I have spent a lot of time pining over Apple Rose Farm‘s fleeces this past year. They raise Cormo and California Red sheep (among other fiber animals) and their wool is absolutely beautiful. So, I was super excited when the owners, Elizabeth and Leonard, agreed to an interview for the blog. As always, I love featuring (small) farms run by folks who know their sheep and love their fiber. You’ll see from the interview that Elizabeth and Leonard fit this profile perfectly and, well, I wish you good luck resisting those fleece and fiber pictures (courtesy of Apple Rose Farm’s Facebook page).
How did your farm/operation get its start?
I was scheduled to retire in 1999 . I felt at that time I wanted to realize my lifelong dream of having a farm. I thought I would be able, with the help of my adult son, Leonard, to learn about sheep and goats and raise them because we both love animals.
We researched different breeds and how to care for them. We visited sheep and goat farms and many sheep shows to learn all about sheep . We took courses in fiber production and sheep raising. We bought our original farm in New Jersey . We moved our farm to northern New York State three years ago where we are today.
What kinds of fiber animals do you raise and why?
I knew I did not want to raise meat sheep because I can’t bear to send them to slaughter. So I selected two breeds of sheep noted for their fleece. I started with Cormo sheep because they are easy to handle, peaceful sheep with excellent fine white fleece. There are also very few breeders of Cormo Sheep in the USA. I wanted to be able to sell fleece and breeding stock.
Cormo Sheep have less lanolin than Merino Sheep and therefore their fleece is easier to process. Their fleece is very much the same as Merino in every other respect: it is fine with a micron of 16-23, strong, has excellent memory and is highly desirable to hand spinners and felters. It is used to make next to the skin wearables and baby clothes because it is not itchy and remains soft to the touch. Cormo also takes dyes very well and felts easily.
I also wanted to find a breed of natural colored sheep that was also peaceful and easy to handle. I decided on California Red Sheep that have a beautiful fleece that has rosy tones over oatmeal coloration. The fleece also has a soft raspberry colored hair that runs throughout the fleece. It is not a guard hair. The micron is 30 – 35 which places it in the medium fiber range. It is lovely to spin and makes a great natural colored yarn. We have selectively bred our California Red Sheep for 15 years and developed the breed we raise to have a finer, softer fleece than other flocks of the same breed. Our micron tends to be closer to 30 microns and sometimes less. Sheep fleece judges sometimes move our fleece into the fine fleece class. Our California Red Fleece is very desirable to hand spinners.
We also added White Angora Goats to our farm. They produce a wonderful, soft fleece that makes great yarn and is used for expensive wearables. The fleece from the Angora Goats is known as Mohair. Mohair is great to spin and use alone or to blend or ply with Cormo. We have many colors of Mohair Roving that I have dyed using Jacquard permanent fabric dyes.
What is your favorite part of raising fiber animals?
I love raising our sheep and goats because they are friendly and gentle. They always make me feel happy. I enjoy their company and find them very relaxing to be around. There is nothing funnier than watching baby goats and lambs flip up in the air and spin around as they play tag with their friends.
I am not a spinner or weaver but I am a felter. I like to experiment with different types of felting both needle and wet felting.
What would you like hand spinners to know about your fiber?
We only sell fleece, fiber and breeding stock that we produce here on our own farm in New York. We do not resell other producers’ products. We always try to produce very high quality fiber. Our sheep are covered to keep out veggie matter or sun damage. We guarantee our sales and ship in one day’s time. We shear in late March and have a strong client base. If you wish to buy our fleece it is best to get on our Advance Notification List. That enables you to have first choice of the fleece.
* * *
Thanks so much Elizabeth and Leonard!
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)