Blog / Farm to Needle
January 21, 2016
Snoqualmie Valley YarnThank you so much for your continued support of our Snoqualmie Valley Yarn, because of you we were able to make another donation to Seattle Childrens' Hospital.Our Snoqualmie Valley Yarn is a collaboration between Tolt Yarn and Wool and Jeff and Katya Rogers of Aspen Hollow Sheep Station. The yarn is spun at Green Mountain Spinnery and we have some of it naturally dyed by the lovely ladies of Local Color Fiber Studio on Bainbridge Island.Here is a list of patterns using our Snoqualmie Valley Yarn.Audrey Collection by Jessie Roslyn for Tolt Yarn and Wool.Stories of Snoqualmie by Annie RowdenAspen Socks/Legwarmers by Dianna Walla from our Farm to Needle book.Ponderosa Hat by mandarine'sWindswept Shawl by Christina DanaeeStories of Snoqualmie by Annie Rowden
October 21, 2015
New York Sheep and Wool Festival 2015, Rhinebeck, New York
Anna, Karen, Amber, Miranda, Jaime, Courtney and Kate
This past weekend I had the pleasure of spending three nights and four days in Rhinebeck, New York with some of the best ladies around. We were all there for the annual New York Sheep and Wool Festival.
At the festival there were many buildings full of vendors, but what really gets me excited about fiber events like this is seeing all the different breeds of fiber animals and meeting the farmers that raise them. To me fiber festivals are a time to celebrate and honor the creatures and the farmers that work so hard to provide us with the amazing material that we enjoy working with. It's a time to touch and feel shorn fleeces, to ask farmers and 4H students questions about their animals to meet with other fiber folks who share our passion and who want to share their knowledge.
An adorable Lincoln sheep.
At Rhinebeck (what everyone calls the festival) I got to see breeds of sheep that I haven't seen in person before and I got to talk with a CVM/Romeldale sheep breeder who answered some questions I had about my own flock of CVM sheep. I spent a little time at the raw fleece sale section and petting farm yarn from many of the different vendors. I got to meet Kristine Vejar and bought her new book, The Modern Natural Dyer. It was so great to listen to her talk and to see the amazing samples from her book. Clara Parkes was there signing galleys of her new book, Knitlandia, (yes, I had a fan girl moment!) and the wonderful ladies of Pom Pom Quarterly were there too with their new Winter issue.
My only purchases (besides Kristine's book) was a gorgeous cashmere goat pelt from Springtide Farm in Brennen, Maine and some tallow soap and yarn from Sawkill Farm in Red Hook, New York. The farmer from Springtide Farm got a little teary eyed when I walked up to the counter with the pelt that had a tag on it with the name Helena. Helena, the goat, had two daughters and lived a very long life, she was loved and her pelt was the most beautiful of all. The lovely smelling tallow soap and perfect grey yarn from Sawkill Farm are very special. Kallie and her husband Michael own and operate Sawkill Farm and she was so kind to invite all of us ladies out to her farm the following day to meet her animals. This is the kind of magic that happens at fiber events where you have the opportunity to meet the people behind the yarn.
I hope to attend Rhinebeck again next year and look forward to seeing my housemates again soon (I miss you guys!). If you were not able to attend this festival don't worry, there are many events like this across the country! In Washington State we have Fiber Fusion (which happened to be the same weekend as Rhinebeck) that's held at Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe and The Shepards Extravaganza held in Puyallup and more. In Oregon I have attended the Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene and the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival in Hillsboro. For a list of some of these fun events please visit these two websites.
April 13, 2015
Abundant Earth Fiber Mill
We love getting new yarn. There is much excitement when a box of wooly goodness arrives at the shop and getting a box from Lydia of Abundant Earth Fiber is extra special. When Lydia's yarn comes in the shop we know that this one-of-a-kind blend will not stay on the shelves very long.
Lydia, a long time spinner and weaver, opened Abundant Earth Fiber Mill in July of 2014, and her mill has grown quickly in this past year. Now, with five women working with her, they process over 1,000 pounds of fiber a month.
I had the pleasure of visiting Lydia at the mill (and you can too, they offer tours!) just over a month ago. My husband and I took the ferry over to Whidbey with a car load of fleeces from our own little flock of CVM/Romeldales. We arrived around noon, just at lunch time. Lydia and her team were so sweet, they jumped up right in the middle of their lunch to give us a tour of the mill.
We could tell right away that this is Lydia's passion. She LOVES fiber and is dedicated to designing beautiful yarns using fiber she has sourced from domestic (often local to Washington state) farms.
Tolt is so grateful that Lydia shares her passion with us, offering us batches of her small run, one-of-a-kind yarns. Thank you, Lydia!
February 25, 2015
Lambing Stories - Snoqualmie Valley Lamb, Jeff and Katya Rogers
Continuing the celebration of our new Lambing Mitts pattern, here is our second lambing story. Jeff and Katya Rogers are the farmers that raise the sheep for our Snoqualmie Valley Wool. I really have enjoyed getting to know the Rogers better and am always impressed with their knowledge, care and work ethic. Jeff and Katya were kind enough to share their lambing story with us and I hope you enjoy it. I learn so much from their farming experience and am so lucky to have Jeff and Katya as a resource when I have questions about raising sheep. Thank you, Jeff and Katya.
Jeff and Katya Rogers
Aspen Hollow Sheep Station. Producer Snoqualmie Valley Lamb.
Lambing for us starts in mid April of each year. It is a busy 3 week period of 16 hour days for us as we sort out the ewes with day old lambs into an adjacent block of ewes with new lambs. Most of our lambs are born just after sunrise until about 9 am. We then have a small second wave during the midday when 10% of our ewes will have their lambs. That is usually over by 2 pm. Following that we also have a third wave of another 15% of our ewes who wait until late afternoon to go into labor. Very few of our ewes have their lambs under the cover of darkness.
Since we pasture lamb it is important for us to set the stocking density (number of sheep in each paddock) low.
Pasture is subdivided into paddocks with electric fence. This allows our ewes to go off and find a quiet spot to have their lambs. Once a ewe has lambed we move her and her lambs to a different paddock within 24 hours. This ensures that lambs that are 4 days or older don’t interfere with other ewes in labor.
The majority of unborn lamb growth takes place in the last 2 weeks prior to being born. At about 6 weeks prior the lamb is about the size of a orange. At 4 weeks prior to the end of gestation, the lambs are fully developed with most wool follicles present. During these last two weeks, the unborn lambs are increasing their weight by more than ½ lb. per day as they become fully developed. Considering our ewes often have triplets that weigh in excess of 9 lbs each, the nutritional and metabolic demands are high. Because of this we lamb later than most people so our ewes have a better chance of meeting those high metabolic demands placed on them at lambing time from what they can eat from pasture alone.
We have way too many memories during lambing to write about them all. Many are unique and prove to us just how hardy and adaptive our sheep are. Our ewes go 365 days a year on pasture and have been raised in the only USDA certified organic 100% grass-fed program in North America. It has taken many years to get the genetics to the point in which our ewes can with ease raise three lambs to market weights of 130 lbs on grass alone in a single grass growing season. While there is still work to do in the back office side of our business, the front office is thriving.
I would like to share one incident with you that took place in 2011. That was the winter in which the Seattle area only received 18 sunny days from October 18, 2010 through June 15, 2011. Which was a little too extreme. But in any case, ewe number 8822 decided that despite the wind blown cold rain coming down in buckets she was going to have her three 10 lb. girls at 3 p.m. Around noon she wandered off in the lambing paddock and staked out a nice patch of grass, clover, herbs and dandelions for herself and her soon to be new lambs. Her 5” long fleece drapped to her sides like a custom fit shaggy top coat, keeping her skin dry and body warm. After a few hours of picking some nice tasty forage she decided she was ready. Her water broke which is part of a chain reaction of hormonal changes that take place just prior to given birth. For all of the other ewes this gave them the signal that this spot was 8822’s and no one else was welcome to that spot within a 25 foot radius. Soon she got to work pushing out her lambs and cleaning them and feeding them. First there was one, then about 45 minutes later came number two, another 1 hour later, number three was born. At 6 p.m. I went to check on them and I found three well fed and dry ewe lambs tucked under her fleece. Making all those little cute little lamb sounds that content newborn lambs make. They were completely dry, warm and well feed.
That day we received 2” of cold wind blown rain. I had to change my foul weather gear three times.
At 150 days old, I weighed the lambs for the first time. They weighed 110 lbs each. Not bad for a mama that weighs only 165 lbs.
November 04, 2014
Snoqualmie Valley Yarn
I first met Jeff and Katya Rogers of Aspen Hollow Farm/Snoqualmie Valley Lamb a couple months before the shop opened. I had seen their sheep grazing in fields throughout the valley but never knew who they belonged to. Coming home from running errands one day, I saw a man and a Border Collie working on fences. I pulled over and walked out to the field, and there I met Jeff and his dog Pickles.photos by Kathy Cadigan
Jeff and I chatted and I learned all about his BFL/Clun Forest Cross sheep and his pasture management. I was so impressed with the way Jeff and Katya raise their sheep as well as care for the land that they graze on. I knew that we had to work together to make something beautiful with the wool from these happy creatures.
In March, Jeff and Katya contacted me, it was time to shear. My friend Kathy and I headed over to Aspen Hollow Farm early one foggy morning to assist in the skirting of fleeces. We ended up with over 200 pounds of cream-colored fleeces. The wool was so clean and strong; you could tell that these organically raised, grass fed sheep were healthy and happy!
The wool went off to Green Mountain Spinnery, where it was cleaned and carded and spun into a light DK weight yarn. From there it was sent to Saco River Dyehouse to be scoured and skeined and then back home to Washington.
We are so proud of our Snoqualmie Valley Yarn and can't wait to share it with all of you on November 15th at our anniversary celebration at the shop!
Special thanks to Kathy Cadigan for the lovely photos from shearing day!