy Shepherd recounts Dick and Gretchen Regnery’s experiences during their 20 years of raising sheep in Door County, Wisconsin. In their late 30s they abandoned urban life to buy and rehabilitate an old diary farm and take on a flock of white and naturally colored Corriedale sheep. Along with insights on raising and caring for sheep and producing quality wool, the book introduces individual members of the flock. Tales included range in topic from trolls and phobias to artificial insemination and from heartbreak to hilarity.
In Thoughts While Tending Sheep sheep rancher and author Willard “Tex” Ilefeldt muses on his life and his relationship to the world around him while tending sheep on his Carmel California ranch. This is an extraordinary autobiography of an ordinary rural life. The musings aren’t directly about sheep farming but more about life and the world in general.
In the mood for shorter reads? Take a look at Farm to Needle – Stories of Wool published by Tolt Yan and Wool in Carnation, WA. In a series of short essays, this 96-page book offers glimpses into the lives of farmers, shearers, spinners and dyers who are working hard to produce wool yarn, but to preserve a way of life that is at real risk of being lost. Peek behind the scenes of several producers and gain a deeper understanding of the people, places, and animals at work. People and businesses featured are Aspen Hollow Farm, Green Mountain Spinnery, Imperial Stock Ranch, Thirteen Mile Farm, YOTH, Saco River Dye House, and Twirl. To add to the pleasure, a complete knitting pattern is included with each profile.