Big Oak Farm is near Morden, Manitoba. This is their first year as vendors at the Manitoba Fibre Festival, so Jennifer has written this introduction for us.
We sell Icelandic wool (Lopi yarn and raw) and pelts (lambskins) from our flock of 14 purebred Icelandic ewes and their offspring. In the future we will sell skulls and horns as well. Many people are surprised at how soft our Manitoba Lopi yarn is.
We started raising sheep as a way to manage our pastures. We were drawn to the hardiness, beauty and heritage qualities of Icelandic sheep. Our sheep keep our grass down without the use of machinery (and fossil fuels). They also provide us with fibre to make clothing and pelts to keep us cozy. And they are lovely company. We know each of our sheep by name.
We live a simple elemental life, with much time outside and plenty of satisfying physical work. Tending heritage sheep fits well with this. In addition to the beauty, character and companionship they provide, they are a key part of our integrated permaculture system of gardens, trees and livestock. It is a great pleasure for us to be able to provide premium Manitoba Lopi and uniquely colourful pelts to fibre lovers.
I am learning to spin by spinning our ewe Lucy’s wool – right off her back. I didn’t wash it or card it, I just tease it out a bit and uncurl the end of the lock and spin it. I love the feel of the greasy wool against my fingers, the smell of her, and the fact that the finished yarn looks so much like her.
Out of respect to the animal we attempt to find a use for all parts of the animal. Along with the wool, meat and pelts, we have experimented with making a lamp from a ram’s horn, buttons, and hooks using the sheep’s horns. We are also preparing skulls to use for artistic purposes.
We are deeply committed to holistic pasture management rotating our sheep throughout the summer through a series of paddocks. The primary medicine we use as both preventative and treatment is garlic we grow ourselves. This helps them manage worms and keeps their respiratory systems healthy.
We also grow vegetables and other meats as well as eggs and honey and produce most of the food our family eats in a year ourselves. We are incredibly grateful to be able to spend our days with our children who work and learn alongside us.