2019 Willow Creek Farm Yarn – Part 1 – Fergus and Fiona

Mountain Man has finished spinning the yarn from both Fergus and Fiona’s 2019 fleece.

I requested worsted weight from Fergus’ fleece.  Mtn Man made me a beautiful 4-ply worsted.  It made 1500 yards worth of squishy-soft, dark-grey yarn.  I am starting to peruse patterns to figure out what this yarn will become.

I also requested worsted weight from Fiona’s fleece this year.  Mtn Man was able to make me 800 yds of a lovely 3-ply worsted.

I decided that this was the year I wanted to try my hand at dyeing yarn.  So I used wilton food coloring and vinegar and the microwave and dyed Fiona’s yarn.

Since this was my first time, the colors didn’t come out exactly as I was hoping.  But it was still fun and I am happy with them and will enjoy using the yarn.

I will make a hunting hat for Mtn Man with the orange.  I think the green will be hats and mittens for Mr. Smiles and Braveheart (depending on if there is enough of it).  And I haven’t decided what to do with the blue.

The blue is my favorite.  It is hard to see in the picture, but it is actually a variegation of blue, turquoise, and purple.

Next up, Mtn Man is working on Rose’s 2018 and 2019 fleece, and Daffodil’s 2018 fleece.  I will share those yarns with you once they are finished.


Shearing Time 2019 – Rose

Rose was the last sheep that Mtn Man sheared this year.  You can read about the 2019 shearing of Fergus and Fiona by clicking on their names.

Rose is moorit colored CVM ewe.  Moorit is a reddish brown color, and can have some tones of grey as well.  It is a recessive color and lightens with age.  So a moorit sheep is the darkest it will ever be at birth.  Rose was born here at WCF and she was so dark at birth that in the dim barn I at first thought she was black.  It wasn’t until the sunlight came into the barn that we saw she was a moorit.

You can see that her mom, who was 7 when Rose was born, is what moorit looks like when it fades out.

Rose is now a 2-year-old, so her fleece is fading in color a lot from birth, but it is still much darker than her mother’s was.  Because she is a purebred CVM she has a fine, short wool fleece.

The shearing went well and she was not too heavy in vegetable matter.  However, the short length of her fleece made skirting take more time because we needed to separate out the fleece that could be machine-spun in the mill, and the part that would need to be hand spun because it was too short for mill spinning.  The milling equipment is long-draw, so it can’t handle fleece shorter than 3.5 inches staple length.


Her fleece is a very fine, short, fleece with small amounts of crimp and medium amounts of grease.  It does not have sheen like Fiona and Fergus do, but the fibers are far finer than either of theirs, making it super duper soft.

The raw, skirted fleece weighed 3.6 lbs.

We have not finished processing Rose’s 2018 fleece yet, so I have no yarn or projects to show you from her yet.  It also means we don’t really have a plan yet for what we want to do with it this year.  So when Mtn Man finishes up spinning her 2018 fleece we will decide how to proceed with this year’s fleece.

Sunday Homestead Update

Slow Spring and Sleepless Nights

Spring has been slow coming to us.  It has been colder overall than usual, though we have had some warmer days here and there.  The perennial plants haven’t started poking green out yet, and last year they were poking out the second week of March.  So it has been slow.  But we are preparing so that when it finally arrives we will be ready.

Despite the slow-to-come spring, the bears are awake and hungry.  They have been causing us sleepless nights because they keep trying to get into the dumpster and that causes Anya to bark (good dog!) which wakes us up and Mtn Man goes out and chases them off.  Thankfully they are just trying at the dumpster, not at the barn, or cars, or house, like they are doing in other places in our area.  We are so grateful to have Anya in the barn to keep them away from it and to alert us when they are on the property causing mischief.  And thankfully the replacement bear-proof dumpster we got a few weeks ago after a bear broke the last bear-proof dumpster is holding up against all their attempts.

Garden Prep Work

Most of the ground in the main veggie garden is thawed, so we spent Saturday working on preparing it for the upcoming garden season.  We did not do a good job of cleaning it up last fall.  Sometimes we do a really great job, other times…notsomuch.  This was a notsomuch year.  So there were a lot of leftover stalks and stems from last year, some weeds and moss that had grown during the fall, plus hard-packed, settled, and cracking soil, and the bean trellis needed to come down.

So we got all of that cleaned out.  Then we built up the newest deeper section.  Each year we are building one section of the raised beds up 7 inches higher because we found deeper boxes grow much better.  Here it is before and after the build up.

Once we built it up we filled it with compost from the barnyard.  We then added compost to the rest of the garden as well and got everything raked and loosened up and then smoothed out and ready for planting.

The metal stuff you are seeing in the boxes is our way of keeping the barn cats from using the fresh new garden soil as a litter box.  Once we plant and it is getting watered and such they leave it alone.  But when it is just sitting there and no one is out there working in the garden they tend to sneak in there.

All that is left now is to do some maintenance on the water drip system and get it ready for the season, but we can’t do that until May because there are still going to be a lot of below-freezing nights.

We also got the chicken wire around the base of the fence to the Apple Garden.  A bunny chewed a hole in the plastic mesh fence earlier this winter because we hadn’t gotten around to adding the wire yet.  It is in place now and will protect the medicinal herbs from the rabbits.

Dairy Goat

Pansy has settled in a lot more this week.  She is eating really well now and her milk production is going back up because of it.  She can often be seen laying with the flock of sheep chewing her cud, or running around with the dog (she is very dog-like in her personality and has bonded with Anya).  She still roams around looking for her goat friends some each day.  I am hopeful over time she will completely settle and wont do that anymore.


As you saw in previous posts this week we have been shearing the sheep and skirting the fleece.  The skirted fleece are headed for the wash and I am really excited to see what kind of yarn Mtn Man makes with them.

We still need to shear Rose, and that will happen this week.

The sheep that got shorn look very different now, they went from big puff balls to seemingly scrawny looking things comparatively.

Knitting and Crochet

I finished the afghan I have been working on for almost a year now with sock yarn scraps!  I am very happy with how it turned out and have been enjoying cuddling under it on the chilly days this last week.

It was a fun use of scraps.  I still have a lot of scraps left and I am considering starting a different scrap afghan to use them up.

I spent the last two weeks crocheting to finish that and it left me very much burnt out on crochet and desperate to get knitting again.  I have two projects that have been sitting on the needles for over a year now, being worked on here and there put set aside when other projects came up.  I decided I really want to finish those two.  So that is what I am working on.  One is the swallowtail lace shawl:

The yarn is Greenwood Fiberworks Cashmere Delight and it is oh-so-soft and lovely to work with and have moving through my hands.

The second is the Let Go cardigan.  This is my second time using this pattern and I am doing it with a very different yarn than last time.  I am using KnitPicks Gloss DK yarn and it is also very soft and fun to work with.

I am really enjoying being back into knitting again.

Shearing Time 2019 – Fiona

I discussed Fergus’ shearing in this previous post.  The second sheep that Mtn Man sheared was Fiona.

Fiona is a 3/4 Merino x 1/4 CVM, which are both fine wool breeds.  She is white and has a medium-fine, soft, short fleece with a lot of elasticity.  She has a medium amount of grease, less than an average Merino, which is nice.  Her fleece is really good for blending with other fibers and other fleece because the elasticity lends itself to helping “hold” other slick-er fibers together into yarn when they don’t hold together well on their own.  We often use her fleece for blending.  But this year her fleece is better than it has ever been, it looks to be her prime year.  It is longer, stronger, softer feel, and has more luster than it ever has.  So we will likely run it on it’s own this year.

Since she was not jacketed during the first half of her fleece growth it got terribly dirty and muddy.  That will all come out in the wash.

It did not have much VM in it at all, so skirting went very quickly.  This year, Fiona’s raw skirted fleece weighed 4.1 lbs.  Fergus’ fleece was much bigger to start with but because it was so dirty with VM his was only .3 lbs more than hers once skirted.  This is why jacketing is so important to us.  We lost a lot of Fergus’ fleece to VM this year.

I am really excited to see what type of wonderful yarn Mtn Man makes with Fiona’s fleece this year.  Like I said he likely wont blend it at all this time.  Last year he mixed it with some purple dyed bamboo fiber and made some Sport-weight yarn.  I sold some of the skeins and kept a few for myself but haven’t used them yet.  I am thinking cozy, thick, winter socks…

He also used some of Fiona’s fleece from last year to blend with Toffee’s fleece and silk to make a shimmery sport-weight yarn.

I still haven’t used those skeins either…I better get knitting because we are about to have a lot more yarn and I haven’t even used up last year’s yet!

We have one more shearing…Rose.  I will share about her fleece next.

Shearing Time 2019 – Fergus

Spring is the time for shearing here at WCF.  We shear our ewes 6-8 weeks before lambing, and the ram gets done then as well just because it is convenient.  Because we are in a somewhat isolated area that is not ag based it is really hard and costly to get a professional shearer to come to our place for only 3 sheep.  So Mountain Man does our shearing.

He is definitely not a professional, but I think he does a pretty good job for someone with no training who only does it once a year on a handful of sheep.  A professional takes about 5 minutes for a sheep, he takes 30-45.  And he can’t do more than one in a day because it kills his back (those professional shearers have some seriously strong backs!).  We have to deal with skirting out a lot more second cuts than with most professionals, but it is not terrible and the fleece is absolutely in good enough shape to use almost all of it.  A second cut is a place where after going over a spot once with the shears they go over it again, cutting off a very short section that can’t be used with the fleece but is mixed in with the long fiber.

So this year he started with our ram, Fergus.  Fergus is a Merino x BFL with a tiny bit of CVM.  He is a mix of dark, medium, and light shades of grey.  He has a very soft, medium to long fleece with very organized crimp.  He is also light on grease, which makes it easier to get clean.

Generally, long wool fleece grow a lot faster and are thus longer, but are usually a rougher texture and not suitable for clothing items that are directly on your skin because of the itch factor.  Short wool fleece are generally finer and softer, making them not have the itch factor.  But they grow slower and so the staple length is shorter and can make it a lot harder to spin them into yarn.  And they can be very heavy with grease, making them take more effort to clean.  So we have been cross-breeding our sheep long wool to short wool to try to get a nice length but still have the fine softness as well.  Fergus is a perfect example of what we are trying for.  His fleece turned out just how we were hoping when we bred his mom, Fiona, who is a Merino with a little bit of CVM (short wool breeds) with a BFL (longwool breed) ram.  Even if we ever decide not to use him as a ram anymore, I expect we would whether him and keep him his entire life because we love his fleece so much.

Since we only shear a few sheep each year I don’t have a big skirting table, so I just put a sheet on our dining room table and skirt there.

His fleece this year is very dirty because he was not jacketed until we got him back to our farm in December.  So the first half of his fleece growth wasn’t protected from gathering vegetable matter (VM) and from sun bleaching and staining on the tips.  So we had quite a lot of work ahead of us skirting out the bad stuff.

I pull off a chunk of fleece, usually about the size of two big handfuls, and I hand pick out the second cuts and larger VM.  Then I open it up and pull it apart and shake it really well to let the smaller stuff fall out.  I repeat until it is clean and then put it in a bag.  Slowly, working short periods of time throughout the day, I am able to get it skirted.  Good thing I only have 3 fleece to deal with this year, since they are so dirty.

This year, Fergus’ raw skirted fleece weighed 4.4 lbs.

I am really excited to see what type of wonderful yarn Mtn Man makes with Fergus’ fleece this year.  Last year he made part of it into a soft worsted weight that I used to make Mr. Smiles a sweater.

The rest he made into a fingering weight yarn, that has a tighter twist on it and thus was not quite as soft.  I made Young Man some socks from that, and still have quite a bit left.

I love raising wool sheep!  More about Fiona and Rose’s shearings and fleece will be coming soon.