This year for Christmas, I got a rather unexpected gift. I opened a box and found this delicious Scotch whiskey, called Sheep Dip. Apparently back in the day, shepherds and farmers used to distill Scotch and place it in barrels labeled ‘Sheep Dip.’ Sheep dip was a insecticide and fungicide used to protect sheep from lice, ticks, and other unsavory external parasites. By putting the Scotch whiskey in these mislabeled barrels they could avoid paying taxes on the whiskey when the tax man came around.All I can say is it is delicious. I am not much of a drinker, but in the summer I sometimes enjoy a gin & tonic and in winter I will indulge occasionally in a dry red wine or scotch. This Sheep Dip is quite good and just in time for another predicted cold snap later this week. Alongside the Sheep Dip was a letter. The letter told me all about the sheep in the photo, Kelsey’s lamb, who my husband had adopted for me for the year!
This little lamb was born on March 10th of this year at her home, Windridge Fiber Farm located in Southwestern Wisconsin. This farm has a number of really neat programs including my gift of the Adopt-A-Sheep program in which you get a set of cards with a photo of your sheep, updates throughout the year, the opportunity to inquire about the sheep & the farm, and the fleece of your sheep for that year. You can even make an appointment to visit the farm & meet your sheep! The website says the program was developed with people in mind who would love to have a sheep of their own, but cannot. What a fun opportunity!
“My” sheep is a mixed breed, but largely CVM. I had never heard of a CVM before, so in case you haven’t either that stands for California Variegated Mutant. This wool is known for being very soft and for its beautiful bounty of color variation. For reasons unknown, my little lamb was orphaned by her mum, but the note said she readily took to her bottle feedings and even starting ‘stealing’ milk from other ewes. The farmer said she is definitely a smart little lamb!
Of course I was excited about the prospect of visiting the farm, about spinning wool from ‘my own’ sheep and then knitting with it, but there was a more pressing issue: I had to name her! My husband and I talked about it probably more than he had hoped on Christmas Day. I found another photo of her on the farm’s website…
And I have to say, I was a little overwhelmed by the idea at first, but I instantly fell in love with those little sock on her back legs. My husband and I talked and bounced ideas off of each other and finally landed on ‘Annie.’ Named for the little orphan in the musical who was quick as a whip and a little mischievous, as soon as my husband suggested it I knew that was it. I feel a little bad naming a creature I’ve never met, but I emailed the farm & made the name suggestion and asked a few questions. Being a first time sheep adopter, I had a bunch.
I heard back from Tami at the farm this morning and she graciously answered all my questions about Annie’s fleece, how much wool to expect, where she will take the wool to be cleaned & carded (you can get the raw fleece or for an extra charge they’ll take it to be cleaned and carded for you), and how their donkey protects the sheep from coyotes. You know, all the important details. As an aside, she said that Annie actually just arrived back at the farm after spending a few days at a local church where she and another sheep, Cuddles, participated in a live nativity. That image makes me just love this sheep all the more.
This gift will definitely be a year-long adventure to which I’m very much looking forward. While I’m at the very start, I’d like to point out that the farm does still have sheep available in the Adopt-A-Sheep program, so if you have any interest in joining me in this little journey I would love the company! Windridge Fiber Farm also sells rovings, lock wool, and raw fleeces — just fill out the contact form on the website if you are interested and looking for more information.
As excited as I am to have my adopted sheep, perhaps most endearing program to me is Sponsor-A-Sheep. For a small fee, you can sponsor a sheep that is in ‘retirement’ and help allow her to live out her days on the farm with her daughters, granddaughters and great-granddaughters. Annie’s mum, Kelsey is one such sheep..
… along with a number of others, some of whom are as aged as 14years-old. I just love the image of this multi-generational herd living the good life in the rolling hills and woods of their Southwestern Wisconsin farm guarded by their faithful donkey, Clementine.
This is probably as close as I’ll ever get to having my own sheep and I just cannot wait to share this journey with you. For now, I’ve hung Annie’s photo on the fridge in our kitchen so while she may be happily meandering the hills and valleys of her home with her herd, I’ll be thinking about her — about the day we get to meet, about how much my kids will love to see her, and about the wonderful spinning and knitting wool that she will provide for me. What a wonderful gift, indeed.