This week, I have a real treat for you: Lollipop Acres Fiber, run by Katherine Smith. I met Katherine through Facebook when she posted a terrific introductory video to her flock and small hobby farm. I immediately thought: she must be featured on the blog, and Katherine was kind enough to agree to an interview. She focuses on Shetland and Cormo sheep and has recently taken on some angora bunnies! Katherine is, first and foremost, a very positive and fun personality and she produces some beautiful fiber! I hope you enjoy reading about her fiber adventures!
How did your farm/operation get its start?
Totally by accident. My husband wanted his own water source so we bought land with a well. He thought maybe a few chickens (I was not at all fond of chickens)…Well, a friend gave me a couple very friendly chickens–who knew a chicken could be friendly! She also had sheep and I thought, well, we have land, why not a pet sheep? We now have 13 sheep, 7 goats, over 20+ chickens (many of which I carry around with me all the time), 3 Angora rabbits and, as I always say – a partridge in a pear tree! Who would have thought that would be the beginning of Lollipop Acres and Lollipop Acres Fiber.
This is Lollipop. My first little Cormo ewe lamb and obviously the name sake of my little hobby farm. When I was a little girl growing up in Rochester, NY, my parents used to take me to the humane society petting zoo – it was called Lollipop Farms. They rescued baby farm animals there. It was a favorite place for me to visit. I’m sure you now understand the connection between Lollipop’s name an the name of my little “farm.” My parents have since passed but this reminds me of favorite times with them.
What kinds of fiber animals do you raise and why?
I primarily focus on Shetland Sheep and Cormo (a mix between Corriedale and Merino), although I have also had Cotswold, Navajo Churro, Tunis, and Corriedale. My Cormo were my first choice as when I was doing research on sheep, I loved their looks, the micron count was low (I am a shawl knitter and wanted soft and beautiful fiber) and their size was manageable (my husband got his well, the rest is mine to deal with). Cormo were also not in Arizona and I thought that would be great if I had something unique. I went to Southern California to pick up mine – a beautiful Ewe Naomi and her lamb – Lollipop. As a side note, Naomi has since passed – struggled with a horrid illness as yet undefined and lost her after about 7 weeks of trying so hard to bring her health back to normal. The worst part of all this loosing one of my babies–whether it is a chicken, a lamb or anything really. It hurts terribly!
Then I met Shetlands – goodness, what wonderful personalities – tiny in size and just loving with many different colors. I fell in love and had to have some. My first were rescues from a small farm in Northern Arizona near where wolves were being released. The lady had to get rid of all her animals for their own safety. Now I have more, including a little hermaphrodite (Snickers! That was definitely a strange experience and a story for another day) and a Grand Prize winner from the Arizona State Fair.
I’ve recently added the Angora rabbits – so far 2 English (they are so comical looking) and 1 Satin. I’ve become a spinner, hand-dyer and will begin blending my own fibers. The Angora are little fiber making machines and it will blend so nicely with my other wools.
People ask me all the time WHY do I do this? My answer is simple – it gives me so much JOY! All my animals are my babies.
What is your favorite part of raising fiber animals?
I think the pure enjoyment of them. I laugh so much sitting in my spinning room looking out my front window at their antics. Not too practical, eh? Well, at my age I don’t need the extra work, the wear and tear on my body or the expense of feeding, housing, vet bills, etc. So, either I’m totally nuts or I just love to go down to see them on the bad days and get some goat lovin, hug a sheep, talk my problems over with them and just “be” with them. I have a very small family so why not add the animals? I’ll do this until I physically can’t do it any more – but it will be a great loss, that’s for sure.
What is on your wheel/needles/loom?
Well, weaving is my least favorite so I think there is a scarf just sitting there waiting for me to finish (embarrassed to say how long it has or will sit there). Knitting was my first passion and right now I have a Ravelry pattern Nymphalidea on the needles using one of my companion handspun sets – a solid soft green and a variegated – looking great! On my spinning wheel? which one? I LOVE spinning and turns out I’m a fairly ok spinner. I have been spinning for less than a year now and have my own Etsy shop and have been blessed by its outcome. On one I have a tonal pinkish blend of merino and silk. On the other, I have a variegated BFL blend.
What would you like hand spinners to know about your fiber?
About my fleeces – they are of high quality. All my animals are blanketed so VM is almost nothing! I skirt them very well after shearing. Oh, yes. My shearers are professional and do a great job for me – customers will see virtually NO second cuts. My Cormo sells out really fast and I’ve received great compliments.
My handspuns are spun very carefully, there are no breakages or knots for the weaver to worry about. If I don’t like the set of the twist – I won’t sell it – nothing worse than a yarn that splits. I use quality blends and spin for yardage at a great price. I want the consumer to have enough yarn to work with! I price based on content, yardage and yarn weight (lace vs. worsted)
How can interested buyers get in touch with you?
I’m on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KatherineSmithspins; Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/your/shops/LollipopAcresFiber; Pinterest: Lollipop Acres Fiber (I try to focus on providing pattern suggestions for handspuns, dyeing tips and fiber related helpful hints. Google+ as Katherine Smith (Lollipop Acres Fiber) and I have just launched my own YouTube channel with an intro to Lollipop Acres Fiber. I hope to do more with spinning, hobby farming, hand-dyeing and raising animals – I’ve learned SO much in a very short time. Also, I want to focus on Social Media Marketing tips as I’ve had an unexpected response to what I’ve done in a very short period of time. I’ve only been doing media marketing for 6 months! What a whirl wind it has been. But look what’s happened–you found me and I’m so pleased to be honored here.
Thanks so much Katherine!
I love farm visits and meeting new people (and sheep!): if you are a hand spinner, a shepherdess, a small flock owner, a mill operator, or a wool trader, I would love to feature your work on this site. Please get in touch via email or Ravelry by clicking the “About” tab (above)