Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Three Sheep Farms in as Many Days

May was a month of fiber travel. Let me catch you up on the first part of my Minnesota-bound trip when I got to visit three delightful sheep farms.

I left lovely Lake Ann on Tuesday, May 7. Nearly all the winter snow was gone and it was a very warm, very sunny day. I drove north, crossing the Mackinac Bridge, and headed toward Munising, in the Upper Peninsula. Despite the very warm temperatures, I saw bits of remnant snow in the shadows of the trees and in the deep woods.

Fiddle Knoll Farm was my first stop. It’s not too far from Munising. Sue Kapla is the shepherd. She is a PhD trained psychologist and a certified applied animal behaviorist. A smart shepherd.

When I arrived at her home and farm, I was greeted by two Border Collies. These dogs are working dogs and they are important to the maintenance of the farm.

Sue showed me around the place. They were in the midst of lambing, so I saw a few day old babies. And there was one lamb all by itself. It had been one of a set of triplets. Shortly after the three had been born, two of them somehow got out of their pen. When Sue returned the last lamb to the ewe, the ewe rejected the lamb. So, Sue was obliged to bottle feed the lamb. In fact, it was time for a feeding when I arrive, so Sue let me feed it. And she let me pick it up for a quick cuddle. It’s amazing I didn’t take it home with me. Too too cute!

When Sue started raising sheep, she first had Border Cheviot and Clun Forest. She explained that she’d chosen those two breeds specifically to help train her Border Collies. Apparently the behaviors of Border Cheviot and Clun Forest are well suited for sheep dog training.

Once the dogs were trained, Sue switched to raising CVM (California Variegated Mutant; same genetically to Romeldale) and Romneys. So, I saw the CVMs and the Romneys. Very good looking animals all.

Although Sue did not have any CVM or Romney fleeces available – it was still too early in the year for shearing – she did have some rovings and tops available.

I bought some Border Cheviot roving and some Clun Forest roving from her previous sheep. Both rovings are springy. The Border Cheviot is a bit coarser than the Clun Forest. I have not had time to spin them yet. I also bought some luscious CVM combed top that was a very light grey. I’ve spun a tiny bit and it is wonderful!

Sue and I had a good long meandering chat, touching on topics ranging from academia to living a satisfying life to various sheep breeds to behaviors of dogs to weaving to spinning….you get the idea. It was a most delightful visit. Sue offered to pick out a CVM fleece for me from the 2014 crop. I can hardly wait!

I left Fiddle Knoll Farm and continued my trip through the U.P. The following day, I arrived in Duluth, Minnesota. I stayed a scant two days at Judy McL’s house. It is always nice to visit her. I know I’m going to eat well, sleep well, and have fiber adventures. On Thursday, we visited two sheep farms.

Oh, I’ve got to mention that when I arrived in Duluth on Wednesday, the weather was Practically Perfect in Every Way. We sat on the porch and drank cocktails. Very nice. But on Thursday, the weather had changed; the wind was coming off Lake Superior. Let me tell you: that wind is cold. Cold!

Anyway, first stop was at Lil Acre Farm. Judy introduced me to Kris Godden. She raises Olde English Babydoll sheep. These sheep are very distinctive looking. Some folks say they look like teddy bears. I think they look a bit like piglets; not particularly cute to my way of thinking. But! The lambs were adorable. They were extremely active, running and jumping and hopping. So, in motion I came to appreciate their looks. Here are two pictures that my friend, Judy, took:

And I love the fiber. Not particularly soft, but oh so elastic and very easy to spin. Perfect for mittens or socks. I bought a bit of roving. The Goddens don’t have a website, but you can contact them by phone, 218-729-9281, to arrange a visit or for other inquiries.

After that visit, we stopped at the farm of Marie and Paul Glaesemann. I’ve been there several times. Marie and Paul are well into their 80’s and have had livestock of some kind all their lives. They love the sheep, and they love having lambs. All their sheep are mixed breeds. So, there is a lot of variation among the fleeces. That’s a good thing. Some fleeces are long and lustrous, some are super springy, some are pleasantly soft. All the fleeces are very well sheared, very thoroughly skirted, and quite clean. Every year I look forward to Marie’s fleeces.

Here are two pictures – also taken by Judy – of some of Marie’s ewes and lambs.

And a picture of Marie, me, and Marie’s very old Morgan horse, Winston. He is a handsome older gent.

This year I bought 8 fleeces from Marie. Eight! They barely fit in my car, but they didn’t stay there for long. On Friday, I drove south toward “the cities” for Shepherd’s Harvest, where I taught workshops, dropped off my fleeces, and did some good fiber shopping. More on that soon.


  1. Fantastic blog story today, Amy! Your visit was fun all over again!
    Judy McL

  2. Replies
    1. It WAS fun! Visiting sheep farms when the lambs are "fresh" is a tonic for whatever ails you!