A small hobby farm was the perfect venue for me when I retired. As long as I can remember, I have considered myself the penultimate craftsperson--knitting, sewing, cross stitching--to include pattern design, gifts, and more challenging projects such as smocking. My house always sported a great garden, sometimes at the expense of a "normal" yard. And, in cold winters with short days, I took up baking my grandmother's recipes. As soon as I could, I bought a small farm in Wisconsin so that I could be near my grandchildren and pass on my love for my hobbies.
I chose to breed Icelandic sheep because their wool was scarce in the US and for years the classic lopi yarn was my favorite. I added Nigerian Dwarf goats, dairy sheep and of course chickens so that I would have plenty of fresh milk and eggs for my baking and for making tasty hard to get cheeses and much more like home made ice cream.
I love my animals and treat all of them like pets giving them individual attention and training. They are raised holistically by grazing and feeding on fresh high quality grass hay with managed grazing and pasture rotation to minimize parasite exposure, by including kelp in the diet to enhance immunity, aid digestion, decrease stress, and enhance coat quality, and by using natural products such as diatomaceous earth for pest control. I currently have professional help shearing the sheep twice a year but otherwise manage the entire farm with help from my son.
I sell yarn from both the Icelandic and dairy sheep. Some of the fleeces are sold after skirting and some are sold to hand spinners but most are brought to a mill to be custom processed for my Etsy shop and for selling from my home.
Icelandic sheep are considered a primitive triple breed (fiber, milk, meat) sheep, one of the oldest and purest breeds of sheep. You can read more about this ancient breed on the ISBONA website. I offer yarn and high quality fleeces in a range of natural colors and patterns that are characteristic of the breed. See more info on our For Sale page. The dual coated fleece is soft yet strong and water resistant and is considered a premium wool for handspinners and knitters as well as one of the best fleeces for felting. Milk produced by the ewes is high quality. My Icelandic ewes are milked alongside my dairy sheep and as such I take advantage of an extended lactation cycle to produce high quality cheeses.
Dairy sheep are practical sheep to own. Like the Icelandic sheep they are used for fiber and meat as well as milk. Unlike Icelandic sheep, most dairy sheep in the US are mixed breed sheep. In the US, East Friesian sheep are the most common breed of dairy sheep and have the highest milk production and longest lactation of breeds available. Lacaune sheep are the second most common dairy breed in the US. Most US dairy sheep are a cross between these two breeds. You can read more about dairy sheep on milkingsheep.com. My farm has five dairy ewes and two rams. Two of the ewes are 80% East Friesian, as is one of the rams. The flock also includes a 100% Lacaune yearling ewe bred at the nationally acclaimed University of Wisconsin Spooner Agricultural Research Laboratory. The prolific milk production from these sheep allows owners to produce a variety of dairy products such as butter and ice cream in addition to high quality cheeses. I offer 2-ply worsted weight yarn and occasional fleeces which are excellent for felting. See more info on our For Sale page.
Domestic goats have been used for thousands of years for their milk, meat, hair, and skins. Dairy goats are an ideal family dairy animal because they are easily handled and can be kept on small parcels of land. Milk from the goats is used for a variety of dairy products as well as body care products such as soaps and lotions. In addition to raising dairy goats for homestead milk products, in the spring I offer the kids for sale as they make excellent pets and are easily raised by 4H and FFA members. You can read more about dairy sheep on the American Dairy Goat Association website and general information websites such as Wikipedia. See more info on our For Sale page.