This week, I heard from some of my busy farmer contacts–things are going well, in between farm work, house work, and general change-of-season tasks. So, I am happy to bring you a Farm Focus post for the weekend. I love these posts, mostly because it gives me (and hopefully you too) a chance to not only learn about fiber animals and the people who care for them, but to also dream a little dream about tending sheep someday!
For this weekend: I have Cold Valley Farm, run by Becky Rehl and Carl Fredericks and located in Wisconsin. After emailing with Becky and checking out their farm webpage, I was interested to learn that their flock of Jacob sheep (a conservation breed) has sheep descended from English imports to Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo. As you will see from the pictures below (photo credits to Becky and Carl), Jacob sheep look a bit wild and lovely–what with those horns and all! I’ll leave the rest of the story telling to Becky and Carl in the interview that follows; you can check out their website and their Facebook page for more information!
How did your farm/operation get its start?
Carl had been working on grazing research and education projects for a dozen years and was itching to raise his own livestock. In 2000 we moved from a nearby smaller property to our 50-acre farm southwest of Madison, Wisconsin. In 2001 we acquired our first four ewes and a ram from three different local breeders, and have maintained a closed ewe flock since then which currently numbers nearly 30.
What kinds of fiber animals do you raise and why?
We raise Jacob sheep, a heritage breed with spots and horns. Although English Jacobs have been selected and crossbred for meat production over the past few decades, North American Jacobs have primitive traits such as a lighter frame, triangular-shaped heads, and diverse fleeces. The Livestock Conservancy lists American Jacobs as “threatened” because there are not a lot of them and they are genetically distinct from the English sheep. Besides being interesting and uncommon, Jacobs are great for a small farm because they are hardy, smaller than many commercial breeds (they eat less!), and have excellent meat as well as unique wool.
What is your favorite part of raising fiber animals?
We could spend all day watching the sheep! Each Jacob has different spotting, different horns, a different voice, and a unique and interesting personality. With many lilacs in our flock, we have a lot of color variation in the fleeces.
What would you like hand spinners to know about your fiber?
While we did not set out to breed for fleece, we are fortunate to have started our flock with some excellent fleece animals. We have quite a variety of fleeces, including marvelously soft for hand spinning, and some which are perfect for felting. We sell our fleeces raw, and also have mill-spun roving, yarn and corespun available in natural colors.
How can interested buyers get in touch with you?
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/ColdValleyFarm
Etsy Shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ColdValleyFarm
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Thanks so much Becky and Carl!
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)