Since moving back to Oregon last Summer (almost a year ago!), I have been so fortunate to make some truly wonderful friends. Most of them I’ve met through various fiber events and meetings, and all of them have been so welcoming to me and my husband. They’re all so willing to lend farm/livestock advice, a helpful hand, loaner supplies or just a few kind words of encouragement while we struggle through this apartment bound phase of our lives. One of those friends is Lois Olund, the driving force behind one of Wren’s foremost fiber farms and part of the two-gal team that is Bellwether Wool Company. * You can find Lois’ husband, Joseph in the NY Times this week talking about Quince trees! He’s the man when it comes to Quince.
If you happen to stop by Blakesley Creek Farm, you’ll drive past a field full of some interesting characters. You’ll first notice the muppet like alpacas staring at you as you drive up, but your attention will quickly be diverted to her threesome of guard Maremma dogs: Rufous, Stella and Zucca (who isn’t actually Lois’, but is currently in training at the farm.) They’ll bark pretty fiercely, but they’re just doing their jobs and if you watch them long enough you’re sure to see Rufous tenderly nuzzling a baby lamb. And baby lambs there are! Not as many as Lois would have liked this year, but i had the good fortune to snuggle with a few shortly after their birth (and the unfortunate opportunity of butchering a 2 day old lamb that didn’t make it in order to feed him to Pocket. Waste not, want not, ay?)
If you wander about the farm some more, you’ll find bunnies, chickens, peacocks and newts. I helped Lois cull some older hens this Spring to feed to Pocket, she doesn’t like to take her animals’ life, they needed to go and i needed the experience: a great partnership. I have also taken on several unfortunate animals that didn’t make it, but will make good meals for our pup. Dying is part of ranch living, and i’m happy to be able to help Lois out in any way i can. Even if it’s bloody.
I asked Lois to say a little about her farm and her special sheep. She doesn’t raise just any sheep, of course. She’s been raising Wensleydale sheep for several years now, and they are truly beauties!
32 years ago we found our lovely piece of property- only 10 acres, all we could afford. Slowly we’ve built a house, a barn, chicken coop and rabbitry, as well as raised two very wonderful, bright and capable kids here. We added registered Wensleydale sheep about 16 years ago. After years of raising other breeds of sheep, I fell in love with Wensleydales and have found them to be the perfect fit, and wonderfully adapted to Oregon’s climate, mud and all. Since Wensleydales come from the UK, we’ve used AI over many years to upgrade toward purebred sheep. We are now at 93% and higher Wensleydales and looking forward to a purebred North American Wensleydale flock in the near future. We are one of approximately 20 Wensleydale Sheep breeders in North America and we have the largest flock at 60+.
Wensleydales are a very long wooled, lustrous fiber sheep with it’s origins going back to 1838 and a famous Teeswater and Leicester ram named Blue Cap. Read more about the development of the breed in England and see some of the sheep we visited in UK this past Summer which is where our semen originates on my Flickr page.
Lois teams up with another local fiber farmer to sell roving, batts, yarn and fleeces under the name Bellwether Wool Company. Their website is currently getting a facelift, but you can find them on Facebook. Go ahead and give Bellwether or Blakesley Creek a “like” and tell them Pocket sent them. (Pocket just loves going to Lois’ house, by the way.) Bellwether sells all sorts of fiber blends and is my first stop when i’m shopping for supplies for Fiber Friends or my personal spinning habit. I love supporting a great new friend who seems to go out of her way to lend us a hand, and they sell great product so it’s not hard to become addicted. If you’re in Oregon this Summer, head out to the Blacksheep Gathering and meet Lois and her partner, their great old fiber-filled bus, and strike them up in a friendly conversation about sheep, knitting (and accidentally felting) socks, or any other topic that smells a little sheepy. They’ll be game!
No featured Fiber Friend this week, as i’m a bit manic in getting them ready for a “big meeting” with a local yarn shop: wish me luck! And feel free to stop by the Etsy shop and as always feel free to send me custom requests for your favorite animal
Are you a spinner or fiber artist? Have you ever played around with Wensleydale fiber? What did you think??
This post can be found on the Simple Lives Thursday blog hop.